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INN FAQ Part 4/9: Debugging & Configuring Information

This article is part 4 of a multi-part FAQ: Part 4: Read this AFTER you've read and followed the directions in This includes a tutorial on debugging posting/access problems.
Posted-By: post_faq 2.10
Archive-name: usenet/software/inn-faq/part4
Last Changed: $Date: 1997/08/26 01:26:21 $ $Revision: 2.19 $

                  Part 4 of 9

INN FAQ Part 1: General and questions from people that don't (yet) run INN
INN FAQ Part 2: Specific notes for specific operating systems
INN FAQ Part 3: Reasons why INN isn't starting
INN FAQ Part 4: The debugging tutorial (setup of feeds etc.)
INN FAQ Part 5: Other error messages and what they mean
INN FAQ Part 6: Day-to-day operation and changes to the system
INN FAQ Part 7: Problems with INN already running
INN FAQ Part 8: Appendix A: Norman's install guide
INN FAQ Part 9: Appendix B: Configurations for certain systems
Subject:  Table Of Contents for Part 4/9
     TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR PART 4/9:  Debugging Guide & Tutorial

	4.1 Should I read the file in its entirety before reading this document?
	4.2 Terminology used in the rest of this document.
	4.3 How does it all fit together?
	4.4 What should I monitor as I debug INN problems?
	4.5 My innd won't start!
	4.6 Connecting to a TCP/IP server.
	4.7 Make sure that "feeders" can connect.
	4.8 Make sure that "readers" can connect.
	4.9 Make sure that clients can post.
	4.10 "client" doesn't have the software needed to post.
	4.11 Introduction to the "newsfeeds" file
	4.12 The ME line in the newsfeeds file.
	4.13 How does the "ME" line interact with the other lines?
	4.14 Cookbook example of an outgoing NNTP feed.
	4.15 Cookbook example of an outgoing UUCP feed.
	4.16 Cookbook example of an outgoing UUCP-over-TCP feed.
	4.17 Testing an outgoing feed (your "newsfeeds" configuration).
	4.18 Other cron jobs.
	4.19 Cookbook example of setting up NOV ("overchan").
	4.20 How do I use nntplink with INN?
	4.21 How do I use innfeed with INN ?
	4.22 How do I gate news to mail and/or mail to news?
	4.23 Should I distribute control messages?

                       THE DEBUGGING TUTORIAL
                (or, What do I do after


Subject: (4.1) Should I read the file in its entirety before reading this document?

YES! tells you how to compile and install the software.
This document walks you through debugging the *configuration* of the
software once it is installed.

This document takes you from where leaves off, gives you a
quick overview of how all the pieces fit together, and then takes you
through specific debugging tasks.

Debugging INN problems is often difficult because one needs to be an
experienced netnews person to do it well.  You can only get experience
by having a properly running system.  This is a catch-22.  This
tutorial attempts to take you through the basics.  The rest you'll
figure out.

Newsgroups you should know exist:  -- INN questions go here.     -- Discussions about any of the many software
	packages that support the "B news" format (i.e. INN, C news,
	ANU-NEWS, etc.)

This document also takes you through the process of verifying that your
system is properly configured.  When you are done, you should:

1.  be sure that when feeders connect they are treated as feeders.

2.  be sure that when clients connect they are treated as clients.

3.  be sure that posting works.

4.  be sure that your out-bound feeds are properly configured.


Subject: (4.2) Terminology used in the rest of this document.

We will pretend that your machine is named "nntphost" or
"" and that there is a client named "client" or

Some machines connect to you to try to feed you new articles.  We'll
call these machines "feeders".  Some machines try to connect to you to
read and/or post articles.  We'll call these machines "readers".


Subject: (4.3) How does it all fit together?

Here is a fantastic overview of the workings of INN.

From: Ken Hornstein <>

I discovered that the biggest problem I had with INN was understanding how
everything fits together (since I had no experience with B or C news).
Here's a (hopefully) simple description of how everything fits

After running (as "root"), you should have the "innd" daemon
running ("ps" will show the process to be owned by "news").  This is
the Master Daemon.  It handles incoming connections, stores the
articles on your disk, but does _not_ send any articles out itself.  It
directs other programs to do that.  Exactly where articles are sent and
how they are sent is determined by the "newsfeeds" file.  Setting up
your newsfeeds file will be the hardest part of configuring INN.  Here
are some example entries from my newsfeeds file:


Looks complicated?  It isn't.  Here's what it means:

"ra" is the name of the feed.  "/" is an alias for ra.
This is important because INN uses the "Path" header to insure the
articles are not sent to sites where they have already been.  Thus, any
article that has "ra" or "" in the Path header will NOT
be sent to this site.  We know that no other site inserts ""
because it is a FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name).  We know that no
other site inserts "ra" because it is registered in the UUCP Maps.
(Ok, "ra" isn't registered so I'm just taking a small gamble.)

The second line tells what articles will be sent out to this site.
"*,!psu.*" means that articles for (all newsgroups minus those that
match "psu.*") will be sent to ra.  The details of the pattern matching
is found in the wildmat(3) man page.  The "/!psu" means that articles
with a "Distribution" header of psu will also not be sent to ra.

The last field specifies exactly what _kind_ of feeds.  "Tf" means this
is a file feed.  Unless you have unusual requirements, all of your
feeds will be file feeds.  "Wnm" means that the relative path name and
the Message-ID of the article will be written to this file.  The "n"
means "relative path name", the "m" means "Message-ID of the article".
The newsfeeds(5) man page explains all the letters you can use with
"W".  By default, the output file is called the same name as your feed
file, and is in your out.going directory.  So on my system, every
article destined to ra will have its filename and Message-ID written to
the file "/var/spool/news/out.going/ra".

