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Usenet News HOWTO

Shuvam Misra (usenet at starcomsoftware dot com)

Revision History                                                             
Revision 2.1            2002-08-20             Revised by: sm                
New sections on Security and Software History, lots of other small additions 
and cleanup                                                                  
Revision 2.0            2002-07-30             Revised by: sm                
Rewritten by new authors at Starcom Software                                 
Revision 1.4            1995-11-29             Revised by: vs                
Original document; authored by Vince Skahan.                                 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Table of Contents
1. What is the Usenet?
    1.1. Discussion groups
    1.2. How it works, loosely speaking
    1.3. About sizes, volumes, and so on
   
   
2. Principles of Operation
    2.1. Newsgroups and articles
    2.2. Of readers and servers
    2.3. Newsfeeds
    2.4. Control messages
   
   
3. Usenet news software
    3.1. A brief history of Usenet systems
    3.2. C-News and NNTPd
    3.3. INN
    3.4. Leafnode
    3.5. Suck
    3.6. Carrier class software
   
   
4. Setting up CNews + NNTPd
    4.1. Getting the sources and stuff
    4.2. Compiling and installing
    4.3. Configuring the system: What and how to configure files?
    4.4. Testing the system
    4.5. pgpverify and controlperms
    4.6. Feeding off an upstream neighbour
    4.7. Configuring outgoing feeds
   
   
5. Setting up INN
    5.1. Getting the source
    5.2. Compiling and installing
    5.3. Configuring the system
    5.4. Setting up pgpverify
    5.5. Feeding off an upstream neighbour
    5.6. Setting up outgoing feeds
    5.7. Efficiency issues and advantages
   
   
6. Connecting email with Usenet news
    6.1. Feeding Usenet news to email
    6.2. Feeding email to news: the mail2news gateway
    6.3. Using GNU Mailman as an email-NNTP gateway
   
   
7. Security issues
    7.1. Intrusion threats
    7.2. Vulnerabilities unique to the Usenet service
   
   
8. Access control in NNTPd
    8.1. Host-based access control
    8.2. User authentication and authorisation
   
   
9. Components of a running system
    9.1. /var/lib/news: the CNews control area
    9.2. /var/spool/news: the article repository
    9.3. /usr/lib/newsbin: the executables
    9.4. crontab and cron jobs
    9.5. newsrun and relaynews: digesting received articles
    9.6. doexpire and expire: removing old articles
    9.7. nntpd and msgidd: managing the NNTP interface
    9.8. nov, the News Overview system
    9.9. Batching feeds with UUCP and NNTP
   
   
10. Monitoring and administration
    10.1. The newsdaily report
    10.2. Crisis reports from newswatch
    10.3. Disk space
    10.4. CPU load and RAM usage
    10.5. The in.coming/bad directory
    10.6. Long pending queues in out.going
    10.7. Problems with nntpxmit and nntpsend
    10.8. The junk and control groups
   
   
11. Usenet news clients
    11.1. Usenet User Agents
    11.2. Clients that transfer articles
    11.3. Special clients
   
   
12. Our perspective
    12.1. Efficiency issues of NNTP
    12.2. C-News+NNTPd or INN?
   
   
13. Usenet software: a historical perspective
    13.1. The quoted excerpts
   
   
14. Documentation, information and further reading
    14.1. The manpages
    14.2. Papers, documents, articles
    14.3. O'Reilly's books on Usenet news
    14.4. Usenet-related RFCs
    14.5. The source code
    14.6. Usenet newsgroups
    14.7. We
   
   
15. Wrapping up
    15.1. Acknowledgements
    15.2. Comments invited
    15.3. Copyright
    15.4. About Starcom Software Private Limited
   
   

#
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. What is the Usenet?

1.1. Discussion groups

The Usenet is a huge worldwide collection of discussion groups. Each
discussion group has a name, e.g. comp.os.linux.announce, and a collection of
messages. These messages, usually called articles, are posted by readers like
you and me who have access to Usenet servers, and are then stored on the
Usenet servers.

This ability to both read and write into a Usenet newsgroup makes the Usenet
very different from the bulk of what people today call ``the Internet.'' The
Internet has become a colloquial term to refer to the World Wide Web, and the
Web is (largely) read-only. There are online discussion groups with Web
interfaces, and there are mailing lists, but Usenet is probably more
convenient than either of these for most large discussion communities. This
is because the articles get replicated to your local Usenet server, thus
allowing you to read and post articles without accessing the global Internet,
something which is of great value for those with slow Internet links. Usenet
articles also conserve bandwidth because they do not come and sit in each
member's mailbox, unlike email based mailing lists. This way, twenty members
of a mailing list in one office will have twenty copies of each message
copied to their mailboxes. However, with a Usenet discussion group and a
local Usenet server, there's just one copy of each article, and it does not
fill up anyone's mailbox.

Another nice feature of having your own local Usenet server is that articles
stay on the server even after you've read them. You can't accidentally delete
a Usenet articles the way you can delete a message from your mailbox. This
way, a Usenet server is an excellent way to archive articles of a group
discussion on a local server without placing the onus of archiving on any
group member. This makes local Usenet servers very valuable as archives of
internal discussion messages within corporate Intranets, provided the article
expiry configuration of the Usenet server software has been set up for
sufficiently long expiry periods.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.2. How it works, loosely speaking

Usenet news works by the reader first firing up a Usenet news program, which
in today's GUI world will highly likely be something like Netscape Messenger
or Microsoft's Outlook Express. There are a lot of proven, well-designed
character-based Usenet news readers, but a proper review of the user agent
software is outside the scope of this HOWTO, so we will just assume that you
are using whatever software you like. The reader then selects a Usenet
newsgroup from the hundreds or thousands of newsgroups which are hosted by
her local server, and accesses all unread articles. These articles are
displayed to her. She can then decide to respond to some of them.

When the reader writes an article, either in response to an existing one or
as a start of a brand-new thread of discussion, her software posts this
article to the Usenet server. The article contains a list of newsgroups into
which it is to be posted. Once it is accepted by the server, it becomes
available for other users to read and respond to. The article is
automatically expired or deleted by the server from its internal archives
based on expiry policies set in its software; the author of the article
usually can do little or nothing to control the expiry of her articles.

A Usenet server rarely works on its own. It forms a part of a collection of
servers, which automatically exchange articles with each other. The flow of
articles from one server to another is called a newsfeed. In a simplistic
case, one can imagine a worldwide network of servers, all configured to
replicate articles with each other, busily passing along copies across the
network as soon as one of them receives a new articles posted by a human
reader. This replication is done by powerful and fault-tolerant processes,
and gives the Usenet network its power. Your local Usenet server literally
has a copy of all current articles in all relevant newsgroups.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.3. About sizes, volumes, and so on

Any would-be Usenet server administrator or creator must read the "Periodic
Posting about the basic steps involved in configuring a machine to store
Usenet news," also known as the Site Setup FAQ, available from ftp://
rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/usenet/site-setup or ftp://ftp.uu.net/
usenet/news.answers/news/site-setup.Z. It was last updated in 1997, but
trends haven't changed much since then, though absolute volume figures have.

If you want your Usenet server to be a repository for all articles in all
newsgroups, you will probably not be reading this HOWTO, or even if you do,
you will rapidly realise that anyone who needs to read this HOWTO may not be
ready to set up such a server. This is because the volumes of articles on the
Usenet have reached a point where very specialised networks, very high end
servers, and large disk arrays are required for handling such Usenet volumes.
Those setups are called ``carrier-class'' Usenet servers, and will be
discussed a bit later on in this HOWTO. Administering such an array of
hardware may not be the job of the new Usenet administrator, for which this
HOWTO (and most Linux HOWTO's) are written.

Nevertheless, it may be interesting to understand what volumes we are talking
about. Usenet news article volumes have been doubling every fourteen months
or so, going by what we hear in comments from carrier class Usenet
administrators. In the beginning of 1997, this volume was 1.2 GBytes of
articles a day. Thus, the volumes should have roughly done five doublings, or
grown 32 times, by the time we reach mid-2002, at the time of this writing.
This gives us a volume of 38.4 GBytes per day. Assume that this transfer
happens using uncompressed NNTP (the norm), and add 50% extra for the
overheads of NNTP, TCP, and IP. This gives you a raw data transfer volume of
57.6 GBytes/day or about 460 Gbits/day. If you have to transfer such volumes
of data in 24 hours (86400 seconds), you'll need raw bandwidth of about 5.3
Mbits per second just to receive all these articles. You'll need more
bandwidth to send out feeds to other neighbouring Usenet servers, and then
you'll need bandwidth to allow your readers to access your servers and read
and post articles in retail quantities. Clearly, these volume figures are
outside the network bandwidths of most corporate organisations or educational
institutions, and therefore only those who are in the business of offering
Usenet news can afford it.

At the other end of the scale, it is perfectly feasible for a small office to
subscribe to a well-trimmed subset of Usenet newsgroups, and exclude most of
the high-volume newsgroups. Starcom Software, where the authors of this HOWTO
work, has worked with a fairly large subset of 600 newsgroups, which is still
a tiny fraction of the 15,000+ newsgroups that the carrier class services
offer. Your office or college may not even need 600 groups. And our company
had excluded specific high-volume but low-usefulness newsgroups like the
talk, comp.binaries, and alt hierarchies. With the pruned subset, the total
volume of articles per day may amount to barely a hundred MBytes a day or so,
and can be easily handled by most small offices and educational institutions.
And in such situations, a single Intel Linux server can deliver excellent
performance as a Usenet server.

Then there's the internal Usenet service. By internal here, we mean a private
set of Usenet newsgroups, not a private computer network. Every company or
university which runs a Usenet news service creates its own hierarchy of
internal newsgroups, whose articles never leave the campus or office, and
which therefore do not consume Internet bandwidth. These newsgroups are often
the ones most hotly accessed, and will carry more internally generated
traffic than all the ``public'' newsgroups you may subscribe to, within your
organisation. After all, how often does a guy have something to say which is
relevant to the world at large, unless he's discussing a globally relevant
topic like ``Unix rules!''? If such internal newsgroups are the focus of your
Usenet servers, then you may find that fairly modest hardware and Internet
bandwidth will suffice, depending on the size of your organisation.

The new Usenet server administrator has to undertake a sizing exercise to
ensure that he does not bite off more than he, or his network resources, can
chew. We hope we have provided sufficient information for him to get started
with the right questions.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Principles of Operation

Here we discuss the basic concepts behind the operation of a Usenet news
system.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.1. Newsgroups and articles

A Usenet news article sits in a file or in some other on-disk data structure
on the disks of a Usenet server, and its contents look like this:
Xref: news.starcomsoftware.com starcom.tech.misc:211 starcom.tech.security:452               
Newsgroups: starcom.tech.misc,starcom.tech.security                                          
Path: news.starcomsoftware.com!purva!shuvam                                                  
From: Shuvam <shuvam@starcomsoftware.com>                                                    
Subject: "You just throw up your hands and reboot" (fwd)                                     
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII                                                   
Distribution: starcom                                                                        
Organization: Starcom Software Pvt Ltd, India                                                
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.31.0107022153490.30462-100000@starcomsoftware.com>                   
Mime-Version: 1.0                                                                            
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 16:27:57 GMT                                                           
                                                                                             
Interesting quote, and interesting article.                                                  
                                                                                             
Incidentally, comp.risks may be an interesting newsgroup to follow. We                       
must be receiving the feed for this group on our server, since we                            
receive all groups under comp.*, unless specifically cancelled. Check it                     
out sometime.                                                                                
                                                                                             
comp.risks tracks risks in the use of computer technology, including                         
issues in protecting ourselves from failures of such stuff.                                  
                                                                                             
Shuvam                                                                                       
                                                                                             
> Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 08:11:00 -0400                                                      
> From: "Chris Norloff" <cnorloff@norloff.com>                                               
> Subject: NYSE: "Throw up your hands and reboot"                                            
>                                                                                            
> When the New York Stock Exchange computer systems crashed for 85                           
> minutes (8 Jun 2001), Andrew Brooks, chief of equity trading at                            
> Baltimore mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price, was quoted as saying "Hey,                      
> we're all subject to the vagaries of technology. It happens on your                        
> own PC at home. You just throw up your hands and reboot."                                  
>                                                                                            
> http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac3/ContentServer?articleid=A42885-2001Jun8&pagename=article 
>                                                                                            
> Chris Norloff                                                                              
>                                                                                            
>                                                                                            
> This is from --                                                                            
>                                                                                            
> From: risko@csl.sri.com (RISKS List Owner)                                                 
> Newsgroups: comp.risks                                                                     
> Subject: Risks Digest 21.48                                                                
> Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 19:14:57 +0000 (UTC)                                                
> Organization: University of California, Berkeley                                           
>                                                                                            
> RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest  Monday 19 June 2001                                        
> Volume 21 : Issue 48                                                                       
>                                                                                            
>    FORUM ON RISKS TO THE PUBLIC IN COMPUTERS AND RELATED SYSTEMS (comp.risks)              
>    ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy,                                           
>    Peter G. Neumann, moderator                                                             
>                                                                                            
> This issue is archived at <URL:http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/21.48.html>                  
> and by anonymous ftp at ftp.sri.com, cd risks .                                            
>                                                                                            

A Usenet article's header is very interesting if you want to learn about the
functioning of the Usenet. The From, Subject, and Date headers are familiar
to anyone who has used email. The Message-ID header contains a unique ID for
each message, and is present in each email message, though not many
non-technical email users know about it. The Content-Type and Mime-Version
headers are used for MIME encoding of articles, attaching files and other
attachments, and so on, just like in email messages.

The Organisation header is an informational header which is supposed to carry
some information identifying the organisation to which the author of the
article belongs. What remains now are the Newsgroups, Xref, Path and
Distributions headers. These are special to Usenet articles and are very
important.

The Newsgroups header specifies which newsgroups this article should belong
to. The Distributions header, sadly under-utilised in today's globalised
Internet world, allows the author of an article to specify how far the
article will be re-transmitted. The author of an article, working in
conjunction with well-configured networks of Usenet servers, can control the
``radius'' of replication of his article, thus posting an article of local
significance into a newsgroup but setting the Distribution header to some
suitable setting, e.g. local or starcom, to prevent the article from being
relayed to servers outside the specified domain.

The Xref header specifies the precise article number of this article in each
of the newsgroups in which it is inserted, for the current server. When an
article is copied from one server to another as part of a newsfeed, the
receiving server throws away the old Xref header and inserts its own, with
its own article numbers. This indicates an interesting feature of the Usenet
system: each article in a Usenet server has a unique number (an integer) for
each newsgroup it is a part of. Our sample above has been added to two
newsgroups on our server, and has the article numbers 211 and 452 in those
groups. Therefore, any Usenet client software can query our server and ask
for article number 211 in the newsgroup starcom.tech.misc and get this
article. Asking for article number 452 in starcom.tech.security will fetch
the article too. On another server, the numbers may be very different.

The Path specifies the list of machines through which this article has
travelled before it has reached the current server. UUCP-style syntax is used
for this string. The current example indicates that a user called shuvam
first wrote this article and posted it onto a computer which calls itself
purva, and this computer then transferred this article by a newsfeed to
news.starcomsoftware.com. The Path header is critical for breaking loops in
newsfeeds, and will be discussed in detail later.

Our sample article will sit in the two newsgroups listed above forever,
unless expired. The Usenet software on a server is usually configured to
expire articles based on certain conditions, e.g. after it's older than a
certain number of days. The C-News software we use allows expiry control
based on the newsgroup hierarchy and the type of newsgroup, i.e. moderated or
unmoderated. Against each class of newsgroups, it allows the administrator to
specify a number of days after which the article will be expired. It is
possible for an article to control its own expiry, by carrying an Expires
header specifying a date and time. Unless overriden in the Usenet server
software, the article will be expired only after its explicit expiry time is
reached.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.2. Of readers and servers

Computers which access Usenet articles are broadly of two classes: the
readers and the servers. A Usenet server carries a repository of articles,
manages them, handles newsfeeds, and offers its repository to authorised
readers to read. A Usenet reader is merely a computer with the appropriate
software to allow a user to access a software, fetch articles, post new
articles, and keep track of which articles it has read in each newsgroup. In
terms of functionality, Usenet reading software is less interesting to a
Usenet administrator than a Usenet server software. However, in terms of
lines of code, the Usenet reader software can often be much larger than
Usenet server software, primarily because of the complexities of modern GUI
code.

