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News: What's New and Exciting

Usenet is the set of machines that exchange articles tagged with one or more universally-recognized labels, called newsgroups (or `groups' for short). (...) If the above definition of Usenet sounds vague, that's because it is. It is almost impossible to generalize over all Usenet sites in any non-trivial way. Usenet encompasses government agencies, large universities, high schools, businesses of all sizes, home computers of all descriptions, etc.

(Kehoe: Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide to the Internet.)

Usenet can be thought of as a collection of topics, called groups, ranging from the bizarre to the scientific. In each group, notes are placed by individuals, universities, companies, or governmental organizations. You can read these notes, download them, and, if you like, reply to them. Some notes may contain questions, some answers to previous notes or information of general interest to a group, and some may even contain complete computer programs or pictures. Before reading any of these notes, you have to decide which topics are of interest to you and `subscribe' to them. Some of the groups have a moderator who decides which notes should be posted, but most are freely accessible for posting.

As an example, I have subscribed to the groups sci.math (general discussions about mathematical questions for novices as well as mathematicians), sci.math.research (discussions about mathematical research), comp.binaries.ibm.pc (computer programs for MS-DOS based computers), and comp.binaries.mac (computer programs for Macintosh computers). On an infrequent basis, I read the discussions taking place in these groups, and occasionally obtain a useful computer program that way.

News is available from within Netscape using the 'news://' prefix to an address. However, not many news servers will let you in except if you are affiliated with that institution. For example, the Seton Hall news server (news.shu.edu) will only respond to news requests from valid Seton Hall computers.


Bert G. Wachsmut
Last modified: 05/03/00