So how do the articles actually GET to ra?  You run a program that
reads the feeds file and transmits the article.  Two such programs are
included with INN -- "send-nntp" and "nntpsend".  My personal
preference is for nntpsend.  If you are going to use nntpsend, you will
need to add a similar line to your nntpsend.ctl file:

This tells nntpsend that articles in the feed file "ra" should be sent
to the site "".  I run nntpsend out of cron every 10
minutes with this line:

(in "news"'s cron)
0,10,20,30,40,50 * * * * /usr/local/news/bin/nntpsend

Or, if you use an old-style cron (like Ultrix does):
0,10,20,30,40,50 * * * * /bin/su news -c '/usr/local/news/bin/nntpsend'

UUCP feeds work similarly and are described in a different section.

As each article comes in (note that hosts feeding you _must_ be listed
in the hosts.nntp file), innd will examine it and distribute to your
listed feeds based on the above-described selection criteria.

Another important thing to do is to make sure your articles get
expired.  This is done from the "news.daily" script.  The "expire.ctl"
file describes how long you want each article to last.  Here are some
sample lines from my expire.ctl:


This line tells expire to keep history entries for articles at least 14


This is the default line.  This says that by default, an article is
kept a minimum of one day, the default expiration time is 7 days (this
applies if there is no "Expires" header), and the very maximum that the
article is kept is 21 days.


This line applies to groups only in Penn State.  By default, those
articles will last 14 days, 28 days at the most.

Note that lines in expire.ctl should have the most general entries
first, with the most specific entries last.

Lastly, where do newsreaders fit in?  When a newsreader connects to the
innd process, it sees that this is not a feeder (the hosts.nntp file
lists only sitest that feed YOU) so it forks a nnrpd process and hands
the connection to it.  This way innd can concentrate on newsfeeds.
Some newsreaders don't open a connection, but instead read the articles
out of "/usr/spool/news" (and gets meta data from "/usr/lib/news").
INN doesn't need to do anything about those readers except to make
sure the right data is where they expect it.


Subject: (4.4) What should I monitor as I debug INN problems?

1.  run "tail -f /var/adm/messages" to see if any syslog messages are
being generated.

2.  run "tail -f /var/log/news/news.err" to see if any fatal errors

3.  Check for incoming email constantly (especially when trying to post
from "nn").


Subject: (4.5) My innd won't start!

Keep a "tail -f /var/adm/messages" running.  INN reports most errors
via syslog.  The syslog messages usually explain what is wrong.
Elsewhere in this document are details about some of the less obvious
syslog messages.

Chances are, INN is starting, finding a misconfigured "ME" line in the
newsfeeds file, and exiting.  You might want to read the section on
configuring your "newsfeeds" file first.

Rich Salz says a common reason is that you ran makehistory but didn't
rename the DBZ files.  "makehistory" generates history.n.dir
and history.n.pag.  They must be renamed:
	mv history.n.dir history.dir
	mv history.n.pag history.pag
(In the future, you could run "makehistory -f history", which is a
little more risky... so read the man page before you use it.  "makehistory"
is part of the man page "news-recovery".  This will change in 1.5.)

Izar Tarandach <> suggests that another common
mistake is that innd wasn't being started by the correct uid.  innd
(and therefore must be started from "root" (not "news").  It
immediately turns itself in user "news" once certain tasks are

If you use a suid root inndstart, you can run it as any user.


Subject: (4.6) Connecting to a TCP/IP server.

You know that "telnet"'ing to a machine lets you log into it.  You are
actually connecting on the "telnet" port (port 23).  Many TCP/IP
services allow you to "telnet" into their port and talk directly to
them.  Try "telnet nntphost 21".  This means log into port #21 (the
"ftp" port) instead of the usual remote login port.

Once you are in, you'll get no prompt.  Type "help" and press RETURN.
You should get a list of commands.  If you know what the commands are,
you can talk to this server.  Type "quit" and press RETURN to get out.

After every command you should get some kind of status message.  Each
line will begin with a number.  Each message has a unique number.
Errors are defined as anything that starts with a number >= 400.
Positive (non-error) messages are <400.

SMTP (mail) and NNTP (netnews) work the same way.  Telnet into their
port and issue commands and data.  "quit" always gets you out.

We'll use this to debug INN configurations by "telnet"'ing into the
innd server and seeing the raw error messages it gives us.

Try "telnet"'ing into the NNTP port (#119) of a working NNTP server to
see what it's like.


Subject: (4.7) Make sure that "feeders" can connect.

"feeders" are listed in hosts.nntp.  "readers" are listed in
nnrp.access.  This section deals with "feeders" and hosts.nntp.

When a machine connects to the NNTP port of nntphost, it connects to
the innd process.  innd knows the internet address of the machine that
is making this connection, and sees if it matches the internet
addresses many of the machines listed in the hosts.nntp file.

If the machine is not listed in hosts.nntp, it is assumed that this
machine is not a "feeder" and forks off a nnrpd to handle this
connection as a "reader".  If you didn't know that, you didn't read
enough of the INN installation documentation.  Go back and read it

Read the man page hosts.nntp to get a complete understanding of what's
going on.  nnrpd uses its own authentication scheme, which is
described in the next section.

Since I know you didn't read that man page, I'll give you one more
chance to read it now.

