ServersInterNetNews NewsServer: A Reliable and Robust News Server

InterNetNews NewsServer: A Reliable and Robust News Server

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Arguably the most popular news server on the planet,
InterNetNews (INN) is software firmly entrenched in the
UNIX world, with a command-line interface and enough text-based
config files to make even the geekiest among us happy. If you’re used to
working with this type of tool, then INN is a great choice
for your server installation, particularly for ISPs and larger
corporations with a higher level of UNIX expertise.

Those setting up Linux and FreeBSD systems will probably
want to adopt INN as their news server too: if you can
set up a Linux network running the Apache Web server, you
can set up INN to be your news server. (Just about every Linux
distribution includes INN somewhere in the distribution.
For instance,
Slackware Linux
gives you the option of installing INN when you install the
operating system.)
Arguably the most popular news server on the planet, InterNetNews is software firmly entrenched in the UNIX world, with a command-line interface and enough text-based config files to make even the geekiest among us happy.

INN is not especially complex software, and once you set up the
INN configuration files, you can basically sit back and watch
INN work its magic. This is definitely low-maintenance

Almost all INN functions are centered in the text-based
inn.conf file, much in the same manner than Apache functions
are centered in its three main configuration files. (The
newest version of INN, 2.2, puts even more functions under
the control of the inn.conf file.) This file can be edited
and changed without rebuilding the system or bringing down
the entire news server (an important consideration for ISPs that can’t
afford to bring down a news server).

For anyone experienced with UNIX and Linux, working with the
inn.conf file or any other configuration files, this won’t be
a huge problem, since a good deal of the administration and
configuration is performed via shell scripts and text files,
and the tools included with INN eases these tasks. For
instance, the GNU autoconf utility runs you through an INN
configuration via an automated shell script, which means that
you don’t need to build an INN configuration by hand.

INN stores data in one of three ways. The newest and the
fastest is CNFS, a container-file-based storage method. With
CNFS, fixed-size files are allocated for article storage,
and when the file is filled, the system moves to the next
file for article storage. INN developers say that this is
the best way to store articles, with some systems timed at
100-plus articles per second. If CNFS scares you or if you
need to be compatible with older systems, you can use the
standard article-management system (one article per file, all
articles in a single directory) or timehash (which is mostly
the same as the standard storage method, but it uses a
different naming scheme for caching purposes).

INN also contains a number of customized UNIX/Linux commands,
including: inndf, designed to show how much disk space is
free (a necessity when you’re pushing against your hard-disk
limits), and cnfsstat, a program to show stats relating to
CNFS buffers. In addition, there are programs for relaying
news into electronic mail (news2mail) and for gatewaying
electronic mail to news.

INN is also suitable for deploying on multiple machines
running multiple operating systems. In the past, INN had
different file locations for different operating systems,
but these changes have been lessened over time, and you
can change file location for INN based on your operating
system when you run the autoconf utility.

ISPs will appreciate the nnrpd daemon, which improves system
security and prevents spammers from flooding newsgroups with
messages. For instance, the nnrpd daemon can control the rate
a user posts messages, and it can also be run on read-only
mode where no posting is allowed. Four headers to messages
are added by nnrpd: X-Trace (which includes information for
tracking system specific details on when the article was
posted, and by whom), X-Complaints (which lets the sysadmin
specify an e-mail address for folks who wish to provide some
sort of feedback), NNTP-Posting-Host (listing the client’s
host) and NNTP-Posting-Date (noting when the article was
posted). In the case where e-mail is used to provide
articles, nnrpd can strip all To, Cc, and Bcc headers from
incoming articles.

The pace of INN development can be glacial, although new beta
versions are regularly (if not frequently) posted to the INN Web site. For
commercial software, this development rate can be deadly,
but for open-source software like INN – where reliability
is first and foremost – this consistency can be reassuring.
For the system administrator who wants a news server that
won’t be overwhelmed by a huge volume of articles, INN is
a great choice. INN is one of the most popular news servers on the Internet –
perhaps even the most popular – and its worth is proven
every day by the large number of ISPs and corporations using it.

Pros: Solid and reliable, 7 Free, 7 Auto-configuration tools make INN configuration easier, 7 Specialized administration command for tracking system and disk usage

Cons: No Windows 98/NT versions, 7 All administration is performed with text-based configuration files

New: Bug fixes, configuration options, standardized directory locations

Upgrade Meter:

Version Reviewed: 2.2
Date of Review: 8/31/99

Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard
Last Updated: 5/7/01

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