An FAQ Document
The pubnet Mailing List FAQ
$Id: pubnet,v 1.10 1996/07/21 01:23:39 chip Exp $ Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Pubnet ========== ===== ========= ========= ====== *** *** IMPORTANT NOTE *** *** *** The Pubnet mailing list no longer exists! If you try to send *** email to the <pubnet> or <pubnet-request> addresses, you will *** get back a recording telling you the list no longer eixsts. *** *** This file is the final revision of the Pubnet FAQ message. *** Even though the mailing list is no longer active, some of *** the information contained herein might still be useful. *** *** The death of the Pubnet list comes about for two reasons. First, *** when started, the concept of a public access system was novel. *** These days it's rather routine, and thus there are many other *** avenues of support. Second, a significantly growing portion *** uninformed net-users misunderstood this list as a place, for *** example, to obtain free Internet connectivity. The following *** document refers to the "Online Access" magazine incident. Others *** followed, such as the January 1993 onslaught of America Online *** users. The combination of these two factors meant that the list *** administrator was spending a disproportionate amount of time *** maintaining a list that provided diminishing returns. *** This message tries to answer some of the common questions I receive here at Pubnet central. This is being sent to you because I think one or more sections of this `FAQ' file addresses the question you raised. In July 1992, Online Access magazine published an article providing some very bogus information about the Pubnet mailing list. As a result, it has been difficult distinguishing between the people truly interested in the Pubnet charter from those who are responding to the Online Access misinformation. If I sent this message to you instead of taking some required action, please accept my apologies. I am being swamped by messages from Online Access readers. If you would, please resend your request with the words `NOT OA' somewhere in the Subject so that I know manual action is required. Thanks. - Chip Rosenthal Questions answered: Q1. What is Pubnet? Q2. Can you help me find an Internet site? Q3. Can I get that list of public access systems from you? Q4: Where are the `pubnet.all' Usenet newsgroups? Q5a. I am looking for a public access system. Can you...? Q5b. I'd like to start a public access system. Do you know...? Q6. Is the Pubnet mailing list archived? Q7. What is the history of Pubnet and Nixpub? Q8. Response to the Online Access article. Q1. What is Pubnet? Pubnet is a mailing list to discuss the use and administration of public access computer systems. The focus is more upon administration than use, and public access UNIX systems are the primary concern. The mailing list is open to all. Subscription (and all other administrative requests) should be directed to: email@example.com Q2. Can you help me find an Internet site? (The following graciously contributed by Brendan Kehoe.) The recent issue of Online Access made a rather embarrassing error in its story on the Internet. The author stated that the pubnet mailing list was in some way related to gaining access to the Internet. Unfortunately, it's not. Rather, it's a mailing list for people interested in and concerned with public access Unix systems. How do they differ? Well, for one, practically none of the systems of interest are directly connected to the Internet. Also, not every system on the Internet runs Unix-based operating systems. The point being, unfortunately, the information you seek can't be obtained by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. The maintainer of that mailing list has been deluged since the magazine came out. While its publisher is going to print a retraction in the next issue, the damage has been done. Please, encourage others to NOT send mail to the pubnet mailing list. To answer your question (in part), below is a list of companies which provide Internet access for a fee. Please note I am in no way affiliated with any of them; any notes or comments are my own opinions. Company Phone Notes ======= ===== ===== PSINet 800/82PSI82 USA CERFNet 800/876-CERF Southern California ("Dial'n'Cerf") MSEN 313/741-1120 Recommended; Michigan (local to all of 313) OARnet 614/292-0700 Ohio Concert 919/248-1999 North Carolina CSN 303/273-3471 Colorado Also, there are three systems of which I am aware that provide either full or nearly full access to Internet facilities. Again, I've only used all three at some point, and have no ties with them. The first, The World, is based in Cambridge, MA. Call 617/739-9753 and log in as `new'. The second, Netcom Communications, in the Bay Area of California, can be reached at 408/241-9760; log in as `newuser'. Finally, Portal Communications, in Cupertino, CA, has recently added some Internet access to its list of available services. Call 408/725-0561 and log in as `new'. Thanks, and good luck. Brendan Kehoe (email@example.com) (fielding some of the voluminous mail) Q3. Can I get that list of public access systems from you? No. You are probably referring to the Nixpub listing, which is a different entity from the Pubnet mailing list. This is