Finger.Farm: Advanced Finger Hosting
January 28, 2021 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Once upon a time, you could finger your boss, finger a vending machine, finger the weather, finger John Carmack, etc... Users would share .project and .plan files, showing their current project and plans. The original telepresence. The original Internet of Things. The original microblogging.
posted by Sokka shot first (44 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just fingered him from the command line and had a sudden rush of nostalgia.
posted by ShakeyJake at 9:25 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


One does miss fingering people.
posted by trig at 9:36 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


I still have .plan and .project files on my own servers, but I haven't had those servers responding to public finger requests in two decades. That internet was another time.
posted by fedward at 9:49 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


Ah, the good old innocent days of the internet where you could get in a raging argument with someone on Usenet about Star Trek or their text editing software of choice and then doxx them with a simple terminal string and maybe call them up at work and give them an earful about how wrong they are.
posted by loquacious at 9:59 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Oh no you did not just reimplement fingerd in node

NOT PERMITTED
posted by phooky at 10:00 AM on January 28 [15 favorites]


So it turns out in 2013 I made a .plan file in my Mac's home directory that just says "barf".

Those bits have been reliably backed up onto various hard drives and online services for 8 years now.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:01 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


Never heard of this but saw the cool dragon. Then I tried pasting the same thing, with @butt instead but got an error "User: butt not found" which wasn't the kind of burn I expected a command terminal to give me.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:05 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


As a grad student in the 90s, it was fantastic to be able to get contact info from a quick probing (but thankfully not moist) digit. A lot of profs put their signature/address/phone number in their finger info for a while. Back before the web, when usenet ruled, and sftp was the ship to what would later be named Pirate Bay.

We all have contact pages now either at our institutions' sites or on researchgate or on linked-in, as well as all the "socials" as the hip kids keep saying. No need for a clandestine network of samisdat journal photocopies when we have more modern alternatives to the claws of Elsevier and the ACS.

arXiv is still going though, so there's hope for the 90s yet.
posted by bonehead at 10:09 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


The death of .project and .plan files were kind of a bellwether of the end of the Fun Internet for me. Soon after that came the death of Usenet and a few years later IRC. The end of camaraderie that shaped the early culture. I'm glad I got to experience that for a couple of years before the modern internet took over.

I can't complain too much since I make my living because of the internet now, but it's not nearly as fun.
posted by mikesch at 10:12 AM on January 28 [18 favorites]


Ubuntu 18. Add a user. It still wants to know what room number they're in.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:15 AM on January 28 [10 favorites]


I'm reminded of how I hid my homemade version of what would become 'sudo' in a directory called '..' (after removing the existing link to '..'). fsck never seemed to complain.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:18 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Soon after that came the death of Usenet and a few years later IRC

IRC is dead? But I'm chatting on it right now!
posted by JanetLand at 10:27 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


.plan files... wow, that takes me back to Netscape 2.0. :)

I remember putting so much thought into my .plan file, but I completely forgot what I had in it. Most likely song lyrics back then (college).
posted by luckynerd at 10:29 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Discord is IRC, right? We certainly use it that way.
posted by bonehead at 10:29 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Oh, man. In library school we thought finger was the funniest. We made a webzine called Finger (which complimented a professor on having "legs for miles, gams that won't quit!" and man, it was intended as a compliment but in retrospect I'm cringing back over two decades.)

Although now that I think about it, a lot of the functionality I'm attributing to finger was probably actually ping; it's been a while.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:44 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


are we not doing phrasing anymore?
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:44 AM on January 28 [10 favorites]


IRC is dead? But I'm chatting on it right now!

It's still there, but it's a shadow of its former self. It never seemed to recover after DALnet got DDoSed into oblivion back in 2003. At least the communities I was a part of never really came back. Maybe I've just been joining the wrong servers.

Discord seems to be where things are at now.

I think maybe all the old communities just got heavily fractured a long time ago and now you need to be in several different slack instances, a few discord servers and an irc server or two to keep up with anything.

It's entirely possible (probable even!) that I'm just old too.
posted by mikesch at 11:12 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


The closest thing I have to finger on my website is the "my hand, flippin' you the bird" PNG image (with fun fun CSS color-cycling background) you get served if you try to access a protected directory on my server without authenticating.

[honestly I totally can't recall if that only happens on my test server (aka the Apache build on my laptop) or on production? Seems kind of juvenile for production, but...]
posted by caution live frogs at 11:17 AM on January 28


[yep, I checked, production only returns a standard error page. Whew.]
posted by caution live frogs at 11:18 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


For decades my .plan read (and may still read somewhere):

A MAN. A PLAN. A CANAL. PANAMA!
posted by jim in austin at 11:37 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


It's still there, but it's a shadow of its former self. It never seemed to recover after DALnet got DDoSed into oblivion back in 2003.

