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Gateways 1: Internet

The time has come. You’ve probably noticed that I usually write out addresses in the so-called Internet format. For example, when I give a CompuServe address, I replace the usual comma with a period and append "" to the end. Look above at Terry Morse’s CompuServe address for an example.

I settled on that method some time ago for a good reason. TidBITS is very popular on the commercial services, but they are nowhere near as large as the worldwide Internet. Our Internet mailing list holds around 2500 people, and an estimated 42,000 people read the Usenet group comp.sys.mac.digest, where all the issues are distributed as well. Thus, it makes sense to bias the address styles to the majority of readers. In addition, I figured that CompuServe readers would realize how to reverse-engineer the address format.

The networks are all becoming more interconnected, a move that I highly applaud. The latest addition to the Internet gateways came from America Online, which announced its gateway several weeks ago. GEnie has long promised to add an Internet gateway, and I even heard rumors about the paranoid censors at Prodigy thinking about adding some sort of connection to the rest of the world. If only they’d link to reality in the process.

In this series of articles I’m going to take you to many of the services that carry TidBITS and talk about how these services connect to each other. These articles are not meant to be the ultimate in gateway information because this information changes frequently, and quite frankly, I’m sure that there’s a ton of stuff I haven’t seen yet. I also believe strongly in experimentation, so I haven’t provided moron-proof instructions here. Consider it an exercise in network navigation. One thing I should note right off. AppleLink and CompuServe both charge for mail sent to and from the Internet, something worth checking into before using those gateways heavily. I’ll say more about the charges in later articles.

Internet mailing list — As I said above, the best places to find TidBITS on the Internet are via our mailing list and the Usenet newsgroup comp.sys.mac.digest. To subscribe to our mailing list, send email to:

[email protected]

with this line in the body of the mailfile:

SUBSCRIBE TIDBITS your full name

You will be automatically added to the group if the LISTSERV can return mail to you. Keep the acknowledgment letter you receive confirming subscription because it tells you how to leave the list if you’re going away for the summer. All you have to do is send the command SIGNOFF TIDBITS to the same LISTSERV address. Signing off and then subscribing again is a good way to switch addresses if you start using another machine.

Usenet — I can’t tell you specifically how to find the Usenet group comp.sys.mac.digest because every machine is set up differently and there’s no telling if yours even carries the Usenet groups. If you want to check, try typing "rn comp.sys.mac.digest" at the command line (most of these sort of machines have command lines). For help, type the letter h,, or, before you get into the program, type "man rn" for more general help. The best resource is a friend who knows – please don’t ask me for any more help with your specific setup since I won’t be able to help.

FTP Sites — TidBITS is stored on many FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites around the world. I’ve compiled a short list from searching with Archie, which I’ll talk more about in a minute. In each case, you can reach the site in question by typing "FTP <hostname>", where <hostname> is the name of the machine or its associated IP (Internet Protocol) number. Many people use "FTP" but you should pick the site closest to you to cut down on network traffic. Check in the online help or with your local gurus for instructions on how to further use FTP.

Host ( [Good for Japan]
Location: /pub/mac/doc/tidbits

Host ( [A big site]
Location: /mirrors/info-mac/digest/tb

Host (
Location: /mirrors/info-mac/digest/tb

Host ( [The main site]
Location: /info-mac/digest/tb

Host ( [Good for people in Europe]
Location: /pub/info-mac/digest/tb

Host ( [Good from Australia]
Location: /micros/mac/info-mac/digest/tb

Mailservers — Those of you on the other side of the gateways were just frustrated by the above paragraphs because you can’t read Usenet and you can’t FTP files. However, there are some sites that will deliver files to you via email as well. This is not foolproof because almost every gateway has a limit on file size. CompuServe’s limit is about 50K; MCI Mail goes up to about 70K; AppleLink is a strict 30K, which includes the headers; and America Online will truncate incoming files (destroying them if they are programs) at 27K. Incidentally, you can only request programs that have been encoded in the Binhex 4.0 format (look for a .hqx filename extension) because it changes binary files to text files. StuffIt Deluxe Lite and Compact Pro both include deBinhexing functions. Despite these quirks, mailservers (of which our fileserver is one) can be very useful. If you send email to <[email protected]> with the single word "locations" (no quotes) in the Subject: line, you’ll receive a file listing known locations of TidBITS, which will also tell you about a few mailservers. For simplicity’s sake, I will only mention the one run at Rice University at the moment. To find out what files are available and to request a file, send email to:

[email protected]

with lines like this in the body of the mailfile.

$MAC GET tidbits-130.etx

Do be aware of the file size limits on the gateways because it’s simply rude to overwhelm them and these services will only exist as long as they aren’t abused. In addition, sites like the LISTSERV at Rice often have internal limits of how much you can request per day. Rice sets that limit at 256K of files, although it will still deliver a single file per day if it is over that size.

Network Guide — I strongly recommend that everyone interested in gateways request a very specific file from a different LISTSERV. This is the best list of all the available gateways and how to address mail from one to another. Anyone who uses the Internet heavily should read this file. At about 23K, it should fit through all gateways. To get the Network Guide, send email to:

[email protected]

with this line in the body of the mailfile


Archie — Archie is a truly cool program that makes searching the world’s FTP sites for a specific file far easier than doing so by hand. Archie has a database of a large number of FTP sites and can search that database on a keyword, returning the name of the file and its location. Those of you on the Internet can telnet to an Archie machine and search interactively, and those not directly on the Internet can send email searches to Archie machines and receive the results back via email. I’ll warn you though, doing an Archie search on "tidbits" will create a file larger than most gateways can handle because it finds every instance of the word at every machine in the database. I’m only going to give one Archie machine address here because of space reasons, but there are at least nine all told. The entire list is in the Special Internet Services list, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

If you’re on the Internet, you can "telnet" and login in as "archie", at which point you’ll get basic directions and pointers to other Archie machines. A simple search would entail typing "prog <keyword>" and remember, you want to be quite explicit or you’ll find too much. To get more information about using Archie via email send email to <[email protected]> with the single word "help" (no quotes) in the Subject: line.

Special Internet Services — Scott Yanoff took up the task of compiling a list of neat Internet services some time ago, and it has grown into a 14K file offering brief connection information on services ranging from the useful to the esoteric. Some of them include machines on which you can play real-time chess and Go with other people and machines containing information on the weather, flying conditions, geographical statistics, recipes, and NASA. You can find the list posted regularly on the Usenet group alt.bbs.internet (and probably others, but that’s the one I read) and you can get on Scott’s mailing list by sending a polite request to:

[email protected]

Well, I think that’s enough for now. The information I’ve provided here could keep anyone on the Internet busy for the rest of their lives since so much of this stuff points to other things. Those of you who work with the Internet only through mail gateways will find plenty of interesting stuff too.

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