31 May 2017

Travelling to other places

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

In case you are looking to travel to a different place, perhaps one of these newsgroups would help you with beginning and ending your journey, as well as the things to see and do in-between!

By region

rec.travel.africa
Travel on the African continent.
rec.travel.asia
Travel in Asia.
rec.travel.australia+nz
Travel Information for Australia and New Zealand.
rec.travel.caribbean
Travel to the islands of the Caribbean, sans pirates.
rec.travel.europe
Travel in Europe.
rec.travel.latin-america
Travel in Central and South America.
rec.travel.usa-canada
Travel in the United States and Canada.

By vehicle

rec.travel.air
Airline travel around the world.
rec.travel.cruises
Travel by cruise ship.
rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Discussions related to recreational vehicles.
alt.travel.road-trip
Ever go to Montreal for pizza – from Albany?

Other groups

rec.travel.misc
Everything and anything about travel.
rec.travel.marketplace
Tickets and accommodation wanted and for sale.

If you are planning a honeymoon, you might also want to check out the soc.couples.wedding newsgroup.

30 May 2017

Pictures, sounds and document files in newsgroups

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Binary encoding is a way to send a picture, sound, or other non-text file across newsgroups, email or some other text-based medium. This is done by converting the message data into text characters. The encoded file usually looks like gibberish to the human eye, but with suitable software, recipients can decode it into the original content.

Such encoded messages may not be posted to normal (non-binary) newsgroups. They are often huge; the file may have been large to start with, and encoding it as text will make it even larger. The latter occurs because there a fewer characters to choose from, and so a longer file is necessary in order to convey the same information.

Such files can take forever to download. They may even crash some newsreaders. In addition, an unsuspecting newsgroup reader who pays for their Internet access by the minute or by the megabyte may have to pay a lot of money to download a binary message they don’t even want. Finally, binary files tend to clutter up even the message overview, especially since they are often split up across several messages.

Please post binary files to the most appropriate binaries newsgroup only. Here are a few places to get you started, but be warned: the files may take a long time to download due to their size!

You can post a note in a group that you have sent a binary file to another newsgroup, but please do not post (or crosspost) the file in normal newsgroups. If you post pointers to the groups where readers might be interested, and only post the binaries in binaries newsgroups, everything will work out fine!

4 May 2017

Avoiding HTML when posting to newsgroups

HTML-formatted postings are not welcome in newsgroups. While your software may interpret HTML correctly, many news-reading clients have only minimal ability to display HTML correctly. In addition, HTML postings often include your message twice: a plain text version is followed immediately by a version including HTML tags. This extra version of your message more than doubles the total length of the posting, and adds unnecessary download time for other newsgroup readers. Between the inability of other users’ software to interpret your posting correctly and the longer postings costing additional money to download (much of the world uses dial-up connections, but does not have free local calling), you’re likely to receive complaints if you post in HTML.

If you post with vCards, you will likely also get requests to stop doing so. For those using other newsreaders, vCards just look like a long signature, which newsgroup readers commonly find annoying.

1 May 2017

Help in your language

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Help in your language

The helpers in news.newusers.questions know a lot of answers but don’t always speak the same languages as the people who need help. In many cases, the best help for technical problems will come from a newsgroup which speaks your own language.

These newsgroups are good starting points for new users who are not very familiar with English:

ch.comp
Computer related topics (for Swiss readers)
chile.comp.internet
Discusion general sobre Internet en Chile
chinese.newsgroups.newusers
Postings by new users (Chinese)
de.newusers.questions
Hilfe zum Usenet (moderated)
es.news.preguntas
Preguntas generales sobre las news (Spanish)
fr.bienvenue.questions
Les premiËres questions sur Usenet (French)
han.news.users
Usenet users, new user question/discussion (Korean)
it.news.aiuto
Domande e risposte sul servizio news (Italian)
nl.internet.welkom
Startpunt voor beginners op internet (Dutch/Netherlands; moderated)
no.it.tjenester.news.diverse
Newsprogramvare og news generelt (Norwegian)
pt.internet.usenet
Discussao sobre as Usenet news em Portugal (Portugese)
swnet.internet.news
Tekniska och administrativa frÂgor kring news (Swedish)
tw.bbs.help
Help for newcomers (Taiwanese)

In addition to the above, the users in one of the related soc.culture.* newsgroups might be able to point you to other newusers groups which are available in your language.

15 April 2017

Advertising and selling on netnews

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Most newsgroups don’t allow any kind of buying and selling.

For general sales, you may want the newsgroup misc.forsale.non-computer or a group that ends in .forsale or .marketplace.

If you want to find a place to advertise or sell items that are more specific, you should not post them to any and every newsgroup available to you. Many newsgroup hierarchies have separate groups for buying, selling and advertising. Newsgroups may have special restrictions as to what types of ads can be posted to the group, and how often they can be posted there.

Your best bet is to ask, in a suitable newsgroup, whether advertisements are permitted in that group and where ads or sales posts could be posted instead. If you’re polite, the readers will be more than happy to help you!

14 April 2017

Finding an offline newsreader

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Mozilla Seamonkey can be used offline but lacks the more powerful features normally found in a stand-alone newsreader. If you do decide to use it, please configure it not to post HTML or attach Vcards to newsgroups postings. In case you’re interested in finding a better newsreader, here are some suggestions:

macOS: MacSOUP

A good offline newsreader for the Mac is MacSOUP. It’s shareware: you can try it for free, but if you decide to keep it, you should pay for it.

Windows: Forté Agent

Agent is one of the best offline newsreaders available for Windows. (Free Agent has been discontinued.)

For assistance in using Agent, subscribe to the newsgroup alt.usenet.offline-reader.forte-agent.

Where to find more alternatives

You can visit the newsgroup news.software.readers and ask which newsreaders are made for your system.

10 April 2017

Finding newsgroups

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

While some newsreaders may come pre-subscribed to certain newsgroups, such as news.newusers.questions, there are many other newsgroups out there as well! Here’s how to find them:

  • First of all, you could post a question to news.groups.questions. They have people who look for both newsgroups and mailing lists about any topic you’re interested in.
  • Another thing to do would be to search for a newsgroup by the topic you’re interested in at Google Groups. In the search box, enter a word or two that describe your topic of choice. The service will return a list of newsgroups that are most likely to discuss the topic you are interested in, along with some sample postings containing your search terms.
  • Finally, you can begin a search for web sites by using a web search engine such as Google.

Before posting to a new group, it’s a good idea to read at least a week’s worth of postings and any FAQs for the group. This will familiarise you with the group as well as help you learn the culture of the group and whether your post is appropriate there. It’s much better to find that out first than to get flamed later for posting in the wrong place.

9 April 2017

Disappearing netnews articles

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

News articles need to ‘disappear’ for a couple of reasons.

Articles marked read in your newsreader

Your newsreader might hide the articles you have read, so that you will not have to wade through e.g. 100 articles you have already seen just in order to find 20 new ones. This behaviour depends on how your newsreader is set up.

Expiring articles on your news server

News servers have a finite amount of hard disk space. This is why they must expire (i.e., remove) articles from time to time; they need to make room for new ones.

Example configurations

  • Some servers might cause every article to expire when that article is 14 days old.
  • Others could cause alt.* newsgroup articles to expire after 4 days, but might keep news.* articles around for 21 days.
  • A similar tactic would be to allocate 10% of the total storage space to alt.* and another 10% to news.*, and to expire articles as their volume reaches their predefined quota.
  • Still other servers may cause articles to expire once any newsgroup reaches 10 MB in size, regardless of the amount or age of the articles.

How to locate an expired article

If a given article has expired from your news server, and you really want to read it, you need to obtain it elsewhere.

  • You may find the article in Google Groups or in some other archive.
  • You might also be able to find a ‘public’ news server on which the article is still available.
  • If you post a request to the newsgroup, perhaps either the author or someone else could mail you a copy of the article you want.
  • Maybe one of your friends is lucky enough to have access to a news server with longer expiration times.

8 April 2017

Frequently asked questions related to the article ‘How to test an NNTP (news) server by using telnet’

‘What do the various headers mean?’

The Netnews message headers are defined in RFC 1036 (Standard for Interchange of USENET Messages).

