12. NETNEWS (USENET)
12.1. What is NETNEWS
Netnews, or Usenet as it is more commonly called, is a message
sharing system that exchanges messages electronically around the
world in a standard format. Messages exchanged on Usenet are arranged
by topic into categories called newsgroups. Netnews is, thus, a huge
collection of messages, being passed from machine to machine. The
messages may contain both plain text and encoded binary information.
The messages also contain header lines that define who the message
came from, when the message was posted, where it was posted, where it
has passed, and other administrative information.
The major, hierarchical categories of Usenet newsgroups which are
distributed throughout the world are alt, comp, misc, news, rec, sci,
soc, and talk. There are many other major categories which may be
topical (e.g., bionet, biz, vmsnet) and are usually distributed
worldwide as well, or geographical and even organizational (e.g.,
ieee) or commercial (e.g., clari). The latter categories are usually
distributed only with their area of interest. The messages of many
Bitnet LISTSERV mailing lists are also distributed in Usenet under
the major category bit.
The major categories are further broken down into more than 1200
newsgroups on different subjects which range from education for the
disabled to Star Trek and from environmental science to politics in
the former Soviet Union. The quality of the discussion in newsgroups
is not guaranteed to be high. Some newsgroups have a moderator who
scans the messages for the group before they are distributed and
decides which ones are appropriate for distribution.
Usenet was originally developed for Unix systems in 1979. Within a
year, fifty Unix sites were participating. Now, there are thousands
of sites running a number of operating systems on a variety of
hardware platforms communicating via Usenet around the globe.
12.2. Who can use NETNEWS
Usenet newsgroups can be read at thousands of sites around the world.
In addition, there are several sites that provide public dial-up
service so that people who are not at a Usenet site can have access
to newsgroups as well. If you don't know if your site has Usenet
access, check with your local computer support people.
Protocols and software for the distribution of news are in use in
several networks, such as the Internet, UUCP, EARN/Bitnet and
If you have e-mail service only, then you can not access Usenet.
However, many newsgroups are connected to mailing lists which you
could join. For a list of these newsgroups and their associated
mailing lists, send mail to LISTSERV@AMERICAN.EDU with the line: GET
NETGATE GATELIST. Moreover, many of the documents which appear
periodically in newsgroups are available by e-mail from
email@example.com. For instructions, send a message with the
12.3. How to get to NETNEWS
If your site provides Usenet access, then you just need to use one of
the many software packages available for reading news (at least one
is probably available on your computer). These packages either access
a local news spool, or use the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP)
to access the news spool on some other computer in the network.
Within EARN, a network of Netnews distribution has been developed,
providing efficient distribution of Usenet traffic while minimizing
the load on the network for the participating countries.
If Usenet is not available to you and you would like to arrange
access for your site, contact your system administrator. You should
also read the article How to become a USENET site which is posted
periodically to the news.answers newsgroup. It is also available by
anonymous FTP from rtfm.mit.edu as
/pub/usenet/news.answers/site-setup or by mail to:
firstname.lastname@example.org with the line: send
12.4. Using NETNEWS
There are many software packages available for reading and
distributing Netnews on a variety of operating systems (Unix, VMS,
VM/CMS, MVS, Macintosh, MS-DOS and OS/2) and environments (Emacs,
X-Windows, MS-Windows). See the list of freely available news reader
software packages in Appendix A. Note that the number of software
packages available to run news, especially on PCs, is increasing.
In addition to the software packages specifically designed to be news
readers, many other communications programs, particular mail
interfaces, provide the possibility for Usenet access in addition to
their main function.
Most, if not all, of the news readers provide the same basic
* Subscribing to newsgroups: This means that your news reading
software will make these groups immediately accessible, so that
you can choose to read the postings of groups that interest you
quickly and easily.
* Unsubscribing from newsgroups: Removing groups from your easy
* Reading newsgroup postings: Your news reader presents postings
to you and keeps track of which postings you have and have not
* Threads of discussion: You can follow groups of postings that
deal with the same subject easily.
* Posting to news groups: You can participate in group
discussions; your news reader knows where to send your posting.
* Responding to a posting: You can send a response to the
newsgroup (often called follow-up) or to the author of a posting
(often called reply).
