INN FAQ Part 1/9

From: INN FAQ Maintainers
Subject: INN FAQ Part 1/9: General Information
Summary: This article is part 1 of a multi-part FAQ: Part 1: Common questions about INN itself, useful to people that do not currently run INN.
Posted-By: post_faq 2.10
Archive-name: usenet/software/inn-faq/part1
Last Changed: $Date: 1997/12/18 21:42:25 $ $Revision: 1.7 $

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

Go to the table of contents

Subject: Table Of Contents for Part 1/9



  • 1.1 What is INN?
  • 1.2 I thought Rich Salz maintains INN ...
  • 1.3 What's the future of unoff releases?
  • 1.4 Where can I get the INN software?
  • 1.5 Where can I get the latest copy of this FAQ?
  • 1.6 Where may I find additional information?
  • 1.7 What machines does it run on?
  • 1.8 INN must be really complicated since this FAQ is so long!
  • 1.9 Can I run C News with INN?
  • 1.10 Can I run NNTP with INN?
  • 1.11 Can I run the reference implementation (NNTP1.5) with INN?
  • 1.12 Can I run INN on my UUCP-only machine?
  • 1.13 Suppose I have a 286 machine?
  • 1.14 Does INN implement NOV, xthread (trn) or xuser/xmotd (tin) commands?
  • 1.15 Is an ident or authorization protocol supported?
  • 1.16 Does INN do UUCP batching like C News?
  • 1.17 Help! How do I configure this beast?
  • 1.18 How do I thank the FAQ maintainer?
  • 1.19 What has Netscape's Newsserver to do with INN?
  • 1.20 How do I submit additional informations for the FAQ?

    The FAQ was written by Rich $alz <>, was maintained for a long time by Tom Limoncelli <>, and then for an equally long time by Heiko W.Rupp <>. It is now maintained by the INN FAQ Maintainers Group: James Fidell, Dale Ghent, Nathan J.
    Mehl, Chris van den Berg and Stephen Zedalis. Submissions, comments and corrections could to to <>.

    These documents would not exist if it weren't for the people that have submitted questions and (most importantly) answers. THANK YOU ALL!


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    Subject: (1.1) What is INN?

    For a complete answer, why not read the Usenix paper that introduced INN to the world? It's available as

    InterNetNews is a complete Usenet system. The cornerstone of the package is innd, an NNTP server that multiplexes all I/O. Think of it as an nntpd merged with the B News inews, or as a C News relaynews that reads multiple NNTP streams. Newsreading is handled by a separate server, nnrpd, that is spawned for each client. Both innd and nnrpd have some slight variances from the NNTP protocol (although in normal use you will never notice); see the manpages. INN separates hosts that feed you news from those that have users reading news. If you need to support a mixed environment you will have to do some extra work; the installation manual gives some hints.

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    Subject: (1.2) I thought Rich Salz maintains INN ...

    Rich did for a very long time ..

    From an announcement (<4k5pn3$>) :

    I am pleased to announce that the Internet Software Consortium ( will be responsible for future official INN releases, starting with INN1.5. I am sure they will be posting a notice about their plans here fairly soon.

    The interest and support (both financial and emotional) they have given me over the past few years has been immeasurable. It was this interest, as much as their ability to commit top-flight engineering talent, that makes me feel confident that I'm leaving "my baby" in good hands.

    I will still be involved with INN development, although more in an archi- tectural and philosophical role (i.e., "do it this way") rather than programming (i.e., "here's the code").

    If you've found INN useful, I'm glad. (By my count several thousand people still owe me a postcard. :) If you expect to find it useful in the future, please support the ISC and their efforts. I know I will.
    | /rich $alz

    For the postcards, Rich adds in (<565e4r$>):

    No no no. James gets the postcard. This means you have to track down his current physical address; perhaps in-care-of the ISC would work. :)

    The rules are actually pretty complicated:
    | If you're installing 1.4sec2 or earlier, send yourself a postcard | saying you should upgrade.

    | If you're installing 1.5 or later, for the first time with INN, | send James the postcard.

    | If you're upgrading from 1.4 to 1.5, pro-rate your news volume | and send us each the appropriate fraction. :)

    Dave Barr added that the postcards for him also should be sent to the ISC.

