Q Where can I get hold of a comprehensive list of all the Usenet newsgroups? Some Online services, such as CompuServe and AOL, seem to censor even quite innocuous newsgroups.
A Given the recent excitement about 'kiddy porn' and the ultimatum issued to Internet service providers (ISPs) by the Metropolitan Police, it's not surprising that you won't find them all listed at your local ISP. Most UK ISPs carry the vast majority of newsgroups and they usually provide a text file which summarises them. At Demon, for example, check out ftp://ftp.demon. co.uk/pub/news/active.zip for an archive listing you can download.
There are a number of sites where you ought to be able to find a truly global listing, including www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/ faq/usenet/faq-list.html and http://sunsite.unc.edu/usenet-1/
Q I travel a lot and normally have no trouble picking up my email wherever I am in the world. But newsgroups are a different matter - I frequently have trouble accessing some of them. Why should this be?
A The simple reason is that ISPs aren't obliged to carry every newsgroup. Given the resource requirements imposed on news servers (www.dejanews.com receives half a gigabyte of new postings every day), it's understandable if the local ISP is selective about newsgroup coverage. After all, how relevant to the residents of Hong Kong is a newsgroup devoted to the pleasures of London nightlife?
There are several ways around this problem. There's nothing to stop you from contacting the local ISP and asking it to carry your newsgroups - if these groups only have light traffic this shouldn't be too much trouble. Or you can use a publicly accessible news server. You can get a list of public news servers from http://wopr.cs.utas.edu.au/ open-news-servers/.
In the UK, pubnews.demon. co.uk is a publicly accessible news server which is operated by Demon Internet. Another possibility is gopher - you can use public read-only gopher interfaces to news feeds. A full list of gopher news feeds can be obtained from gopher://gopher.interserv.net/11/usenet%20news/.
You'll also find one at gopher://gopher.ic.ac.uk:4320/ inntp/. But be warned - these 'free' Internet resources are exceptionally busy sites and connecting to a public news server can be a frustrating affair.
Q How can I resign from a list server? I got carried away and subscribed to loads of lists and I fear I've bitten off more than I can chew. I'm now inundated with material I haven't got the time or inclination to read.
A List servers are closed mailing discussions on fixed topics which offer a painless method of obtaining timely postings. As you've found out, they can be a real nuisance if you overdo it. One tip is to see whether your mailer supports rules-based filtering, which would automatically file away your incoming messages. This won't reduce the deluge but it will make it easier to handle. Eudora Lite, the popular mail/news reader, has a filtering facility.
The standard way to resign from a mailing list is to send an email with 'unsubscribe' as the first line of text in the message, not in the subject line. If that doesn't do the trick, you can usually get simple instructions from the list server by sending it the word 'help' instead. For those keen to try out the pleasures of mail lists, a list of all active mail lists is kept at http://tile.net/listserv/.
Q Is it possible to use a Web browser to read a newsgroup posting?
A Yes, several browsers permit it - Internet Explorer 3.0, Navigator 2.0 and 3.0 and Mosaic all feature a Newsgroup reader function. In the case of Navigator, email and newsgroup functions are built into the browser. In Internet Explorer 3.0, separate mail and news programs are supplied although these are callable from within the browser.
Setting up the newsreader is much the same as for other readers - you need to specify the name of the news server plus any login and passwords required. You will then be able to access the newsgroups directly from the URL address field, like this:
You can use any Web browser to access newsgroups. All you need do is point your browser at www.dejanews.com/. This site not only allows you to search all the newsgroups for the topic or word you're interested in, but unlike most news servers, it archives all newsgroup postings so you'll always be able to retrieve messages sent at the dawn of techno-antiquity. Most news servers only keep messages for a few days.
Q How do I decode the binary files which are often attached to newsgroup postings? I appreciate that they're encoded to permit transmission across the Internet but they're often broken down into 64Kb chunks. How do I reassemble the chunks back into files?
A A number of shareware offerings automate this tedious process but the best method by far is via your browser. So your first step should be to get hold of a decent, up-to-date browser such as Navigator 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0. Both programs have the ability to decode MIME or uuencoded attachment files automatically and on the fly. The file will either be decoded - and, in the case of Navigator, displayed - as it's downloaded, or it will be 'detached' and saved as a separate file as in the case of Explorer 3.0.
That, of course, assumes the data has been sent as a single file - what about files broken down into several chunks? The Internet News add-on for Internet Explorer is particularly good in this respect. All you do is highlight the headers of the messages that make up the entire posting by holding down the Control key and clicking the message headers. Once the group is selected, you right-click the selection and select Decode and Combine from the pop-up Context menu. The messages are then collected together, combined and decoded. You're left with a single file, which you detach simply by dragging it onto the desktop.
Q What does 'rc' mean at the end of files like newsrc?
A This is a Unix hangover related to the phrase 'run commands', which is used for any file that contains startup information for a command. The use of 'rc' in startup files originates in the /etc/rc command file used to start multi-user Unix.
Q What is ROT13 encryption?
A ROT13 hardly qualifies as encryption anymore. It's one of the oldest, most simple techniques and hence the easiest to break. Under ROT13, each letter of every word is replaced by the letter 13 along in the alphabet, wrapping around when it gets to Z. Most newsreaders have a built-in command which decrypt articles like these automatically. But because it's such a weak method, you'll only find it used to encrypt tasteless jokes and suchlike.
Q Why does it take so long for my postings to appear in a newsgroup? I posted a question a day ago and still haven't seen it.
A The newsgroup is most probably moderated - its content is actively vetted. If that's the case, there will be a delay while your article is mailed to the moderator. If the newsgroup isn't moderated, there's something wrong with your local news software, so complain to your local ISP.
Q When I cross-post an article to a moderated group and unmoderated groups, it gets mailed to the moderator and not to the un-moderated groups.
A This is a feature, not a bug! Newsreader software is designed to enable the moderator to cross-post the article so that, if appropriate, it will appear in the regular groups as well as the moderated one. If the article were to be posted immediately to the unmoderated groups, the moderated group name would have to be deleted from the header and you would lose the cross-posting. I guess the only way around this is to post the article twice.
Q Is it OK to post a message sent to me as email to a newsgroup?
A Netiquette demands that you contact the author of the email and secure his or her permission to post it to a newsgroup. On the legal side, it can be argued that posting someone's email without their permission is a violation of copyright law. Even though a letter was addressed to you, you do not have the right to publish its contents, as it is the work of the author and the author retains copyright. Your letters are your intellectual property. If someone publishes your letters they are violating your copyright.
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