When you enter the tin news reader, you get a listing of the
newsgroups to which you are subscribed:
Group Selection (9) h=help
1 30637 bit.listserv.novell local list
2 1106 comp.mail.misc General discussions about compu
3 8031 comp.protocols.tcp-ip TCP and IP network protocols.
4 840 comp.sys.mac
5 8789 news.answers Repository for periodic USENET
-> 6 29 news.lists News-related statistics and lis
7 15056 rec.woodworking Hobbyists interested in woodwor
8 7094 sci.psychology Topics related to psychology.
9 13093 soc.culture.celtic Celtic, Irish, & Welsh culture
*** End of Groups ***
In tin, selecting a newsgroup is done with the arrow keys. When you
select a group, you get a listing of the articles:
comp.mail.misc (41T 64A 0K 0H) h=help
1 + RIPEM Frequently Noted Vulnerabilities Marc VanHeyningen
2 + RIPEM Frequently Asked Questions Marc VanHeyningen
3 + Mail Archive Server software list Jonathan I. Kamen
4 + 1 UNIX Email Software Survey FAQ Chris Lewis
5 + 2 PC Eudora and Trumpet Winsock problem Jim Graham
6 + X11 mail reader Dominique Marant
7 + MIME supporting e-mail Tim Goodwin
8 + 1 IBM User name and Address Server Wes Spears
9 + 5 Newbie needs MHS/SMTP question answered Chris Pearce
10 + FAQ - pine Bruce Lilly
11 + FAQ: International E-mail accessibility Olivier M.J. Crep
-> 12 + PC E-Mail and Dial-in Edward Vielmetti
13 + Prodigy Mail Manager "01/07" email@example.com
14 + Prodigy Mail Manager "02/07" firstname.lastname@example.org
15 + Prodigy Mail Manager "03/07" email@example.com
tins is a threaded news reader: replies to a posting are grouped
together with the original posting, so that the reader can follow a
thread of discussion. Above, you see the threads, the number of
replies in each thread, the subject and the author. The plus sign (+)
indicates that not all postings in the thread have been read. Other
news readers show other details. When you select an item, it appears
on your screen:
Wed, 01 Sep 1993 07:05:49 comp.mail.misc Thread 13 of 41
Lines 27 Re: PC E-Mail and Dial-in No responses
firstname.lastname@example.org Edward Vielmetti at Msen, Inc. -- Ann Arbor
Sherry H. Lake (email@example.com) wrote:
: I am looking for an email package that will allow a user to
: dial-in to his mail machine download any messages to his local
: PC, delete the messages from the server and then automatically
: sign him off. The user can then use his client software (local)
: to read, compose and reply. He then would have to dial-in again
: to so his outgoing mail will be uploaded to the server.
Various POP clients for PCs or Windows Sockets will do roughly
this. You should look at:
- NUPOP (MS-DOS)
- Eudora for Windows (Windows)
- WinQVT/Net (Windows)
- various commercial POP clients listed in the 'alt.winsock'
directory of commercial Windows systems
You'll want to look particularly for dial up IP software (SLIP or
PPP) that makes the process of connecting minimally onerous, e.g.
by scripting the session so that the users don't have to type
anything, perhaps by automatically dialing for you when you go to
read or otherwise open a network connection, and offering a
reasonable way to disconnect.
Edward Vielmetti, vice president for research, Msen Inc.
emv@Msen.com Msen Inc., 628 Brooks, Ann Arbor MI 48103
+1 313 998 4562 (fax: 998 4563)
12.6. Learning more about NETNEWS
News programs communicate with each other according to standard
protocols, some of which are described by Internet Request For
Comments (RFC). Copies of RFCs are often posted to the network and
obtainable from archive sites. Current news-related RFCs include the
RFC 977 specifies NNTP, the Network News Transfer Protocol,
RFC 1036 specifies the format of Usenet articles.
Some newsgroups carry articles and discussions on the use of Usenet,
notably: news.announce.newusers, news.answers and
Many of the articles which appear periodically in these newsgroups or
in others are also available from rtfm.mit.edu by anonymous FTP or by
mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
13. OTHER TOOLS OF INTEREST
13.1.1. What is ASTRA
The ASTRA service allows users to retrieve documents from databases
known by ASTRA throughout the network. Users can send their queries
to the ASTRA server which in turn forwards the query to the related
database servers. This provides an easy-to-use uniform access method
to a large number of databases.