Most modern computers almost exclusively access Usenet servers using the NNTP
(Network News Transfer Protocol) for reading and posting. This protocol can
also be used for inter-server communication, but those aspects will be
discussed later. The NNTP protocol, like any other well-designed TCP-based
Internet protocol, carries ASCII commands and responses terminated with
CR-LF, and comprises a sequence of commands, somewhat reminiscent of the POP3
protocol for email. Using NNTP, a Usenet reader program connects to a Usenet
server, asks for a list of active newsgroups, and receives this (often huge)
list. It then sets the ``current newsgroup'' to one of these, depending on
what the user wants to browse through. Having done this, it gets the
meta-data of all current articles in the group, including the author, subject
line, date, and size of each article, and displays an index of articles to
the user.

The user then scans through this list, selects an article, and asks the
reader to fetch it. The reader gives the article number of this article to
the server, and fetches the full article for the user to read through. Once
the user finishes his NNTP session, he exits, and the reader program closes
the NNTP socket. It then (usually) updates a local file in the user's home
area, keeping track of which news articles the user has read. These articles
are typically not shown to the user next time, thus allowing the user to
progress rapidly to new articles in each session. The reader software is
helped along in this endeavour by the Xref header, using which it knows all
the different identities by which a single article is identified in the
server. Thus, if you read the sample article given above by accessing
starcom.tech.misc, you'll never be shown this article again when you access
starcom.tech.misc or starcom.tech.security; your reader software will do this
by tracking the Xref header and mapping article numbers.

When a user posts an article, he first composes his message using the user
interface of his reader software. When he finally gives the command to send
the article, the reader software contacts the Usenet server using the
pre-existing NNTP connection and sends the article to it. The article carries
a Newsgroups header with the list of newsgroups to post to, often a
Distribution header with a distribution specification, and other headers like
From, Subject etc. These headers are used by the server software to do the
right thing. Special and rare headers like Expires and Approved are acted
upon when present. The server assigns a new article number to the article for
each newsgroup it is posted to, and creates a new Xref header for the
article.

Transfer of articles between servers is done in various ways, and is
discussed in quite a bit of detail in Section XXX titled ``Newsfeeds'' below.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.3. Newsfeeds

2.3.1. Fundamental concepts

When we try to analyse newsfeeds in real life, we begin to see that, for most
sites, traffic flow is not symmetrical in both directions. We usually find
that one server will feed the bulk of the world's articles to one or more
secondary servers every day, and receive a few articles written by the users
of those secondary servers in exchange. Thus, we usually find that articles
flow down from the stem to the branches to the leaves of the worldwide Usenet
server network, and not exactly in a totally balanced mesh flow pattern.
Therefore, we use the term ``upstream server'' to refer to the server from
which we receive the bulk of our daily dose of articles, and ``downstream
server'' to refer to those servers which receive the bulk dose of articles
from us.

Newsfeeds relay articles from one server to their ``next door neighbour''
servers, metaphorically speaking. Therefore, articles move around the globe,
not by a massive number of single-hop transfers from the originating server
to every other server in the world, but in a sequence of hops, like passing
the baton in a relay race. This increases the latency time for an article to
reach a remote tertiary server after, say, ten hops, but it allows tighter
control of what gets relayed at every hop, and helps in redundancy,
decentralisation of server loads, and conservation of network bandwidth. In
this respect, Usenet newsfeeds are more complex than HTTP data flows, which
typically use single-hop techniques.

Each Usenet news server therefore has to worry about newsfeeds each time it
receives an article, either by a fresh post or from an incoming newsfeed.
When the Usenet server digests this article and files it away in its
repository, it simultaneously looks through its database to see which other
server it should feed the article to. In order to do this, it carries out a
sequence of checks, described below.

Each server knows which other servers are its ``next door neighbours;'' this
information is kept in its newsfeed configuration information. Against each
of its ``next door neighbours,'' there will be a list of newsgroups which it
wants, and a list of distributions. The new article's list of newsgroups will
be matched against the newsgroup list of the ``next door neighbour'' to see
whether there's even a single common newsgroup which makes it necessary to
feed the article to it. If there's a matching newsgroup, and the server's
distribution list matches the article's distribution, then the article is
marked for feeding to this neighbour.

When the neighbour receives the article as part of the feed, it performs some
sanity checks of its own. The first check it performs is on the Newsgroups
header of the new article. If none of the newsgroups listed there are part of
the active newsgroups list of this server, then the article can be rejected.
An article rejected thus may even be queued for outgoing feeds to other
servers, but will not be digested for incorporation into the local article
repository.

The next check performed is against the Path header of the incoming article.
If this header lists the name of the current Usenet server anywhere, it
indicates that it has already passed through this server at least once
before, and is now re-appearing here erroneously because of a newsfeed loop.
Such loops are quite often configured into newsfeed topologies for
redundancy: ``I'll get the articles from Server X if not Server Y, and may
the first one in win.'' The Usenet server software automatically detects a
duplicate feed of an article and rejects it.

The next check is against what is called the server's history database. Every
Usenet server has a history database, which is a list of the message IDs of
all current articles in the local repository. Oftentimes the history database
also carries the message IDs of all messages recently expired. If the
incoming article's message ID matches any of the entries in the database,
then again it is rejected without being filed in the local repository. This
is a second loop detection method. Sometimes, the mere checking of the
article's Path header does not detection of all potential problems, because
the problem may be a re-insertion instead of a loop. A re-insertion happens
when the same incoming batch of news articles is re-fed into the local
server, perhaps after recovering the system's data from tapes after a system
crash. In such cases, there's no newsfeed loop, but there's still the risk
that one article may be digested into the local server twice. The history
database prevents this.

All these simple checks are very effective, and work across server and
software types, as per the Internet standards. Together, they allow robust
and fail-safe Usenet article flow across the world.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.3.2. Types of newsfeeds

This section explains the basics of newsfeeds, without getting into details
of software and configuration files.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.3.2.1. Queued feeds

This is the commonest method of sending articles from one server to another,
and is followed whenever large volumes of articles are to be transferred per
day. This approach needs a one-time modification to the upstream server's
configuration for each outgoing feed, to define a new queue.

In essence all queued feeds work in the following way. When the sending
server receives an article, it processes it for inclusion into its local
repository, and also checks through all its outgoing feed definitions to see
whether the article needs to be queued for any of the feeds. If yes, it is
added to a queue file for each outgoing feed. The precise details of the
queue file can change depending on the software implementation, but the basic
processes remain the same. A queue file is a list of queued articles, but
does not contain the article contents. Typical queue files are ASCII text
files with one line per article giving the path to a copy of the article in
the local spool area.

Later, a separate process picks up each queue file and creates one or more 
batches for each outgoing feed. A batch is a large file containing multiple
Usenet news articles. Once the batches are created, various transport
mechanisms can be used to move the files from sending server to receiving
server. You can even use scripted FTP. You only need to ensure that the batch
is picked up from the upstream server and somehow copied into a designated
incoming batch directory in the downstream server.

UUCP has traditionally been the mechanism of choice for batch movement,
because it predates the Internet and wide availability of fast
packet-switched data networks. Today, with TCP/IP everywhere, UUCP once again
emerges as the most logical choice of batch movement, because it too has
moved with the times: it can work over TCP.

NNTP is the de facto mechanism of choice for moving queued newsfeeds for
carrier-class Usenet servers on the Internet, and unfortunately, for a lot of
other Usenet servers as well. The reason why we find this choice unfortunate
is discussed in Section 12.1> below. But in NNTP feeds, an intermediate step
of building batches out of queue files can be eliminated --- this is both its
strength and its weakness.

In the case of queued NNTP feeds, articles get added to queue files as
described above. An NNTP transmit process periodically wakes up, picks up a
queue file, and makes an NNTP connection to the downstream server. It then
begins a processing loop where, for each queued article, it uses the NNTP
IHAVE command to inform the downstream server of the article's message~ID.
The downstream server checks its local repository to see whether it already
has the message. If not, it responds with a SENDME response. The transmitting
server then pumps out the article contents in plaintext form. When all
articles in the queue have been thus processed, the sending server closes the
connection. If the NNTP connection breaks in between due to any reason, the
sending server truncates the queue file and retains only those articles which
are yet to be transmitted, thus minimising repeat transmissions.

> A queued NNTP feed works with the sending server making an NNTP connection
to the receiving server. This implies that the receiving server must have an
IP address which is known to the sending server or can be looked up in the
DNS. If the receiving server connects to the Internet periodically using a
dialup connection and works with a dynamically assigned IP address, this can
get tricky. UUCP feeds suffer no such problems because the sending server for
the newsfeed can be the UUCP server, i.e. passive. The receiving server for
the feed can be the UUCP master, i.e. the active party. So the receiving
server can then initiate the UUCP connection and connect to the sending
server. Thus, if even one of the two parties has a static IP address, UUCP
queued feeds can work fine.

Thus, NNTP feeds can be sent out a little faster than the batched
transmission processes used for UUCP and other older methods, because no
batches need to be constructed. However, NNTP is often used in newsfeeds
where it is not necessary and it results in colossal waste of bandwidth.
Before we study efficiency issues of NNTP versus batched feeds, we will cover
another way feeds can be organised using NNTP: the pull feeds.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.3.2.2. Pull feeds

This method of transferring a set of articles works only over NNTP, and
requires absolutely no configuration on the transmitting, or upstream,
server. In fact, the upstream server cannot even easily detect that the
downstream server is pulling out a feed --- it appears to be just a heavy and
thorough newsreader, that's all.

This pull feed works by the downstream server pulling out articles i one by
one, just like any NNTP newsreader, using the NNTP ARTICLE command with the
Message-ID as parameter. The interesting detail is how it gets the
message~IDs to begin with. For this, it uses an NNTP command, specially
designed for pull feeds, called NEWNEWS. This command takes a hierarchy and a
date,
+---------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| NEWNEWS comp 15081997                                                     |
+---------------------------------------------------------------------------+

This command is sent by the downstream server over NNTP to the upstream
server, and in effect asks the upstream server to list out all news articles
which are newer than 15 August 1997 in the comp hierarchy. The upstream
server responds with a (often huge) list of message~IDs, one per line, ending
with a period on a line by itself.

The pulling server then compares each newly received message~ID with its own
article database and makes a (possibly shorter) list of all articles which it
does not have, thus eliminating duplicate fetches. That done, it begins
fetching articles one by one, using the NNTP ARTICLE command as mentioned
above.

In addition, there is another NNTP command, NEWGROUPS, which allows the NNTP
client --- i.e. the downstream server in this case --- to ask its upstream
server what were the new newsgroups created since a given date. This allows
the downstream server to add the new groups to its active file.

The NEWNEWS based approach is usually one of the most inefficient methods of
pulling out a large Usenet feed. By inefficiency, here we refer to the CPU
loads and RAM utilisation on the upstream server, not on bandwidth usage.
This inefficiency is because most Usenet news servers do not keep their
article databases indexed by hierarchy and date; CNews certainly does not.
This means that a NEWNEWS command issued to an upstream server will put that
server into a sequential search of its article database, to see which
articles fit into the hierarchy given and are newer than the given date.

If pull feeds were to become the most common way of sending out articles,
then all upstream servers would badly need an efficient way of sorting their
article databases to allow each NEWNEWS command to rapidly generate its list
of matching articles. A slow upstream server today might take minutes to
begin responding to a NEWNEWS command, and the downstream server may time out
and close its NNTP connection in the meanwhile. We have often seen this
happening, till we tweak timeouts.

There are basic efficiency issues of bandwidth utilisation involved in NNTP
for news feeds, which are applicable for both queued and pull feeds. But the
problem with NEWNEWS is unique to pull feeds, and relates to server loads,
not bandwidth wastage.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.4. Control messages

The Usenet is a massive dispersed collection of servers which operate almost
without any supervision, provided they have adequate disk space and do not
suffer disk corruption due to power failures, etc. (It is indeed surprising
how self-managing a good Usenet server is, provided these two pre-requisites
are met.) These servers are each under the control of human administrators,
but it is preferable that certain routine actions be performed across all
these servers remotely from one location, without the manual intervention of
these humans.

One common need for centralised operations is the creation of new groups in
the standard eight hierarchies. The Usenet follows a fairly formal process
which asks for votes from readers worldwide before deciding on the
restructuring of its newsgroups list, including merging of low-volume groups,
splitting of high-volume groups into many specialised groups, creating new
groups, and even deleting groups. Once the voting process for a change
concludes and the change action is to be carried out, it would be extremely
tedious to send email to the hundreds of thousands of Usenet administrators
and hope that they make the changes right, and answer their doubts if they
get confused. It would be much better to have an automatic way to make the
changes across all servers, of course with proper authorisation.

The solution to this does not lie in giving some central authority the
ability to run an OS-level command of his choice on all the world's Usenet
servers, because OS commands differ from OS to OS, and because few Usenet
administrators would trust a stranger from another part of the world with OS
level access. Therefore, the solution lay in defining a small set of common
Usenet maintenance actions, and permitting only these actions to be triggered
on all servers through the passing of special command messages, called 
control messages.

Control messages look like ordinary Usenet articles, more or less. They have
an extra header line, with its value in a specific format, but they usually
carry body text which looks like a normal human-written article. Here is a
control message (a spurious one at that, but it'll do for now):
Xref: news.starcomsoftware.com control:814217                                
Path: news.starcomsoftware.com!linux594.dn.net!news.dn.hoopoo.com!           
        feed-out.newsfeeds.com!newsfeeds.com!feed.newsfeeds.com!             
        newsfeeds.com!news-spur1.maxwell.syr.edu!news.maxwell.syr.edu!       
        newsfeed.icl.net!newsfeed.skycache.com!Cidera!newsfeed.gamma.ru!     
        Gamma.RU!carrier.kiev.ua!goblin.nadrabank.kiev.ua!not-for-mail       
From: tale@uunet.uu.net (David C Lawrence)                                   
Newsgroups: news.groups,humanities.hipcrime                                  
Subject: cmsg newgroup humanities.hipcrime                                   
Control: newgroup humanities.hipcrime                                        
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2001 11:50:28 GMT                                          
Organization: The Cabal                                                      
Lines: 20                                                                    
Approved: tale@uunet.uu.net                                                  
Message-ID: <3afWYZTIR.G5YOC2@uunet.uu.net>                                  
NNTP-Posting-Host: 203.145.147.67                                            
X-Trace: goblin.nadrabank.kiev.ua 982528840 21455 203.145.147.67             
         (18 Feb 2001 20:40:40 GMT)                                          
X-Complaints-To: usenet@nadrabank.kiev.ua                                    
NNTP-Posting-Date: 18 Feb 2001 20:40:40 GMT                                  
X-No-Archive: Yes                                                            
                                                                             
humanities.hipcrime is an unmoderated newsgroup which passed its             
vote for creation by 326:10 as reported in news.announce.newgroups           
on 18 Feb 2001.                                                              
                                                                             
For your newsgroups file:                                                    
humanities.hipcrime     HipCrime for Humanity - you committed one now!       
                                                                             
Anyone can create a newsgroup in the alt, biz, comp, earth,                  
humanities, misc, news, meow, rec, sci, soc, talk, us, or                    
any other Usenet hierarchy.  New newsgroup proposals may be                  
optionally discussed in news.groups. Please be sure that your                
/usr/lib/news/control.ctl is configured correctly:                           
                                                                             
##      NEWGROUP MESSAGES                                                    
## honor them all and log in \${LOG}/newgroup.log                            
newgroup:*:alt.*|biz.*|comp.*|earth.*|humanities.*|misc.*|news.*|\           
        meaw.*|rec.*|sci.*|soc.*|talk.*|us.*:doit=newgroup                   
                                                                             
##      RMGROUP MESSAGES                                                     
## drop them all and don't log                                               
rmgroup:*:*:drop                                                             
                                                                             
Meow!                                                                        
David C Lawrence                                                             

A control message must have a Control header. Besides, all control messages 
will have an Approved header, like messages posted to moderated newsgroups.
The Control header actually specifies a command to run on the local server,
and the parameter(s) to supply to it. The local Usenet server software is
supposed to figure out its own way to get the task done. In this example, the
command in the Control header is newgroup, which creates a new newsgroup. And
its parameter is humanities.hipcrime, which gives the name of the newsgroup
to create.

In C-News, the control message implementation works through separate
shellscripts kept in a fixed directory, $NEWSBIN/ctl/, as a security measure;
if the executable script isn't present there, the control message command
will be ignored. The control message types supported are:

��*�checkgroups: control message to check whether the list of newsgroups in
    your active file are all correct as per a master list of newsgroups sent
    in the control message
   
��*�newgroup: control message to create a new newsgroup
   
��*�rmgroup: control message to delete a newsgroup and all articles in it
   
��*�sendsys: control message to cause an email response to be sent to the
    author with the sys file of your server in it. This results in a response
    storm of emails from all the Usenet servers in the world to the author.
    These responses allow the sender of the control message to analyse all
    the sys files of the world's Usenet servers and create the directed graph
    of Usenet newsfeeds. Why someone would want to do this is hard to guess,
    but the result is surely an awesome picture of one facet of networked
    human civilisation, like looking at a giant world map.
   
