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Usenet FAQ This document is a reproduction of the Usenet FAQ, originally by Jerry Schwarz. It answers many questions about USENET and the etiquette expected of its users. It also includes a number of facts about computers, especially UNIX systems. This reflects the origins of the newsgroups, but such information will be mostly of cultural interest to the majority of PC users, who no longer need to learn UNIX to use USENET newsgroups.

See the list of FAQ's by Newsgroup and the news.answers FAQs for group-specific information.

Archive-name: usenet-faq/part1
Original-author: jerry@eagle.UUCP (Jerry Schwarz)
Comment: enhanced & edited until 5/93 by spaf@cs.purdue.edu (Gene Spafford)
Last-change: 25 Apr 1993 by spaf@cs.purdue.edu (Gene Spafford)
Frequently Submitted/Asked Items This document discusses some questions and topics that occur repeatedly on USENET. They frequently are submitted by new users, and result in many followups, sometimes swamping groups for weeks. The purpose of this note is to head off these annoying events by answering some questions and warning about the inevitable consequence of asking others. If you don't like these answers, let the poster of thie article know.

Note that some newsgroups have their own special Frequent Questions & Answers posting. You should read a group for a while before posting any questions, because the answers may already be present. Comp.unix.questions and comp.unix.internals are examples - Steve Hayman regularly posts an article that answers common questions, including some of the ones asked here.

This list is often referred to as FAQ - the Frequently Asked Questions. If you are a new user of the Usenet and don't find an answer to your questions here, you can try asking in the news.newusers.questions group. You might also read through other FAQ lists, cross-posted to the news.answers group.

Contents

1. What does UNIX stand for?
2. What is the derivation of foo as a filler word?
3. Is a machine at foo on the net?
4. What does rc at the end of files like .newsrc mean?
5. What does :-) mean?
6. How do I decrypt jokes in rec.humor?
7. misc.misc or misc.wanted: Is John Doe out there anywhere?
8. sci.math: Proofs that 1=0.
9. rec.games.*: Where can I get the source for empire or rogue?
10. comp.unix.questions : How do I remove files with non-ascii characters in their names?
11. comp.unix.internals : There is a bug in the way UNIX handles protection for programs that run suid, or any other report of bugs with standard software.
12. Volatile topics, e.g., soc.women: What do you think about abortion?
13. soc.singles: What do MOTOS, MOTSS, and MOTAS stand for? What does LJBF mean?
14. soc.singles and elsewhere: What does HASA stand for?
15. sci.space.shuttle: Shouldn't this group be merged with sci.space?
16. How do I use the Distribution feature?
17. Why do some people put funny lines (bug killers) at the beginning of their articles?
18. What is the address or phone number of the foo company?
19. What is the origin of the name grep?
20. How do I get from BITNET to UUCP, Internet to BITNET, JANET etc. etc.?
21. Didn't some state once pass a law setting pi equal to 3 ?
22. Where can I get the necessary software to get a smart mail system running on my machine that will take advantage of the postings in comp.mail.maps? (E.g., pathalias, smail, etc.)
23. What is food for the NSA line-eater?
24. Does anyone know the {pinouts, schematics, switch settings, what does jumper J3 do} for widget X?
25. What is anonymous ftp?
26. What is UUNET?
27. Isn't the posting mechanism broken? When I post an article to both a moderated group and unmoderated groups, it gets mailed to the moderator and not posted to the unmoderated groups.
28. comp.arch and elsewhere: What do FYI and IMHO mean?
29. Would someone repost {large software distribution}?
30. How do I contact the moderator of an Internet mailing list rather than post to the entire list?
31. I see BTW (or btw), wrt and RTFM in postings. What do they mean?
32. Are there any restrictions on posting e-mail someone sends to me?
33. What's an FQDN?
34. How do you pronounce char in C, ioctl in UNIX, the character #, etc., etc.?
35. How do you pronounce TeX?
36. What is the last year of the 20th century A.D.?
37. I heard these stories about a dying child wanting postcards/get-well cards/business cards to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. Where can I post the address for people to help?
38. I just heard about a scheme the FCC has to implement a tax on modems! Where can I post a message so everyone will hear about this and do something to prevent it?
39. Is there a public access Unix system near me? How can I get access to system for news and mail?
40. In rec.pets: My pet has suddenly developed the following symptoms .... Is it serious? In sci.med: I have these symptoms .... Is it serious?
41. I have this great idea to make money. Alternatively, wouldn't an electronic chain letter be a nifty idea?
42. Where can I get archives of Usenet postings?
43. Is it possible to post messages to the Usenet via electronic mail?
44. Is it possible to read Usenet newsgroups via electronic mail?
45. How do I get the news software to include a signature with my postings?
46. I'm on Bitnet - can I connect to the net?
Questions and Answers 1. What does UNIX stand for? It is not an acronym, but is a pun on Multics. Multics is a large operating system that was being developed shortly before UNIX was created. Brian Kernighan is credited with the name.

