Getting Started With Newsreaders
What are Usenet newsgroups?
They have been described in many ways
but simply -- are discussion groups on the Internet
organized by subject matter. politics, hobbies,
sports, (and yes, even adult pornography) are some
of the subjects of many newsgroups. Users in a newsgroup
participate in discussions by posting messages for
others to read, and responding to the messages posted
by others. Currently there are over 100,000 newsgroup
available and new groups are added every day.
When did Usenet begin?
Usenet began in 1979, shortly after
the release of Version 7 Unix with UUCP (Unix to
Unix CoPy: protocol used for the store-and-forward
exchange of Usenet News and other files). Duke University
graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis thought
of linking computers together to exchange information
with the Unix community. Steve Bellovin, a graduate
student at the University of North Carolina, put
together the first version of the news software
using shell scripts and installed it on the first
two sites: "unc" and "duke."
At the beginning of 1980 the network consisted of
those two sites and "phs" (another machine
at Duke), and was displayed at the January Usenix
conference. Steve Bellovin later developed the scripts
into C programs, but they were never released beyond
"unc" and "duke." Steve Daniel
did another implementation in C for public distribution
as well. Tom Truscott made further modifications,
and this became the "A" news release.
How do you get connected to newsgroups?
There are pretty much two ways to
access newsgroups -- a) using a "web browser"
or b) use of a "newsreader" software.
As with most any software nowadays, there are free
newsreaders as well as paid versions. See "Recommended
Newsreader Software" for links directly
to developers of news readers, short descriptions
of each application, and links to webbased newsreaders.
If you're using a newsreader to access
newsgroups, the newsreader makes its connection
by means of the Network News Transport Protocol
(NNTP). I wouldn't worry too much now about the
protocol now as it's not required to start using
newsgroups. If you would like to know more about
NNTP see the NNTP
Protocol Overview and RFC977
Once you have newsreader software
installed on your computer, you'll need to configure
it to connect to a Usenet server. The steps below
are not specific to any one newsreader application
or operating system, but should be enough to get
you configured, connected, and using newsgroups:
1. Start your newsreader application
2. A "wizard" screen may appear asking
you to configure a news server. If it did, you're
golden! Skip to step 4
3. If no wizard screen appeared, find the "help"
menubar selection on the application, or check the
"support" section of the developers website.
4. The most important section to fill out is "server"
(aka NNTP server, news server). If you need access
to a newsgroup service, I recommend Newsgroup-Binaries.com
(new window will open) as they will provide you
with the username(login), password and newsserver
name you need to get started.
5. The "username" (aka login) and "password"
boxes are usually only required if you connect to
a a newsgroup server outside the network
of your ISP. Also, the "from", "email",
"name" may need to be completed but that
information can be real or made up.
6. Now tell the newsreader to connect to the newsserver.
From there it should download the current list of
available newsgroups (getting an error? see next
section "Having trouble getting connected
to a Usenet server?")
7. Once the complete list of groups are downloaded,
you should be able to do a keyword search based
on the type of newsgroup you're interested in. To
find a group, open it and the list of posts will
download and appear onscreen.
8. Double-click on a post -- now you're reading
Having trouble getting connected
to a Usenet server?
A few common errors can appear when
trying to connect to a newsserver. See below for
"480 error" - usually indicates
your newsreader application is not sending the username
and password when asked by the news server. Check
your settings/preferences within your newsreader
to ensure they are entered and/or configured to
authenticate to server.
"502 authentication" - username
and/or password is misspelled; ensure you hand-type
in the information -- do not copy/paste as extra
spaces may cause authentication errors.
"host not found" - the server
you typed in is misspelled, or you copy/pasted the
name -- try hand-typing in the name of the server
(usually starts with "NEWS.somedomain.com").
"could not connect to server"
- something may be blocking access via port 119
(the port most newsreaders/Usenet servers are configured
to use). If applicable, check your firewall/proxy
software configuration and ensure port 119 is allowed.
If you're at work, most likely your administrator
has blocked the port.