Why USENET?? - Introduction and Help

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at GENBANK.BIO.NET
Thu May 2 18:37:32 EST 1991

I am passing along a copy of this important information about how to
get on USENET since the discussion originated on this group although
this question was posted to GENBANK-BB/bionet.molbio.genbank.  For
those of you pondering this move and/or who wonder why I get so
excited about this stuff, perhaps the following will clarify things

Dave Kristofferson

> Fellow bboard readers-
> 	I have been reading the recent outpouring of mail regarding the
> establishment of USENET systems for everyone and the abolishing of e-mail
> access to the genbank bulletin boards.....

The great majority of the mail that I have received so far is firmly
against any early abolition of e-mail, and, as I mentioned earlier on
BIONEWS/bionet.general, no such change is planned for the near term.

> 	I wrote to my system manager and mentioned that there was a problem
> with several of my bboard subscriptions and inquired about switching to a
> USENET system.....in response he asked for details which I am unable to
> provide so I thought I would ask for your assistance in providing the following
> information regarding USENET systems vs. e-mail access:

I applaud your initiative and will attempt to help out below.

> 	1. What is the nature of the problem that individual USENET systems
> 	would solve (presumably something about the e-mail system causes
> 	the problem)?

As long as we have e-mail distribution and unmoderated newsgroups the
chance will remain that someone will misconfigure something somewhere
on the network and create a mailing loop.  If the loop occurs over a
high speed network (which is about the only reason that I've seen to
be thankful here for the slowness of BITNET - this latest round took
about **10 hours** per revolution - zzzzzzzz) the prospect remains
open that all of your mail boxes could start filling up with multiple
copies of the same message on essentially a "real-time" scale.  As
long as people are comfortable with this prospect and won't get bent
tremendously out of shape if it ever happens {right ... (-8 I've got a
bridge to sell you too!} then we have no problem continuing to provide
you with this kind of service.  The only way such a loop would be
stopped would be if one of our alert BIOSCI managers detected it and
changed the distribution list at our nodes to break the loop.  Having
all of the mailing lists at one site means that the loop could be
stopped much more efficiently than if one needs to coordinate actions
between different people in different time zones.  USENET software
automatically monitors which messages have been received and
dramatically reduces the chance of such problems occurring.  If we did
not have BIOSCI mailing lists running in parallel with the bionet
USENET lists we wouldn't have these occasional disruptions.

> 	2. Is USENET publicly available and where (any addl details would be
> 	useful)?

genbank.bio.net can provide a free source of USENET news or can
recommend a more local USENET news source to almost anyone who
requests it.  Please send mail to biosci at genbank.bio.net on the
Internet for further details.  There is public domain software
available for reading and posting USENET news.  I have a collection of
several messages on this topic that I will be happy to make available
to anyone who requests it (the file is a bit long to copy to everyone
on the net).

> 	3. What are the purported advantages of a USENET system as opposed to 
> 	e-mail access (I think its obvious that I don't really know what
> 	USENET is...so any information along those lines would also be
> 	informative)?

I think I answered part of this above, but let me add that each site
need get only *one* copy of a message which is commonly accessible
instead of sending copies to several mailboxes on the system.  The
USENET software can also be configured to either delete old messages
after a particular time or save them.  Thus, for example, if you wish
to save the table of contents postings in bionet.journal.contents
(BIO-JOURNALS) you can turn off the expiration date on that individual
newsgroup.  This gives everyone a means of maintaining their own
archives of past messages at their own site instead of having to
figure out how to access old archives on a LISTSERV somewhere else.

Also there are going on 900 different USENET newsgroups available on
scientific, computing, cultural, recreational, political, etc. issues.
USENET access provides you with a vast resource of information and
assistance from other people on the network.  I realize that if you
receive all of these newsgroups that this will use up space on your
computer's disk.  Note once again that each site can determine what they want
to receive and how long they want to store it.  You could get only the
BIOSCI/bionet groups and expire them on a daily basis which would make
your investment in disk space trivial.

> And any other information would be greatly appreciated.....I gather from the
> discussions going on, that I am not the only one with these questions, so
> any relevant or addl information that could be provided would be greatly 
> appreciated!!!

I would be willing to bet that people in your campus computer science
departments are already familiar with USENET and could also be of
assistance in setting you up.  If your campus gets USENET but does not
get the bionet groups under USENET, once again you can contact
biosci at genbank.bio.net for assistance.  I am also willing to bet that
there are books in your campus library about USENET or UNIX
communications.  NOTE HOWEVER that USENET software is also available
in the public domain for VAX/VMS systems so this is not an excuse not
to get it.

I hope this is sufficient, but if not, we are at your service.


				Dave Kristofferson
				GenBank Manager

				kristoff at genbank.bio.net

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