    Incidentally, there is no invasion of privacy here, because your server's
    sys file is supposed to be public information, if you take feeds from the
    public Usenet.
   
��*�version: control message which results in your Usenet software sending an
    email to the author of the message, containing the type and version of
    the Usenet news software you are using. This too is not an invasion of
    privacy, because this information is supposed to be public knowledge.
   
��*�The cancel message: the most frequently occurring type of control
    messages. They specify the message ID of an article, and result in the
    cancellation (deletion) of that article. If you post an article and
    regret it a moment later, your Usenet newsreader software usually allows
    you to ``cancel'' it by generating a cancel message.
   

The Usenet news software maintains a pseudo-newsgroup called control, where
it files all control messages it receives. If you have an incoming newsfeed
from the public Usenet, your server's control group will usually be full with
thousands of cancel messages from trigger-happy fingers all over the world.
Usenet news server software like C-News allows you to filter the incoming
feed based on newsgroups, and will discard articles for groups they do not
subscribe to. But since all servers have to receive and process control
messages, they will all accept these cancel messages, though many of them may
apply to articles which are not part of your highly-pruned subset of groups.
C'est la vie.

Remember to set expiry for the control group to one day or even shorter, so
that the junk can be cleaned out as rapidly as possible, just like the junk
newsgroup.

The beauty of the control message architecture is that it integrates
seamlessly into the newsfeed mechanism for automatic control of the network
of servers. No separate channel of connection is needed for the control
actions. And article replication automatically propagates control messages
with human-readable articles, thus guaranteeing reach across heterogenous
networks technologies.

What your Usenet server does on receiving a control message is governed by an
authorisation file: $NEWSCTL/controlperms in the case of C-News and
control.ctl in the case of INN, for instance. The security measures
implemented by this module are further enhanced by the pgpcontrol package
with its pgpverify script. Using pgpverify, your server can check that all
control messages (except for article cancellation messages) are digitally
signed by a trusted party using military-spec public key cryptography. Our
integrated Usenet news software distribution includes integration with
pgpverify.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3. Usenet news software

3.1. A brief history of Usenet systems

Towards the end of this HOWTO, we have added some information about the
history of Usenet server software by quoting sections from an earlier Usenet
Periodic Posting. We consider this historical perspective, and the Usenix
papers and other documents referred to in it, essential reading for any
Usenet server administrator. Please see the section titled "Usenet software:
a historical perspective>".
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3.2. C-News and NNTPd

C-News was written by Henry Spencer and Geoff Collyer of the Department of
Zoology, University of Toronto, almost entirely in shell and awk, as a
replacement for an earlier system called B-News. The focus was on adding some
extra features and a lot of performance. The first release was called
Shellscript Release, which was deployed by a very large number of servers
worldwide, as a natural upgrade to B-News. This version of C-News had upward
compatibility with B-News meta-data, e.g. history files. This was the version
of C-News which was initially rolled out in 1991 or so at the National Centre
for Software Technology (NCST, http://www.ncst.ernet.in) and the Indian
Institutes of Technology in India as part of the Indian educational and
research network (ERNET). We received guidance from the NCST about Usenet
news installation and management.

The Shellscript Release was soon followed by a re-write with a lot more C
code, called Performance Release, and then a set of cleanup and component
integration steps leading to the last release called the Cleanup Release.
This Cleanup Release was patched many times by the authors, and the last one
was CR.G (Cleanup Release revision G). The version of C-News discussed in
this HOWTO is a set of small bug fixes on CR.G.

Since C-News came from shellscript-based antecedents, its architecture
followed the set-of-programs style so typical of Unix, rather than large
monolothic software systems traditional to some other OSs. All pieces had
well-defined roles, and therefore could be easily replaced with other pieces
as needed. This allowed easy adaptations and upgradations. This never
affected performance, because key components which did a lot of work at high
speed, e.g. newsrun, had been rewritten in C by that time. Even within the
shellscripts, crucial components which handled binary data, e.g. a component
called dbz to manipulate efficient on-disk hash arrays, were C programs with
command-line interfaces, called from scripts.

C-News was born in a world with widely varying network line speeds, where
bandwidth utilisation was a big issue and dialup links with UUCP file
transfers was common. Therefore, it has strong support for batched feeds,
specially with a variety of compression techniques and over a variety of fast
and slow transport channels. And C-News virtually does not know the existence
of TCP/IP, other than one or two tiny batch transport programs like viarsh.
However, its design was so modular that there was absolutely no problem in
plugging in NNTP functionality using a separate set of C programs without
modifying a single line of C-News. This was done by a program suite called
NNTP Reference Implementation, which we call NNTPd.

This software suite could work with B-News and C-News article repositories,
and provided the full NNTP functionality. Since B-News died a gradual death,
the combination of C-News and NNTPd became a freely redistributable,
portable, modern, extensible, and high-performance software suite for Unix
Usenet servers. Further refinements were added later, e.g. nov, the News
Overview package and pgpverify, a public-key-based digital signature module
to protect Usenet news servers against fraudulent control messages.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3.3. INN

INN is one of the two most widely used Usenet news server solutions. It was
written by Rich Salz for Unix systems which have a socket API --- probably
all Unix systems do, today.

INN has an architecture diametrically opposite to CNews. It is a monolithic
program, which is started at bootup time, and keeps running till your server
OS is shut down. This is like the way high performance HTTP servers are run
in most cases, and allows INN to cache a lot of things in its memory,
including message-IDs of recently posted messages, etc. This interesting
architecture has been discussed in an interesting paper by the author, where
he explains the problems of the older B-News and C-News systems that he tried
to address. Anyone interested in Usenet software in general and INN in
particular should study this paper.

INN addresses a Usenet news world which revolves around NNTP, though it has
support for UUCP batches --- a fact that not many INN administrators seem to
talk about. INN works faster than the CNews-NNTPd combination when processing
multiple parallel incoming NNTP feeds. For multiple readers reading and
posting news over NNTP, there is no difference between the efficiency of INN
and NNTPd. Section 5.7> discusses the efficiency issues of INN over the
earlier C-News architecture, based on Rich Salz' paper and our analyses of
usage patterns.

INN's architecture has inspired a lot of high-performance Usenet news
software, including a lot of commercial systems which address the ``carrier
class'' market. That is the market for which the INN architecture has clear
advantages over C-News.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3.4. Leafnode

This is an interesting software system, to set up a ``small'' Usenet news
server on one computer which only receives newsfeeds but does not have the
headache of sending out bulk feeds to other sites, i.e. it is a ``leaf node''
in the newsfeed flow diagram. According to its homepage (www.leafnode.org),
``Leafnode is a USENET software package designed for small sites running any
flavour of Unix, with a few tens of readers and only a slow link to the net.
[...] The current version is 1.9.24.''

This software is a sort of combination of article repository and NNTP news
server, and receives articles, digests and stores them on the local hard
disks, expires them periodically, and serves them to an NNTP reader. It is
claimed that it is simple to manage and is ideal for installation on a
desktop-class Unix or Linux box, since it does not take up much resources.

Leafnode is based on an appealing idea, but we find no problem using C-News
and NNTPd on a desktop-class box. Its resource consumption is somewhat
proportional to the volume of articles you want it to process, and the number
of groups you'll want to retain for a small team of users will be easily
handled by C-News on a desktop-class computer. An office of a hundred users
can easily use C-News and NNTPd on a desktop computer running Linux, with 64
MBytes of RAM, IDE drives, and sufficient disk space. Of course, ease of
configuration and management is dependent on familiarity, and we are more
familiar with C-News than with Leafnode. We hope this HOWTO will help you in
that direction.

There is, however, one area in which Leafnode is far easier to administer
than INN or C-News. Leafnode constantly monitors the actual usage of the
newsgroups it carries, based on readership statistics of its NNTP readers. If
a particular newsgroup is not read at all by any user for a week, then
Leafnode will delete all articles in that newsgroup, free up disk space, and
stop fetching new articles for it. If it finds that a previously abandoned
newsgroup is now again receiving attention, even from one user, then it'll
fetch all articles for that group from its upstream server the next time it
connects. This self-tuning feature of Leafnode is really an excellent
advantage which makes a Leafnode site easier to manage, specially for small
setups with bandwidth and disk space constraints.

The Leafnode Website gives a lot of details in an easily understood format.

TO BE EXTENDED AND CORRECTED.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3.5. Suck

Suck is a program which lets you pull out an NNTP feed from an NNTP server
and file it locally. It does not contain any article repository management
software, expecting you to do it using some other software system, e.g.
C-News or INN. It can create batchfiles which can be fed to C-News, for
instance. (Well, to be fair, Suck does have an option to store the fetched
articles in a spool directory tree very much like what is used by C-News or
INN in their article area, with one file per article. You can later read this
raw message spool area using a mail client which supports the msgdir file
layout for mail folders, like MH, perhaps. We don't find this option useful
if you're running Suck on a Usenet server.) Suck finally boils down to a
single command-line program which is invoked periodically, typically from
cron. It has a zillion command-line options which are confusing at first, but
later show how mature and finely tunable the software is.

If you need an NNTP pull feed, then we know of no better programs than Suck
for the job. The nntpxfer program which forms part of the NNTPd package also
implements an NNTP pull feed, for instance, but does not have one-tenth of
the flexibility and fine-tuning of Suck. One of the banes of the NNTP pull
feed is connection timeouts; Suck allows a lot of special tuning to handle
this problem. If we had to set up a Usenet server with an NNTP pull feed,
we'd use Suck right away.

TO BE EXTENDED AND CORRECTED.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3.6. Carrier class software

Carrier-class servers are expected to handle a complete feed of all articles
in all newsgroups, including a lot of groups which have what we call a ``high
noise-to-signal ratio.'' They do not have the luxury of choosing a ``useful''
subset like administrators of internal corporate Usenet servers do. Secondly,
carrier-class servers are expected to turn articles around very fast, i.e.
they are expected to have very low latency from the moment they receive an
article to the time they retransmit it by NNTP to downstream servers. Third,
they are supposed to provide very high availability, like other ``carrier
class'' services. This usually means that they have parallel arrays of
computers in load sharing configurations. And fourth, they usually do not
cater to retail connections for reading and posting articles by human users.
Usenet news carriers usually reserve separate computers to handle retail
connections.

Thus, carrier-class servers do not need to maintain a repository of articles;
they only need to focus on super-efficient real-time re-transmission. These
highly specialised servers have software which receive an article over NNTP,
parse it, and immediately re-queue it for outward transmission to dozens or
hundreds of other servers. And since they work at these high throughputs,
their downstream servers are also expected to be live on the Internet round
the clock to receive incoming NNTP connections, or be prepared to lose
articles. Therefore, there's no batching or long queueing needed, and
C-News-style batching in fact is totally inapplicable.

Therefore, these carrier-class Usenet servers are more like packet routers
than servers with repositories. They are referred to nowadays as NNTP routers
or news routers.

It can be seen why batch-oriented repository management software like C-News
is a total anachronism here, and why they need an NNTP-oriented, online,
real-time design. The INN antecedents of some of these systems is therefore
natural. We would love to hear from any Linux HOWTO reader whose Usenet
server requirements include carrier-class behaviour.

We are aware of only one freely redistributable NNTP router: NNTPRelay (see
http://nntprelay.maxwell.syr.edu/); this software runs on NT. There is no
reason why such services cannot run off Linux servers, even Intel Linux,
provided you have fast network links and arrays of servers. Linux as an OS
platform is not an issue here.

TO BE EXTENDED AND CORRECTED.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. Setting up CNews + NNTPd

4.1. Getting the sources and stuff

4.1.1. The sources

C-News software can be obtained from ftp://ftp.uu.net/networking/news/
transport/cnews/cnews.tar.Z and will need to be uncompressed using the BSD
uncompress utility or a compatible program. The tarball is about 650 KBytes
in size. It has its own highly intelligent configuration and installation
processes, which are very well documented. The version that is available is
Cleanup Release revision G, on which our own version is based.

NNTPd (the NNTP Reference Implementation) is available from ftp://ftp.uu.net/
networking/news/nntp/nntp.1.5.12.1.tar.Z. It has no automatic scripts and
processes to configure itself. After fetching the sources, you will have to
follow a set of directions given in the documentation and configure some C
header files. These configuration settings must be done keeping in mind what
you have specified when you build the C-News sources, because NNTPd and
C-News must work together. Therefore, some key file formats, directory paths,
etc., will have to be specified identically in both software systems.

The third software system we use is Nestor. This too is to be found in the
same place where the NNTPd software is kept, at ftp://ftp.uu.net/networking/
news/nntp/nestor.tar.Z. This software compiles to one binary program, which
must be run periodically to process the logs of nntpd, the NNTP server which
is part of NNTPd, and report usage statistics to the administrator. We have
integrated Nestor into our source base.

The fourth piece of the system, without which no Usenet server administrator
dares venture out into the wild world of public Internet newsfeeds, is
pgpverify.

We have been working with C-News and NNTPd for many years now, and have fixed
a few bugs in both packages. We have also integrated the four software
systems listed above, and added a few features here and there to make things
work more smoothly. We offer our entire source base to anyone for free
download from http://www.starcomsoftware.com/proj/usenet/src/news.tar.gz.
There are no licensing restrictions on our sources; they are as freely
redistributable as the original components we started with.

When you download our software distribution, you will extract it to find a
directory tree with the following subdirectories and files:

��*�c-news: the source tree of the CR.G software release, with our additions
    like pgpverify integration, our scripts like mail2news, and pre-created
    configuration files.
   
��*�nntp-1.5.12.1: the source tree of the original NNTPd release, with header
    files pre-configured to fit in with our configuration of C-News, and our
    addition of bits and pieces like Nestor, the log analysis program.
   
��*�howto: this document, and its SGML sources and Makefile.
   
��*�build.sh: a shellscript you can run to compile the entire combined source
    tree and install binaries in the right places, if you are lucky and all
    goes well.
   

Needless to say, we believe that our source tree is a better place to start
with than the original components, specially if you are installing a Usenet
server on a Linux box and for the first time. We will be available on email
to provide technical assistance should you run into trouble.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4.1.2. The key configuration files

Once you get the sources, you will need some key configuration files to seed
your C-News system. These configuration files are actually database tables,
and are changing frequently, whenever newsgroups are created, modified or
deleted. These files specify the list of active newsgroups in the ``public''
Usenet. You can, and should, add your organisation's internal newsgroups to
this list when you set up your own server, but you will need to know the list
of public standard newsgroups to begin with. This list can be obtained from
the same FTP server by downloading the files active.gz and newsgroups.gz from
ftp://ftp.uu.net/networking/news/config/. You can create your own active and
newsgroups files by retaining a subset of the entries in these two files.
Both these are ASCII text files.

Getting the sources from our server will not obviate the need to get the
latest versions of these files from ftp.uu.net. We do not (yet) maintain an
up-to-date copy of these files on our server, and we will add no value to the
original by just mirroring them.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4.2. Compiling and installing

For installing, first make sure you have an entry for a user called news in
your /etc/password file. This is setting the news-database owner to news. Now
download the source from us and untar it in the home directory of news. This
creates two main directories viz. c-news and nntp. To install and compile,
run the script build.sh as root in the directory that contains the script. It
is important that the script run as root as it sets ownerships, installs and
compiles the source as user news. This is a one-step process that puts in
place both the C-News and the NNTP software, setting correct permissions and
paths. Following is a brief description of what build.sh does:

��*�Checks for the OS platform and exits if it is not Linux.
   
��*�Again, exits if you are not running as root.
   
��*�Looks for and exits if cannot find the above two directories.
   
��*�Compiles C-News and performs regression tests if the compilation was
    successfull. Sends out a warning to read the error file make.out.r and to
    fix 'em. Compilation erros are written to a file called make.out.  
   
��*�Performs the above operation in the nntp directory, too.
   
��*�Checks for the presence of the three key directories: $NEWSARTS - (/var/
    spool/news) that houses the artciles, $NEWSCTL -(/var/lib/news) that
    contain configuration, log and status files and $NEWSBIN - (/usr/lib/
    newsbin) that contain binaries and executables for the working of the
    Usenet News system. Tries to create them if non-existent and exits if it
    results in failure.
   
��*�Changes the ownership of these directories to news.news. This is
    important since the entire Usenet News System runs as user news. It will
    not function properly as any other user.
   
