Last-modified: Sun Apr 13 00:41:20 EDT 1997
How to Become a Usenet Site
Chris Lewis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jonathan Kamens <email@example.com>
The most up-to-date copy of this FAQ can always be obtained from:
NOTE: I do not operate a "help service". Please do not mail me
unless you have corrections, suggestions or additions for this FAQ.
Please note that the Reply-To: is intentionally erroneous - each time
this gets posted, a few dozen people send me copies of the FAQ for
some unknown reason. The true address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Changes: Removed site list. It obsoletes too quickly.
Altered reference for MSDOS mail/Usenet FAQ.
Updates to remain current.
This article attempts to summarize, in a general way, the steps
involved in setting up a machine to be on Usenet.
It assumes that you already have some sort of Usenet access (otherwise,
how did you get this article?), or at the very least, that you have ftp
or mail server access to get to some of the files mentioned in it, and
that you are trying to configure your own site to be on Usenet after
| using some other site for some time. If this assumption is incorrect,
then ask whoever made this article available to you to help you get
access to the resources mentioned below.
Before reading this posting, you should be familiar with the contents
of the introductory postings in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup,
most importantly the posting titled "Usenet Software: History and
Sources". Many of the terms used below are defined in those postings.
The news.announce.newusers postings (and the other Usenet postings
mentioned below) are accessible in the periodic posting archive on
rtfm.mit.edu [18.104.22.168], in /pub/usenet via anonymous ftp, or via
E-mail by sending a message to email@example.com (send a message
with "help" in the body to get more information).
One final comment... Many people get confused between what Usenet and
the Internet is. The Internet is, simply, the network of computers in
the world talking to each other via TCP/IP - a specific communications
protocol which is used by many applications, such as mail, Usenet etc.
In contrast, Usenet is essentially a multi-user BBS system that allows
people to talk to each other on various subjects. The Internet is very
much like the wires in a cable TV system, and Usenet is the TV programs
themselves. It's important to note that you don't have to be on the
Internet to be a part of Usenet, and vice-versa.
Table of Contents
Steps to Getting Connected
Make the decision -- do you *really* want to do this?
Find a site to feed you news and/or mail.
Finding feeds for a UUCP site.
Finding feeds for an Internet site.
Get the software.
Do what it says.
Register your site on the network.
Please comment on this posting!
Subject: Steps to Getting Connected
There are five basic steps involved in configuring a machine to be a
Subject: Make the decision -- do you *really* want to do this?
If you just want to read Usenet yourself, then putting your machine
onto Usenet is probably not what you want to do. The process of
doing so can be time-consuming, and regular maintenance is also
required. Furthermore, the resources consumed by a full Usenet setup
on a machine are significant:
- disk space for the programs (a few Mb for the binaries, another
couple of Mb for any sources you keep online);
| - disk space for the articles - currently (as of May, 1996)
| around 1.2Gb a day, although it is possible to minimize
the amount of disk space consumed by articles by carefully
selecting which newsgroups and/or hierarchies you wish to
- Communications bandwidth: for practicality, you should have
either a fractional T1 or T1 (1.544Mbps) or faster NNTP link.
It is no longer possible to run a full feed over 28.8K modem
or 56K TCP/IP NNTP links; and
- fees if you're paying someone to provide you with a news feed.
| A serious Usenet server system, carrying all of the standard 8 Usenet
| hierarchies, a large hunk of alt.* and various regionals, is typically
| going to need a Sparc 20/HP 9000/7xx series or better, with 64Mb or
| more RAM, and at least 8Gb of disk. Alternatively, an equivalent
| Linux-based SCSI Pentium system has been used with success. One
| particularly good high end configuration, is INN 1.4unoff4 on a
| multiprocess Sparc 20 or Ultra, with 256 Mb of RAM and 12Gb of disk.
| If you want to build inexpensive "building block" servers for wide
| geographic areas, multiple HP 9000/712, with 96Mb of RAM and enough disk,
| runs out of CPU, LAN and disk bandwidth simultaneously at about
| 500 simultaneous users.