Let's configure hosts.nntp.  Just enter the names of all the machines
that feed you:

I don't use passwords yet.  If you do, add them after the ":". (See also #4.14)

Now let's test to see if the feeder can connect properly.

Log into to the feeder and "telnet nntphost 119".

If you can't log into a feeder, configure your own machine as a feeder
(i.e. feeder to itself) for testing purposes.  Once you can see that
INN is treating that machine as a feeder you can replace the machine's
name with the name of a real feed.

If you are given an error message and booted out, check the error
message to see what's wrong.  Maybe the machine is running maintenance
at the time and you have to try again later.  Maybe the machine doesn't
recognize you at all and you have to edit "hosts.nntp" (and don't
forget the "ctlinnd reload hosts.nntp" command!).

Run "inncheck" to tell you if you have made any obvious mistakes.

If your "history" file or other files have the wrong ownership or
protections INN will mention the offending file in the error message.
Another common mistake is that people try to use wildcards in
hosts.nntp (which is not supported).  Remember, there are very few
machines that you consider to be "feeders", so you don't want to use a

To test a "feeder":  If "feeder1" can send an "ihave" command and get a
"335" as a response, you know that "nntphost" is permitting "feeder1"
to transfer news as a "feeder".  "ihave" requires an operand.  I
usually type "ihave <1@test>" and press RETURN.  "<1@test>" is a
Message-ID that I know doesn't exist.  If I get "500 What?" I know that
innd assumed that I'm a "reader" (so I have to edit my "hosts.nntp"
file and add this client).  If I get "335" and then a blank prompt,
then INN is expecting to be fed an article.  I usually just "^]"
(control-]) and "quit" out; I know that it was willing to accept the
article.  If I get some other error message, it usually gives me enough
information to debug the problem.


Subject: (4.8) Make sure that "readers" can connect.

As I wrote before, if a connection comes from a machine that isn't
listed in the hosts.nntp file, it is assumed to be a "reader".  A
"feeder" can also issue the "mode reader" command to become a
"reader".  If you have "telnet"'ed in as a "feeder", try issuing this

Note: If a site is going to feed *and* read, you'll have to link
readers with innd's client library. The reason for this is that the
clients must tell innd that they want to read using the "mode reader"
command.  The library does that automagically.  It is rare that you
have a machine that is a reader and a feeder (since people will want to
read on their local machine, not yours.)  News readers are now
being packaged as "INN ready" so this will be less and less of a

Once the connection has been handed off to nnrpd, nnrpd checks to make
sure you are authorized.  It does that by reading the nnrp.access

There is a problem with what you enter in that file.  Namely, I might
call the client machine "client", but that doesn't matter.  What
matters is what "nntphost" thinks "client" is called.  Maybe "nntphost"
thinks its name is "" or even "".  It
doesn't matter what *you* call "client", permissions in the nnrp.access
file have to be specified based on what "nntphost" calls "client".
Technically, nnrpd uses gethostbyaddr() to reverse-lookup the name.
gethostbyaddr() uses DNS or, if you are on a brain-dead Sun running
Sun's NIS/DNS hack, it uses NIS, or DNS, or whatever the hell Sun was
thinking when they created that cruft.

To find out what "nntphost" thinks your machine is called, do the
following:  Telnet from "client" to "nntphost" and execute the "finger"
command (just "finger" alone on the command line).  The last column is
what "nntphost" thinks your machine is called.

If you don't have an account on both machines things are more
difficult, consult your NIS or DNS expert to tell you what the answer
would be.

There is one exception to this technique.  If you are using SunOS and
braindead NIS you get just the machine name (like "milk") instead of
the FQDN (like "") then you must tack on a
period then the domain of the machine.

So, with this knowledge (what your nntphost thinks client's name is)
and a copy of the man page, edit nnrp.access and add "nntphost"'s name
for "client" to the file.  Unlike hosts.nntp, nnrp.access can have
wildcards (for example, "*").  You'll want to include
wildcards for all the domains that should be allowed to read/post.

Here are some decent examples from my nnrp.access file:

-------------------------------------- Tom's nnrp.access file START
## Default is no access, no way to authentication, and no groups.
*:: -no- : -no- :!*
* Post:::*
-------------------------------------- Tom's nnrp.access file END

The second field of "nnrp.access" is case sensitive.  "read post" does
not mean the same as "Read Post".  If you know this already it's
because you read the man page.

Note:  nnrpd will append the domain to a name that is not a FQDN.
There is no need to try to find a wildcard that will match non-FQDN
names (i.e. machines in your local NIS cluster).  Previously this FAQ
had reported that "*[^.]*" would match these short names but that was
wrong (the wildcard matches everything, oi!).  nnrpd turns non-FQDN's
into FQDNs.

After you change "nnrp.access" you don't have do "ctlinnd reload" since
the file is read by each nnrpd as they start up.

Now "nntphost" should be letting "client" read.  Let's test this out:

Log into to the reader and "telnet nntphost 119".

To test a "reader":  Give the "mode reader" command and see how it
it goes.  If it doesn't give an error, then nnrp.access is letting you
through.  To read an article (or just get the header) type "head
<2@test>" and press RETURN.  Again, "<2@test>" is a message-id that I
know doesn't exist.  If you are allowed to read at all, it will tell
you that it can't find that article.  You should try the command with an
message-id that you know exists and make sure you see the article's

If reading works you can skip to the next section.  The rest of this
section helps you debug reading problems.