��*�Then starts the installation process of C News. It runs make install to
    install binaries at the right locations; make setup to set the correct
    paths and umask, create directories for newsgroups, determine who will
    receive reports; make ui to set up inews and injnews and make
    readpostcheck to use readnews, postnews and checknews scripts provided by
    C News. The errors, if any are to be found in the respective make.out
    files. e.g. make.setup will write errors to make.out.setup
   
��*�Newsspool, which queues incoming batches in $NEWSARTS/in.coming directory
    should run as set-userid and set-groupid. This is done.
   
��*�A softlink is made to /var/lib/news from /usr/lib/news.
   
��*�The NNTP software is installed.
   
��*�Sets up the manpages for C News and makes it world readable. The NNTP
    manpages get installed when the software is installed. Compiles the C
    News documentation guide.ps and makes it readable and available in /usr/
    doc/packages/news or /usr/doc/news.
   
��*�Checks for the PGP binary and asks the administrator to get it, if not
    found.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.3. Configuring the system: What and how to configure files?

Once installed, you have to now configure the system to accept feeds and
batch them for your neighbours. You will have to do the following:

��*�nntpd: Copy the compiled nntpd into a directory where executables are
    kept and activate it. It runs on port 119 as a daemon through inetd
    unless you have compiled it as stand-alone. An entry in the /etc/services
    file for nntp would look like this:
    +---------------------------------------------------------------+
    |nntp    119/tcp    \# Network News Transfer Protocol           |
    +---------------------------------------------------------------+
    An entry in the inetd.conf file will be:
    +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+
    | nntp    stream    tcp    nowait   news    path-to-tcpd  path-to-nntpd |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------------------+
    The last two fields in the inetd.conf file are paths to binaries of the
    tcp and the nntp daemon respectively.
   
��*�Configuring control files: There are plenty of control files in $NEWSCTL
    that will need to be configured before you can start using the news
    system. The files mentioned here are also discussed in the first section
    of the section titled "Components of a running system>". These control
    files are dealt in detail in the following below.
   
    ��+�sys: One line per system/NDN listing all the newsgroup hierarchies
        each system subscribes to. Each line is prefixed with the system name
        and the one beginning with
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |ME:                                                         |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        indicates what your server is willing to receive. Following are
        typical entries that go into this file:
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |ME:comp,news,misc,netscape                                  |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        This line indicates what newsgroups your server has subscribed to.
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |server/server.starcomsoftware.com:all,!general/all:f        |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        This is a list of newsgroups your server will pass on to your NDN.
        The newsgroups specified should be a comma separated list and the
        entire line should contain no spaces. The f flag indicates that the
        newsgroup name and the article number alongwith its size will make up
        one entry in the togo file in the $NEWSARTS/out.going directory.
       
    ��+�explist: This file has entries indicating which articles expire and
        when and whether they have to be archived. The order in which the
        newsgroups are listed is important. An example follows:
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |comp.lang.java.3d    x    60    /var/spool/news/Archive     |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        This means that the articles of comp.lang.java expire after 60 days
        and shall be archived in the directory mentioned in the fourth field.
        Archiving is an option. The second field indicates that this line
        applies to both moderated and unmoderted newsgroups. m would specify
        moderated and u would specify unmoderated groups. If you want to
        specify an extremely large no. as the expiry period you can use the
        keyword "never".
       
    ��+�batchparms: sendbatches is a program that administers batched
        transmission of news articles to other sites. To do this it consults
        the batchparms file. Each line in the file specifies the behaviour
        for each of your NDN mentioned in the sys file. There are five fields
        for each site to be specified.
        +----------------------------------------------------------------------+
        | server   u     100000    100    batcher | gzip -9 | viauux -d gunzip |
        +----------------------------------------------------------------------+
       
        The first field is the site name which matches the entry in the sys
        file and has a corresponding directory in $NEWSARTS/out.going by that
        name.
       
        The second field is the class of the site,u for UUCP and n for NNTP
        feeds. A "!" in this field means that batching for this site has been
        disabled.
       
        The third field is the size of batches to be prepared in bytes.
       
        The fourth field is the maximum length of the output queue for
        transmission to that site.
       
        The fifth field is the command line to be used to build, compress and
        transmit batches to that site. The contents of the togo file are made
        available on standard input.
       
    ��+�controlperm: This file controls how the news system responds to
        control messages. Each line consists of 4-5 fields separated by white
        space. Control messages has been discussed in "Section 2.4>".
        +--------------------------------------------------------------------+
        |comp,sci    tale@uunet.uu.net   nrc    pv   news.announce.newsgroups|
        +--------------------------------------------------------------------+
       
        The first field is a newsgroup pattern to which the line applies.
       
        The second field is either the keyword "any" or an e-mail address.
        The latter specifies that the line applies to control messages from
        only that author.
       
        The third field is a set of opcode letters indicating what control
        operations need to be performed on messages emanating from the e-mail
        address mentioned in the second field. n stands for creating a
        newgroup, r stands for deleting a newsgroup and c stands for
        checkgroup.
       
        The fourth field is a set of flag letters indicating how to respond
        to a control message that meets all the applicability tests:
        +------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
        |             y  Do it.                                                        |
        |             n  Don't do it.                                                  |
        |             v  Report it and include the entire control                      |
        |                message in the report.                                        |
        |             q  Don't report it.                                              |
        |             p  Do it iff the control message carries a valid PGP signature.  |
        |                                                                              |
        +------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
        Exactly one of y, n or p must be present.
       
        The fifth field, which is optional, will be used if the fourth field
        contains a p. It must contain the PGP key ID of the public key to be
        used for signature verification.
       
    ��+�mailpaths: This file describes how to reach the moderators of various
        hierarchies of newsgroups by mail. Each line consists of two fields:
        a news group pattern and an e-mail address. The first line whose
        group pattern matches the newsgroup is used. As an example:
        +--------------------------------------------------------------+
        |           comp.lang.java.3d            somebody@mydomain.com |
        |           all                          %s@moderators.uu.net  |
        |                                                              |
        +--------------------------------------------------------------+
        In the second example, the %s gets replaced with the groupname and
        all dots appearing in the newsgroup name are substituted with dashes.
       
    ��+�Miscellaneous files: The other files to be modified are:
       
        ��o�mailname: Contains the Internet domain name of the news system.
            Consider getting one if you don't have it.
           
        ��o�organization: Contains the default value for the Organization:
            header for postings originating locally.
           
        ��o�whoami: Contains the name of the news system. This is the site
            name used in the Path: headers and hence should concur with the
            names your neighbours use in their sys files.
           
       
    ��+�active file: This file specifies one line for each newsgroup (not
        just the hierarchy) to be found on your news system. You will have to
        get the most recent copy of the active file from ftp://ftp.isc.org/
        usenet/CONFIG/active and prune it to delete newsgroups that you have
        not subscribed to. Run the script addgroup for each newsgroup in this
        file which will create relevant directories in the $NEWSARTS area.
        The addgroup script takes two paramters: the newsgroup name being
        created and a flag. The flag can be any one of the following:
        +----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
        |            y           local postings are allowed                          |
        |            n           no local postings, only remote ones                 |
        |            m           postings to this group must be approved             |
        |                        by the moderator                                    |
        |            j           articles in this group are only passed and not kept |
        |            x           posting to this newsgroup is disallowed             |
        |            =foo.bar    articles are locally filed in                       |
        |                        "foo.bar" group                                     |
        |                                                                            |
        +----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
        An entry in this file looks like this:
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |comp.lang.java.3d       0000003716      01346   m           |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        The first field is the name of the newsgroup. The second field is the
        highest article number that has been used in that newsgroup. The
        third field is the lowest article number in the group. The fourth
        field is a flag as explained above.
       
    ��+�newsgroups file: This contains a one-line description of each
        newsgroup to be found in the active file. You will have to get the
        most recent file from ftp://ftp.isc.org/usenet/CONFIG/newsgroups and
        prune it to remove unwanted information. As an example:
        +----------------------------------------------------------------+
        |comp.lang.java.3d       3D Graphics APIs for the Java language  |
        +----------------------------------------------------------------+
       
    ��+�Aliases: These aliases are required for trouble reporting. Once the
        system is in place and scripts are run, anomalies/problems are
        reported to addresses in the /etc/aliases file. These entries include
        email addresses for newsmaster, newscrisis, news, usenet, newsmap.
        They should ideally point to an email address that will be accessed
        at regularly. Arrange the emails for newsmap to be discarded to
        minimize the effect of sendsys bombing by practical jokers.
       
    ��+�Cron jobs: Certain scripts like newsrun that picks up incoming
        batches and maintenance scripts, should run through news-database
        owner's cron which is news. The cron entries ideally will be for the
        following: A more detailed report can be found in "Section 9.4>"
       
         1. newsrun: This script processes incoming batches of article. Run
            this as frequently as you want them to get digested.
           
         2. sendbatches: This script transmit batches to the NDNs. Set the
            frequency according to your requirements.
           
         3. newsdaily: This should be run ideally once a day since it reports
            errors and anomalies in the news system.
           
         4. newswatch: This looks for errors/anomalies at a more detailed
            level and hence should be run atleast once every hour
           
         5. doexpire: This script expires old articles as determined by the
            explist file. Run this once a day.
           
       
    ��+�newslog: Make an entry in the system's syslog.conf file for logging
        messages spewed out by nntpd in newslog . It should be located in
        $NEWSCTL. The entry will look like this:
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |news.debug              -/var/lib/news/newslog              |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
       
    ��+�Newsboot: Have this run (as news the news-database owner) when the
        system boots to clear out debris left around by crashes.
       
    ��+�Add a Usenet mailer in sendmail: The mail2news program provided as
        part of the source code is a handy tool to send an e-mail to a
        newsgroup which gets digested as an article. You will have to add the
        following ruleset and mailer definition in your sendmail.cf file:
       
        ��o�Under SParse1, add the following:
            +-------------------------------------------------------------+
            |            R$+ . USENET < @ $=w . >      $#usenet     $: $1 |
            |                                                             |
            +-------------------------------------------------------------+
           
        ��o�Under mailer definitions, define the mailer Usenet as:
            +---------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
            |            MUsenet      P=/usr/lib/newsbin/mail2news/m2nmailer, F=lsDFMmn,      |
            |                S=10, R=0, M=2000000, T=X-Usenet/X-Usenet/X-Unix, A=m2nmailer $u |
            |                                                                                 |
            +---------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
           
       
        In order to send a mail to a newsgroup you will now have to suffix
        the newsgroup name with usenet i.e. your To: header will look like
        this:
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        |To: misc.test.usenet@yourdomain.                            |
        +------------------------------------------------------------+
        The mailer definition of usenet will intercept this mail and post it
        to the respective newsgroup, in this case, misc.test
       
   
    This, more or less, completes the configuration part.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.4. Testing the system

To locally test the system, follow the steps given below:

��*�post an article: Create a local newsgroup
    +---------------------------------------------------------------+
    |    cnewsdo addgroup mysite.test y                             |
    |                                                               |
    +---------------------------------------------------------------+
    and using postnews post an article to it.
   
��*�Has it arrived in $NEWSARTS/in.coming?: The article should show up in the
    directory mentioned. Note the nomenclature of the article.
   
��*�When newsrun runs: When newsrun runs from cron , the article disappears
    from in.coming directory and appears in $NEWSARTS/mysite/test. Look how
    the newsgroup, active, log and history (not the errorlog) files and
    .overview file in $NEWSARTS/mysite/test reflect the digestion of the file
    into the news system.
   
��*�reading the article: Try to read the article through readnews or any news
    client. If you are able to, then you have set most everything right.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.5. pgpverify and controlperms

As mentioned in "Section 2.4>", it becomes necessary to authenticate control
messages to protect yourself from being attacked by pranksters. For this, you
will have to configure the $NEWSCTL/controlperm file to declare whose control
messages you are willing to honour and for what newsgroups alongwith their
public key ID. The controlperm manpage shall give you details on the format.

This will work only in association with pgpverify which verifies the Usenet
control messages that have been signed using the signcontrol process. The
script can be found at ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/pgpcontrol/pgpverify. pgpverify
internally uses the PGP binary which will have to be made available in the
default executables directory. If you wish to send control messages for your
local news system, you will have to digitally sign them using the above
mentioned signcontrol program which is available at ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/
pgpcontrol/signcontrol. You will also have to configure the signcontrol
program accordingly.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4.6. Feeding off an upstream neighbour

For external feeds, commercial customers will have to buy them from a regular
News Provider like dejanews.com or newsfeeds.com. You will have to specify to
them what hierarchies you want and decide on the mode of transmission, i.e.
UUCP or NNTP, based on your requirements. Once that is done, you will have to
ask them to initiate feeds, and check $NEWSARTS/in.coming directory to see if
feeds are coming in.

If your organisation belongs to the academic community or is otherwise lucky
enough to have an NDN server somewhere which is willing to provide you a free
newsfeed, then the payment issue goes out of the picture, but the rest of the
technical requirements remain the same.

One problem with incoming NNTP feeds is that it is far easier to use
(relatively) efficient NNTP inflows if you have a server with a permanent
Internet connection and a fixed IP address. If you are a small office with a
dialup Internet connection, this may not be possible. In that case, the only
way to get incoming newsfeeds by NNTP may be by using a highly inefficient
pull feed.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4.7. Configuring outgoing feeds

If you are a leaf node, you will only have to send feeds back to your news
provider for your postings in public newsgroups to propagate to the outside
world. To enable this, you need one line in the sys and batchparms files and
one directory in $NEWSARTS/out.going. If you are willing to transmit articles
to your neighbouring sites, you will have to configure sys and batchparms
with more entries. The number of directories in $NEWSARTS/out.going shall
increase, too. Refer to first two sections of the chapter titled "Components
of a running system>"for a better understanding of outgoing feeds. Again, you
will have to determine how you wish to transmit the feed: UUCP or NNTP.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4.7.1. By UUCP

For outgoing feeds by UUCP, we recommend that you start with Taylor UUCP. In
fact, this is the UUCP version which forms part of the GNU Project and is the
default UUCP on Linux systems.

A full treatment of UUCP configuration is beyond the scope of this document.
However, the basic steps will be as follows. First, you will have to define a
"system" in your Usenet server for the NDN (next door neighbour) host. This
definition will include various parameters, including the manner in which
your server will call the remote server, the protocol it will use, etc. Then
an identical process will have to be followed on the NDN server's UUCP
configuration, for your server, so that that server can recognize your Usenet
server.

Finally, you will need to set up appropriate cron jobs for the user uucp to
run uucico periodically. Taylor UUCP comes with a script called uusched which
may be modified to your requirements; this script calls uucico. One uucico
connection will both upload and download news batches. Smaller sites can run
uusched even once or twice a day.

Later versions of this document will include the uusched scripts that we use
in Starcom. We use UUCP over TCP/IP, and we run the uucico connection through
an SSH tunnel, to prevent transmission of UUCP passwords in plain text over
the Internet, and our SSH tunnel is established using public-key
cryptography, without passwords being used anywhere.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4.7.2. By NNTP

For NNTP feeds, you will have to decide whether your server will be the
connection initiator or connection recipient. If you are the connection
initiator, you can send outgoing NNTP feeds more easily. If you are the
connection recipient, then outgoing feeds will have to be pulled out of your
server using the NNTP NEWNEWS command, which will place heavy loads on your
server. This is not recommended.

Connecting to your NDN server for pushing out outgoing feeds will require the
use of the nntpsend.sh script, which is part of the NNTPd source tree. This
script will perform some housekeeping, and internally call the nntpxmit
binary to actually send the queued set of articles out. You may have to
provide authentication information like usernames and passwords to nntpxmit
to allow it to connect to your NDN server, in case that server insists on
checking the identity of incoming connections. (You can't be too careful in
today's world.) nntpsend.sh will clean up after an nntpxmit connection
finishes, and will requeue any unsent articles for the next session. Thus,
even if there is a network problem, typically nothing is lost and all pending
articles are transmitted next time.

