Part 1 out of 2

Association / Illinois Benedictine College".

WRITE TO US! We can be reached at:

Bitnet: hart@uiucvmd
CompuServe: >
Attmail: internet!!Hart

ATT: Michael Hart
P.O. Box 2782
Champaign, IL 61825

Drafted by CHARLES B. KRAMER, Attorney
CompuServe: 72600,2026
Tel: (212) 254-5093
*SMALL PRINT! Ver.06.28.92* Zen and the Art of the Internet*END*

There are several versions of this text with printing commands
included for .dvi and most other publishing formats. This one
is strictly intended for etext uses, and has had hyphens at an
end of line position removed to facilitate searching the text.

Part A
Zen and the Art of the Internet

Copyright (c) 1992 Brendan P. Kehoe

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
guide provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
preserved on all copies.

Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of
this booklet under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that
the entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a
permission notice identical to this one.

Permission is granted to copy and distribute translations of this
booklet into another language, under the above conditions for
modified versions, except that this permission notice may be stated
in a translation approved by the author.

Zen and the Art of the Internet
A Beginner's Guide to the Internet
First Edition
January 1992

by Brendan P. Kehoe

This is revision 1.0 of February 2, 1992.
Copyright (c) 1992 Brendan P. Kehoe

The composition of this booklet was originally started because the
Computer Science department at Widener University was in desperate
need of documentation describing the capabilities of this ``great new
Internet link'' we obtained.

It's since grown into an effort to acquaint the reader with much of
what's currently available over the Internet. Aimed at the novice
user, it attempts to remain operating system ``neutral''---little
information herein is specific to Unix, VMS, or any other
environment. This booklet will, hopefully, be usable by nearly

A user's session is usually offset from the rest of the paragraph, as

prompt> command
The results are usually displayed here.

The purpose of this booklet is two-fold: first, it's intended to
serve as a reference piece, which someone can easily grab on the fly
and look something up. Also, it forms a foundation from which people
can explore the vast expanse of the Internet. Zen and the Art of the
Internet doesn't spend a significant amount of time on any one point;
rather, it provides enough for people to learn the specifics of what
his or her local system offers.

One warning is perhaps in order---this territory we are entering can
become a fantastic time-sink. Hours can slip by, people can come and
go, and you'll be locked into Cyberspace. Remember to do your work!

With that, I welcome you, the new user, to The Net.
Chester, PA


Certain sections in this booklet are not my original work---rather,
they are derived from documents that were available on the Internet
and already aptly stated their areas of concentration. The chapter
on Usenet is, in large part, made up of what's posted monthly to
news.announce.newusers, with some editing and rewriting. Also, the
main section on archie was derived from whatis.archie by Peter
Deutsch of the McGill University Computing Centre. It's available
via anonymous FTP from Much of what's in the
telnet section came from an impressive introductory document put
together by SuraNet. Some definitions in the one are from an
excellent glossary put together by Colorado State University.

This guide would not be the same without the aid of many people on The
Net, and the providers of resources that are already out there. I'd
like to thank the folks who gave this a read-through and returned some
excellent comments, suggestions, and criticisms, and those who
provided much-needed information on the fly. Glee Willis deserves
particular mention for all of his work; this guide would have been
considerably less polished without his help.

Andy Blankenbiller
Andy Blankenbiller, Army at Aberdeen
Alan Emtage, McGill University Computer Science Department

Brian Fitzgerald
Brian Fitzgerald, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

John Goetsch
John Goetsch, Rhodes University, South Africa
Jeff Kellem, Boston University's Chemistry Department
Bill Krauss, Moravian College

Steve Lodin
Steve Lodin, Delco Electronics

Mike Nesel
Mike Nesel, NASA

Bob Neveln, Widener University Computer Science Department (Wanda Pierce)
Wanda Pierce, McGill University Computing Centre
Joshua Poulson, Widener University Computing Services
Dave Sill, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bob Smart, CitiCorp/TTI
Ed Vielmetti, Vice President of MSEN

Craig E. Ward
Craig Ward, USC/Information Sciences Institute (ISI)

Glee Willis
Glee Willis, University of Nevada, Reno

Charles Yamasaki
Chip Yamasaki, OSHA

Network Basics

We are truly in an information society. Now more than ever, moving
vast amounts of information quickly across great distances is one of
our most pressing needs. From small one-person entrepreneurial
efforts, to the largest of corporations, more and more professional
people are discovering that the only way to be successful in the '90s
and beyond is to realize that technology is advancing at a break-neck
pace---and they must somehow keep up. Likewise, researchers from all
corners of the earth are finding that their work thrives in a
networked environment. Immediate access to the work of colleagues
and a ``virtual'' library of millions of volumes and thousands of
papers affords them the ability to encorporate a body of knowledge
heretofore unthinkable. Work groups can now conduct interactive
conferences with each other, paying no heed to physical
location---the possibilities are endless.

You have at your fingertips the ability to talk in ``real-time'' with
someone in Japan, send a 2,000-word short story to a group of people
who will critique it for the sheer pleasure of doing so, see if a
Macintosh sitting in a lab in Canada is turned on, and find out if
someone happens to be sitting in front of their computer (logged on)
in Australia, all inside of thirty minutes. No airline (or tardis,
for that matter) could ever match that travel itinerary.

The largest problem people face when first using a network is
grasping all that's available. Even seasoned users find themselves
surprised when they discover a new service or feature that they'd
never known even existed. Once acquainted with the terminology and
sufficiently comfortable with making occasional mistakes, the
learning process will drastically speed up.


Getting where you want to go can often be one of the more difficult
aspects of using networks. The variety of ways that places are named
will probably leave a blank stare on your face at first. Don't fret;
there is a method to this apparent madness.

If someone were to ask for a home address, they would probably expect
a street, apartment, city, state, and zip code. That's all the
information the post office needs to deliver mail in a reasonably
speedy fashion. Likewise, computer addresses have a structure to
them. The general form is:

a person's email address on a computer: user@somewhere.domain
a computer's name: somewhere.domain

The user portion is usually the person's account name on the
system, though it doesn't have to be. somewhere.domain tells
you the name of a system or location, and what kind of organization it
is. The trailing domain is often one of the following:

Usually a company or other commercial institution or organization,
like Convex Computers (

An educational institution, e.g. New York University, named

A government site; for example, NASA is

A military site, like the Air Force (

Gateways and other administrative hosts for a network (it does not
mean all of the hosts in a network). {The Matrix, 111. One such
gateway is}

This is a domain reserved for private organizations, who don't
comfortably fit in the other classes of domains. One example is the
Electronic Frontier Foundation named

Each country also has its own top-level domain. For example, the
us domain includes each of the fifty states. Other countries
represented with domains include:

au Australia
ca Canada
fr France
uk The United Kingdom. These also have sub-domains of things like for academic sites and for commercial ones.

FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name)

The proper terminology for a site's domain name (somewhere.domain
above) is its Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN). It is usually
selected to give a clear indication of the site's organization or
sponsoring agent. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's FQDN is; similarly, Apple Computer's domain name
is While such obvious names are usually the norm, there
are the occasional exceptions that are ambiguous enough to
mislead---like, which on first impulse one might surmise is an
educational institution of some sort in Vermont; not so. It's
actually the domain name for Virginia Tech. In most cases it's
relatively easy to glean the meaning of a domain name---such
confusion is far from the norm.

Internet Numbers

Every single machine on the Internet has a unique address, {At least
one address, possibly two or even three---but we won't go into
that.} called its Internet number or IP Address. It's actually a
32-bit number, but is most commonly represented as four numbers
joined by periods (.), like This is sometimes also
called a dotted quad; there are literally thousands of different
possible dotted quads. The ARPAnet (the mother to today's Internet)
originally only had the capacity to have up to 256 systems on it
because of the way each system was addressed. In the early eighties,
it became clear that things would fast outgrow such a small limit;
the 32-bit addressing method was born, freeing thousands of host

Each piece of an Internet address (like 192) is called an ``octet,''
representing one of four sets of eight bits. The first two or three
pieces (e.g. 192.55.239) represent the network that a system is on,
called its subnet. For example, all of the computers for Wesleyan
University are in the subnet 129.133. They can have numbers like,, up to 65 thousand possible
combinations (possible computers).

