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ph (cso nameserver) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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FAQ (Frequently-asked Questions) for ph (cso nameserver)


Subject: Recent changes

Corrected addresses which were no longer valid.

Numerous corrections from Paul Pomes, including change of software location
for ph, qi, and phquery (Jan 17, 1996)

Added HTML to FAQ (Jun 17, 1996)

Moved location of FAQ (Jan 3, 1996)

Gopher access to FAQ no longer available (Sep 7, 1995)

Corrected listserv address again (Jul 20, 1995)

Corrected listserve address (Apr 15, 1995)

Added information about linux (Feb 27, 1995)

Added uwho client (Feb 27, 1995)

Added automatic posting with Supersedes header (Feb 6, 1995)

Changed http location of archive (Jan 16, 1995)

Added 1.2.1 Where should the database files be kept? (Jan 9, 1995)

Added to phquery section 1.4 (Oct 13, 1994)

Added new database build script 1.3 (Oct 13, 1994)

Added mirror site for ph-FAQ (Oct 13, 1994)

Added samples to Subject: 1.5 Can I run multiple databases on different 
ports? (Oct 13, 1994)

Removed annoying tabs and spaces (Oct 13, 1994)


Subject: Acknowledgements

The FAQ is maintained by Noel Hunter .  

This FAQ is automatically posted on the 5th and 20th of each month. The
latest version of the FAQ is available in the following ways:

A mirror is maintained at:

This FAQ is also mailed to the list To get
on the ph mailing list, send mail to
with "subscribe info-ph" in the BODY (not Subject: !)

Many of these answers came from the info-ph list.  Some are paraphrased,
edited, or otherwise altered, and some are not credited.  But my thanks
goes out to all who have contributed to the list.  And if you see
something of yours here which you want credited, let me know, and I will
credit it. 

Thanks to Sandra Louie for her list of several FAQs.


Subject: Submissions

The maintainer is not an expert on ph/cso.  I am relying on experts to
submit FAQs and answers.  I am also relying on users of the FAQ to let me
know which answers are unclear, and where there are errors or omissions.
At present, this is just a start.  You can help make it more complete. 

To submit, send email to:  If you do NOT want your name
credited in the FAQ, please say so. 


Subject: Contents

Section 0: What is CSO/qi/ph?

Section 1: Setting up and installing a server
        1.1 Where do I get the ph / cso software?
        1.2 How do I install the ph / cso software
	1.2.1 Where should the database files be kept?
	1.3 How do I create a ph database?
	1.4 How do I enable phquery for fuzzy mail addressing?
	1.5 Can I run multiple databases on different ports?
	1.6 How can I register my server?
	1.7 How to I give everyone passwords?

Section 2: Common problems / error messages
	2.1 How do I fix "Oops, lost connection to server"
	2.2 How do I do searches using strings with blanks in them?
	2.3 How do I limit the number of responses?
	2.4 Ph is working fine for some entries, but returns "No matches to
	    your query" for other entries (especially new entries)
        2.5 How can you get a qi server to not only compile but actually
        serve queries off of a Solaris 2.X machine?

Section 3: Questions that have not been answered
	3.1 To which Unix platforms has `ph' been ported?

Section 4: Other questions
	4.1 What does CSO stand for?


Subject: Section 0: What is CSO/qi/ph?

The CSO nameserver provides an efficient database for the storage and
retrieval of a variety of information over the Internet.  Its primary use
is for telephone and email directories, but it may be used to store any
type of information. 

CSO is the informal name given to an electronic phonebook/nameserver
database developed at the Computing and Communications Services Office at
the University of Illinois by Steve Dorner and others, and since adopted
by a number of other institutions. The database follows the client server
model; the server maintains the actual data and runs a program called qi
(query interpreter) that receives requests and sends back information. The
client runs a program (often called ph) that sends requests to the server.
The ph client has been ported to most major platform in use on the
Internet, from Unix to Mac and PC.  Client functions are also built into
many of the programs used to provide friendly interfaces to the Internet,
such as gopher, World-Wide Web, and their associated clients (lynx,
mosaic, etc.). 

The database is loosely structured and keyed only on people's names and on
their alias, which is a unique identifier for their entry, or on other
"Indexed" and "Public" fields specified in the server configuration; this
permits fast lookup by name or alias, but not lookup by other criteria,
such as phone number.  The server can limit the number of hits returned,
to make it difficult for people to use it to make handy mailing lists.
Most fields of an entry can also be concealed from public view. 