Thus, pushing feeds out via may mean setting up nntpsend.sh properly, and
then invoking it periodically from cron. If your Usenet server connects to
the Internet only intermittently, then the process which sets up the Internet
connection should be extended or modified to fire nntpsend.sh whenever the
Internet link is established. For instance, if you are using the Linux pppd,
you can add statements to the /etc/ppp/ip-up script to change user to news
and run nntpsend.sh
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Setting up INN

5.1. Getting the source

INN is maintained and archived by the ISC (Internet Software Consortium,
www.isc.org) since 1996, and the INN homepage is at http://www.isc.org/
products/INN/. The latest release of INN as of the time of this writing is
INN v2.3.3, released 7 May 2002. The full sources can be downloaded from ftp:
//ftp.isc.org/isc/inn/inn-2.3.3.tar.gz
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5.2. Compiling and installing

TO BE EXTENDED LATER.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5.3. Configuring the system

TO BE ADDED LATER.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5.4. Setting up pgpverify

TO BE ADDED LATER.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5.5. Feeding off an upstream neighbour

TO BE ADDED LATER.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5.6. Setting up outgoing feeds

TO BE ADDED LATER.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5.7. Efficiency issues and advantages

TO BE ADDED LATER.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6. Connecting email with Usenet news

Usenet news and mailing lists constantly remind us of each other. And the
parallels are so strong that many mailing lists are gatewayed two-way with
corresponding Usenet newsgroups, in the bit hierarchy which maps onto the old
BITNET, and elsewhere.

There are probably ten different situations where a mailing list is better,
and ten others where the newsgroup approach works better. The point to
recognise is that the system administrator needs a choice of gatewaying one
with the other, whenever tradeoffs justify it. Instead of getting into the
tradeoffs themselves, this chapter will then focus on the mechanisms of
gatewaying the two worlds.

One clear and recurring use we find for this gatewaying is for mailing lists
which are of general use to many employees in a corporate network. For
instance, in stockbroking company, many employees may like to subscribe to a
business news mailing list. If each employee had to subscribe to the mailing
list independently, it would waste mail spool area and perhaps bandwidth. In
such situations, we receive the mailing list into an internal newsgroup, so
that individual mailboxes are not overloaded. Everyone can then read the
newsgroup, and messages are also archived till expired.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6.1. Feeding Usenet news to email

In CNews, this is trivially done by adding one line to the sys file, defining
a new outgoing feed listing all the relevant groups and distributions, and
specifying the commandline to be executed which is supposed to send out the
outgoing message to that ``feed.'' This command, in our case, should be a
mail-sending program, e.g. /bin/mail user@somewhere.com. This is often
adequate to get the job done. We are sure almost every Usenet news software
system will have an equally easy way of piping the feed of a newsgroup to an
email address.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6.2. Feeding email to news: the mail2news gateway

With our Usenet software sources has been integrated a set of scripts which
we have been using for at least five years internally. This set of scripts is
called mail2news. It contains one shellscript called mail2news, which takes
an email message from stdin, processes it, and feeds the processed version to
inews, the stdin-based news article injection utility of C-News. The inews
utility accepts a new article post in its stdin and queues it for digestion
by newsrun whenever it runs next.

To use mail2news, we assume you are using Sendmail to process incoming email.
Our instructions can easily be modified to adapt to any Mail Transport Agent
(MTA) of your choice. You will have to configure Sendmail or any other MTA to
redirect incoming mails for the gateway to a program called m2nmailer, a
Perlscript which accepts the incoming message in its standard input and a
list of newsgroup names, space separated, on its command line. Sendmail can
be easily configured to trigger m2nmailer this way by defining a new mailer
in sendmail.cf, and directing all incoming emails meant for the Usenet news
system to this mailer. Once you set up the appropriate rulesets for Sendmail,
it automatically triggers m2nmailer each time an incoming email comes for the
mail2news gateway.

The precise configuration changes to Sendmail have already been specified in
the chapter titled ``Setting up C-News + NNTPd.''
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6.3. Using GNU Mailman as an email-NNTP gateway

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6.3.1. GNU's all-singing all-dancing MLM

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6.3.2. Features of GNU Mailman

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6.3.3. Gateway features connecting NNTP and email

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7. Security issues

It almost seems strange that we are discussing security issues in the context
of Usenet news servers. Usenet news has been one of the most open and
free-for-all network services traditionally. However, with the exponential
growth of the Internet, all services are becoming aware of potential threats.
The community of Internet intruders too has acquired new profiles: a lot of
Internet intrusion attempts are program-driven, and exploit a set of ``well
known'' vulnerabilities, i.e. vulnerabilities which have been identified by
the computer security and intrusion community and published in their reports
and advisories. Thus, the question of ``Why will someone attack my harmless
Usenet server?'' is no longer valid. It will be attacked if it can be
attacked, merely because its IP address falls in a range of addresses being
targeted, perhaps.

Security issues for Usenet news servers fall into two categories. First come
vulnerabilities which will allow an attacker to bring down your server or run
code of his choice on it. Second come vulnerabilities which can distort or
corrupt your Usenet article hierarchy, either by junk postings, unsolicited
commercial messages, or forged control messages. The second category of
threats is specific to Usenet news and needs Usenet-specific protection
mechanisms, some of which require tapping into defence mechanisms designed by
the Usenet administrator community.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7.1. Intrusion threats

Here we discuss the vulnerabilities which will allow an intruder to ``gain
control'' of your Usenet server, or ``bring it down,'' either of which may be
irritating, embarassing, or downright disastrous for your business or
occupation.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7.1.1. Generic server vulnerabilities

Foremost among these vulnerabilities are those which render any server
vulnerable to intrusion attempts. Most of these vulnerabilities are unrelated
to Usenet news itself. For instance, if you have the Telnet service active on
a server exposed to the Internet, then it is likely that systematic attempts
by intruders to acquire usernames and passwords will bear fruit, using
methods we will best leave to specialised texts on the subject. Once this is
done, the intruder will merely ``walk into'' your server by Telnetting into
it.

We will not discuss this class of vulnerabilities here any further; they
belong in documents dedicated to general security issues. For further
reading, check the ``Security HOWTO'', the ``Security Quickstart HOWTO'', the
``User Authentication HOWTO'', the ``VPN HOWTO'', and the ``VPN Masquerade
HOWTO'' ... and that's just from the Linux HOWTO collection. As one can see,
there is, if anything, a surfeit of material on this and related subjects.

There are vulnerabilities which allow an intruder to mount the so-called DoS
attacks, which make your service inaccessible to legitimate users, even
though it does not let the intruder in. The most publicised of these attacks
were the SYNFlood and the Ping of Death attacks, both quite old and
well-understood by now. A Linux server running a recent version of the kernel
and properly configured, should be immune to both these attack methods. But
network protocols being what they are, there are always new DoS methods being
thought up, which can temporarily overload or slow down a server. Once again,
the texts discussing generic security issues are the best place to study
these vulnerabilities.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7.1.2. Vulnerabilities in Usenet software

Then come server vulnerabilities, if any, which are caused specifically by
Usenet news software. For instance, if it was possible for an intruder to
issue some string of bytes to your server's NNTP server and cause it to
execute a command of the intruder's choice, then this vulnerability would be
in this category.

Any server which accepts a text string as input from a client is open to the
buffer overrun class of attacks, if the gets() C library function has been
used in its code instead of the fgets() with a buffer size limit. This was a
vulnerability made famous by the 1988 Morris Internet Worm, discussions on
which can be found elsewhere. (Go Google for it if you're keen.) As far as we
know, the INN NNTP server and the nntpd which forms part of the NNTP
Reference Implementation both have no known buffer overrun vulnerabilities.
This class of vulnerabilities is less significant in the case of NNTPd or INN
because these daemons do not run as root. In fact, they would begin to cause
malfunctioning of the underlying Usenet software if they ran as root.
Therefore, even if an intrepid intruder could find some way of gaining
control of these daemons, she would only be able to get into the server as
user news, which means that she can play havoc with the Usenet installation,
but no further. A daemon which runs as root, if compromised, can allow an
intruder to take control of the operating system itself.

UUCP is generally believed to be insecure. We believe a careful configuration
of Taylor UUCP plugs a lot of these vulnerabilities. One vulnerability with
UUCP over TCP is that the username and password travel in plaintext form in
TCP data streams, much like with Telnet or FTP. We therefore do not advise
using UUCP over TCP in this manner if security is a concern at all. We
recommend the use of UUCP through a SSH tunnel, with the SSH setup working
only with a pre-installed public key. This way, there is no need for
usernames and passwords for the SSH tunnel setup, and passwords cannot be
leaked even intentionally. And the UUCP username and password then passes
through this encrypted tunnel and is therefore totally superfluous for
security; the preceding SSH tunnel provides a much stronger connection
authentication than the UUCP username and password. And since we set up our
SSH tunnels to demand key-based authentication only, it rejects any attempt
to connect using usernames and passwords when the tunnel is being set up.

A third possible vulnerability is related to the back-end software which
processes incoming Usenet articles. It is conceivable that an NNTP server
will receive an incoming POST command, receive an article, and queue it for
processing on the local spool; the NNTP server often does not perform any
real-time processing on the incoming post. The post-processing software which
periodically processes the incoming spool (the in.coming directory in C-News)
will read this article and somehow be forced to run a command of the
intruder's choice, either by buffer overrun vulnerabilities or any other
means.

While this possibility exists, it appears that neither the C-News newsrun and
family nor INN are vulnerable to this class of attempts. We base our comment
on the solid evidence that both these systems have been around in an
intrusion-prone world of public Usenet servers for more than a decade. INN,
the newer of the two, completed one decade of life on 20 August 2002. And
both these software systems had their source freely available to all,
including intruders. We can be fairly certain that if vulnerabilities of this
class have not been seen, it not for want of intrusion attempts.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7.2. Vulnerabilities unique to the Usenet service

There are certain security precautions that a Usenet server administrator has
to take to ensure that her servers are not swamped by irritating junk or
configured out of shape by spurious control messages. These vulnerabilities
do not allow an intruder to run her software on your servers, but allows her
to mess up your server, causing you to lose a precious weekend (or week)
straightening out the mess.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7.2.1. Unsolicited commercial messages

Unsolicited commercial messages are called SPAM. There is a war against SPAM
being fought in the Internet community. The biggest battlefront is in the
world of email. Second to that is Usenet newsgroups.

There are many tools that Usenet administrators use in their battle against
SPAM. The most important of these is the NoCeM suite. See http://www.cm.org/
for details of NoCeM, and the newsgroup alt.nocem.misc for the SPAM cancel
messages which NoCeM reads to identify which articles to discard. Your server
will need a feed of alt.nocem.misc to use the NoCeM facility. These special
messages are signed by NoCeM volunteers whose job is to identify SPAM
articles, list their message-IDs, and then issue these deletion instruction,
digitally signed with special private keys, which tell all Usenet servers to
delete the SPAM messages. Your server's NoCeM software will need public key
software (typically PGP) and a keyring with the public key of each NoCeM
volunteer you want to accept instructions from.

Other anti-spam tools for Usenet services are listed in the Anti-SPAM
Software Web page (http://www.exit109.com/~jeremy/news/antispam.html). The
Cleanfeed software will clean out articles identified as SPAM. There are many
others.

SPAM is such a nuisance and a drain on organisational expense pockets (by
wasting bandwidth you pay for) that it is almost imperative today that every
Usenet server protects itself against it. We will integrate some selected
anti-SPAM measures into our integrated source distribution soon.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7.2.2. Spurious control messages

Control messages, discussed in detail earlier in Section 2.4>, instruct a
Usenet server to take certain actions, like delete a message or create a
newsgroup. If this facility is ``open to the public'', anyone with half a
brain can forge control messages to create twenty new newsgroups, and then
post thousands of articles into those groups. In the mid-nineties, we were
hit by a storm of over 2,000 (two thousand) newgroup control messages, which
rapidly taught us the danger of unprotected control messages and the
protection against them.

The standard protection mechanism against this vulnerability is pgpverify,
which can be downloaded from multiple Websites and FTP mirror sites by
searching for pgpverify (the program) or pgpcontrol (the total software
package). We have integrated this into our source distribution, so that our
C-News works in a tightly coupled manner with pgpverify.

pgpverify works using public key cryptography, much like NoCeM, and all the
official maintainers of respective Usenet group hierarchies sign control
messages using their private keys. Your server will carry their public keys,
and pgpverify will check the sign on each control message to ensure that it's
from the official maintainer of the hierarchy. It will then act upon legit
control messages and discard the spurious ones.

In today's nuisance-ridden Usenet environment, no sane Usenet server
administrator receiving a feed of ``public'' hierarchies and control messages
will even dream of running her server without pgpverify protection.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8. Access control in NNTPd

The original NNTPd had host-based authentication which allowed clients
connecting from a particular IP address to read only certain newsgroups. This
was very clearly inadequate for enterprise deployment on an Intranet, where
each desktop computer has a different IP address, often DHCP-assigned, and
the mapping between person and desktop is not static.

What was needed was a user-based authentication, where a username and
password could be used to authenticate the user. Even this was provided as an
extension to NNTPd, but more was needed. The corporate IS manager needs to
ensure that certain Usenet discussion groups remain visible only to certain
people. This authorisation layer was not available in NNTPd. Once
authenticated, all users could read all newsgroups.

We have extended the user-based authentication facility in NNTPd in some (we
hope!) useful ways, and we have added an entire authorisation layer which
lets the administrator specify which newsgroups each user can read. With this
infrastructure, we feel NNTPd is fit for enterprise deployment and can be
used to handle corporate document repositories, messages, and discussion
archives. Details are given below.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8.1. Host-based access control

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8.2. User authentication and authorisation

8.2.1. The NNTPd password file

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8.2.2. Mapping users to newsgroups

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8.2.3. The X-Authenticated-Author article header

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8.2.4. Other article header additions

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9. Components of a running system

This chapter reviews the components of a running CNews+NNTPd server.
Analogous components will be found in an INN-based system too. We invite
additions from readers familiar with INN to add their pieces to this chapter.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.1. /var/lib/news: the CNews control area

This directory is more popularly known as $NEWSCTL. It contains
configuration, log and status files. There are no articles or binaries kept
here. Let's see what some of the files are meant for. Control files are dealt
in slightly greater detail in "Section 4.3>"

��*�sys: One line per system/NDN listing all the newsgroup hierarchies each
    system subscribes to. Each line is prefixed with the system name and the
    one beginning with ME: indicates what we are going to receive. Look up
    manpage of newssys.
   
��*�explist: This file has entries indicating articles of which newsgroup
    expire and when and if they have to be archived. The order in which the
    newsgroups are listed is important. See manpage of expire for file
    format.
   
��*�batchparms: Details of how to feed other sites/NDN, like the size of
    batches, the mode of transmission (UUCP/NNTP) are specified here. manpage
    to refer: newsbatch.
   
��*�controlperm: If you wish to authenticate a control message before any
    action is taken on it, you must enter authentication-related information
    here. The controlperm manpage will list all the fields in detail.
   
��*�mailpaths: It features the e-mail address of the moderator for each
    newsgroup who is responsible for approving/disapproving articles posted
    to moderated newsgroups. The sample mailpaths file in the tar will give
    you an idea of how entries are made.
   
��*�nntp_access/user_access: These files contain entries of servernames and
    usernames on whom restrictions will apply when accessing newsgroups.
    Again, the sample file in the tarball shall explain the format of the
    file.
   
��*�log, errlog: These are log files that keep growing large with each batch
    that is received. The log file has one entry per article telling you if
    it has been accepted by your news server or rejected. To understand the
    format of this file, refer to Chapter 2.2 of the CNews guide. Errors, if
    any, while digesting the articles are logged in errlog. These log files
    have to be rolled as the files hog a lot of disk space.
   
��*�nntplog: This file logs information of the nntpd giving details of when a
    connection was established/broken and what commands were issued. This
    file needs to be configured in syslog syslogd should be running.
   
��*�active: This file has one line per newsgroup to be found in your news
    server. Besides other things, it tells you how many articles are
    currently present in each newsgroup. It is updated when each batch is
    digested or when articles are expired. The active manpage will furnish
    more details about other paramaters.
   
��*�history: This file, again, contains one line per article, mapping
    message-id to newsgroup name and also giving its associated article
    number in that newsgroup. It is updated each time a feed is digested and
    when doexpire is run. Plays a key role in loop-detection and serves as an
    article database. Read manpage of newsdb, doexpire for the file format
   
��*�newsgroups: It has a one-line description for each newsgroup explaining
    what kind of posts go into each of them. Ideally speaking, it should
    cover all the newsgroups found in the active file.
   
��*�Miscellaneous files: Files like mailname, organisation, whoami contain
    information required for forming some of the headers of an article. The
    contents of mailname form the From: header and that of organisation form
    the Organisation: header. whoami contains the name of the news system.
    Refer to chapter 2.1 of guide.ps for a detailed list of files in the
    $NEWSCTL area. Read RFC 1036 for description of article headers .
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
9.2. /var/spool/news: the article repository

This is also known as the $NEWSARTS or $NEWSSPOOL directory. This is where
the articles reside on your disk. No binaries or control files should belong
here. Enough space should be allocated to this directory as the number of
articles keep increasing with each batch that is digested. An explanation of
the following sub-directories will give you an overview of this directory:

��*�in.coming: Feeds/batches/articles from NDNs on their arrival and before
    being processed reside in this directory. After processing, they appear
    in $NEWSARTS or in its bad sub-directory if there were errors.
   