2. What is the derivation of foo as a filler word? The favorite story is that it comes from fubar which is an acronym for fouled up beyond all recognition, which is supposed to be a military term. (Various forms of this exist, fouled usually being replaced by a stronger word.) Foo and Bar have the same derivation.

3. Is a machine at foo on the net? These questions belong in news.config (if anywhere), but in fact your best bet is usually to phone somebody at foo to find out. If you don't know anybody at foo you can always try calling and asking for the comp center. Also, see the newsgroup comp.mail.maps where maps of USENET and the uucp network are posted regularly. If you have access to telnet, connect to nic.ddn.mil and try the whois command. (See also the answer to question #7, below.)

4. What does rc at the end of files like .newsrc mean? It is related to the phrase run commands. It is used for any file that contains startup information for a command. The use of rc in startup files derives from the /etc/rc command file used to start multi-user UNIX.

5. What does :-) mean? This is the net convention for a smiley face. It means that something is being said in jest. If it doesn't look like a smiley face to you, flop your head over to the left and look again. Variants exist and mean related things; for instance, :-( is sad. Collections of smileys are posted to various newsgroups from time to time. One was posted to comp.sources.misc in v23i102.

6. How do I decrypt jokes in rec.humor? The standard cypher used in rec.humor is called rot13. Each letter is replaced by the letter 13 farther along in the alphabet (cycling around at the end). Most systems have a built-in command to decrypt such articles; readnews and nn have the D command, emacs/gnus has the ^C^R combination, rn has the X or ^X commands, notes has % or R, and VMS news has the read/rot13 command. If your system doesn't have a program to encrypt and decrypt these, you can quickly create a shell script using tr:

tr A-Za-z N-ZA-Mn-za-m
On some versions of UNIX, the tr command should be written as:
tr "[a-m][n-z][A-M][N-Z]" "[n-z][a-m][N-Z][A-M]"

7. misc.misc or misc.wanted Is John Doe out there anywhere? I suspect that these items are people looking for Freshman room- mates that they haven't seen in ten years. If you have some idea where the person is, you are usually better off calling the organization. For example, if you call any Bell Labs location and request John Doe's number they can give it to you even if he works at a different location. If you must try the net, use newsgroup soc.net-people *NOT* misc.misc or misc.wanted. Also, you can try the whois command (see item #3). There is a periodic posting in the news.newusers.questions and news.answers newsgroups that gives information on other ways to locate people.

8.sci.math: Proofs that 1=0. Almost everyone has seen one or more of these in high school. They are almost always based on either division by 0, confusing the positive and negative square roots of a number, or performing some ill-defined operation.

9. rec.games.*: Where can I get the source for empire or rogue? You can't get the source of rogue. The authors of the game, as is their right, have chosen not to make the sources available. However, several rogue-like games have been posted to the comp.sources.games group and they are available in the archives.

You can obtain the source to a version of empire if you provide a tape and SASE *plus* a photocopy of your UNIX source license. To obtain further info, contact mcnc!rti-sel!polyof!john. You can also call John at +1 516 454-5191 (9am-9pm EST only).

Sites with Internet access can ftp several versions of empire from site g.ms.uky.edu

Also, please note that the wizards' passwords in games like these are usually system-dependent and it does no good to ask the net-at-large what they are.

10.comp.unix.questions: How do I remove files with non-ascii characters in their names? You can try to find a pattern that uniquely identifies the file. This sometimes fails because a peculiarity of some shells is that they strip off the highorder bit of characters in command lines. Next, you can try an rm -i, or rm -r. Finally, you can mess around with i-node numbers and find.

