Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about SBNews


Table of Contents

  1. I Want SBNews to only download files with .jpg or .gif in the subject field
  2. Help! I want to get rid of all these unsolicited advertisements (i.e. SPAM)!
  3. I'm having trouble getting SBNews to work with AOL
  4. SBNews puts all of the downloads in the same directory -- I want them in separate directories.
  5. SBNews connects, does a little stuff and then disconnects without downloading! What's wrong?
  6. I get a bunch of "Decoding Initialization Failure Messages". What's happening?
  7. Lockout Posting Host doesn't work right...
  8. Where can I find some adult groups?
  9. Can I lock out just part of an email address? Just the domain name?
  10. How do I use the encrypt/decrypt programs? What are they for?
  11. If I register, will the code be good for the next release?
  12. Is the personal information I give you confidential?
  13. Please tell me more about the credit card registration system.
  14. Why do you only charge $29.95?
  15. Do you accept suggestions for new features?
  16. Do you support Bulk-Email or Spam? No!
  17. Can I register WITHOUT using a credit card?
  18. How do I install a new version?
  19. Can SBNews be used with a Proxy Server?
  20. Can I put a link on my webpage to the SBNews website?
  21. I'm receiving "502" errors! What is authentication?
  22. Problems with adding newsgroups; no 'newsrc.lst'
  23. Can SBNews be "slowed-down" for high-speed users?

I Want SBNews to only download files with .jpg or .gif in the subject field.

Personally, I don't like to do this, and that's why SBNews doesn't do it by default. The problem is that many new novice users (or even experienced users for that matter...) forget to put the filename on the subject line. Then, you'd miss the file! However, some of you feel differently, and thus I have included the capability as follows:

  1. Open up the Configure:Acceptable File Masks Dialog from the pull-down menu
  2. Delete *.* from the list.
  3. Add *.jpg, *.gif, and anything else you wish to download.
  4. Check the option marked "Require mask to match on subject line"

SBNews will now scan the subject field for an acceptable file mask before the file is downloaded.

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Help! I want to get rid of all these unsolicited advertisements (SPAM)!

Unsolicited, off-topic newsgroup messages, commonly referred to as SPAM, have become quite a problem recently. Many commercial adult sites post unwanted x-rated material to groups without any consideration of whether the material is on-topic or not. Usually, these pictures are plastered with banners advertising the service.

I have written up a special file on SPAM-rejection techniques for SBNews. You can find it at http://www.newsrobot.com/sbnews/nospam.html.

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I'm having trouble getting SBNews to work with AOL

You're not alone -- so are a lot of people. As far as I can tell, AOL does not provide a standard nntp news server. I might be wrong on this, I don't know. If anyone does know for sure, then please send me a note. In the meantime, my best suggestion would be to get a real Internet account in addition to your AOL service.

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SBNews puts all downloads in the same directory -- I want them in separate directories.

Use the Configure:Path Expansion option -- that's what it's there for. You have several options available, such as using numbered subdirectories or subdirectories based on a portion of the newsgroup name. Consult the documentation or help file for more information.

[This is the answer to the question.]

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SBNews connects, does a little stuff and then disconnects without downloading! What's wrong?

There could be several different causes for this problem:

  1. Do you have some groups enabled? When you first install SBNews, all it will do is download a newsgroup listing (newsrc.lst). Since you haven't selected any groups, SBNews won't try to receive any. You need to use the <Add> button to add some groups. You can either type the name directly if you know it, or you can use the <Browse> button (located in the <Add> dialog) to browse through the listing of groups that SBNews downloaded from your server. Once you've added what you want, press <Connect> to start a connection.
  2. Are there error messages? For example, you may have typed invalid group names and SBNews can't locate them. Perhaps you entered a bad news server address and SBNews can't find your server. If you get an error message you don't understand, then don't hesitate to email me; I can probably shed some light on the problem.

  3. Transient server trouble. The Internet is a dynamic system, with all kinds of different hardware involved. Sometimes your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may experience a problem with their news server. These usually clear up in a day or so.
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I get a bunch of "Decoding Initialization Failure Messages". What's happening?

The number one cause of this problem is insufficient disk space. I know, I really need to spiff up the handling of this to give you some informative error messages and have a more graceful shutdown. I will probably be doing this in the future. In the meantime, if you get some Decoding Initialization Failure messages, then the first thing you should do is verify that all of your download drives have plenty of free disk space.

This message is actually given whenever Newsbot cannot create a file. It may be due to some other reason than disk space, although I have not seen many exceptions. Possibilities could be writing to a read-only media (i.e. CD-ROM), writing to a network drive you don't have access to, writing to a drive that doesn't exist, overwriting an existing read-only or system file, or some other circumstance that causes Windows to not want to create the file.

It is also possible to generate this message by writing to the root directory of a hard drive. Dos/Windows does place limits on the number of files that can be in a root directory. No limitation is present if you write to a subdirectory. Therefore, I suggest always writing to a subdirectory rather than a root directory. For example, designate "C:\DOWNLOADS" as your download path rather than "C:\".