If "mode reader" gives an error (and rudely disconnects you) then you
have a typo in nnrp.access OR you didn't issue the "ctlinnd reload"
command correctly (or at all) OR nntphost thinks that "client" is
called yet something else OR innd can't exec nnrpd for one reason or
another -- see the syslog output or the innd.err log file.  Check all
of those things then go to the beginning of this section and start

Note: Some telnet implementations are Real Stupid and disconnect you
before showing the error message.

You can also run nnrpd by hand if you have
	stdin:Read Post:::*
in your nnrp.access file.  Just run nnrpd and type interactively.  This
is useful for making sure it's compiled right.


Subject: (4.9) Make sure that clients can post.

The "inews" command (usually in /usr/local/bin) takes a post from a
user, adds any missing headers, appends the file
"~/.signature" (see below), and possibly replaces any headers that
are obviously forged.  "inews" will also reject a message if the
message is seriously botched.  "inews -h" expects a post on stdin
beginning with headers, then a blank line, then the body.  "inews -h
-D" doesn't post the message, but outputs what it would have posted.
The minimum headers one can feed is "Newsgroups:" (which is plural) and
"Subject:" (which is singular).

The "~/.signature" handling has some specific rules:  INN's inews exits
with an error if ~/.signature is (1) more than 4 lines long, (2)
exists, but is not readable, or (3) is longer than 4k chars.  inews
exits with an error (rather than silently reading only the first 4
lines) to avoid a flurry of posts asking, "Why did my .signature get cut off?"

By the way, a header looks like "Header-Name: data".  That is, after
the header name there is exactly one colon then exactly one space.  The
space is a space, not a tab.  Another picky detail is that list of
newsgroups on the "Newsgroups:" line is a comma separated list, with no
spaces.  There are no spaces before the colon.  If there is nothing
after the colon or if there is only whitespace after the colon then
that header will be removed by "inews".  Sites that don't remove such
"empty" headers have broken software.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.

Here's the test message I constantly use:
------------------------ cut here 8<
inews -h -D
Newsgroups: foo.test
Subject: test of inn posting

this is a test
------------------------ cut here 8<

Exciting huh?

You might also use the 'feedone' program in the frontends directory.
Do "cd $inn/frontends ; make feedone" to get it built.  To run it, do

		feedone -t -r /tmp/inews.input

This will (-t) trace all I/O with the server and (-r) use a random
message-id each time.  If you want to test posting from a newsreading
host (i.e., one that connects to nnrpd and uses the POST command) use
the -p flag.

If inews was able to get to the /usr/lib/news/inn.conf file (for
defaults) you should get a nice post on your screen.  If you don't,
here are my suggestions:

1 -- You have an old inews from C news or B news laying around
2 -- inews will give you an error message saying what's wrong.

You might want to look around the usual places to make sure that there
are no old versions of "relaynews" or "inews".  People trying to use
the "inews" from C news will get a message about "can't open
redirection" or similar.  Make sure they are running the programs
included with INN.  There is something called "mini-inews" which should
just take a post and send it to the nntp server.  Delete that and
replace it with INN's inews.  INN's inews is mini-inews and regular
inews, it is the ying and then yang of inewses.  It is the one true
inews.  It is the one inews to end all inewses and all others are false

Note:  False idol worshipper and heathen David Myers <>
reports that mini-inews works fine.  He stays with mini-inews...
"because INN inews needs to access not only inn.conf, but moderators,
too.  Installing and maintaining these files in a ~1000 client,
multiple administrative domain setup like ours is too much of a pain.
Most (all?) of the work done by INN inews is done by in.nnrpd during
posting, anyway."

Kenji Rikitake <> reports:
"Keep in mind that INN inews refers to many environment variables.
Beware of _inherited_ variables especially when you do su to maintain
your news server.
I got trapped and wasted a day with NNTPSERVER.  I tried to post to a
local newsgroup, and inews kept refusing it and sending me 'no such
newsgroups...' error message.  I finally found out that inews was
looking up a wrong server, _implicitly_ specified by
'setenv NNTPSERVER ...' in my .login script.  It took a day to find
such a subtle misconfiguration, after a whole recompilation of entire
INN kit, active and history rebuilding, and all possible configuration
checking.  *sigh*"

"inews -h" sometimes reports: 'Warning, can't connect to server'
What server is it trying to connect to?  Remember, inews uses
the NNTPSERVER environmental variable and (if that isn't set) looks
in /usr/lib/news/inn.conf.

INN's inews sometimes prints the error: "Can't get list of newsgroups,
No such file or directory.".  inews called CAlistactive() to get a
local copy of the active file.  If it can't reach the active file you
get this error.  Look at your PATH_TEMPACTIVE and see if it makes
sense; i.e., if it is a valid /tmp directory.

"inews -h" sometimes reports:
	Can't send article to the server:
	441 480 Transfer permission denied
This means that you set HAVE_UNIX_DOMAIN to DONT and you don't have
your news server in its own hosts.nntp file.  (nnrpd gets a POST,
connects to innd over a TCP socket and sends an IHAVE.) (thanks to
Chris Jackson <> for pointing this out).  Add your news
server's name and "localhost" to hosts.nntp and do "ctlinnd reload
hosts.nntp".  (For the reason why, read "Warnings to people that must
set HAVE_UNIX_DOMAIN to DONT" in part2)

Chuck Huber <> adds that this same error 
may be caused by setting REM_STYLE to NNTP in, but not
replacing INN's clientlib.o with the reference implementation's version.

"inews -h" sometimes reports:
	Warning Text unavailable -- Article will be spooled.  
This means that inews could not connect to the server, but errno
had nothing useful, and no reply came from the server.  "It just
didn't work."

