ICS 142 Winter 2004
How to Use the Course Newsgroup

What is a newsgroup?

Before there was a World Wide Web, a common form of communication on the Internet was via newsgroups. A newsgroup is a bulletin board that allows users to conduct discussions centered around a particular topic, somewhat like today's Web logs (commonly called "blogs"). Despite their declining popularity, tens of thousands of newsgroups still exist on the Internet, covering a wide variety of topics.

Since newsgroups predate the existence of the Web, they operate on a completely different protocol. As a result, you can't read newsgroups with a Web browser. Instead, you need software called a news reader. Fortunately, the most common email software -- Microsoft Outlook Express -- contains a news reader. The full Netscape/Mozilla package does, too, as part of its email software (which is called Communicator).

If you prefer, you can download dedicated news reader software, such as Forte Free Agent. Dedicated news readers tend to have a great deal more functionality (such as extracting binary files from sets of combined newsgroup messages), at the cost of a substantial increase in complexity. If you're new to this stuff, I suggest using Outlook Express.

Connecting to a news server

In order to set up any news reader software, you need at least the following pieces of information:

In order to read a newsgroup, you need to connect to a news server (also known as an NNTP server). News servers keep copies of messages from a wide variety of groups and allow you to download them. Some groups, like alt.music.counting-crows, are distributed worldwide. Our course newsgroup, ics.142, is distributed only on the UCI news server, since it concerns only UCI students.

Most news servers require a login and password. UCI's news service requires you to log in with your UCInetID and password.

With this information, you should be able to configure any news reader software properly, though it can be a bit tricky if you're not familiar with the software. So, in the following section, I'll explain how to set up Outlook Express 5 as your news reader.

Setting up Outlook Express as your news reader

Follow this set of steps and you should be able to read and write to our newsgroup:

  1. Connect yourself to the Internet. You need to be connected when you first set up your news reader software.
  2. Start up Outlook Express. Go to the Tools menu and select "Accounts..."
  3. On the ensuing dialog, click the "Add" button and select "News..." on the resulting menu.
  4. Next, you'll be taken through the "Internet Connection Wizard". Enter your name and email, as requested, clicking the "Next" button after each.
  5. Now enter news.service.uci.edu into the field marked "News (NNTP) server". Be sure to check the box marked "My news server requires me to log on", then click the "Next" button.
  6. Into the field marked "Account name", type your UCInetID.
  7. Into the field marked "Password", type your UCInetID's password. Go ahead and check the "Remember password" box, so you won't have to re-type your password every time. Don't check the box marked "Log on using Secure Password Authentication (SPA)".
  8. Click the "Next" button, then click "Finish" and you're ready to connect.
  9. Next, you'll be asked if you want to download a list of newsgroups. Click the "Yes" button. (If you're on a dial-up connection, this may take a little time, but it only has to be done once.)
  10. Now you should see a list of newsgroups. Select ics.142 from the list and click the "Subscribe" button.
  11. Finally, press the "Go To" button, and you should see a list of all of the messages on our newsgroup!

What should I do if I don't want to use Outlook Express?

Get yourself some other news reader software and read its documentation. I don't have any other news reader software installed, so you'll be on your own to figure out how to set it up. Just remember, the things you need to know are: