This page provides solutions to common UseNet problems:
Clicking on one of the items below will take you to the solution.
UseNet is part of the Internet but is very different from the World Wide Web. Instead of having countless web sites as you have on the World Wide Web, on UseNet you have thousands of newsgroups - which are like bulletin boards - where people post messages and others can respond if they want to. There are well over 50,000 newsgroups in existence, each dedicated to a specific subject - such as astronomy, writing, religion, cartoons, Playboy magazine, Alicia Silverstone, supermodels, X-Files, cats, dogs, cars, show business gossip, Babylon-5, etc. And some are dedicated to exchanging information about celebrities or pictures of celebrities.
Click HERE to view an illustration that shows the difference between the World Wide Web and UseNet.
Over 90 percent of The Fake Detective's photo collection comes from postings to celebrity newsgroups that he has collected over the past two years. He spends most of his on-line time browsing newsgroups and very rarely goes hunting for web sites since the contents of Newsgroups are different every day and web sites rarely change.
To access UseNet you have to have a "browser" with a news reader capability or a separate "news reader" and you must have access to a "news server" which may or may not be supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Chances are you already have all of these items and can easily access UseNet newsgroups.
Here are some definitions:
Browser: A browser is a separate program such as Netscape or Internet Explorer or a part of a service such as America On-Line (AOL), Prodigy or CompuServe. It provides you with an easy way to view web sites on The World Wide Web. Often a browser also includes a mail reader for sending and receiving e-mail, and a news reader for posting and reading messages on UseNet newsgroups.
News Reader: A news reader is a program that formats messages for you; it connects to a News Server and allows you to easily read and post messages to newsgroups on UseNet. Netscape, Internet Explorer, AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe all include news readers, but many people use independent news server programs such as Outlook Express, Free Agent, Agent, Gravity, NewsXpress, etc.
News Server: A news server is a news service which may or may not be supplied by your Internet Service Provider and which may or may not use the ISP's own computers. Large Internet Service Providers (Such as AOL and AT&T) have their own news servers. Smaller ISPs contract with independent news servers to provide a similar service. All the messages that the news server provides to its customers are stored on its own computer storage devices.
Internet Services Provider (ISP): An Internet Service Provider is the basic service you much have in order to connect to the Internet. It's the company you write your check to every month (or every few months) to supply you with a connection to the Internet. AOL, Prodigy, AT&T and wi.net are Internet Service Providers. Some ISPs have local connections all over the world, others are very localized. WI.NET only has connections in southeastern Wisconsin. The Fake Detective uses wi.net because it has a local number which costs only 7 cents per call (regardless of length). If you want to change to another ISP, we recommend that you begin by checking your local phone directory under "Internet On-Line Service Providers". Unless you have no other choice or just love to spend lots of money, never connect to the Internet via long distance lines!
If you are not sure if your ISP provides a News Server, one way to find out (assuming you have a good browser) is to click on this link (which should take you directly to the Playboy newsgroup): news:alt.mag.playboy
This Netscape news reader screen consists of three basic windows (which can be adjusted in size): Window One, at the upper left, shows the names of news servers you can access and the newgroups within the news servers. Window Two, at the upper right, shows the sender of the messages, the subjects and other information about the messages in the selected newsgroup. Window Three, at the bottom, shows the contents of the specific message you have selected.
Subscribing to newsgroups:
Since there are well over 50,000 newsgroups available, you probably don't want to look at them all, so you should select the ones you want to see by "subscribing". Every news server provides a master list of newsgroups from which you can "subscribe" to the newsgroups you would you like to see. Click HERE to view what part of the master list looks like.
In Netscape, "subscribing" just means you have clicked on the box next to the newsgroup name and a check mark appeared. If you later change your mind, clicking on the same box removes the check mark. Each time you access your news reader you will be shown only those newsgroups to which you are "subscribed". Here is an example list of "subscribed" newsgroups on Netscape.
UseNet Problems:"SPAM" and Missing messages.
Because posting pictures to UseNet newsgroups has become so popular during the past few years (thousands of Playboy pictures are posted to the Playboy newsgroup every day, thousands more pictures to the Penthouse newsgroup, and there are hundreds of picture newsgroups) the costs of running a news server have increased dramatically and many Internet Service Providers now give their customers very limited access to UseNet - or no access at all.
