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FINDING EMAIL ADDRESSES: THE SEQUEL

Finding email addresses was briefly mentioned in Chapter 3. Now that you know more about using Telnet, FTP, email, Gopher, and WAIS, here are a few more advanced methods for tracking down email addresses. Literally millions of people can be reached via electronic mail. And, as you've seen, the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds, with more computers and people being added every minute. People are getting "on," but are having a hard time locating the people with whom they wish to communicate.

Unfortunately, there is no one way to find email addresses. You simply need to be an electronic detective. There isn't a central database, nor is there a distributed database directory system for you to query. If you are willing and have some time, you can "feel" your way around the Internet, though, and you'll probably find someone's email address, or at least get close. Some of the more common methods are mentioned here.

Directory services on the Internet are classified as two basic types: white pages and yellow pages. White and yellow pages get their names from the corresponding pages in a printed phone book. In other words, white pages refer to directories of people, and yellow pages refer to directories of resources.

Providing comprehensive directory service information is difficult for several reasons. First, many people have more than one address, and those addresses can change often. For example, you may have a CompuServe address, an Internet address from a commercial Internet service, and a BITNET address from a local university. Each of these addresses has a slightly different format, and is part of a different organization's directory system. To compound matters, computer names can change; therefore, your email address may change. Privacy and security are other issues; you may wish for your CompuServe address to remain private, but be willing to publicize the others. Some organizations don't wish to release their entire directories of contact information. And others just don't have directory information compiled yet, due to lack of staff or other reasons.

Network Information Servers and Tools

Some well-known services and methods for finding email addresses are discussed below. Basically, you have to know a lot about the person you're trying to reach in order to query a database or service to reach him or her. It helps if you know where they're located, what organization they work for, what university they attend, or what network provider they're getting access from. If you have that information, try to find an online directory for that particular organization. Don't worry if these databases aren't always very intuitive or understandable. They may contain the answer you're looking for, but the bumping and tripping you'll go through just to search them will take you longer than calling (by phone) the person you're trying to reach. Most of these databases are provided by universities, but more and more companies are making their directories available online.

Directory Services Standards. The three most common directory standards in use right now at various organizations are WHOIS (yes, that's who is!), X.500, and CSO. These databases can be accessed a number of ways, but they're all available via--you guessed it--Gopher.

The Gopher Directory Way. Look for a menu item on your local Gopher called "Phone Books" or "Directory Services." If you've got that, you can play around with each of the services through the menu system. If you don't see one on your own Gopher menu, the University of Minnesota has an extensive menu of all of these directory services. Point your gopher at gopher.tc.umn.edu, and select the "Phone Books" entry. You should see menu items for "Phone Books at Other Institutions" (another menu that includes CSO, X.500, and WHOIS), and for "Internet-wide Email Address Searches" (which is a menu for Netfind, explained below, and a USENET database of email addresses). You can also access many directory servers through the Internic Directory Servers. See page 00 for directions.

WHOIS. Many computers have a whois client program available on their systems. If you have this available, and you're on a Unix operating system, you can type whois -h {host-name}{person-name}. The whois client is available for other systems, and may require a slightly different command format. To find Adam Curry (who is registered at the InterNIC) if you're on a Unix system, type the following:

whois -h whois.internic.net "Curry, Adam"

You can also query the InterNIC's WHOIS database to find out the contact for a country. To find the contact for the Korea domain, you would type:

whois -h whois.internic.net "domain KR"

Here, KR is the two-letter country code for Korea. Since there are two entries that match KR, the WHOIS database returns a one-line summary of each:

Keith Rodwell (KR1-DOM)			KR.COM 
Korea (Republic of) top-level domain (KR-DOM)	KR
The second one is the entry we want. To find out more information, send another WHOIS query, this time specifying the handle or the string in parentheses:

whois -h whois.internic.net KR-DOM

This will return information on the Korea Network Information Center.

The InterNIC's server is considered the "official" WHOIS database, so someone who just mentions the WHOIS database is probably referring to the InterNIC's. However, the InterNIC probably won't have information on the person you are seeking. To access other WHOIS databases, just substitute the whois.internet.net part with other WHOIS servers. A list of WHOIS servers can be retrieved via anonymous FTP: ftp://sipb.mit.edu/pub/whois/whois-servers.list .

An easy way to access all the WHOIS servers without FTP'ing the list is via Gopher. Point your gopher at sipb.mit.edu. At the top menu, select, "Internet whois servers/". You'll then get a menu of over 180 items. Use the Gopher menu searching feature to locate an organization. Instead of Adam Curry, let's look for the famous Sandra Johnson, who works at the University of Texas at Austin. Search for the organization (hint: at the Gopher menu of WHOIS servers, type /University of Texas at Austin ). When you get the "Words to search for box," type Sandra Johnson. At this point, you'll be given two choices--you should choose the "Commit to search for . . ." item. The results may show more than one Sandra Johnson, but not a lot of information for each person. To further define your search, look at the uid (userid) of each entry. You want the Sandra who works for the Office of Telecommunication Services, and her uid is "sjohnson." So, quit, q, and then back up to the full WHOIS server page (you have to retype the query). Select the University of Texas entry again, and this time type sjohnson. Again, select "Commit to search for . . .", and you should see the full entry for Sandra Johnson. (Now that you have her email address, drop her a line and tell her about yourself!)