If it still doesn't work, look through your syslog to see the name
of the host that innd got, and why it handed off to nnrpd.  Perhaps
there is a DNS/NIS/hosts-file mismatch.  (suggested by Rich Salz)

Other problems are usually the result of not being able to find the
"inn.conf" file (copy it to the client or make it available via NFS) or
you are using Sun's brain-dead NIS/DNS stuff which doesn't do reverse
name lookups well.  If inews tells you that it can't generate a
Message-ID, ("441 Can't generate Message-ID, Resource temporary unavailable."
or such ) this is because it can't figure out your domain (which is used 
in making the message-id string). Inews requires that gethostbyname
returns FQDN and if doesn't then GetFQDN() fails.
Force it to know your domain by adding a "domain:" line in "inn.conf".  
Solaris 2.x users will get a "can't generate message-id" error if they 
didn't follow the advice about getfqdn.c mentioned in another part of 
this FAQ (#2.14).

If you get something like:
	500 "GROUP"" not implemented; try "help".
This implies that the client host is in hosts.nntp, not nnrp.access.
However, if you need to have this machine in the hosts.nntp file
(i.e. it is a feeder or you have an operating system that requires you
to set HAVE_UNIX_DOMAIN to DONT) then your newsreader must send a "mode
reader" to the server when it connects.

Once you get "inews -h -D" working, do the same test without the "-D" option
and let it actually post the message.  If it can't post, it will tell
you why.  If the answer isn't clear enough, "telnet nntphost 119", give
the "mode reader" command, then the "post" command.  Enter lines of
text like you would to "inews -h" and then type "." on a line by itself
(and press RETURN).

If posting via "telnet nntphost 119" DOES work and posting via "inews -h"
DOES NOT work, you know that (1) "inews" is compiled wrong, or more likely,
(2) you aren't using INN's inews.  Either way, if this is happening
you know you have narrowed your problems down to the inews program.

By the way, posting to misc.test is pretty useless considering that the
entire world doesn't need to see your message.  Post to a local
newsgroup or even a state-wide newsgroup like "nj.test" (assuming you
are in New Jersey).  There are lots of people that reply to every test
message they see, so expect to get tons of stupid email.  (though, if
you don't get any email consider yourself lucky).  Also, there is no
newsgroup called "news.test" so don't post there.  Many try, try fail.
By the way, if you are one of those people that reply to every test
message they see, get a real hobby.  The convention is that replies
are not sent to test messages with the word "IGNORE" in the Subject:.

Do *NOT* post your test message to a non-test newsgroup.  You will get
many angry replies from all over the world.  ...including the FAQ maintainer.

Look at the posted message in the news spool (if you post a message to
nj.test, "cd /var/spool/news/nj/test" and cat the highest numbered file
you see).  If your site name is listed multiple times in the "Path:"
header, put your server's name on the "pathhost:" line of "inn.conf"
and recompile INN with "INEWS_PATH" set to "DONT".  (I don't know why
Rich likes that as the default!)

REMEMBER:  inn.conf is read into innd only once.  After it is changed,
the innd daemon must be shutdown and restarted.  (use "ctlinnd shutdown x"
and then run as root).

If "inews -h" posts a message, smile because most of the battle is over.


Subject: (4.10) "client" doesn't have the software needed to post.

If the client doesn't have "inews" at all, copy it from the server (if
they are compatible machines) or check the INN installation manual to
find out how to compile just the client programs for a machine.  There
is a special gimmick included with INN to compile inews for the various
other OS's and versions of Unix without having to compile the entire
INN package.

Since nnpost, Pnews, postnews, and all other news posting software
shouldn't do anything but ask for header information, let you add a
body, and then pipe the whole thing to "inews -h", you can be pretty
certain that if "inews -h" works, your news posting programs will
work.  Think again!  Post from each of them and make sure they all get
posted.  You might find that they access a copy of "inews" that was
part of C news, mini-inews, or heavens knows what.

I highly recommend that people use "find" or "gnufind" to seek out and
replace all old versions of "inews" with symbolic links to the one

Something like:

gnufind / /usr /usr/local /usr/lib -xdev -follow -name inews\* -print

Then, for every file found, do the following:

mv inews inews.cnews
ln -s /usr/local/bin/inews inews

Now you only have to update /usr/local/bin/inews, rather than
chasing may copies.

"nn" and "nnpost" create a file called "~/.nn/params" right before you
post with tons of useful information.  While posting you can shell out
of the editor and view the file.  The file is deleted after the message
is posted.  I had to view this file while shelled out of my editor to
find which "inews" was being used by "nnpost".

It's also a good idea to check your mail now and then while you are
doing this.  Some newsreaders (like "nn" notify you of a posting
problem via mail.

On non-INN systems, "inews" returns pretty quickly.  Actually they fork
a process to do the actual posting in the background.  When those
"inews" return, you don't know if the post was successful or not.
These "inews"'s have a "-W" option which turns off this forking feature
(i.e. Wait for the post to complete).

INN's "inews" never forks because the wait is never that long.  When
"inews" returns you know if the post was successful or not.  INN's
"inews" accepts the "-W" option for compatibility.

This may seem obvious, but when posting a test message, consider
including the machine you are posting from and the program you are
using.  Even though you may check to see if the message got posted
after every test, this will help you later when you go back to see what
you have done.


Subject: (4.11) Introduction to the "newsfeeds" file

Outgoing news is controlled by the "newsfeeds" file.  The INN 1.2 man
page for this file is a bit complex.  The man page in 1.3 (and beyond)
gives better examples.  Here's a "cookbook" of examples that should
cover most of your needs.  Debugging tips are also included.