Required headers

From:
The address of the person who sent the message.
Date:
The date when the message was posted.
Newsgroups:
The newsgroup(s) in which the message belongs.
Subject:
What the message is about.
Message-ID:
A unique identifier.
Path:
The path the message took to reach the current system.

Optional headers

Reply-To:
Mailed replies to the author should be sent to the name given here.
Sender:
The entity responsible for submitting the message to the network.
Followup-To:
Follow-up messages are to be posted to the newsgroup or newsgroups listed here.
Expires:
A suggested expiration date for the message.
References:
The Message-ID s of any messages prompting the submission of this message.
Control:
If a message contains a Control: line, the message is a control message.
Distribution:
Used to alter the distribution scope of the message.
Organization:
The organisation to which the sender belongs, or to which the machine belongs.
Keywords:
A few well-selected keywords identifying the message.
Summary:
A brief summary of the message.
Approved:
Required for any message posted to a moderated newsgroup.
Lines:
A count of the number of lines in the body of the message.
Xref:
The name of the host and a list of pairs of newsgroup names and message numbers from the spool directory.

“How do I post the same message to more than one newsgroup?”

Posting the same article to separate groups is called crossposting. Enter on the Newsgroups: line the names of all the groups to which you want to post. Separate the names by commas:

Newsgroups: misc.test,alt.test

If your newsreader has a non-conforming user interface, you may need to refer to its documentation.

Before you crosspost, you must make sure that your article is appropriate for all the groups to which you plan to post it. Even if the article is on topic, some servers may drop it because they are configured to throw away crossposted articles. In addition, if one or more of the groups to which you are crossposting is a moderated group, your article will not appear in any group until a moderator has approved it.

Do not confuse crossposting with multiposting, which means posting separate copies of an article to different groups. Multiposting wastes resources and is almost never acceptable.

‘I try to read or post, but I receive the message Permission denied or You have no permission to talk. Goodbye.’

Most news servers are not open to the public, just to users from specific hosts (such as those on the local network or of the same ISP) and/or to users who have an account on the server. To prevent spam, the server may also allow certain classes of users to read news but not to post.

The organisation that provides you with Internet connectivity may also give you access to a news server. If it does, that may be the best means for you to access Netnews.

There are also public news servers that you can try. However, your access privileges on such servers may be highly restricted. If a server appears to have been left ‘open’ accidentally, I advise against using it.

‘I would like a complete list of newsgroups.’

There really is no such thing; every news server has its own file of ‘active’ groups.

  • Not all news administrators want to carry all groups, and of those who try, not all will receive all newgroup messages.
  • Different news administrators may also have different criteria for creating and deleting groups, even if they carry the same hierarchies.
  • Some hierarchies that are intended to remain private are nevertheless leaked.
  • There are other reasons as well.

Because of the above, the appropriate active file for you (as a client) to use is the one your newsreader downloads from your news server. However, you can also download reasonable starting-point active and newsgroup (description) files from the Internet Software Consortium.

7 April 2017

Finding a place to test your posting skills

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Test articles should not be posted to news.newusers.questions. There are better places for e.g. checking out a new newsreader or news server.

What to do before testing

  • Check your name and email address (From: and, optionally, Reply-To:) to make sure that you have no errors in them. Use your email address, not your street address.
  • Send an email message to yourself.
  • When you receive the message you sent, try to reply to it (by hitting the Reply button). Carefully check the From: and Reply-To: addresses.

Make sure that your From: address doesn’t look like "you@example.com"@example.com. If it does look like that, you will need to fix it. Try typing you instead of you@example.com in the address field in your newsreader’s settings.

How to find test groups

Two major newsgroups are available for testing whether your posts are getting through, whether your .sig file is attached, and so forth. They are misc.test and alt.test.

You may also have a version of local.test or YourISP.test (replace YourISP with the name of your ISP).

If your browser and newsreader allow it, you can go to the test groups by clicking on the links above.

Why are test groups the best places for test postings?

First, nobody really reads test newsgroups, so you do not have to worry about people all over the world chuckling at your blank messages, scrambled header lines and typos.

Automatic replies

Second, some sites might still run software that monitors misc.test or alt.test and sends automatic email responses directly to your mailbox, quoting the headers and a few lines of your post. This allows you to verify that your postings really do reach the outside world as well as to see what they look like when they get there.

If you don’t get any of these automated responses, then either your posts aren’t getting out, the email address in your From: line is invalid, or no auto-responders are up at the moment.

If you don’t want email replies, for example, if you only would like to test whether your posts are showing up on your own server, put IGNORE or NO REPLY in the Subject: line, along with the rest of your subject.

6 April 2017

Having your business cards printed? Forget about ‘GSM’

In the early years of public land mobile networks, it used to be important for the caller to know which mobile phone technology the person being called was using. Later, the acronym ‘GSM’ in front of a number revealed that the subscriber likely was able to receive SMS messages. In addition, call charges could vary depending on the technology used.

Now it is 2017, and you can still see phone numbers prefixed with ‘GSM’. The acronym also tags along in other contexts: as an example, at least one bank provides a ‘GSM service’ that allows customers to bank using their mobile phones. However, specifying the cellular standard used is no longer necessary, at least for the kind of general usage mentioned above. Worse, the ‘GSM’ label is often false, as it denotes a second-generation (2G) technology that is becoming obsolete. Present-day mobile phones typically implement 3G standards such as UMTS, and the even more advanced LTE service has been launched.

In short, when you publish your mobile number, abandon the ‘GSM’ prefix unless it really is necessary for some reason. You can use plain ‘mobile’, but even that may be unnecessary, as landline phones are becoming less common.

5 April 2017

Learning about other cultures

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

There are many different newsgroups where you can learn about specific cultures and specific areas of the world. The best place to look is in the soc hierarchy, among all of the soc.culture.* newsgroups. In these newsgroups, you can ask about cities, languages, history, cultural traditions, and the like. In many cases, these newsgroups will have discussions in two or three different languages.

The following is a list of the soc.culture.* newsgroups, current as of April 2017. If you want to see if there is a newsgroup or a mailing list for a culture not listed here, please ask the people in news.groups.questions for pointers to newsgroups and mailing lists about a specific culture.