Some Emacs editors allow you to directly edit a directory, and this provides yet another way to remove a file with a funny name (assuming you have Emacs and figure out how to use it!).

To remove a file named "-" from your directory, simply do: rm ./-

11. comp.unix.internals: There is a bug in the way UNIX handles protection for programs that run suid, or any other report of bugs with standard software. There are indeed problems with the treatment of protection in setuid programs. When this is brought up, suggestions for changes range from implementing a full capability list arrangement to new kernel calls for allowing more control over when the effective id is used and when the real id is used to control accesses. Sooner or later you can expect this to be improved. For now you just have to live with it.

Always discuss suspected bugs or problems with your site software experts before you post to the net. It is likely that the bugs have already been reported. They might also be local changes and not something you need to describe to the whole Usenet.

12. Volatile topics, e.g., soc.women: What do you think about abortion? Although abortion might appear to be an appropriate topic for soc.women, more heat than light is generated when it is brought up. All abortion-related discussion should take place in the newsgroup talk.abortion. If your site administrators have chosen not to receive this group, you should respect this and not post articles about abortion at all.

This principle applies to other topics: religious upbringing of children should be restricted to talk.religion.misc and kept out of misc.kids. Similarly, rape discussions should be kept to talk.rape and not in soc.singles, alt.sex and/or soc.women, Zionism discussions should be kept to talk.politics. Mideast and not in soc.culture.jewish; likewise, evangelical and proseletyzing discussions of Jesus or of religions other than Judaism should go to newsgroups for the appropriate religion or to talk.religion.misc or alt.messianic. Any attempts to proselytize any religious view belongs in talk.religion.misc, if they belong on the net at all. Discussions on the merits of Affirmative Action and racial quotas belong in a talk.politics subgroup or alt.discrimination, not in soc.culture.african.american. Discussions about evolution vs. creationism should be confined to the talk.origins group.

USENET newsgroups are named for mostly historical reasons, and are not intended to be fully general discussion groups for everything about the named topic. Please accept this and post articles in their appropriate forums.

13. soc.singles What do MOTOS, MOTSS, MOTAS, and SO stand for? What does LJBF mean? Member of the opposite sex, member of the same sex, and member of the appropriate sex, respectively. SO stands for significant other.

LJBF means Let's just be friends. This phrase is often heard when you least want it.

14.soc.singles and elsewhere: What does HASA stand for? The acronym HASA originated with the Heathen and Atheistic SCUM Alliance; the Hedonistic Asti-Spumante Alliance, Heroes Against Spaghetti Altering, the Society for Creative Atheism (SCATHE), SASA, SALSA, PASTA, and many others too numerous to mention all followed. HASA started in (what is now) talk.religion.misc and also turns up in soc.singles, talk.bizarre, et al. because members post there too.

15. sci.space.shuttle: Shouldn't this group be merged with sci.space? No. sci.space.shuttle is for timely news bulletins. sci.space is for discussions.

16. How do I use the Distribution feature? When your posting software (e.g., Pnews or postnews) prompts you for a distribution, it's asking how widely distributed you want your article. The set of possible replies is different, depending on where you are, but at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, possibilities include (for example):

	local	local to this machine
mh	Bell Labs, Murray Hill Branch
nj	all sites in New Jersey
btl	All Bell Labs machines
att	All AT&T machines
usa	Everywhere in the USA
na	Everywhere in North America
world	Everywhere on USENET in the world 
Many of the posting programs will provide a list of distributions, if your site admin has kept the files up-to-date.

If you hit return, you'll get the default, which is usually world. This default is often not appropriate - PLEASE take a moment to think about how far away people are likely to be interested in what you have to say. Used car ads, housing wanted ads, and things for sale other than specialized equipment like computers certainly shouldn't be distributed to Europe and Korea, or even to the next state.

It is generally not possible to post an article to a distribution that your own machine does not receive. For instance, if you live in Indiana, you can't post an article for distribution only in New Jersey or Germany unless your site happens to exchange those particular distributions with another site. Try mailing the article to someone in the appropriate area and asking them to post it for you.

If you cannot determine what distributions are valid for your site, ask someone locally rather than posting a query to the whole network!

