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hierarchies for countries (using two-letter abbreviations), other geographical areas (for example, ny for New York and ba for the San Francisco Bay area), colleges, ISPs, corporations, and other groups (for example, the biz hierarchy is for businesses) Following the hierarchy name, the newsgroup name adds words that specify the topic of the newsgroup For example, newsgroups about computers start with comp, newsgroups about computer systems start with compsystems, and the newsgroup about laptop computers (one type of computer system) is called compsystemslaptops Newsgroups about social issues have names starting with soc, newsgroups about religion have names starting with socreligion, and the newsgroup about Unitarian Universalism is called socreligionunitarian-univ Some newsgroups are moderated, which means that a moderator (usually a human being, but sometimes a program) reviews all messages for appropriateness and style Moderation regulates the quality of the newsgroup s postings by eliminating garbage, repetitive posts, off-topic posts, and general whining However, unless the moderator never sleeps, messages to moderated groups can be delayed, and if the moderator has opinions about the subject of the newsgroup, he or she may slant the discourse Some organizations run their own newsgroups that are not part of Usenet For example, Microsoft uses private news servers to host public support forums about its products and uses private newsgroups for beta testers of unreleased products These newsgroups are all in the microsoft hierarchy
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Articles posted on newsgroups are distributed over the Internet by news servers, Internet hosts running news server software These servers store and forward Usenet articles, and provide articles to users running news clients or newsreaders News servers and newsreaders communicate by using an Internet protocol called the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) To read Usenet newsgroups, you can use popular newsreaders, such as Netscape Mail & Newsgroups (which comes with Netscape 6), Netscape Messenger (which comes with Netscape Communicator), Outlook Express (which comes with Internet Explorer), Free Agent (a shareware newsreader), NewsWatch (a Mac newsreader), or one of many UNIX-based newsreaders (the easiest to use is called tin) 12 describes how to use some of the most popular newsreaders Some newsreaders allow you to download all the articles in newsgroups to which you are subscribed, to read the articles offline (when you are not connected to the Internet) If you compose new articles, the newsreader stores the articles and sends them the next time you connect to the Internet For product support newsgroups, downloading and saving messages is a good way to have a library of questions and answers about the product An alternative way to read Usenet newsgroup articles is by using the Google Groups web site at groupsgooglecom Google (which purchased the Deja News archive) stores
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all the articles in all the major newsgroups since about 1994 and enables you to search them by keyword See the section on newsreading in Google Groups in 12 for details To start reading, you connect to a news server Almost every ISP runs a news server, and it s usually named news followed by a dot and your ISP s domain name (for example, newssovernet) These news servers distribute articles posted to most or all Usenet newsgroups Many omit recreational newsgroups (like the altsex hierarchy), newsgroups that distribute large files (usually pictures), and illicit newsgroups (like those that distribute pirated software) You can also connect to a private news server, that is, a news server that carries only its own newsgroups, separate from Usenet For example, Microsoft runs a news server named newsmicrosoftcom to which you can connect if you want to ask questions and read answers about Microsoft s products Once you are connected to a news server, you choose which newsgroups to read When your newsreading program displays the list of available newsgroups, you see only the newsgroups carried by your news server The list may not be complete: most ISPs and others who run news servers choose only the newsgroup hierarchies most likely to be of general interest, to save disk space If your ISP is in Vermont, it may not carry newsgroups for the San Francisco Bay area Some companies omit recreational newsgroups (like those in the altsex hierarchy, for example) from their news servers Many news servers omit newsgroups with the word binaries in their titles because they carry either pictures (which may be prurient) or software (which may be stolen) Each news server has a news administrator, the system manager who makes these decisions If you don t see a newsgroup that you are looking for and you are sure that it exists, search for it on Google Groups You can ask your news administrator to add the newsgroup to your news server, if you have a good reason to read the newsgroup You can also connect to more than one news server at the same time Looking at the list of newsgroups, you decide which to subscribe to Unlike subscribing to a mailing list, subscribing to a newsgroup doesn t put you on a centralized list of people who read that newsgroup Instead, subscribing only tells your newsreader that you want to read this group (See 12 for specific instructions on how to subscribe to and read newsgroups in many popular newsreaders) Next, you instruct your newsreader to show you the headers of some or all of the articles in the newsgroup The program usually shows you the subject, sender, and posting date for each article You can select which articles to read (See the section Choosing What to Read, later in this chapter) After you read articles, you can reply to the sender by e-mail or post a reply to the newsgroup
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