soc.culture.afghanistan Discussion of the Afghan society.
soc.culture.african Discussions about Africa & things African.
soc.culture.african.american Discussions about Afro-American issues.
soc.culture.african.american.moderated African-American perspectives. (Moderated)
soc.culture.albanian Albania and Albanians around the world.
soc.culture.algeria From A to Z about Algeria.
soc.culture.arabic Technological & cultural issues, *not* politics.
soc.culture.argentina All about life in Argentina.
soc.culture.asean Countries of the Assoc. of SE Asian Nations.
soc.culture.asian.american Issues & discussion about Asian-Americans.
soc.culture.assyrian Assyrian culture, history, language, current diaspora.
soc.culture.asturies Asturian culture.
soc.culture.australian Australian culture and society.
soc.culture.austria Austria and its people.
soc.culture.baltics People of the Baltic states.
soc.culture.bangladesh Issues & discussion about Bangladesh.
soc.culture.basque Basque culture and related issues. (Moderated)
soc.culture.belarus All things about Belarus. (Moderated)
soc.culture.belgium Belgian society, culture(s) and people.
soc.culture.bengali Sociocultural identity of worldwide Bengali population.
soc.culture.berber The berber language, history, and culture.
soc.culture.bolivia Bolivian people and culture.
soc.culture.bosna-herzgvna The independent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
soc.culture.brazil Talking about the people and country of Brazil.
soc.culture.breton All about Breton culture and Brittany.
soc.culture.british Issues about Britain & those of British descent.
soc.culture.bulgaria Discussing Bulgarian society.
soc.culture.burma Politics, culture, news, discussion about Burma.
soc.culture.cambodia Cambodia and its people.
soc.culture.canada Discussions of Canada and its people.
soc.culture.caribbean Life in the Caribbean.
soc.culture.catalan The Catalan language and the lands where it is spoken.
soc.culture.celtic Irish, Scottish, Breton, Cornish, Manx & Welsh.
soc.culture.chile All about Chile and its people.
soc.culture.china About China and Chinese culture.
soc.culture.colombia Colombian talk, social, politics, science.
soc.culture.cornish All things Cornish and Cornwall, worldwide.
soc.culture.costa-rica Topics about Costa Rica.
soc.culture.croatia The lives of people of Croatia.
soc.culture.cuba Cuban culture, society and politics.
soc.culture.czecho-slovak Bohemian, Slovak, Moravian and Silesian life.
soc.culture.dominican-rep The life and people of the Dominican Republic.
soc.culture.ecuador The culture and people of Ecuador.
soc.culture.egyptian Egypt, and its society, culture, heritage, etc.
soc.culture.el-salvador Topics about El Salvador, Central America.
soc.culture.esperanto The neutral international language Esperanto.
soc.culture.ethiopia.misc Unmoderated forum to discuss Ethiopian culture.
soc.culture.europe Discussing all aspects of all-European society.
soc.culture.filipino Group about the Filipino culture.
soc.culture.french French culture, history, and related discussions.
soc.culture.galiza Galicia, on the Iberian Peninsula.
soc.culture.german Discussions about German culture and history.
soc.culture.greek Group about Greeks.
soc.culture.guinea-conakry Guinea (ne French Guinea, in West Africa).
soc.culture.haiti Haiti specific development and cultural issues.
soc.culture.hawaii Aloha kakou, E KOMO MAI! Eh, no forget hemo da shoes. (Moderated)
soc.culture.hmong Discussion of Hmong people and its culture.
soc.culture.honduras General topics regarding Honduras and Central-America.
soc.culture.hongkong Discussions pertaining to Hong Kong.
soc.culture.hongkong.entertainment Entertainment in Hong Kong.
soc.culture.indian Group for discussion about India & things Indian.
soc.culture.indian.delhi Information related to Delhi, capital of India.
soc.culture.indian.goa About Goa, India's smallest state. (Moderated)
soc.culture.indian.gujarati Gujarati cultural group.
soc.culture.indian.jammu-kashmir The culture of Jammu & Kashmir.
soc.culture.indian.karnataka Karnataka's culture, history, and present.
soc.culture.indian.kerala Culture of the people of Keralite origin.
soc.culture.indian.marathi Discussion related to Marathi Culture.
soc.culture.indonesia All about the Indonesian nation.
soc.culture.intercultural People of mixed "culture", "ethnicity", "race".
soc.culture.iranian Discussions about Iran and things Iranian/Persian.
soc.culture.iraq Iraq, its society, culture and heritage.
soc.culture.irish Ireland and Irish culture.
soc.culture.israel Israel and Israelis.
soc.culture.italian The Italian people and their culture.
soc.culture.japan Everything Japanese, except the Japanese language.
soc.culture.japan.moderated Anything Japanese. (Moderated)
soc.culture.jewish Jewish culture & religion (cf. talk.politics.mideast).
soc.culture.jewish.moderated Discussion of Jewish culture and religion. (Moderated)
soc.culture.jewish.parenting Issues about raising Jewish children. (Moderated)
soc.culture.jordan All topics concerning The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
soc.culture.kenya Kenyan peoples, politics, culture, and affairs.
soc.culture.korean Discussions about Korea & things Korean.
soc.culture.kurdish People from Kurdistan and Kurds around the world.
soc.culture.kuwait Kuwaiti culture, society, and history.
soc.culture.kuwait.moderated Kuwaiti culture, society, and history. (Moderated)
soc.culture.laos Cultural and Social Aspects of Laos.
soc.culture.latin-america Topics about Latin-America.
soc.culture.lebanon Discussion about things Lebanese.
soc.culture.liberia The culture of Liberia.
soc.culture.maghreb North African society and culture.
soc.culture.magyar The Hungarian people & their culture.
soc.culture.malagasy Madagascar and the Malagasy culture.
soc.culture.malaysia All about Malaysian society.
soc.culture.mexican Discussion of Mexico's society.
soc.culture.mexican.american Mexican-American/Chicano culture and issues.
soc.culture.misc Group for discussion about other cultures.
soc.culture.mongolian Everything related to Mongols and Mongolia.
soc.culture.native Aboriginal people around the world.
soc.culture.nepal Discussion of people and things in & from Nepal.
soc.culture.netherlands People from the Netherlands and Belgium.
soc.culture.new-zealand Discussion of topics related to New Zealand.
soc.culture.nicaragua Topics related to the country of Nicaragua in general.
soc.culture.nigeria Nigerian affairs, society, cultures, and peoples.
soc.culture.nordic Discussion about culture up north.
soc.culture.occitan Speakers of Provencal/Occitan/Langue d'Oc.
soc.culture.pacific-island Culture of the pacific islands (except Hawaii).
soc.culture.pakistan Topics of discussion about Pakistan.
soc.culture.pakistan.politics Political discussions on Pakistan.
soc.culture.pakistan.religion Religious discussions related to Pakistan.
soc.culture.pakistan.sports Sports in Pakistan.
soc.culture.palestine Palestinian people, culture and politics.
soc.culture.peru All about the people of Peru.
soc.culture.polish Polish culture, Polish past, and Polish politics.
soc.culture.portuguese Discussion of the people of Portugal.
soc.culture.puerto-rico Puerto Rican culture, society and politics.
soc.culture.punjab Punjab and Punjabi culture.
soc.culture.quebec Quebec society and culture.
soc.culture.rep-of-georgia The Caucasian Republic of Georgia and Georgians.
soc.culture.romanian Discussion of Romanian and Moldavian people.
soc.culture.russian All things Russian in the broadest sense.
soc.culture.russian.moderated Moderated discussion of Russian culture. (Moderated)
soc.culture.scientists Cultural issues about scientists & scientific projects.
soc.culture.scottish Anything regarding Scotland or things Scots.
soc.culture.sierra-leone The culture of Sierra Leone.
soc.culture.singapore The past, present and future of Singapore.
soc.culture.slovenia Slovenia and Slovenian people.
soc.culture.somalia Somalian affairs, society, and culture.
soc.culture.south-africa South African society, culture, & politics.
soc.culture.south-africa.afrikaans The Afrikaans language and speakers.
soc.culture.soviet Topics relating to Russian or Soviet culture.
soc.culture.spain Spain and the Spanish.
soc.culture.sri-lanka Things & people from Sri Lanka.
soc.culture.swiss Swiss culture.
soc.culture.syria Syrian cultural matters and affairs.
soc.culture.taiwan Discussion about things Taiwanese.
soc.culture.tamil Tamil language, history and culture.
soc.culture.thai Thai people and their culture.
soc.culture.turkish Discussion about things Turkish.
soc.culture.turkish.moderated Issues related to Turks/Turkey. (Moderated)
soc.culture.ukrainian The lives and times of the Ukrainian people.
soc.culture.uruguay Discussions of Uruguay for those at home and abroad.
soc.culture.usa  The culture of the United States of America.
soc.culture.venezuela Discussion of topics related to Venezuela.
soc.culture.vietnamese Issues and discussions of Vietnamese culture.
soc.culture.welsh The people, language and history of Wales.
soc.culture.yugoslavia Discussions of Yugoslavia and its people.
soc.culture.zimbabwe Culture and other issues pertaining to Zimbabwe.

4 April 2017

Think before you share your personal information

Once you have permitted an application to access your personal information, that information may also be used elsewhere.

When you want to use a Facebook game or other application, you must often allow that application various privileges. For example, you may have to grant access to your personal information and you may have to ‘opt in’ to receiving promotional email messages. This is a kind of business transaction: you give up some of your privacy – and, potentially, some of the privacy of your contacts – for the right to use the application.

Once you have allowed an application to access your personal information, whoever is behind that application can also use that information outside Facebook, even when you no longer use the application. Do not rely on being able to remove information you have provided to a website or other Internet service.

Taking good care of your personal information helps protect you from identity theft, including so-called social engineering attacks (wherein someone poses as you in order to obtain information to which you are entitled as a private person, on the job or elsewhere).

3 April 2017

Finding information on the Internet

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

FAQs – frequently asked questions

In newsgroups, you may see people directing each other to ‘read the FAQ first’. FAQs are usually lists of questions (with answers) that newcomers to a group, or people who are new to a certain item or piece of software, repeatedly ask. Some FAQs are troubleshooting guides or pointers to helpful information, even if it isn’t asked about on a regular basis. These are often called periodic postings. In any case, FAQs are collections of helpful information for readers of a newsgroup.

