RumorMill Documentation

Copyright © 1996-2000, Jim Calvin, Jeremy Nelson and Peter N Lewis.

Copyright © 2001-2002, Jim Calvin.

Updated to reflect version 1.3.2

 

 

RumorMill ICON This program is $90 Shareware, $35 for private or educational use.
Upgrades from previous versions are $15.

 

RumorMill Status Window

Contents


Setting Up RumorMill


RumorMill Specfic Advice


Usenet Advice


Advanced Functions

RumorMill Server

RumorMill Setup

Glossary

Registering


Warranty

Acknowledgements


Introduction

RumorMill is a news server system (NNTP) for Macintosh computers. RumorMill has two parts, the server which is named RumorMill, and the administration application which is named RumorMill Setup. Together these applications allow a user (often referred to as the sysadmin) to setup newsgroup server on a Mac.

Using the features of RumorMill Setup it is possible for the sysadmin to tailor RumorMill to meet the sysadmin's needs. This tailoring, or setting preferences, is described in this and other related documents. This tailoring includes but is not limited to:

For the truly curious, the advanced documentation describes the low level commands that RumorMill Setup sends to RumorMill. Obviously most users will never have a need for this level of documentation, but it is available should it be needed.

System Requirements

Minimum requirements for running RumorMill 1.3 are as follows:
  RumorMill RumorMill Setup Documentation
MacOS 7.1 7.6 n/a
Processor 68K or better 68030 or better n/a
RAM 3MB
(4.5MB default)
2.5MB
(3MB default)
Web Browser
Disk ~1MB + databases ~900KB ~770KB
RumorMill is distributed as a "FAT" binary that will also take full advantage of a PowerPC processor when available. Allocating additional RAM to RumorMill can help under the following circumstances:

Allocating additional RAM for a large disk cache (see the Memory Control Panel) can also be helpful in improving the performance of RumorMill.

News and Usenet

Any discussion of News must include a discussion of Usenet. Usenet is a collection of 30,000+ newsgroups, with about 1 Gigabyte of new articles posted per day. A full Usenet newsfeed requires a fast network connection, a fast computer, and lots of hard disk space.

With adequate resources (fast process, fast large disk, etc.) RumorMill can might be able to handle the article throughput of a full newsfeed. Howerver, it is designed to handle a partial newsfeed and to facilitate the creation of local newsgroups: newsgroups which are only present on the one news server, or have limited distribution. Unlike previous versions of RumorMill, version 1.3 no longer has a limit on the size of the article database.

RumorMill has not been tested with a full news feed.

Setting Up RumorMill

The RumorMill distribution comes with two separate applications, RumorMill and RumorMill Setup. RumorMill is the server, while RumorMill Setup is the administration application. This separation of server and configuration software keeps the server application small, so it takes up less memory, and it also allows you to configure RumorMill remotely: RumorMill Setup can connect from another machine to allow convenient administration.

To setup RumorMill you need to specify what Newsgroups you wish to host, where you wish to gather news from and send it to. These are called Newsfeeds. You should also configure who can use the service through Site Restrictions, and possible through Users. RumorMill has a number of other settings which you can use to tighten security, reduce Spam, and tune performance.

Where are you running RumorMill?

When you run RumorMill Setup you will be asked to specify the location of your RumorMill server. If it is running on the same machine as RumorMill Setup select On This Computer, otherwise type in the DNS Name (eg news.swaystairs.com) or IP number (eg 203.10.11.12) of the machine running the RumorMill server. If RumorMill is not running locally (on the same machine as RumorMill Setup) you will need to enter a Site Administrator's Password. By default there is no password. RumorMill can not be configured remotely if there is no Site Administrator Password. (The password can be set in the Security window, using a copy of RumorMill Setup in "On this computer" mode.)

Screen shot of startup windows

 

Note: RumorMill Setup saves any password you enter for a remote server in the file RumorMill Setup Preferences in the Preferences folder.

Once you have retrieved the preferences you can modify or update the preferences on the server. The most important information you need to set is in the Newsgroups and Newsfeeds windows.

Please see the quick start documentation for a quick introduction on how to setup RumorMill.