Always remember that newsfeeds uses "wildmat" matches, not the
semi-regular expressions that C news uses.  This means that if you want
to get and the subgroups under it (,,
etc.) you have to use a statement like:,*



However, "*" will match "comp.foobar", as well as


Subject: (4.12) The ME line in the newsfeeds file.

The "ME" entry is a bit confusing.  Be careful when you
read the man page.

Here is the "ME" line that I use in my "newsfeeds" file.  I find
it works quite well, but you might want to remove the distributions
that you don't need (i.e. New Jersey).  Since my site has clients
reading from all over the world I try to have every distribution I
can find.  However, I hear of a new distribution almost daily so this
list is always changing.


If you want to blindly accept all distributions, try this:


See also the next subject on this.


Subject: (4.13) How does the "ME" line interact with the other lines?

> I'm still a little confused about the ME line's second field.

The man page as of INN 1.3 is much more clear on this.  Basically, the
second field of the "ME" line specifies the default for the rest of the
feeds.  Otherwise, it isn't used.  The "active" file declares which
newsgroups you accept and don't accept.

Here are some examples:

foo:!junk:...        --send no newsgroups

foo:!junk:...        --send all newsgroups except junk

foo:*,!junk:...      --send all newsgroups except junk

By the way, generally you do not want to send "junk" or "control*" to
your neighbors.

In unoff2 (and later unoffs) the ME line also can be used to reject 
articles which have certain sites in their path header.


Subject: (4.14) Cookbook example of an outgoing NNTP feed:

This example involves a machine named, that has an
alias of, which should receive all posts (but
control & junk should never be passed on) and not certain
distributions.  Add the following line to newsfeeds:*,!control*,!junk/!local,!warren:Tf,Wnm:

Have the user "news" run the following via cron:

3,23,43 * * * *  /usr/lib/news/bin/nntpsend >/dev/null 2>&1

(this only needs to be added once.  nntpsend refers to a file
called nntpsend.ctl to find out what to do).

Add the following to nntpsend.ctl:


If you experience errors in the form "480 Transfer permission denied",
then your remote site should double check its hosts.nntp file.
Entries in hosts.nntp normally look like

<host>:[<pass>[:<groups>]], where pass and groups can be omitted.
Now if the remote has an entry like the following:

| |
             ^^^  note space instead of return

then it expects you to send a password. If you don't, you get the
above error. In this case, the remote should check its hosts.nntp,
remove trailing spaces and do a ctlinnd reload hosts.nntp afterwards.
See also #4.7

Another version for the "480 Transfer permission denied" problem is
that the your host does not appear in the remotes hosts.nntp, but
is matched by an entry in their nnrp.access. When you then send a
``ihave'' command, the remote gives you that error.


Subject: (4.15) Cookbook example of an outgoing UUCP feed:

Example:  A site named "plts" that can not get the "clari" newsgroups
or distribution "warren".

Add the following to the newsfeeds file:


Add the following to the cron tab (as user "news"):

0 0-5,16-23 * * 1-5       /usr/lib/news/bin/sendbatch -c plts >/dev/null 2>&1

NOTE: I know that "plts" is unique and won't conflict with
some other site named "plts" because it is registered
in the UUCP Maps (see comp.mail.maps).

If your feeder is sending you netnews via UUCP (which is usually the
case, since it isn't useful to just feed articles and not receive any)
you must configure your UUCP to allow the remote system to execute
rnews.  Your UUCP documentation should tell you how to set up a UUCP
connection and how to change the allowed commands.  That means that
uucico will execute /bin/rnews on every incoming batch.  INN comes with
a perfectly serviceable "rnews" program that can handle all the standard
batched and compressed news formats.  The INN rnews will uncompress and
unbatch as necessary and then pass each article to innd for
processing.  (Thanks to Jerry Aguirre <jerry@roma.ATC.Olivetti.Com> for
this paragraph)


Subject: (4.16) Cookbook example of an outgoing UUCP-over-TCP feed:

Jerry Aguirre <jerry@strobe.ATC.Olivetti.Com> writes:

People ask about this like it was something exotic requiring special
setup.  Kind of like: "I know how to use a wheel barrow and I know how
to shovel sand but how do I shovel sand in a wheel barrow?"

Step 1:  Set up a UUCP/TCP connection between you and the destination
site.  How?  Read your UUCP documentation.  If your machine's UUCP,
and the destination machine's UUCP both supports UUCP/TCP then it will
be documented.  If not then get a better version of UUCP.  For example,
Taylor UUCP.


The point is to get the UUCP/TCP link working before even thinking
about sending news over it.  This is true of any news feed over UUCP;
even dialup.  Try using "uucp" to copy some scratch file to the other
end.  When you have that working then you are ready for the next step.

The only "gotcha" here that I can think of is that the destination host
may not be accepting UUCP/TCP connections.  Before wasting your time
trying to debug do a "telnet uucp" and see what
happens.  If the connection is accepted and you see a "login" banner
then it is ready for you.  If not then ask the admin of that site to
enable UUCP/TCP.  This is typically done by uncommenting it in
/etc/inetd.conf and -HUPing inetd (on REAL versions of Unix).

Step 2.  Set up a standard compressed news feed to the UUCP name of the
destination site.  How?  Read your news documentation.  Setting up UUCP
feeds is a standard, documented, procedure.  In this FAQ you'll find it
in "Cookbook example of an outgoing UUCP feed".  Doing compression is
nothing special, it's part of the procedure you would be doing anyway.
It's either a flag or a slightly different command.  The news system has
NO knowledge that this is UUCP/TCP.  For all it knows this is a
standard dialup connection.  In fact is is possible to have the UUCP
connection fall back to dialup if the TCP connection fails.  The news
batching software just doesn't care.