If you’re new to a newsgroup, you should read its FAQs. These posts often start with the keyword FAQ:, but some start with INFO:, GUIDE:, ANSWERS:, ABOUT:, ADMIN:, HELP: or something similar. FAQs are usually posted with a frequency from once a week to once every two months. When in doubt, post the question ‘Where can I find a copy of the FAQ for this newsgroup?’ and then go find it!

Many of the more traditional FAQs are available in the newsgroup news.answers. You can also find more specific subsets of FAQ posts if you look in the other *.answers groups, such as alt.answers or rec.answers. Additionally, you can easily find some of a group's FAQs in the Internet FAQ Archives, which are searchable by newsgroup or keywords.

How do I find newsgroup charters?

Charters for newsgroups in the ‘Big Eight’ hierarchies (comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk) since about 1989 are available at ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/. As that archive contains all formal proposals (RFD postings) and vote results, it also contains proposed charters for groups that did not pass their vote for creation. For newsgroups that did pass, the CFV (call for votes) and the final RESULT posting contain the official charter as passed. When your retrieve one of the files, look to its bottom for the most recent portion of the documentation. The RESULT posting is usually the last one at the end of each file.

For alt groups, there is no official source for charters. However, at ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/control/ you will find a large archive of newgroup control messages, including those for alt groups. Those control messages often contain charters where such exist.

Files with a .Z extension have been compressed with the Unix compress program. To read them, you’ll need a program that can uncompress .Z files. Winzip handles them easily; just provide the txt extension when asked. You can also check various shareware and freeware sites to see if you can find a different program to use.

How do I find out who initiated the group, and/or if it is moderated?

For ‘Big Eight’ groups, the Request for Discussion (RFD) will tell you who proposed the newsgroup; the CFVs and RESULT postings include the charter, which will tell if the group is moderated. For alt groups, the control message will usually tell you this. The old-fashioned (and probably the best) way to find out if a group is moderated is to read the groups you’re going to post to, to make sure that your posts are appropriate there. While you’re reading the group, check the full message headers; if the group is moderated, they will include an Approved: line.

Watch you don’t get dusty while digging through those wonderful archives! ☺

In case you’re just looking for the topic of the group and to find out if it is moderated, some newsreaders show the information from the For your newsgroups file line, along with the name of the group, in the list of all newsgroups on the server. That line should include a ‘moderation flag’ for moderated groups: the letter m indicates moderation, while o means the group is open (not moderated).

Another method is to look at the article Checkgroups message (with INET groups) posted monthly to news.announce.newgroups, news.groups and news.admin.misc. This is a complete list of all official ‘Big Eight’ newsgroups and their moderation status.

Even if the checkgroups message has expired from your server, you can obtain a listing of current newsgroups, including their For your newsgroups file lines, via FTP from ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/CONFIG/newsgroups. This file is some 2.5 MB in size (as of March 2017).

Searching the Web

At least some information about almost anything can be located on the WWW, so a Web search engine is a good place to start. Just enter a word or phrase to search for, and that’ll help you find some of the FAQ resources for that topic or group. If you don’t find exactly what you want on the first attempt, try again using a different search engine. They don’t all work the same, so you probably won't get exactly the same list of matches on different engines.

If you get too many matches, and the first few aren’t what you really want, check the page for an ‘advanced search’ button; it should lead you to instructions on how you can restrict the search to get a more manageable list of matches. Enclose phrases in quotes if you want only matches where the words appear together and in the same order.

You can also use the Web to search for information from newsgroups postings. Google Groups has a large, searchable archive of newsgroup articles.

2 April 2017

Retrieving basic registration and taxation information about Finnish businesses

VIES: validates VAT numbers but may get addresses wrong

The European Commission operates the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES), a web-based service that appears to be quite good at its intended task, which is VAT number validation. However, attempts at using VIES as a directory of postal addresses may produce inaccurate results.

In a recent case, VIES reported the address of a Finnish business as OSOITE TUNTEMATON, which is Finnish for unknown address. This phenomenon convinced a British mail order company that a customer paying by credit card had provided an incorrect delivery address. Fortunately, the supplier contacted the customer instead of shipping the goods to the pseudo-address indicated by VIES.

BIS: provides authoritative information about Finnish businesses

The National Board of Patents and Registration and the tax administration are the authoritative sources for information about registration and taxation of Finnish businesses. These authorities make such information, including postal and/or street addresses, available through the web-based Business Information System (BIS), a service that is available in Finnish, Swedish and English. Second-hand versions of the same data may be provided by other entities, but errors can be avoided by going to the source instead of using third-party mashups.

The BIS includes instructions for its use, but the basics are simple: enter a search term, such as a name or a Business ID, and click the magnifying glass icon.

Trivia

The Finnish tax administration does not explicitly issue VAT numbers. Instead, Finnish businesses form their own VAT numbers by appending the leading letters FI  to the Business ID and removing the hyphen. As an example, if the Business ID is 2175703-7, the VAT number becomes FI21757037.

VAT numbers are only needed in so-called intra-Community trade. Within Finland, Business IDs are used instead.

1 April 2017

Personals and requests for girlfriends, boyfriends or partners

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions< Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Most newsgroups are not intended for ‘personals’ or requests or solicitations for boyfriends, girlfriends or partners. However, many newsgroups are devoted to such topics:

You might be able to subscribe to these groups by simply clicking on the group name in your web browser.

For more information on finding friends and partners through newsgroups, please read:

31 March 2017

Social aspects of newsgroup moderation and mailing list administration

How do those of us (tinw) who run non-commercial mailing lists or newsgroups as a hobby view that role?

What motivates you?

My guess is that at least those who have operated many such forums, done it during a long period of time or supported large user bases tend to be driven by a kind of public good. Of course, this is a generalisation, but if your motive isn’t altruism, what is it that makes you tick? (A sense of power? That would seem particularly unlikely after the first five or ten years of toiling. Material gain? Nonexistent, as far as I know.)

Hobby or mortal combat?

Leisure activities should be fun and relaxing, and running a discussion forum may indeed offer occasional humorous moments. (If it would not, how many administrators would put up with the darker side, such as legal or physical threats?) Let’s try to keep it fun as well. You probably get your fair share of controversy at your day job, so why become all worked up over a hobby?

Take it easy, and your heart will thank you. Spend your free time online with a chip on your shoulder, and become a cardiac fatality with ‘They never missed an opportunity to get back at someone’ engraved on your tombstone. If a newsgroup or mailing list is starting to look like a power game to you, why not take a leave of absence. Go for a walk, smell the flowers. Whether it’s for a week or a month, it will also help you run the forum in a more balanced way when you return.

The rule of first impressions

Newsgroups and mailing lists do not exist in isolation from ‘real life’. If you lose your cool online, people will assume that you suffer from anger management problems in other environments as well, particularly if you are known to be past puberty. Remember that sites such as Google Groups create public (and potentially eternal) archives of various forums. People with notoriously inadequate self-control may even receive their own ‘fan sites’ displaying their writings. – Speaking of fan culture:

Don’t try to turn a forum into your fan club

Any literate person can set up a mailing list, and no matter how good you are, no one is irreplaceable. Users are mainly interested in discussing whatever is on topic for the list or group; they are unlikely to care much about the team that handles the background work, at least as long as those worker bees are competent enough not to break too much too often. (It’s not like most list administrators or newsgroup moderators would receive e.g. 10,000 holiday gifts each year from their user community.) Set an example by posting objective, on-topic articles, but if you feel the need to rant about something irrelevant, not to mention engage in ad hominem attacks, consider doing it elsewhere, if at all.

30 March 2017

Writing style on Usenet

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

If your posts are hard to decipher, some people just won't even attempt to read them &ndash which means nobody will write back &ndash so try these helpful hints!

PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT

Ahem… please do not ‘shout’. No need to use ALL CAPS, as it is hard to read.

Do not use all lowercase, either. Try to use correct grammar and punctuation.

Quote judiciously

When posting a reply to someone else’s message, carefully checking the ‘attributes’ of any quoted text that your posting includes is wise. In other words, be sure that what your posting says that what someone else said actually is what that person, not someone else, said in a previous posting.

