Why write another newsreader?

This document is Copyright (C) 1995-1997 Mike Read.

With the number of truly good newsreaders available, many of which are free, "Why write another newsreader?" is a question that deserves careful consideration. Is my new idea really revolutionary? Am I making a real contribution or just adding to the confusion? Before I began writing this newsreader, I performed an exhaustive search of the readers available and evaluated each of them as a contributor to the solution to my personal situation. The results of this two-month exercise convinced me that there was a need that was not being met.

AllNews is being offered as freeware in an attempt to drive the technology. The capability of handling multiple servers has been around for years. The recent rapid expansion of the internet has emphasized the necessity of doing so. The mindset of single-server/single-client needs to be shaken off so that the existing newsreaders may move into the 21st century.

As you read this story, I am sure that many of you will identify with it; I have read many similar posts in the newsgroups. As the usenet began to saturate in mid '95, I noticed the increasing number of multi-part posts that had missing parts, particularly in the warez and multimedia groups.

Lost posts are more obvious in these groups, because there are sequences of related, often numbered, posts emanating from the same source in the same time frame. However, the discussion groups have been hit just as hard; it's just less obvious. Frequently, a post appears "2nd try: Q...", as a user repeats a question he did not get answered. Perhaps his post was lost on the way out, perhaps the reply was not able to make the return trip. Perhaps the reply is trickling around the backwater of redundant feeds and will arrive a week after the 2nd try is answered. Many of these posters also request reply via E-mail, in order to ensure that they see the response.

Wading through the verbal abuse, I discovered "open" and "public" servers. Then I discovered the joys of setting up a reader to access different servers, get the list of articles, and cross-check for the parts of the items I was interested in. Sad to say, because of abuse/overuse all of the public servers have closed up. Because of hacker attacks, few "open" servers are able to remain open long.

Trumpet's TCPMETER showed me that that throughput had fallen off, so that much of my time was being spent twiddling my toes. I tried to start up a second copy of my reader to get on another server in the idle time. It wouldn't. Starting to sound familiar?

I then launched a survey of all the news readers available for Windows, and looked at how they might contribute to my dilemma. It all came down to the one-user-one-server model. While some readers _claim_ to support multiple servers, in fact you must disconnect from one to connect to another. None of them will correlate the data between two or more servers.

To get multiple readers running at the same time, they had to be competing products. This required being adept with several different user interfaces, and some rather clumsy readers. A hacker posting under the name "Wolfie" posted a hack to Agent that allowed the "cloning" of Agent copies, overcoming the "single instance" problem.

And so, having finally collected all of the pieces, a bit here and a bit there, I exported them individually to DOS so that I could recombine them. Most of the posts were UUENCODED, and good UUDECODErs are plentiful. However, some were Mime or Base 64.

I expect that many of you were doing this just last night. Well no more.

Coming from a strong programming and communications background (see my resume on the main page), I decided that enough was enough. I wrote this program. In doing so, I learned why those readers in active development declined to go multi-server. The internal architecture of those readers was locked in to concepts that had since become obsolete.

The freeware version of AllNews does not yet have all of the planned features; some of the controls do not yet work (check back to the main web page every couple of weeks for the latest version and fixes). The user interface is one area that is particularly lacking. I focused mainly on the technological issues. A commercial version IS coming that will have all of these features and more. (I have a _very long_ list of things to do to AllNews when I find time)

So listen up out there all you newsreader writers: "We are fed up with missing posts and we're not gonna take it any more!" The race is on! What do you want to bet? Can I put your user interface on AllNews before you put my communications features in your reader? The world will tolerate no less than the best of both, now that they have had a taste. Get out of your trenches and go multi-server before the trenches get filled in, with you in them!