The only variation here I can think of is to make the batch size bigger
than the default.  The 50K default was picked back in the days when
modems were 1200 BPS (or even 300). It is no longer appropriate for
today's 9600 BPS or faster connections. Using a bigger batch size cuts
down on dead time in the connection and lets compress do a better job.
I would go to at least 200K batches.

Now maybe it would be nice to have a "cookbook", step by step, set of
instructions on how to do this.  But UUCP seems to vary a bit between
different versions so what might work at one place would be useless at
another.  And setting up the news feed is going to be different between
the different versions of news (B, C, and INN).

I suggest that if people are having trouble setting up a UUCP/TCP
connection that they post their configuration to the net and ask how it
is done on their versions of Unix and UUCP.


Subject: (4.17) Testing an outgoing feed (your "newsfeeds" configuration).

Here is a decent game-plan for testing your newsfeeds configuration:

Suppose your site is in New Jersey and you have a distribution called
"mentorg" which should be used by people that want to make sure that
their post will not leave their company (Mentor Graphics).  You should
do a test post to "nj.test" with no "Distribution:" header, and with
"Distribution: nj" and "Distribution: mentorg".  After posting, do a
"ctlinnd flush ''" and make sure that the /var/spool/news/out.going
files for all your sites did/didn't queue up those three messages as

IMPORTANT:  Remember to do a "ctlinnd reload newsfeeds x" command every
time you update your "newsfeeds" file!

Finally, for checking out changes to newsfeeds, I've found "ctlinnd
checkfile" handy.   "inncheck" will verify that most of your
configuration is sane.


Subject: (4.18) Other cron jobs.

Once a night you should run the "news.daily" script which will
expire old articles, run the daily reports, etc.  It should run
as "news" and look something like this:

40 23 * * *               /usr/lib/news/bin/news.daily delayrm

You should also have a line like this:
20 * * * *                /bin/rnews -U

This processes any batches or posts that came in while innd was down.
(i.e. when users post and get a message like, "Server down, spooling
locally" this command picks up those files and posts them).  It can't
hurt to run this more often, but once an hour should be fine.


Subject: (4.19) Cookbook example of setting up NOV ("overchan").

Now that you have your other feeds working, you might want to set up a
NOV feed so that your NOV database is built.  Newsreaders use the NOV
database to speed up their queries. (Christophe Wolfhugel) (with
many modifications from Tom Limoncelli and further input from (Dave Kennedy) ) writes:

Step 1:  Upgrade to INN 1.4 or higher:  Most of the bugs in 1.3 were
related with overchan.  In fact, the only reason why many people used
1.3 without any problems was due to the fact that they were not using
overchan (and they didn't hit on some of the bugs that appeared for
SVR4 users, all of which were fixed in 1.4)

Step 1.5:  Make sure _PATH_OVERVIEWDIR in is NOT set to
"/var/spool/news".  There is a big performance boost to be realized by
putting the NOV files outside the /var/spool/news hierarchy.

To find out why, read "Subject: overchan can't keep up." in part 7 of
this FAQ.  You might want to read this anyway since it gives advice
about other things to do to get better NOV performance.

"/var/spool/news/over.view" is becoming the standard place to put
your ".overview" files.  If you do not use this location, make
/var/spool/news/over.view a symbolic link to the correct place.  For
performance reasons, it is a good idea to set _PATH_OVERVIEWDIR to the
actual location of the files.  NB:  if you change, you must
do a "make all" and "make install". It is not sufficient to just give
the -D option to overchan and expireover, as nnrpd also needs to know
where overview data is. If it doesn't, it won't complain nor use your 
overview data, but assume, there is none and generate it on the fly 
which is noticeable slower than using the database.

Step 2:  Make sure INN is working.  Get everything else working before
you try to get overchan to work.  You'll only confuse yourself.

Step 3:  Ponder if you have enough disk space.  NOV uses up an
additional 10%-20% of your news spool.  This is a good 100 Mb if you
have a full feed.  The real space savings come when you delete your
separate databases for trn, nn, and tin and use one unified database.
All serious newsreaders have NOV support.

Step 4:  Edit "overview.fmt" (it's in the $INN/site directory, or you can
edit it where it was installed, in /usr/lib/news ) to include
"Xref:full" as the last line.  (i.e. uncomment out the last line).

Step 5:  Add this entry to your "newsfeeds" file.  overchan gets it's data
from a special feed.

# This feeds header data to NOV:

Read the "newsfeeds" man to make sure you understand what you've
just done.  Do a "ctlinnd checkfile" to make sure the newsfeeds
file has the proper syntax, then do a "ctlinnd reload newsfeeds nov"
to make it official.

Step 6: If you changed your $inn/site files, then:
	% cd $inn/site
	% make install

Step 7: Let innd know that files have been updated:
	% ctlinnd reload overview.fmt "Enabled XRef:"
	% ctlinnd reload newsfeeds "Added OVERVIEW - overchan entry"

Step 8: You must run "expireover -s" at least once a month.  Once a
week is even better. This is necessary to remove overview data of
for some reason or other left over entries. Here is a good crontab entry 
for "news" to run:
0 5 * * 1 /usr/lib/news/bin/expireover -s

Step 9:  (optional) To create the original database:

	(run this as "news")
	% /usr/local/news/bin/expireover -a

This step will take a long time depending on the number of articles
already in your system.  But, if you skip this step, client access
will be slow for articles that came in before you started "overchan".
This is not a serious problem; you will get a lot of warnings in your
"news.daily" output until you have received at least one new article
in each newsgroup.

