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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 e-mail and news items (commonly referred to as netnews). Usenet 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 1200 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 its Web browser. The program you select to read netnews is largely a matter of personal taste.

Because programs to read netnews articles have been ported to non-UNIX/Linux systems, the community of netnews users has 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. Many 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 GNU/Linux filenames): comp.os.UNIX.misc, comp.lang.c, misc.jobs.offered, rec.skiing, sci.med, soc.singles, talk.politics . The following article appeared in linux.redhat.install:

> I have just installed linux redhat 7.2 and when i try to start X i get the 
> following error message:
> Fatal Server Error.
> no screens found
> XIO: Fatal IO err 104 (connection reset by peer) on X server ",0.0" after
> 0 requests (0 known processed) with 0 events remaining.
> How can i solve this problem?
> Thanks,
> Fred

It would appear that your X configuration is incorrect or missing.  You
should run XConfigurator and set up the configuration for your video card
and monitor.  You may also have to run mouseconfig to set it up.


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, ask yourself whether you can get help in a less invasive way.

  • Refer to the man pages and info.

  • Look through the files in /usr/share/doc.

  • Ask your system administrator or another user for help.

  • All the popular newsgroups have FAQs (lists of frequently asked questions). Consult these lists and see whether your question has been answered. FAQs are periodically posted to the newsgroups; in addition, all the FAQs are archived at sites around the Internet, including ftp://ftp.uu.net, ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-hierarchy,22 and the Usenet newsgroup comp.answers.

  • Because someone has probably asked the same question before you, search the netnews archives for an answer: Try looking at groups.google.com, which has a complete netnews archive.

  • Use a search engine to find an answer. One good way to get help is to search on an error message.

  • Review support documents at www.redhat.com.

  • Contact a Red Hat Linux user's group.

Use the worldwide Usenet community as a last resort. If you are stuck on a GNU/Linux question and cannot find any other help, try submitting it to one of these newsgroups:

  • linux.redhat.development

  • linux.redhat.install

  • linux.redhat.misc

For more generic questions try these lists:

  • comp.os.linux.misc

  • comp.os.linux.networking

  • comp.os.linux.security

  • comp.os.linux.setup

  • linux.dev.newbie

  • linux.redhat.rpm

One way to find out about new tools and services is to read Usenet news. The comp.os.linux hierarchy is of particular interest to GNU/Linux users; for example, news about newly released software for GNU/Linux is posted to comp.os.linux.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 (page 380). Other tools to help you find resources, both old and new, exist on the network; see Appendix B.

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