News Reader Operations
The user votes are in and accessing the usenet newsgroups is number one on most everyones list of things they want to know about. In Chapter III , we discussed setting up your Navagator Program for newsgroup operation. In this section we are going to discuss the Navigator news reader operation in detail. We are going to take you from the first attempt to access news, to subscribing to newsgroups, to your daily dose of news.
To activate your newreader from within Navigator, simple click on the Window menu option and select Netscape News. This will have the effect of opening another window on your screen, the window being Netscape's news reader of course.
Once opened, you will be asked if you want to download a list of the newsgroups. BE WARNED, you should download the newsgroup list occasionally, but because of the amount of newsgroups out there, you can easily spend 20 minutes or more in that download. (It all depends on the total number of groups carried by your server, your connection speed, and what your server is doing at the moment you request the download.) If this is the first time you have ever activated your news reader, then you must agree to the download of the list of groups. You cannot proceed without downloading this list at least once! For people that have been using the newsgroups, a refresh of your local list should be performed at least once a month, otherwise you risk missing out on important changes to the newsgroups.
How many newgroups are there? Well, it depends on the number that your NNTP server carries. My server for example currently has over 5189 different newgroups for me to pick and choose from. Your number may vary because your ISPP doesn't wish to tie up the server while newsgroups are updated, or he may lack the disk space for all of the newsgroups. (AA very considerable amount of disk space is needed to store all of the messages in all of the newsgroups.) But there is another,, more sinister reason that you might have a lower number, your ISP may be censoring what you can access. If you suspect censorship, ask your ISP, if you are unsatisfied with the answer you receive, we reccomend that you change ISP's. For more information on the topic of Censorship and the Internet, we suggest you go to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting censorship on the Internet. We won't touch on the censorship topic again except to say that Northern Webs supports the Blue Ribbon Campaign to stop the violation of our freedom of speech.
By now you have your list of newgroups. And as you can see, your window is broken down into three sub windows. Lets take each of these one at a time.
Taking it from left to right in a clockwise manner, we have the following sub-windows.
Group List Window Message List Window Message Text Window
The Group List window contains all the names of the news groups. Remember when we talked about there being alot of them? Well those names go in this window. The reason you are not seeing a full window is that the window is operating much like a directory window would. That is, there are upper level folders, and elements within the folders. News groups use a naming structure that looks like some of the network addresses we have seen in our other tutorial sections, but really this time it means something completely different. Lets look a few of the newsgroup names.
One of the most popular, and largest newsgroups is the ALT list. There are over 1700 sub groups within this group alone.. Listed below are a few typical news groups.
alt.newbie alt.binaries.pictures.animals alt.internet.services alt.beer alt.cows.moo.moo.moo
As you can see, the newsgroups go from the serious to the silly. You can find a newsgroup supporting nearly every religious, political and philosphical belief. The naming scheme for the newsgroup names works like this, the first section, in the above examples alt. identify the major section, if the name consists of only two sections, like alt.newbie, then there are no sub-groups under that major topic. So alt.newbie is a dead end newgroup, it doesn't branch any further down, in effect, it is the newsgroup for people new to internet to practice their skills. Other groups, like alt.binaries branch into multiple catagories, alt.binaries implies that the newsgroups contain binary computer information instead of readable text. In the above example, alt.binaries branches down through multiple newsgroups, including pictures which in turn goes to about 15 different sub-groups. Basically each name component represents a different level in the newsgroup, with the last name component being the actual topic for that newsgroup. So in the case of alt.binaries.pictures.animals, you are going into the alt section where binaries are stored, in this case the binaries are pictures of animals.
There are two types of icons in the group list window, folders and texts. The folders indicate that the entry is not the last name in the sequence and by clicking on the folder you can open it to reveal more names. A text icon indicates you are at the end of the line. The actual newsgroup.
It should be noted that newsgroups are extremely topic specific and you will recieve lots of email calling you all kinds off names if you post something which does not pertain to the topic.
To the left of each newsgroup are 3 columns, one contains a small box which you can check (more on this later) and two sets of numbers, the first number indicates the number of unread messages in a newsgroup, and the second represents the totall number of messages in the group, including ones you have read before. The Message list window to the right of the group list window contains the titles of the messages in the currently selected newsgroup. Again each entry is broken down into fields, but the two most important fields are the author and title fields. Given time to aquaint yourself with the operation and people in a newsgroup you will soon learn to recognise individuals and learn to respect their opinions. Of course the title of each message will give you a better chance to figure out what a particular message is all about.
Normally this window shows the messages, grouped by subject and does not show messages which you have previously read. If you want to see old messages which you have read already, you need to select Options then select Show all Messages from the main menu bar.
The Message Text window is where the message you select to read will appear. This window is closely integrated with your main navigator program so that if you find a interesting URL (a web site address) you can click on it and the Navigator will automatically respond by taking you to that location on the web.
The Message Text Window has some additional interesting features. Do you remember us talking about alt.binaries.pictures.animals? Well if the images are encoded in the body of the message, and encoded properly, the image will appear right in your message text window! And you will be able to save them, just like you can from Navigator! One sure clue that a message contains an image will be the appearance of the header text for the message and although you don't see anything, the modem lights will be flickering quickly as the image loads. Be Patient, if the image is loading correctly you will be pleasantly surprised, and the wait will be worth it.
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Selecting Newsgroups to Subscribe to.
Picking newsgroups is a matter of personal taste, I can't tell you what newsgroups to subscribe to. But I can help you make a few choices. The first newsgroup you should select is alt.newbie or alt.newbies. These newsgroups are for new internett users, you can use these groups to test your software, post messages and meet other people learning the same new skills as you.
