If you follow my column in The C Users Journal, "On
Networks," you have seen there is a vast amount
of useful software
available via USENET. In addition, exchanging electronic
mail is an
inexpensive and reliable method of staying in touch
with a large number
of contacts. As an added bonus, there are several mailing
for Systems Administrators. Since you are administering
a UNIX system,
you have the software needed (UUCP) to connect to USENET.
do you join?
USENET is just a cooperative network of connected computers.
is one common connection method. To connect to USENET
via UUCP, all
you need to do is find a site that is already a member
of USENET and
is willing to provide you with a connection. What they
do is allow
you to call their system, and/or have their system call
via UUCP to exchange electronic mail and perhaps USENET
The problem is finding a site that is already a member
of USENET and
is not overburdened with other connections. The solution
to this problem
is either perseverance or money.
In the beginning, USENET was a purely volunteer, cooperative
Each site agreed to carry the traffic of its neighbors.
As the net
expanded, this got to be overwhelming. However, at the
(sites near the end of the tree that don't have many
there still can be found sites that are willing to provide
for free. How free that really is depends on several
site itself may not charge you anything, but you might
have to pay
a phone company toll call charge to reach it.
The first place to look is via the published maps of
sites. Most UUCP sites register their connections with
the UUCP Mapping
Project, which then publishes the maps in the USENET
news group comp.mail.maps.
This allows the pathalias program to be used to automatically
compute the path from your site to any other site, and
for other sites
to figure the path from their site to your site. This
is used by the electronic mail system on USENET sites.
contain a lot of information beyond just the site connections.
Listing 1 is a copy of the map information for my system,
The map entry contains two sections. The first is comment
in a special format. These comments contain all the
the site for human use. The second part is the connection
which is in the format for pathalias to use. Of particular
interest are two fields: #C, the contact person for
and #T, their telephone number.
If you acquire the map file(s) for your state, you can
for sites that are local phone calls from your site.
one of those site administrators will be willing to
provide a connection
for your site. If you are only looking for electronic
mail, then any
site will work. If, however, you also want USENET Network
only call those sites with a #U entry. Those sites exchange
USENET Network news, and the names listed on those lines
are the sites
with which they exchange news.
If you are not connected to USENET, it might seem difficult
the map entry. UUNET Communication Services comes to
the rescue on
this front. They provide a pay-per-call access to their
of archived files via a 1-900 number. They keep the
current map files
as published in comp.mail.maps in their archives. Using
at $.50/minute, you can retrieve the map file(s) for
your state and
start calling those site contacts. The map files are
broken down by
state, and reside in the ~/uumap directory. For the
the names are u.usa.ST.n, where ST is the two-letter
postal abbreviation for the state and n is a number
at 1 and running upwards by 1. Each map file is, at
50Kb. Listing 2 gives a sample L.sys/Systems file entry
connecting to UUNET via the 1-900 number. The UUCP command:
uucp 'uunet:~/uumap/u.usa.pa.*' ~
will transfer all of the Pennsylvania map files from
UUNET to the uucppublic directory of your system.
If you cannot find a site willing to provide a connection
or if you want faster service or a larger USENET Network
than other sites are willing to provide, consider one
of the many
services that sell UUCP services for a fee.
The largest of these is UUNET Communications Services,
This service runs a large data center in Virginia and
connections, access to their large archive of files,
and as large
a news feed as you are willing to pay for. UUNET charges
from about $25/month for a very lightly used electronic
to several hundred dollars a month for a large USENET
feed. They charge
by the hour, with the lowest hourly charge for calling
a slightly higher charge for access via a packet switched
(but that gives you a local call), and higher still
if you use their
800 number (but this might still be cheaper than calling
them on your
own account). Transmission rates can vary, but customers
600-800cps using Telebit PEP modems is typical. UUNET
can be reached
at (703) 204-8000.
A smaller national vendor, Performance Systems International,
of Troy, New York, runs their own packet switched network
competitive rates, but a limited number of cities with
numbers. They offer a flat rate per month for a UUCP
the restriction that your site does not feed any other
a somewhat higher fee, they will waive that restriction).
Systems International can be reached at (518) 283-8860.
A number of small companies offer connections regionally.
Systems, Inc. is one of those, and we can be reached
at (215) 947-9900.
If you are in the western part of the US, another regional
is Portal Communications Company (408) 973-9111.
Spread the Word
Once connected, it is wise to register your system with
the UUCP Mapping
Project. This helps to ensure that mail will reach your
site and also
reserves your site's UUCP name to prevent conflicts.
does impose at least one constraint, however: the UUCP
you choose for your site must also be unique within
the maps, and,
as many have lamented, all the good ones are taken.
To register your site, you send a mail message to rutgers!uucpmap
(or email@example.com) containing information in the
shown in Listing 1. The lines should appear in the order
the listing, but you do not need to include lines that
do not apply.
The first line, #N, is the name of your site. If you
have a registered domain name with the NIC, just include
name of your site on this line. If you do have a registered
name with the NIC, list the FQDN of the Internet site
is acting as your MX forwarder on the #F line. On the
line list the type of system and operating system software
The #O through #P lines identify yourself/company. The
#O line is the Organization (or Owner) of the system.
is the contact person(s) name(s). #E is the electronic
address for the person listed in #C and is usually just
#T is the telephone number of the contact person. Note
format. Telephone numbers are listed as a "+"
the country code, and then the number (the country code
America is 1). The postal address makes up the #P line.
The #L line is special and is used by automatic mapping
to produce maps showing the locations of USENET sites.
the latitude and longitude of your site in hours, minutes,
format. If you do not know the values for the location
of your site,
you can list the values for a nearby city and place
the word "(city)"
after the values.
Any remarks are listed on the #R lines. Try to keep
as the maps are distributed and stored on a large number
All USENET Network News feeds are listed on the #U lines.
last line, the #W line, is the person who filed the
the date of the entry.
What follows is connection information for pathalias.
any aliases for your site are listed as:
Then the other sites your site communicates with via
UUCP are listed, along with their connection frequency.
are in Listing 3 along with their relative weightings.
are used to build the paths used by the routing software.
There is a lot out there on USENET. If you administer
a UNIX system
it will be worth the trouble to find a site and connect
up. Many sites
even think it's worth paying for. I am looking forward
you, "On the Networks."
About the Author
Sydney S. Weinstein, CDP, CCP is a consultant, columnist,
author, professor, and President of Datacomp Systems,
Inc., a consulting
and contract programming firm specializing in databases,
and windowing, transaction processing, networking, testing
suites, and device management for UNIX and MS-DOS. He
can be contacted
care of Datacomp Systems, Inc., 3837 Byron Road, Huntingdon
PA 19006-2320 or via electronic mail on the Internet/USENET
syd@DSI.COM (dsinc!syd> for those who cannot do Internet