In addition, pornographers and other people with products to sell have found UseNet a very inexpensive place to advertise, so UseNet has become flooded with "spam", i.e., advertisements. On a typical celebrity newsgroup, a third of the messages are often "spam" advertisements for porn sites.
But UseNet can still be great if you know a few facts:
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may not have direct access to UseNet but may contract with an independent News Server instead, paying them a fee for the service. Large Internet Service Providers can afford to eliminate that fee by establishing their own News Servers. AOL has it's own news server. So does Prodigy. In big cities you may have a choice of excellent Internet Service Providers with excellent News Servers. In smaller cities you may not be able to find any ISP that has a good New Server. Large ISPs with large News Servers can also afford to implement filters to eliminate most "spam", thus saving them the cost of storing all that junk while also pleasing their customers by getting rid of most "spam".
A News Server does not access web sites as you do with the World Wide Web. A News Server collects as many messages as they can from all the messages that are posted from all over the world on the entire UseNet network, and they store copies of them on their own disk files for viewing by their customers. At one time, when most messages were just text, this was very easy and inexpensive to do. But today, when many many messages contain pictures, vast amounts of expensive disk storage space are required.
In the language of UseNet, pictures are often called "binaries". So when you see the word "binaries" in the title of a newsgroup, you know it is a newsgroup dedicated to messages that are mostly pictures.
Because of the expense involved in storing all the pictures that are now so popular on UseNet, and because ISPs often will not pay the News Servers any extra for a service that only a few of its customers use, many News Servers have been forced to cut back on what they provide. They cut back by reducing the number of messages that they store, they reduce the length of time that they keep the messages on file, and they reduce the number of newsgroups to which they provide access.
Because of various problems with local news servers, over the years The Fake Detective has checked out 7 different local ISPs with 7 different news servers, plus AOL & Prodigy, plus 30 free news servers and several commercial news servers. Normally he just uses a commercial news server, but on rare occasions he also checks the news server supplied by his ISP.
A Comparison of News Servers.
The table below shows the total number of messages that were available
on a typical day (November 14, 1998) from a commercial news server and
from the news server provided by The Fake Detective's local ISP. In addition,
it should be noted that: Not only did the local ISP provide only a small
fraction of the total messages, but much of it is "spam".
Click HERE to view the actual screens that showed this comparison of two different News Servers. Since both were accessed via Netscape, the screens also show the number of new (unread) messages for that day in addition to the total messages available. This information also illustrates how The Fake Detective's local ISP's News Server generally retains binary messages on file for only a single day. That means if he didn't check every day, he would miss a response to your message, and he may even miss the response because the news server simply ignored it to keep expenses down.
In dramatic contrast, the commercial news server keeps text newsgroup messages on file for several weeks and binary newsgroup messages on file for about a week.
SIGNING UP FOR A COMMERCIAL NEWS SERVER
There are a number of different
commercial news servers available. Some are better
The Fake Detective recommends Giganews. For details, click HERE.
Commerical news servers are an extra cost. Prices range from around $5.90 per month to well over $20 per month, usually depending upon how much bandwidth you use.
If you want to know more about signing up for a commercial news server and/or want to do a comparison of commercial news servers to see which is best for you, go to http://www.yahoo.com and look under Computers. There do a search on "commercial news server" (without the quotes).
It's a good idea to sign up for just a month to check out the service, and if you find it satisfactory, then you can sign up for a longer period of time and save money on the monthly charges.
Questions to ask when evaluating a commercial news server: Do they filter out spam? Do they show all parts of multiple-part messages? How fast are they? Do they have much "down time". Do they provide a free mail box service? Do they have a "direct read" service to allow you to view their news servers via the World Wide Web in addition to viewing with a news reader. Do they have the newsgroups that are of interest to you? Do they show all the messages in those groups?