Subscribing to Newsgroups. Subscribing to newsgroups is very easy. Remember the check box next to the group names in the Group List Window? All you need to do to subscribe to any particular newsgroup is place a check mark in the box by clicking in the box with your mouse. It's that easy!
The best method to approach subscribing to newsgroups is to open up a major group, like alt.* and then slowly scroll down the list placing a check mark next to any group which sounds like you might be interested in. Later, as you become more proficient with your skills you will probably discover that you selected too many groups, you can unsubscribe by clicking on the box again to deselect that particular newsgroup.
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Posting to Newgroups
Where the heck is my post, There it is, the exact widget you were looking for, or maybe it's a plea from another person for information that you can answer, or even a desire to tell the latest joke you heard or just tell someone they are totally wrong. Whatever the case, it's time to post your message! Well, not quite. We need to explain a fact or two before you start posting.THE FIRST LAW OF NEWSGROUP POSTING. All messages are subject to a propagation delay.Huh? Propagation? Whats this you ask? Simply put, your message, depending upon the route it takes, could take several hours or several days before becoming visible to you in the newsgroup. Your message leaves your computer and is passed, from server to server, until it reaches the primary repository for all of the messages for that newsgroup, at which time THAT server would add the message to it's database, then start updating the other servers.
To conserve bandwidth on the internet there are many newsgroup servers, but only one master location for each newsgroup. That master server controls the content of the message list for one or more newsgroups. The other servers may have copies of the message list, but only the master server can instruct the mirror servers to update their database. Unless you are lucky enough to be tied into one of the master servers, you will not see your posting until the server you connect to recieves it's command to update. This type of delay is called a propagation delay.
With this understanding you are ready to post your first message to the whole wide world. The Netscape newsreader provides you with multiple methods of posting to a newsgroup. You can post a new message, in effect, start a new thread, or you can reply to a message that you read on a newsgroup. When you are replying to someone elses message you need to ask yourself Is my reply something that everyone should see? Your newsreader does give you the option of posting a reply, either directly (via email), to the person that created the message in question. Or you can reply to the message in such a manner as too allow it to be visible to anyone and everyone on the newsgroupp
Lets assume for our first message we are not replying, but posting a new message. If you notice, your newsreader has a button bar that runs along the top of the screen, just below the menu. This is your primary means of controlling your replies and postings. Below is a list of some of the buttons and their respective functions.
To:News - This allows you to post a NEW message with a new message title. To:Mail - Takes you to Netscape's Email program for a new email message. Reply:Mail - Reply in private to the person that posted something in a newsgroup that you want to respond to. Reply:News - Reply publicily to the newsgroup. Reply:Both - Reply to a message, but send a second copy directly to the author of the message via email. Forward - Copy the text of the newsgroup posting into an email and send it to a totally unrelated individual.
You will notice that you use the same program for posting to the newsgroups as you do sending email. And unless you have done something wrong, it's usually pre-addressed for you.
THE SECOND LAW OF NEWSGROUP POSTING. Before pressing the send button, THINK!
Ask yourself the following;
Is what I am saying relevant to the Newsgroup? If it isn't, then don't post it, and don't continue message threads which are not related to the newsgroup. That will only serve to clutter the newsgroup, and can anger other individuals that are there for serious discussion. Is what I am saying relevant to the discussion? If not, consider starting a new message instead of a reply. Would it be best to reply privately? Are you asking someone a personal question? Are you telling someone something personal about yourself? That kind of material, even if it's relevant to the newsgroup, should be best handled via email. Am I simply restating what has been said before or am I adding to the discussion? If you are rehashing old arguments, then don't bother replying at all.
When posting to a newsgroup, either adding to an existing thread of messages, or starting a new thread, consider the list above very carefully.
Posting new messages and replying or adding to an existing thread of messages is an identical process. The only differencee being that when you post a new message, you are given the option of entering a title for the message. Message titles are important! You want to provide other newsgroup users with an idea of just what your message is about. For example if you were looking to unload a collection of Barbie dolls, the following would be an inappropriate title ;I have a collection for sale too anyone interested, but this would be more appropriate ;For Sale: Collection of Barbie Dolls, items range from 1970 to 1985 .. In the first case the title is too vague, you force people to read it in order to found out what you are trying to sell, while the other title clearly states your intent. Posting or replying requires you to enter your text in the message entry area of the email/newsgroup program that comes with Netscape Navigator. When you are satisfied with your message, pressing the SEND button will transmit your message. Your message will become visible to you anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. In fact it's not uncommon to recieve an email response from someone even before you can see your own message at your news server.
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Posting to newsgroups with attachments
There is an added step required when you want to send a posting with an attachment. Lets say you have this neat photograph of a Koala you took on your last vacation, and you want to share it with the folks on alt.binaries.pictures.animals, well you can, but you need to Attach the image to your posting.
There are two ways you can attach a file, any file to a posting or email. You can use the File/Attach file menu options, or you can click on the Attach button on the envelope portion of the email. The envelope section of the email is where you add addresses, titles, etc.
Activating the Attach function will bring up the standard dialog box for loading/saving files for your computer. Simply locate the file you want to attach and select it, it's name will automatically appear in the Attached field in the envelope.
When you have completed addressing and filling in the necessary message sections, press the SEND button to transmit your message and attached file. WORD OF CAUTION! When attaching files, it will take much longer than usual to send the file.. The amount of time required will depend upon your modem connection speed and the size of the file. Also, please remember that it is against Copyright laws to use this method to pass software which you did not pay for, or to pass images which were scanned from copyrighted material. (such as a album cover)
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