��*�out.going: This directory contains batches/feeds to be sent to your NDNs 
    i.e. feeds to be pushed to your neighbouring sites reside here before
    they are transmitted. It contains one sub-directory per NDN mentioned in
    the sys file. These sub-directories contain files called togo which
    contain information about the article like the message-id or the article
    number that is queued for transmission.
   
��*�>newsgroup directories: For each newsgroup hierarchy that the news server
    has subscribed to, a directory is created under $NEWSARTS. Further
    sub-directories are created under the parent to hold articles of specific
    newsgroups. For instance, for a newsgroup like comp.music.compose, the
    parent directory comp will appear in $NEWSARTS and a sub-directory called
    music will be created under comp. The music sub-directory shall contain a
    further sub-directory called compose and all articles of
    comp.music.compose shall reside here. In effect, article 242 of newsgroup
    comp.music.compose shall map to file $NEWSARTS/comp/music/compose/242.
   
��*�control: The control directory houses only the control messages that have
    been received by this site. The control messages could be any of the
    following: newgroup, rmgroup, checkgroup and cancel appearing in the
    subject line of the article. More information to be found in "Section 2.4
    >"
   
��*�junk: The junk directory contains all articles that the news server has
    received and has decided, after processing, that it does not belong to
    any of the hierarchies it has subscribed to. The news server transfers/
    passes all articles in this directory to NDNs that have subscribed to the
    junk hierarchy.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
9.3. /usr/lib/newsbin: the executables

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.4. crontab and cron jobs

The heart of the Usenet news server is the various scripts that run at
regular intervals processing articles, digesting/rejecting them and
transmitting them to NDNs. I shall try to enumerate the ones that are
important enough to be cronned. :)

��*�newsrun: The key script. This script picks the batches in the in.coming
    directory, uncompresses them if necessary and feeds it to relaynews which
    then processes each article digesting and batching them and logging any
    errors. This script needs to run through cron as frequently as you want
    the feeds to be digested. Every half hour should suffice for a
    non-critical requirement.
   
��*�sendbatches: This script is run to transmit the togo files formed in the
    out.going directory to your NDNs. It reads the batchparms file to know
    exactly how and to whom the batches need to be transmitted. The
    frequency, again, can be set according to your requirements. Once an hour
    should be sufficient.
   
��*�newsdaily: This script does maintenance chores like rolling logs and
    saving them, reporting errors/anomalies and doing cleanup jobs. It should
    typically run once a day.
   
��*�newswatch: This looks for news problems at a more detailed level than
    newsdaily like looking for persistent lock files or unattended batches,
    determining space shortage issues, and the likes. This should typically
    run once every hour. For more on this and the above, read the newsmaint
    manpage.
   
��*�doexpire: This script expires old articles as determined by the control
    file explist and updates the active file. This is necessary if you do not
    want unnecessary/unwanted articels hogging up your disk space. Run it
    once a day. Manpage: expire
   
��*�newsrunning off/on: This script shuts/starts off the news server for you.
    You could choose to add this in your cron job if you think the news
    server takes up lots of CPU time during peak hours and you wish to keep a
    check on it.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
9.5. newsrun and relaynews: digesting received articles

The heart and soul of the Usenet News system, newsrun just picks up the
batches/ articles in the in.coming directory of $NEWSARTS and uncompresses
them (if required) and calls relaynews. It should run from cron.

relaynews picks up each article one by one through stdin, determines if it
belongs to a subscribed group by looking up sys file, looks in the history
file to determine that it does not already exist locally, digests it updating
the active and history file and batches it for neighbouring sites. Logs
errors on encountering problems while processing the article and takes
appropriate action if it happens to be a control message. More info in
manpage of relaynews.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.6. doexpire and expire: removing old articles

A good way to get rid of unwanted/old articles from the $NEWSARTS area is to
run doexpire once a day. It reads the explist file from the $NEWSCTL
directory to determine what articles expire today. It can archive the said
article if so configured. It then updates the active and the history file
accordingly. If you wish to retain the article entry in the history file to
avoid re-digesting it as a new article after having expired it, add a special
/expired/; line in the control file. More on the options and functioning in
the expire manpage.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.7. nntpd and msgidd: managing the NNTP interface

As has already been discussed in the chapter on setting up the software,
nntpd is a TCP-based server daemon which runs under inetd. It is fired by
inetd whenever there's an incoming connection on the NNTP port, and it takes
over the dialogue from there. It reads the C-News configuration and data
files in $NEWSCTL, article files from $NEWSARTS>, and receives incoming posts
and transfers. These it dutifully queues in $NEWSARTS/in.coming, either as
batch files or single article files.

It is important that inetd be configured to fire nntpd as user news, not as
root like it does for other daemons like telnetd or ftpd. If this is not done
correctly, a lot of problems can be caused in the functioning of the C-News
system later.

nntpd is fired each time a new NNTP connection is received, and dies once the
NNTP client closes its connection. Thus, if one nntpd receives a few articles
by an incoming batch feed (not a POST but an XFER), then another nntpd will
not know about the receipt of these articles till the batches are digested.
This will hamper duplicate newsfeed detection if there are multiple upstream
NDNs feeding our server with the same set of articles over NNTP. To fix this,
nntpd uses an ally: msgidd, the message ID daemon. This daemon is fired once
at server bootup time through newsboot, and keeps running quietly in the
background, listening on a named Unix socket in the $NEWSCTL area. It keeps
in its memory a list of all message IDs which various incarnations of nntpd
have asked it to remember.

Thus, when one copy of nntpd receives an incoming feed of news articles, it
updates msgidd with the message IDs of these messages through the Unix
socket. When another copy of nntpd is fired later and the NNTP client tries
to feed it some more articles, the nntpd checks each message ID against
msgidd. Since msgidd stores all these IDs in memory, the lookup is very fast,
and duplicate articles are blocked at the NNTP interface itself.

On a running system, expect to see one instance of nntpd for each active NNTP
connection, and just one instance of msgidd running quietly in the
background, hardly consuming any CPU resources. Our nntpd is configured to
die if the NNTP connection is more than a few minutes idle, thus conserving
server resources. This does not inconvenience the user because modern NNTP
clients simply re-connect. If an nntpd instance is found to be running for
days, it is either hung due to a network error, or is receiving a very long
incoming NNTP feed from your upstream server. We used to receive our primary
incoming feed from our service provider through NNTP sessions lasting 18 to
20 hours without a break, every day.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.8. nov, the News Overview system

NOV, the News Overview System is a recent augmentation to the C-News and NNTP
systems and to the NNTP protocol. This subsystem maintains a file for each
active newsgroup, in which it maintains one line per current article. This
line of text contains some key meta-data about the article, e.g. the contents
of the From, Subject, Date and the article size and message ID. This speeds
up NNTP response enormously. The nov library has been integrated into the
nntpd code, and into key binaries of C-News, thus providing seamless
maintenance of the News Overview database when articles are added or deleted
from the repository.

When newsrun adds an article into starcom.test, it also updates $NEWSARTS/
starcom/test/.overview and adds a line with the relevant data, tab-separated,
into it. When nntpd comes to life with an NNTP client, and it sees the XOVER
NNTP command, it reads this .overview file, and returns the relevant lines to
the NNTP client. When expire deletes an article, it also removes the
corresponding line from the .overview file. Thus, the maintenance of the NOV
database is seamless.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.9. Batching feeds with UUCP and NNTP

Some information about batching feeds has been provided in earlier sections.
More will be added later here in this document.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10. Monitoring and administration

Once the Usenet News system is in place and running, the news administrator
is then aided in monitoring the system by various reports generated by it.
Also, he needs to make regular checks in specific directories and files to
ascertain the smooth working of the system.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.1. The newsdaily report

This report is generated by the script newsdaily which is typically run
through cron. I shall enumerate some of the problems that are reported by it,
based on my observations .

��*�bad input batches: This gives a list of articles that have been declared
    bad after processing and hence have not been digested. The reason for
    this is not given. You are expected to check each article and determine
    the cause.
   
��*�leading unknown newsgroups by articles: Newsgroup names that do not
    appear in the active file but their hierarchy has been subscribed to,
    would find their names mentioned under this heading. Choose to add the
    name in the active file if you think it is important. For e.g., you would
    see this happen if you have subscribed to the hierarchy comp but the
    active does not contain the newsgroup name comp.lang.java.3d. You could
    deny subscription to this particular newsgroup by specifying so in the
    sys file.
   
��*�leading unsubscribed newsgroups: If the news server receives maximum
    articles of a particular newsgroup hierarchy to which you haven't
    subscribed, it will appear under this heading. You really cannot do much
    about this except to subscribe to them if they are required.
   
��*�leading sites sending bad headers: This will list your NDNs who are
    sending articles with malformed/insufficient headers.
   
��*�leading sites sending stale/future/misdated news: This will list your
    NDNs who are sending you articles that are older than the date you have
    specified for accepting feeds.
   
��*�Some of the reports generated by us: We have modified the newsdaily
    script to include some more statistics.
   
    ��+�disk usage: This reports the size in bytes of the $NEWSARTS area. If
        you are receiving feeds regularly, you should see this figure
        increasing.
       
    ��+�incoming feed statistics: This reports the number of articles and
        total bytes recevied from each of your NDNs.
       
    ��+�NNTP traffic report: The output of nestor has also been included in
        this report which gives details of each nntp connection and the
        overall performance of the network connection read from the newslog
        file. To understand the format, read the manpage of nestor.
       
   
��*�Error reporting from the errorlog file: Reports errors logged in the
    errorlog file. Usually these are file ownership or file missing problems
    which can be easily handled.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
10.2. Crisis reports from newswatch

Most of the problems reported to me are those with either space shortage or
persistent locks. There are instances when the scripts have created locks
files and have aborted/terminated without removing them. Sometimes they are
innocuous enough to be deleted but this should be determined after a careful
analysis. They could be an indication of some part of the system not working
correctly. For e.g. I would receive this error message when sendbatches would
abnormally terminate trying to transmit huge togo files. I had to determine
why sendbatches was failing this often.

The space shortage issue has to be addressed immediately. You could delete
unwanted articles by running doexpire or add more disk space at the OS level.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.3. Disk space

The $NEWSBIN area occupies space that is fixed. Since the binaries do not
grow once installed, you do not have to worry about disk shortage here. The
areas that take up more space as feeds come in are $NEWSCTL and $NEWSARTS.
The $NEWSCTL has log files that keep growing with each feed. As the articles
are digested in huge numbers, the $NEWSARTS area continues to grow. Also, you
will need space if you have chosen to archive articles on expiry. Allocate a
few GB of disk space for $NEWSARTS depending on the number of hierarchies you
are subscribing and the feeds that come in everyday. $NEWSCTL grows to a
lesser proportion as compared to $NEWSARTS. Allocate space for this
accordingly.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.4. CPU load and RAM usage

With modern C-News and NNTPd, there is very little usage of these system
resources for processing news article flow. Key components like newsrun or
sendbatches do not load the system much, except for cases where you have a
very heavy flow of compressed outgoing batches and the compression utility is
run by sendbatches frequently. newsrun is amazingly efficient in the current
C-News release. Even when it takes half an hour to digest a large consignment
of batches, it hardly loads the CPU of a slow Pentium 200 MHz CPU or consumes
much RAM in a 64 MB system.

One thing which does slow down a system is a large bunch of users connecting
using NNTP to browse newsgroups. We do not have heuristic based figures
off-hand to provide a guidance figure for resource consumption for this, but
we have found that the load on the CPU and RAM for a certain number of active
users invoking nntpd is more than with an equal number of users connecting to
the POP3 port of the same system for pulling out mailboxes. A few hundred
active NNTP users can really slow down a dual-P-III Intel Linux server, for
instance. This loading has no bearing on whether you are using INN or nntpd;
both have practically identical implementations for NNTP reading and differ
only in their handling of feeds.

Another situation which will slow down your Usenet news server is when
downstream servers connect to you for pulling out NNTP feeds using the pull
method. This has been mentioned before. This can really load your server's I/
O system and CPU.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.5. The in.coming/bad directory

The in.coming directory is where the batches/articles reside when you have
received feeds from your NDN and before processing happens. Checking this
directory regularly to see if there are batches is a good way of determining
that feeds are coming in. The batches and articles have different
nomenclature. Batches, typically, have names like nntp.GxhsDj and individual
articles are named beginning with digits like 0.10022643380.t

The bad sub-directory under in.coming holds batches/articles that have
encountered errors when they were being processed by relaynews. You will have
to look at the individual files in this directory to determine the cause .
Ideally speaking, this directory should be empty.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.6. Long pending queues in out.going

TO BE ADDED.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.7. Problems with nntpxmit and nntpsend

TO BE ADDED.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

10.8. The junk and control groups

Control messages are those that have a newgroup/rmgroup/cancel/checkgroup in
their subject line. Such messages result in relaynews calling the appropriate
script and on execution a message is mailed to the admin about the action
taken. These control messages are stored in the control directory of
$NEWSARTS. For the propogation of such messages, one must subscribe to the
control hierarchy.

When your news system determines that a certain article has not been
subscribed by you, it is "junked" i.e. such articles appear in the junk
directory. This directory plays a key role in transferring articles to your
NDNs as they would subscribe to the junk hierarchy to receive feeds. If you
are a leaf node, there is no reason why articles should pile here. Keep
deleting them on a daily basis.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

11. Usenet news clients

This HOWTO was written to allow a Linux system administrator provide the
Usenet news service to readers of those articles. The rest of this HOWTO
focuses on the server-end software and systems, but one chapter dedicated to
the clients does not seem disproportionate, considering that the raison
d'etre of Usenet news servers is to serve these clients.

The overwhelming majority of clients are software programs which access the
article database, either by reading /var/spool/news on a Unix system or over
NNTP, and allow their human users to read and post articles. We can therefore
probably term this class of programs UUA, for Usenet User Agents, along the
lines of MUA for Mail User Agents.

There are other special-purpose clients, which either pull out articles to
copy or transfer somewhere else, or for analysis, e.g. a search engine which
allows you to search a Usenet article archive, like Google (www.google.com)
does.

This chapter will discuss issues in UUA software design, and bring out
essential features and efficiency and management issues. What this chapter
will certainly never attempt to do is catalogue all the different UUA
programs available in the world --- that is best left to specialised
catalogues on the Internet.

This chapter will also briefly cover special-purpose clients which transfer
articles or do other special-purpose things with them.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

11.1. Usenet User Agents

11.1.1. Accessing articles: NNTP or spool area?

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

11.1.2. Threading

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

11.1.3. Quick reading features

TO BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

11.2. Clients that transfer articles

We will discuss Suck and nntpxfer from the NNTP server distribution here.
Suck has already discussed earlier. We will be happy to take contributed
additions that discuss other client software.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

11.3. Special clients

11.3.1. NNTPCache

NNTPCache is an interesting transparent cacheing proxy for news articles.
News articles are read-only by definition, i.e. they do not change once they
are posted; they can only be deleted. NNTPCache uses this feature to build a
local cache of news articles.

You set up NNTPCache to listen on the NNTP port of your local Unix server,
and act like an NNTP daemon. You configure it to connect back-to-back to
another NNTP daemon, further away, which has all the interesting stuff the
users want to read. When a user connects to the local NNTPCache, it connects
to the remote NNTP server and acts as a relay for the NNTP connection,
ferrying commands and responses back and forth. What the user sees therefore
comes from the remote server, the first time. However, all news articles
fetched by NNTPCache are also stored in a local cache, thus allowing the next
user to browse the same set of articles faster. Like all demand-driven
caches, the advantage here is that the local NNTPCache does not need (much)
administering, and will automatically delete all articles from its cache once
they've been lying unread long enough.

We list it here as an NNTP client because every proxy server is a server on
one side and a client on the other.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

12. Our perspective

This chapter has been added to allow us to share our perspective on certain
technical choices. Certain issues which are more a matter of opinion than
detail, are discussed here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

12.1. Efficiency issues of NNTP

To understand why NNTP is often an inappropriate choice for newsfeeds, we
need to understand TCP's sliding window protocol and the nature of NNTP. NNTP
is an apalling waste of bandwidth for most bulk article transfer situations,
because of the following simple reasons:

��*�No compression: articles are transferred in plain text.
   
��*�No article transmission restart: if a connection breaks halfway through
    an article, the next round will have to start with the beginning of the
    article.
   