A home system for a few people, can usually fit into a much smaller
machine, such as a Sun 3 or 386-class PC compatible, plus 25-50Mb of
disk for news. Until recently, my home machine was an AT&T 3b1 (about
the performance of a IBM PC/AT) with 60Mb of disk - it was just fine
for a small newsfeed and a fair amount of mail.
You might choose, instead, to get an account on a public-access
Usenet site on which you can read news by dialing up. See, for
example, the "Nixpub posting" articles in comp.misc and the "PDIAL"
article in alt.bbs.lists. There are Freenets springing up all over
Even if there are no public-access Usenet sites that are a local
phone call away from you, you might still choose this approach,
especially if you only read a few (low traffic) groups. Using a
public-access site that is accessible via PC Pursuit or some other
packet network might still be cheaper and/or easier than setting up
the feed, transferring the news and configuring your machine to store
| You should be sure that the benefits you are going to get by storing
| news locally are going to outweigh the costs before deciding to
| proceed. If you want news for a standalone machine, you can either
| set up a genuine news feed with the appropriate software, or you can
| run an offline newsreader under SLIP or PPP connection to an Internet
| service provider. The case for reading and answering news offline
| (avoiding long-distance charges) is a convincing one. To explain why,
| let me include an alternative perspective, from firstname.lastname@example.org, on
| working offline:
When you get to long distance calls, reading the news on-line gets the
cost rising fast. A few seconds to skip an article you've no interest
in, maybe a minute to take in a good one plus more time to save it and
download it later. But when the whole lot is batched together (as
news), a) it only takes a few minutes and b) it's all conveniently
automated. Sure, configuring the hardware and software may take a
(small) time - but it's something you only do once.
| For SLIP/PPP users, the new generation of offline newsreaders allow for
| fast processing of updates to newsgroups, retrieval of new articles and
| posting of replies and emails. See also alt.usenet.offline-reader for
| discussion of such products.
Perhaps I see "news administration" as a simple task because
one of the ways I make my living is by operating news servers - I
am presently responsible for one of the largest non-University, non-ISP
news systems in the world - news administration is now second nature.
But I believe that, aside from the very initial stages, and provided
that you haven't cut too many corners in hardware, news administration is
relatively easy. It should be almost zero maintainance on a properly
selected "small" system.
Subject: Find a site to feed you news and/or mail.
In order to make your machine a Usenet site, you need to find other
sites on Usenet that are willing to feed you news and/or mail.
You might want to locate more than one such site if you want higher
Subject: Finding feeds for a UUCP site.
If you are going to be using a modem (and, presumably, UUCP) to
transfer your news and mail, then then there are several resources you
can use when trying to locate a feed site:
Subject: By Comp.mail.maps
Find the postings in the comp.mail.maps newsgroup for your state,
country, or whatever. Look in it for sites that sound like they are
local to you. Contact their administrators and ask if they would be
willing to give you a feed.
Comp.mail.maps is archived at several anonymous ftp and mail
server sites, including ftp.uu.net, so you can examine map entries
even if the maps have expired at your news-reading site (or if you
do not currently have Usenet access). See the article entitled
"UUCP map for README" in the comp.mail.maps newsgroup or archives
for more information about the maps.
The comp.mail.maps postings are also archived in rtfm.mit.edu's
periodic posting archive, which was mentioned in detail above.
Subject: By News.admin.misc
Post a message to news.admin.misc. If at all possible, post it with a
restricted distribution, so that only people who are likely to be able
to give you a feed will have to get it (e.g. if you have posting access
on a machine in Massachusetts, and the site you're setting up is going
to be in Massachusetts, then post with a distribution of "ne").
Note that you can post to news.admin.misc even if you do not have
direct Usenet access right now, as long as you have E-mail access, by
sending your message to a mail-to-news gateway. However, if you use a
gateway, you probably can't use a restricted distribution as described
above, since the gateway probably isn't in the distribution you want to
post to, and besides, it's not clear that they listen to the
| "Distribution:" header in postings that are mailed to it. Note that
| there doesn't seem to be any public mail-to-news gateways around any
| longer due to abuse.
When posting your message, try to be as specific as possible. Mention
where you are, how you intend to transfer news from your feed site to
you (e.g. what kind of modem, how fast), approximately how many
newsgroups you are going to want to get and from which hierarchies, and
perhaps what kind of machine it's all for. A descriptive Subject line
such as "news feed wanted -- Boston, MA" is also useful.