The database can be used to store assorted information in addition to
people's ordinary phone book information, and can be used to store
non-people information as well, such as weather data. An email address
might be registered in the database for a person; in this case the
nameserver performs the additional service of routing addresses of the
form to a registered 'real' address such as It permits one to have a single email address
at an institution, regardless of the number of host accounts they have.
This conversion is actually done by yet another client called phquery and
not the nameserver itself.  The nameserver in effect stores the mapping
between (alias || callsign || name) and (physical email address).  phquery
is designed to be called by sendmail, perform the lookup, then re-invoke
sendmail with the new address obtained via nameserver lookup. 

A CSO database can also be used for security purposes, to validate entry
to important services such as dial-in terminal servers. The present
implementation of the terminal server security software (qtacacsd for
Cisco terminal servers) does indeed query the nameserver. 

At the University of Illinois, UofI Direct, the registration service, will
actually use Kerberos for authentication.  The nameserver is a very
important part of this as it provides the initial set of principle names
and passwords to load into Kerberos.  The qi database and the V5 Kerberos
KDC will be maintained in lockstep.  Eventually only a valid Kerberos
ticket will be accepted for login purposes to the UofI qi server.  The
terminal server software will also be changed in the future to obtain
Kerberos ticket granting tickets to verify users. 

Thanks to Stan Kerr at the Computing & Communications Services Office at U
of Illinois, for providing most of the information in this section, and to
Paul Pomes and Steve Dorner for reviewing it. 


Subject Section 1: Setting up and installing a server


Subject: 1.1 Where do I get the ph / cso software?

The ph/qi distribution directory previously on is
available at

The latest beta release of the ph/qi software is in

A general Web-based search engine is available on uiarchive to help you
locate other software packages that have moved to this new server.  This
search engine is accessed from the URL:

A patch for linux compilation is available from:


Subject: 1.2 How do I install the ph / cso software?


To install the server without reading any instructions, look in the
configs directory (in qi).  Change the file "defaults" to include your
domain name, desired directories, and features.  Then look for a config
file for your system.  Finally, in the main qi dir, type: 

Configure systemtype
make install

Finally, build the database (see 1.3, below), and modify your inetd.conf
file and your services files to reference the server.  Here are sample

In services:
ns                  105/tcp

If you are using NIS, run ypmake after modifying services.

In inetd.conf:
ns                  stream tcp nowait root   /usr/local/lib/cso/qi qi -d -t30

After modifying inetd.conf, make the inetd reload inetd.conf:

inetd -c


Unix: The Unix client comes as part of the server package.  The easiest
way to install it is to do it as part of the server package, above.  The
Configure script will automatically generate a Makefile for your system,
and will make and install the ph client.  If for some reason you cannot
make the entire qi package, here are the minimal steps for making the

Look in the configs directory (in qi).  Change the file "defaults" to
include your domain name, desired directories, and features.  Then look
for a config file for your system.  Finally, in the main qi dir, type: 

Configure systemtype

Next, make the api library used by ph:
cd api

Finally, go back to the qi dir, cd to the ph dir, and do a make:

cd ..
cd ph

If all goes well, finish with:
make install

Note that the client distribution (a separate from the entire qi
distribution), includes a Makefile already generated for a system at uiuc.
While it is possible to edit this Makefile (despite the "Do not edit"
warning at the top of the file), it is much easier to make ph as a part of

Other clients:

The ph distribution comes with clients for the following systems:

a. CMS, requires TCP/IP for VM Version 1.2 or later IBM C/370 Compiler and
   Runtime library (Version 1.2.0)
b. DOS, with both source and executable, requires MS-DOS, PC/TCP by FTP
c. MAC, requires MacTCP
d. Next
e. PC-NFS version (for MS-DOS and SUN's PC-NFS)
f. VM, in Pascal
g. VMS 5.3 with Wollongong WIN/TCP 5.1
h. Windows (with winsock)
i. X-Windows

Some other clients not part of the distribution:

uwho (pronounced "you-who") is another people-finding front end program
that was created by Daniel Kegel (, because whois
seemed difficult to use- you had to know what the hostname of the whois
server was, which is a detail that users shouldn't have to know. 

uwho is a front end to several white pages services (currently, whois,
ph, and KIS). It accepts a name and partial organization name, does a
search for matching organizations, runs whois, ph, or KIS queries (as
appropriate) in parallel, then shows the user the results. It is
powerful simply because it accesses a continually updated list of white
pages servers [i.e., it searches current information, not its "own list
of users"], so its power will grow as more [user-information] servers
come online.

