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5. News

5.1 How do I set up an online news-reader?

As long as PPP is active, it will be possible to read news online. There are lots of available programs, two simple alternatives being rtin and trn.

To start reading news, the only thing required in terms of configuration in most cases is to set NNTPSERVER (usually once and for all in the file .profile):

export NNTPSERVER=news.acme.xz

To get the From-address correct in postings, some programs may require:

export NNTP_INEWS_DOMAIN=acme.xz

5.2 How do I set up an offline news-reader?

To be able to read news while offline and thus reduce phone bills and give greater flexibility, one must set up a local news-spool of one sort or the other. This requires some configuration, and there will also be a certain amount of disk space involved. After initial setup, things should run more or less by themselves, with only some attention needed from time to time.

Two different solutions will be described here.

5.3 How do I set up C News?

The solution described here is based on the news-server C News and the NNTP protocol. C News was originally targeted towards another sort of configuration, but is flexible enough to handle our situation too. One might also use the more recent INN news server but it might require a bit more in terms of resources. Either way, be careful not to install both; they don't live together easily.

It is crucial that all maintenance of news is done while logged in as user news, and that all configuration files is placed in /usr/lib/news. One way of handling this is, while logged in as root to write su news; cd.

The most important files in the configuration are:

  • active is an overview over active newsgroups. It is updated as required by the command addgroup, e.g. addgroup comp.os.linux.networking y.
  • organization should simply contain whatever you want in the Organization: header field, in our case:
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

  • mailname should in our case be set to acme.xz.
  • whoami is set to the name of your site in the Path: thread. In a setup as described here, using newsx, this name will never leave the machine, so you can set this to whatever you like as long as you are pretty sure it is unique. In this case roderick.
  • The file sys controls fetching and further distribution of news. We will assume the ISP in our case adds acme.xz to the Path, and that this is the only news source we have. The example given really tells that we will accept everything that arrives, and that we will only post news to acme.xz that it hasn't seen before, and is originally posted at our own site. In this simplified setup we assume that the all groups will come from a single source. /all specifies the distribution, and must be included. The letter F says that (pointers to) outgoing news articles will be collected in a file.

  • A subdirectory for the outgoing news must be created, in our case:
mkdir /var/spool/news/out.going/acme

  • mailpaths controls posting in moderated groups, although this task may usually be left to the ISP.

C News needs a certain degree of daily maintenance, but this can be specified once and for all via the command crontab -e issued as user news. A suggested setup follows; it can be tuned as required:

# maintain incoming and outgoing batches
10,40 *  * * * /usr/lib/newsbin/input/newsrun

# expire C News, once a day
30 0  * * * /usr/lib/newsbin/expire/doexpire

# monitor and report if needed
00 2  * * sat /usr/lib/newsbin/maint/addmissing
40 3  * * * /usr/lib/newsbin/maint/newswatch
50 3  * * * /usr/lib/newsbin/maint/newsdaily
newsrun moves articles in and out (twice every hour), doexpire will delete articles as they get old (every night at 00:30), and the three last commands does various supervisory and error correcting tasks.

One should also ensure that things are cleaned up when starting the machine. As user root, add the following line to /etc/rc.d/rc.local:

su news -c /usr/lib/newsbin/maint/newsboot
News may be collected via the program NewsX, picking news from an NNTP-server The program can be found at:

ftp://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/Linux/system/news/transport/newsx-0.9.tar.gz Or:


Setting up NewsX is quite simple. Installation is a classic case of:

make install

With the setup outlined here, all you have to do is to create the groups you want to read using the addgroup command.

To fetch articles, user news issues the following commands (assuming communication via PPP or similar is up):

newsx acme news.acme.xz

The option -d gives continuous printout to the screen. Refer to the NewsX documentation for further information.

NewsX will also take care of posting of outgoing news.

To control disposal of articles as they get old, a file explist is required. The comments in this example should explain what we want to do:

# hold onto history lines 14 days, nobody gets >120 days
/expired/                       x       14      -
/bounds/                        x       0-1-120 -

# retain these for 2 months
comp.sources,comp.os.linux.all  x       60      -

# noise gets thrown away fast
junk,control                    x       2       -

# default:  14 days, no archive
all                             x       14      -

ALT: In a small news-spool, one will usually not need the newsgroup control. The traffic is huge compared to the possible usefulness. The main point is that articles will be canceled, and that groups may be created automatically. To ensure that control messages containing newgroup not shall mess up things for us, a file called newgroupperm specifies what we will allow:

comp.os.linux   tale@uunet.com  yv
all             any             nq
In this example, all proper groups under comp.os.linux will be created (y), and the user news will be notified (v). Everything else will be silently (q) ignored (n). The last line is sufficient if you want to create all groups manually.

ALT: An alternative to NewsX is suck.

5.4 How do I set up Leafnode?

A different solution altogether is to install the integrated package leafnode. This will handle all tasks required for a personal news spool, and is easy to configure. It is available via:


As for C News, all news maintenance really should be performed as user news.

The home directory for leafnode is in /usr/lib/leafnode. To install, write:

cd /usr/lib/leafnode
tar -xzvf leafnode-0.8.tgz
cd leafnode-0.8
make install

Note in the following that the prefix /usr/local/sbin should be replaced with /usr/sbin if you installed leafnode from a package.

While still being logged in as root, change the line that controls NNTP in /etc/inetd.conf:

nntp  stream  tcp  nowait  news  /usr/sbin/tcpd /usr/local/sbin/leafnode
Activate it by:
killall -HUP inetd

Return to user news by writing exit. In /usr/lib/leafnode/config change the line that defines the NNTP server. In our case:

server = news.acme.xz

Leafnode will look after itself by adding the following command via crontab -e as user news:

# expire Leafnode, once a day
0 4 * * * /usr/local/sbin/texpire

News exchange is also done as user news by the following command (assuming PPP is up and running):


Users who wants to read news should then use the recipe in How do I set up an online news-reader?, except that they configure for the local machine, i.e:

export NNTPSERVER=localhost

That should be all there is to it. The first fetch will transfer a list of available newsgroups. Leafnode will then monitor what groups the users are requesting, and adapt to this the next time it is activated.

Note that leafnode does not seems to work in cases where NNTP authorization is required. +.LP

ALT: An alternative to leafnode is nntpcache, available from:

ftp://ftp.suburbia.net/pub/nntpcache/nntpcache.tgz ALT: Another alternative is to use the newsreader slrn together with the slrn-pull package. The newsreader must be compiled with the spool feature set.

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