If there is a regional hierarchy for the distribution in which you want
a feed, then you might want to post a message in one of the regional
newsgroups as well, or cross-post your message to one of the regional
newsgroups. Look first for an "admin" group (e.g. "ne.admin"), then
(if there is no admin group) a "config" group, then for a "general" or
Subject: Commercial Services
If all else fails, you may have to resort to paying someone to
provide you with a feed.
For more information about many network service providers, see the
anonymous ftp file /dirofdirs/provider on ftp.internic.net. Also, the
book "Connecting to the Internet" (see the "Bibliography" section
below) contains a list of Internet service providers and instructions
for getting an updated version of the list.
Some regional network service providers, especially in large urban
areas, offer both UUCP and TCP/IP service via modem or leased line.
If you can find such a company, the cost of a dedicated (leased
line) Internet connection will often be cheaper and more desirable
than a UUCP connection, if you plan on using it for a full newsfeed
or for frequent downloading. Some companies can offer combined
voice and data connections using T1 links, for large-scale users
seeking both Internet access and low-cost toll telephone service.
For more information about the possibility of hooking up to the
network, see the "How to Get Information about Networks" posting in
d. Special information for European users
(This section discusses the various big European networks. There
are also smaller service providers, such as ExNet Systems (see
above), in Europe.)
In Europe, you can get a feed from one of EUNet's national networks.
EUNet has recently gone commercial, though particular national
networks may still be not-for-profit. Most provide help on getting
started, can provide source for the mail and news software and lists
of sites who have indicated they will provide feeds. They also act
as Internet forwarders (see below for more information on this). To
contact them, try sending mail to email@example.com or
firstname.lastname@example.org. The "country" in this case should be
whatever country you're in. See http://www.eunet.ch for more
information on EUNet.
Note that the national networks have a "no redistribution" policy
and have the option to cut off sites which break this rule. There
are other groups (such as sublink); see (a) and (b) above for
suggestions on how to contact them.
News can be had by satellite feed from Pagesat in Europe beginning 4Q
1995 or 1Q 1996. contact: Duane J. Dubay at the address given for
Pagesat Inc. in the section on Satellite links.
Subscribing to EUNet or to one of the NALnets (National Networks)
currently requires to be member of EurOpen either directly or
indirectly by being member of a NALUUG (National Unix User Group)
affiliated to EurOpen.
In the UK, smaller scale users and individuals can also get news
access via Demon Internet Systems. They provide very cheap dialup
Internet access, SLIP, PPP and name service entries. Contact them
(contact information is given above) for more information.
There are also several other network services providers, already
operational (or to become soon available for some of them).
Contrary to EUNet which generally accepts any organization as
customer, those networks may have restrictions and accept only some
kind of customers (generally academic and/or research) as they are
sometimes government funded.
Some of these networks are NORDunet (northern Europe), FUNET
(Finland), SWITCH (Switzerland), EASInet (European Academic
Supercomputing Initiative, mainly if not totally funded by IBM), DFN
(Germany), PIPEX(UK) and RENATER (France).
There are several anonymous ftp sites from which information about
all of these networks and about networking in Europe in general
might be obtained. They are ftp.switch.ch, ftp.easi.net,
ftp.ripe.net, ftp.eu.net, corton.inria.fr and nic.nordu.net.
Note that it is to your advantage to try to find a feed site that is
directly on the Internet, if you are not going to be. Getting a feed
from a site on the Internet will allow that site to act as your MX
forwarder (see section 5 below), and the fact that you are only one
hop off of the Internet will make both mail and news delivery fast
(assuming that the feed you get from the Internet site is for both
mail and news; of course, if you can only find someone willing to
forward mail to you but not to traffic with you the heavier load of a
news feed, then your mail delivery will still be fast).
Subject: Go satellite...
You can obtain access to Usenet via a dedicated satellite dish and a
subscription to the service. Pagesat Inc. provides the service,
the equipment and software needed to operate your own satellite downlink.
For more information and a complete literature package containing
specification sheets, a system overview, and color pictures, please email
your postal address to email@example.com or call Pagesat at (415) 424-0384.