I was part of an #efnet community back in the before-times, and there was a huge server outage around the same time. When the network came back up, our channel had been seized by intruders and with no way to get it back we just sort of faded out.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:37 AM on January 28


This is fun. By the time I was paying attention, finger was still a thing, but allowing remote requests would have seemed nuts. The default options seemed to include lots of information that would only be useful for stalking purposes. Nobody ever used it for anything fun. Occasionally it was useful to figure out the real name of someone who was hogging resources, back when people used to include their real names when adding users. I'm afraid I missed out on the fun parts.

Fairly recently I used wall on a shared machine before rebooting only to learn from a slack discussion later that nobody else who was logged on actually had a terminal open at the time. They were all using IDEs and notebooks and didn't see it. Desktop linux is finally here, I guess.
posted by eotvos at 11:38 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


This is fun. And your comments have reminded me that I had compiled an array of quotes and lyrics and scripted my shell to randomly assign a new one to my .plan every time I logged on. It feels like the decades it has been.
posted by meinvt at 11:46 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Who still has fortune in their shell startup script?
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:07 PM on January 28 [12 favorites]


I just migrated from Linux to FreeBSD and the default fortune is annoyingly full of helpful BSD tips. On the one hand I want my fortunes to be bad jokes or zen koans, but on the other hand the regular dose of "here's how to customize this random thing that may be different than your years of habit" is actually useful so I'm forcing myself to put up with earnest helpfulness for a while longer.

But also I'm using mosh and tmux so I don't actually spawn new shells that often. I only see my fortune when I reboot the server to test startup cromulence, and it's mostly the way I like it now so those fortunes are getting rare. But I still have this, even though I'm the only person who can ssh into my server and see it:
Project:

Visualize Whirled Peas

Plan:

"It is better to have loafed and lost, than never to have loafed at all."
                                                          - James Thurber

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of 
work to do."                                           - Jerome K. Jerome

"Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is       
supposed to be doing at the moment."                    - Robert Benchley
posted by fedward at 12:15 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I hid my homemade version of what would become 'sudo' in a directory called '..' (after removing the existing link to '..'). fsck never seemed to complain.

I... did not know that was possible. My favorite stupid filesystem trick in Linux is to have a filename whose literal filename contains a forward-slash (a real 0x2f, not any of the fancy identical-looking Unicode characters). The existence of such a file flummoxes Linux (and probably any OS that shares filesystem-level system call code with Linux), because it can show up in a list of files but can't ever be directly referred to by the OS, even with wildcard expansion or all the escape characters you can imagine: on a fundamental level, a slash means a path to Linux and there's no getting around it. The good news is that the exact same system-level incomprehension which makes it impossible to refer in any way to a file with a slash in its name also prevents you from inadvertently ever creating such a file. The only way to get such a monstrosity to exist is by direct byte-level editing of your filesystem.
posted by jackbishop at 1:24 PM on January 28


Overheard computer lab conversation, circa 1991 or so:

GUY: "Hey, Tom? Do me a favor and finger me."
TOM: "Not without a court order, buddy."
posted by delfin at 1:31 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Hey, I just checked, and Metafilter also implemented the alt-F4 Easter egg from IRC!*

I remember reading about finger in second-hand Unix books, but it was never used in my memory. I feel like it belongs to the generation that would understand what the numbers meant in LS(1) and FSTAB(5).

Oh wow, I just tried to finger an old-school Unix guy on a server I remember. Last logged in Apr 2010. Phone number and PGP public key available.

* Do not actually try this, it is a daft joke
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:51 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Who still has fortune in their shell startup script?

Yup, along with a filesystem readout, even though I don't need to keep an eye on how much disk I have left nearly as much anymore, and a calendar output with custom-crafted calendars to which various scripts dumped reminders. But I mostly ignore it now, because, like fedward, I'm always just on my way to a tmux session. On occasion I have need to ctrl+alt+f4 (or 5, or whatever) into a term away from X, and when I'm there I always get a warm gooey feeling of being back in the fun stuff.

I remember when (not all that long ago, actually), I finally deleted the .plan file that had followed me around for years. I felt a sad. I miss the old internet.
posted by eclectist at 1:53 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Soon after that came the death of Usenet . . .

That's absolutely right. Usenet is dead. There is no such thing as Usenet. It doesn't exist. The entire alt.binaries hierarchy disappeared without a trace, like Kibo. Look away. There's nothing to see here.
posted by The Bellman at 2:04 PM on January 28 [12 favorites]


Who still has fortune in their shell startup script?

I've advanced to approximately state-of-the-art June 1991 with the Debian package linuxlogo -L gnu_linux—awwww whatta cute widdle ASCII-art penguin!

(linuxlogo -L list for all available banners.)