Please keep your lines less than 70 or 75 characters wide

If you do not, they tend to wrap around poorly and are hard to read. In case you are unsure how much space 70 characters take up, it is about six inches:

1--------10--------20--------30--------40--------50--------60-------70
  • If your program allows it, set your line wrap for every 70 characters. This will allow your text to ‘hit return’ for itself every 70 characters or so, so you do not have to do it.
  • If your program allows it, use a monospaced font like Courier or System. With these fonts, spaces and W’s and i’s and l’s all take up one unit of space. When every line of 70 characters takes up the same amount of space, it is a lot easier to figure out when you have reached 70 characters.
  • You might have to do it the old-fashioned way: hit return at the end of each line. It’s a pain, but it makes your posts a lot easier to read.

Please remember that many people do not speak the same languages you do

They also may not speak your language as well as you do. So please try to write your questions so that they are clear and easy to read. Moreover, please do not use foul language. People of all ages and all backgrounds read newsgroups. You will get a much better response if you speak politely than if you are rude to others.

29 March 2017

How websites can find out which other sites you visit

When a web browser renders a page that includes hyperlinks to other pages, one of two different colours is normally used for each link, depending on whether you already have visited the page to which the link points. To make this feature work, the browser needs a history file, in other words a list of all websites you have visited within a certain period. Browsers usually save this file on the local hard disk drive.

The history file can be a privacy threat to you. You probably know that other persons, such as co-workers or family members, could use your web history to gain information on which sites you have visited. However, it is often also possible for web servers to determine whether you have visited a particular page, for example that of a competitor.

This can be done by using CSS styles that e.g. apply a background image to visited links; when the browser displays such a link, it downloads the background image, and this download creates an entry in the server log, from which the web site operator can then retrieve the results. Also, note that if you allow your browser to run scripts (JavaScript, actually ECMAScript), you provide additional options to websites wanting to detect your browsing history.

The method described above does not actually read your history file, but rather asks e.g. "Is www.blogger.com out there? What about www.google.com and www.facebook.com?" and so on. Still, it can be quite effective. The best solution is probably to disable and delete the history file.

28 March 2017

Where to post your very first message

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Eventually, every newcomer to the Internet gets tired of just reading news, and wants to post something. Since news.newusers.questions often seems to be part of default subscription lists, a lot of these first postings end up there, whether they’re really appropriate or not.

Herewith, some tips on where to post your first message, depending on what kind of message it is:

If you just want to practice the mechanics of posting (which are sometimes not trivial)

...and verify that your messages really do go out to the rest of the world, you should post to misc.test or alt.test.

A site might monitor these newsgroups and automatically send email responses to all messages that appear in them. (Greetings from beautiful Contra Costa County, California!) These groups are also nice for practicing how to write messages with your text editor, because you do not have to worry about real people seeing your typing mistakes and formatting blunders.

If you want to exchange messages with people

...but do not have anything in particular to talk about ("Hi, I'm Wally in Podunk, Iowa. Please send me mail!"), try the newsgroup soc.penpals, which is intended specifically for this sort of thing.

If you actually want to ask a question

...then news.newusers.questions may be the right place. Strictly speaking, this newsgroup is for questions about Usenet in general, but most of us do not mind questions about other network services. If your question is rather specialized, though, be prepared to be referred to another newsgroup where real experts hang out.

Exception: If you have a question of the form ‘Is there a newsgroup about xxx?’

You should post it in news.groups.questions, which was created specifically for this purpose.

Finally, before you post a question in news.newusers.questions

Please scan through all the message titles in this newsgroup first. Certain questions get asked (and answered) repeatedly. There is a chance that your answer may already be sitting in your news server. Remember to check the ‘previously-read’ messages, too (how you do this depends on the software you are using).

If you can’t see what you’re looking for, and you are not in a life-or-death hurry, you might consider waiting and watching for a few days, especially if you suspect that your question might be an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question). – Examples:

  • ‘How do I view the pictures that are posted in some groups?’
  • ‘Where can I get a complete list of newsgroups?’
  • ‘How do I make a signature file?’
  • ‘How do I set up a home page?’
  • ‘How can I create a new newsgroup?’
  • ‘Why does my message disappear right after I post it?’
  • ‘How do I chat in real time with other people on the net?’
  • ‘Don't these people who answer questions have a real life?’ ☺

27 March 2017

Improve your online privacy by trimming the headers your browser sends

The EFF runs a very useful web-based service that estimates the uniqueness of the HTTP header lines that your browser sends to every web server from which you request a page or other content.

Especially if you allow all sites to run JavaScript on your computer, I suggest that you visit EFF’s Panopticlick site and note the results. Chances are that the information on plug-in details, time zone, screen size, colour depth and system fonts that JavaScript (officially ECMAScript) gives away go a significant way towards making your browser fingerprint unique.

In addition to avoiding JavaScript, similar steps you can take to improve your online privacy are to disable cookies and to use only one entry in your Accept-Language header (which enumerates your preferred languages for web content). Accept-Language: en would probably be the safest choice.

Many Panopticlick users have unique headers, even though the service does not pay attention to all information that a browser could provide.

Generally, the less opportunity your browser provides for running active content, the safer you are. Of course, this does not apply only to browser fingerprinting, but also to software vulnerabilities that can be used e.g. for loading so called drive-by malware.

Panopticlick exists at http://panopticlick.eff.org/.

26 March 2017

Public news servers

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

If your news server does not carry a particular newsgroup that you want to read, you may be able to read that group on a news server that allows access from the public (and not just its own customers).

Free lunches are scarce

Before you set out to find a so-called public news server, you should be aware that many such servers are not intentionally public. Inadvertently configuring a news server so that outsiders can connect to it is a mistake inexperienced administrators often make. Eventually, they will notice their error and shut off outside access. This is especially likely to happen if the server carries any alt.binaries groups.

Most organizations that run news servers do not want usage by outsiders to degrade service to their own employees, students or customers. In addition, most organizations do not appreciate being used as a conduit for unsavoury activities. Therefore, if you do find a ‘public’ news server carrying newsgroups that you want, please:

  • Do not hog that server’s resources by downloading scores of articles, especially large binaries.
  • Do not use that server to disguise your identity and location so that you can post abusive messages, spam newsgroups with advertisements, etc.
  • Do not be surprised when you eventually get the message, ‘sorry, this server can’t talk to you’.

If you want reliable access to a large number of newsgroups, including binaries, then you should look for a commercial service provider that carries what you want, and pay for it.

25 March 2017

Unable to open a winmail.dat attachment?

If you use non-Microsoft software to read your email, chances are you eventually will receive a message that appears to include an attached file named winmail.dat. This occurs when the sender uses a Microsoft email client with settings that are incompatible with those of the recipient’s client software.

The message, including its attachments, can often be read without difficulty when using a Microsoft email client. This is due to Microsoft software being able to decode the message’s TNEF encoding. Non-Microsoft clients typically lack this ability, as TNEF is proprietary to Microsoft. The issue does not indicate a fault with the recipient's email client or with any of the email servers involved.

Potential solutions

First, evaluate whether the issue actually causes loss of relevant information. If, on the other hand, the winmail.dat file constitutes but a cosmetic fault, you might decide simply to ignore it.

If the issue does need to be remedied, the sender may experiment with various settings in his or her email client until a combination is found that results in messages usable to the recipient. As adjusting the most obvious settings may not be enough, this task can daunt even an experienced user.

Microsoft has published knowledge base articles on this phenomenon. The article ‘How e-mail message formats affect Internet e-mail messages in Outlook’ includes technical information that may be useful in troubleshooting the issue. ‘Email received from a sender using Outlook includes a Winmail.dat attachment’ is another, much briefer article; unfortunately, it is also an over-simplification that often does not resolve the problem.

Various third-party software tools promise to decode winmail.dat attachments. Caveat emptor.

Should all else fail, you may decide to use a Microsoft email client (such as Outlook) to read the affected messages.

24 March 2017

Fraudulent email messages

Have you received a suspicious message?

Please make sure the message is genuine before you reply to it or take any other action requested therein. Remember that fraudulent messages may be backed by elaborate arrangements, such as fake websites.

