CTAN auto-archiving: the future

Robin Fairbairns Robin.Fairbairns at cl.cam.ac.uk
Sat Feb 26 15:10:52 CET 2005

"Auto-archiving" is the mechanism that allows you to get all of a
directory's contents at once, by asking your ftp client for a download
of <directory name>.zip or <directory name>.tar.gz .  The ftp daemon
creates these bundles on the fly.  Auto-archiving is available at some
CTAN sites and mirrors as a convience for users.

The great advantage of auto-archiving is that it provides short-cuts
for the ordinary user, who doesn't want to perform a retrieval
operation for every file in a directory, or is concerned about how
many files to download.  An additional advantage is the simple fact of
compression: there are savings in network bandwidth, and hence
download time, to be had.

The management of CTAN has been concerned, for some time, about 
auto-archive offered by the central CTAN nodes, for two reasons:

a. Auto-archiving is offered by a small minority of mirror sites.
   While we have a script that checks, once a week, whether a site
   offers the service, the situation continues to provoke "surprise".

b. Auto-archiving is not possible using the newer generation of ftp
   daemon software.  There are compelling reasons for us to try that
   software, but we can't do so while we claim to offer an
   auto-archive service.

For these reasons, the CTAN team is considering withdrawing the
auto-archive facility. However, we want to retain as many of the
advantages of its availability as is possible.  We are therefore
populating CTAN with .zip archives of directories; so, for example,
you will find

2005/02/17 |       8129 | macros/latex/contrib/alnumsec.zip
2005/02/16 |        862 | macros/latex/contrib/alnumsec/README
2005/02/16 |      20567 | macros/latex/contrib/alnumsec/alnumsec.dtx

in FILES.byname; alnumsec.zip is a copy of the directory containing
the other two files.

We chose .zip as an archiving format since it's the nearest approach
to a compression format that's (relatively) readily available on all
common platforms.  (Among other things, the free unzip application
(from the info-zip project) has nice properties in dealing with
different operating systems' text file formats.)  Better compression
performance is available with other formats, but we believe a
conservative approach will serve the community better.

Anyone with concerns about this move may either discuss the matter on
the texhax mailing list or the comp.text.tex newsgroup, or they may
mail their concerns to the CTAN team at the usual address:
<ctan at dante dot de>

Robin Fairbairns

For the CTAN team

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