7.5 The Keyboard Cabal
Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet

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    System administrators are like everybody else -- they try to make
things easier for themselves.  And when you sit in front of a keyboard
all day, that can mean trying everything possible to reduce the number
of keys you actually have to hit each day.
     Unfortunately, that can make it difficult for the rest of us.
     You've already read about bin and lost+found directories. Etc is
another seemingly interesting directory that turns out to be another
place to store files used by the ftp site itself.  Again, nothing of any
real interest.
     Then, once you get into the actual file libraries, you'll find that
in many cases, files will have such non-descriptive names as V1.1-
AK.TXT.  The best known example is probably a set of several hundred
files known as RFCs, which provide the basic technical and
organizational information on which much of the Internet is built. 
These files can be found on many ftp sites, but always in a form such as
RFC101.TXT, RFC102.TXT and so on, with no clue whatsoever as to what
information they contain.
     Fortunately, almost all ftp sites have a "Rosetta Stone" to help
you decipher these names.  Most will have a file named README (or some
variant) that gives basic information about the system.  Then, most
directories will either have a similar README file or will have an index
that does give brief descriptions of each file.  These are usually the
first file in a directory and often are in the form 00INDEX.TXT.  Use
the ftp command to get this file.  You can then scan it online or
download it to see which files you might be interested in.
     Another file you will frequently see is called ls-lR.Z.  This contains
a listing of every file on the system, but without any descriptions (the
name comes from the Unix command ls -lR, which gives you a listing of all
the files in all your directories).  The Z at the end means the file has
been compressed, which means you will have to use a Unix un-compress command
before you can read the file.
     And finally, we have those system administrators who almost seem to
delight in making things difficult -- the ones who take full advantage of
Unix's ability to create absurdly long file names.  On some FTP sites, you
will see file names as long as 80 characters or so, full of capital letters,
underscores and every other orthographic device that will make it almost
impossible for you to type the file name correctly when you try to get it.
Your secret weapon here is the mget command.  Just type mget, a space, and
the first five or six letters of the file name, followed by an asterisk, for
example:
 
          mget This_F*
 
The FTP site will ask you if you want to get the file that begins with that
name. If there are several files that start that way, you might have to
answer 'n' a few times, but it's still easier than trying to recreate a
ludicrously long file name.