Newsgroups

I've received numerous requests from readers to discuss Linux

newsgroups. This week, I will introduce newsgroups in general and Linux

newsgroups in particular.

Originally an open mail system where users could post opinions,

questions, and announcements, the Usenet groups functioned as online

journals. Such newsgroups were similar to a constantly updated

magazine. Today, newsgroups function more like bulletin boards where

subscribers carry on debates and post questions.

Newsgroups Classification

Each newsgroup possesses a unique name indicative of its topic. A

newsgroup's name usually divides into three segments: topic, subtopic,

and a specific topic. Examples of topics are:

biz. (business) -- discussions about business products and services

comp. (computers) -- discussions about hardware, software,

languages, operating systems and so on.

Let's focus on the comp. newsgroup. It's divided into dozens of

subtopics, such as:

comp.games - discussions about computer games

comp.os - discussions about operating systems

The comp.os subtopic further divides into specific operating systems:

comp.os.minix

comp.os.msdos

comp.os.linux

Looking into comp.os.linux, we will discover no less than 17

subcategories:

comp.os.linux.announce - announcements of Linux development

comp.os.linux.help - questions and answers for specific problems

comp.os.linux.setup - installation and configuration

comp.os.linux.admin - system administration

Accessing newsgroups requires a newsreader client, such as Gnews Gone,

tin, trn, or elknews. Most Web browsers and email clients contain a

newsreader client as well. Newsreaders offer a similar user interface

to an email client enabling you to read and post messages to a

newsgroup, reply to existing messages, and forward messages. Newsgroups

use a special protocol called NNTP; however, you can also access

newsgroups directly from the Web, see http://www.deja.com for example.

Netiquette

Remember, unlike private email correspondence, newsgroup messages are

visible to everyone, all the time. Most newsgroups maintain usage

guidelines defining their scope, level, and target audience, as well as

style and posting policies. These guidelines are collectively

called "netiquette" -- Net etiquette. Here are some widely accepted

netiquette rules:

* posting the same message on several newsgroups is highly

discouraged

* flooding and posting spam, inflammatory, or irrelevant messages

often leads to an expulsion.

* sexist, vulgar, and ethnic comments aren't tolerated

I suggest beginners participate as an observer at first -- read

messages, and learn the internal dynamics of a newsgroup before posting

your first message. Furthermore, always search the newsgroup's archive

for previously posted questions and answers; chances are high that your

question has been answered before.

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