In the US
992 San Antonio Rd.
Palo Alto, CA 94303
2035 Louie Dr.
Subject: Finding feeds for an Internet site.
It is beyond the scope of this document to discuss how you can get
onto the Internet yourself. However, many of the service providers
listed above provide Internet connections as well as newsfeeds and
will help you through the process of getting onto the Internet.
Furthermore, the book "Connecting to the Internet" (see the
"Bibliography" section below) is a step-by-step to the process of
getting connected, and contains a more extensive list of Internet
If you are already on the Internet and would like your news feed to
be over the Internet rather than over a modem link, then you might
want to look in the UUCP maps in comp.mail.maps, as mentioned above,
since many Usenet sites that are on the Internet are mentioned there.
News.admin.misc and the commercial services listed above are also
You can get a list of Dedicated Line Internet Access Providers
from firstname.lastname@example.org (just send an empty message).
For a list of dialup Internet service providers, send email to
email@example.com with the single line query
Subject: Get the software.
The "Usenet Software" posting referenced above goes into quite a bit
of detail about the software that is available. There are three
components in the software at a Usenet site: (a) the software that
transports the news (usually using either UUCP or NNTP), (b) the
software that stores the news on the local disks, expires old
articles, etc., and (c) the news-readers for looking at the news.
For example, if you're a UNIX site on the Internet and you're going
to be getting your news feed over the Internet, then you are probably
going to want to get one of the news transport packages mentioned in
the "Usenet Software" posting (e.g., INN or C News + NNTP), as well as
one or more of the UNIX news readers mentioned there.
Since you are probably going to be exchanging mail as well as news, and
the mail software that is shipped with the OS you are using might not
be powerful enough to handle mail exchanging with the rest of the
Usenet, you might want to obtain new mail software as well. There are
several packages you might choose you use. Discussion of them is
beyond the scope of this document; the books referenced below will
probably provide some useful information in this area. Furthermore, if
you are a UNIX site, the posting by Chris Lewis "UNIX Email Software
Survey FAQ [3 parts]", in news.admin.misc, comp.mail.misc and news.answers
(ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/mail/setup/) provides a
good introduction to the UNIX mail software that's out there. Finally,
Eric S. Johansson <firstname.lastname@example.org>'s "FAQ - UUCP Mail, News
| and Gateway Software for PCs and MACs" posting will help you to find
out more about the UUCP software that is available to you if you wish
to run it on a PC or Macintosh computer.
| [I understand that this FAQ is no longer separately posted, but see
| the comp.os.msdos.mail-news FAQ]
The basic idea is to go read the "Usenet Software" posting, and then
to work from there.
Europeans can ask their national backbone site, which will usually
either be a software archive or be closely associated with one.
UKNET, for example, provides an information pack explaining what is
needed and where (and how) to get it.
Subject: Do what it says.
Most of the software available for news transport or storage comes
with installation instructions. Follow them. This part should be
self-explanatory (although the instructions might not be :-).
Subject: Register your site on the network.
The "traditional" method of advertising your site to the rest of the
Usenet after setting it up is to get an entry for it added to the UUCP
maps. Doing this involves choosing a name for your site and submitting
a map entry indicating the name, other vital statistics, and a list of
your feed sites, preferentially weighted. Since many Usenet sites
still rely exclusively on the UUCP maps for routing mail, you will
almost certainly want to register in the maps. To find out more about
how to do this, read the "UUCP map for README" posting in
comp.mail.maps, referenced above.
However, the past several years have witnessed a dramatic increase in
the number of sites choosing to register host names in the Internet
Domain Name Service (DNS) hierarchy, in addition to getting a host
entry added to the UUCP maps. The DNS hierarchy is becomingly
increasingly standardized, and DNS name service is more reliable than
the UUCP maps. Therefore, if you register a DNS name for your site,
put that DNS name in your UUCP map entry as an alias for your site, and
use the DNS address rather than the UUCP host name in your mail and
Usenet postings, both UUCP hosts and hosts that do DNS will be able to
get mail to you more efficiently and reliably.