Uwho is written in C and runs under Unix, VMS, NT, and MS-DOS. For more
information, consult uwho.doc. The latest version is uwho218b.tar.Z or and can be browsed as individual files. 

Or, if you don't have Web access, everything can be had at

uwho2html, a WWW front end to uwho, is also available.

Most gopher browsers support PH queries
Many World-Wide-Web browsers
Some Mail packages (notably Eudora)

Other Vax/VMS clients available via anonymous ftp:
  UCX & Mulinet:


Subject: 1.2.1 Where should the database files be kept?

(contributed by Gregg TeHennepe

> Can someone please tell in which directory the database files (prod-*) 
> should be kept or in which file we specify its location.

I got confused by this the first time I set qi up... if the prod.* files
are in the directory /usr/local/lib/qi, your DATABASE declaration in the
defaults config should be "/usr/local/lib/qi/prod".  I originally thought
this was set to a directory, and so created the directory
/usr/local/lib/qi/prod, and had the prod.* files there (and it didn't work).


Subject: 1.3 How do I create a ph database?

To create a database, you need to define the fields for the database,
determine its size, create a text file of data to be input into the
database, then run the database building programs. 

a. Defining the database

A ph database is defined by a "cnf" file.  The default file which comes
with ph is "prod.cnf".  It's a good idea to start with a copy of this
file, and to change as little as possible.  Some clients rely on the names
of certain fields in the cnf file, so changing them can cause unforeseen
problems.  The ph installation instructions specifically state that you
should NOT change the following fields: 

Used in ph source code

Used by utilities and clients

You should be able to change other fields without causing too many
problems.  For each field in the file, you will see a field number, a
field name, the number of bytes in the field, a descriptive name, and a
list of properties for the field.  Each of these items is separated by a
colon, with field entries separated by new lines.  You will probably want
to change the descriptions of some of the fields, as well as their length
in bytes, but you should generally leave the names and numbers alone. 

There are numerous properties you can assign to a field, and most sites
will want to customize these properties.  The most commonly changed
properties are as follows: 

1. Lookup: if present, clients can search on this field

2. Public: if present, clients can see this field.  LocalPub is a
variation which allows only clients in the local domain to see the field. 
If neither is present, only the system administrators and owners can see
the field. 

3. Default: If this is present, the contents of the field are returned on
normal searches.  If not present, the contents are returned only when
specifically requested by the client. 

4. Change: if present, clients who have authenticated (logged in) can
change the contents of the field. 

b. Creating an input file

To create an input file, you create a tab-delimited file containing the
information for the database.  Each line will be composed of field
numbers, a colon, the data for the field, and a tab (if another field
follows).  The format looks like this: 

fieldnum:data-for-field (tab)	fieldnum:data-for-field... (new line)

Here's a simple example:

3:Hunter, Noel C	32:759-5812	 22:POBox 7408	4:p
3:Dominick, James Lyon	32:759-5261	4:p

This example has two records, one for Noel Hunter, and one for James
Dominick.  Both records include data for fields 3,4 and 32, and the entry
for Noel Hunter also has data for field 22. 

Notice that the entries do not have to be in any order, and that some
entries can contain more fields than others.  Field 4, the "type" field,
must be present if you want ph to limit the number of entries returned by

c. Building the database

Assuming that the database cnf file (see a, above) is called "prod.cnf",
and the database text input file (see b, above) is called "qi.input", we
can create a ph database with the following shell script (note that this
version now works on a copy rather than the production database,
minimizing the time that the server is down): 