17. Why do some people put funny lines (bug killers) at the beginning of their articles? Some earlier versions (mid-80s) of news had a bug which would drop the first 512 or 1024 bytes of text of certain articles. The bug was triggered whenever the article started with whitespace (a blank or a tab). A fix many people adopted was to begin their articles with a line containing a character other than white space. This gradually evolved into the habit of including amusing first lines.

The original bug has since been fixed in newer version of news, and sites running older versions of news have applied a patch to prevent articles from losing text. The bug-killer lines are therefore probably no longer needed, but they linger on.

18. What is the address or phone number of the foo company? Try the white and yellow pages of your phone directory, first; a sales representative will surely know, and if you're a potential customer they will be who you're looking for. Phone books for other cities are usually available in libraries of any size. Whoever buys or recommends things for your company will probably have some buyer's guides or national company directories. Call or visit the reference desk of your library; they have several company and organization directories and many will answer questions like this over the phone. Remember if you only know the city where the company is, you can telephone to find out their full address or a dealer. Calls to 1-800-555-1212 will reveal if the company has an "800" number you can call for information. The network is NOT a free resource, although it may look like that to some people. It is far better to spend a few minutes of your own time researching an answer rather than broadcast your laziness and/or ineptitude to the net.

19. What is the origin of the name grep? The original UNIX text editor ed has a construct g/re/p, where re stands for a regular expression, to Globally search for matches to the Regular Expression and Print the lines containing them. This was so often used that it was packaged up into its own command, thus named grep. According to Dennis Ritchie, this is the true origin of the command.

20. How do I get from BITNET to UUCP, Internet to BITNET, JANET etc.? There are so many networks and mail systems in use now, it would take a book to describe all of them and how to send mail between them. Luckily, there are a couple of excellent books that do exactly that, and in a helpful, easy-to-use manner:

!%@:: A Directory of Electronic Mail Addressing & Networks by Donnalyn Frey and Rick Adams, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc, 2nd edition 1990.
The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide by John Quarterman, Digital Press, 1990.

Another excellent book to have on your bookshelf (to keep those two company) is The User's Directory of Computer Networks edited by Tracy LaQuey, Digital Press, 1990.

21. Didn't some state once pass a law setting pi equal to 3 ? Indiana House Bill #246 was introduced on 18 January 1897, and referred to the Committee on Canals "midst general cheerfulness." The text states, "the ratio of the diameter and circumference is as five-fourths to four", which makes pi = 3.2 (not 3), but there are internal contradictions in the bill as well as contradictions with reality. The author was a mathematical crank. The bill was passed by the state House on 5 February, but indefinitely tabled by the state Senate, in part thanks to the fortuitous presence on other business of a Purdue professor of mathematics.

For details, including an annotated text of the bill, read the article by D. Singmaster in The Mathematical Intelligencer v7 #2, pp 69-72.

22. Where can I get the necessary software to get a smart mail system running on my machine that will take advantage of the postings in comp.mail.maps? (E.g., pathalias, smail, etc.) There are a couple of packages available through the supporters of the comp.sources.unix archives. If sites next to you don't have what you want, contact your nearest comp.sources.unix archive, or the moderator. Information on archive sites, and indices of comp.sources.unix back issues are posted regularly in comp.sources.unix and comp.sources.d.

23. What is food for the NSA line-eater? This refers to the alleged scanning of all USENET traffic by the National Security Agency (and possibly other intelligence organizations) for interesting keywords. The food is believed to contain some of those keywords in the fond hope of overloading NSA's poor computers. A little thought should convince anyone that this is unlikely to occur. Other posters have taken up this practice, either as an ambiguous form of political statement, or as an attempt at humor. The bottom line is that excessive signatures in any form are discouraged, the joke has worn stale amongst long-time net readers, and there are specific newsgroups for the discussion of politics.

24. Does anyone know the {pinouts, schematics, switch settings, what does jumper J3 do} for widget X? These postings are almost always inappropriate unless the manufacturer has gone out of business or no longer supports the device. If neither of these is the case, you're likely to get a better and faster response by simply telephoning the manufacturer.