IP addresses and domain names aren't assigned arbitrarily---that
would lead to unbelievable confusion. An application must be filed
with the Network Information Center (NIC), either electronically (to or via regular mail.

Resolving Names and Numbers

Ok, computers can be referred to by either their FQDN or their
Internet address. How can one user be expected to remember them all?

They aren't. The Internet is designed so that one can use either
method. Since humans find it much more natural to deal with words
than numbers in most cases, the FQDN for each host is mapped to its
Internet number. Each domain is served by a computer within that
domain, which provides all of the necessary information to go from a
domain name to an IP address, and vice-versa. For example, when
someone refers to, the resolver knows that it should
ask the system about systems in It asks what
Internet address has; if the name
really exists, foovax will send back its number. All of this
``magic'' happens behind the scenes.

Rarely will a user have to remember the Internet number of a site
(although often you'll catch yourself remembering an apparently
obscure number, simply because you've accessed the system
frequently). However, you will remember a substantial number of
FQDNs. It will eventually reach a point when you are able to make a
reasonably accurate guess at what domain name a certain college,
university, or company might have, given just their name.

The Networks

The Internet is a large ``network of networks.'' There is no
one network known as The Internet; rather, regional nets like SuraNet,
PrepNet, NearNet, et al., are all inter-connected
(nay, ``inter-networked'') together into one great living thing,
communicating at amazing speeds with the TCP/IP protocol. All
activity takes place in ``real-time.''

The UUCP network is a loose association of systems all communicating
with the UUCP protocol. (UUCP stands for `Unix-to-Unix Copy
Program'.) It's based on two systems connecting to each other at
specified intervals, called polling, and executing any work
scheduled for either of them. Historically most UUCP was done with
Unix equipment, although the software's since been implemented on
other platforms (e.g. VMS). For example, the system oregano
polls the system basil once every two hours. If there's any
mail waiting for oregano, basil will send it at that time;
likewise, oregano will at that time send any jobs waiting for

BITNET (the ``Because It's Time Network'') is comprised of systems
connected by point-to-point links, all running the NJE protocol.
It's continued to grow, but has found itself suffering at the hands of
the falling costs of Internet connections. Also, a number of mail
gateways are in place to reach users on other networks.

The Physical Connection

The actual connections between the various networks take a variety of
forms. The most prevalent for Internet links are 56k leased lines
(dedicated telephone lines carrying 56kilobit-per-second connections)
and T1 links (special phone lines with 1Mbps connections). Also
installed are T3 links, acting as backbones between major locations
to carry a massive 45Mbps load of traffic.

These links are paid for by each institution to a local carrier (for
example, Bell Atlantic owns PrepNet, the main provider in
Pennsylvania). Also available are SLIP connections, which carry
Internet traffic (packets) over high-speed modems.

UUCP links are made with modems (for the most part), that run from
1200 baud all the way up to as high as 38.4Kbps. As was mentioned in
The Networks, the connections are of the store-and-forward
variety. Also in use are Internet-based UUCP links (as if things
weren't already confusing enough!). The systems do their UUCP traffic
over TCP/IP connections, which give the UUCP-based network some
blindingly fast ``hops,'' resulting in better connectivity for the
network as a whole. UUCP connections first became popular in the
1970's, and have remained in wide-spread use ever since. Only with
UUCP can Joe Smith correspond with someone across the country or
around the world, for the price of a local telephone call.

BITNET links mostly take the form of 9600bps modems connected from site
to site. Often places have three or more links going; the majority,
however, look to ``upstream'' sites for their sole link to the network.

``The Glory and the Nothing of a Name''
Byron, {Churchill's Grave}

Electronic Mail

The desire to communicate is the essence of networking. People have
always wanted to correspond with each other in the fastest way
possible, short of normal conversation. Electronic mail (or
email) is the most prevalent application of this in computer
networking. It allows people to write back and forth without having
to spend much time worrying about how the message actually gets
delivered. As technology grows closer and closer to being a common
part of daily life, the need to understand the many ways it can be
utilized and how it works, at least to some level, is vital.
part of daily life (as has been evidenced by the ISDN effort, the need
to understand the many ways it can be utilized and how it works, at
least to some level, is vital.

Email Addresses

Electronic mail is hinged around the concept of an address; the
section on Networking Basics made some reference to it while
introducing domains. Your email address provides all of the
information required to get a message to you from anywhere in the
world. An address doesn't necessarily have to go to a human being.
It could be an archive server, {See Archive Servers, for a
description.} a list of people, or even someone's pocket pager.
These cases are the exception to the norm---mail to most addresses is
read by human beings.

%@!.: Symbolic Cacophony

Email addresses usually appear in one of two forms---using the
Internet format which contains @, an ``at''-sign, or using the
UUCP format which contains !, an exclamation point, also called
a ``bang.'' The latter of the two, UUCP ``bang'' paths, is more
restrictive, yet more clearly dictates how the mail will travel.

To reach Jim Morrison on the system, one would
address the mail as But if Jim's account was
on a UUCP site named brazil, then his address would be brazil!jm. If
it's possible (and one exists), try to use the Internet form of an
address; bang paths can fail if an intermediate site in the path
happens to be down. There is a growing trend for UUCP sites to
register Internet domain names, to help alleviate the problem of path

Another symbol that enters the fray is %---it acts as an extra
``routing'' method. For example, if the UUCP site dream is connected
to, but doesn't have an Internet domain name of its
own, a user debbie on dream can be reached by writing to the address
not smallexample!

The form is significant. This address says that the local system
should first send the mail to There the address
debbie%dream will turn into debbie@dream, which will hopefully be a
valid address. Then will handle getting the mail
to the host dream, where it will be delivered locally to debbie.

All of the intricacies of email addressing methods are fully covered
in the book ``!%@@:: A Directory of Electronic Mail Addressing and
Networks'' published by O'Reilly and Associates, as part of their
Nutshell Handbook series. It is a must for any active email user.
Write to for ordering information.

Sending and Receiving Mail

We'll make one quick diversion from being OS-neuter here, to show you
what it will look like to send and receive a mail message on a Unix
system. Check with your system administrator for specific
instructions related to mail at your site.

A person sending the author mail would probably do something like this:

% mail
Subject: print job's stuck

I typed `print babe.gif' and it didn't work! Why??

The next time the author checked his mail, he would see it listed in
his mailbox as:

% mail
"/usr/spool/mail/brendan": 1 messages 1 new 1 unread
U 1 joeuser@foo.widene Tue May 5 20:36 29/956 print job's stuck

which gives information on the sender of the email, when it was sent,
and the subject of the message. He would probably use the
reply command of Unix mail to send this response:

? r
Subject: Re: print job's stuck

You shouldn't print binary files like GIFs to a printer!


Try sending yourself mail a few times, to get used to your system's
mailer. It'll save a lot of wasted aspirin for both you and your
system administrator.

Anatomy of a Mail Header

An electronic mail message has a specific structure to it that's
common across every type of computer system. {The standard is written
down in RFC-822. See also RFCs for more info on how to get copies of
the various RFCs.} A sample would be:

>From Sat May 25 17:06:01 1991
Received: from by with SMTP id AA21901
(4.1/SMI for; Sat, 25 May 91 17:05:56 -0400
Date: Sat, 25 May 91 17:05:56 -0400
From: The President
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Meeting

Hi Dan .. we have a meeting at 9:30 a.m. with the Joint Chiefs. Please
don't oversleep this time.

The first line, with From and the two lines for Received: are usually
not very interesting. They give the ``real'' address that the mail
is coming from (as opposed to the address you should reply to, which
may look much different), and what places the mail went through to
get to you. Over the Internet, there is always at least one
Received: header and usually no more than four or five. When a
message is sent using UUCP, one Received: header is added for each
system that the mail passes through. This can often result in more
than a dozen Received: headers. While they help with dissecting
problems in mail delivery, odds are the average user will never want
to see them. Most mail programs will filter out this kind of
``cruft'' in a header.