ASTRA provides the same user interface for all databases it can
access, even if the database servers have different access languages,
such as STAIRS, ISIS or SQL.
Each database defined in ASTRA has an abstract which holds
information about the database: title, name of the maintainers, a
brief description of the database, the main topics of the database
and its language. Users are advised to look at the abstracts before
sending requests, to avoid sending requests to the wrong databases.
Some databases actually combine several different databases that deal
with the same topics. When a user sends a request for such a
database, the request is forwarded to all related databases.
13.1.2. How to get to ASTRA
Anyone who can send electronic mail to EARN/Bitnet can access ASTRA.
Interactive user interfaces (clients) to ASTRA are available for VM
and VMS systems on the EARN/Bitnet network. For all other users,
there is a batch language that permits batch queries using e-mail.
Currently there are five ASTRA servers installed at the following
| ASTRADB@ICNUCEVM.BITNET or ASTRADB@VM.CNUCE.CNR.IT |
| ASTRASQL@ICNUCEVM.BITNET or ASTRASQL@VM.CNUCE.CNR.IT |
| ASTRADB@IFIBDP.BITNET |
| ASTRADB@IFIIDG.BITNET or ASTRADB@IDG.FI.CNR.IT |
| ASTRADB@IRMKANT.BITNET or ASTRADB@IRMKANT.RM.CNR.IT |
13.1.3. Learning more about ASTRA
An extensive help file is available by sending the command HELP to
ASTRADB@VM.CNUCE.CNR.IT (or ASTRADB@ICNUCEVM.BITNET).
The LISTSERV list ASTRA-UG is used for the distribution of a
newsletter about new databases or new versions of the current
databases. To subscribe, send the command:
SUB ASTRA-UG Your Name
to LISTSERV@VM.CNUCE.CNR.IT (or LISTSERV@ICNUCEVM.BITNET).
An ASTRA newsletter is also available by sending the command NEWS to
ASTRADB@VM.CNUCE.CNR.IT (or ASTRADB@ICNUCEVM.BITNET).
The developers of the ASTRA service may be contacted at:
ASTRA@ICNUCEVM.CNUCE.CNR.IT (or ASTRA@ICNUCEVM.BITNET).
13.2.1 What is NETSERV
NETSERV is a server, which allows fast access to data files and
programs of interest to the EARN/Bitnet community. NETSERV provides a
file repository consisting of information files and programs. It
allows users to retrieve files, to store files and to subscribe to
the files of their choice. The latter two functions however, require
that the user have a password for NETSERV (this is called a
In order to achieve a balanced load on the network and a faster
response time to users, NETSERV uses a distributed server concept:
this is achieved by the installation of a large number of servers on
the network to ensure that the user can locate a nearby server. All
servers communicate with each other to distribute updated information
and make it available from each copy of the server.
NETSERV's file server functions include retrieving any file present
in its filelists, storing new versions of a file, and subscribing to
files stored on the server. Its file directories are arranged in an
hierarchical method, with NETSERV FILELIST being on top or at the
root of the filelists. This filelist can be obtained by sending a GET
NETSERV FILELIST command to any NETSERV. Filelists contain short
descriptions of the files, and two access codes for each file. These
codes represent the get and put privileges required for that file.
These codes are explained at the beginning of the NETSERV FILELIST
13.2.2 How to get to NETSERV
The server is available in almost every country. To find the closest
server for your area send a QUERY SERVICE command to a server. The
following are examples of NETSERV server addresses:
| NETSERV@FRMOP11.BITNET or NETSERV@FRMOP11.CNUSC.FR |
| NETSERV@HEARN.BITNET or NETSERV@HEARN.NIC.SURFNET.NL |
| NETSERV@BITNIC.BITNET or NETSERV@BITNIC.CREN.NET |
In EARN, there is only one NETSERV permitted for one country.
