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/// The InterNet via Email
by Robert Niles
Continuing the InterNet via Email series this week we bring you GOPHER
via Email. Gopher is an Internet resource in which users interactively
search for files of all types. Finally I found a site that brings the
services GOPHER provides to those who only have Email access to the
Internet. It's called GopherMail, which was written by Fred Bremmer,
and he talks about it below.
GopherMail's Internet address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
GopherMail is a gopher client that uses electronic mail to interact
with the user. Messages containing menus and gopher link information
are mailed to users in response to their requests. Users reply to
these messages and indicate which menu items they want. It lets
people use Gopher without requiring them to have an account directly
on the Internet, because it communicates through email messages
instead of direct "live" network connections.
Until now, Gopher could only be used by people with Mac's, PC's, NeXTs
and Suns, etc. which are "live" on the Internet, or through login
accounts on Internet machines. Gopher client programs would make a
direct network connection to the Gopher server on the host with the
desired information, anywhere on the Internet, anywhere in the world.
Thanks to the GopherMail program, most of the resources of Gopher are
now available to everyone with email-only access to the Internet. One
estimate says that there are more than 10 million people who are off
the Internet, but can reach it with email. Wow.
You can get started by sending mail to email@example.com with any or no
subject and any or no message body. GopherMail will reply by sending you
it's main gopher menu. You then use your email program to reply to that
message, including it in the text of your reply. Mark which menu options
you want to follow-up by putting an "X" (or "x") anywhere near the
beginning of the line, before the menu numbers for those options.
From there you can just keep repeating the process, sending replies back to
gopher with the desired items marked with an X. To make it more efficient,
you could edit your replies so they contain just the gopher link infor-
mation for the items that you want. You'll find all the link information
after the menu, at the bottom of the menu messages that GopherMail sends to
you. Some items on gopher menus are database searches and college phone
books. To search for a particular name or keyword(s), you simply send them
on the "Subject:" line of the message in which you've Xed the phonebook or
WAIS database menu option.
GopherMail's options include:
- Message splitting after a certain file size
- Menu splitting after a certain number of menu items
- Re-using links saved in a "Bookmarks" file
- Requesting the Gopher menu for a specific hostname
- Requesting this help file
- Selecting menu items using fewer keystrokes
- Requesting items from the Info-Mac Archive
- Requesting gopher items with their raw link information
Since many email gateways have size limits on email messages, it's possible
to split GopherMail output into several messages when it exceeds a certain
size. This can be done by specifying a maximum number of menu items to send
in one message, or by specifying a maximum size in bytes for text, HQX,
binary and sound files. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first
way is to put "Menu=50" and/or "Split=30000" (for example) in the
"Subject:" of your message when requesting gopher menus and/or files. This
would limit the output to 50 menu items per message, and would send files
in messages of approximately 30,000 bytes each, maximum.
The other way is to include these same instructions in the body of the
message, on separate lines. For example:
Split=25K You may have text after the "25K". The "K" or "k" becomes "000".
Menu=75 Yes, I know 1K = 1024, but it was easier to write this way.
Lines like these already appear in menu messages, you can find them after
the menu items and before the link information. They contain the default
values. You should edit these lines to contain the values that you want.
All subsequent menus will contain your preferred "Menu=" and "Split="
values. Setting these values to 0 (zero) has the effect of not splitting
messages at all. The default is to split menus after 100 items, and files
after 27,000 bytes. If "Split=" or "Menu=" appear in the Subject: of
the message, these will override the values set in the message body.
You can specify a different host when requesting a top level gopher
menu by placing a fully qualified domain name as the "Subject:" of your
message (such as gopher.micro.umn.edu). You can also specify a port
other than the default of 70 by placing it after a fully qualified
domain name in the subject (e.g. darth.sdsc.edu 800).
The most efficient way to use GopherMail is to mail just the link
information for one or several gopher items. You can build a type of
"bookmarks" file by saving the links that you want to use again. If
you mail just the link information for a gopher connection, GopherMail
will follow the link and mail you the output. Here's what you need:
Name=About GopherMail <- This is optional, it returns in the Subject:
Type=0 <- This is required, see below for a list of types.
Port=70 <- Port 70 is assumed, required only if different.
Path=0/gophermail <- This is usually required, depends on the link.
Host=gopher.calvin.edu <- Required. This MUST be the last line of the link.
Supported Types are:
0 -- Text File
1 -- Directory
2 -- CSO name server
4 -- Mac HQX file.
7 -- Full Text Index (these are often WAIS database searches)
9 -- Binary File
s -- Sound
Binary and Sound Files are sent as uuencoded files.
If you send the word "help" as the subject (no quotes), GopherMail
will send you this help file.
To save a few keystrokes, instead of putting X's in front of the menu
lines, you could also just insert lines at the top of the reply which
contain an "X" followed by the menu number that you want, such as:
Macintosh Programs and other files uploaded to the Info-Mac Archives
on Sumex at Stanford can be easily requested through GopherMail. Just
send mail to gopher with the complete "Archived as" line for each
file, such as: [Archived as /info-mac/dir/file-name.hqx; 400K]
GopherMail will recognize these as Info-Mac requests, and retrieve
them from the gopher server on sumex-aim.stanford.edu. Since mail
programs like Eudora can automatically de-binhex only complete HQX
files, the default for Info-Mac files is not to split them into parts.
This can easily be overridden by supplying a "Split=" value on the
GopherMail also recognizes gopher link information in "raw" form,
which means tab-delimited on one line. A typical link might look like:
The "#" marks represent tab characters. This may not seem very
useful, but it allows you to copy a link from a program like GopherApp
and paste it into a message to gopher for processing by GopherMail.
I was afraid that after leaving my job at Calvin in 1993, I might not
be able to get an account which has direct "live" access to the
Internet, and therefore have no more cool gopher access. I expect
that no matter where I live, I'll manage to at least find a service
(free, cheap, or commercial) that will let me send email to Internet
addresses. My GopherMail program lives on an Internet computer, such
as this Sun at Calvin where it started, or the computers at U of Minn,
or maybe someday on every gopher server on the net, and it accepts
email requests from anyone, on or off the Internet. It makes the
gopher connections on the Internet, then it emails the results back to
the person who requested them, to whatever their email address is.
GopherMail was written in Perl by Fred Bremmer in September 1992.
Nick Hengeveld helped with the TCP portion, and Matt Ranney provided
the book on Perl and helped with some regular expressions. Several
friends helped to find bugs and suggest improvements.
For help, to report bugs, or for more information, send email to
Note: A good portion of this article was taken directly from the
help file sent to me from the GopherMail address