Other than that, there ain’t no news

On the 30th of June, my Internet service provider (rhymes with “box”) killed its newsgroup servers. It wasn’t like they didn’t warn us or anything; I think I received four emails to announce the change, and I posted about it here.

To some extent, I don’t blame them: Usenet isn’t quite as useful today as it was when I started wandering through various groups back in ’96, and it costs money to maintain a decent NNTP server. On the other hand, I hate to give up anything I’ve been using if I can help it.

For most of those fourteen years, I’ve been using Forté’s newsreader Agent. (Actually, I started with the freebie version, which was called Free Agent, but about release 1.92, they went to a full-version-with-trial product, and I started paying for it.)

A couple of years ago, Forté began offering its own Usenet service, which at full tilt runs $14.75 a month for unlimited access. I figured I didn’t need that much, so I’m trying out their absolute-rock-bottom plan, which serves up 12 GB per month for a measly $2.95. In two weeks — not quite eight hours of connection time — I’ve come nowhere close to using half that, so I figure this will be my plan of choice. (I read about three dozen newsgroups of the 107,000 or so offered.) One reason I’m running this low volume is that I generally download headers only, and then cherry-pick the actual articles I want; I have only one group set to download all new articles in full.

The only downside, so far, is that Agent doesn’t seem to incorporate a gadget to keep track of my usage, though Forté will send me an email when I get within 20 percent of my monthly maximum. I can live with that.


  1. David Fleck »

    6 July 2010 · 8:57 pm

    I know I’m revealing my age here, but the greatest news reader of all – heck, the best software for displaying complex discussion threads, ever – just has to be trn. Sure, it’s a curses-based text mode program, but damn if I’ve ever been able to find anything else that was nearly as good. Of course, now that I no longer read newsgroups, it’s sort of academic. But I often find myself wishing that browser-based comment threading worked one-tenth as well.

  2. CGHill »

    6 July 2010 · 9:26 pm

    We all owe trn (and its predecessor rn) a debt of gratitude for inventing the kill function, without which I’d be pulling several thousand more headers each and every week. (And Agent, be it noted, still controls its plonkification with good old regular expressions.)

  3. Brian J. »

    6 July 2010 · 9:59 pm

    I met my wife on rec.arts.poetry.

  4. CGHill »

    6 July 2010 · 10:09 pm

    That almost meets the criteria for a Hemingwayesque six-word story.

  5. diamond dave »

    7 July 2010 · 12:00 am

    Ahhh, Usenet. Where I originally got my Internet cherry popped back in the early 90’s.

  6. Kay Dennison »

    7 July 2010 · 12:06 am

    Oh hell!!! I date back to the FIDO ans RIME networks!!!!! Great fun!!!!

  7. ms7168 »

    7 July 2010 · 5:27 am

    I followed FIDO on Usenet for a time. Since I still had a FIDOnet address I could get the feed for free. There wasn’t much there. I think that is mainly why they decided to stop offering it.

  8. CGHill »

    7 July 2010 · 6:59 am

    I moderated a FIDO conference for several years, in fact.

    Members of the old INTERUSER conference have a Facebook page now. Go figure.

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