However, in some limited cases, such as when the country has a large
number of nodes, additional servers may be installed. In any case,
the user is not required to run NETSERV to be able to access and use
NETSERV accepts e-mail access from users on any network. Commands to
NETSERV should be placed in the body of the mail file, and not in the
For users in the EARN/Bitnet network, NETSERV is accessible via
interactive message. Commands from privileged users requiring a
password must be sent this way.
NETSERV does not have delivery limitations, except that a file
ordered from NETSERV cannot be ordered again on the same day.
13.2.3. Learning more about NETSERV
The server provides a large helpfile which can be obtained by
sending a GET NETSERV HELPFILE command to any NETSERV.
A list for NETSERV maintainers is available as
NETSRV-M@HEARN.NIC.SURFNET.NL (or NETSRV-M@HEARN.BITNET).
Additional information can be obtained from the NETSERV maintainer,
Ulrich Giese at U001212@HEARN.NIC.SURFNET.NL (or
13.3.1. What is MAILBASE
MAILBASE is an electronic information service with much of the same
functionality as LISTSERV. It allows United Kingdom groups to manage
their own discussion topics (Mailbase lists) and associated files.
The Mailbase service is run as part of the JANET Networked
Information Services Project (NISP) based at Newcastle University.
13.3.2. How to get to MAILBASE
Commands should be sent in an electronic mail message to
email@example.com. More than one command may appear in a
message to Mailbase. Commands may be in any order, in UPPER, lower,
or MiXeD case.
13.3.3 Learning more about MAILBASE
For a summary of Mailbase commands, send the command help in an
e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of on-line
documentation about Mailbase, send the command: index mailbase.
You can then use the send command to retrieve those documents that
interest you. E.g., to retrieve a file of frequently asked questions,
send the following command: send mailbase user-faq.
User support is also available by sending queries in an e-mail
message to: email@example.com
Public files on Mailbase are also available by anonymous FTP to
13.4.1. What is PROSPERO
PROSPERO is a distributed file system. It differs from traditional
distributed file systems in several ways. In traditional file
systems, the mapping of names to files is the same for all users.
Prospero supports user centered naming: users construct customized
views of the files that are accessible. A virtual system defines this
view and controls the mapping from names to files. Objects may be
organized in multiple ways and the same object may appear in
different virtual systems, or even with multiple names in the same
In Prospero, the global file system consists of a collection of
virtual file systems. Virtual file systems usually start as a copy of
a prototype. The root contains links to files or directories selected
by the user.
The Prospero file system provides tools that make it easier to keep
track of and organize information in large systems. When first
created, your virtual file system is likely to contain links to
directories that organize information in different ways. As the
master copy of each of these directories is updated, you will see the
changes. You may customize these directories. The changes you make to
a customized directory are only seen from within your own virtual
system, but changes made to the master copy will also be visible to
Users are encouraged to organize their own projects and papers in a
manner that will allow them to be easily added to the master
directory. For example, users should consider creating a virtual
directory that contains pointers to copies of each of the papers that
they want made available to the outside world. This virtual directory
may appear anywhere in the user's virtual system. Once set up, a link
may be added to the master author directory. In this manner, others
will be able to find this directory. Once added to the master
directory, any future changes will be immediately available to other
13.4.2. How to get to PROSPERO
In order to use Prospero, you must be on the international TCP/IP
network (the Internet) and you must have Prospero running on your
Before you can begin using the Prospero file system a virtual system
must be created for you. However, Prospero, as shipped, is configured
so that once you compile the clients you can type: vfsetup guest and
start working right out of the box using a guest virtual system at
the USC Information Sciences Institute.
The latest version of PROSPERO is available as file prospero.tar.Z
for anonymous FTP from prospero.isi.edu in the directory
13.4.3. Learning more about PROSPERO
Prospero is being developed by Clifford Newman. Several documents and
articles describing Prospero by Newman and others are available.
The following files are available via anonymous FTP from
prospero.isi.edu. They are also available through Prospero.
* Anonymous FTP: /pub/papers/prospero/prospero-oir.ps.Z,
This is a useful first paper to read. It gives a good overview of
Prospero and what it does. It also describes a bit about the Virtual
System model, of which Prospero is a prototype implementation. It
describes what Prospero does, not how it does it.