There are two types of DNS host records that are relevant here. If you
have opted to contract with a company for a direct connection to the
Internet, then you are probably going to want to register an address
record advertising what your address will be on the Internet. Hosts
which understand DNS can then use that record to connect directly to
your machine and deliver mail to it.
If, on the other hand, you are going to be getting your mail via UUCP
from some other site, then the host record you will be registering is a
Mail eXchange (MX) record. This record announces to the world that
mail destined to your host can be directed instead to another host that
IS directly on the Internet. That host is your "MX forwarder," and it
must be one of your feed sites that knows how to deliver mail to you.
In fact, you can have multiple MX records if you have multiple feeds on
the Internet and want it to be possible for mail to be routed through
all of them (for increased reliability), if they are willing. Note
that if you use a commercial service provider for your mail feed, it
will probably also be your MX forwarder.
Even if none of your feeds are on the Internet, you may be able to get
an MX record, by finding an Internet site that is willing to receive
your mail and put it on its way through the correct UUCP route. There
are currently at least a couple of sites willing to perform this
service for no charge, in order to encourage the increased use of DNS
records. You can therefore probably locate an MX forwarder by posting
to news.admin.misc and asking if anyone is willing to forward for you.
The procedure for registering a DNS record is quite simple. For some
Network Information Centers (the people who handle domain registration,
a.k.a. NICs), e.g., the InterNIC (see Internet RFC 1400 for more
information about the InterNIC) which handles domain registration for
the original Arpanet domains (COM, EDU, etc., as opposed to the
geographic domains such as US for the United States, FR for France,
etc.), it takes a month or less; others, unfortunately, might take a
lot longer. Note that many commercial service providers, such as
UUNET, will take care of this for you when you ask for a network
connection or news/mail feed from them.
Whether you decide to register an address record or an MX record, you
need to decide what your DNS host name is going to be. Since the DNS
is arranged in a hierarchy, you need to decide what hierarchy your name
will appear in. For example, you might choose to be in the ".us"
domain if you are in the United States and want to be in the United
States geographical hierarchy. Alternatively, you might choose ".edu"
for a University, ".org" for a non-profit organization, ".com" for a
commercial company, etc. For more information about the various
hierarchies and about choosing a host name, see the "How to Get
Information about Networks" posting already referenced.
If you are not in the US, you're theoretically supposed to have no
choice about the top-level domain -- it should always be the two-letter
ISO code for your country (".fr", ".de", etc.). However, depending on
how and how well you are connected to the network, you might be able to
get away with being in one of the older domains mentioned above
(".edu", ".org", etc.). If you want to find out how to get a host name
in a particular European domain, you can probably start by sending mail
to email@example.com and asking for more information.
Once you have determined your host name, you need to determine one or
more hosts (preferably two or three, so that even if one is having
trouble, the others will fill in for it) that will act as your "name
servers," advertising your host name to anyone who asks for it. Note
that many hierarchies have their own name servers, which means that
when you go through the process of figuring out which domain your host
name will be in, you may find some name servers available to you
already. Furthermore, if you opt to go with a commercial service
provider as described above, your service provider will probably be
willing to act as a name server. Different domain-administration
organizations may require fewer or more name servers (e.g. the NIC
(mentioned below) requires at least two).
Once you've got your host name picked out, you need to submit an
application to the authorities for the domain you've chosen. Many of
the domains, for example, are managed by the InterNIC -- to submit an
application to one of those domains, you would get the file
DOMAIN-TEMPLATE.TXT via anonymous ftp from rs.internic.net
(ftp://rs.internic.net/templates/) fill it out, and
mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will probably determine the
correct method for applying for a host name in your domain during the
course of investigating which domain to put your host name in.
If you submit an application and don't get any acknowlegement or
response in a couple of weeks, it's a good idea to send another note to
the same address as you sent your original application to, asking if it
Even if you aren't going to be connecting directly to Internet at the
start, if your site is using any TCP/IP-based equipment, you should
request a block of IP addresses, to save future transition headaches.