RumorMill Specfic Advice

Propagating (Forwarding) Articles Downstream

When a user posts a new message to RumorMill, or an article is received from another server, the RumorMill will look through its list of Newsfeeds to see which servers it should attempt to forward the article on to. If those servers are not configured to permit RumorMill as an upstream newsfeed, they may reject the article.

You will need to ask the administrator of the downstream server to add your RumorMill server to the list of accepted servers. Note, that this is usually achieved by checking incoming connections against a list of server IP addresses. If you do not have a fixed IP address, the downstream server will probably not be able confirm RumorMill as a server. In this case RumorMill attempts to POST the article as if RumorMill was a client rather than a server. This generally works, but is less efficient than it would be otherwise, and definitely will not allow using the more efficient streaming protocol to move articles from your server to the downstream server.

Big Group Lists, Lots of News

If you carry a significant number of Newsgroups you should make sure you have plenty of disk space and a good connection. In our testing we found that about 60 (unexceptional) newsgroups took up 42 Mb of disk space, built up over a couple of days through a 28.8K (permanent) link. In one test, RumorMill built a database of over 200MB in less than 24hrs handling a mere 770 groups (there are in excess of 30,000 active USENET newsgroups). UNIX based NNTP servers that support "all" active USENET newsgroups typically require gigabytes of disk space and a permanent T1 link. RumorMill may be able to handle a full Newsfeed if it is running on a fast machine with a good (fast/wide SCSI) hard disk. RumorMill has been tested with setups handling more than 33,000 groups.

RumorMill Setup should handle fairly large lists of Newsgroups, but it may be slow. If you wish to configure large numbers of groups, you may wish to do this using the Menu commands in RumorMill (Create Groups... and Save Groups...).

You will probably need a static IP address so that your newsfeed can be configured to send articles to RumorMill (make sure you have Accept Articles from this Host set in the Newsfeeds window). Pulling the Newsgroups takes a lot of time since RumorMill has to check each newsgroup to see if there are any new articles, every time. With a Push feed from an upstream Newsfeed, the articles are simply sent to RumorMill when they arrive and the more efficient streaming protocols can be used.

Phone Connections

RumorMill can be used on a dial-up (intermittent) connection, to pull news for an individual or group. RumorMill has a menu command, Start Pull, which can be used to trigger the Pull. Note, depending on your network configuration you may need to quit and restart RumorMill once you have connected.

Also see the section on Propagating Articles Downstream.

Local Newsgroups

Local Newsgroups are easy to make: give them a name which is not currently used on any other Newsfeed and it will not be propagated. Just to make sure no external news articles are fed into the local newsgroup you should probably add is as an Excluded group in the Group List of all the Newsfeeds.

Usenet Advice

News servers have until recently been largely adminstered by very experienced computer users because the servers were awkward to configure and maintain, and there was whole body of etiquette which surrounded Usenet. RumorMill and servers like it, combined with the growth and interest in the Internet have changed the first fact: the servers are easier to configure and maintain.

But the etiquette of Usenet still remains, and exists for very good reasons.

If you intend to participate in distribution of Usenet articles, you should probably familiarise yourself with Usenet terminology and etiquette. A short glossary is included near the end of this documentation, in case you are unfamiliar with the terms used the following sections.

Usenet Etiquette

et i quette :n. the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life

Usenet is a big place, which has been going for a long time, and it involves a lot of people. There are on the order of thirty thousand newsgroups and more are added daily. Topics of discussion touch on ... well, pretty much everything. At a conservative estimate, over 10 million words are exchanged every day. Usenet is a place where people socialize, exchange opinions, and argue.

Because Usenet is a mix of such diverse people and opinions, users and administrators must be exercise tolerance and restraint. It is also a text medium where it is easy to misunderstand or misinterpret people's words and intentions.

So etiquette is important: good etiquette helps smooth out social interaction, and as an administrator you will be called to enforce rules of etiquette, and to judge when people have breached Usenet etiquette. If you do not, administrators who propogate news to you will be called on to enforce restrictions to your site.

No one is asking you to be superhuman, but there is a need to understand the social rules which surround the technology of Usenet.

There are many fines guides on the subject. The Usenet Frequently Asked Questions lists from the newsgroup news.answers are a good place to start. You can access these via FTP from MIT:

<ftp://rtfm.mit.edu//pub/usenet/news.answers/>

You should encourage users who haven't used Usenet before to read the newsgroup news.announce.newusers and news.newusers.questions, which contains good introductory information including the famous Emily Postnews questions.