The Date: header contains the date and time the message was
sent. Likewise, the ``good'' address (as opposed to ``real'' address)
is laid out in the From: header. Sometimes it won't include
the full name of the person (in this case The President), and
may look different, but it should always contain an email address of
some form.

The Message-ID: of a message is intended mainly for tracing
mail routing, and is rarely of interest to normal users. Every
Message-ID: is guaranteed to be unique.

To: lists the email address (or addresses) of the recipients of
the message. There may be a Cc: header, listing additional
addresses. Finally, a brief subject for the message goes in the
Subject: header.

The exact order of a message's headers may vary from system to system,
but it will always include these fundamental headers that are vital to
proper delivery.

Bounced Mail

When an email address is incorrect in some way (the system's name is
wrong, the domain doesn't exist, whatever), the mail system will
bounce the message back to the sender, much the same way that the
Postal Service does when you send a letter to a bad street address.
The message will include the reason for the bounce; a common error is
addressing mail to an account name that doesn't exist. For example,
writing to Lisa Simpson at Widener University's Computer Science
department will fail, because she doesn't have an account. {Though if
she asked, we'd certainly give her one.}

From: Mail Delivery Subsystem
Date: Sat, 25 May 91 16:45:14 -0400
Subject: Returned mail: User unknown

----- Transcript of session follows -----
While talking to
>>> RCPT To:
<<< 550 ... User unknown
550 lsimpson... User unknown

As you can see, a carbon copy of the message (the Cc: header
entry) was sent to the postmaster of Widener's CS department. The
Postmaster is responsible for maintaining a reliable mail system
on his system. Usually postmasters at sites will attempt to aid you
in getting your mail where it's supposed to go. If a typing error was
made, then try re-sending the message. If you're sure that the
address is correct, contact the postmaster of the site directly and
ask him how to properly address it.

The message also includes the text of the mail, so you don't have to
retype everything you wrote.

----- Unsent message follows -----
Received: by id AA06528; Sat, 25 May 91 16:45:14 -0400
Date: Sat, 25 May 91 16:45:14 -0400
From: Matt Groening
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Scripting your future episodes

.... verbiage ...

The full text of the message is returned intact, including any headers
that were added. This can be cut out with an editor and fed right
back into the mail system with a proper address, making redelivery a
relatively painless process.

Mailing Lists

People that share common interests are inclined to discuss their
hobby or interest at every available opportunity. One modern way to
aid in this exchange of information is by using a mailing
list---usually an email address that redistributes all mail sent to
it back out to a list of addresses. For example, the Sun Managers
mailing list (of interest to people that administer computers
manufactured by Sun) has the address Any
mail sent to that address will ``explode'' out to each person named
in a file maintained on a computer at Northwestern University.

Administrative tasks (sometimes referred to as administrivia) are
often handled through other addresses, typically with the suffix
-request. To continue the above, a request to be added to or deleted
from the Sun Managers list should be sent to

When in doubt, try to write to the -request version of a mailing list
address first; the other people on the list aren't interested in your
desire to be added or deleted, and can certainly do nothing to
expedite your request. Often if the administrator of a list is busy
(remember, this is all peripheral to real jobs and real work), many
users find it necessary to ask again and again, often with harsher
and harsher language, to be removed from a list. This does nothing
more than waste traffic and bother everyone else receiving the
messages. If, after a reasonable amount of time, you still haven't
succeeded to be removed from a mailing list, write to the postmaster
at that site and see if they can help.

Exercise caution when replying to a message sent by a mailing list. If
you wish to respond to the author only, make sure that the only
address you're replying to is that person, and not the entire list.
Often messages of the sort ``Yes, I agree with you completely!'' will
appear on a list, boring the daylights out of the other readers. Likewise,
if you explicitly do want to send the message to the whole list,
you'll save yourself some time by checking to make sure it's indeed
headed to the whole list and not a single person.

A list of the currently available mailing lists is available in at
least two places; the first is in a file on called
interest-groups under the netinfo/ directory. It's updated fairly
regularly, but is large (presently around 700K), so only get it every
once in a while. The other list is maintained by Gene Spafford
(, and is posted in parts to the newsgroup
news.lists semi-regularly. (Usenet News, for info on how to read that
and other newsgroups.)


On BITNET there's an automated system for maintaining discussion lists
called the listserv. Rather than have an already harried and
overworked human take care of additions and removals from a list, a
program performs these and other tasks by responding to a set of
user-driven commands.

Areas of interest are wide and varied---ETHICS-L deals with ethics in
computing, while ADND-L has to do with a role-playing game. A full
list of the available BITNET lists can be obtained by writing to
LISTSERV@BITNIC.BITNET with a body containing the command

list global

However, be sparing in your use of this---see if it's already on your
system somewhere. The reply is quite large.

The most fundamental command is subscribe. It will tell the
listserv to add the sender to a specific list. The usage is

subscribe foo-l Your Real Name

It will respond with a message either saying that you've been added to
the list, or that the request has been passed on to the system on
which the list is actually maintained.

The mate to subscribe is, naturally, unsubscribe. It will remove a
given address from a BITNET list. It, along with all other listserv
commands, can be abbreviated---subscribe as sub, unsubscribe as
unsub, etc. For a full list of the available listserv commands,
write to LISTSERV@BITNIC.BITNET, giving it the command help.

As an aside, there have been implementations of the listserv system
for non-BITNET hosts (more specifically, Unix systems). One of the
most complete is available on in the
directory pub/listserv.

``I made this letter longer than usual because
I lack the time to make it shorter.''
Pascal, Provincial Letters XVI


Anonymous FTP

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is the primary method of transferring
files over the Internet. On many systems, it's also the name of the
program that implements the protocol. Given proper permission, it's
possible to copy a file from a computer in South Africa to one in Los
Angeles at very fast speeds (on the order of 5--10K per second).
This normally requires either a user id on both systems or a special
configuration set up by the system administrator(s).

There is a good way around this restriction---the anonymous FTP
service. It essentially will let anyone in the world have access to
a certain area of disk space in a non-threatening way. With this,
people can make files publicly available with little hassle. Some
systems have dedicated entire disks or even entire computers to
maintaining extensive archives of source code and information. They
include (Digital), (Washington
University in Saint Louis), and (The Ohio
State University).

The process involves the ``foreign'' user (someone not on the system
itself) creating an FTP connection and logging into the system as the
user anonymous, with an arbitrary password:

Name ( anonymous

Custom and netiquette dictate that people respond to the
Password: query with an email address so that the sites can
track the level of FTP usage, if they desire. (Addresses for
information on email addresses).

The speed of the transfer depends on the speed of the underlying
link. A site that has a 9600bps SLIP connection will not get the same
throughput as a system with a 56k leased line (The Physical
Connection, for more on what kinds of connections can exist in a
network). Also, the traffic of all other users on that link will
affect performance. If there are thirty people all FTPing from one
site simultaneously, the load on the system (in addition to the
network connection) will degrade the overall throughput of the

FTP Etiquette

Lest we forget, the Internet is there for people to do work. People
using the network and the systems on it are doing so for a purpose,
whether it be research, development, whatever. Any heavy activity
takes away from the overall performance of the network as a whole.

The effects of an FTP connection on a site and its link can vary; the
general rule of thumb is that any extra traffic created detracts from
the ability of that site's users to perform their tasks. To help be
considerate of this, it's highly recommended that FTP sessions
be held only after normal business hours for that site, preferably
late at night. The possible effects of a large transfer will be less
destructive at 2 a.m. than 2 p.m. Also, remember that if it's past
dinner time in Maine, it's still early afternoon in California---think
in terms of the current time at the site that's being visited, not of
local time.

Basic Commands

While there have been many extensions to the various FTP clients out
there, there is a de facto ``standard'' set that everyone expects to
work. For more specific information, read the manual for your
specific FTP program. This section will only skim the bare minimum of
commands needed to operate an FTP session.

Creating the Connection

The actual command to use FTP will vary among operating systems; for
the sake of clarity, we'll use FTP here, since it's the most
general form.