Note:  "a lot of warnings" means one for every newsgroup.  This can
make your news.daily report >6000 lines.  The lines will all look like:

overchan cant open clari/local/washington/.overview, No such file or directory
overchan cant open clari/local/sfbay/.overview, No such file or directory
overchan cant open uc/news/.overview, No such file or directory

Step 9:  Change the invocation of news.daily:

In the crontab file for "news", edit the "news.daily" line to be
something like:

   news.daily delayrm expireover

(the expireover is required if you use overchan)

Step 10:  Inform your users that you now support "NOV, the News OverView
database" and suggest that people switch to newsreaders that use
newsreaders that are compliant with the Overview format.

Step 11:  You are done.

Step 12:  In a few weeks, drop support for mthreads, nnmaster, etc.
(assuming you've upgraded to replacements that use NOV).  Delete all
those old databases that might have been maintained and enjoy the newly
gained functionality and regained disk space!

Step 13: If you are running tin (mostly the 1.2 versions) then you
will get "bad overview" messages. These don't come from inn, but from
tin. Solution edit the source (art.c) to increase the buffer size for 
overview information from 1024 bytes to at least 4096 bytes.


Subject: (4.20) How do I use nntplink with INN?

First of all, I don't personally recommend using this program.  I feel
that it is a gimmick.  However, if you decide to join the INN Instant
Party, I suggest that you first run the feed using nntpsend (included
with INN) FOR AT LEAST A WEEK.  Once you are confident that functioning
properly, consider to switching to nntplink ONLY IF:

	0.  You have read all documentation about innd and nntplink
	1.  You have more than 3 outgoing feeds.
	2.  You have gobs and gobs of real memory.
	3.  Your OS has a superior mmap() & disk IO system (like SunOS)

If you decide to switch, here's a cookbook example of an newsfeeds
entry using nntplink:

PLEASE make sure traditional "nntpsend"-style feeds work reliably
before you switch to nntplink.\
	:Tc,Wnm,S1024:/usr/local/news/bin/nntplink -i stdin

INN 1.2 users should have an explicit S value (i.e. S1024 or S16384).
Without it innd 1.2 can choke and lose data if the receiver is jammed.
(fixed in INN 1.3).

The latest version of nntplink is available from  (3.3 is still 
in beta testing)

Ian Phillipps <> notes some criteria for using
nntplink rather than nnptsend:

> (1) If you have more than one backbone feed, you can save a lot of
> bandwidth, without risk, if you use nntplink (less duplication of
> articles over nearly-parallel paths).

> (2) More important, if you have a large number of feeds, nntplink
> permits them to be fed simultaneously with the same articles.  No big
> deal, until you think of the what's going on in the pagedaemon and the
> disk cache.

> A "ps uaxr" rarely catches nntplink in the act ("D"), despite my having
> 17 of them last time I counted. Our biggest outgoing newsfeed delivered
> 16398 articles yesterday, using a total of 380 seconds CPU on a Sun
> IPC, and no disk time :-)

An additional note: when using nntplink in stdin mode it is fastest and
can make use of the fact that the article might still be in disk buffers 
when it is to be transferred. But when the remote isn't able to keep up
than innd buffers the information and gets bigger and bigger. If this
happens - try using nntplink in logfile mode. 


Subject: (4.21) How do I use innfeed with INN ?

Innfeed is a new feeding tool by James Brister that is a combination
of streaming nntp and nntplink with some other nice features. This
tool is still in beta test.
If you have already several nntplinks successful running, then you
might to consider testing innfeed. Else stick on using nntpsend or
send-nntp. Sources might be obtained via


Subject: (4.22) How do I gate news to mail and/or mail to news?

You might use newsgate.

Rich Salz also turned over the maintenance for newsgate to ISC.
So look out at for a copy of it.

Installation instructions (sample /usr/lib/news/newsfeeds and
/etc/aliases entries are provided in the documentation for newsgate.
But even if documentation tells you otherwise you should use 
rnews instead of inews with it.

Also be careful not to produce loops!

NB: newsgate includes mail2news and news2mail.


Subject: (4.23) Should I distribute control messages?

|Subject: Re: Pros & cons of passing control.* downstream?
|References: <>
|From: David C Lawrence <>
|Date: 09 Dec 1996 17:47:46 -0500
|Message-ID: <8682bxrl9.fsf@rodan.UU.NET>

Michael Hucka <> writes:
> The INN man pages say one would not normally want to send out control.* to
> one's peer news servers.  But what are the actual pros and cons of doing it?

The con of doing it is that local control messages will propagate far
and wide, creating groups at distant servers that were meant to be
local.  These groups will then attract articles that aren't really
desired at the home site for the local groups.

It will also look like a path for articles for the groups exist when
in fact it doesn't, because non-control articles will not propagate
down the same path.

This all applies to other messages sites might have intended to keep
local, notably including checkgroups.

Cancels are largely irrelevant in this except by generating a lot of
administrative traffic to cancel articles at the receiving site that
it didn't get.

The very weak pro for doing so is that a site with only a limited feed
can see newgroup messages for groups it might want.  However, admins
can get this information via other mechanisms so I do not believe this
pro outweighs the negatives of leaked local control messages.

          See <a href="">NetBSD</a> for a multiplatform OS
What would you call a BBS run by a mom?
   A "mother board".

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