Finding a new Internet Service Provider
If you are fed up with your current ISP (Internet Service Provider), the best place to find a new one is in your local telephone directory under "Internet On-Line Service Providers". Paying long distance or even nearby city rates is a very expensive way to use the Internet and should never be done unless there is no other reasonable way to connect. As a way of narrowing down the selection, you can also check out these on-line web sites to find a good ISP in your area (but be careful and make certain the one you pick has a local number in your area):
Remember: If you are on AOL and want to go to a regular Internet Service Provider you must FIRST get a browser or you will have no way to connect or browse the Internet, nor any way to get or receive e-mail. The Fake Detective recommends Netscape as a good browser that includes an e-mail reader and a news reader..
If you are not an AOL customer and want some additional information about news servers, archive files, etc, click HERE to bypass the information about AOL.
Some of the complaints that many AOL customers have are that (1) they cannot access all the newsgroups they want to access or that (2) the newsgroups do not show all messages or that (3) the newsgroups are filled with "spam". These are the same problems that many non-AOL members have with small news servers, and they are problems that can be easily solved by using a commercial news server. Click HERE to go the section of this web page where different news servers are compared.
POSTING PICTURES VIA AOL
Contrary to the popular myth, AOL customers CAN post pictures to binary newsgroups. Basically, there are three different ways of doing this:
#1 - THE WORST WAY: Some people have found a way around AOL's posting limitation by going through complex machinations of converting pictures into ASCII text messages and then cutting and pasting them into the text window that AOL provides for posting messages. (Go to the section on decoding mpg movies for more info about encoding and decoding.)
#2 - THE BEST WAY:You can go through a commercial news server's NNTP servers with another newsreader such as "Agent"!
NOTE: Many people have tried to use alternative news readers such as Agent to access AOL's news server and have failed. That does NOT work. What you CAN do is access a commercial news server via Agent using your AOL telephone connection! The "trick" is to have AOL in an idle state and to NOT be in their news reader when accessing the commercial news server via Agent.
The procedure is as follows:
For non-AOL customers: If you do not know if your browser will allow you to access more than one news server, you can experiment by trying out some of the free news servers that are available via the Net. This web site lists many free news servers: http://www.freenewsgroups.com/ The Fake Detective has experimented with about 30 of these free news servers and found that none of them provides good service for binary (picture) newsgroups.
For AOL and non-AOL: Most messages posted to text newsgroups are archived and you can do searches and find years' worth of old messages at http://www.dejanews.com/ Many people with bad news servers use this DejaNews archive to track conversations about interesting subjects and to find messages they may have missed on their own news servers. DejaNews is also a free alternative to paying for a commercial news server, but DejaNews does not archive pictures.
How do I decode images and movies?
Files that appear as letters and numbers are usually files in ASCII
code that have been decoded by your browser. Most often this is the
result of a news server breaking a message into multiple parts. This
is what an ASCII file looks like if it has not been automatically encoded
into some UUE image format:
How does this happen? Most news servers have file size limits on postings to newsgroups. If a person tries to post a message that is larger than the allowable size, the news server will interrupt and stop the posting and return an message like "Reset by Peer". To get around this problem, some news readers such as Free Agent give you the option of breaking messages into two or more pieces. I'm not sure how to determine how large your postings can be. It might be just a matter of trial and error. I don't have much experience with posting large files, only with downloading and decoding them.
Breaking up messages into multiple parts is not usually necessary with text messages, but it occasionally happens to messages with large pictures attached, and it nearly always happens with mpg movies and movies of other types, since they are usually very large files. On some newsgroups, it is common to see someone post a mpg movie and have it broken into 10 or 20 pieces or more. The problem then is to assemble and decode the pieces so the movie can be viewed.
It is important to know that the first part of a mult-part message usually contains all the information about what type of file it is. The last part of a multi-part message contains the end-of-file identifier. And the middle parts of a multi-part file are just ASCII code and are useless unless combined with the other parts. Because the first part of a multiple-part message contains most of the necessary information for decoding, you browser or news reader may decode that part for you automatically. Different browsers do things in different ways.
The subject of the messages should contain information about how many pieces there are. A five part message, for example, will have the pieces marked as (1/5) (2/5) (3/5) (4/5) and (5/5). If there was a text message in front of the binary portion, there may also be a (0/5) portion. This piece is not needed for decoding a movie.
