You thought I had finished writing about the Internet after my articles about CompuServe and America Online, but the Internet grows at the mind-boggling rate of 10% to 20% per month, and we’ve come across a number of Internet services that users of the commercial services will find useful through the email gateways.
FTPMail — People on AppleLink and America Online suffer with file size limitations of 30K and 27K respectively. That limitation causes trouble when requesting a file from an Internet mailserver, but no more. Two servers now split files so that they can fit through any gateway, although you’ll have to paste them back together on your end.
The first and most flexible of these is called ftpmail, and it lives at a machine called decwrl – DEC Western Research Labs, I believe. If you know what you want, what it’s called, and where it is, exactly, you can provide ftpmail with a sequence of commands that allows ftpmail to get the file for you (keep in mind that response is slow because it runs at a very low priority on decwrl). In addition, you can ask ftpmail to break the file into chunks. For instance, if I wanted to get an issue of TidBITS on sumex that was too large to fit through the gateway, I could send a mailfile to <[email protected]> (including anything in the subject – it dislikes empty subject lines but doesn’t care what’s in there) with the following lines in the body.
reply <[email protected]> connect sumex-aim.stanford.edu ascii chunksize 25000 get info-mac/digest/tb/tidbits-143.etx quit
In order, this mailfile tells ftpmail:
who to send the file back to, which machine I want to connect to, to connect using ASCII rather than BINARY, to split the file into 25K chunks, to get TidBITS-143 from a specific directory and finally, to quit.
Of course, that only works if you happen to know where the file lives, but you can include "chdir" and "ls" commands to change directories and list files. Ftpmail will then mail the directory listing back to you. You can only change directories once, and speaking of limitations, you can only request ten files at once, and since ftpmail is case sensitive, you must get the case right. For more information on everything that ftpmail can do, send it this command list:
reply <your Internet address here> help quit
To receive a binary file (anything ending in ".sit" is binary), include a "uuencode" command before the "get" command. Otherwise ftpmail will default to the "btoa" format for turning a binary file into mailable ASCII, and we don’t know of any tools for defunking that format. You can get a number of programs, including UUTool and UMCP Tools, I believe, for defunking uuencoded files. You’ll also want a shareware DA called BinHqx since it’s good at removing extraneous header information and combining split files. Read on for a way to get BinHqx and some of these uudecoding utilities…
BART — The large Macintosh file archive at the University of Michigan recently implemented a mail server called BART, or Brode’s Archive Retrieval Thang. It’s easier to use than ftpmail, and when I asked, the helpful guys there knocked the chunk size down to 25K to ensure the files would fit through all gateways.
To use BART, send email to <[email protected]> and put one or more lines of commands in the body of the mailfile. BART ignores the subject, so don’t worry about that. Since the index file at BART includes all the file descriptions, it’s about 700K and will clog your mailbox fast. Here’s a command list to start out with, including commands to retrieve several files that you will need to use ftpmail:
help send 00help/newfiles.txt send system.extensions/da/binhqx1.02.sit.hqx send util/compression/uutool2.32.hqx
Along with those two utilities, this list will get you the help file and a list of all the files changed in the last two weeks. If you want the full list of files, you can give this command:
If you’re a true masochist, you can send it the simple command:
but remember, that will dump 28 mailfiles in your mailbox, and that will entail a hefty downloading charge.
FAQ site — We’ve found a good site to explore with ftpmail. We talked about frequently asked question (FAQ) lists in the first Gateways article, and now there’s a central location for many FAQ lists on subjects ranging from Douglas Adams to sex. The machine is called <rtfm.mit.edu> and if you have to ask about the name, well, never mind.
Here’s an ftpmail command list that should work (I haven’t gotten my test back yet):
reply <your Internet address here> connect rtfm.mit.edu ascii chunksize 25000 chdir /pub/usenet/news.answers ls quit
Keep in mind that some of the entries in the directory listing are themselves directories, so trying to "get" them will fail. You’ll have to go down another level to see what’s in them. This site has two Mac-oriented FAQ lists, one on communications and one on programming, in the directory /pub/usenet/news.answers/macintosh, so you may want to check those out.