Usenet Group names

RumorMill requires you to use Usenet group names if you wish to receive news from, or send news to a Usenet newsgroup. Usenet group names must be all lower case, they can use the alphanumeric character (a-z, 0-9), plus the following special characters:

   .  -   _  +

Newsgroup names are usually dot seperated, eg:

    rec.humor.funny

Usenet group names usually belong to a fairly small number of basic hierachies. Even if you intend to run local newsgroups you would probably do well to put them inside a 'local' hierachy, so for instance you might have:

    local.announce
    local.talk
    local.project.frisco
    local.project.zeta
    local.news

Finally, when you accept news from outside keep in mind the following, which is quoted from the news.answers Usenet FAQ:

Usenet newsgroups are named for mostly historical reasons, and are not intended to be fully general discussion groups for everything about the named topic. Please accept this and post articles in their appropriate forums.

RFCs: Technical Source

Request For Comment 977 and RFC 1036 are the basic RFCs for the NNTP protocol. These documents list the commands which are sent back and forth between the server and the client, and between servers. These should only be necessary for software authors, but as an administrator you may find it useful to have some idea how articles are formed and propogated. RFC 977 is in the process of being updated to reflect current practice. RumorMill may or may not completely adhere to this updated specification. The revision was not yet finalized when RumorMill was released.

RFCs are available on the web and at many quality FTP sites. Try:

< http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/cgi-bin/rfc/rfc-index.html>

Other places to look for internet drafts are:

Africa: ftp.is.co.za

Europe: ftp.nordu.net
ftp.nis.garr.it

Pacific Rim: munnari.oz.au

US East Coast: ds.internic.net

US West Coast: ftp.isi.edu

Advanced Functions

RumorMill supports a few features which are not supported in RumorMill Setup. It is possible to access these features using a telnet client.

You can read more about these features and how to use them here.

Registering

RumorMill is Shareware, which means if you use it, you must pay for it. A single user license costs US$90. For educational and private use, the shareware fee is $35. After you have confirmed your registration in RumorMill the Startup splash screen will disappear.


Our online registration can be found at:

<http://order.kagi.com/?9TJ>


You may distribute this program any way you wish as long as you don't charge for it. You must distribute the package in its entirety. We don't guarantee any support, but we always answer our Email. If we don't answer Email it is because your message didn't get to us, or our reply bounced, so please try again and include a valid Internet address if you can.

You MAY NOT DISTRIBUTE this program on any disk or CD without our explicit permission.


Warranty


This program should do what is described in this document. If it doesn't, you can simply stop using it. If you paid for the product, and within a year find that it doesn't do what has been described here, then you can notify Swaystair's Software and your money will be refunded and your license cancelled.


Fine Print


Jim Calvin hereby disclaims all warranties relating to this software, whether express or implied, including without limitation any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. Jim Calvin will not be liable for any special, incidental, consequential, indirect or similar damages due to loss of data or any other reason, even if Jim Calvin or an agent of his has been advised of the possibility of such damages. In no event shall Jim Calvin be liable for any damages, regardless of the form of the claim. The person using the software bears all risk as to the quality and performance of the software.


US Government

Government End Users: If you are acquiring the Software and fonts on behalf of any unit or agency of the United States Government, the following provisions apply. The Government agrees:

(i) if the Software and fonts are supplied to the Department of Defence (DoD), the Software and fonts are classified as "Commercial Computer Software" and the Government is acquiring only "restricted rights" in the Software, its documentation and fonts as that term is defined in Clause 252.227-7013(c)(1) of the DFARS; and

(ii) if the Software and fonts are supplied to any unit or agency of the United States Government other than DoD, the Government's rights in the Software, its documentation and fonts will be as defined in Clause 52.227-19(c)(2) of the FAR or, in the case of NASA, in Clause 18-52.227-86(d) of the NASA Supplement to the FAR.


Acknowledgements

Thanks to Ellen for her patience and support while I worked on RumorMill. Thanks to Peter Lewis for the opportunity and to Jeremy for chasing too many bugs. Also, a great thanks to the beta testers who helped find the bugs and made numerous helpful suggestions for new features.

RumorMill Setup was originally written by Jeremy Nelson.

Jim Calvin, author of RumorMill.