NEWS simulation on BITNET nodes

Foteos Macrides MACRIDES at WFEB2.BITNET
Mon Sep 30 11:01:00 EST 1991


>                I read with interest your posting to the bb on the use
>of a system bboard which functions like a UseNet NEWS reader. Being on
>a similar node, I should be very interested if you could supply me
>with more information on this type of set-up so I can try and talk
>our system manager into installing a similar system here in Perpignan.
>If it is not too much trouble/time-consuming, could you tell me what
>is necessary for such a system.
>
>        In the context of the current discussion on private/public
>replies, I feel the information may be of more general interest and
>could possibly be sent to the bboard.
>
>        Thanks for any help you can give me.
>
>Richard Cooke <cooke at FRPERP51.BITNET>

        Dave Kristofferson and Rob Harper have previously posted comprehensive
lists of NEWS readers and where to get them.  Perhaps it's time for an update
and reposting.  They all come with source code, and most could be made to
receive their input via Email subscriptions (either via their setups or via
some hacking).

        We are a VMS system and use Mark London's BULLETIN.  Relevant info
about it is appended below.  It has the advantages for a site like ours that
(1) It was originally written to handle Email as input and does it very
efficiently; (2) Its command structure is modelled after VMS MAIL so our
typical users (not very knowledgeable about computers) can immediately start
using it effectively and learn its additional commands later; (3) Mark is like
Dave -- can be reached via Email (MRL at NERUS.PFC.MIT.EDU) virtually any time of
the day or night and any day of the week, always responds promptly, and always
follows through on suggestions for improvements; (4) It has features which
make it easy for the system manager to post messages with appropriate degrees
of "requirement" that the appropriate users read them (even if they don't read
their personal Email).  "Advantage (2)" is also a disadvantage for "high
volume" forums -- it does not have an arrow-key or mouse-driven mechanism for
rapidly selecting messages to read.

                                Fote

=========================================================================
 Foteos Macrides           Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology
 MACRIDES at WFEB2.BITNET     222 Maple Avenue, Shrewsbury, MA 01545
=========================================================================

From:   EDU%"BULLETIN at ORYANA.PFC.MIT.EDU" 30-SEP-1991 08:41:01.80
Subj:   HELP.MAI

BULLETIN is a public domain bulletin board utility for VAX/VMS.  It also can
read USENET NEWS (client mode only).

The address for getting BULLETIN is BULLETIN at ORYANA.PFC.MIT.EDU.

Valid commands are:
        SEND ALL [SINCE time]   Sends all bulletin files.
                                If SINCE time specified, only files created
                                since that time will be sent.
        SEND filename           Sends the specified file.
        DIR                     Lists available files.
        BUGS                    Sends a list of the latest bug fixes.
        HELP or INFO            Sends a brief description of BULLETIN.
        SUBSCRIBE               Subscribes to mailing list for upgrade
                                notifications.
        UNSUBSCRIBE             Unsubscribes from mailing list.

Send those command in either the text of the message or the subject header.

The following is a brief (and somewhat dated) description of the utility:

----------------------------------------------------------------------


                          Description
The BULLETIN utility is a utility to display messages to users when
logging in.  Users are notified of messages only once.  They're not
forced into reading them every time they log in.  Submitting and
reading messages is easy to do via a utility similar to the VMS MAIL
utility. Privileged users can create messages which are displayed in
full. (known as SYSTEM messages).  Non-privileged users may be able to
create non-SYSTEM messages (unless your system manager has disabled the
feature), but only topics are displayed at login.

Folders can be created so that messages pertaining to a single topic
can be placed together.  Folders can be made private so that reading
and writing is limited to only users or groups who are granted access.
Alternatively, folders can be made semi-private in that everyone is
allowed to read them but write access is limited.  Folders can also
be also shared by other decnet nodes.

