Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

3.17. I can't Telnet to a site. What's wrong?

Telnet is nearly idiot-proof. Unlike some of the Internet's tools that require infinite patience, a degree in cryptography for decoding error messages, and manual pages as thick as your skull, Telnet is simple. It either works or it doesn't.

If you try to connect to a site that doesn't exist or can't be Telnetted to (for instance, a UUCP feed) you'll see an unknown host message. There isn't much you can do but check your spelling and try again.

$ telnet unknown host
Once you've successfully Telnetted to a host, there's no telling what you're expected to do. In the best case, you'll instantly see a message telling you what to do. In the worst case (if you're expecting something more), you'll only be greeted with: If you don't know what you are expected to enter at one these prompts, perhaps you shouldn't be Telnetting to that host.

Note: I asked Daniel P. Dern to answer a couple of questions about the Internet's tools. Well, Daniel can be a little verbose. His idea of a "a couple of questions" spans the rest of the "Tools of the Internet" section. Daniel Dern ( is an Internet author/analyst and independent technology writer based in Newton Centre, MA. He is author of The Internet Guide for New Users (McGraw-Hill, 1993) and creator of the Internet Learner's Permit and Driving Test.

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