X.500. Committees, working groups, and standards bodies have wrestled with the directory problem, and they are working on a directory services standard called X.500. But don't hold your breath waiting for a complete worldwide X.500 directory system any time soon. It's true, however, that many organizations are making their internal directories available via the X.500 database format. There are a lot of different ways to access X.500 servers, but the easiest way to start is through Gopher (mentioned above).

CSO. CSO actually stands for Computing Services Organization, the group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that developed this electronic directory service. Many other universities and organizations have set up CSO servers that contain information about employees, students, or faculty. If you're just beginning, check out all the CSO directories through Gopher (using the instructions above). There are also client and server applications, respectively known as "ph" (for phone) and "qi" (query interpreter). So you may be able to type ph on your own computer to look up people's names.

Netfind. Netfind is an intelligent directory "clearinghouse" service. It doesn't actually store names and addresses; rather, it tries to provide a "one-stop shop" service that knows which directory services, databases, or computers to contact, based on the keywords (login name, first and last name, organization) that you supply. You can query Netfind through Telnet: telnet bruno.cs.colorado.edu, login netfind. You can also access Netfind through many Gopher menus (look for "Netfind" in the directory menus).

Knowledge Information Service. KIS is based on the concept of a knowbot --a knowledge robot that knows how to navigate networks in search of information. KIS queries a number of directory services to help you find directory assistance information. You can access this service using Telnet: telnet info.cnri.reston.va.us 185. You'll be asked for your email address (for the guest book). The first thing you should do is type help to learn about the possible commands, but you can also get started by typing query name , where name is the person you're searching for. To find out which directory services KIS is searching, type services.

Other Methods

Finger. A program called finger is available on many computers directly connected to the Internet, and many people use it to find information about users on other computers. It's simple to use: type finger name@hostname. When you use finger, you have to know what computer the user is on. You do not, however, always have to know the exact login name of the user. You can usually use any part of the person's name, and finger will return essential data on all the users with that name on that computer. The type of information finger returns (depending on how much is available) includes their name, login name, office and location, phone number, and so on. Many organizations make their entire online directory available and searchable using finger. Usually these are located on "official" or well-known computers. You can also use finger to find out about all the users logged into a computer at any one time. To do this locally, just type finger. Or to check for all the users at a remote system, you can type finger @ remote-hostname. Unfortunately, finger isn't available on all computers, or it may be disabled for security reasons, so you can't depend on it to provide all the answers. One of the more obvious security reasons is that many people don't want others to know where they are or when they were on the computer last.

As an aside, some organizations use finger to provide frequently updated information, such as the weather or daily headlines. These include NASA Daily News, which you can get by issuing the command finger nasanews@space.mit.edu, and up-to-date earthquake reports, available by issuing the command finger quake@gldfs.cr.usgs.gov.


We'll Make You a Star!

Jean Armour Polly and Jane Dunlap Smith see each other every day. Jean works in Liverpool, New York, while Jane hangs her hat in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. How do they do that? They use CU-SeeMe, video- conferencing software developed by Cornell University, to keep their virtual friendship alive. Both keep video cameras rolling non-stop during working hours, beaming their images over the Internet to a "reflector" that retransmits incoming video streams to viewers who have "tapped" into it. They go about their day and, from time to time, other people, friends, and coworkers "pop in" to chat with them. Through it all, they've become quite famous; their faces have been shown coast-to-coast and overseas during demonstrations to large seminars and TV news broadcasts. Don't they get nervous having "big brothers" all over the world? "You get used to it," shrugged Jean. "After several days, you don't even notice the camera anymore."

This gives new meaning to "See you on the Internet."


USENET Addresses. USENET has an address database of all the people who have posted articles to USENET, which has proved very useful. To use this service, send email to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu, and type the command send usenet- addresses/name in the body of the message; name should be the name or names you're looking for. The search is "fuzzy"--meaning, you don't have to put the exact name, but can use several words you think might be in the address. For more information, send the command send usenet-addresses/help. This USENET database is also searchable via WAIS (Wide Area Information Servers); the WAIS database is called usenet- addresses.

Directory Projects. A number of enterprising individuals are taking it upon themselves to provide directory services for the world. Next time you're at the bookstore browsing in the Internet section (probably an entire wall of books by now), look for the humongous books that list people's email addresses. While these books can be useful, you should be somewhat wary of shovel- ware compilations--huge databases of addresses scooped up from various sources around the Internet and printed out. It is nice sometimes to have all this information in one place, but you can save money by just learning how to query the regularly updated sources. See the Appendix for information on directory projects like NetPages and Sled.

You're making great progress--you're almost an official cyber-sleuth by now! The next challenge--ahem, opportunity--is learning the ups and downs of Unix, an operating system that's very prevalent on the Internet. It has been said, "In Unix, no one can hear you scream," but the next chapter will calm your fears somewhat and show you that Unix is not so bad. In fact, it's actually pretty easy to use once you know how to hold your mouth right. So stay put, get out your thinking cap, and get ready for Unix! As they say, it's not just for geeks anymore.

Backward Forward Copyright © 1994 by Tracy LaQuey and Editorial Inc.


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