When new non-system messages are displayed, an optional feature which a
user may enable will cause BULLETIN to ask whether the user wishes to
read the new bulletins. The user can then read the messages (with the
ability to write any of the messages to a file). A user can enable the
notification and prompting of new messages feature on a folder per
folder basis.  However, the exception is messages submitted to the
default GENERAL folder.  Users are always notified at login of new
bulletins in this folder, but can disable the prompting.  This is to
give non-privileged users some ability to force a notification of an
important message.

Messages have expiration dates and times, and are deleted automatically.
Expiration dates and times can be specified in absolute or delta
notation. Privileged users can specify "SHUTDOWN" messages, i.e.
messages that get deleted after a system shutdown has occurred.
"PERMANENT" messages can also be created which never expire.

Privileged users can broadcast their message (to either all users or
all terminals).

A user can select, on a folder per folder basis, to have a message
broadcast to their terminal immediately notifying them when a new
message has been added.

An optional "Bulletin Board" feature allows messages to be created by
users of other systems connected via networks.  A username can be
assigned to a folder, and any mail sent to that user is converted to
messages and stored in that folder.  This feature originally was
designed to duplicate the message board feature that exists on some
Arpanet sites.  However, with the addition of folders, another possible
use is to assign an Arpanet mailing list to a folder. For example, one
could have an INFOVAX folder associated with an INFOVAX username, and
have INFO-VAX mail sent to INFOVAX.  Users could then read the mailing
list in that folder, rather than having INFO-VAX sent to each user.
Optionally, the input for the bulletin board can be directed to be taken
from any source other than VMS MAIL.  This might be useful if incoming
mail is stored in a different place other than VMS MAIL.  An interface
also exits for PMDF to allow network mail to be sent directly to BULLETIN
without the need to go through VMS MAIL.

Messages can be either sent to a file, to a print queue, or mailed to
another user.  Messages can be marked so that one can easily review
important messages.  It is also possible to send reply mail to the user
who posted the message.  For mailing list folders, one can also post
messages to the mailing list.

===================================================
Old message about the NEWS client feature (- F.M.):
===================================================
BULLETIN now has the capability to read and post messages to USENET NEWS in a
client mode.  I realize that there are many NEWS readers, some with much more
elegant interfaces.  However, I elected to modify BULLETIN for the following
reason:  We have many decnet nodes, but only several are internet nodes.  Our
only access to a news server was via internet.  In order for those
non-internet nodes to read USENET, the only method that seemed available was to
run a NEWS server program on one of our own internet nodes so that it could
be accessible via decnet.  I did not want to do that, as that requires storing
the news groups on disk, and I do not have the room for that.  I thus added the
ability in BULLETIN (actually BULLCP) so that it acts as as a gateway between
decnet and tcp for NEWS.  This method does not require spawning any processes,
since the detached process BULLCP is always present, so the access is very
fast.  Also, since BULLETIN uses a shared database to store info on the NEWS
groups and periodically updates it, there is no need for that to be done when a
user accesses the NEWS groups.  Several other NEWS readers do this when you run
them, which is why they take a long time to start up.  It is also possible to
feed NEWS groups into a "real" BULLETIN folder, so that the messages are saved
on disk.

Presently, BULLETIN can be used with either UCX, MULTINET, or CMU TCP/IP
packages (and of course DECNET) for reading NEWS.  Support for other packages
can be added if I can find sites willing to beta test the interface for me.
The source for the TCP interface is in C rather than FORTRAN because the
MULTINET include files are in C. However, if you do not have C, I will be glad
to send the object for it (or to even possibly rewrite the code in FORTRAN).

The instructions for installation are as follows.  Define BULL_NEWS_SERVER
to be a system logical name pointing to either your internet or decnet NEWS
node.  If it is decnet, simply specify the decnet node name, i.e.

        $ DEFINE/SYSTEM BULL_NEWS_SERVER NERUS

BULLETIN decides to use DECNET rather than TCP access based on the node name.
If it does not have any periods in it, then it assumes it is a DECNET node.

In our cluster, we usually



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