a well known list of public access UNIX systems throughout the world. Nixpub is maintained by Phil Eschallier. To retrieve a copy of this list, send an email message to `firstname.lastname@example.org' and say `get PUB nixpub' in the body of the message. Q4. Where are the `pubnet.all' Usenet newsgroups? Now defunct. The Pubnet mailing list was instituted to fill in a void left behind. Q5a. I am looking for a public access system. Can you...? Q5b. I'd like to start a public access system. Do you know...? The answer is generally `no.' I (Chip Rosenthal) am neither a public access system user nor administrator. I do support the public access system community, and therefore offered to administer and maintain the Pubnet mailing list. Sometimes questions posed to me are best answered by (a) requesting a copy of the aforementioned Nixpub listing or (b) joining the Pubnet mailing list and asking the list readership your question. Q6. Is the Pubnet mailing list archived? Yes. Please send either a DC600A tape or a 1.2MB 5.25" floppy disk with a pre-paid, pre-addressed mailer, I'd be glad to send you a copy of the back issues. You should send it to: Chip Rosenthal Unicom Systems Development 2813A Rio Grande Suite 205 Austin, Texas 78705 Q7. What is the history of Pubnet and Nixpub? Pubnet and Nixpub, although somewhat related, are not the same thing. The Nixpub listing has become something of a Usenet tradition. It was initiated several years ago by Wayne Ross, and was later passed on to Phil Eschallier. Much credit and thanks are due Wayne for instituting this timely and useful resource. Under Phil's stewardship, Nixpub has continued to flourish. This listing details over a hundred systems throughout the world open to the general public. Some systems provide interactive use, some are software archive sites. Some charge a fee, others are free. These days, Phil provides the list in two flavors: a long listing and a short listing. The list is posted regularly to the Usenet comp.misc and alt.bbs newsgroups. That would be the preferred place to find it. It is also distributed via mailing list. To join the list, you need to contact <email@example.com>. Shortly after the birth of Nixpub, a news hierarchy called `pubnet' was created to tie together several public access systems. Bill Wisner was the main force behind its creation. Pubnet offered several newsgroups on top of the mainstream Usenet groups to the users of public access UNIX systems. Unfortunately, after a few years some of the main `pubnet' backbone sites closed up shop, and the hierarchy fell into disuse. Early in 1991, in a fit of spring housecleaning, the pubnet hierarchy was dismantled. Unfortunately, that left us with no channel to discuss the use and administration of public access systems. Therefore, I instituted a Pubnet mailing list to fulfill this role. Today, the list has about 90 subscribers. The main focus is upon running a public access system. All are welcome to join this mailing list. The address is <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Nixpub and Pubnet are distinct efforts. Phil manages Nixpub and I manage Pubnet. Obviously, there is a lot of synergy between the two. However, if you contact me about Nixpub, I'll point you to Phil. If you contact Phil about Pubnet....well hopefully he'll point you to me :-) Q8. Response to the Online Access article. As already mentioned, the Fall 1992 issue of Online Access magazine printed some incorrect information on Pubnet. I submitted a letter to the editor to correct some of these mistakes. I've been told this letter will be published in the Winter 1992 issue. Here is a copy of that letter: Dear Ms. Weisman, I would like to correct some errors and misleading oversimplifications in the `Internet: The Universal Network' article from your Fall 1992 issue. The most egregious mistake was representing the Pubnet electronic mailing list as something it is not. The list was formed to discuss public-access UNIX systems; it is *not* a source for information on Internet connectivity. I'm incapable of performing this service, and am not even directly connected to the Internet myself. Nevertheless, over 300 of your readers have contacted me to arrange Internet connections for them, and I've had to send my apologies to every one of them. You have inconvenienced a fairly large group of your readers a little, and one poor guy a lot. The cover of the magazine promised an article answering the question, `What's Internet?' I can tell from reading those 300 message that many of your readers are still confused about what the answer to that question might be. I'd like to take a stab at it, to set the record straight. The Internet, as the name implies, is an amalgamation of computer networks. It consists of thousands of private networks all interconnected. The Internet's primary backbone is the NSFNet, a long-haul data highway funded by the National Science Foundation. Regional and commercial carriers branch off the NSFNet, connecting universities, businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. The result? The largest electronic community in the world, spanning continents and crossing cultural boundaries. There are three main requirements for an organization to connect