Real-time Conversations Courtesy the ytalk Command - At Your Discretion

n the spirit of holiday food consumption, here is a business user's stew of handy tools to solve common Net problems you likely face each time you log on.


Many systems let other users page you with the "talk" or "ytalk" command (check the "man" pages for helpful information). This allows you to engage in a real-time conversation using your computer console. However, it raises two questions for many new users. First, what if I don't wish to be bothered? Second, what if I am doing something else at the time?

In the first case, after you log on to your account, you can type "mesg" to see the system default. If it is set for yes (mesg y) you need to set it to n (type "mesg n"). This effectively refuses any talk/ytalk connections. On many systems, the default is "mesg y" so you may have to change it each time you log on -- unless you learn how to alter the .login or .profile files in your home directory. (Refer to a Unix manual. For new users, I like Harley Hahn's A Student's Guide to Unix or Dave Taylor's Teach Yourself Unix in a Week.)

In the second case, you can suspend your current operation or process by typing control-z (also shown as ^z). You will find yourself back at the Unix prompt. At this point, type "talk userid@hostname.domain" to establish a connection with your caller, for example, "talk" if I were the person sending the command to you.

Your screen will show two parts for you and your colleague to type your respective words of wisdom. To end your conversation, type "control-c" (hold down the control key while typing the letter "c"). You will go to the prompt. Type "fg" to return to your normally scheduled programming, that is, go back to what you were doing.


At the prompt, type "lynx " to launch lynx directly to your bookmark page. For example, if you rename your bookmark page, john.html, then at your prompt, type "lynx john.html" and you will go to that page. Make sure you have saved a link (by typing "a" on any document and answering affirmatively) or else the program will not launch.

After setting the options in Lynx, including the editor, try typing the letter "e" after launching the program. This allows you to edit your homepage, formatting it the way you want, adding links manually or rearranging the links alphabetically.

New on the Net:

  • The Technology Programs and Commercialization Office at John F. Kennedy Space Center now has a Web Server: URL:

  • Defense Technical Information Center Home Page: URL:

  • The Aerospace Business Development Center is available on the Web: URL:

John S. Makulowich writes, speaks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him via E-mail at or

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