Remote Printing (aka Internet FAX, email-to-fax, freefax, efax etc etc)
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers (FAQ)
Collated and maintained by Mr. Arlington Hewes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last revised 19 February, 1997
Q. What is TPC.INT (otherwise known as Remote-Printing) all about?
A. Remote-Printing started out as an experiment, designed to integrate the FAX and the e-mail communities worldwide. It allows you to send FAXes by using
electronic mail. Perhaps more excitingly, it aimed to do this as a service to the Internet Community, thereby making it free of charge to the end user (the sender).
The experiment has grown up into a network of remote-printing "cells" all over the world, which continues to grow as you read this.
Q. What is a "cell", and why is this a useful concept?
A. A cell is a remote-printing server, which has been set up to provide coverage (thereby forwarding your e-mail as FAXes to the fax number of your choosing)
for a particular geographical calling area - like the many cells which, together, make up a large organism but which by themselves are useless. When you send a
FAX to somewhere in the world which is covered by our project, we direct that FAX to the appropriate cell, and it is delivered locally. (And probably very
cheaply for the cell operator. It is still free for you - the sender). Since your FAX has traveled most of its way through the Internet, and not an international
telephone network, there is no cost to you (unless you pay to send e-mail). By using many small cells all over the world, we are able to keep the operators' costs
very low, so everyone is happy.
Q. Why do you use the TPC.INT domain? What does it mean?
A. TPC = The Phone Company. INT = International. The reasons are historic, and may be attributed to Marshall Rose, and Carl Malamud - the original
consultants who created remote-printing as an experiment.
Q. What happened to Malamud and Rose? Who runs the show now?
A. In the summer of 1995, Marshall and Rose ended the "experiment", moving on to newer projects. Darren Nickerson, a Ph.D. student at the University of
Oxford, re-created the project and has administered it faithfully since that time. Coverage has expanded significantly under his guidance, and with the advent of
server software for both Windows and MacOS, allowing almost anyone with a directly-connected PC or workstation to join the project and run a "cell", the
project seems likely to grow explosively in the summer of 1996.
Q. Who is Mr. Arlington Hewes?
A. Mr. Arlington Hewes is Darren's faithful servant, taking care of the daily operation of the project. You may find he sounds very much like Darren - they spend a
lot of time working together these days I guess!
Q. I get a message from Mr. Arlington Hewes, which says that the number I tried is not covered by a "remote printer". What does this mean?
A. The project's coverage depends on individuals all over the world setting up what we call "cells" in their local areas, joining the network and making that area
accessible to you. The message you received means that there is no remote printer in the region you attempted. If you know anyone who might be able to set up a
server (or a "cell") in that region please let us know. It's possible as well that you formatted the address incorrectly, and it didn't go to the number you had intended
it to - more about this later.
Q. Can I find out beforehand which areas are currently covered by the project?
A. Of course. And we recommend you do so. Coverage fluctuates as technical glitches take cells offline occasionally, or network outages make them inaccessible.
It is best to stay current, so fetch a coverage list from us occasionally. To get an up-to-date list of currently covered telephone exchanges worldwide, please send a
message to email@example.com. A blank message is fine, and the subject does not matter. Mr. Hewes will send you a copy of the list immediately.
have a look at the list at http://www.tpc.int/fax_cover_auto.html
Q. How do I reach the TPC.INT administration?
A. Please send a message to Mr. Arlington Hewes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Mr. Hewes is an insanely busy man these days though, so make sure you read all the
available information before asking a question which may be answered elsewhere.
Q. Okay, but what information is available?
A. If you have a WWW browser, point it at http://www.tpc.int/ That's a great place to start learning about the project. This document is the FAQ (short for
Frequently Asked Questions - and answers), and you can fetch a current copy by sending mail to email@example.com. Again, the message may be blank, and need
not have a subject. Mr. Hewes will send you a new copy of this document immediately.
Q. Is there a usenet news group, or other discussion forum?
A. There is a mailing list, which you can join by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. This message must have a body, and in that body must appear a
single line 'subscribe tpc-rp'
The message should look something like:
To : email@example.com
----- Message Text -----
You should receive information about the discussion list quite soon after subscribing. Keep this information in a safe spot, because it tells you what to do when you
want to leave the list. In fact, print it out! To send a message to the discussion list, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once it is approved by the moderator, it will be
distributed to the over 850 people currently subscribed to the list, so please ensure that it is relevant to the project in some way. The list is a place to ask your
questions, but please take the time to read all the information which is available to you (such as this document - and our WWW site) before filling up everyone's
Q. I've read about the project, but I still can't get the address right -what am I doing wrong?
A. Make sure you conform exactly with the format:
The "remote-printer" bit is required for now. We are trying to phase it out, but use it to be safe for the time being. When the coverpage of your FAX is generated,
it will use the Address Lines to generate a "Please deliver this fax to:" message on the coverpage. Thus one would usually use a name for the 1st_address_line and
a place for the 2nd_address_line (see examples below). The underline character "_" will be converted to a space, and the backslash "/" character will be converted
to a new line when the coverpage is created. You may have as many "_" as you like, but only one newline "/" may be used per fax. The "#" characters represent the
fax number, which should include the country code, the local prefix, and the number (not the international code).
(to send a fax to Arlington Hewes in Room 403, at the FAX number,
in England (where the country code is 44), of +44 1865 271503)
(to send a fax to Mr (no punctuation marks like a "." here please)
Paul Katz in The Manor at the FAX number, in North America (where
the country code is 1) of +1 902 584 2817)
**NOTE** You may encounter references to our old address form, which requires the number to be reversed and separated by periods. Although this form will
still work, we recommend you use the more intuitive "iddd" form as explained above (IDDD = International Direct Dialling Designator).
