Re: I found your name in Linux's /usr/lib/magic

Daniel Quinlan (
Sat, 19 Oct 1996 16:11:31 -0400 (EDT)

Eric S Raymond <> writes:
> I found your name in /usr/lib/magic. It appears that at some point you
> were doing most of the mods on this file. Is there a known maintainer
> for it, or for Linux file(1) (which I can't find a man page for)?

Dan Quinlan replies:
> I still am doing work on it. The maintainer is Christos Zoulas of tcsh
> fame <>. If you have a modification in one of the
> areas where I've worked (well, most of them), I'd appreciate seeing it
> too.

The reason I'm asking is because somebody on the W3C HTML development list
suggested that it might be a good idea if there were a public Internet
registry of magic numbers, given as-official-as-it-get status by an RFC which
software developers could quote.

This stimulated some thoughts in my head:

(1) This sounds like a worthy service project.

(2) I would be willing to do it. After a couple years of maintaining
terminfo/termcap, I'm pretty comfortable with both the technicalia
and politics involved in efforts like this.

(3) It might also be useful for there to be a File Extensions Registry,
and for file(1) to start trying to deduce stuff from file extensions
when the magic number deductions are ambiguous or nonexistent.

(4) It would be an interesting design challenge to extend the magic-file
language to declare hints or deductions from filename patterns.

As an example of the kind of thing I mean, I can imagine a future version
of file(1) which, upon seeing a file named `foo.l' would declare it
a "Lisp source code file" if the initial segment of the file matched
the regexp [ \t\n]*;* or [ \t\n]*(, but a "Lex source file" if the initial
segment matched [ \t\n]*/\* or [ \t\n]*%%.

Are these thoughts interesting to you two?

	<a href="">Eric S. Raymond</a>