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Commands Phone and xwho - Improved

Bernd Pollermann , IT/User Support

A couple of changes and real improvements have been introduced

  1. in the context of the UNIX phone command
  2. and the Web page,
the two ways of accessing phone numbers, e-mail, login-ids etc.

While this article might be of general interest to all users, it is essential for those who use the phone command from programs or in cronjobs!

Here a summary of what was done:

and here are the details:

Faster update of phone data

The preparation of the data used for consult/xwho and the phone command has been speeded up considerably, by making the code more efficient and running the update in a more powerful machine (Linux).

You can now expect the update to have finished between 5:30 and 6:00 each morning.

Guaranteed access to phone data during AFS problems

All data and programs used for consult/xwho and the phone command have been moved to local files of the server. This will guarantee fast and undisturbed access to the data, even during periods of AFS problems.

Platform-name substituted by '-loginid'

Up to now it was necessary to specify the name of the platform (-afs, -novell or -otheraccount) to find a person by his/her loginid. From now on one only needs to specify the "generic" term -loginid.

Example: Instead of

phone -afs wcncron or phone -novell spmail

you can use now

phone -loginid wcncron or phone -loginid spmail

with wcncron or spmail existing on at least one platform. As usual -loginid can be abbreviated to -log, i.e. the first three letters.

Important note: For backward compatibility the parameters -afs, -novell or -otheraccount will still work, but will be removed from the phone command on the 26th January of 2000.

Background information: In the past one could have found cases in which two persons have the same login-id on different platforms, for example: user A had 'myown' on AFS, whereas person B had the same login-id, i.e. 'myown' on NOVELL. Such cases are not possible anymore and a login-id on its own, i.e. without having to know on which platform it exists, determines unambiguously the owner. For this reason it had become desirable to simplify the list of tags of the phone command. At the same time it was possible to also reduce the number of fields in xwho top page, i.e.

Search via PEM or GEM

Using the tag '-mail' it is now possible to find with the phone command the owner of an e-mail address. This will work under the condition that the address is either a valid physical e-mail (PEM) or generic e-mail (GEM).

phone -mail or
phone -mail
will find in an unambiguous way the owner of this address. As usual, the search is not case sensitive, and, in the case of '' the node name can be omitted.

Important note: Although many forms of mail addresses other than the correctly spelt PEM or GEM may work, in the sense that mail sent to them will arrive, phone -mail will not work for those. The main application of the '-mail' would be therefore

One could envisage a program which "does its best" to read in a list of mail addresses and produces a list with the recommended, or correct(ed) version. However, this would not be done within the phone command itself, but in an extra version of it.

In case you have need for such a program, please address this point to the author.

Year in date of last login has four digits now

For obvious reasons, the date indicating when the user had last logged in, has changed its format:

Instead of dd-Mmm-yy it is now dd-Mmm-yyyy.

This is relevant only for users who analyze the output of the phone command with the parameter '-ACCOUNT'.

Bug fixed for ccid search

In some cases, the search of a person via a non-existent ccid gave either trouble to the server, or returned the person who had the next ccid following the non-existing one.

This is now fixed: Whenever the ccid is wrong or doesn't exist you get an error message.

phone command running in a new server

I mention this just for completeness, but it should be completely transparent to the users, i.e. nobody should notice anything (apart from a slightly faster access and higher stability).