25. What is anonymous ftp? FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol; on many systems, it's also the name of a user-level program that implements that protocol. This program allows a user to transfer files to and from a remote network site, provided that network site is reachable via the Internet or a similar facility. (Ftp is also usable on many local-area networks.) Anonymous FTP indicates that a user may log into the remote system as user anonymous with an arbitrary password. A common convention is that some sort of identification is supplied as the password, e.g. mumble@foo. This is sometimes useful to those sites that track ftp usage. Also note that most sites restrict when transfers can be made, or at least suggest that large transfers be made only during non-peak hours.

26. What is UUNET? UUNET is a for-profit communications service designed to provide access to USENET news, mail, and various source archives at low cost by obtaining volume discounts. Charges are calculated to recover costs.

For more information send your US mail address to info@uunet.uu.net (uunet!info).

27. Isn't the posting mechanism broken? When I post an article to both a moderated group and unmoderated groups, it gets mailed to the moderator and not posted to the unmoderated groups. This is a question that is debated every few months. The answer is "No, it was designed to work that way." The software is designed so that the moderator can crosspost the article so it appears in the regular groups as well as the moderated group, if appropriate. If the article were to be posted immediately to the unmoderated groups, the moderated group name would have to be deleted from the header and you would lose the crossposting.

Whether or not this is correct behavior is a matter of opinion. If you want your article to go out immediately to the unmoderated groups, post it twice - once to the unmoderated groups and once to the moderated groups.

28. comp.arch and elsewhere: What do FYI and IMHO mean? Those are abbreviations for common phrases. FYI is For Your Information and IMHO is In My Humble Opinion or In My Honest Opinion. This is used sarcastically as often as not.

29. Would someone repost {large software distribution}? This question should never be posted unless you are reporting a widespread problem in article propagation. Lamentably, there ARE occasional glitches in article transport. Large source or binary postings, by their sheer size, are an inviting target.

If the problem is isolated, it is much better to take it upon yourself to obtain the bad portions of the program than to ask thousands of sites to spend thousands of dollars to needlessly move several hundred kilobytes of code. There are archive sites around the net that make most source/binary newsgroups available via anonymous FTP and UUCP. If you get desperate, you can always mail the author a blank disk or magnetic tape with provisions for return postage.

30. How do I contact the moderator of an Internet mailing list rather than post to the entire list? To do this you should know that there are, by convention, two mailing addresses for every mailing list (except where noted by the List of Lists):

list@host (e.g. xpert@expo.lcs.mit.edu)
list-request@host (e.g. xpert-request@expo.lcs.mit.edu)

When you have something for everyone on the mailing list to read, mail to the list@host address. HOWEVER, if you have an administrative request to make (e.g. please add me to this list, please remove me from this list, where are the archives?, what is this mailer error I got from sending to this list?), it should be directed to the list-request@host address, which goes only to the mailing list administrator.

It is considered to be in bad taste to send administrative requests to the entire mailing list in question, and if (as is often the case) the administrator does not read the mailing list (i.e. he just takes care of the admin tasks for the list), he will not see your request if you don't send it to the right address.

31. I see BTW (or btw), wrt and RTFM in postings. What do they mean? BTW is shorthand for by the way. WRT is With respect to.

RTFM is generally used as an admonition and means read the f*ing manual (choice of f-words varies according to reader). The implication is that the answer to a query or complaint is easy to find if one looks in the appropriate location FIRST. Most FAQ postings (Frequently-Asked Questions) that answer these questions may be found cross-posted in news.answers.

32. Are there any restrictions on posting e-mail someone sends to me? At a minimum, it is only polite for you to contact the author of the letter and secure her or his permission to post it to the net.

On a more serious note, it can be argued that posting someone's e-mail to the net without their permission is a violation of copyright law. Under that law, even though a letter was addressed to you, it does not grant you the right to publish the contents, as that is the work of the author and the author retains copyright (even if no explicit copyright mark appears).

Basically, your letters are your intellectual property. If someone publishes your letters they are violating your copyright. This principle is well-founded in paper media, and while untested in electronic forums such as Usenet, the same would probably apply if tested in court.

33. What's an FQDN? A fully-qualified domain name. That is, a hostname containing full, dotted qualification of its name up to the root of the Internet domain naming system tree. Example: uiucuxc is the single-word hostname (suitable for, e.g., UUCP transport purposes) of the machine whose FQDN is uxc.cso.uiuc.edu.