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    Subject: (1.3) What's the future of unoff releases?

    Q: As Rich no longer does inn - what's the future on unoff releases?

    Dave Barr wrote:

    As it stands now I have decided to stop releasing any more unoff versions unless someone can convince me otherwise. I am redirecting my efforts towards helping 1.5 see the light. The code base has drifted enough already -- releasing unoff5 while 1.5 is trying to integrate unoff4 stuff would be counterproductive.

    To put it another way, consider the INN1.4unoff to be under a code freeze. Only bug fixes (and even then only to unoff-specific code, like streaming) will be accepted.

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    Subject: (1.4) Where can I get the INN software?

    The official archive site was in the directory networking/news/nntp/inn. Archie current lists over 30 archive sites; three other international sites are in pub/unix/news/inn, in pub/news/inn, and in computing/usenet/software/transport

    The latest version is INN 1.7.2 available from
    or mirrors which are indicated on one mirror in Europe is

    !! Note that INN1.5.1 has a security vulnerability. You can find a !! first patch to this at

    Patches for older versions are available from:

    Patches for INN are at:

    Add-ons for INN are at: ("Add-ons" include "Gup" and other interesting tools)

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    Subject: (1.5) Where can I get the latest copy of this FAQ?

    0. If you are reading this document, then you already have part 1 of it.

    	So look around where you found this if the other parts are also there.

    1. This nine-part FAQ is available via FTP at any FTP site that carries

    	INN itself.

    2. This FAQ is also posted to, and

    	news.answers about every other week.

    3. If you don't find it in one of the above places, then try:

       Users in Europe may get better response from:

    4. A htmlized version can be found under:
       ...which is generated from the same sources as the text version, 
       so it should always be up to date.

       Dave Barr also maintains an HTML version at:
            These are grabbed from news.answers - so they might be a bit out
            of date :-(

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    Subject: (1.6) Where may I find additional information?

    The Usenix paper from Rich $alz:

    The Web site of the new maintainers, the Internet Software Consortium

    A good overview for those not familiar with news (from Tom Podnar <>): 

    A FAQ in french - maintained by Fabien Tassin <>


    A Usenet/INN hypertext documentation effort by Forrest J. Cavalier III <>


    A FAQ in Japanese - maintained by Toshio Hori <>


    Jeff Garzik <> started to write a ``INN tuning

    	page'' which is oriented towards the Intel/Linux platform (but not
    	only of interest for Linux users) at

    RFC's important to News:

    	RFC 977: NNTP (Phil Lapsley and Brian Kantor)
    	RFC 1036: Standard for Interchange of USENET Messages 
    		(M.Horton, Rick Adams)

    The O'Reilly Book (only for C News ; new version is in work)

    	Managing UUCP and Usenet (Tim O'Reilly and Grace Todino)
        This book seems to be no longer in print, so O'Reilly probably 
    	has no book about Usenet at the moment.

    The newsgroup; please look around in this group. Often

    	you'll find there the answer to the question you were going to ask. 
    	But don't hesitate to ask.
    If you can't post to you can send mail to which will post the your mail in that group.

    Dave Barr has put together some information about his unoff releases.

    	This page is also a entry for the patch archive:

    The overview database with its XOVER nntp extension is described in
    This is superseded by
        draft-barber-nntp-imp-02.txt  on the same site.
    and will be superseded by version 3 soon, which you also might get from
        (This one is now at the 4th update)

    There is a book from Addison-Wesley called 'Administering Usenet News Servers' by Jim McDermott and John Phillips (ISBN 0-201-41967-X) which seems to cover INN and Dnews. This is not clear from the aw web site though.

    There is no special book on INN out at the moment, but it is said, that Dave Lawrence and Henry Spencer are currently writing one for O'Reilly.

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    Subject: (1.7) What machines does it run on?