There are two ways to connect to a system---using its hostname
or its Internet number. Using the hostname is usually preferred.
However, some sites aren't able to resolve hostnames properly,
and have no alternative. We'll assume you're able to use hostnames
for simplicity's sake. The form is

ftp somewhere.domain

Domains for help with reading and using domain names
(in the example below, somewhere.domain is

You must first know the name of the system you want to connect to.
We'll use as an example. On your system, type:


(the actual syntax will vary depending on the type of system the
connection's being made from). It will pause momentarily then respond
with the message

Connected to

and an initial prompt will appear:

220 uunet FTP server (Version 5.100 Mon Feb 11 17:13:28 EST 1991) ready.
Name (

to which you should respond with anonymous:

220 uunet FTP server (Version 5.100 Mon Feb 11 17:13:28 EST 1991) ready.
Name ( anonymous

The system will then prompt you for a password; as noted previously, a
good response is your email address:

331 Guest login ok, send ident as password.
230 Guest login ok, access restrictions apply.

The password itself will not echo. This is to protect a user's
security when he or she is using a real account to FTP files between
machines. Once you reach the ftp> prompt, you know you're
logged in and ready to go.

Notice the in the Name: prompt? That's
another clue that anonymous FTP is special: FTP expects a normal user
accounts to be used for transfers.

At the ftp> prompt, you can type a number of commands to perform
various functions. One example is dir---it will list the files
in the current directory. Continuing the example from above:

ftp> dir

200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for /bin/ls.
total 3116
drwxr-xr-x 2 7 21 512 Nov 21 1988 .forward
-rw-rw-r-- 1 7 11 0 Jun 23 1988 .hushlogin
drwxrwxr-x 2 0 21 512 Jun 4 1990 Census
drwxrwxr-x 2 0 120 512 Jan 8 09:36 ClariNet
... etc etc ...
-rw-rw-r-- 1 7 14 42390 May 20 02:24 newthisweek.Z
... etc etc ...
-rw-rw-r-- 1 7 14 2018887 May 21 01:01 uumap.tar.Z
drwxrwxr-x 2 7 6 1024 May 11 10:58 uunet-info

226 Transfer complete.
5414 bytes received in 1.1 seconds (4.9 Kbytes/s)

The file newthisweek.Z was specifically included because we'll
be using it later. Just for general information, it happens to be a
listing of all of the files added to UUNET's archives during the past

The directory shown is on a machine running the Unix operating
system---the dir command will produce different results on other
operating systems (e.g. TOPS, VMS, et al.). Learning to recognize
different formats will take some time. After a few weeks of
traversing the Internet, it proves easier to see, for example, how
large a file is on an operating system you're otherwise not acquainted

With many FTP implementations, it's also possible to take the output
of dir and put it into a file on the local system with

ftp> dir n* outfilename

the contents of which can then be read outside of the live FTP
connection; this is particularly useful for systems with very long
directories (like The above example would put the
names of every file that begins with an n into the local file


At the beginning of an FTP session, the user is in a ``top-level''
directory. Most things are in directories below it (e.g. /pub). To
change the current directory, one uses the cd command. To change to
the directory pub, for example, one would type

ftp> cd pub

which would elicit the response

250 CWD command successful.

Meaning the ``Change Working Directory'' command (cd) worked
properly. Moving ``up'' a directory is more system-specific---in Unix
use the command cd .., and in VMS, cd [-].

get and put

The actual transfer is performed with the get and put
commands. To get a file from the remote computer to the local
system, the command takes the form:

ftp> get filename

where filename is the file on the remote system. Again using as an example, the file newthisweek.Z can be
retrieved with

ftp> get newthisweek.Z
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for newthisweek.Z (42390 bytes).
226 Transfer complete.
local: newthisweek.Z remote: newthisweek.Z
42553 bytes received in 6.9 seconds (6 Kbytes/s)

The section below on using binary mode instead of ASCII will describe
why this particular choice will result in a corrupt and subsequently
unusable file.

If, for some reason, you want to save a file under a different name
(e.g. your system can only have 14-character filenames, or can only
have one dot in the name), you can specify what the local filename
should be by providing get with an additional argument

ftp> get newthisweek.Z uunet-new

which will place the contents of the file newthisweek.Z in
uunet-new on the local system.

The transfer works the other way, too. The put command will
transfer a file from the local system to the remote system. If the
permissions are set up for an FTP session to write to a remote
directory, a file can be sent with

ftp> put filename

As with get, put will take a third argument, letting you
specify a different name for the file on the remote system.

ASCII vs Binary

In the example above, the file newthisweek.Z was transferred, but
supposedly not correctly. The reason is this: in a normal ASCII
transfer (the default), certain characters are translated between
systems, to help make text files more readable. However, when binary
files (those containing non-ASCII characters) are transferred, this
translation should not take place. One example is a binary
program---a few changed characters can render it completely useless.

To avoid this problem, it's possible to be in one of two modes---ASCII
or binary. In binary mode, the file isn't translated in any way.
What's on the remote system is precisely what's received. The
commands to go between the two modes are:

ftp> ascii
200 Type set to A. (Note the A, which signifies ASCII mode.)

ftp> binary
200 Type set to I. (Set to Image format, for pure binary transfers.)

Note that each command need only be done once to take effect; if the
user types binary, all transfers in that session are done in
binary mode (that is, unless ascii is typed later).

The transfer of newthisweek.Z will work if done as:

ftp> binary
200 Type set to I.
ftp> get newthisweek.Z
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening BINARY mode data connection for newthisweek.Z (42390 bytes).
226 Transfer complete.
local: newthisweek.Z remote: newthisweek.Z
42390 bytes received in 7.2 seconds (5.8 Kbytes/s)

Note: The file size (42390) is different from that done
in ASCII mode (42553) bytes; and the number 42390 matches the one
in the listing of UUNET's top directory. We can be relatively sure
that we've received the file without any problems.

mget and mput

The commands mget and mput allow for multiple file
transfers using wildcards to get several files, or a whole set of
files at once, rather than having to do it manually one by one. For
example, to get all files that begin with the letter f, one
would type

ftp> mget f*

Similarly, to put all of the local files that end with .c:

ftp> mput *.c

Rather than reiterate what's been written a hundred times before,
consult a local manual for more information on wildcard matching
(every DOS manual, for example, has a section on it).

Normally, FTP assumes a user wants to be prompted for every file in a
mget or mput operation. You'll often need to get a whole set of
files and not have each of them confirmed---you know they're all
right. In that case, use the prompt command to turn the queries off.

ftp> prompt
Interactive mode off.

Likewise, to turn it back on, the prompt command should simply
be issued again.

Joe Granrose's List
Monthly, Joe Granrose ( posts to Usenet
(Usenet News) an extensive list of sites offering anonymous FTP
service. It's available in a number of ways:

The Usenet groups comp.misc and comp.sources.wanted

Anonymous FTP from [], in

Write to with a Subject: line of listserv-request
and a message body of send help. Please don't bother Joe with your
requests---the server will provide you with the list.

The archie Server
archie is always in lowercase

A group of people at McGill University in Canada got together and created a
query system called archie. It was originally formed to be a
quick and easy way to scan the offerings of the many anonymous FTP
sites that are maintained around the world. As time progressed,
archie grew to include other valuable services as well.

The archie service is accessible through an interactive telnet
session, email queries, and command-line and X-window clients. The
email responses can be used along with FTPmail servers for those not
on the Internet. (FTP-by-Mail Servers, for info on using FTPmail

Using archie Today

Currently, archie tracks the contents of over 800 anonymous FTP
archive sites containing over a million files stored across the
Internet. Collectively, these files represent well over 50 gigabytes
of information, with new entries being added daily.

The archie server automatically updates the listing information from
each site about once a month. This avoids constantly updating the
databases, which could waste network resources, yet ensures that the
information on each site's holdings is reasonably up to date.