...though I'm just noticing that the status display is claiming that my system has 128TB of RAM, a little on the high side, I'll have to investigate why...
posted by XMLicious at 2:09 PM on January 28


Finger.Farm is by MetaFilter's own ph00dz (MeFi Projects page).
posted by mpark at 2:33 PM on January 28 [7 favorites]


Welcome to 2021 where we implement one of the basic of the Unix tools on five layers of HTTP, node.js and SQLite with no additional features (?). But on the other hand I like the idea of people taking it up and repurposing it and making it more relevant and useful for today as well, hope someone does.
posted by thefool at 2:49 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


The entire alt.binaries hierarchy disappeared without a trace, like Kibo.

I knew Kibo, I think I gave him a ride home once or twice. Really nice guy, you would never guess. Not joking. As for usenet, you gotta subscribe to a service but it's all there. Hmm, thought I'd left a .plan file somewhere but can't find one.
posted by sammyo at 3:26 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Funny. The current incarnation of my personal website has Plan and Project sections, precisely for nostalgia reasons.
posted by bixfrankonis at 3:43 PM on January 28


GAT d--@? s:+(+) a+ C++$ U++$ !P L+++ !E W+++ N>++ o+++ !K-- !w--- !O M++$ !V PS+++ PE-- Y+>+++ PGP@ t--- 5-- X-- R+++ tv-- b++++ DI--- D++ G++ e+ h---- r+++ y?
posted by Dr. Curare at 3:46 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


Oh, fortune! I had a carefully curated custom file with all my favorite quotes in it, I'm kind of sad I no longer have it, even though it's probably been 30 years.
posted by tavella at 3:53 PM on January 28




I'm glad fortune is still in the repositories. I don't do much in shells these days, but I always install fortune when setting up a new Pi. Just feels right to see those 25+ year old jokes when I ssh into one of them.

Used my .plan back in university to quote poetry or lightly flirt with someone I knew on the system. She'd often flirt back via her .plan. Felt like living in the future. It's a pity we never married or even dated. If we had, I could tell people we were together because we couldn't stop fingering each other. Alas for lost jokes, and lost people. I can't even remember her name now.

Last time I ever fingered anything was 5 or 6 years ago when I discovered my old MUD was still running. The one I almost failed classes over and played obsessively in 1991-2. I could remember my old username. The PW was completely forgotten.

Created a new character. Many of the old MUDs had internal versions of shell commands, including finger. So used that on my most played character. Last login was 7000+ days, X hours, X minutes, X seconds ago. The pretentious quote I loved was still there in my character's .plan. Looked up my friends. All were almost the same time gone, + or - a few dozen days. Never had an experience which made time's passage feel as crushing as that moment. We left these little ghosts of ourselves on some uni computer in Germany, and then went on to have lives, separately, that passed in a blink.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 7:13 PM on January 28 [14 favorites]


Usenet is dead... The entire alt.binaries hierarchy disappeared without a trace, like Kibo.

By the time the alt.binaries hierarchy became the important thing about Usenet, the traditional 1980s-1990s "discussion forum" Usenet I loved was pretty much dead. I stuck with it for a long time, continuing to read as many newsgroups as I could find that were still vibrant, but Andrew Cuomo killed it off in 2008.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:10 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


It's still there, but it's a shadow of its former self.

Maybe, but it's still the place of choice for manga scanlators.

The western comics people are still using direct connect.

Hell, there's still hundreds of gopher servers (Libraries? IDK.)

The street finds its own uses for things.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:43 PM on January 28


That's absolutely right. Usenet is dead. There is no such thing as Usenet. It doesn't exist. The entire alt.binaries hierarchy disappeared without a trace, like Kibo. Look away. There's nothing to see here.

I pay for Usenet now but only for the alt.binary hierarchy which, as you mentioned, totally doesn’t exist anymore, and isn’t the only thing people pay Usenet services for. The discussion forums where I’ve met several 20+ year friends are all porn spam and tumbleweeds now.

Yes, this stuff I’m whining about still exists in some zombie form. Certain small communities thrive on IRC but I don’t think anyone’s joining a server just to poke around anymore. You have to know exactly what you’re looking for, all the discoverability is lost. Most discussion has moved to topic specific Slack and Discord instances that you have to a) find and b) join a bunch of if there are any you’re interested in.
posted by mikesch at 5:42 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I'm the creator of this dubious project... glad it took folks on a nice trip down memory lane. Obviously, a bit ridiculous: I built it, more or less, just as a demo for the 20-somethings on my Dev team who'd never heard of the Finger protocol. Then, I was like, it's gotta have an API, cuz everything has an API in 2021. I'm not sure I'd expect anyone to actually use the full feature set -- I'll probably roll some of these ideas into a legit, "real" product at some point -- but one could, theoretically, update the data via curl, grab the .plan and .project data via CORS, redisplay it on the website of your choice...
posted by ph00dz at 3:56 PM on January 29 [9 favorites]


Too late to finger Prince?
posted by someothercraig at 1:33 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


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