34. How do you pronounce char in C, ioctl in UNIX, the character #, etc., etc.? Opinions differ. Pick pronunciations close to what your colleagues use. After all, they're the ones you need to communicate with.

35. How do you pronounce TeX? To quote Donald Knuth, the creator of TeX: "Insiders pronounce the X of TeX as a Greek chi, not as an 'x', so that TeX rhymes with the word blecchhh. It's the 'ch' sound in Scottish words like loch or German words like ach; it's a Spanish 'j' and a Russian 'kh'. When you say it correctly to your computer, the terminal may become slightly moist." [The TeXbook, 1986, Addison Wesley, page 1]

36. What is the last year of the 20th century A.D.? The A.D. (Latin, Anno Domini, In the Year of Our Lord) system was devised before origin 0 counting was invented. The year during which Jesus was (incorrectly) assumed to have been born was numbered 1. (The preceding year was 1 B.C.) So the 1st century was 1 to 100, the 2nd was 101 to 200, the 20th is 1901 to 2000. This is standard terminology no matter how much some of you may dislike it. However, a century is any span of 100 years; so if you want to celebrate the end of the century, meaning the 1900's, on December 31, 1999, nobody will stop you. It just isn't the end of the 20th century A.D..

37. I heard these stories about a dying child wanting postcards/get-well cards/business cards to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. Where can I post the address for people to help? Post it to junk, or better yet, don't post it at all. The story of the little boy keeps popping up, even though his mother and the agencies involved have been appealing for people to stop. So many postcards were sent that the agencies involved in the effort don't know what to do with them. The Guinness people have recorded the boy, Craig Shergold, as the record holder in the category. However, they will not accept claims for a new try at the record. For confirmation, you can see page 24 of the 29 July 1990 NY Times or call the publisher of the Guinness Book (in the US, call Facts on File @ 212-683-2244).

According to the 1993 edition of the GBWR, on page 213:

Craig Shergold (born 1979) of Carshalton, Surrey when undergoing cancer chemo-therapy was sent a record 33 million get-well cards until May 1991 when his mother pleaded for no more. A successful 5 hour operation on a brain tumour by neurosurgeon Neal Kassel at Virginia University, Charlottesville, USA in March 1991 greatly improved his condition.

If you want to do something noble, donate the cost of a stamp and postcard (or more) to a worthwhile charity like UNICEF or the International Red Cross (Red Crescent, Red Magen David). There are tens of thousands of children dying around the world daily, and they could use more than a postcard.

38. I just heard about a scheme the FCC has to implement a tax on modems! Where can I post a message so everyone will hear about this and do something to prevent it? Post it the same place as the articles in response to #37, above. This is an old, old story that just won't die. Something like this was proposed many YEARS back and defeated. However, the rumor keeps spreading and people who hear about it for the first time get all upset. Before posting stories like this, check with the organizations involved (like the FCC) to see if the story is true and current.

39. Is there a public access Unix system near me? How can I get access to system for news and mail? Phil Eschallier posts a list of open access Unix sites (he calls them Nixpub sites) on a regular basis to the following newsgroups: comp.misc and alt.bbs. Check his posting for information on sites you can contact.

Furthermore, a list of open access sites that are not necessarily Unix sites is posted regularly in alt.bbs.lists; see the postings entitled NetPub listing for more information.

40. In rec.pets: My pet has suddenly developed the following symptoms .... Is it serious? In sci.med: I have these symptoms .... Is it serious? Could be. The only way to tell for sure is to see an expert. The network reaches a vast audience with considerable talent, but that can never replace the expert observation and diagnosis of a trained professional. Do yourself or your pet a big favor - if there is a problem, go see an appropriate practitioner. If there is a serious problem, it is important that it is dealt with promptly.

41. I have this great idea to make money. Alternatively, wouldn't an electronic chain letter be a nifty idea? In a few words: don't even think about it. Trying to use the net to make vast sums of money or send chain letters is a very bad idea. First of all, it is an inappropriate use of resources, and tends to use up vast amounts of net bandwidth. Second, such usage of the net tends to produce extremely negative reactions by people on the net, adding even more to the volume - most of it directed to you. Users, particularly system admins, do not like that kind of activity, and they will flood your mailbox with notices to that effect.

