January 05, 2001, 12:00 AM — 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.
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:
Looking into comp.os.linux, we will discover no less than 17
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.
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
* posting the same message on several newsgroups is highly
* 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.