But, I donít have all the pieces!!!
On many news servers you get only a "sampling" of the messages that are posted. That could mean that you will get only 3 or 4 parts of a 10 part movie. If you do not get all messages, then you need a better news server. If you try just asking for a repost, you will probably still get only a few of the pieces. The only solution in a situation like this seems to be to get a better news server. Elsewhere on this page there is a lot of information on how to find a better news server.
NOTE: On or around June 10, 1999, the Newsguy.com news service began deleting all .mpg and .avi files that are posted to newsgroups not identified as "multimedia". So, if you are on Newsguy and see messages talking about video files but do not see the video files, it is because Newsguy deleted them. This is particularly true on celebrity news groups. People on other news servers exchange video clips from movies, but Newsguy deletes them.
How can I view mpg movies?
If you have all the parts of a multiple-part movie, the next question to ask is: Will my browser let me view movies? Chances are that it will. Click HERE to view a small mpg movie of Laetitia Casta.
If clicking on the above link shows you a movie, then your browser
provides the ability to watch mpg movies. If you don't have the ability
to view movies, you can try getting the necessary free software from one
of these sites:
If your browser gives you a SAVE menu, then you may have to save the .mpg file and then try viewing it via Windows Explorer, or you may have to alter some settings within your browser to get it to show movies instead of just saving them. Or you might try holding down the SHIFT key while clicking on the link. On Netscape that will sometimes temporarily change the settings.
In addition to .mpg movies, there are other movie types (.avi .mov .rm). Each works slightly differently. You can usually watch the first part of a mpg movie before decoding the rest. But .avi movies seem to require that the entire movie be properly decoded before you can see any of it. And there are new versions of .avi movies that your browser may not support. You will have to install updates. (See the "Updates" section somewhere below.)
How do I assemble and decode multi-part files?
If you use Netscape, there is no direct way to decode and assemble multi-part messages. However, there is nothing to prevent you from shutting down Netscape when you find you need to combine and decode a multiple-part message and starting up an alternative news reader that can perform these functions. I like many other functions of Netscape, so I use it as my PRIMARY news reader and use others only for specific purposes.
I use either Outlook Express or Free Agent. Both have the capability to assemble and decode multiple-part files. (I have no idea how to view movies on a Mac, but itís probably very easy.) I havenít used Free Agent and Outlook Express often enough to be an expert on how to use them, but I've created some basic instructions which I'll update as I become more familiar with these news servers.
Click HERE for Outlook Express instructions.
Click HERE for Free Agent instructions.
Free Agent is a free news reader and is available for downloading
from this web site:
There are many different news readers available. Another one that has the ability to combine and decode is called NewsShark, but it is only for people who are not interested in "browsing" nor in posting. but who just want to download a lot of messages and mutiple-part messages from newsgroups. But, be warned, it is very different from other news servers and comes with very few instructions. I only mention it because for what it does, it does it very very well. It can be obtained for free from this URL: http://www.wmhsoft.com/NewsShark/index.html
A much harder way to encode and decode multiple-part messages is to use a freeware program called "Fast Code 32" (or some similar decoding software), which will require that you perform many of the steps that the other options do automatically.
"Fast Code 32" can be found by going to shareware.com and doing a search on "fcode32".
Note: "Fast Code 32" can also be used by AOLers to covert images into ASCII code so they can be posted to binary newsgroups.
If your browser only gives you the sound portion of an .avi movie, you probably need updates. Here are some instructions on how to get the necessary updates:
For compressed AVI files, go to http://developer.intel.com/ial/indeo/video/driver.htm and download the file "iv5setup.exe". Then go to http://support.intel.com/support/createshare/camerapack/codinstl.htm and download "codinstl.exe". These should put the necessary codecs onto your system to play the compressed AVI's.
REMEMBER: If your news server only gives you a "sample" of all the messages posted to a newsgroup, you definitely need a better news server or you won't be able to get all the parts to multiple-part messages. If you want information about commercial news servers, go HERE.
This site is provided as a public service by The Fake Detective, and if you notice any errors please contact The Fake Detective's technical assistant, Honest John.
(c) The Fake Detective - All Rights Reserved