And last, and perhaps most important, some of this activity is against the law in many places. In the US, you can (and will) be reported by hacked-off system administrators for suspicion of wire fraud or mail fraud. In one incident, at *least* a half dozen people reported the poster to Postal Service inspectors; I'm not sure what the outcome was, but it probably was not a nice experience.

Bottom line: don't try clever schemes to sell things, solicit donations, or run any kind of pyramid or Ponzi scheme. Also, don't start or support electronic chain letters.

42. Where can I get archives of Usenet postings? Most Usenet newsgroups are not archived in any organized fashion, though it's likely that if you look hard enough someone will have kept much or most of the traffic (either on disk or on some tape gathering dust somewhere). The volume on Usenet is simply too high to keep everything on rotating magnetic media forever, however. The signal-to-noise ratio is too low in many groups to make them good candidates for archiving.

One person's signal is another person's noise; if you're lucky, you'll find someone who has been keeping the good parts of a particular newsgroup in their own personal stash to save up for later. How to get access to a group that *is* archived depends on what kind of group it is:

  • The sources and binaries groups are generally archived at multiple sites; for more information about getting access to them, see the posting entitled How to find sources in comp.sources.wanted.
  • Some non-source newsgroups can be found by asking archie about the group name. See the comp.sources.wanted posting mentioned above for information about how to use archie.
  • In other groups, if the group has a Frequently Asked Questions posting or another periodic posting about the group, check that posting to see if it mentions where the group is archived. If not, then you'll have to post a message in the newsgroup and ask if it is archived anywhere.
43. Is it possible to post messages to the Usenet via electronic mail? There are a few sites on the Usenet that offer a full-scale mail to news gateway, so that you can post via E-mail to any newsgroup support.

One of them is decwrl.dec.com. To use its gateway, you mail the message you wish to post to newsgroup.name.usenet@decwrl.dec.com. For example, to post to news.newusers.questions, you would send your message to news.newusers.questions.usenet@decwrl.dec.com.

Mail-to-news gateways of this sort tend to be overloaded. Therefore, please do not use this gateway or any other similar gateway if you have other posting access to the Usenet.

44. Is it possible to read Usenet newsgroups via electronic mail? Most Usenet newsgroups do not correspond to any mailing list, so the conventional answer to this question is no for most groups. However, there are some newsgroups that are gatewayed to mailing lists. For a list of them, see the List of Active Newsgroups posting in news.announce.newusers.

If you know a Usenet site admin who is willing to act as a personal gateway for you, you might be able to get him/her to set up his/her system to forward messages from individual newsgroups to you via E-mail. However, most admins don't like to do this because it adds to the outgoing traffic from their site, so don't post messages to the net saying, "Hey, is there someone willing to gateway newsgroups to me?"

45. How do I get the news software to include a signature with my postings? This is a question that is best answered by examining the documentation for the software you're using, as the answer varies depending on the software.

However, if you're reading news on a Unix machine, then you can probably get a signature to appear on your outgoing messages by creating a file called .signature in your home directory. Two important things to remember are:

  • Many article-posting programs will restrict the length of the signature. For example, the inews program will often only include the first four lines. This is not something you should be trying to find a way to defeat; it is there for a reason. If your signature is too long, according to the software, then shorten it. Even if the software does not complain, keep your .signature under four lines as a courtesy to others.

  • Under some news configurations, your .signature file must be world-readable, and your home directory world-executable, for your signature to be included correctly in your articles. If your .signature does not get included, try running these commands:
    chmod a+x $HOME
    chmod a+r $HOME/.signature

46. I'm on BitNet - can I connect to the Usenet? Many BitNet sites also have connections to other networks. Some of these sites may be receiving Usenet with NNTP or by other methods. IBM VM/CMS sites which only have a connection to BitNet may still gain access to Usenet if they get a software package called NetNews, which is available from Penn State University at no charge. The PSU NetNews software allows sites to receive Usenet news over BITNET. Talk to your local site administraters to find out if your site has this software installed and how to access it from your account. Also, contact your favorite BITNET LISTSERV and get the list NETNWS-L. That list carries info on the necessary procedures and software.

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