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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 service@nic.ddn.mil. 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 (see section The WHOIS Database). 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 service@nic.ddn.mil 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. See section 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, decwrl.dec.com. Write to ftpmail@decwrl.dec.com 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 also.