mail<->usenet gateway / web-forum (was Re: FreeBSD's problems as seen by the community)

Matthew Dillon dillon at
Sun Jan 13 13:44:10 PST 2008

    A web forum is a nice thing to have.  I haven't found one that I am
    comfortable with security wise.  A lot of people use our archives and
    a small but non trivial number post via our newsgroups.  Most browsers
    no longer ship with a built-in nntp/news protocol, though (not sure
    about IE).

    We use MHONARC to make our mailing list archives available via the web.
    It works very well but it is read-only.  FreeBSD might want to look into
    it, the UI is pretty friendly.  We just use google to search it.

    USENET is basically dead (and has been for years), but the NNTP
    protocol itself is still quite nice.   I never found the time to write
    a web-based forum using an NNTP backend.  If anyone knows of such a
    beast, please email me!

    I'll include a quick summary of how to set up a mail<->news gateway
    below but it may not be worth the hassle to do.  I will say, however,
    that both DIABLO and INN are so stable that a news system is basically
    self-maintaining once you have the cron jobs to trim the logs and spools
    in place.  I haven't actually had to touch our news subsystem in three
    years.  Literally haven't even CD'ed into it or logged in as the news
    user in three years.  You can't get much better then that.


    Setting up a mail<->news gateway takes a few day, but once you have
    it working it is fairly self maintaining.

    * Set up a private news server, INN or DIABLO.  Do NOT try to forward
      into the (now terribly maintained and broken) global usenet news

    * Enable NNTP access to the server.  Typically enable anonymous access.

    * Add a forwarding email address to each mailing list you want to forward
      into the newsgroup.

      Feed the postings through a mail->usenet gateway.

    * Set up a cron job to pull postings made to the NEWS system back to the
      mailing list.

    The gateway program can be something like NNTPFWD, which is part of
    the bestserv mailing list manager tar:  (nntpfwd subdir)

    It is a stand-alone program and should work with any usenet news server.
    It should work with majordomo but may need minor adjustments to avoid
    mail<->news loops.  It uses NNTP and has options to take a mail feed so
    it can feed in both directions.

    There are four major issues when setting up a gateway.

    * Unless you've set up INN or DIABLO before, it can take a few days just
      understanding how all the bits and pieces work.

    * Security settings have to allow the gateway program to do the
      mail<->news work without blocking or bouncing the messages/postings.
      Don't use an externally visible email address for the mail->news
      forwarding or it will get spammed.

    * Make sure you don't have forwarding loops between the mail and news
      gateway.  Make sure you can post to the mailing list and have it show
      up on the newsgroup and NOT feed back to the mailing list, and make
      sure you can post to the newsgroup and have it show up on the mailing
      list and NOT feed back to the newsgroup.

    * After a few weeks check the disk usage of the news system and create
      cron jobs to trim the logs and/or news store appropriately.  Once you
      do this the news gateway will be self maintaining.

					Matthew Dillon 
					<dillon at>

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