To access archie interactively, telnet to one of the existing
servers. {See Telnet, for notes on using the telnet program.} They
include (New York, USA) (New Jersey, USA) (Maryland, USA) (Nebraska, USA) (the first Archie server, in Canada) (Finland) (Australia) (Great Britain)

At the login: prompt of one of the servers, enter archie to log in.
A greeting will be displayed, detailing information about ongoing
work in the archie project; the user will be left at a archie>
prompt, at which he may enter commands. Using help will yield
instructions on using the prog command to make queries, set to
control various aspects of the server's operation, et al. Type quit
at the prompt to leave archie. Typing the query prog vine.tar.Z will
yield a list of the systems that offer the source to the X-windows
program vine; a piece of the information returned looks like:

Host (
Last updated 10:30 7 Jan 1992

Location: /packages/X/contrib
FILE rw-r--r-- 15548 Oct 8 20:29 vine.tar.Z

Host (
Last updated 05:07 4 Jan 1992

Location: /pub/X11/contrib
FILE rw-rw-r-- 15548 Nov 8 03:25 vine.tar.Z

archie Clients

There are two main-stream archie clients, one called (naturally
enough) archie, the other xarchie (for X-Windows). They query the
archie databases and yield a list of systems that have the requested
file(s) available for anonymous FTP, without requiring an interactive
session to the server. For example, to find the same information you
tried with the server command prog, you could type

% archie vine.tar.Z
Location: /local/X11/more_contrib
FILE -rw-r--r-- 18854 Nov 15 1990 vine.tar.Z

Location: /pub/mnt/source/games
FILE -rw-r--r-- 12019 May 7 1988 vine.tar.Z

Location: /contrib
FILE -rw-r--r-- 15548 Oct 9 00:29 vine.tar.Z

Note that your system administrator may not have installed the archie
clients yet; the source is available on each of the archie servers, in
the directory archie/clients.

Using the X-windows client is much more intuitive---if it's installed,
just read its man page and give it a whirl. It's essential for the
networked desktop.

Mailing archie

Users limited to email connectivity to the Internet should send a
message to the address with the single word
help in the body of the message. An email message will be returned
explaining how to use the email archie server, along with the details
of using FTPmail. Most of the commands offered by the telnet
interface can be used with the mail server.

The whatis database

In addition to offering access to anonymous FTP listings, archie also
permits access to the whatis description database. It includes
the names and brief synopses for over 3,500 public domain software
packages, datasets and informational documents located on the

Additional whatis databases are scheduled to be added in the
future. Planned offerings include listings for the names and locations
of online library catalog programs, the names of publicly accessible
electronic mailing lists, compilations of Frequently Asked Questions
lists, and archive sites for the most popular Usenet newsgroups.
Suggestions for additional descriptions or locations databases are
welcomed and should be sent to the archie developers at

``Was f@"ur pl@"undern!''
(``What a place to plunder!'')
Gebhard Leberecht Bl@"ucher

Usenet News

Original from: (Chip Salzenberg)
[Most recent change: 19 May 1991 by (Gene Spafford)]

The first thing to understand about Usenet is that it is widely
misunderstood. Every day on Usenet the ``blind men and the
elephant'' phenomenon appears, in spades. In the opinion of the
author, more flame wars (rabid arguments) arise because of a
lack of understanding of the nature of Usenet than from any other
source. And consider that such flame wars arise, of necessity, among
people who are on Usenet. Imagine, then, how poorly understood Usenet
must be by those outside!

No essay on the nature of Usenet can ignore the erroneous impressions
held by many Usenet users. Therefore, this section will treat
falsehoods first. Keep reading for truth. (Beauty, alas, is not
relevant to Usenet.)

What Usenet Is

Usenet is the set of machines that exchange articles tagged with one
or more universally-recognized labels, called newsgroups (or
``groups'' for short). (Note that the term newsgroup is correct,
while area, base, board, bboard, conference, round table, SIG, etc.
are incorrect. If you want to be understood, be accurate.)

The Diversity of Usenet

If the above definition of Usenet sounds vague, that's because it is.
It is almost impossible to generalize over all Usenet sites in any
non-trivial way. Usenet encompasses government agencies, large
universities, high schools, businesses of all sizes, home computers of
all descriptions, etc.

Every administrator controls his own site. No one has any real
control over any site but his own. The administrator gets his power
from the owner of the system he administers. As long as the owner is
happy with the job the administrator is doing, he can do whatever he
pleases, up to and including cutting off Usenet entirely. C'est
la vie.

What Usenet Is Not

Usenet is not an organization.
Usenet has no central authority. In fact, it has no central anything.
There is a vague notion of ``upstream'' and ``downstream'' related to
the direction of high-volume news flow. It follows that, to the
extent that ``upstream'' sites decide what traffic they will carry for
their ``downstream'' neighbors, that ``upstream'' sites have some
influence on their neighbors. But such influence is usually easy to
circumvent, and heavy-handed manipulation typically results in a
backlash of resentment.

Usenet is not a democracy.
A democracy can be loosely defined as ``government of the people, by
the people, for the people.'' However, as explained above, Usenet is
not an organization, and only an organization can be run as a
democracy. Even a democracy must be organized, for if it lacks a
means of enforcing the peoples' wishes, then it may as well not exist.

Some people wish that Usenet were a democracy. Many people pretend
that it is. Both groups are sadly deluded.

Usenet is not fair.
After all, who shall decide what's fair? For that matter, if someone
is behaving unfairly, who's going to stop him? Neither you nor I,
that's certain.

Usenet is not a right.
Some people misunderstand their local right of ``freedom of speech''
to mean that they have a legal right to use others' computers to say
what they wish in whatever way they wish, and the owners of said
computers have no right to stop them.

Those people are wrong. Freedom of speech also means freedom not to
speak; if I choose not to use my computer to aid your speech, that is
my right. Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.

Usenet is not a public utility.
Some Usenet sites are publicly funded or subsidized. Most of them,
by plain count, are not. There is no government monopoly on Usenet,
and little or no control.

Usenet is not a commercial network.
Many Usenet sites are academic or government organizations; in fact,
Usenet originated in academia. Therefore, there is a Usenet custom of
keeping commercial traffic to a minimum. If such commercial traffic
is generally considered worth carrying, then it may be grudgingly
tolerated. Even so, it is usually separated somehow from
non-commercial traffic; see comp.newprod.

Usenet is not the Internet.
The Internet is a wide-ranging network, parts of which are subsidized
by various governments. The Internet carries many kinds of traffic;
Usenet is only one of them. And the Internet is only one of the
various networks carrying Usenet traffic.

Usenet is not a Unix network, nor even an ASCII network.

Don't assume that everyone is using ``rn'' on a Unix machine. There
are Vaxen running VMS, IBM mainframes, Amigas, and MS-DOS PCs reading
and posting to Usenet. And, yes, some of them use (shudder) EBCDIC.
Ignore them if you like, but they're out there.

Usenet is not software.
There are dozens of software packages used at various sites to
transport and read Usenet articles. So no one program or package can
be called ``the Usenet software.''

Software designed to support Usenet traffic can be (and is) used for
other kinds of communication, usually without risk of mixing the two.
Such private communication networks are typically kept distinct from
Usenet by the invention of newsgroup names different from the
universally-recognized ones.

Usenet is not a UUCP network.

UUCP is a protocol (some might say protocol suite, but that's a
technical point) for sending data over point-to-point connections,
typically using dialup modems. Usenet is only one of the various
kinds of traffic carried via UUCP, and UUCP is only one of the various
transports carrying Usenet traffic.

Well, enough negativity.

Propagation of News

In the old days, when UUCP over long-distance dialup lines was the
dominant means of article transmission, a few well-connected sites
had real influence in determining which newsgroups would be carried
where. Those sites called themselves ``the backbone.''

But things have changed. Nowadays, even the smallest Internet site
has connectivity the likes of which the backbone admin of yesteryear
could only dream. In addition, in the U.S., the advent of cheaper
long-distance calls and high-speed modems has made long-distance
Usenet feeds thinkable for smaller companies. There is only one
pre-eminent UUCP transport site today in the U.S., namely UUNET. But
UUNET isn't a player in the propagation wars, because it never
refuses any traffic---it gets paid by the minute, after all; to
refuse based on content would jeopardize its legal status as an
enhanced service provider.

