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Free Software Archive:
Enterprise and Home Networking Downloads

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OSDL Opens Patent Commons Project
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When I first started studying for my CCNA years ago, one of the (many) things that confused me was ARP. Or rather, what ARP did as opposed to Reverse ARP, Inverse ARP, and Proxy ARP! One book would mention ARP without mentioning the other variations, one woule mention RARP but not Proxy ARP, and so on...


Host, Dig

By A.P. Lawrence

I tend to use "dig" for DNS lookups, but it's more habit than anything else. The main page for host says "host is a simple utility for performing DNS lookup" while dig's brags "Most DNS administrators use dig to troubleshoot DNS problems because of its flexibility, ease of use and clarity of output. Other lookup tools tend to have less functionality than dig."

Well, yes, dig does perhaps have more power than host, but the need for that power doesn't come up all that often and host is both easier to use and more direct with its output. For getting an ip address from a hostname, the usage is the same, either "dig hostname" or "host hostname", but "host" returns only the ip address. Almost always, that's all I care about:

$ host has address
$ dig

; <<>> DiG 9.2.2 <<>>
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 187
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 2

; IN A



;; ADDITIONAL SECTION: 172325 IN A 172325 IN A

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;; Query time: 59 msec
;; WHEN: Sun Apr 17 10:46:37 2005
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 130
For reverse lookups, dig needs a "-x" while host does not:

$ host domain name pointer
$ dig -x

; <<><>> DiG 9.2.2 <<>>>> -x
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 16610
;; flags: qr aa rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 5, ADDITIONAL: 5



;; AUTHORITY SECTION: 172800 IN NS 172800 IN NS 172800 IN NS 172800 IN NS 172800 IN NS

;; ADDITIONAL SECTION: 172800 IN A 172800 IN A 172800 IN A 172800 IN A 172800 IN A

;; Query time: 210 msec
;; WHEN: Sun Apr 17 10:53:29 2005
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 255

Keep in mind that both of these are actually looking for a PTR record.

Looking up MX records is easy with either tool:

$ dig mx

; <<>> DiG 9.2.2 <<>> mx
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 33484
;; flags: qr aa rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 0




;; Query time: 106 msec
;; WHEN: Sun Apr 17 14:46:11 2005
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 103

But again "host" just gives us the bare facts:

$ host -t MX mail is handled by 10

Another common use is to look up using some other DNS server. I'll do this to check for propagation progress and sometimes for errors:

$ dig
..(typical dig output)
$ host
Using domain server:

Again, host tells us less, but more directly gives what we usually want to see.

There are more options for both commands; this only covered the basic usage.

*Originally published at

About the Author:
A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services

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