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Putting the Finger on Someone

Finger is a handy little program which lets you find out more about people on the Net -- and lets you tell others on the Net more about yourself.

Finger uses the same concept as telnet or ftp. But it works with only one file, called .plan (yes, with a period in front). This is a text file an Internet user creates with a text editor in his home directory. You can put your phone number in there, tell a little bit about yourself, or write almost anything at all.

To finger somebody else's `.plan' file, type this at the command line:

finger email-address

where email-address is the person's e-mail address. You'll get back a display that shows the last time the person was online, whether they've gotten any new mail since that time and what, if anything, is in their `.plan' file. Some people and institutions have come up with creative uses for these `.plan' files, letting you do everything from checking the weather in Massachusetts to getting the latest baseball standings. Try fingering these e-mail addresses:

See how many cans of each type of soda are left in a particular soda machine in the computer-science department of Carnegie-Mellon University.

Latest National Weather Service weather forecasts for regions in Massachusetts.

Locations and magnitudes of recent earthquakes around the world.

Current major-league baseball standings and results of the previous day's games.

The day's events at NASA.

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