All of the above applies to the U.S. In Europe, different cost
structures favored the creation of strictly controlled hierarchical
organizations with central registries. This is all very unlike the
traditional mode of U.S. sites (pick a name, get the software, get a
feed, you're on). Europe's ``benign monopolies'', long uncontested,
now face competition from looser organizations patterned after the
U.S. model.

Group Creation

As discussed above, Usenet is not a democracy. Nevertheless,
currently the most popular way to create a new newsgroup involves a
``vote'' to determine popular support for (and opposition to) a
proposed newsgroup. Newsgroup Creation, for detailed instructions and
guidelines on the process involved in making a newsgroup.

If you follow the guidelines, it is probable that your group will be
created and will be widely propagated. However, due to the nature of
Usenet, there is no way for any user to enforce the results of a
newsgroup vote (or any other decision, for that matter). Therefore,
for your new newsgroup to be propagated widely, you must not only
follow the letter of the guidelines; you must also follow its spirit.
And you must not allow even a whiff of shady dealings or dirty tricks
to mar the vote.

So, you may ask: How is a new user supposed to know anything about the
``spirit'' of the guidelines? Obviously, she can't. This fact leads
inexorably to the following recommendation:

If you're a new user, don't try to create a new newsgroup alone.

If you have a good newsgroup idea, then read the news.groups
newsgroup for a while (six months, at least) to find out how things
work. If you're too impatient to wait six months, then you really
need to learn; read news.groups for a year instead. If you just
can't wait, find a Usenet old hand to run the vote for you.

Readers may think this advice unnecessarily strict. Ignore it at your
peril. It is embarrassing to speak before learning. It is foolish to
jump into a society you don't understand with your mouth open. And it
is futile to try to force your will on people who can tune you out
with the press of a key.

If You're Unhappy...
Property rights being what they are, there is no higher authority on
Usenet than the people who own the machines on which Usenet traffic is
carried. If the owner of the machine you use says, ``We will not
carry on this machine,'' and you are not happy with
that order, you have no Usenet recourse. What can we outsiders do,
after all?

That doesn't mean you are without options. Depending on the nature
of your site, you may have some internal political recourse. Or you
might find external pressure helpful. Or, with a minimal investment,
you can get a feed of your own from somewhere else. Computers capable
of taking Usenet feeds are down in the $500 range now, Unix-capable
boxes are going for under $2000, and there are at least two Unix
lookalikes in the $100 price range.

No matter what, appealing to ``Usenet'' won't help. Even if those who
read such an appeal regarding system administration are sympathetic to
your cause, they will almost certainly have even less influence at
your site than you do.

By the same token, if you don't like what some user at another site is
doing, only the administrator and/or owner of that site have any
authority to do anything about it. Persuade them that the user in
question is a problem for them, and they might do something (if they
feel like it). If the user in question is the administrator or owner
of the site from which he or she posts, forget it; you can't win.
Arrange for your newsreading software to ignore articles from him or
her if you can, and chalk one up to experience.

The History of Usenet (The ABCs)

In the beginning, there were conversations, and they were good. Then
came Usenet in 1979, shortly after the release of V7 Unix with UUCP;
and it was better. Two Duke University grad students in North
Carolina, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, thought of hooking computers
together to exchange information with the Unix community. Steve
Bellovin, a grad student at the University of North Carolina, put
together the first version of the news software using shell scripts
and installed it on the first two sites: unc and duke. At the
beginning of 1980 the network consisted of those two sites and phs
(another machine at Duke), and was described at the January 1980
Usenix conference in Boulder, CO. {The Usenix conferences are
semi-annual meetings where members of the Usenix Association, a
group of Unix enthusiasts, meet and trade notes.} Steve Bellovin
later rewrote the scripts into C programs, but they were never
released beyond unc and duke. Shortly thereafter, Steve Daniel did
another implementation in the C programming language for public
distribution. Tom Truscott made further modifications, and this
became the ``A'' news release.

In 1981 at the University of California at Berkeley, grad student Mark
Horton and high school student Matt Glickman rewrote the news software
to add functionality and to cope with the ever increasing volume of
news---``A'' news was intended for only a few articles per group per
day. This rewrite was the ``B'' news version. The first public
release was version 2.1 in 1982; all versions before 2.1 were
considered in beta test. As The Net grew, the news software was
expanded and modified. The last version maintained and released
primarily by Mark was 2.10.1.

Rick Adams, then at the Center for Seismic Studies, took over
coordination of the maintenance and enhancement of the news software
with the 2.10.2 release in 1984. By this time, the increasing volume
of news was becoming a concern, and the mechanism for moderated groups
was added to the software at 2.10.2. Moderated groups were inspired
by ARPA mailing lists and experience with other bulletin board
systems. In late 1986, version 2.11 of news was released, including a
number of changes to support a new naming structure for newsgroups,
enhanced batching and compression, enhanced ihave/sendme control
messages, and other features. The current release of news is 2.11,
patchlevel 19.

A new version of news, becoming known as ``C'' news, has been
developed at the University of Toronto by Geoff Collyer and Henry
Spencer. This version is a rewrite of the lowest levels of news to
increase article processing speed, decrease article expiration
processing and improve the reliability of the news system through
better locking, etc. The package was released to The Net in the
autumn of 1987. For more information, see the paper News Need Not Be
Slow, published in the Winter 1987 Usenix Technical Conference

Usenet software has also been ported to a number of platforms, from
the Amiga and IBM PCs all the way to minicomputers and mainframes.

Newsgroups are organized according to their specific areas of
concentration. Since the groups are in a tree structure, the
various areas are called hierarchies. There are seven major categories:

Topics of interest to both computer professionals and
hobbyists, including topics in computer science, software sources, and
information on hardware and software systems.

Group addressing themes not easily classified into any of the other
headings or which incorporate themes from multiple categories.
Subjects include fitness, job-hunting, law, and investments.

Discussions marked by special knowledge relating to research in or
application of the established sciences.

Groups primarily addressing social issues and socializing. Included
are discussions related to many different world cultures.

Groups largely debate-oriented and tending to feature long
discussions without resolution and without appreciable amounts of
generally useful information.

Groups concerned with the news network, group maintenance, and software.

Groups oriented towards hobbies and recreational activities

These ``world'' newsgroups are (usually) circulated around the entire
Usenet---this implies world-wide distribution. Not all groups
actually enjoy such wide distribution, however. The European Usenet
and Eunet sites take only a selected subset of the more ``technical''
groups, and controversial ``noise'' groups are often not carried by many
sites in the U.S. and Canada (these groups are primarily under the talk
and soc classifications). Many sites do not carry some or all of
the comp.binaries groups because of the typically large size of
the posts in them (being actual executable programs).

Also available are a number of ``alternative'' hierarchies:

True anarchy; anything and everything can and does appear;
subjects include sex, the Simpsons, and privacy.

Groups concentrating on interests and software with the GNU
Project of the Free Software Foundation. For further info on what the
FSF is, FSF.

Business-related groups.

Moderated vs Unmoderated

Some newsgroups insist that the discussion remain focused and
on-target; to serve this need, moderated groups came to be. All
articles posted to a moderated group get mailed to the group's
moderator. He or she periodically (hopefully sooner than later)
reviews the posts, and then either posts them individually to Usenet,
or posts a composite digest of the articles for the past day or
two. This is how many mailing list gateways work (for example, the
Risks Digest).

news.groups & news.announce.newgroups

Being a good net.citizen includes being involved in the continuing
growth and evolution of the Usenet system. One part of this
involvement includes following the discussion in the groups
news.groups and the notes in news.announce.newgroups. It is there
that discussion goes on about the creation of new groups and
destruction of inactive ones. Every person on Usenet is allowed and
encouraged to vote on the creation of a newsgroup.

How Usenet Works

The transmission of Usenet news is entirely cooperative. Feeds are
generally provided out of good will and the desire to distribute news
everywhere. There are places which provide feeds for a fee (e.g.
UUNET), but for the large part no exchange of money is involved.

There are two major transport methods, UUCP and NNTP. The first is
mainly modem-based and involves the normal charges for telephone
calls. The second, NNTP, is the primary method for distributing news
over the Internet.

