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  1. #1
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    How to use Newsgroups

    How to use newsgroups


    What Usenet is

    Usenet is like a giant newspaper with few editorial standards; public messages ("articles") are posted and propogated to all newsservers world-wide.
    Given that a newspaper with millions of "reporters" would be an unusable mess, Usenet is divided into newsgroups which cover various topics, just as a newspaper is divided into various sections. While your local newspaper may have a few sections, Usenet has tens of thousands of newsgroups.
    ISPs (internet service providers) run newservers for their customers. These carry the newsgroups the ISP chooses and usually have time-limitations on articles due to newserver space limitations.
    You access Usenet using a piece of client software called a newsreader which connects to your ISP's newsserver. Newsgroups that you read regularly can be "subscribed" to so you can see new messages every time you logon.
    Google Groups runs a web-based interface for reading and posting to Usenet news as well; the link to ASH directly is http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&safe=off&group=alt.suicide.holiday.
    Advantages
    Audience - You have a world-wide audience. The majority of Usenet users do not post; we call them "lurkers". Because the number of lurkers is unknown, thousands, tens of thousands or more may read your words.
    Lack of moderation - Though some newsgroups are moderated, the ASH newsgroups are not. Anyone may post anything with no one else's permission. there is an absolute lack of any type of censorship whatsoever.
    Archives - All posts are archived by Google for an indefinite period of time. Individuals may also save articles they are interested in. Your words will be available forever.
    Disadvantages
    Audience - You probably don't want your mother reading your ASH posts, but unless she is suicidal, she's unlikely to be reading ASH. You can post from an anonymous account to minimize the risk of someone reading something you don't wish real-life friends and family to read. However, posts with real identifying information and/or specifying specifics of planned attempts should be posted with caution.
    Lack of moderation - Spammers (people posting advertisements and "make money fast" schemes), interventionists (people who wish to save ASHer's with annoying cliches) and trolls (people posting for the purpose of getting a rise out of newsgroup members) can post as easily as you can.
    Archives - Someone searching for your email address and/or name on Google will bring up all of your posts, including ASH posts. Again, using an anonymous email address is suggested. Also, adding the following line to your posts will prevent them from being archived. This must be the *first* line of your post and nothing else must be on it:
    x-no-archive: yes
    Keep in mind that people who quote you when following-up to your posts may cause your words to be archived even if you post as above.

    How to download a newsreader

    You may already have a newsreader. Both MS Outlook and MS Outlook Express have functions to allow you to read news.
    Some ISP's provide newsreaders with their software packages. Check the disk your ISP sent you if you installed their software on your machine.
    Many shareware newsreaders can be downloaded from Tucows. I recommend Free Agent in particular.
    Regardless of where you get your newsreader from, you will need to configure it to talk to your ISP's newsserver. Your ISP can give you the information necessary to do this.
    If you prefer a web-based interface to Usenet, Google runs a web-based interface that does not require a newsreader.

    Asking your ISP to carry newsgroups

    Most ISP's will not find it strange if you ask them to carry a newsgroup on the topic of suicide. They already carry much weirder stuff. So don't be shy to request a newsgroup if it is not already carried.
    This may not apply to those in countries with stricter censorship. Please use your discretion.

    Other news providers

    If you prefer to use a newsprovider other than your ISP, you can use Giganews Newsgroup Service - which carries newsgroups without censorship.
    Another option is to search for public news servers which carry the newsgroup you want.
    And again, Google is always an option.

    How to use Google Groups

    The Google help page is located at http://groups.google.com/googlegroups/help.html.
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  2. #2
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    Second Tutorial

    1. Intro

    The Newsgroups are a special part of the internet that pre-dates the World Wide Web. Once upon a time when the internet was still young there were special interest groups that shared information and kept in touch by using a bulletin board type system. This system was designed to take advantage of the internet in a way an old BBS couldn't : each location had a machine (news server) that would store all the messages of the newsgroups that were desired by it's users. Periodically these servers connect to each other and exchange all messages that are missing on either server. In this manner, a message sent by any user would eventually get distributed to every server that carried that newsgroup.
    A short time passed and the users of certain newsgroups thought that this system would be ideal to share files with each other. However, the newsgroups were not designed to transfer binary files - they can only transfer text files. Stuck!! NO. How about this: Take a binary file and convert it (encode it) so that it is now a text message. Distribute that text message through the newsgroup and then whoever wants the file can download that message and convert it back (decode it) into the original binary file.

    And there began file sharing using the newsgroups. The newsgroups still operate in almost the same way. Luckily, there have been great improvements in the software used to download the messages from the news server to your computer that makes getting files from the newsgroups today 1000 times easier than it was when this system first appeared.


