21.5. Article Batching

News batches follow a particular format that is the same for B News, C News, and INN. Each article is preceded by a line like this:
#! rnews count

count is the number of bytes in the article. When you use batch compression, the resulting file is compressed as a whole and preceded by another line, indicated by the message to be used for unpacking. The standard compression tool is compress, which is marked by:
#! cunbatch

Sometimes, when the news server sends batches via mail software that removes the eighth bit from all data, a compressed batch may be protected using what is called c7-encoding; these batches will be marked by c7unbatch.

When a batch is fed to rnews on the remote site, it checks for these markers and processes the batch appropriately. Some sites also use other compression tools, like gzip, and precede their gzipped files with the word zunbatch instead. C News does not recognize nonstandard headers like these; you have to modify the source to support them.

In C News, article batching is performed by /usr/lib/news/batch/sendbatches, which takes a list of articles from the site/togo file and puts them into several newsbatches. It should be executed once per hour, or even more frequently, depending on the volume of traffic. Its operation is controlled by the batchparms file in /var/lib/news. This file describes the maximum batch size allowed for each site, the batching and optional compression program to be used, and the transport for delivering it to the remote site. You may specify batching parameters on a per-site basis, as well as a set of default parameters for sites not explicitly mentioned.

When installing C News, you will most likely find a batchparms file in your distribution that contains a reasonable default entry, so there's a good chance that you won't have to touch the file. Just in case, we describe its format. Each line consists of six fields, separated by spaces or tabs:
site size max batcher muncher transport


site is the name of the site to which the entry applies. The togo file for this site must reside in out.going /togo below the news spool. A site name of /default/ denotes the default entry and is to match any site not directly specified with an entry unique to it.


size is the maximum size of article batches created (before compression). For single articles larger than this, C News makes an exception and puts each in a single batch by itself.


max is the maximum number of batches created and scheduled for transfer before batching stalls for this particular site. This is useful in case the remote site should be down for a long time, because it prevents C News from cluttering your UUCP spool directories with zillions of newsbatches.

C News determines the number of queued batches using the queuelen script in /usr/lib/news/. If you've installed C News in a prepackaged format, the script should not need any editing, but if you choose to use a different flavor of spool directories, for example, Taylor UUCP, you might have to write your own. If you don't care about the number of spool files (because you're the only person using your computer and you don't write articles by the megabyte), you may replace the script's contents by a simple exit 0 statement.


The batcher field contains the command used for producing a batch from the list of articles in the togo file. For regular feeds, this is usually batcher. For other purposes, alternative batchers may be provided. For instance, the ihave/sendme protocol requires the article list to be turned into ihave or sendme control messages, which are posted to the newsgroup to.site. This is performed by batchih and batchsm.


The muncher field specifies the compression command. Usually, this is compcun, a script that produces a compressed batch.[1] Alternatively, suppose you create a muncher that uses gzip, say gzipcun (note that you have to write it yourself ). You have to make sure that uncompress on the remote site is patched to recognize files compressed with gzip.

If the remote site does not have an uncompress command, you may specify nocomp, which does not do any compression.


The last field, transport, describes the transport to be used. A number of standard commands for different transports are available; their names begin with via. sendbatches passes them the destination sitename on the command line. If the batchparms entry is not /default/, sendbatches derives the sitename from the site field by stripping it of anything after and including the first dot or slash. If the batchparms entry is /default/, the directory names in out.going are used.

To perform batching for a specific site, use the following command:
# su news -c "/usr/lib/news/batch/sendbatches site"

When invoked without arguments, sendbatches handles all batch queues. The interpretation of “all” depends on the presence of a default entry in batchparms. If one is found, all directories in /var/spool/news/out.going are checked; otherwise, sendbatches cycles through all entries in batchparms, processing just the sites found there. Note that sendbatches, when scanning the out.going directory, takes only those directories that contain no dots or at signs (@) as sitenames.

There are two commands that use uux to execute rnews on the remote system: viauux and viauuxz. The latter sets the –z flag for uux to keep older versions from returning success messages for each article delivered. Another command, viamail, sends article batches to the user rnews on the remote system via mail. Of course, this requires that the remote system somehow feeds all mail for rnews to its local news system. For a complete list of these transports, refer to the newsbatch manual page.

All commands from the last three fields must be located in either out.going/site or /usr/lib/news/batch. Most of them are scripts; you can easily tailor new tools for your personal needs. They are invoked through pipes. The list of articles is fed to the batcher on standard input, which produces the batch on standard output. This is piped into the muncher, and so on.

Here is a sample file:

# batchparms file for the brewery
# site        | size   |max    |batcher  |muncher    |transport
/default/       100000  22      batcher   compcun     viauux
swim             10000  10      batcher   nocomp      viauux



As shipped with C News, compcun uses compress with the 12-bit option, since this is the lowest common denominator for most sites. You may produce a copy of the script, say compcun16, for which you use 16-bit compression. The improvement is not too impressive, though.