Genuine representatives for an organisation use the organisation’s domain name in email and other communications, while criminals typically solicit replies to free throwaway addresses that Microsoft (Hotmail), Yahoo and their ilk cheerfully provide with no identity check. Even if a legitimate-looking domain name is used, beware of misspellings and fake companies. For example, the address mcgregor_collin@aliance-finance-uk.com may look genuine at first glance, but a Whois lookup reveals that the domain name is registered to a private person in Indiana. The spelling ‘aliance’ is also extremely suspect.

On a similar note: legitimate businesses make and receive payments in accordance with generally accepted business practice, not through MoneyGram, Western Union or other ‘abandon hope all ye who pay here’ services. If you are unsure of whether an offer you have received is genuine, contact your local law enforcement agency or consult a security professional who is familiar with online fraud.

Never reply to a fraudulent message

Online fraud is typically perpetrated by criminal organisations. Once the mobsters have received a reply from a potential victim, they can be very persistent. A number of advance-fee fraud victims who have bitten the bait and agreed to meet the perpetrators, for instance in Nigeria, have even been kidnapped or murdered. In addition, any personal information you provide may be used to steal your identity. Advice on how to report spam is available in the article ‘Composing abuse reports’.

Be on your guard for harmful attachments and websites

Office software such as Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader and Microsoft Office often contain vulnerabilities that can allow an attacker to take over your computer. Criminals try to exploit such flaws by enticing spam victims to open harmful PDF, Microsoft Office and other documents. Similarly, visiting a website scammers have set up or hijacked can cause harmful software to be installed on your computer – automatically, without further user interaction; this type of attack is known as ‘drive-by downloading’. Security software can protect against such threats.

Read more about…

advance-fee fraud and other common types of fraud into which victims are recruited by email.

23 March 2017

Looking for Ethernet segment peers

A brief set of instructions for checking whether there are any other Ethernet hosts on the same segment as you.

Assumptions

  • a computer running Microsoft Windows
  • an Ethernet IPv4 network
  • nothing prevents you from sending ping requests
  • nothing prevents any other hosts on your segment from receiving ping requests (this is a likely point of failure, since firewalls often reject or discard ping packets)

Instructions

  1. Go to your Windows box. Find out your own IP address and subnet mask; this is done by typing ipconfig. Example: IP address 10.10.10.10, net mask 255.255.255.0.
  2. Look up the broadcast address for your network in RFC 1878. Continuing the above example, the broadcast address would be 10.10.10.255.
  3. Ping the broadcast address by typing e.g. ping 10.10.10.255 (using the broadcast address you found above). This should make all hosts on your segment advertise their MAC addresses to you.
  4. View your ARP cache by typing arp -a. You should see the IP address of your router. Any other IP addresses are other hosts on your segment.

22 March 2017

How to test an Ident server by using telnet

What you need

  • The host name of an Ident server (for use in the telnet command)
  • The remote port number on the server
  • The local port number to query for

What to do

The initial telnet: > symbolises your shell prompt.

telnet: > telnet server.example.com auth
client: 22, 3216
server: 22 , 3216 : USERID : UNIX :root

21 March 2017

Four quick tests to help translatees choose

I would like to propose a few things to look for when selecting a translation provider.

Location relative to language

As an extremely near-fetched example, if you need a translation from or to a Nordic language, your best supply of skilful translators is likely found in or near a Nordic country.

Promotional content

Would you be satisfied with the quality of your translation if it equated that of the provider's own web pages? The same test can also be applied to correspondence, such as email.

Substance knowledge

Ask how the translator who would handle your assignment has demonstrated his or her subject matter competence in the domain of your text.

You may not find a brain surgeon to translate your text on neurosurgery. However, in such a case, your translator should at least be familiar with health care.

Authoring capability

Translating a text is not always the best way to get your message across. Cultural, legislative or other differences may cause a situation in which the best plan of action is rewriting the text more or less from scratch.

Your language service provider should be able to recognize and handle such a challenge.

20 March 2017

Ways to avoid spam email

On mail exchangers

Blacklisting

If you run SMTP servers for incoming mail, use e.g. the SpamCop and Zen blacklists. They are extensive, continuously updated, designed for general use and available in DNSBL format. Also, reject mail from any IP address that does not have matching (‘full circle’) reverse DNS data. These measures provide a basic level of protection; without them, your servers and your customers will most likely be swamped by malware and other spam sent through botnet zombies, rogue providers and open proxies.

You may also want to maintain a local blacklist, perhaps in order to deal with spam sources that mainstream DNSBL publishers consider too big to list or simply have not yet got around to adding. You can even have entries created and removed automatically: as an example, a script could blacklist IP addresses that engage in recipient address guessing, and remove those listings after a predetermined time.

You can reduce the load on your mail exchangers by blocking spam-supporting networks at a suitable router. Create a local access list to deny traffic from the worst offenders and/or use the DROP, extended DROP and botnet C&C lists that Spamhaus offers as a BGP feed.

Greylisting and whitelisting

Temporarily rejecting mail from unknown sources will block some spam and improve the efficiency of DNSBL usage, but also tends to cause delays and user confusion. In any case, remember to whitelist the networks and domain names from which you always want to receive mail, such as those of your major clients and service providers.

On personal computers, mobile phones etc.

As an end user, you are rather stuck with whatever spam your email provider decides to deliver into your mailbox. There may be a special junk mail folder, but you will nevertheless have to check it for desired mail, so-called false positives. The cumulative amount of time this scan-and-delete chore requires can add up to something huge over the years. Because of this, it is very important to choose an email provider that observes sensible anti-spam policies (see above) to protect its customers.

18 March 2017

How to test an HTTP proxy by using telnet

What you need

  • A proxy-server host name (for use in the telnet command)
  • The port number of the proxy server (for use in the telnet command)
  • The target server’s host name (for use in the CONNECT request)
  • The port number of the target server (for use in the CONNECT request)

What to do

The initial telnet: > symbolises your shell prompt.

We will contact an SMTP server, but this is just an example; we could just as well connect to a POP, NNTP or other service.

telnet: > telnet proxy.example.com 8080
telnet: Trying 192.0.2.2...
telnet: Connected to 192.0.2.2.
telnet: Escape character is '^]'.
client: CONNECT mx1.example.com:25 HTTP/1.0

server: HTTP/1.0 200 Connection established

server: 220 mx1.example.com ESMTP server ready Thu, 5 Feb 2004 00:38:22 +0200

17 March 2017

Creating new newsgroups

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Think twice

Before you get too far into trying to create a newsgroup, you should first make sure that you really want to do this. Learn about the various kinds of forums that you can create on the net, and decide which kind fits your purposes best.

Choose your hierarchy

If you’re still set on creating a newsgroup, you need to decide next what kind of newsgroup you want to create. More technically, you need to decide in which top-level hierarchy you want to put the group. That is, will it be a comp group, a rec group, an alt group, a us group, or what? Different hierarchies of newsgroups have different rules for creating new groups.

Guidelines for choosing a hierarchy

International topics

If the topic is of broad international interest, then the logical place is an international hierarchy such as one of the Big Eight (comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, and talk) or alt.

The choice between the Big Eight and alt is a trade-off between ease of creation and speed of propagation of the new group (that is, how rapidly it is created on the tens of thousands of news servers all over the globe). Creating a new group in the Big Eight can be a rather drawn-out and politicized process (figure at least two or three months from start to finish), but once you’ve completed the process successfully, most servers will add the new group fairly rapidly. Creating a new alt group can be very quick (perhaps a couple of weeks), but it can take a long time for a significant number of servers to add the group, and they may need prodding from their own users. In addition, some smaller servers don’t carry alt groups at all.

Regional or local topics

If the topic is of local or regional interest, you should look for an appropriate national, regional or local newsgroup hierarchy. We list sources of information for some of these below; for others, look for a *.general or *.config group in the hierarchy and look for, or ask about, the proper procedures.

How groups are technically created

Fundamentally, no matter what the hierarchy, the process of technically creating a new group starts when someone posts a newgroup control message. This special kind of message asks news server administrators everywhere to create the group locally on their servers.

Depending on the hierarchy, the sender and the server configuration, the server may do one of the following:

  • Create the group automatically
  • Forward the request to the server administrator, who then decides whether to create the group manually
  • Ignore the request completely

Most hierarchies have a designated maintainer who, by general custom and/or agreement, is the official source of newgroup control messages for that hierarchy. The single most important exceptions are the alt and free hierarchies, where (in principle) anyone can post a control message. In most cases, there is a widely accepted procedure that one must – or at least should – follow in order to have an official control message posted or to post a control message oneself.

