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The Little Brother's Database (lbdb)

This package was inspired by the Big Brother Database package available for various Emacs mailers, and by Brandon Long's "external query" patch for the Mutt mail user agent. (Note that this patch has been incorporated into the main-line mutt versions as of mutt 0.93.)

The package doesn't use any formal database libraries or languages, although it should be quite easy to extend it to use, e.g., an installed PostgreSQL server as it's back end.

For querying the Little Brother, just type lbdbq <something>. lbdbq will now attempt to invoke various modules to gather information about persons matching <something>. E.g., it may look at a list of addresses from which you have received mail, it may look at YP maps, or it may try to finger <something>@<various hosts>.

The behavior is configurable: Upon startup, lbdbq will source the shell scripts

  • /usr/local/etc/lbdb.rc (or where your sysconfdir points to)
  • $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/lbdb/config
  • $HOME/.lbdbrc
  • $HOME/.lbdb/lbdbrc
  • $HOME/.lbdb/rc

if they exist.

They can be used to set the following global variables:

  • MODULES_PATH: Where lbdbq should look for modules
  • METHODS: What modules to use.
  • SORT_OUTPUT: Set this to "false" or "no" and lbdbq won't sort the addresses but returns them in reverse order (which means that the most recent address in m_inmail database is first). If you set this to "name", lbdbq sorts the output by real name. If you set this to "comment", it sort the output by the comment (for example the date in m_inmail). If you set this to "address", lbdbq sorts the output by addresses (that's the default).

Note that there are defaults, so you should most probably modify these variables using constructs like this:


Additionally, modules may have configuration variables of their own.

Currently the following modules are supplied with lbdb:



This module will use finger to find out something more about a person. The list of hosts do be asked is configurable; use the M_FINGER_HOSTS variable. Note that "localhost" will mean an invocation of your local finger(1) binary, and should thus work even if you don't provide the finger service to the network. m_finger tries to find out the machines mail domain name in /etc/mailname, by parsing a file (if it finds one) and by reading /etc/hostname and /etc/HOSTNAME.


This module will look up user name fragments in a list of mail addresses. To create this list, put the following lines into your $HOME/.procmailrc:

| lbdb-fetchaddr

This will pipe a copy of every mail message you receive through a small C program lbdb-fetchaddr(1) which grabs that message's "From:" header.


This module searches for matching entries in your local /etc/passwd file. It evaluates the local machine mail domain in the same way m_finger does. If you set PASSWD_IGNORESYS=true, this module ignores all system accounts and only finds UIDs between 1000 and 29999 (all other UIDs are reserved on a Debian system).


This module searches for matching entries in the NIS password database using the command ypcat passwd.


This module searches for matching entries in the NIS+ password database using the command niscat passwd.org_dir.


This module searches for matching entries in whatever password database is configured using the command getent passwd.

m_pgp2, m_pgp5, m_gpg

These modules scan your PGP 2., PGP 5. or GnuPG public key ring for data. They use the programs pgp, pgpk, or gpg to get the data.


This module searches your Fido nodelist, stored in $HOME/.lbdb/nodelist created by nodelist2lbdb(1).


This module uses the program abook, a text based address book application to search for addresses. You can define multiple abook address books by setting the variable ABOOK_FILES to a space separated list.


This module uses the program goobook, a program to access your Google contacts via command line client.


This module uses the program addr-email from the addressbook Tk address database program to search for addresses.


This module searches the variable $MUTTALIAS_FILES (a space separated list) of files in $MUTT_DIRECTORY that contain Mutt aliases. File names without leading slash will have $MUTT_DIRECTORY (defaults to $HOME/.mutt or $HOME, if $HOME/.mutt does not exist) prepended before the file name. Absolute file names (beginning with /) will be taken direct.


This module searches pine addressbook files for aliases. To realize this it first inspects the variable $PINERC. If it isn't set, the default "/etc/pine.conf /etc/pine.conf.fixed .pinerc" is used. To suppress inspecting the $PINERC variable, set it to "no". It than takes all address-book and global-address-book entries from these pinerc files and adds the contents of the variable $PINE_ADDRESSBOOKS to the list, which defaults to "/etc/addressbook .addressbook". Then these addressbooks are searched for aliases. All filenames without leading slash are searched in $HOME.


This module searches the Palm address database using the Palm::PDB and Palm::Address Perl modules from CPAN. It searches in the variable $PALM_ADDRESS_DATABASE or if this isn't set in $HOME/.jpilot/AddressDB.pdb.


This module searches for addresses in your GnomeCard database files. The variable GNOMECARD_FILES is a whitespace separated list of GnomeCard data files. If this variable isn't defined, the module searches in $HOME/.gnome/GnomeCard for the GnomeCard database or at least falls back to $HOME/.gnome/GnomeCard.gcrd. If a filename does not start with a slash, it is prefixed with $HOME/.


This module searches for addresses in your (X)Emacs BBDB (big brother database). It doesn't access ~/.bbdb directly (yet) but calls (x)emacs with a special mode to get the information (so don't expect too much performance in this module). You can configure the EMACS variable to tell this module which emacsen to use. Otherwise it will fall back to emacs or xemacs.


This module queries an LDAP server using the Net::LDAP Perl modules from CPAN. It can be configured using an external resource file (for more details please refer to the mutt_ldap_query(1) manual page).


This module searches for addresses stored in your $WANDERLUST_ADDRESSES (or by default in $HOME/.addresses) file, an addressbook of WanderLust.


This module queries the OS X AddressBook. It is only available on OS X systems.


This module queries the Ximian Evolution address book using the evolution-addressbook-export application.


This module uses libvformat to search for addresses from the space-separated set of vCard files defined in $VCF_FILES.


This module searches a CardDAV address book via khard.


This module uses the program mu, a tool for indexing and searching Maildir directories. You can set MU_AFTER to a timestamp value and MU_PERSONAL to "yes" or "true" to filter the results.

Feel free to create your own modules to query other kind of databases. m_finger should be a good example of how to do it.

If you create your own modules or have other changes and feel that they could be helpful for others, don't hesitate to submit them to me for inclusion in later releases.

For more information have a look at the lbdbq(1) man page, which is included in the package.

Download and Repository:


This package was initially written by Thomas Roessler Most of the really interesting code of this program (namely, the RFC 822 address parser used by lbdb-fetchaddr) was stolen from Michael Elkins mutt mail user agent. Additional credits go to Brandon Long for putting the query functionality into mutt.

Many thanks to the authors of the several modules and extensions: