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HARLEY HAHN'S USENET CENTER
Usenet Tutorial


Configuring and Using Your Newsreader

Before you can use your newsreader for the first time, you must configure it by giving it certain information. In particular, you need to specify the name of your news server, the computer from which your newsreader will download articles. You will also need to specify your user name and password, so your newsreader can login to the news server on your behalf.

If you want to post (send out) articles of your own, you will also have to specify your name and email address. This information is put at the beginning of every article you post to Usenet. Such information is important, because people who read your articles will want to know who wrote them. Moreover, if people want to send you private replies, they will need your email address.

Against these needs, however, you must balance two considerations. First, you may want to maintain your privacy by being able to post articles without having people know who you are. You should understand that there are archives of every article posted to every newsgroup that are stored in publicly accessible databases. A person using such a service could read your article long after it has expired. It is also easy for someone to search for all the articles you have ever posted under your name.

The second consideration also relates to privacy: you may want to avoid getting on the lists of mail addresses used by spammers. Some spammers use automated programs to scan every Usenet article in every newsgroup looking for new email addresses to add to their lists. This is done continually, and, if you ever post an article to Usenet with your real email address even once there is a good chance you will end up on spam lists, and there is nothing you can do about it.

So when you configure your newsreader, you have several choices. First, you can specify your real name and your real address, and just not worry about the lack of privacy and the spam.

Second, you can specify a fake name and address, to protect your privacy. However, this will also make it impossible for the people who read your articles to send you private replies.

Third, you can create a "disposable" email account at one of the free email services, for example:

harley-junk@gmail.com

Use this account for posting to Usenet. If you start to get too much spam, simply close the account and create another one.

Finally, you can use your real name, but disguise your mail address. Change it in such a way that a person will know how to use it, but an automated spam program will not. For example, let's say your name is Ben Dover and your mail address is:

bendover@undependable.com

You can configure your newsreader to use an address similar to:

bendover@undependableREMOVE-ME.com

When a person replies to one of your articles, he will know to delete the characters REMOVE-ME from the address. The automated spam programs, however, will be fooled into adding the bogus address to their lists.

Once your newsreader is configured, you need to tell it which newsgroups you want to look at. Your newsreader will download a list of all the available newsgroups from your news server, so you can see what is available.

Since there are so many newsgroups, the master list is huge, and it would be too much trouble to select your favorite ones each time you want to look at them. Instead, you designate certain groups as being the ones you normally want to read, and your newsreader keeps track of them for you.

When you choose a group in this way, we say you SUBSCRIBE to it. If you get tired of reading a particular group, you can UNSUBSCRIBE. As you become more experienced, you can build up your subscription list to be as long as you want.

The details of subscribing to groups and reading articles vary from one newsreader to another. If you want to practice with your newsreader, you can start with one of the newsgroups we discussed in an earlier section:

alt.celebrities
bionet.biology.deepsea
bit.listserv.travel-l
biz.marketplace.international
comp.lang.java.help
humanities.classics
k12.news
misc.creativity
news.newusers.questions
rec.parks.theme
sci.chem
soc.feminism
talk.environment

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