Request one Class C address per subnet, or a Class B if your site has a
large number of systems on multiple subnets (for the precise
guidelines, see Internet RFCs 1366 and 1367). If you don't understand
any of this and don't intend on getting on the Internet, don't worry
about it. If/when you do decide to get onto the Internet, your service
provider should be prepared to help you understand what needs to be
Once your application has been approved and your name entered into your
name servers' databases, update the mail software on your system and on
your MX forwarder's system to recognize and use the new domain.
[A final note: Much of the information in this section about the DNS
system is sketchy. It is intentionally so, since all of this
information is available from a number of different sources, and they
cover it much better than I can here. If you are interested in finding
out more about how the DNS works, you are strongly urged yet again to
read the "How to Get Information About Networks" posting and to follow
up on the sources of documentation that it references. You might also
want to read the book "Connecting to the Internet"; see the entry for
it in the "Bibliography" section below.]
Subject: Obtaining RFCs
RFCs can be obtained via FTP from VENERA.ISI.EDU, with the pathname
in-notes/rfcnnnn.txt (where "nnnn" refers to the number of the RFC).
Login with FTP username "anonymous" and password "guest".
RFCs can also be obtained via electronic mail from VENERA.ISI.EDU by
using the RFC-INFO service. Address the request to "email@example.com"
with a message body of:
(Where "nnnn" refers to the number of the RFC (always use 4 digits -
the DOC-ID of RFC-822 is "RFC0822")). The RFC-INFO@ISI.EDU server
provides other ways of selecting RFCs based on keywords and such; for
more information send a message to "firstname.lastname@example.org" with the message
body "help: help".
In addition to the resources already mentioned, there are several
books which discuss getting on the Internet and Usenet and/or UUCP
maintenance. Here's a bibliography of a few of them (some of these
entries are culled from a book-list posting by Mitch Wright
<email@example.com> in comp.unix.questions):
TITLE: Connecting to the Internet
AUTHOR: Estrada, Susan
PUBLISHER: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
SUGGESTED_BY: Jonathan Kamens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
AUTHOR: Albitz, Paul
AUTHOR: Liu, Cricket:
TITLE: DNS and BIND,
PUBLISHER: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
Date: October 1992.
SUGGESTED_BY: Chris Lewis <email@example.com>
TITLE: Managing UUCP and Usenet
AUTHOR: O'Reilly, Tim
AUTHOR: Todino, Grace
PUBLISHER: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
KEYWORDS: Nutshell Handbook
SUGGESTED_BY: Mitch Wright <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The above book is the classic reference, but is now obsolete.
It doesn't mention INN (or Taylor UUCP), and barely even
discusses C news. I understand a new version is in the works
by some of the most respected people in the field.
TITLE: Unix Communications
AUTHOR: Anderson, Bart
AUTHOR: Costales, Barry
AUTHOR: Henderson, Harry
SUBJECT: Communication Reference
PUBLISHER: The Waite Group
KEYWORDS: UUCP, Usenet
Covers everything the end user needs to know about email, Usenet
TITLE: Using UUCP and Usenet
AUTHOR: Todino, Grace
AUTHOR: Dougherty, Dale
PUBLISHER: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
KEYWORDS: Nutshell Handbook
SUGGESTED_BY: Mitch Wright <email@example.com>
If you are going to be setting up a UUCP/modem Usenet site, you will
probably find these books quite useful, especially if the UUCP
documentation that comes with the OS you're running is sparse.
The documentation that comes with Taylor UUCP is excellent, and
well worth reading even if you're not using Taylor UUCP.
Subject: Please comment on this posting!
Comments about, suggestions about or corrections to this posting are
welcomed. If you would like to ask me to change this posting in some
way, the method I appreciate most is for you to actually make the
desired modifications to a copy of the posting, and then to send me
the modified posting, or a context diff between my posted version and
your modified version (if you do the latter, make sure to include in
your mail the "Version:" line from my posted version). Submitting
changes in this way makes dealing with them easier for me and helps to
avoid misunderstandings about what you are suggesting.
Rich Braun <firstname.lastname@example.org> provided most of the information
above about registering DNS records, and provided other useful
comments and suggestions. email@example.com provided some very useful
rewriting as well as some different perspectives that helped to make
the article more general, as well as providing some specific
information about working in Europe, as well as providing other useful
The following people provided useful comments and suggestions about
[Elided to prevent UCE address collection.]