# PH database build script
# Designed from numerous contributions to the info-ph list
# Coded by Noel Hunter (
# Builds a PH Database from the input stored in the file qi.input.
# During the build, works on a copy of the database, not the working version.
# If disk space is a premium, modify the script to work on prod, not prod-new.
# The latest version of this script is available from:
echo "PH database build script started..."
# cd to the cso library directory.  We assume all the cso programs  
# are installed here:
cd /usr/local/lib/cso
echo "Making a working copy of prod.cnf for building the new database..."
cp prod.cnf prod-new.cnf
# Determine the size for the database using the "sizedb" program
# that comes with the server.  You need perl to use sizedb, along
# with the file primes.shar.  If you don't have these, you can hard-
# code in a prime bigger than the number of indexed fields (from the
# cnf file) times the number of records in your database (qi.input):
echo "Calculating size..."
size=`./sizedb prod-new.cnf qi.input`
# Build the database using the specifications in "prod-new.cnf", and the
# data in "qi.input"
echo "Executing credb..."
./credb $size prod-new
echo "Executing maked..."
./maked prod-new  form

+ # Invoke phquery to resolve names addressed to domain (sverre)
+ R$+<@LOCAL>           $#PH $@$w $:$1
  # resolve the local hostname to "LOCAL".
  R$*<$*$=w.LOCAL>$*    $1<$2LOCAL>$4                   thishost.LOCAL
  R$*<$*$=w.uucp>$*     $1<$2LOCAL>$4                   thishost.uucp
  R$*<$*$=w>$*          $1<$2LOCAL>$4                   thishost


Note that I had to add the phquery rule before the local hostname gets
resolved to LOCAL.  After this point there is no way to distinguish mail
to the domain from mail to the local host and a mail loop will result.
Also make sure that From: line contains the hostname and not just the
domain name.  Our mailer used just the domainname and I had a wonderful
mail loop bouncing mail with another site because phquery could not
resolve MAILER_DAEMON.  You can check your file by running
sendmail (by hand) with the -bt option, i.e.,

/usr/lib/sendmail -bt -C new-configuration file

and asking it to invoke the various rules, type for instance

4,0 some-address

and it will show how rules 4 and 0 treats the address.


AN ARCHIVE of diff files is maintained at:

You can use these diffs to make changes to your file. 
Currently, only two diffs are available: 

sendmailV8 (UCB Sendmail Version 8)
sunos52    (SUN OS Version 5.2)

For IDA sendmail, the phquery program is now part of the qi distribution on 
uiarchive (see Subject: 1.1 Where do I get the ph / cso software?)

If you have phquery working, PLEASE send us a diff by executing the command:

diff -c

(provided your original file is  Then mail the output
of the command, along with the output of "uname -a" to 


Subject: 1.5 Can I run multiple databases on different ports?

Yes.  You can use one binary (copy of the software).  On a Unix system,
make multiple entries in /etc/services and /etc/inetd.conf, and use the
-DATABASE option with each entry in /etc/inetd.conf to specify the desired
database for that port. 

Here are some sample entries from /etc/services and /etc/inetd.conf

ns              105/tcp         # CCSO nameserver
ns-clio         106/tcp
ns-eha          107/tcp

ns              stream  tcp     nowait  root    /usr/local/etc/qi qi
ns-clio         stream  tcp     nowait  root    /usr/local/etc/qi qi \
ns-eha          stream  tcp     nowait  root    /usr/local/etc/qi qi \

        (ns-clio and ns-eha are each one line, no breaks.)

(Samples contributed by Steve Madsen  )


Subject: 1.6 How can I register my CSO server?

You can send a note to Joel Cooper ( or (John
Norstad, . They need to know the name of your
institution as you wish it to appear in the directory, plus the domain
name of your new CSO server.  Joel maintains the list used by Gopher. They
try to keep their lists synchronized, so you only need to tell one of
them. John had announced that he would soon stop maintaining the list for
the Mac client, but has since been persuaded to continue maintaining the


Subject: 1.7 How to I give everyone passwords?

(contributed by Brian T. Shelden)

Password is just a field in the database, like any other. So, in your
tab-separated input file (see question 1.3) just add values for the
Password field in your .cnf file.  (Usually 7.)

Here's how I give everyone randomly generated passwords for the Directory
of Legal Academia . 

% mdump all > output.qi
% qi2readable output.qi | givepw | readable2qi > input.qi

Now remake the database with input.qi.  Below are the scripts qi2readable,
givepw, and readable2qi.  (Yes, it could be done in one script, but
qi2readable and and readable2qi are useful for other things, too.)