Newsgroup creation in various hierarchies

International hierarchies

Big Eight Usenet newsgroups

The Big Eight management policies were reformed in 2006. Guidelines for creating new groups are available on the Big Eight management board’s web site.

alt newsgroups

In the alt hierarchy, you should post a proposal for the group in alt.config, and give some justification for it. Listen to suggestions and advice. Make any changes that seem appropriate (e.g. regarding the name of the group). When you get to a point where there are no significant objections, post the newgroup control message yourself, or ask someone in alt.config to do it for you.

There is no official source of newgroup control messages in alt. If you post a newgroup control message against significant objections, you can expect that someone will post rmgroup control messages (requests for servers to remove a group) to try to block the effects of your newgroup messages.

Before you try to make a proposal yourself, you should read alt.config for a while and see what happens there. You might also want to read the &lquo;So you want to create an alt newsgroup’ FAQ written by David Barr.

biz newsgroups

The biz hierarchy is for commercial and business-related newsgroups. See the biz FAQ.

free newsgroups

free is a hierarchy where the only rule is ‘do whatever you want, as long as you’re not destroying somebody else’s words’. Consequently, there are no rules against creating new groups. Of course, there is also no guarantee that any news server will carry your group.

More information is available in the free FAQ.

Language-based hierarchies

de newsgroups

The de hierarchy is for newsgroups with discussions in German. It is not restricted to Germany-specific topics.

fr newsgroups

The fr hierarchy is for newsgroups with discussions in French. It is not restricted to France-specific topics.

The newsgroup creation process for fr is explained – in French, naturally – on the page Comment crèer un forum fr.

Regional hierarchies

aus newsgroups

The aus hierarchy is a national hierarchy for Australia.

be newsgroups

The be hierarchy is a national hierarchy for Belgium. Its primary languages are Dutch (Flemish) and French.

es newsgroups

The es hierarchy is a national newsgroup hierarchy for Spain. Its primary language is Spanish.

nl newsgroups

The nl hierarchy is a national hierarchy for the Netherlands. Its primary language is Dutch.

sfnet newsgroups

The sfnet hierarchy is a national hierarchy for Finland. Its primary language is Finnish.

uk newsgroups

The uk hierarchy is a regional hierarchy for the United Kingdom.

us newsgroups

The us hierarchy is a national hierarchy for the United States.

Moderated newsgroups

If you are thinking of creating a moderated newsgroup (in which all postings are automatically forwarded to a moderator for approval before being posted), you should read the following:

  • Denis McKeon’s Moderated Groups FAQ, which discusses general and technical aspects of newsgroup moderation
  • Russ Allbery’s Pitfalls of Newsgroup Moderation FAQ, which discusses such things that can go wrong with moderating a newsgroup as of which prospective newsgroup moderators should be aware. Russ is a moderator himself, and he has witnessed the discussion of many proposals for moderated groups.

16 March 2017

Don’t lose your pet this spring

As the days get warmer, more and more pets see an opportunity to make a run for freedom. Animal protection societies are warning owners not to underestimate the resourcefulness of their furry companions.

Even turtles have an uncanny tendency to disappear if left momentarily unattended in the open – many are good at burrowing into the ground, often to the surprise of their owners. Turtles should therefore be kept outdoors only in cages that extend well below ground level.

Cats and dogs, in turn, most often escape through open windows and doors, which should therefore be fitted with mesh in order to allow ventilation while keeping pets safely inside. Also, spring is a great time of year for checking the condition of fences, and fixing any gaps and holes.

Fresh water and protection from direct sunshine are important for any caged animal. Never leave a pet alone in a car.

15 March 2017

Confused by personal information published on the ‘Stophaus’ website?

A website labelled ‘The Stophaus Movement’ has published a number of pages containing information about various persons and organisations involved in combating fraud and cybercrime. Each such page typically contains the name of a person as well as other data, e.g. contact details, photos (such as of the person’s family members and homes) etc. Much of the data is outdated or otherwise incorrect, but the pages nevertheless appear intended to convey some kind of ‘we know where you live’ message. Indeed, one of the pages vows, ‘We Are Coming for You’.

However, a reader who just briefly glances at the Stophaus website or views a search engine result pointing to that site may get the erroneous impression that the persons listed would be affiliated with the Stophaus organisation in some way. This is a good example of why web users need the ability to read critically; everything found on the web should be taken with a grain of salt, especially if the publisher is unknown (or, indeed, infamous).

The Stophaus organisation has been described as a group of spam and malware hosters seeking retaliation against anti-spam service provider Spamhaus for listing various cybercrime networks on the Spamhaus Block List. Stophaus has claimed responsibility for a major denial-of-service attack against Spamhaus as well as threatened to carry out further DoS attacks. In addition, Wikipedia has been threatened with vandalisation of 1,000 articles each day until Stophaus is allowed to rewrite the English Wikipedia article about Spamhaus.

14 March 2017

Mail transfer agents need adequate PTR records

MTA operators, please remember that a lack of PTR records may cause false positives in regard to spam filtering.

As RFC 1912 put it, back in 1996:

Make sure your PTR and A records match. For every IP address, there should be a matching PTR record in the in-addr.arpa domain. If a host is multi-homed, (more than one IP address) make sure that all IP addresses have a corresponding PTR record (not just the first one). Failure to have matching PTR and A records can cause loss of Internet services similar to not being registered in the DNS at all. Also, PTR records must point back to a valid A record, not a (sic) alias defined by a CNAME.

Obviously, if a mail admin is not competent enough to set up reverse DNS, the outside world will assume that his machine is not legitimately intended to serve mail, but rather is being abused by a botnet operator or similar villain.

13 March 2017

Abusable tell-a-friend scripts considered harmful

Many websites provide ‘tell-a-friend’ forms allowing visitors to recommend a page to an acquaintance. Unfortunately, fraudsters and other spammers constantly abuse such forms.

Example

Here is a typical advance-fee scam that was spammed through a haplessly operated website:

Received: from allthingsformom.modwest.com (allthingsformom.modwest.com [204.11.245.237]) (using TLSv1 with cipher DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA (256/256 bits)) (No client certificate requested) by virusscan-2.nebula.fi (Postfix) with ESMTP id 99802A4D70B for (email address removed); Thu, 13 Oct 2011 08:21:50 +0300 (EEST)
Received: (qmail 30137 invoked by uid 33); 12 Oct 2011 14:53:56 +0000
Date: 12 Oct 2011 14:53:54 +0000
Message-ID: <20111012145354.30099.qmail@allthingsformom.modwest.com>
To: (647 [sic] email addresses removed)
Subject: Mr. David Robert Miller has sent you a message from All Things For Mom
From: ciaukllp9246@hotmail.com
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-type: text/html; charset=utf-8

All Things For Mom <http://www.allthingsformom.com/>
Mr. David Robert Miller <mailto:ciaukllp9246@hotmail.com> thought you would like to see the All Things For Mom web site.
Message from Sender:
Capstone Investment Advisors UK LLP A symbol of entrepreneurial relationship and growth, 21, St. Thomas St, London, SE1 9RY. Dear Director, I write to you based on a request by an investor and his need for investment/funding in your country. My name is Mr. David Robert Miller, the chief financial consultant of Capstone Investment Advisors UK LLP. My company most times represents the interests of very wealthy investors. Due to the sensitivity of the position they hold in their society and the unstable investment environment of their country, they evacuate majority of their funds into more stable economies and developed nations where they can get good yield for their funds. A Reserved Client, whom I had personally worked with few years ago with a proposal, recently, approached me that he wants an individual in your country who will assist him to invest $328.2 Million US Dollars on his behalf in a good profitable business in your country for a period of 10 years for a start. We extend hands of investment to you with the intend of making good profit for us all and all we need from you to accomplish this is your total commitment, cooperation and trust. Looking forward to hear from you soon, Best regards, Mr. David Robert Miller Chief Consultant, CIA UK LLP.
Click here to visit our site <http://www.allthingsformom.com/forward//email_ref>

This is a great service for criminals – apparently, the fraudster was able to spam 647 email addresses with a single HTTP request. Consider how many recipients a spammer can victimise by sending e.g. one such request per second for an hour or a week.

