Re: Making the picons database distributed
Mon, 7 Sep 1998 10:02:18 +0100

On 06/09/98 07:39:47 David May, at a FreeBSD 2.2.6 site, somewhere in the
Outback wrote:
> I am glad you said this and I entirely agree. The Internet has become
> serious in recent times. Faces do make it more enjoyable (and that is one
> reason why I use the exmh mail agent).It would be nice if faces were more
> widely supported.
Too true; I've recently had to move to a Notes system, and I miss my faces!
[pout pout]
> I downloaded the entire faces database a few years ago. That was a rather
> large amount of data to FTP. It occupies a sizeable chunk of disk space
> The database gets more out of date each day as there does not seem to be
> convenient way for me to keep it current.
To be honest, I only used the normal database for the company/country
picons. Almost every real face displayed came from an X-Face header or
(more likely) my hand-assembled database snarfed from others' web pages.
I'm aware of exactly one instance where I received mail from someone who
was already in the database.
For distributed systems, HTTP is definitely the protocol to use, but I'd
question whether it should transform the address into a search path as was
suggested. The reason for this is that if someone's address is variable,
you might send out several requests to the server before finding a suitable
image. Think what effect spam would have...
We have a home-grown system where, which serves faces to Wintel users. They
run a program which scans their POP3 mailbox and retrieves addresses, and
sends these addresses verbatim to a CGI script on the faces server. The
server does the hunt for a suitable image, and returns it (in Windows BMP
format, for ease of display). The CGI script is guaranteed to return a
suitable image on the first try, so that the client only ever has to send
one request per address.
One advantage of using a CGI process rather than a simple fetch is that the
local server could pass the request onto a more suitable one, in DNS
fashion, always assuming that there was some way of deciding where to send
The disadvantage, of course, is that it's more vunerable to run a CGI
process than just serving plain files.
Finally, in addition to fancy servers, I see nothing wrong with
distributing the faces database by the simple addition of a different
PS if you want to get bizarre, you could always have a faces.* USENET
hierarchy, with articles containing updates/additions to the database....