With UUCP, news is stored in batches on a site until the
neighbor calls to receive the articles, or the feed site happens to
call. A list of groups which the neighbor wishes to receive is
maintained on the feed site. The Cnews system compresses its batches,
which can dramatically reduce the transmission time necessary for a
relatively heavy newsfeed.

NNTP, on the other hand, offers a little more latitude with how news
is sent. The traditional store-and-forward method is, of course,
available. Given the ``real-time'' nature of the Internet, though,
other methods have been devised. Programs now keep constant
connections with their news neighbors, sending news nearly
instantaneously, and can handle dozens of simultaneous feeds, both
incoming and outgoing.

The transmission of a Usenet article is centered around the unique
Message-ID: header. When an NNTP site offers an article to a
neighbor, it says it has that specific Message ID. If the neighbor
finds it hasn't received the article yet, it tells the feed to send it
through; this is repeated for each and every article that's waiting
for the neighbor. Using unique IDs helps prevent a system from
receiving five copies of an article from each of its five news
neighbors, for example.

Further information on how Usenet works with relation to the various
transports is available in the documentation for the Cnews and NNTP
packages, as well as in RFC-1036, the Standard for Interchange of
USENET Messages and RFC-977, Network News Transfer Protocol: A
Proposed Standard for the Stream-Based Transmission of News. The
RFCs do tend to be rather dry reading, particularly to the new user.

Mail Gateways

A natural progression is for Usenet news and electronic mailing lists
to somehow become merged---which they have, in the form of news
gateways. Many mailing lists are set up to ``reflect'' messages not
only to the readership of the list, but also into a newsgroup.
Likewise, posts to a newsgroup can be sent to the moderator of the
mailing list, or to the entire mailing list. Some examples of this in
action are comp.risks (the Risks Digest) and
comp.dcom.telecom (the Telecom Digest).

This method of propagating mailing list traffic has helped solve the
problem of a single message being delivered to a number of people at
the same site---instead, anyone can just subscribe to the group.
Also, mailing list maintenance is lowered substantially, since the
moderators don't have to be constantly removing and adding users to
and from the list. Instead, the people can read and not read the
newsgroup at their leisure.

from ``Dear Emily Postnews'' by Brad Templeton
Usenet ``Netiquette''

There are many traditions with Usenet, not the least of which is
dubbed netiquette---being polite and considerate of others. If
you follow a few basic guidelines, you, and everyone that reads your
posts, will be much happier in the long run.


At the end of most articles is a small blurb called a person's
signature. In Unix this file is named .signature in the
person's login directory---it will vary for other operating systems.
It exists to provide information about how to get in touch with the
person posting the article, including their email address, phone
number, address, or where they're located. Even so, signatures have
become the graffiti of computers. People put song lyrics, pictures,
philosophical quotes, even advertisements in their ``.sigs''.
(Note, however, that advertising in your signature will more often
than not get you flamed until you take it out.)

Four lines will suffice---more is just extra garbage for Usenet sites
to carry along with your article, which is supposed to be the intended
focus of the reader. Netiquette dictates limiting oneself to this
``quota'' of four---some people make signatures that are ten lines or
even more, including elaborate ASCII drawings of their hand-written
signature or faces or even the space shuttle. This is not
cute, and will bother people to no end.

Similarly, it's not necessary to include your signature---if you
forget to append it to an article, don't worry about it. The
article's just as good as it ever would be, and contains everything
you should want to say. Don't re-post the article just to include the

Posting Personal Messages

If mail to a person doesn't make it through, avoid posting the message
to a newsgroup. Even if the likelihood of that person reading the
group is very high, all of the other people reading the articles don't
give a whit what you have to say to Jim Morrison. Simply wait for the
person to post again and double-check the address, or get in touch
with your system administrator and see if it's a problem with local
email delivery. It may also turn out that their site is down or is
having problems, in which case it's just necessary to wait until
things return to normal before contacting Jim.

Posting Mail

In the interests of privacy, it's considered extremely bad taste to post
any email that someone may have sent, unless they explicitly give you
permission to redistribute it. While the legal issues can be heavily
debated, most everyone agrees that email should be treated as anything
one would receive via normal snailmail, {The slang for the normal land and air
postal service.} , with all of the assumed rights that are carried with it.

Test Messages

Many people, particularly new users, want to try out posting before
actually taking part in discussions. Often the mechanics of getting
messages out is the most difficult part of Usenet. To this end,
many, many users find it necessary to post their tests to ``normal''
groups (for example, news.admin or comp.mail.misc). This is
considered a major netiquette faux pas in the Usenet world. There are
a number of groups available, called test groups, that exist solely
for the purpose of trying out a news system, reader, or even new
signature. They include


some of which will generate auto-magic replies to your posts to
let you know they made it through. There are certain denizens of
Usenet that frequent the test groups to help new users out. They
respond to the posts, often including the article so the poster can
see how it got to the person's site. Also, many regional hierarchies
have test groups, like phl.test in Philadelphia.

By all means, experiment and test---just do it in its proper place.

Famous People Appearing

Every once in a while, someone says that a celebrity is accessible
through ``The Net''; or, even more entertaining, an article is forged
to appear to be coming from that celebrity. One example is Stephen
Spielberg---the rec.arts.movies readership was in an uproar for
two weeks following a couple of posts supposedly made by Mr.
Spielberg. (Some detective work revealed it to be a hoax.)

There are a few well-known people that are acquainted with
Usenet and computers in general---but the overwhelming majority are
just normal people. One should act with skepticism whenever a notable
personality is ``seen'' in a newsgroup.


Authors of articles occasionally say that readers should reply by
mail and they'll summarize. Accordingly, readers should do just
that---reply via mail. Responding with a followup article to such an
article defeats the intention of the author. She, in a few days,
will post one article containing the highlights of the responses she
received. By following up to the whole group, the author may not
read what you have to say.

When creating a summary of the replies to a post, try to make it as
reader-friendly as possible. Avoid just putting all of the messages
received into one big file. Rather, take some time and edit the
messages into a form that contains the essential information that
other readers would be interested in.

Also, sometimes people will respond but request to remain anonymous
(one example is the employees of a corporation that feel the
information's not proprietary, but at the same time want to protect
themselves from political backlash). Summaries should honor this
request accordingly by listing the From: address as
anonymous or (Address withheld by request).


When following up to an article, many newsreaders provide the facility
to quote the original article with each line prefixed by >
, as in

In article <>, wrote:
> I agree, I think that basketweaving's really catching on,
> particularly in Pennsylvania. Here's a list of every person
> in PA that currently engages in it publicly:
line ... etc ...

This is a severe example (potentially a horribly long article), but
proves a point. When you quote another person, edit out whatever
isn't directly applicable to your reply. {But not changing their
words, of course. } This gives the reader of the new article a better
idea of what points you were addressing. By including the entire
article, you'll only annoy those reading it. Also, signatures in the
original aren't necessary; the readers already know who wrote it (by
the attribution).

Avoid being tedious with responses---rather than pick apart an
article, address it in parts or as a whole. Addressing practically
each and every word in an article only proves that the person
responding has absolutely nothing better to do with his time.

If a ``war'' starts (insults and personal comments get thrown back
and forth), take it into email---exchange email with the person
you're arguing with. No one enjoys watching people bicker


The Newsgroups: line isn't limited to just one group---an
article can be posted in a list of groups. For instance, the line


posts the article to both the groups and
comp.simulation. It's usually safe to crosspost to up to three
or four groups. To list more than that is considered ``excessive

It's also suggested that if an article is crossposted a
Followup-To: header be included. It should name the group to
which all additional discussion should be directed to. For the above
example a possible Followup-To: would be


which would make all followups automatically be posted to just, rather than both and comp.simulation. If every
response made with a newsreader's ``followup'' command should go to
the person posting the article no matter what, there's also a
mechanism worked in to accommodate. The Followup-To: header should
contain the single word poster:

Followup-To: poster

Certain newsreaders will use this to sense that a reply should never
be posted back onto The Net. This is often used with questions that
will yield a summary of information later, a vote, or an

Recent News

One should avoid posting ``recent'' events---sports scores, a plane
crash, or whatever people will see on the evening news or read in the
morning paper. By the time the article has propagated across all of
Usenet, the ``news'' value of the article will have become stale.
(This is one case for the argument that Usenet news is a misnomer.
{Note that the Clarinet News service (Clarinet) offers news items in
a Usenet format as a precise alternative to the morning paper, et.