into the Internet. First, the organization must support at least the basic TCP/IP networking protocols, because that's what is run on the Internet. Second, if it wants access to the full Internet, it must meet certain `appropriate use' criteria consistent with NSFNet policies. Finally, it must have thousands of dollars a year to finance the connection. In and of itself, the Internet is a pretty boring thing to anybody but us technology weenies. It just connects a bunch of computer together. The Internet does not offer stock quotes, airline reservations, or shop-by-email. The Internet is not an information service -- it is just connectivity. What makes the Internet truly intriguing is the vast array of services and tools offered by the people and sites accessible through the network. Since the Internet is so huge, the number of these offerings is quite large. If somebody across the country offers an on-line archive of Supreme Court decisions, you are but mere keystrokes away from viewing any action taken by the highest court in America. If somebody else offers a real-time, multi-user adventure game on his or her computer, you can connect up and run around a virtual dungeon with people halfway across the globe. You can grab images of Jupiter and Saturn from the very people responsible for taking those pictures. Internet services exist because someone, somewhere had a neat idea, implemented it, and offered it to the world. Now let's talk about what the Internet is not. Or more precisely, let's correct some of the misleading comments in the article about services available through the Internet. First, Usenet news is not Internet news. That's like saying rock music is `radio music' because I heard it on the radio. Usenet news is transported over a number of media. This includes the informal, world-wide `uucp' network; the Fidonet; and, yes, the Internet. Being on the Internet is one way to get Usenet news, but there are many others. Second, the term `Internet mail groups' is an invention of your own. The proper term for what was described is `electronic mail lists.' Finally, most of the services listed in the article do not require Internet access. As I mentioned, there are other ways to receive Usenet news. The article does briefly mention that you need not be on the Internet to send electronic mail to people on the Internet. Similarly, mailing lists are not restricted to the Internet. This distinction between between services available through the Internet and services which require Internet connectivity is not mere nitpicking. Your readers who spend thousands of dollars to get an Internet connection just so they can read Usenet news might be upset to find there are cheaper ways to do so. Public access systems that receive Usenet news offer accounts to read news for free or a nominal fee. There are hundreds of these public access computer systems throughout the world which offer a wide range of services. Some are bulletin board systems. Some provide archives of files for anonymous retrieval. Others permit full login privileges, Usenet news, and email. Very few of these systems, however, offer access to the Internet. If your readers wish to access the Internet, their best bet would be to either sign up for courses at a local college or take a job at a company already connected to the Internet. If, however, they simply want access to Usenet news or email, then they should consider public access systems. Your article invents the term `pubnets' for publicly accessible systems, which is wrong. At one time there was a Pubnet news network, very similar to Usenet, which passed messages among many public access systems. That network is now defunct, and to help fill the void I initiated the Pubnet mailing list as a forum for administrators of public access systems. The Internet is undergoing explosive growth and the cost of an Internet connection is falling rapidly. Two years ago an Internet connection required dedicated, high-speed, digital phone circuits and special hardware. Today, several companies offer low-end connection services across dialup modems for a couple hundred dollars a month. However this cost is still beyond the range of affordability of most individuals -- including those who operate public access systems. Readers who want to learn more about the Internet might be interested to know that a book has just been published on this topic. It is called `Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide', written by Brendan P. Kehoe and published by Prentice-Hall (ISBN 0-13-010778-6). Readers who are interested in finding out more about public access computer systems should obtain a copy of the Nixpub listing maintained by Phil Eschallier. This listing contains over 125 UNIX computer systems open to the public. This list may be retrieved by sending an electronic mail to `email@example.com' and saying `get PUB nixpub' in the body of the message. Oh yeah, and I did give Phil the courtesy of checking with him *before* announcing his email address in public. Chip Rosenthal firstname.lastname@example.org (Thanks to Brendan Kehoe for his assistance in reviewing this letter. The book plug, however, was my doing -- not his.)
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