Retrieving Files via Email

Zen and the Art of the Internet

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Retrieving Files via Email
For those who have a connection to the Internet, but cannot FTP, there
do exist a few alternatives to get those files you so desperately
need.  When requesting files, it's imperative that you keep in mind
the size of your request---odds are the other people who may be using
your link won't be too receptive to sudden bursts of really heavy
traffic on their normally sedate connection.
Archive Servers
An alternative to the currently well over-used FTPmail system is
taking advantage of the many archive servers that are presently
being maintained.  These are programs that receive email messages that
contain commands, and act on them.  For example, sending an archive
server the command help will usually yield, in the form of a
piece of email, information on how to use the various commands that
the server has available.
One such archive server is  Maintained by
the Network Information Center (NIC) in Chantilly, VA, the server is
set up to make all of the information at the NIC available for people
who don't have access to FTP.  This also includes the WHOIS service
(Whois). Some sample Subject: lines for queries to the
NIC server are:
Subject: help                          Describes available commands.
Subject: rfc 822                       Sends a copy of RFC-822.
Subject: rfc index                     Sends an index of the available RFCs.
Subject: netinfo domain-template.txt   Sends a domain application.
Subject: whois widener                 Sends WHOIS information on `widener'.
More information on using their archive server can be obtained by
writing to their server address with a
Subject: of help.
There are different ``brands'' of archive server, each with its own
set of commands and services.  Among them there often exists a common
set of commands and services (e.g. index, help, etc).
Be that as it may, one should always consult the individual help for a
specific server before assuming the syntax---100K surprises can be
hard on a system.
FTP-by-Mail Servers
Some systems offer people the ability to receive files through a
mock-FTP interface via email.  Anonymous FTP for a general overview of
how to FTP.  The effects of providing such a service varies, although
a rule of thumb is that it will probably use a substantial amount of
the available resources on a system.
The ``original'' FTP-by-Mail service, BITFTP, is available to BITNET
users from the Princeton node PUCC.  It was once accessible to
anyone, but had to be closed out to non-BITNET users because of the
heavy load on the system.
In response to this closure, Paul Vixie designed and installed a
system called FTPmail on one of Digital's gateway computers,  Write to with help in the
body of the letter for instructions on its use. The software is
undergoing constant development; once it reaches a stable state,
other sites will be encouraged to adopt it and provide the service