One of the earliest information services available on the Internet, Usenet is an electronic bulletin board that allows users with common interests to exchange information. Usenet is an informal, loosely connected network of systems that exchange email and news items (commonly referred to as netnews). It was formed in 1979 when a few sites decided to share some software and information on topics of common interest. They agreed to contact one another and to pass the information along over dial-up telephone lines (at that time running at 1,200 baud at best), using UNIX's uucp utility (UNIX-to-UNIX copy program).
The popularity of Usenet led to major changes in uucp to handle the ever-escalating volume of messages and sites. Today much of the news flows over network links using a sophisticated protocol designed especially for this purpose: NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol). The news messages are stored in a standard format, and the many public domain programs available let you read them. An old, simple interface is named readnews. Others, such as rn, its X Window System cousin xrn, tin, nn, and xvnews have many features that help you browse through and reply to the articles that are available or create articles of your own. In addition, Netscape and Mozilla include an interface that you can use to read news (Netscape/Mozilla News) as part of their Web browsers. One of the easiest ways to read netnews is to go to groups.google.com.
The program you select to read netnews is largely a matter of personal taste. Some Mac-specific graphical clients, however, do not use X11. Mac OS X does not come with command line Usenet client programs installed.
Because programs to read netnews articles have been ported to non-UNIX systems, the community of netnews users has become highly diversified. In the UNIX tradition, categories of netnews groups are structured hierarchically. The top level includes such designations as comp (computer-related), misc (miscellaneous), rec (recreation), sci (science), soc (social issues), and talk (ongoing discussions). Usually at least one regional category is at the top level, such as ba (San Francisco Bay Area), and includes information about local events. New categories are continually being added to the more than 30,000 newsgroups. The names of newsgroups resemble domain names but are read from left to right (like UNIX filenames): comp.os.unix.misc, comp.lang.c, misc.jobs.offered, rec.skiing, sci.med, soc.singles, and talk.politics are but a few examples. The following article appeared in comp.sys.mac.system:
> I'm on a 700Mhz G4 eMac with 10.4.1. Ever since I got > 10.4.1 I can't properly Shut Down. It won't go all the way > off. A message comes on in several languages saying I must > restart the computer by holding down the power button for > several seconds You are having a kernel panic. Is there any interesting hardware connected to this machine? Does this same problem occur if you hold the Shift key down throughout the startup process (called "safe boot mode") and then shut down? m.
A great deal of useful information is available on Usenet, but you need patience and perseverance to find what you are looking for. You can ask a question, as the user did in the previous example, and someone from halfway around the world may answer it. Before posing such a simple question and causing it to appear on thousands of systems around the world, however, ask yourself whether you can get help in a less invasive way. Try the following:
Post a query to the worldwide Usenet community as a last resort. If you are stuck on a Mac OS X question and cannot find any other help, try submitting it to one of these newsgroups:
One way to find out about new tools and services is to read Usenet news. The comp.sys.mac hierarchy is of particular interest to Mac OS X users; for example, news about newly released software for Mac OS X is posted to comp.sys.mac.announce. People often announce the availability of free software there, along with instructions on how to get a copy for your own use using anonymous FTP. Other tools to help you find resources, both old and new, exist on the network; see Appendix B.