How to avoid being part of the problem

Here are a few things you can do to avoid having your tell-a-friend facility abused:

  • Consider whether you need a server-side application at all. Alternatives include sharing services such as AddThis as well as dynamically generated mailto: links allowing the visitor to send mail through his or her email client software.
  • If you do want to enable visitors to send mail through an application hosted your website, only allow them to enter their own email address and that of the recipient. Have your application add the name, description and URI of the page. Free-form text fields, whether you intend them to contain the visitor’s name, a message or something else, can be used to carry a message from a fraudster or other spammer. To avoid backscatter, set the reverse-path (the address to which non-delivery reports are sent) to one of your addresses, not to the address the visitor provides.
  • Also, ensure that the application is coded in a secure fashion. Remember that attackers are not confined to the web form you provide; they can use customised HTTP requests to exploit any feature or bug in your application.

12 March 2017

Meat curry

Quick to prepare. Warming but not burning.

Serving suggestions

  • rice

Ingredients

  • toasted sesame oil, two tablespoons
  • three chopped garlic cloves
  • chili powder, one teaspoon
  • beef sirloin, julienned, 600 grams
  • one coarsely chopped onion
  • one sliced leek
  • one chopped summer squash
  • curry paste, two tablespoons
  • garam masala, one tablespoon
  • vegetable stock, one teacup

Preparation

  1. Heat the sesame oil in your wok. Fry the garlic together with the chili powder.
  2. Add the beef. Fry until brown.
  3. Add and fry the onion, leek and squash.
  4. Mix in the curry paste and garam masala. Cook for a while.
  5. Add the vegetable stock. Heat and serve.

11 March 2017

‘Make money fast’ schemes

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Many people on the Internet will try to get rich quick, and will try to get you to send them money with attempts to get you some quick cash.

Don’t do it. If you get in at the bottom of a pyramid scheme, you will not make any money. They are also illegal in many countries. As an example, pyramid schemes are considered mail fraud when conducted through US mail.

‘Get rich quick’ schemes often tell you to crosspost their advertisements to between 10 and 200 newsgroups. Don’t do that!

Consequences of inappropriate behaviour

  • People who read news will report you to your news admininstrator, postmaster or abuse desk.
  • Many schools and ISPs will cancel your account if you send unwelcome advertisements using newsgroups or email.
  • While you wait for your account to be terminated, you will receive indignant email messages as well as ‘flaming’ newsgroup replies from people who are angered by your actions.
  • You will gain a very bad reputation that may haunt you for decades through publicly available newsgroup archives.
  • People may also report your endeavours to your local tax authority, so that any unreported income can be investigated.

So be safe – just say no to fast-money schemes.

10 March 2017

Why newsgroups aren’t email

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Many newcomers to the net use ‘mail’ as a universal term for any message that you send to other people via computer. However, in reality mail and news are two fundamentally different systems which occasionally intersect in confusing ways.

Mail is private communication

When you send an email message, you determine exactly who is supposed to receive it, whether it be one person or a specific group of people. Your outgoing email server uses a set of rules called the Simple Mail Transfer protocol (SMTP) to forward your message either directly to the recipient’s incoming mail server, or to an intermediary server that, in turn, forwards the message in the recipient’s direction.

The final result is one copy of the email message in each specified recipient’s private mailbox.

News is public communication

When you send a newsgroup article (message), you have no control over who will receive it, except by your choice of newsgroup. Your news server exchanges articles with its ‘neighbouring’ servers using the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP).

Your article should appear on every news server that carries the newsgroup, scattered all over the globe.

Types of client software

Separate programs for news and email

People sometimes use email and news with two different software packages:

  • If you send someone email, you use an email program, and the reply (if any) appears in your mailbox; you have to use the email program to read it.
  • If you post a news article, you use a newsreader program, and any follow-ups (public responses) appear in the newsgroup in which you posted originally; you have to use your newsreader program to read them.

Even if you use such a separate newsreader program, it may allow you to send email in response to a news article, directly to the author, instead of posting a public response. Some programs even allow you to do both simultaneously, that is, post a public response and email a copy to the original author. The terminology for doing this varies from one newsreader program to another.

One unified program for both email and news

Many people use the same program for both news and email, perhaps even for browsing the web. For example, Mozilla Thunderbird and Pine handle both news and email.

When you use such a software suite, news articles and email messages usually look almost the same, both when reading and when writing. When replying to a news article, you typically have the choice of posting a news article, sending an email message to the original poster, or both. One of these may be a default setting.

You therefore need to be very careful when replying to a message, to make sure that it goes where you want it to go. Accidentally broadcasting a private message to an entire newsgroup can be very embarrassing, and impossible to undo.

9 March 2017

What newsgroups are and how they work

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

Concisely, newsgroups are a means of public discussion. Newsgroup articles (messages) look like email, but millions of people all over the world can read them.

This note describes how newsgroups work in the sense of what happens to articles after they are posted. In order to find out how newsgroups work in the sense of how to use your news-reading software, please look for documentation for that software or post a question to an appropriate newsgroup.

Questions and answers

Can someone give a brief, not-too-technical description of where a message goes when I post it into a newsgroup?

Newsgroup articles are distributed via news servers, which contain databases of articles. Internet service providers (ISPs), schools and other organisations operate news servers.

Do all the messages travel to a central site, and do all the sites that want it pick it up there?

No, there is no central server on Usenet. A newsgroup article propagates from one server to another, starting from the server where it is first posted.

Moderated newsgroups are sort of an exception, in that all articles are first forwarded via email to a moderator for approval. The moderator posts them on his or her news server; from there, they propagate as described below. Different moderators use different news servers.

Do all messages travel to all news servers?

Ideally, all articles in a newsgroup would travel to all news servers that carry the newsgroup. When you post an article, the result is tens of thousands of copies, all over the world.

More specifically, when you post an article, it goes first to your local news server (operated e.g. by your ISP or school). Your server then sends copies of the article to its ‘neighbours’, that is, to servers with which it has agreed to exchange articles. Those servers, in turn, send copies to their neighbours. Eventually, every server that carries the newsgroup has a copy.

In what order?

Most servers normally forward articles more or less in the order of arrival. This sequence can become scrambled for various reasons, which is why you often see responses before the original article arrives.

How do they know which servers want them?

News server administrators arrange among themselves which newsgroups they exchange. The receiving server’s admin tells the sending server’s admin which newsgroups he or she wants to receive. The sending server’s admin then configures his or her server to send only those newsgroups.

How do they know which sites they have already visited? How does a message avoid the same site twice?

There are two methods. Servers usually use both of them, in sequence:

  1. The Path: header line shows the sites that the article has travelled through, so far, between the originating server and the current server. If the receiving server appears in the Path: line, the sending server does not try to send the article, because it knows that the receiving server already has received a copy.
  2. The Message-ID: header line contains an identifying code that is different for every article. Before transmitting the article, the sending server asks the receiving server, in effect, ’Do you have an article with Message-ID such-and-such?’ The receiving server responds either ’No, please send me a copy’ or ’Yes, I have it already’, whereupon the sending server either sends the article or goes on to the next one.

How long do messages stay posted?

Each news server removes old articles, usually once a day, to make space for new ones. This is called expiring. Most servers do this based on the number of days an article has been on that server. The expiration time varies from one server to another, and can vary from one newsgroup to another on the same server. It might be less than a day (such as for groups that carry binary content), or it might be two weeks or more. Therefore, even after an article expires from your own server, it is probably still visible on many other servers.

Note, however, that even though you cannot see an article any more, it may still be present on your server. Most news-reading software keeps track of which articles you have read, and shows those articles to you only once. This way, you do not have to wade through the same articles repeatedly. There should be a command, button or something that ‘shows all’, ‘shows previously-read’ or ‘unmarks’ articles so that you can see all the articles that have not yet expired from your server.

Behind the scene, how does a newsreader communicate with a news server?

An example of how an article posting takes place on the news transfer protocol level is available on the ‘How to test an NNTP (news) server using telnet’ page. You can score guru points with your friends by reading and posting news without using a newsreader ☺