INN FAQ Part 4/9

From: INN FAQ Maintainers
Subject: INN FAQ Part 4/9: Debugging & Configuring Information
Summary: 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: 1997/12/18 21:42:25 $ $Revision: 1.6 $

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 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?

                    (or, What do I do after

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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".

    Go to the table of contents

    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 together:

    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 days.


    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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 happen.

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

    Go to the table of contents

    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 completed.

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

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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 now.

    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 wildcard.

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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 command.

    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 problem.

    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 file.

    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:

    Go to the table of contents-------------------------------------- Tom's nnrp.access file START

    ## Default is no access, no way to authentication, and no groups.<BR>
    *:: -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 header.

    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 over.

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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:
    Go to the table of contents------------------------ cut here 8< inews -h -D Newsgroups: foo.test Subject: test of inn posting

    this is a test Go to the table of contents------------------------ 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 idols.

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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 "official".

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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:,*


    BUT NOT*

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

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    ME:!*/\ news,gnu,comp,biz,alt,rec,misc,sci,soc,talk,inet,world,worldwide,all,\ aus,su,uk,york,eunet,na,can,qc,tor,us,usa,mn,oh,chi,ca,ba,tx,pnw,il,ne,\ ny,nyc,phl,bl,nj,warren::

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


    See also the next subject on this.

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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)

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Every OS sets up UUCP differently: YOU HAVE TO READ THE DOCUMENTATION.

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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 appropriate.

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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:<BR>
    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    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

    Go to the table of contents

    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.

    Go to the table of contents

    Subject: (4.23) Should I distribute control messages?

    |Newsgroups: |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.

    Continue with Part 5...