Quality of Postings

How you write and present yourself in your articles is important. If
you have terrible spelling, keep a dictionary near by. If you have
trouble with grammar and punctuation, try to get a book on English
grammar and composition (found in many bookstores and at garage
sales). By all means pay attention to what you say---it makes you who
you are on The Net.

Likewise, try to be clear in what you ask. Ambiguous or vague
questions often lead to no response at all, leaving the poster
discouraged. Give as much essential information as you feel is
necessary to let people help you, but keep it within limits. For
instance, you should probably include the operating system of your
computer in the post if it's needed, but don't tell everybody what
peripherals you have hanging off of it.

Useful Subjects

The Subject: line of an article is what will first attract
people to read it---if it's vague or doesn't describe what's contained
within, no one will read the article. At the same time,
Subject: lines that're too wordy tend to be irritating. For

Subject: Building Emacs on a Sun Sparc under 4.1

Subject: Tryin' to find Waldo in NJ.

Subject: I can't get emacs to work !!!

Subject: I'm desperately in search of the honorable Mr. Waldo in the state

Simply put, try to think of what will best help the reader when he or
she encounters your article in a newsreading session.

Tone of Voice

Since common computers can't portray the inflection or tone in a
person's voice, how articles are worded can directly affect the
response to them. If you say

Anybody using a Vic-20 should go buy themselves a life.

you'll definitely get some responses---telling you to take a leap.
Rather than be inflammatory, phrase your articles in a way that
rationally expresses your opinion, like

What're the practical uses of a Vic-20 these days?

which presents yourself as a much more level-headed individual.

Also, what case (upper or lower) you use can indicate how you're
trying to speak---netiquette dictates that if you USE ALL CAPITAL
LETTERS, people will think you're ``shouting.'' Write as you would in
a normal letter to a friend, following traditional rules of English
(or whatever language you happen to speak).

Computer Religion

No matter what kind of computer a person is using, theirs is always
the best and most efficient of them all. Posting articles
asking questions like What computer should I buy? An Atari ST or an
Amiga? will lead only to fervent arguments over the merits and
drawbacks of each brand. Don't even ask The Net---go to a local user
group, or do some research of your own like reading some magazine
reviews. Trying to say one computer is somehow better than another is
a moot point.

The Anatomy of an Article

Frequently Asked Questions

A number of groups include Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) lists,
which give the answers to questions or points that have been raised
time and time again in a newsgroup. They're intended to help cut
down on the redundant traffic in a group. For example, in the
newsgroup, one recurring question is Did you notice
that there's a different blackboard opening at the beginning of every
Simpsons episode? As a result, it's part of the FAQ for that group.

Usually, FAQ lists are posted at the beginning of each month, and are
set to expire one month later (when, supposedly, the next FAQ will be
published). Nearly every FAQ is also crossposted to news.answers,
which is used as a Usenet repository for them.

The Pit-Manager Archive

MIT, with Jonathan Kamens, has graciously dedicated a machine to the
archiving and storage of the various periodic postings that are
peppered throughout the various Usenet groups. To access them, FTP to
the system and look in the directory

``Be it true or false, so it be news.''
Ben Jonson, News from the New World


Telnet is the main Internet protocol for creating a connection
with a remote machine. It gives the user the opportunity to be on one
computer system and do work on another, which may be across the street
or thousands of miles away. Where modems are limited, in the majority,
by the quality of telephone lines and a single connection, telnet
provides a connection that's error-free and nearly always faster than
the latest conventional modems.

Using Telnet

As with FTP (Anonymous FTP), the actual command for negotiating a telnet
connection varies from system to system. The most common is
telnet itself, though. It takes the form of:

telnet somewhere.domain

To be safe, we'll use your local system as a working example. By now,
you hopefully know your site's domain name. If not, ask or try
to figure it out. You'll not get by without it.

To open the connection, type


If the system were, for example, the
command would look like


The system will respond with something similar to

Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.

The escape character, in this example ^] (Control-]), is the
character that will let you go back to the local system to close the
connection, suspend it, etc. To close this connection, the user
would type ^], and respond to the telnet> prompt with the command
close. Local documentation should be checked for information on
specific commands, functions, and escape character that can be used.

Telnet Ports

Many telnet clients also include a third option, the port on
which the connection should take place. Normally, port 23 is the
default telnet port; the user never has to think about it. But
sometimes it's desirable to telnet to a different port on a system,
where there may be a service available, or to aid in debugging a
problem. Using

telnet somewhere.domain port

will connect the user to the given port on the system
somewhere.domain. Many libraries use this port method to offer their
facilities to the general Internet community; other services are also
available. For instance, one would type

telnet 3000

to connect to the geographic server at the University of Michigan
(Geographic Server). Other such port connections follow the
same usage.

Publicly Accessible Libraries

Over the last several years, most university libraries have switched
from a manual (card) catalog system to computerized library catalogs.
The automated systems provide users with easily accessible and
up-to-date information about the books available in these libraries.
This has been further improved upon with the advent of local area
networks, dialup modems, and wide area networks. Now many of us can
check on our local library's holdings or that of a library halfway
around the world!

Many, many institutions of higher learning have made their library
catalogs available for searching by anyone on the Internet. They
include Boston University, the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries
(CARL), and London University King's College.

To include a listing of some of the existing sites would not only be
far too long for this document, it would soon be out of date.
Instead, several lists are being maintained and are available either
by mail or via FTP. Also, the Internet Resource Guide (IRG) also
describes a few libraries that are accessible---IRG for further

Art St. George and Ron Larsen are maintaining a list of
Internet-accessible libraries and databases often referred to as
``the St. George directory.'' It began with only library catalogs
but has expanded to include sections on campus-wide information
systems, and even bulletin board systems that are not on the
Internet. The library catalog sections are divided into those that
are free, those that charge, and international (i.e. non-U.S.)
catalogs; they are arranged by state, province, or country within
each section. There is also a section giving dialup information for
some of the library catalogs. It's available for FTP (Anonymous FTP)
on in the directory
cerfnet/cerfnet_info/library_catalog. The file internet-catalogs has
a date suffix; check for the most current date. The information is
updated periodically.

Billy Barron, Systems Manager at the University of North Texas,
produces a directory as an aid to his user community. It complements
the St. George guide by providing a standard format for all systems
which lists the Internet address, login instructions, the system
vendor, and logoff information. The arrangement is alphabetic by
organization name. It's available for FTP on in the
subdirectory library as the file libraries.txt.

For announcements of new libraries being available and discussion on
related topics, consult the Usenet newsgroup
comp.internet.library (Usenet News to learn how to read

Bulletin Board Systems

The Cleveland Freenet

Freenets are open-access, free, community computer systems. One such
system is the Cleveland Freenet, sponsored by CWRU (Case Western
Reserve University). Anyone and everyone is welcome to join and take
part in the exciting project---that of a National Telecomputing Public
Network, where everyone benefits. There's no charge for the
registration process and no charge to use the system.

To register, telnet to any one of

After you're connected, choose the entry on the menu that signifies
you're a guest user. Another menu will follow; select Apply for
an account, and you'll be well on your way to being a FreeNet member.

You will need to fill out a form and send it to them through the
Postal Service---your login id and password will be created in a few
days. At that point you're free to use the system as you wish. They
provide multi-user chat, email, Usenet news, and a variety of other
things to keep you occupied for hours on end.


There are a few systems that are maintained to provide the Internet
community with access to lists of information---users, organizations,
etc. They range from fully dedicated computers with access to papers
and research results, to a system to find out about the faculty
members of a university.


Knowbot is a ``master directory'' that contains email address
information from the NIC WHOIS database (Whois), the PSI White
Pages Pilot Project, the NYSERNET X.500 database and MCI Mail. Most
of these services are email registries themselves, but Knowbot
provides a very comfortable way to access all of them in one place.
Telnet to on port 185.

White Pages


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