USENET News with tin

Many of you probably spend more than a little of your time reading and responding to USENET news posts. For those of you who don't, perhaps some explanation is in order. USENET, also known as Internet Newsgroups, is perhaps the part of the Internet that best fits the over-used "bulletin board" analogy. On USENET, you'll find thousands of newsgroups. A newsgroup is an area -- a bulletin board, if you will -- with its own name and usually a specific topic of discussion. An example of this is the newsgroup, which deals with buying, selling and trading items in Nova Scotia.

One of the first things that you'll notice about USENET is that the groups have (mostly) descriptive names that fall in a tree-like hierarchy, like files on a disk (burn the tree!). There are several major newsgroup hierarchies, including comp.* (computing, e.g. comp.os.msdos), rec.* (recreation, e.g., soc.* (social issues, e.g. soc.culture.canada), biz.* (business), news.* (USENET-related topics), sci.* (science), talk.* (debate), and misc.* (miscellaneous). You'll also find newsgroups from other hierarchies, such as can.* (Canada) and ns.* (Nova Scotia). Finally, there is the alt.* hierarchy.

The alt groups were created years ago because many people were unhappy with the voting and approval system used to create new newsgroups and wanted to start a free-for-all hierarchy where anyone could create new groups. Thus, the alt.* hierarchy contains many controversial topic areas, many standard-issue areas, and many "joke" areas (e.g. alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork).

On CCN, most news reading and posting is done through tin [go news]. The very fact that the T in tin is not capitalized suggests something devious about it -- like many Internet tools, its commands are case-sensitive. This means that the w command is quite different from the W command.

It should be noted that Lynx can also be used as a news reader. Follow a link such as and you'll see what I mean.

A variety of tin information can be found in CCN's Help Desk, link #1 off the home page. For this reason, I'll try to stick to those subjects which are not mentioned in detail there.

Upon starting tin the newsreader will give you some status reports indicating that it is connecting to the news server (computer where USENET "articles" are stored), etc. If there are new newsgroups on the server, you will be asked to join them; press [y] to subscribe (join), [n] otherwise, or [q] to skip the rest of the new newsgroups list and get right to tin.

In a few seconds you'll be presented with the Group Select List. You probably know your way around here for the most part; if not, try flipping through CCN's Help Desk (link #1 off the homepage) for some detailed instructions.

In the Group Select List, you'll find a few uncommon but useful options. One of these is r, which cuts the list of newsgroups back to those with new messages. Pressing r again toggles this. / will let you search through the newsgroup names for a text string. Sub pattern and Unsub pattern provide a way to subscribe or unsubscribe to a group of newsgroups, e.g. ccn.*. Finally, pressing W will give you a list of every post, follow-up and response that you've ever made from tin.

Enter a newsgroup and you'll be presented with a list of threads in that group. A thread is just a list of articles on the same specific subject joined together. As an example, you might find a discussion of RAM prices under one thread in the newsgroup

From this list of threads, you have several options. One of these is z, which will mark a thread that you've already read as unread, so that you can easily find and read it later.

By selecting a thread and pressing ENTER, you'll be presented with the article in question. If you posted an article, and then realized later that it was a mistake, bring it up on the article display screen and press D (capital D). This will send out a "cancel" message to other news servers, telling them to delete the article in question. Of course, this only works if you're the one who posted the article.


Chebucto Connections TIPS FOR POWER USERS
is edited by Michael Smith
who is happy to receive Questions, Comments or Suggestions.
If your browser does not support mail, write to Michael later at aa529@ccn·cs·dal·ca.

Last Month: April 1996 Next Month: October 1996