��*�Ping-pong protocol: NNTP is unsuitable for bulk streaming data transfer
    because the TCP sliding window feature is unusable with NNTP.
   

What is a ping-pong protocol? TCP uses a sliding window mechanism to pump out
data in one direction very rapidly, and can achieve near wire speeds under
most circumstances. However, this only works if the application layer
protocol can aggregate a large amount of data and pump it out without having
to stop every so often, waiting for an ack or a response from the other end's
application layer. This is precisely why sending one file of 100 Mbytes by
FTP takes so much less clock time than 10,000 files of 10 Kbytes each, all
other parameters remaining unchanged. The trick is to keep the sliding window
sliding smoothly over the outgoing data, blasting packets out as fast as the
wire will carry it, without ever allowing the window to empty out while you
wait for an ack. Protocols which require short bursts of data from either end
constantly, e.g. in the case of remote procedure calls, are called ``ping
pong protocols'' because they remind you of a table-tennis ball.

With NNTP, this is precisely the problem. The average size of Usenet news
messages, including header and body, is 3 Kbytes. When thousands of such
articles are sent out by NNTP, the sending server has to send the message ID
of the first article, then wait for the receiving server to respond with a
``yes'' or ``no.'' Once the sending server gets the ``yes'', it sends out
that article, and waits for an ``ok'' from the receiving server. Then it
sends out the message ID of the second article, and waits for another ``yes''
or ``no.'' And so on. The TCP sliding window never gets to do its job.

This sub-optimal use of TCP's data pumping ability, coupled with the absence
of compression, make for a protocol which is great for synchronous
connectivity, e.g. for news reading or real-time updates, but very poor for
batched transfer of data which can be delayed and pumped out. All these are
precisely reversed in the case of UUCP over TCP.

To decide which protocol, UUCP over TCP or NNTP, is appropriate for your
server, you must address two questions:

 1. How much time can your server afford to wait from the time your upstream
    server receives an article to the time it passes it on to you?
   
 2. Are you receiving the same set of hierarchies from multiple next-door
    neighbour servers, i.e. is your newsfeed flow pattern a mesh instead of a
    tree?
   

If your answers to the two questions above are ``messages cannot wait'' and
``we operate in a mesh'', then NNTP is the correct protocol for your server
to receive its primary feed(s).

In most cases, carrier-class servers operated by major service providers do
not want to accept even a minute's delay from the time they receive an
article to the time they retransmit it out. They also operate in a mesh with
other servers operated by their own organisations (e.g. for redundancy) or
others. They usually sit very close to the Internet backbone, i.e. with Tier
1 ISPs, and have extremely fast Internet links, usually more than 10 Mbits/
sec. The amount of data that flows out of such servers in outgoing feeds is
more than the amount that comes in, because each incoming article is
retained, not for local consumption, but for retransmission to others lower
down in the flow. And these servers boast of a retransmission latency of less
than 30 seconds, i.e. I will retransmit an article to you within 30 seconds
of my having received it.

However, if your server is used by a company for making Usenet news available
for its employees, or by an institute to make the service available for its
students and teachers, then you are not operating your server in a mesh
pattern, nor do you mind it if messages take a few hours to reach you from
your upstream neighbour.

In that case, you have enormous bandwidth to conserve by moving to UUCP. Even
if, in this Internet-dominated era, you have no one to supply you with a
newsfeed using dialup point-to-point links, you can pick up a compressed
batched newsfeed using UUCP over TCP, over the Internet.

In this context, we want to mention Taylor UUCP, an excellent UUCP
implementation available under GNU GPL. We use this UUCP implementation in
preference to the bundled UUCP systems offered by commercial Unix vendors
even for dialup connections, because it is far more stable, high performance,
and always supports file transfer restart. Over TCP/IP, Taylor is the only
one we have tried, and we have no wish to try any others.

Apart from its robustness, Taylor UUCP has one invaluable feature critical to
large Usenet batch transfers: file transfer restart. If it is transferring a
10 MB batch, and the connection breaks after 8 MB, it will restart precisely
where it left off last time. Therefore, no bytes of bandwidth are wasted, and
queues never get stuck forever.

Over NNTP, since there is no batching, transfers happen one article at a
time. Considering the (relatively) small size of an article compared to
multi-megabyte UUCP batches, one would expect that an article would never
pose a major problem while being transported; if it can't be pushed across in
one attempt, it'll surely be copied the next time. However, we have
experienced entire NNTP feeds getting stuck for days on end because of one
article, with logs showing the same article breaking the connection over and
over again while being transferred [1]. Some rare articles can be more than a
megabyte in size, particularly in comp.binaries. In each such incident, we
have had to manually edit the queue file on the transmitting server and
remove the offending article from the head of the queue. Taylor UUCP, on the
other hand, has never given us a single hiccup with blocked queues.

We feel that the overwhelming majority of servers offering the Usenet news
service are at the leaf nodes of the Usenet news flow, not at the heart.
These servers are usually connected in a tree, with each server having one
upstream ``parent node'', and multiple downstream ``child nodes.'' These
servers receive their bulk incoming feed from their upstream server, and
their users can tolerate a delay of a few hours for articles to move in and
out. If your server is in this class, we feel you should consider using UUCP
over TCP and transfer compressed batches. This will minimise bandwidth usage,
and if you operate using dialup Internet connections, it will directly reduce
your expenses.

A word about the link between mesh-patterned newsfeed flow and the need to
use NNTP. If your server is receiving primary --- as against trickle ---
feeds from multiple next-door neighbours, then you have to use NNTP to
receive these feeds. The reason lies in the way UUCP batches are accepted.
UUCP batches are received in their entirety into your server, and then they
are uncompressed and processed. When the sending server is giving you the
batch, it is not getting a chance to go through the batch article by article
and ask your server whether you have or don't have each article. This way, if
multiple servers give you large feeds for the same hierarchies, then you will
be bound to receive multiple copies of each article if you go the UUCP way.
All the gains of compressed batches will then be neutralised. NNTP's IHAVE
and SENDME dialogue in effect permits precisely this double-check for each
article, and thus you don't receive even a single article twice.

For Usenet servers which connect to the Internet periodically using dialup
connections to fetch news, the UUCP option is especially important. Their
primary incoming newsfeed cannot be pushed into them using queued NNTP feeds
for reasons described in the above paragraph These hapless servers are
usually forced to pull out their articles using a pull NNTP feed, which is
often very slow. This may lead to long connect times, repeat attempts after
every line break, and high Internet connection charges.

On the other hand, we have been using UUCP over TCP and gzip'd batches for
more than five years now in a variety of sites. Even today, a full feed of
all eight standard hierarchies, plus the full microsoft, gnu and netscape
hierarchies, minus alt and comp.binaries, can comfortably be handled in just
a few hours of connect time every night, dialing up to the Internet at 33.6
or 56 Kbits/sec. We believe that the proverbial `full feed' with all
hierarchies including alt can be handled comfortably with a 24-hour link at
56 Kbits/sec, provided you forget about NNTP feeds. We usually get
compression ratios of 4:1 using gzip -9 on our news batches, incidentally.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

12.2. C-News+NNTPd or INN?

INN and CNews are the two most popular free software implementations of
Usenet news. Of these two, we prefer CNews, primarily because we have been
using it across a very large range of Unixen for more than one decade,
starting from its earliest release --- the so-called ``Shellscript release''
--- and we have yet to see a need to change.[2]

We have seen INN, and we are not comfortable with a software implementation
which puts in so much of functionality inside one executable. This reminds us
of Windows NT, Netscape Communicator, and other complex and monolithic
systems, which make us uncomfortable with their opaqueness. We feel that
CNews' architecture, which comprises many small programs, intuitively fits
into the Unix approach of building large and complex systems, where each
piece can be understood, debugged, and if needed, replaced, individually.

Secondly, we seem to see the move towards INN accompanied by a move towards
NNTP as a primary newsfeed mechanism. This is no fault of INN; we suspect it
is a sort of cultural difference between INN users and CNews users. We find
the issue of UUCP versus NNTP for batched newsfeeds a far more serious issue
than the choice of CNews versus INN. We simply cannot agree with the idea
that NNTP is an appropriate protocol for bulk Usenet feeds for most sites.
Unfortunately, we seem to find that most sites which are more comfortable
using INN seem to also prefer NNTP over UUCP, for reasons not clear to us.

Our comments should not be taken as expressing any reservation about INN's
quality or robustness. Its popularity is testimony to its quality; it most
certainly ``gets the job done'' as well as anything else. In addition, there
are a large number of commercial Usenet news server implementations which
have started with the INN code; we do not know of any which have started with
the CNews code. The Netwinsite DNews system and the Cyclone Typhoon, we
suspect, both are INN-spired.

We will recommend CNews and NNTPd over INN, because we are more comfortable
with the CNews architecture for reasons given above, and we do not run
carrier-class sites. We will continue to support, maintain and extend this
software base, at least for Linux. And we see no reason for the overwhelming
majority of Usenet sites to be forced to use anything else. Your viewpoints
welcome.

Had we been setting up and managing carrier-class sites with their
near-real-time throughput requirements, we would probably not have chosen
CNews. And for those situations, our opinion of NNTP versus compressed UUCP
has been discussed in Section 12.1>

Suck and Leafnode have their place in the range of options, where they appear
to be attractive for novices who are intimidated by the ``full blown''
appearance of CNews+NNTPd or INN. However, we run CNews + NNTPd even on Linux
laptops. We suspect INN can be used this way too. We do not find these ``full
blown'' implementations any more resource hungry than their simpler cousins.
Therefore, other than administration and configuration familiarity, we don't
see any other reason why even a solitary end-user will choose Leafnode or
Suck over CNews+NNTPd. As always, contrary opinions invited.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13. Usenet software: a historical perspective

This section comprises excerpts from a well-known Usenet Periodic Posting
document which was last changed in Feb 1998. Our copy of that old document
was picked up from

ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-hierarchy/news/software/b/Usenet_Software:
_History_and_Sources

We suspect other copies will also be found elsewhere. The physical file on
the FTP server appears to have been touched last on 29 Dec 1999. The first
few lines of the archived file provide information about the origin of this
document and its authors:
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 09:00:19 GMT                                                                   
Supersedes: <FMMECL.58s@tac.nyc.ny.us>                                                                
Expires: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 09:00:19 GMT                                                                
Message-ID: <FnG10J.HAo@tac.nyc.ny.us>                                                                
From: netannounce@deshaw.com (Mark Moraes)                                                            
Subject: Usenet Software: History and Sources                                                         
Newsgroups: news.admin.misc,news.announce.newusers,news.software.readers,news.software.b,news.answers 
Followup-To: news.newusers.questions                                                                  
Approved: netannounce@deshaw.com (Mark Moraes)                                                        
                                                                                                      
Archive-name: usenet/software/part1                                                                   
Original-from: spaf@cs.purdue.edu (Gene Spafford)                                                     
Comment: edited until 5/93 by spaf@cs.purdue.edu (Gene Spafford)                                      
Last-change: 9 Feb 1998 by netannounce@deshaw.com (Mark Moraes)                                       
Changes-posted-to: news.admin.misc,news.misc,news.software.readers,news.software.b,news.answers       

We have been seeing this document as a periodic posting in
news.announce.newusers since the early nineties, and it has always been our
final reference on the history of Usenet server software. We reproduce
excerpts below, retaining the portions which discuss server software, and
removing discussions of client software, newsreaders, software for non-Unix
operating systems, etc. All quoted portions are reproduced unedited other
than changing FTP file paths to the modern URL format. We have added our
comments emphasised, in separate paragraphs. We feel the information captured
here is essential reading for anyone interested in Usenet server software.

If anyone can point us to a fresher version of this document, in case it is
still maintained, we will be happy to refer to that version instead of this
one, though we suspect the reader will not suffer due to the four-year gap;
most of the information reproduced below is historical anyway.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13.1. The quoted excerpts

Currently, Usenet readers interact with the news using a number of software
packages and programs. This article mentions the important ones and a little
of their history, gives pointers where you can look for more information and
ends with some special notes about ``foreign'' and ``obsolete'' software. At
the very end is a list of sites from which current versions of the Usenet
software may be obtained.

...
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13.1.1. History

Usenet came into being in late 1979, shortly after the release of V7 Unix
with UUCP. 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 Usenix conference. 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 C for public distribution. Tom Truscott made further
modifications, and this became the ``A'' news release.

In 1981 at U. C. 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; the 1.* versions were all 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, at the Center for Seismic Studies, took over coordination of the
maintenance and enhancement of the B 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 B 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 final release of B News was 2.11, patchlevel 19. B News has been declared
``dead'' by a number of people, including Rick Adams, and is unlikely to be
upgraded further; most Usenet sites are using C News or INN (see next
paragraphs).

In March 1986 a package was released implementing news transmission, posting,
and reading using the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) (as specified in
RFC 977). This protocol allows hosts to exchange articles via TCP/IP
connections rather than using the traditional UUCP. It also permits users to
read and post news (using a modified news user agent) from machines which
cannot or choose not to install the Usenet news software. Reading and posting
are done using TCP/IP messages to a server host which does run the Usenet
software. Sites which have many workstations like the Sun and SGI, and HP
products find this a convenient way to allow workstation users to read news
without having to store articles on each system. Many of the Usenet hosts
that are also on the Internet exchange news articles using NNTP because the
load impact of NNTP is much lower than UUCP (and NNTP ensures much faster
propagation).

Our comments: This remark about relative loadings of UUCP and NNTP is no
longer applicable with faster machines and networks, and with hugely
increased traffic volumes. Today's desktop computers, let alone servers, can
all handle both NNTP and UUCP loads effortlessly, if traffic volumes can be
restricted. This is partly due to performance enhancements to UUCP as
embodied in Taylor UUCP, and partly due to vastly faster processors.

NNTP grew out of independent work in 1984-1985 by Brian Kantor at U. C. San
Diego and Phil Lapsley at U. C. Berkeley. Primary development was done at U.
C. Berkeley by Phil Lapsley with help from Erik Fair, Steven Grady, and Mike
Meyer, among others. The NNTP package (now called the reference
implementation) was distributed on the 4.3BSD release tape (although that was
version 1.2a and out-of-date) and is also available on many major hosts by
anonymous FTP. The current version is 1.5.12.2. It includes NOV (News
Overview -- see below) support and runs on a wide variety of systems. It is
available from ftp.academ.com:/pub/nntp1.5/nntp.1.5.12.2.tar.gz. For those
with access to the World-Wide Web on the Internet, the WWW page http://
www.academ.com/academ/nntp.html contains a description and news about NNTP. A
different variant, called nntp-t5, implements many of the extensions provided
by INN (including NOV support). It is available from ftp.uu.net:/networking/
news/nntp/nntp-t5.tar.gz.

One widely-used version of news, known as C News, was 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 proceedings.
This paper is also available from ftp://ftp.cs.toronto.edu/doc/programming/
c-news.*, and is recommended reading for all news software programmers. The
most recent version of C News is the Sept 1994 ``Cleanup Release.'' C News
can be obtained by anonymous ftp from its official archive site,
ftp.cs.toronto.edu:pub/c-news/c-news.tar.Z.

Our comments: C News is no longer maintained by anyone that we know, other
than ourselves. However, after fixing the remaining bugs in the source, we
have not found the need for further maintenance. NNTPd from Brian Kantor and
Phil Lapsley is in the same state, but we are working on enhancements to the
source for access control and other functionality.

Another Usenet system, known as InterNetNews, or INN, was written by Rich
Salz (rsalz@uunet.uu.net). INN is designed to run on Unix hosts that have a
socket interface. It is optimized for larger hosts where most traffic uses
NNTP, but it does provide full UUCP support. INN is very fast, and since it
integrates NNTP many people find it easier to administer only one package.
The package was publicly released on August 20, 1992. For more information,
see the paper ``InterNetNews: Usenet Transport for Internet Sites'' published
in the June 1992 Usenix Technical Conference Proceedings. INN can be obtained
from many places, including the 4.4BSD tape; its official archive site is
ftp.uu.net in the directory /networking/news/nntp/inn. Rich's last official
release was 1.4sec in Dec 1993.

Our comments: The original paper by Rich Salz about INN, where he proposed
the design of an alternate Usenet server software, is a must-read for readers
interested in Usenet server software. So is the paper by C News authors,
cited before it. Most of the issues that Rich Salz had with C News, as stated
in his paper, were very relevant at that time. Today, with the current
version of NNTPd and the incorporation of the message ID daemon and NOV,
these issues are no longer relevant, and the choice of C News+NNTPd versus
INN is now based more on the level of maintenance of source code, familiarity
and personal preferences than on core design factors.

