19. knews

knews is an X11 news reader, that connects to a local or remote news server using NNTP. There are other packages, but knews is one of the best.

This took me about an hour to install, but I didn't need to do much.

19.1 Other news
19.2 knews thread tree
19.3 Installing
19.4 Running
19.5 Save message
19.6 Post / Follow up and reply
19.7 Post+Mail dialog box
19.8 Configuring
19.9 organization
19.10 $HOME/.knews/config-news.dircon.co.uk
19.11 xrdb $HOME/.xrc.knews
19.12 Where is news?


Other news

If you have X11 running, the fast route to news is netscape or mosaic. They're actually quite slow, but are excellent www/ftp/news browsers. They drop in and run, with the minimum of configuration (user information, $NNTPSERVER).

If you don't have X11 running, PINE is a fast news reader, with only a few bugs, and a fast start up time. If you don't want long phone calls, you want skim.

skim fetches all new subject lines, for groups you listed. You read them and select the lines you want. It then fetches the texts for the subject lines you tagged. Each phone call would be for only a few minutes. You read them off-line.

Other readers which connect to $NNTPSERVER vary. Some start up quickly, others take a few minutes whilst reading the list of lists. I guess there are as many news readers as email readers! A slow startup can lead to better threading, or just a slow start.

It takes about 5 minutes to read the active file, 5 more retrieving group descriptions. Then another 5 minutes to fetch the group (with a 6% marker). These can be switched off, by telling knews NOT ro read the active file and NOT to download the descriptions file. I don't know how to make it download them once and reuse them!


knews thread tree

When you select View Thread, or when you navigate the lists with the cursor arrow keys, knews gives you a tree view of the thread, showing who replied to who's message. Since this tree uses up a lot of screen space vertically, it can be scrolled by 'panning' with the middle mouse button.

The window has two main panels, the top panel is the tree, the bottom panel is the message text. Message text is well formatted, with quoted text in a different font. URLS in the message are not highlighted, but are active.

When the mouse is over the tree panel, the cursor keys navigate the tree, and the current message text is shown in the lower window.

Regrettably, the cursor keys continued to do this in the lower window, so you have to use the scroll bars. This isn't always clear, as getting the next message may take a few seconds, (but is usually faster then scrolling the desktop between the two panels).

There is a way of getting the two panels seperate instead of upper/lower. This makes it easier with less work scrolling the 640x480 desktop view, just to go to the next thread. I also made the tree use less space between lines, to get a better view.



Fetch the file, untar it. Read the README and INSTALL. Locate the files it tells you to customise, read them, chack both MAIL_COMMAND and DOMAIN_HACK.

but don't expect to have to change much, I didn't need to with 0.9.6, but 0.9.7 needed MAIL_COMMAND defining in configure.h (I have /usr/sbin/sendmail).

NOTE You must make sure that configure.h declares the following

#define DOMAIN_HACK     0
Otherwise knews will do for you what it did for me, and your postings will appear to be from
gps@dircon.co.uk	- wrong
gps@trix.dircon.co.uk	- right

The documentation says that any user can install it (eg $HOME/bin/knews), but root can install it for everybody on the system.

vi configure.h
make Makefiles
make clean
make install.man
make install

vi /var/X11R6/lib/app-defaults/Knews
## un comment the netscape line
cp /etc/HOSTNAME /etc/knews.domain.name # FULL host.domain.name
su - gps -c knews &
I did have to customise files after installing, but these were set in the user's HOME directory, and didn't require re-compiling.



I have export NNTPSERVER=news.dircon.co.uk in my /etc/profile. That's how knews knows who to call.

knews then appeared to be hung, but it was downloading the map of the news server. I left it and came back to find myself subscribed to news.answers and news.newusers. No problem, View-All-groups gave me the flat list and after selecting all of c.o.l.*, the subscribe button got me there.

If you locate one of the windows horizontal rules, the mouse becomes a finger that raises or lowers the window panel boundries. I wish my sash windows did the same!


Save message

The easiest was Post/forward by mail, which popped up a dialog box, I typed in 'gps', pressed OK and emailed the message to myself. To stop me irritationg myself too much, it didn't remember the address, so you have to type it again next time.

The Save button, gives you a real set of options, including sending the text to a pipeline or a file. (Click on the pipe command field to select it). Since the default command pipe is less running in an xterm, you have a quick way of seeing what difference the other options make.


Post / Follow up and reply

The Post button, gives a menu. Selecting Follow-up-and-reply dropped me in vi running in an xterm, with the exact references showing.

Resizing the xterm window made it a full page. Blah-Blah-Blah Zed-Zed Send


Post+Mail dialog box

After editing the posting, it is scanned for lines longer than 75 characters giving you a chance to edit again before sending.

It also scans after editing for the return addresses, so that you can cut+paste an email return address from the text into the header.

It just needs some X11 config parameters setting, and its own rc files. Then clicking on a URL with the middle button pushes netscape into life.



man knews has all the parameters in readable format.



A string used to construct the 'Organization:' header in the articles you post. The default is $NEWSORG if set, otherwise $ORGANIZATION if set, otherwise nothing. IE you can put this in /etc/profile.



This file gets created by knews, for each news server it contacts. It starts full of comments, that show the current settings of most things. To change any setting, uncomment that line and edit it.

The options are documented in man knews, and only apply to that news server.

  readActiveFile:		False
  retrieveDescriptions:		False
  fillNewsrcFile:		True 
  descriptionsFile:		~/.knews/.descriptions-%s
  saveThreadInfo:		True

  *keepThreadInfo:		Subscribed
  *sortThreads:			-date
  *quoteString:			 > 
  *attribution:			In article %m,\n%f writes:
  *cacheAheadSize:		32
  *cacheTrailSize:		32


xrdb $HOME/.xrc.knews

This command reads your settings into the X options database. You can have one file per X11 application, or one shared file. You don't have to edit /var/X11R6/lib/app-defaults/Knews.

Knews.separateWindows: True	# actually I prefer not
Knews.urlCommand:      netscape -remote 'openUrl(%s)'


Where is news?

News is held on the Internet by several news servers. Local special interest groups may setup their news servers to retain articles for months.

Your ISP (probably) has a full news feed and cache that lasts for 2 weeks or so. You connect to that news server using NNTP (over TCL/IP).

knews fetches the subject lines and the article texts as it needs to. You have to remain on-line to read them.

You can setup your own news server, which acts as an automatically driven news reader, to fetch all texts to your local machine. You then point knews at the local server. This means that you can read news off-line, and that you can have private news groups. It also means you are using a lot of disk space, are comitting to a lot of modem traffic, and have to do additional configuration work (how long do articles live before they expire?)

knews comes with knewsd to do this, but I didn't use it. What I really want is a news/www cache that retains documents for a week, so that I can browse quickly, and re-read off-line. But I also want to tag each www page for content and deletability,