==================== qi2readable ==================== (cut here)
#! /usr/local/bin/perl

while (<>) {
        @a = split(/\t/);
        foreach $a (@a) {
                print "$a\n" if $a !~ /^\s*$/;
        print "--------------------\n";

==================== readable2qi ==================== (cut here)
#! /usr/local/bin/perl

while (<>) {
        if (/^[-]+$/) {
                print "\t\n";
        elsif (/\S+/) {
                print $_, "\t";

==================== givepw ==================== (cut here)
#! /usr/local/bin/perl -w

$pwnum = 7;


$hadapw = 0;
while (<>) {
        if (/^[\-]+$/) {
                if (! $hadapw) {
                        $ascii_passwd = &pw_generate;
                        print "${pwnum}:$ascii_passwd\n";
                $hadapw = 0;
        elsif (/^${pwnum}:/) {
                $hadapw = 1;

# Generate funky random password:
sub pw_generate {
        local(@passset, $rnd_passwd, $randum_num);
        @passset = ('a'..'k', 'm'..'z', 'A'..'N', 'P'..'Z', '2'..'9');
        $rnd_passwd = "";
        for ($i = 0; $i < 8; $i++) {
                $randum_num = int(rand($#passset + 1));
                $rnd_passwd .= @passset[$randum_num];

        return $rnd_passwd;


Subject: Section 2: Common problems / error messages


Subject: 2.1 How do I fix "Oops, lost connection to server"

There are many possible causes for this problem.  Here is a list of things
to check: 

1. Are the permissions set so that the login running qi (look in your
"inetd.conf" file to determine the login) can read all of the files?  The
permissions should look something like this (assuming the user is root): 

-rw-------   1 root     sys      3153408 Dec  6 05:03 prod.*
-rwx------   1 root     sys       180224 Nov 30 11:22 qi

If qi is not running as root, you need to chown the files so that the qi
user can read them, and can execute qi. 

2. Are the ph binaries installed in the right place (specified during the
make and in "inetd.conf"?  Is the ph directory accessible?  Did you move
the sources after you installed (this can cause problems). 

3. Did you build the database, and did it work (see 1.3)?

4. Are the service names in /etc/services and /etc/inted.conf the same,
and are they the same as the one specified in the makefiles? 

5. Did you restart inetd (with inetd -c), and rebuild the NIS database (if
using NIS, run ypmake), after you installed ph? 

6. Is the prod.cnf (or other cnf) file for your database in the same
directory as the database (it has to be). 

7. If the client does not have a registered domain name, qi may be denying
access.  Try compiling with the the -DNOCHECKNET option (add that to your
"$Cflags" variable in the config file used to build qi and then rebuild


Subject: 2.2 How do I do searches using strings with blanks in them?

(contributed by

Suppose the field you are searching is called Address and you want all the
Smiths who live in "New York".  You would enter the following in the Ph
command box: 

name=Smith address=New address=York


Subject: 2.3 How do I limit the number of responses?

To limit the number of responses returned, you need to do two things:

1. When compiling the server, set the "person limit", in the file
qi/configs/defaults.  Look for the line: 

"PersonLimit","100",                  # max # of people to return

and set the value (100 in this example) to the desired number of entries.

2. For all records you want to limit, you must set the "type" field to
"person", or "p".  When you are building the database, just include data
for the type field (field 4) with each person's entry (see the example in
section 1.3). 


Subject: 2.4 Ph is working fine for some entries, but returns "No matches
to your query" for other entries (especially new entries)

After building a small test database then adding and modifying entries, a
query to the database returns "No matches to your query".  Since the entry
has just been added (and qi acknowledged that it has been added), the user
knows the entry is there.  If the user queries one of the original entries
in the database that has not been modified, that entry will usually be
found. This problem is due to the fact that the original database is small
so the SIZE returned from sizedb is small.  If SIZE is used when building
the database, there is not much room for the database to grow. Use a
larger value for size to avoid this problem (see Subject 1.3). 


Subject: 2.5 How can you get a qi server to not only compile but actually
serve queries off of a Solaris 2.X machine? 

The latest version comes with a solaris2 configuration file already.  It
compiled nicely with gcc on both Solaris 2.3 and Solaris 2.2.  It works,
too. :-)

Submitted by: Aleks Margan 


Subject: Section 3: Questions that have not been answered.


Subject: 3.1 To which Unix platforms has `ph' been ported?


Subject: Section 4: Other questions


Subject: 4.1 What does CSO stand for?

CSO was the acronym for the University of Illinois Computing Services
Office, which is now the Computing and Communications Services Office


End of ph-FAQ
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