In June 1995, David Barr began a series of unoffical releases of INN based on
1.4sec, integrating various bug-fixes, enhancements and security patches. His
last release was 1.4unoff4, found in ftp://ftp.math.psu.edu:/pub/INN. This
site is also the home of contributed software for INN and other news
administration tools.

INN is now maintained by the Internet Software Consortium (inn@isc.org). The
official INN home is now http://www.isc.org/isc/ and the latest version
(1.7.2) can be obtained from ftp://ftp.isc.org/isc/inn/.

Our comments: The URL for the INN home page above is probably incorrect. Try
http://www.isc.org/products/INN/.

Towards the end of 1992, Geoff Collyer implemented NOV (News Overview): a
database that stores the important headers of all news articles as they
arrive. This is intended for use by the implementors of news readers to
provide fast article presentation by sorting and ``threading'' the article
headers. (Before NOV, newsreaders like trn, tin and nn came with their own
daemons and databases that used a nontrivial amount of system resources). NOV
is fully supported by C News, INN and NNTP-t5. Most modern news readers use
NOV to get information for their threading and article menu presentation; use
of NOV by a newsreader is fairly easy, since NOV comes with sample
client-side threading code.

...

Details on many other mail and news readers for MSDOS, Windows and OS/2
systems can be found in the FAQ posted to comp.os.msdos.mail-news.
  <ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/comp.os.msdos.mail-news/intro>              
  <ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/comp.os.msdos.mail-news/software>           
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13.1.2. Newsfeed management software

Gup, the Group Update Program is a Unix mail-server program that lets a
remote site change their newsgroups subscription on their news feed without
requiring the intervention of the news administrator at the feed site. Gup
operates with the INN (and likely the C News) batching mechanisms. The news
administrators at the remote sites simply mail commands to gup to make
changes to their own site's subscription list. The mail/interface is password
protected. Gup checks the requests for valid newsgroup names, patterns that
have no effect and so on. Gup's authors are Mark Delany (markd@mira.net.au)
and Andrew Herbert (andrew@mira.net.au). Its official FTP location is
ftp.mira.net.au:/unix/news/gup-0.4.tar.gz, but since that's not as well
connected as UUNET, people are strongly advised to obtain it from a mirror
site, e.g. ftp.uu.net:/networking/news/misc/gup-0.4.tar.gz.

dynafeed is a package from Looking Glass Software Limited that maintains a
.newsrc for every remote site and generates the batches for them. Remote
sites can use UUCP or run a program to change their .newsrc dynamically. It
comes with a program that the remote site can run to monitor readership in
newsgroups and dynamically update the feed list to match reader interest. The
goal of this is to get a feed that sends only exactly the groups currently
being read. dynafeed can be obtained from ftp://ftp.clarinet.com/sources/
dynafeed.tar.Z.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13.1.3. News processing software

Software also exists to automatically archive Usenet newsgroups. The package
rkive, written by Kent Landfield (kent@sterling.com) can be configured to
archive news automatically based on different headers -- Archive-Name,
Volume-Issue, Chronological, Subject and External-Command to name a few. It
can be run in batch mode from the command line or from cron. It can also be
installed in the sys or newsfeeds file to process articles as they are
received. rkive supports local spool directories as well as NNTP based
access. rkive is available via FTP from ftp://ftp.sterling.com/rkive.

Newsclip is a programming language for writing news filtering programs, from
Looking Glass Software Limited, marketed by ClariNet Communications Corp. It
is C-like, and translates to C, so a C compiler is required. It has
data-types to represent the kinds of things found in article headers and
bodies. It can maintain databases of users, message-ids, patterns, subjects,
etc. These can be used to decide whether to ignore or select an article.
Newsclip can either operate as a standalone program or as part of rn. It is
free for non-commercial use and is available from ftp://ftp.clarinet.com/
sources/nc.tar.Z. Contact clari-info@clarinet.com with a subject line of
``newsclip'' for more info.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13.1.4. Commercial software

DNEWS is a commercial product from NetWin. DNEWS licenses are provided free
to educational institutions for non profit use. With DNEWS, the news is
stored in a database so as not to overload the raw file system. DNEWS
supports 'sucking' where only groups which users read are pulled over from
the feeder site. DNEWS is currently known to run on VMS, Windows NT, Solaris,
SunOS, Unixware, HP/UX. DNEWS binaries are available by anonymous FTP from
ftp://ftp.std.com/ftp/vendors/netwin/dnews or from http://world.std.com/
~netwin/ DNEWS sources can be obtained on request, see the file source.txt in
the FTP area for more information.

Our comments: The information on DNEWS may be dated. We have been seeing
DNEWS on their own Website for quite a few years now. Check
www.netwinsite.com. Moreover, there are other commercial Usenet server
software systems available, including the one bundled with the Internet
Information Server of Microsoft Windows NT and the ones from iPlanet. And for
carrier class systems, there are many commercial Usenet routers available.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

13.1.5. Special note on ``notes'' and old versions of news

...

``B'' news software is currently considered obsolete. Unix sites joining the
Usenet should install C news or INN to ensure proper behavior and good
performance. Most old B news software had compiled-in limits on the number of
newsgroups and the number of articles per newsgroup; the increasing volume of
news means that B news software cannot reliably cope with a moderately-full
newsfeed.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14. Documentation, information and further reading

This section fills in gaps which were hard to classify under any of the
previous chapters.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.1. The manpages

The following manpages are installed automatically when our integrated
software distribution is compiled and installed, listed here in no particular
order:

��*�badexpiry: utility to look for articles with bad explicit Expiry headers
   
��*�checkactive: utility to perform some sanity checks on the active file
   
��*�cnewsdo: utility to perform some checks and then run C-News maintenance
    commands
   
��*�controlperm: configuration file for controlling responses to Usenet
    control messages
   
��*�expire: utility to expire old articles
   
��*�explode: internal utility to convert a master batch file to ordinary
    batch files
   
��*�inews: the program which forms the entry point for fresh postings to be
    injected into the Usenet system
   
��*�mergeactive: utility to merge one site's newsgroups to another site's
    active file
   
��*�mkhistory: utility to rebuild news history file
   
��*�news(5): description of Usenet news article file and batch file formats
   
��*�newsaux: a collection of C-News utilities used by its own scripts and by
    the Usenet news administrator for various maintenance purposes
   
��*�newsbatch: covers all the utilities and programs which are part of the
    news batching system of C-News
   
��*�newsctl: describes the file formats and uses of all the files in $NEWSCTL
    other than the two key files, sys and active
   
��*�newsdb: describes the key files and directories for news articles,
    including the structure of $NEWSARTS, the active file, the active.times
    file, and the history file.
   
��*�newsflag: utility to change the flag or type column of a newsgroup in the
    active file
   
��*�newsmail: utility scripts used to send and receive newsfeeds by email.
    This is different from a mail-to-news gateway, since this is for
    communication between two Usenet news servers.
   
��*�newsmaint: utility scripts used by Usenet administrator to manage and
    maintain C-News system
   
��*�newsoverview(5): file formats for the NOV database
   
��*�newsoverview(8): library functions of the NOV library and the utilities
    which use them
   
��*�newssys: the important sys file of C-News
   
��*�relaynews: the relaynews program of C-News
   
��*�report: utility to generate and send email reports of errors and events
    from C-News scripts
   
��*�rnews: receive news batches and queue them for processing
   
��*�nntpd: The NNTP daemon
   
��*�nntpxmit: The NNTP batch transmit program for outgoing push feeds
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
14.2. Papers, documents, articles

There are certain documents and published conference papers which are a
must-read for Usenet server administrators, both for their historical value
and for the insight they give into Usenet server architecture in general. We
list our chart-toppers here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.2.1. The Usenix paper on C News

This very interesting paper has been mentioned in the section titled "Usenet
software: a historical perspective>". It is titled ``News Need Not Be Slow'',
and is available from ftp://ftp.cs.toronto.edu/doc/programming/c-news.* or
from our Website (http://www.starcomsoftware.com/proj/usenet/doc/c-news.
{ps,pdf}).

It focuses on B News, analyses it for performance, and demonstrates how
specific changes in design and implementation can speed things up. It is
well-written, and is educative in many areas independent of Usenet news.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.2.2. The Usenix paper on INN

This paper talks about the things that C News didn't address, and takes
Usenet news processing into the world of pure Internet connectivity. Its
author is Rich Salz, the author of INN, and the paper is titled
``InterNetNews: Usenet Transport for Internet Sites.'' This can be picked up
from ftp://ftp.uu.net/networking/news/nntp/inn/inn.usenix.ps.Z or from our
Website (http://www.starcomsoftware.com/proj/usenet/doc/inn.usenix.{ps,pdf}),
uncompressed. Be warned: this PostScript file is probably missing some
mandatory first-line tag like %!PS-Adobe-1.0 and some PostScript processors
can have problems with it. For instance, on our Linux boxes, ghostview can
display it, but kghostview can't, which is very strange.

This paper analyses the world of Usenet servers with C News and NNTPd, in the
presence of multiple parallel feeds, and proceeds to build a case for a
powerful NNTP-optimised software architecture which will handle multiple
parallel incoming NNTP feeds efficiently. What later INN users appear to miss
sometimes when comparing C-News+NNTPd with INN, is that INN's strengths are 
only in situations which its author had specifically targeted, i.e. multiple
parallel incoming NNTP feeds. There is no clear superiority of one system
over the other in any other situation.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.2.3. The C News guide

This document is part of the C-News source, and is available in the c-news/
doc directory of the source tree. The makefile here uses troff and the source
files to generate guide.ps. This C News Guide is a very well-written document
and provides an introduction to the functioning of C News.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.3. O'Reilly's books on Usenet news

O'Reilly and Associates had an excellent book that can form the foundations
for understanding C-News and Usenet news in general, titled ``Managing UUCP
and Usenet,'' dated 1992. This was considered a bit dated because it did not
cover INN or the Internet protocols.

They have subsequently published a more recent book, titled ``Managing
Usenet,'' written by Henry Spencer, the co-author of C-News, and David
Lawrence, one of the most respected Usenet veterans and administrators today.
The book was published in 1998 and includes both C-News and INN.

We have a distinct preference for books published by O'Reilly; we usually
find them the best books on their subjects. We make no attempts to hide this
bias. We recommend both books. In fact, we believe that there is very little
of value in this HOWTO for someone who studies one of these books and then
peruses information on the Internet.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.4. Usenet-related RFCs

TO BE ADDED
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.5. The source code

TO BE ADDED
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.6. Usenet newsgroups

There are many discussion groups on the Usenet dedicated to the technical and
non-technical issues in managing a Usenet server and service. These are:

��*�news.admin.technical Discusses technical issues about administering
    Usenet news
   
��*�news.admin.policy Discusses policy issues about Usenet news
   
��*�news.software.b Discusses C-News (no separate newsgroup was created after
    B-News gave way to C-News) source, configuration and bugs (if any)
   

MORE WILL BE ADDED LATER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

14.7. We

We, at Starcom Software, offer the services of our Usenet news team to
provide assistance to you by email, as a service to the Linux and Usenet
administrator community, on a best effort basis.

We also offer you an integrated source distribution of C News, NNTPd, as
discussed earlier in the section titled "Setting up C News + NNTPd>". This
integrated source distribution fixes some bugs in the component packages it
includes, and it comes pre-configured with ready made configuration files
which allow all components to be compiled and installed on a Linux server in
a manner by which they can work together (e.g. key directory paths are
specified consistently across all components, etc.) This is available at
http://www.starcomsoftware.com/proj/usenet/src/

The URL http://www.starcomsoftware.com/proj/usenet/src/archives/ holds the
original sources of some of the software components we base our distribution
on. These include C News (c-news.tar.Z), NNTPd (nntp.1.5.12.1.tar.Z), and
Nestor (nestor.tar.Z). Other components, like pgpverify are maintained by
their current maintainers and can be obtained from their respective sites.
Therefore, they are not included in our archives.

The URL http://www.starcomsoftware.com/proj/usenet/doc/ carries copies of
some of the important technical articles and Usenix papers on the subject of
the Usenet.

We will endeavour to answer all queries sent to usenet@starcomsoftware.com,
pertaining to the source distribution we have put together and its
configuration and maintenance, and also pertaining to general technical
issues related to running a Usenet news service off a Unix or Linux server.

We may not be in a position to assist with software components we are not
familiar with, e.g. Leafnode, or platforms we do not have access to, e.g. SGI
IRIX. Intel Linux will be supported as long as our group is alive; our entire
office runs on Linux servers and diskless Linux desktops.

You are not forced to be dependent on us, because neither do we have
proprietary knowledge nor proprietary closed-source software. All the
extensions we are currently involved in with C-News and NNTPd will
immediately be made available to the Internet in freely redistributable
source form.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

15. Wrapping up

15.1. Acknowledgements

This HOWTO is a by-product of many years of experience setting up and
managing Usenet news servers. We have learned a lot from those who have trod
the path ahead of us. Some of them include the team of the ERNET Project
(Educational and Research Network), which brought the Internet technology to
India's academic institutions in the early nineties. We specially remember
what we have learned from the SIGSys Group of the Department of Computer
Science of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. We have also benefited
enormously from the guidance we received from the Networking Group at the
NCST (National Centre for Software Technology) in Mumbai, specially from
Geetanjali Sampemane.

On a wider scale, our learning along the path of systems and networks started
with Unix, without which our appreciation of computer systems would have
remained very fragmented and superficial. Our insight into Unix came from our
``Village Elders'' in the Department of Computer Science of the IIT (Indian
Institute of Technology) at Mumbai, specially from ``Hattu,'' ``Sathe,'' and
``Sapre,'' none of whom are with the IIT today, and from Professor D. B.
Phatak and others, many of whom, luckily are still with the Institute.

Coming to Starcom, all the members of Starcom Software who have worked on
various problems with networking, Linux, and Usenet news installations have
helped the authors in understanding what works and what doesn't. Without
their work, this HOWTO would have been a dry text book.

Hema Kariyappa co-authored the first couple of versions of this HOWTO,
starting with v2.0.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

15.2. Comments invited

Your comments and contributions are invited. We cannot possibly write all
sections of this HOWTO based on our knowledge alone. Please contribute all
you can, starting with minor corrections and bug fixes and going on to entire
sections and chapters. Your contributions will be acknowledged in the HOWTO.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

15.3. Copyright

Copyright (c) 2002 Starcom Software Private Limited, India

Please freely copy and distribute (sell or give away) this document in any
format. It is requested that corrections and/or comments be fowarded to the
document maintainer, reachable at usenet@starcomsoftware.com. When these
comments and contributions are incorporated into this document and released
for distribution in future versions of this HOWTO, the content of the
incorporated text will become the copyright of Starcom Software Private
Limited. By submitting your contributions to us, you implicitly agree to
these terms.

You may create a derivative work and distribute it provided that you:

 1. Send your derivative work (in the most suitable format such as SGML) to
    the LDP (Linux Documentation Project) or the like for posting on the
    Internet. If not the LDP, then let the LDP know where it is available.
   
 2. License the derivative work with this same license or use GPL. Include a
    copyright notice and at least a pointer to the licence used.
   
 3. Give due credit to previous authors and major contributors. If you are
    considering making a derived work other than a translation, it is
    requested that you discuss your plans with the current maintainer.
   

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
15.4. About Starcom Software Private Limited

starcom (Starcom Software Private Limited, www.starcomsoftware.com) has been
building products and solutions using Linux and Web technology since 1996.
Our entire office runs on Linux, and we have built mission-critical solutions
for some of the top corporate entities in India and abroad. Our client list
includes arguably the world's largest securities depository (The National
Securities Depository Limited, India, www.nsdl.com), one of the world's top
five stock exchanges in terms of trading volumes (The National Stock Exchange
of India Limited, www.nseindia.com), and one of India's premier financial
institutions listed on the NYSE. In all these cases, we have introduced them
to Linux, and in many cases, we have built them their first mission-critical
business applications on Linux. Contact the authors or check the Starcom
Website for more information about the work we have done.

Notes

[1]  This lack of a restart facility is something NNTP shares with its older 
     cousin, SMTP, and we have often seen email messages getting stuck in a  
     similar fashion over flaky data links. In many such networks which we   
     manage for our clients, we have moved the inter-server mail transfer to 
     Taylor UUCP, using UUCP over TCP.                                       
[2]  One of us did his first installation with with BNews, actually, at the  
     IIT Mumbai. Then we rapidly moved from there to CNews Shellscript       
     Release, then CNews Performance Release, CNews Cleanup Release, and our 
     current release has fixed some bugs in the latest Cleanup Release.      





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