In Service For the Long Gray Line

by Dick Ryder '71 <72640.124@CompuServe.COM>

  Suggestion for a simple "How to" for inclusion in the 00readme file. (I personally found what came back at me somewhat bewildering without careful study - after that it was ok.). 
First, let's understand that this is not the world wide web with all it's colorful and instant, (well, not exactly) gratification. This "listserver", or a "mailing list manager" is more like a short order cook for computer files. You send in an order for a file, by means of e-mail, and it serves up what you asked for in a return e-mail message. The time between your requesting message and the response is pretty fast, but again, not a click and wait like surfing world wide web, and you have to deal with technicalities like file names and exact spelling. The following is one person's interpretation of the "specific help info" which the system spits out.

The address you send e-mail messages to follows the familiar (maybe) format of a standard internet address. In this case that is: "majordomo@west-point.org". With this address your message will wing it's way toward the computer serving up lists located...somewhere, not that you really need to care. (In this case it appears to be somewhere in Texas, but as with most geography and the internet, it doesn't really matter to you the almighty user.)

Your messages only contain the command you want that computer to execute, plus the That is the "order" for the cook, to continue with our short order cook analogy. This is the "body" of the message, where you would normally write your wordy and verbose prose, if your recipient weren't a computer. In this case the cook, which we might as well call Majordomo, understands only very short and specific messages.

The topic titled COMMANDS & THEIR USE in the SPECIFIC HELP INFO file is an explanation of the messages expected by Majordomo. Keep in mind that Majordomo is very literal minded. He doesn't deal well with unexpected spaces or misspellings in the messages. When he finds them he just sends back a message saying the equivalent of "Sir, I do not understand". So, if you sent in a message requesting something interesting, then later on, full of anticipation, logged into your e-mail to get the reply, you will be disappointed. If this happens check your original message very carefully for mistakes. They are easy to make.

Here is an anatomy of a mistake. My message attempted to request a file named "template.9607". Unfortunately, after the command "get" I left a space between "usma" and "sample". The first line of the return message was my original message preceded by ">>>>", then Majordomo's response preceded by "****". This is what the message looked like:

Of course, to be fair, it then provided me with 5 pages of "help" information. So it was trying to instruct the poor human, at least.

The subject line of your message means nothing to Majordomo, so it can be blank, but it is a good idea to put something in it to help you remember what you asked for.

When you look at the STANDARD HELP, you will see 10 commands, but you will need only three or four once you get started, "subscribed", that is, in listserver lingo. Generally you will probably want to see what files are available, which is like asking for the menu from the short order cook. That comes with "index template" in your message body. The word "index" is a command for Majordomo, and the "template" tells it which bunch of files you are allowed access to. Then you look at the list it sends back and decide you want to see one, so you send it another message. That one reads "get template &ltfilename>". The "&ltfilename>" is where you stick in the name of the file you want. Be sure just type the file name, don't include "<" or ">", which are just typing conventions used when explaining computer instructions. That is the basic drill. Of course there is no way better to learn than to try it out a few times, make a few mistakes, generally put Majordomo through his paces.

After you have gotten on the list ("subscribed", that is), you might wonder who else is also there. That comes back from a message that reads as follows:

This gives you a list of the other people, plus their e-mail addresses. If you spot your long lost buddy, send 'em an e-mail message directly. If you want to send the same message to everyone on the list, ship it to the list owner.

One last note. You can send multiple commands with each of your e-mail messages. So if you want to get a list of files, find out which list you are on, and also find out who else is on the template list, try a message like this:

This will give you three requests for 1 e-mail message.

So that's it. Good luck in your dealings with the Major...uh, domo that is.

Written by
Dick Ryder '71 <72640.124@CompuServe.COM>

Questions? Give us feed back
ditus Apr 26, 1997