* Anonymous FTP: /pub/papers/prospero/prospero-bii.ps.Z,
This paper describes how Prospero can be used to integrate Internet
information services, including Gopher, WAIS, archie, and World-Wide
13.5.1. What is IRC
IRC, Internet Relay Chat, is a real-time conversational system. It is
similar to the talk command which is available on many machines in
the Internet. IRC does everything talk does, but it allows more than
2 users to talk at once, with access throughout the global Internet.
It also provides many other useful features.
IRC is networked over much of North America, Europe, and Asia. When
you are talking in IRC, everything you type will instantly be
transmitted around the world to other users who are connected at the
time. They can then type something and respond to your messages.
Topics of discussion on IRC are varied. Technical and political
discussions are popular, especially when world events are in
progress. IRC is also a way to expand your horizons, as people from
many countries and cultures are on, 24 hours a day. Most
conversations are in English, but there are always channels in
German, Japanese, and Finnish, and occasionally other languages.
13.5.2. How to get to IRC
Clients and servers for IRC are available via anonymous FTP from
cs.bu.edu. A few sites offer public access to IRC via Telnet. Two
such sites are wbrt.wb.psu.edu and irc.demon.co.uk. At both sites,
you should log in as irc.
The many server hosts of Internet Relay Chat throughout the network
are connected via a tree structure. The various servers relay control
and message data among themselves to advertise the existence of other
servers, users, and the channels and other resources being occupied
by those users.
Fundamental to the operation of IRC is the concept of a channel. All
users are on a channel while inside IRC. You enter the null channel
first. You cannot send any messages until you enter a chatting
channel, unless you have set up a private conversation in some way.
The number of channels is essentially unlimited.
13.5.3. Learning more about IRC
To get help while in IRC, type /help and follow the instructions.
If you have problems, you can contact Christopher Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Helen Rose (email@example.com) - known on IRC as ckd and Trillian,
respectively. You can also ask for help on some of the operator
channels on IRC, for example #twilight_zone and #eu-opers.
Various documents on IRC, and the archives of IRC-related mailing
lists, are available via anonymous FTP from ftp.kei.com.
13.6.1. What is RELAY
The RELAY server system is a set of servers in the global EARN/Bitnet
network which broadcast interactive messages from one user to other
users signed on to the same channel of the RELAY system. A user
signed on to the closest available RELAY is also virtually signed on
to all RELAYs which are linked to it. Most RELAYs are closed during
peak hours. Only some RELAYs are up 24 hours a day.
Each RELAY server provides service to a specific collection of one or
more nodes designated as a service area. The functions of RELAY are
available to EARN/Bitnet users with access to interactive messages
who have not been expressly excluded from the system by RELAY
RELAY is a program which allows several people to talk at the same
time. In order to start, you must sign on to a RELAY to place your
ID in the current user list. You communicate with RELAY through
messages just as you would send messages to a user. RELAY commands
start with a slash (/) character; anything not beginning with a slash
is considered a message and is sent back out to all other current
13.6.2. How to get to RELAY
RELAY is available at the following EARN/Bitnet addresses, and
others. The nickname of the RELAY machine is in parentheses.
| RELAY@ASUACAD (Sun_Devils) RELAY@PURCCVM (Purdue) |
| RELAY@AUVM (Wash_DC) RELAY@SEARN (Stockholm) |
| RELAY@BEARN (Belgium) RELAY@TAMVM1 (Aggieland) |
| RELAY@BNANDP11 (Namur) RELAY@TAUNIVM (Israel) |
| RELAY@CEARN (Geneva) RELAY@TECMTYVM (Monterrey) |
| RLY@CORNELLC (Ithaca_NY) RELAY@TREARN (EgeRelay |
| RELAY@CZHRZU1A (Zurich) MASRELAY@UBVM (Buffalo) |
| RELAY@DEARN (Germany) RELAY@UFRJ (RioJaneiro) |
| RELAY@DKTC11 (Copenhagen) RELAY@UIUCVMD (Urbana_IL) |
| RELAY@FINHUTC (Finland) RELAY@USCVM (LosAngeles) |
| RELAY@GITVM1 (Atlanta) RELAY@UTCVM (Tennessee) |
| RELAY@GREARN (Hellas) RELAY@UWAVM (Seattle) |
| RELAY@HEARN (Holland) RELAY@VILLVM (Philadelph) |
| RELAY@ITESMVF1 (Mexico) RELAY@VMTECQRO (Queretaro) |
| RELAY@JPNSUT00 (Tokyo) RELAY@VTBIT (Va_Tech) |
| RELAY@NDSUVM1 (No_Dakota) RELAY@WATDCS (Waterloo) |
| RELAY@NYUCCVM (NYU) RELAY@YALEVM (Yale) |
RELAY is available to users on the EARN/Bitnet network via
interactive message (e.g., the TELL command of VM or the SEND command
of VMS/JNET). All RELAY server machines are on IBM VM/CMS systems,
but you do not have to be a VM user in order to use RELAY. If you are
not in the EARN/Bitnet network, you can not use RELAY.