    If you have socket() and select() then INN will probably run on your machine. In addition to the common platforms found around the Internet (SunOS and Ultrix, for example), INN runs on IBM's AIX, Apple's A/UX, NeXT, Solaris 2.x, most SVR4 platforms, BSDI, most free BSD systems (NetBSD, FreeBSD, ...) and a host of others. It might require a little bit of tweaking of some free BSD platforms that have really bad shells.

    INN has not been ported to Windows NT. There are no plans to do so.
    However, someone has written a package called NNS (Usenet Network News Server) which is a NNTP-compliant news server for Windows NT. For information write to (Note that NNS does not appear to be actively maintained at the moment. Other NNTP servers for NT include Microsoft Exchange, Netscape Collabra and DNEWS.)

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    Subject: (1.8) INN must be really complicated since this FAQ is so long!

    No, it's just that the FAQ is very complete.

    A lot of the material could be integrated into the doc.

    Please post questions to Do not send email to the FAQ maintainers directly. By posting your question, a group of 10 or so people will be trying to help you.
    On the other hand -- if you have a solution that should be included, then send it to the maintainer, so that he can't miss it in the news.
    See also 1.20 and 9.1.

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    Subject: (1.9) Can I run C News with INN?

    No. INN handles all article reception, filing, forwarding, and expiration. You will get a corrupted database if you try to run INN with any other news system. For testing, you can probably shut down your old system, bring up INN, and then reverse the process. (INN uses the C News history file and DBZ database, so if you don't run C News you will have to do some fiddling around with those files.)

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    Subject: (1.10) Can I run NNTP with INN?

    There's a confusion here. NNTP is a protocol, defined in RFC 977. There is also an implementation of the protocol, NNTP1.5, that many people call NNTP. When there was only one implementation of the protocol, that was okay, but now that there are other implementations (for example, INN) it is getting confusing. It would be as if "sendmail" were named "smtp." Please try to be clear -- do you mean the NNTP protocol, or the NNTP reference implementation currently maintained by Stan Barber?

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    Subject: (1.11) Can I run the reference implementation (NNTP1.5) with INN?

    The quick answer is no. INN listens on the NNTP port and handles all incoming traffic. It receives articles, files them, and arranges for them to be forwarded to your peers. If a site connects that is not listed as a peer (e.g., a local workstation that does newsreading) then the INN server hands the connection off to another program that handles just the NNTP commands that newsreaders use. By default, this is nnrpd (notice the "r"), which implements the NNTP protocol for newsreaders (for example, it includes the POST command but not the IHAVE command).
    You can run the reference implementation server instead of nnrpd if you want. Doing this can be useful if you have clients that want to do both reading and article transfer.

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    Subject: (1.12) Can I run INN on my UUCP-only machine?

    Sure. While not designed for this, several people are running INN on machines that do not have IP-connectivity (such as UUCP-only hosts) and are quite happy with it. You might want to give it a try, especially if you think you will be joining the Internet some day.

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    Subject: (1.13) Suppose I have a 286 machine?

    Won't work. INN is designed to be a memory hog; a server that has been up for a few days while will have a working set size of a few to several megabytes, although not all of it will be resident. For example, the server keeps the active file and list of who gets what in memory, as well as all articles that it is receiving. Unless you can do things like "malloc(64 * 1024)" without pain, INN won't work on your machine.

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    Subject: (1.14) Does INN implement NOV, xthread (trn) or xuser/xmotd (tin) commands?

    Newsreaders all need some way to quickly grab data from a range of articles. trn, tin, nn, and others each developed their own database format, and their own extensions to the NNTP protocol for clients to read the database. Then, Geoff Collyer invented NOV, the database to end all other databases.

    Rather than support a different database format for each newsreader, INN supports Geoff Collyer's news overview database, NOV. INN includes everything you need to create/maintain/expire NOV's .overview files.
    You only need Geoff's distribution (available via FTP on src/news/nov.dist.tar.Z) if you want to see how he implements things, or to get his client library (useful when building some newsreaders).

    It is very easy to configure INN to use NOV. Read Part 4/9 of this faq: Subject: Cookbook example of setting up NOV ("overchan") NB: The NOV code in INN 1.3 is buggy. Use 1.4 or higher.