    Unless you are familiar with them, navigating and downloading files from the newsgroups takes a good deal more effort than connecting to KaZaA, searching for something, and clicking on the result. A typical download from the newsgroups will require more steps than other methods because a large file is usually split into many pieces in the following way:





    The reason this is all necessary is that many news servers will not accept messages that are longer than 10,000 lines, many even less than that. A 700 MB movie would take around 15 Million lines if it were encoded into one message -- way too much for any news server to accept. The reason for the first split into rar files is a matter of the nature of the newsgroups : some messages don't make it. For one reason or another messages don't always get to every server. A large file is split up to minimize the time/bandwidth needed to recover from a missing/bad message. So in our example above, if a message doesn't make it for part movie.r08 it would only be necessary to find and download that piece rather than the whole thing if it were all one file. PAR files have emerged making the argument for splitting into rar files even stronger. Luckily for music fans, most mp3's are not split the first time, so downloading them is easy as pie!


    Additional newsgroup confusion arises from the listing of groups that can be hard to distinguish which messages are the files you need amongst all the other messages that are not files but actual text messages.


    So is it worth it? You better believe it! The newsgroups are an awesome resource. If you're not using them and are ready to kick it up a level check them out. You won't believe your eyes!
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  3. #3
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    Newsgroup Tutorial

    2. News Servers

    A news server is a machine that stores all of the messages for the newsgroups that it carries and communicates with other news servers to send and receive new messages. Each news server is at least one computer that has enormous storage capacity - keeping all of the messages around that contain files (encoded into thousands of lines of text each) takes up a tremendous amount of space. This leads us to a term you should get to understand : Retention

    This explains how retention times get set for different newsgroups. On each news server the administrator will determine the retention for each newsgroup usually by allotting it a certain amount of hard drive space. So alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.classical (a relatively busy newsgroup receiving 100's of songs a day) will have a longer retention than alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.complete_cd (an extremely busy newsgroup receiving 1000's of songs a day). An easy way to tell what the retention is for a newsgroup is to look through the list and see when the oldest messages are from. If all the messages are from the last three days, then the retention is about 3 days!

    This is another term that you should get to know, when it comes to news servers you want to know it's speed, retention, and completion rate. The completion rate is a percentage based on how many messages there are for a file and how many the server actually received. In plain english, it is the percentage of how many files actually are complete and available for download. A file may have 100 or more text messages that make all the data for the file, if any of these messages are missing then the file must wait to either get the missing data from a repost or through the use of PAR/PAR2 files. The higher the completion rate (eg. 95%) the more messages are getting through and the fewer files are not available due to missing parts. This is crucial, any seasoned newsgroup user knows the enormous difference between a listing that is destroyed by missing parts and a wonderful server that has almost perfect completion and the experience is sooo much better. Choosing a News Server

    There are two ways commonly used to gain access to a news server:

    1. Use the news server maintained by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
    2. Pay for news server access.

    1. Use the news server maintained by your ISP.

    Most ISP's maintain a news server that they allow their subscribers to access. Some are very good servers carrying most newsgroups and have high completion rates. Completion is simply the percentage of messages that make it to the server (low completion means a server is missing a lot of messages making downloading very difficult). The problem is that many ISP's neglect their news server and therefore have low completion rates. There are, however, many ISP's that have wonderful servers running - fast and high completion rates. The only way to know is to find out what the address of your ISP's news server is and try it out!

    A news server may require you to log into it using a user name and password. Usually the news servers run by ISP's do not require you to log on using a user name and password because they assign you your IP address (your unique internet location address) and the server automatically accepts only those IPs it recognizes.

    To find out if your ISP has a news server and to find the IP address go to the customer support section of their website and search for "news server" or "nntp". If their website doesn't help, give them a call and ask whether they have a news server and what the address is. Bargain ISP's (such as Netzero and Juno) generally do not maintain news servers.

    2. Using a subscription news server.

    There are many reasons for deciding to use a news server that you have to pay to access. You may have an ISP that doesn't have a news server. Your ISP may have a news server, but it isn't worth much because it's slow, or has a low completion rate, or doesn't carry the binary newsgroups. You may have a relatively decent news server and want a cheap news server that you can access that can fill in the missing files from your normal news server. Whatever your reason, these servers can be GREAT to awful. Usually in this market, as most, you get what you pay for. And most times you can get what you need at a reasonable price. When you sign up for one of these services they will tell you what the name of the server(s) is and issue you a user name and password that you must enter into the news reader.
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