Roadmap96: MAP02 - LISTSERV File Server Commands
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MAP02: LISTSERV FILE SERVER COMMANDS
"Patience is a necessary ingredient of
-- Benjamin Disraeli
Remember when you subscribed to the Roadmap96 list? (By the way, if you didn't subscribe to the Roadmap list and instead received this lesson from some other source, just nod your head and pretend that you subscribed.) You sent an e-mail letter to LISTSERV@LISTS.INTERNIC.NET that said
SUBSCRIBE ROADMAP96 YOURFIRSTNAME YOURLASTNAME
in the body of your letter. Well, the SUBSCRIBE command
SUBSCRIBE listname YOURFIRSTNAME YOURLASTNAME
is just one of dozens of LISTSERV commands that you can use by sending an e-mail letter to LISTSERV@LISTS.INTERNIC.NET (or to any other LISTSERV address) with a command in the body of your letter!
First off, what is a LISTSERV? Well, a LISTSERV is a mailing list program designed to copy and distribute electronic mail to everyone subscribed to a particular mailing list. We will talk much more about LISTSERVs and LISTSERV commands next week, but for now let's say that LISTSERVs work on a concept called "mail explosion." A single piece of e-mail is sent to a central address (the LISTSERVs address), and the LISTSERV then "explodes" the letter by duplicating that single letter and sending one copy of it to every single person subscribed to a particular mailing list (1). This "mail explosion" concept is what allows me to communicate with all of you by sending just one e-mail letter to a central address.
What we are going to talk about today, however, is the LISTSERV file server. In an effort to keep this group's mail volume to a minimum, I have placed many of the "optional" workshop files on the InterNIC's LISTSERV file server.
What is a LISTSERV file server? Well, besides distributing letters, LISTSERVs can also serve as a "library" of files -- files that YOU can retrieve using nothing but a simple e-mail letter sent to the LISTSERV's address with a few simple commands in the body of that letter.
To get files from InterNIC's LISTSERV file server, you just need to send an e-mail letter to
with the following command in the body of your letter:
GET filename filetype F=format
Now that may look a little intimidating, but you are about to see that the GET command is as easy to use as the SUBSCRIBE command. Let's break the GET command down into its individual parts:
GET tells the LISTSERV that you want it to send a file to you. filename filetype tells the LISTSERV the name of the file that you want it to get (for example: COPY NOTICE, ROADMAP 94-00001, RFC 1462, etc.). F=format tells the LISTSERV how you want the file sent to you. For what we are doing, let's use F=MAIL (that way the LISTSERV will e-mail the files to you).
Suppose I tell you that there is a file on the LISTSERV file server at the InterNIC called COPY FILE. What do you have to do to retrieve this file? Well ...
- Address an e-mail letter to LISTSERV@LISTS.INTERNIC.NET (do not simply reply to the letter that you are reading right now -- you MUST send a new letter to LISTSERV@LISTS.INTERNIC.NET for this to work).
- In the BODY of your letter type GET COPY FILE F=MAIL
Notice that I said that you need to put your GET command in the body of your e-mail letter. This is because LISTSERV ignores your letter's subject line and only reads what is in the body of your e-mail letter. So, if your e-mail program won't allow you to send out letters without a subject line, just type some gibberish in your subject line and put your GET command in the body of your e-mail letter. LISTSERV will just ignore the gibberish in your subject line and carry out your GET command normally! :)
How about if I told you there was a file on the LISTSERV file server at the InterNIC called RFC1462 FILE? Well, again you would send an e-mail letter to
but this time the body of the letter would say
GET RFC1462 FILE F=MAIL
Think you can handle this? I hope so ... because this is your first homework assignment (eeeeek!).
For this lesson, I have placed three files on the LISTSERV file server at the InterNIC (LISTSERV@LISTS.INTERNIC.NET). Those files are:
filename filetype description COPY FILE The Copyright notice for the entire Roadmap workshop, along with the workshop's acknowledgments. NET-INTRO FILE My own special explanation of what the Internet is and how it works. RFC1462 FILE The OFFICIAL "What is the Internet" RFC/FYI by Krol and Hoffman (this is kind of advanced stuff).
What I want you to do is use the GET command to get at least one of these files (you can get more than one if you want). What do I want you to do with the file after you get it? READ IT! (As I said yesterday, PLEASE do not send the files back to me -- my mailer cannot handle the volume of your responses).
Oh, by the way, when you send your GET command to the LISTSERV, the LISTSERV will not only send you the file(s) that you requested, it will also send you a "resource summary" report telling you how long it took LISTSERV to process your request. This may sound kind of silly, but most experienced Internet users just ignore the resource summary report.
Finally, you may have noticed that I tend to type my LISTSERV commands in all capital letters. This is a habit that I developed to keep me from confusing the letter "l" and the number "1." After all, it is kind of hard to confuse something like "rfcl462" for "rfc1462" when I use all capital letters ("RFC1462").
The good news is that LISTSERV is "case-insensitive," so you are more than welcome to type your GET commands in all capital letters, all lower case letters, or even a mixture of both! For example, each of the following GET commands will be equally as successful:
GET RFC1462 FILE
get rfc1462 file
GeT rFc1462 FiLe
Anyway, that's your homework. Have a GREAT weekend!
IMPORTANT NOTE: You must write a *NEW* letter to
for your GET commands to work. Replying to the letter that you are reading right now will *NOT* work!
What if the GET command does not work? First, realize that it may take several hours for the LISTSERV to process your request and send the file back to you (hence the "patience" quote at the opening of today's lesson). Several thousand requests, even at one second per request, are going to take a LONG time to process!
If, after a day has passed, you have not heard back from the LISTSERV, double check that you used the correct address:
Second, make sure the GET command is in the BODY of your letter. Finally, make sure that you have included all of the parts of the GET command (GET filename filetype F=format) in the BODY of your e-mail letter.
If, after all of this, the command still does not work, talk with your local Internet service provider (ISP). Chances are, the problem is that your mail program is putting the wrong return address onto your letters. This is a local problem, and your local ISP should be able to give you some suggestions.
Have fun. :)
(1) LISTSERV User Guide, EARN Association, July 21, 1993
Originally written by Patrick Douglas Crispen