The UNITE System: Distributed Delivery and Contribution of Multimedia Objects Over the Internet

Cedric C. Deniau*, Michael T. Swink*, Ron Aust+, Joseph B. Evans*,
Susan Gauch*, Jim Miller*, Douglas Niehaus*
*Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
+School of Education
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS


Over the past few years, the world has seen a growing interest in the Internet. E-mail initiated this interest and was the biggest traffic generator for several years. As the Internet grew in popularity, other tools emerged: ftp, gopher, archie, and the World-Wide Web. Connectivity to the Internet blossomed from a few computer specialists at research institutions to include businesses, schools, and home users. At the same time, the ability to create, store, and view multimedia information became widespread. Today, we see a proliferation of sites storing and distributing multimedia information on an ever-increasing range of topics to an exploding number of users.

This paper describes the UNITE system which provides browsing and search of taxonomically indexed resources in a wide range of media types (text, images, hypercard stacks, etc.). The server provides remote access to Science and Mathematics curricular materials by teachers and students in K-12, however it can be easily adapted to work with any taxonomically structured domain. The server software supports mirroring, which helps distribute the client load, and enables the client to try alternative servers if its first choice is unavailable.

The server can interoperate with standard WWW browsers (Mosaic, Netscape) but, in addition, we have developed our own client software. Since most of our users connect to the Internet via modems, the UNITE client has features which reduce network load, and thus improve performance on low bandwidth networks. It also provides a more tailored user interface to the system resources than is available from standard browsers. Finally, users are active participants in the project. Through a review mechanism, they can contribute new resources to the database.

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This research and development was supported through funding from the U.S. Department of Education OERI office (R203A20020) that was administered by the Great Lakes Telecommunications Collaborative.

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