Q. Is there a limit to how many FAXes I can send through a TPC cell?
A. Yes - each cell is permitted to define an 'acceptable use policy' based on the levels of traffic they are prepared to handle. Any FAXes which exceed this weekly
(or indeed hourly) limit will not be processed, and you will be notified as to which limit has been exceeded.
Q. I think I am doing everything correctly, but still it fails. What can
A. Occasionally, something may be broken. It may be your end or our end of things, but without more information we're not going to be able to help. Please
posyour query to the tpc-rp mailing list, including as much detail as you can about the address you used, the mailer you used, and include any error messages
(including the mail headers) which have been returned to you. Knowledge is power, and with enough information, some kind soul should be able to sort out what is
Q. I wanted to fax (insert your favorite place here) but Mr Arlington Hewes said that it was not covered by a remote printer. I think (my favorite
place) is a very important region, so please can you cover it?
A. We can't help you, but you can help yourself. The very nature of the project means that we need someone in that area (the one you are trying to reach) to join
our project, thereby extending our coverage to that region. If they have a PC, a Mac, or a UNIX workstation and a bit of computer expertise then they're capable
of becoming a part of TPC.INT - please put them in touch with Mr. Arlington Hewes immediately.
Q. I formatted everything correctly, but I got a message back from someone called "mailer-daemon" or "postmaster" which says "host not
found", or "unknown host". Help!?
A. Because the project is global, and depends on the health of a lot of small systems all over the world, sometimes there are transient (unpredictable) outages. This
seems to be what has happened to you. We are committed to improving service and rectifying such shortcomings however, so please forward the exact message
you received to Mr. Arlington Hewes, along with an explanation including the number you were trying to reach, and the exact address which you used, and he will
let you know what happened and how to proceed. Please give him as much detail as possible.
Q. I formatted everything correctly, but I have not yet received any message about the status of my FAX. Has it been delivered? How long will I
have to wait?
A. It is possible that either your original FAX or the remote-printing cell's message to you is delayed. . . it's only as reliable as e-mail after all. It is also possible that
your FAX is waiting in a queue of backlogged FAXes on a busy cell. In most cases, you should receive confirmation of a successful transmission within 15
minutes, but it could be as long as a day before you hear. . . there is no hard rule, and experience is perhaps the best teacher here.
Q. What type of documents can I FAX through TPC.INT?
A. Plain text, Postscript, or TIFF-F (G3-encoded bilevel TIFF).
Q. I can send plain (ASCII) text easily enough, but how about this
A. To include these types of documents in your fax, use a MIME compliant mailer to "attach" them to your message. This will ensure that they are added correctly,
with the proper formatting, headers and encoding so that they may be decoded at the remote-printer end. If you're uncertain whether or not your mailer is MIME
compliant, check with the manufacturer, your system administrator, or a knowledgeable friend..
Q. Why use Postscript/TIFF, and how do I generate them?
A. These formats allow you to send richly formatted text (including foreign fonts and characters), and complex images which would not otherwise be possible with
simple ASCII text messages. To generate a postscript file, select a laserwriter print driver (on a Mac or a PC) and use the "print-to-file" option. Use basic fonts
such as times-new-roman for the most reliable results, and if you're going to get more fancy than that it is best to select the option which allows you to include the
font descriptions in the postscript file itself. This will result in a very large postscript file, but one which may be successfully imaged by a remote-printer which may
not already know about the font you are using.
NOTE - some "laser" print drivers create files which use non-standard commands and instructions. . . to be safe use as generic a driver as possible. If in doubt, use
Apple's Laserwriter driver, which is known to work. TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) specifies a number of options that can be set. One of these is the
compression method used within the file. The only compression method supported by the TPC-RP software is CCITT FAX compression, called "TIFF/F" for
short. Most software packages do not support all TIFF options and your software may not be capable of generating this format. Unless you know what it is, is it
probably safe to assume that if you have a TIFF file, it is normal TIFF, and cannot (as yet) be imaged by our remote-printers. We hope to support TIFF and
several other formats within 3 months.
Q. I know I can send e-mail --> FAX, but can I send FAX--> e-mail?
A. Not with TPC.INT. We only do e-mail --> FAX.
Q. I find all this e-mail stuff confusing - isn't there a tool I can use
to make this all much easier?
A. Of course. . . sort of. We now have clients (programs which help you use TPC.INT, as opposed to servers which would allow you to join us by running a cell)
which can make sending a FAX through our service almost as easy as printing. Unfortunately, we only have such clients for "wintel" Windows-based machines, or
UNIX workstations running x-windows. Nothing for the Mac, as yet. If you think you could put something together for the Mac, please mail Mr. Arlington Hewes
right away! To see the clients which you may retrieve and install on your machines, have a look at the client section on our WWW pages - as it is likely to change
very much in the coming months we offer no absolute path to the programs here.
Q. I'm thinking of joining you and running a remote-printing cell. What does it involve, and what's in it for me?
A. Great idea, but that's the wrong attitude! This is about providing a service to the community, helping out your fellow man etc. Okay, . . . we realize this may not
be motivation enough for many of you, so how about this: you are permitted to acknowledge a sponsor on the coverpage of each FAX you deliver, and to use any
advertising revenue accrued in this manner to offset any costs from running your cell - if you manage to make a profit then even better! To run a cell you will need a
Mac, PC, or UNIX machine directly connected to the Internet, and on this you must run a server which drives a faxmodem for delivering the FAXes. The type of
server, along with the demands it will place on your system, varies depending on your hardware and operating system, but your machine should still be useful for
whatever else it is meant to be doing.
Hardware for Remote Printing kindly provided by the folks at
Netcentric Corporation - http://www.netcentric.com/