CHAT, a full-screen interface to send and receive TELL messages for
VM systems, is particularly useful for users of RELAY. CHAT is
available from any NETSERV.
13.6.3. Learning more about RELAY
Upon registration, the files RELAY INFO and RELAY USERGUIDE are sent
to the user. These two files give a comprehensive description of
A brief guide to RELAY is available from the EARN
documentation filelist. Send mail to LISTSERV@EARNCC.EARN.NET (or
LISTSERV@EARNCC.BITNET). In the body of the message, write: GET RELAY
14. Security Considerations
Security issues are not discussed in this memo.
Blue Book, Volume VIII - Fascicle VIII.8, Data Communication Networks
Directory, Recommendations X.500-X.521, CCITT, 1988, ISBN 92-61-
Schwartz, M., and P. Tsirigotis, "Experience with a Semantically
Cognizant Internet White Pages Directory Tool", Journal of
Internetworking Research and Experience, March 1991, pp. 23-50.
Kantor, B., and P. Lapsley, "Network News Transfer Protocol: A
Proposed Standard for the Stream-Based Transmission of News", RFC
977, UC San Diego & UC Berkeley, February 1986.
Horton, M., and R. Adams, "Standard for interchange of USENET
messages", RFC 1036, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Center for Seismic
Studies, December 1987.
Lang, R., and R. Wright, "A Catalog of Available X.500
Implementations", FYI 11, RFC 1292, SRI International, Lawrence
Berkeley Laboratory, January 1992.
Weider, C., and J. Reynolds, "Executive Introduction to Directory
Services Using the X.500 Protocol", FYI 13, RFC 1308, ANS, ISI, March
Weider, C., Reynolds, J., and S. Heker, "Technical Overview of
Directory Services Using the X.500 Protocol", FYI 14, RFC 1309, ANS,
ISI, JvNC, March 1992.
Williamson, S., "Transition and Modernization of the Internet
Registration Service", RFC 1400, Network Solutions, Inc., March 1993.
The work of many people is reflected here, but we owe our greatest
debt of thanks to the developers and authors of the network tools and
documentation. Their work serves as the basis for this guide.
17. Author's Address
PSI - Batiment 211
91405 Orsay CEDEX
Phone: +33 1 6941 2426
Fax: +33 1 6941 6683
18. Appendix A - Freely available networking software
Below you will find the location of client software for several of
the tools described in this guide (Gopher, WWW, WAIS and Netnews).
This is not a complete listing of available software for any of these
18.1 Gopher clients
Environment FTP site & directory Comments
XGOPHER_CLIENT.SHARE for Wollongong or UCX
/pub/gopher/Macintosh requires MacTCP
/util/gopher/gopherapp requires MacTCP
/pub/gopher/PC_client requires packet driver
/public/dos/misc dosgopher, for PC/TCP
/nfs/gopher.exe for PC-NFS
/dos/gopher for LAN Workplace for DOS
/pub/gopher/Unix xgopher (Athena widgets)
/pub/gopher/Unix moog (Motif)
/pub/gopher/Unix/xvgopher or Xview
18.2. World-Wide Web clients
Environment FTP site & directory Comments
/pub/www/src WWW line-mode browser
/pub/WWW/lynx Lynx browser for vt100 terminals
/pub/w3browser tty-based browser written in perl
/pub/www/bin/vms port of NCSA Mosaic for X
/pub/www/bin/mac requires MacTCP