    The xover command is used for querying the NOV database. The xover command is very smart in that if the article has been canceled, the data isn't given out. If the article is so new that it's data isn't in the NOV database, nnrpd opens the article and digs out the data. xhrd and xpat make every effort to use NOV data before they dig the data out of the actual articles, thus making them considerably faster than other implementations. The "xoverview" command does not exist. If your server supports this command you need to upgrade.

    What about TRN's xthread command?

    The xthread command has code but it is not supported; look at $inn/nnrpd/nnrpd.h. This code will probably vanish after 1.4.

    What about TIN's many commands?

    Tin commands are not supported. However, other people have added TIN support. See the next section.

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    Subject: (1.15) Is an ident or authorization protocol supported?

    An unsupported patch for nnrpd to add ident support can be found via FTP at It includes patches to add tin's xuser and xmotd commands as well as a list subscription system. (

    Remember: ident information is only as valid as the server you connect to. Any fool with root access (or anyone with a PC or Mac) can create a bogus ident server that will give out whatever information they want you to see. It's not an authorization or identification protocol, it's just informational.

    The authd protocol is added to nnrpd by <>.
    This unsupported patch can be found in The documentation is in Japanese. Good luck.

    In a future release, you will be able to log all POST commands with ident information if you so choose. (Maybe INN 1.5)

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    Subject: (1.16) Does INN do UUCP batching like C News?

    Not as part of the standard distribution. The batching system right now is better than B News, but Rich has said he will be working on improving that part of INN in a future release. Christophe Wolfhugel <> has written a package that is very much like the C News batching system, however. You can find it at

    Version 3 of Christophe's package includes a shell version and a Perl version. Version 4, not yet planned will only be in Perl. The configuration file has evolved from older releases in order to support new features like "minimum batching".

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    Subject: (1.17) Help! How do I configure this beast?

    READ AND FOLLOW THE "" FILE. This FAQ is meant to add to what says not replace it. Even if a already configured or pre installed INN comes with your OS, you should at least glance at to see where is what and why.

    Many people that thought the doc was incomplete later re-read the "First Time Installation" portion and were amazed how much they missed (or just plain skipped) the first time.

    You should also purchase the O'Reilly And Associates book on Managing Usenet to give yourself a good grounding on how to run a site.

    [Erratum 12 Dec 97: The O'Reilly book referenced here is currently out of print. See section 1.6 for more information on books on INN.]

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    Subject: (1.18) How do I thank the FAQ maintainers?

    If you find this document useful, please consider making a donation to the maintainer's favorite charity:

    | The Personal Liberty Fund | PO Box 11335 | New Brunswick, NJ 08906-1335 | USA

    The PLF is a legal and educational organization which helps people in New Jersey, USA. They have many on-going projects which range from combating youth suicide to legal advocacy. Their Anti-Violence Project runs a phone hotline for reporting gay-bashing which helps hundreds of people a year. The PLF is an all-volunteer organization and couldn't survive without donations. The PLF is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law (U.S. citizens only). Please write "INN" in the memo field of the check. Fifteen, fifty, or five hundred dollars...
    every penny is appreciated!

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    Subject: (1.19) What has Netscape's Newsserver to do with INN?

    Netscape took INN as the original source base for their server and added their own extensions. As revisions go by they will differ more.
    Rich $alz adds:

    netscape did not get any special consideration for INN. Anyone who wants to commercialize it is free to do so.Read the COPYRIGHT file.

    You can get answers to problems with the Netscape Server in snews">news://">snews://

    [Erratum 12 Dec 97: Netscape appears to have abandoned their INN-based news server in favor of "Netscape Collabra", which is not based on INN code.]

    Go to the table of contents

    Subject: (1.20) How do I submit additional information for the FAQ?

    If you have an addition to the FAQ then send it to the FAQ maintainers group at <>. Please try to bring your submission in the style of the actual FAQ (Especially if you submit an entry for part9 then please follow 9.1). If you put (along others) 'inn' in the subject, you will get an automatic acknowledge of receipt.

    Continue with Part 2...