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Lockout Posting Host doesn't work right...

Lockout Posting Host has a somewhat technical meaning and is often misunderstood. Lockout Posting Host is intended to refer to a specific news header field called "NNTP-Posting-Host". This field holds the name of the host which the message author posted from. Lockout Posting Host does not refer to the stuff after the @ symbol in a from header.

The reason for Lockout Posting Host is simple... Many undesirable authors will forge the from field in the header to make it more easy to track them down. Locking out part of the from field won't work, since these people generally post under many different made-up names. However, many times the NNTP-Posting-Host field is automatically filled in by their news program and is valid. In these situations, you can use Lockout Posting Host to eliminate all messages from that host.

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Where can I find some adult groups?

I've made it my policy to not specifically endorse any newsgroups containing adult subject matter. Therefore, I can't recommend any specific groups for you to try. All of the adult groups are fairly easy to spot; The majority of them are located under the "alt.binaries.pictures.erotic" hierarchy. If you use the <Browse> button located in the <Add> dialog, you should be able to scroll down and find a big block of them. Like I said, their names are fairly obvious so you should be able to spot them without difficulty.

It's possible that your news server might not list these groups in the newsgroup listing -- I've had unconfirmed reports of this. In this case, you will need to learn the newsgroup names from an alternate source and you can just type their names into the <Add> dialog.

One useful hint (not necessarily related solely to adult newsgroups) is to use the Statistics:Similar Newsgroups pull-down menu function. This will provide a listing of groups cross-referenced with the one you're currently receiving. These groups usually contain related subject matter and you may wish to investigate them.

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Can I lock out just part of an email address? Just the domain name?

You can type in any string you want into the lockout poster dialog. SBNews will lock out the message if the string you enter appears anywhere in the from field of the message. So yes, you could lockout a domain name, for example "@badhost.com".

Note: You can override the "match any position" behavior by selecting the appropriate checkbox when you enter the lockout information.

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How do I use the encrypt/decrypt programs? What are they for?

The encrypt and decrypt programs are used to encrypt or "scramble" data files so they can't be read by anyone without a special encryption key. They are useful in case you have sensitive information and want to make sure unauthorized persons don't happen across it.

Encrypt.Exe and Decrypt.Exe are command line utilities. They are intended to be run from a command prompt session, such as the Windows-95 "MS-DOS Prompt". They're not very friendly, but are good for quick work if you know your way around command line programs.

Version 4.4 of SBNews, as well as 2.4 of SBJV, will include the ability to encrypt and decrypt from pull-down menus. This capability is located on the File menu entry in the large jpeg viewer window (i.e. the one accessed by clicking on a thumbnail in Newsbot or selecting View Jpeg). The menu bar options are a lot more user friendly, and would be a good option for those who are a bit dissatisfied with the command line format of Encrypt.Exe and Decrypt.Exe.

Note: Newsbot can be automatically configured to encrypt data "on the fly" as it's downloaded. This is located under the Configure:Auto-Encryption pull-down menu.

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If I register, will the code be good for the next release?

Registering for any version of SBNews entitles you to registration in all versions -- past, present, and future. This includes both the Win-3.1 and Win-95 versions, as well as any other platforms that SBNews may be released on in the future. You only need to register once. You will never have to register again.

Your code is also good for several of my other programs, including SBJV and SB Image Explorer. You can consider these a sort of free bonus if you'd like. They can all be found in various areas of my website.

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Is the personal information I give you confidential?

Yes, absolutely. I will not give out your name, email, or anything else to anyone! I do not believe in selling peoples names or other personal information. Your information never leaves my hard drive, and nobody except me is allowed access to it.

I believe very strongly in the importance of privacy, especially in our modern technological society. I will not let anyone know any of your personal information. Period.

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Please tell me more about the credit card registration system.

The credit card registration system is operated by a company called Verisign. They provide a secure server which supports the Secure Sockets Layer. What this means is that the information that you enter is encrypted so that nobody can intercept it. This is all done automatically by your web browser and Verisign's server. The encryption technology is becoming standard across the Internet and is built into all popular web browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape. Verisign is a very popular credit card server -- they've been doing this for a long time, and many Internet businesses use them.

For more information about the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), you can try Netscape's information page at http://home.netscape.com/info/security-doc.html.(Note: If netscape moves this page and/or you can't find it, send me an email at smbaker@sb-software.com and I'll find it for you)

When you enter your credit card information and press <Submit>, Verisign's server connects to a credit card processor directly via a modem line, just like the little credit card machines at normal stores/restaurants. Verisign then sends me an email notification letting me know that a new order has arrived. This email (to me) does not contain any credit card info; All credit card information is maintained securely at Verisign.

Your credit card information is never transmitted along unprotected channels -- everything is stored on Verisign's secure server. The information is so well protected that I can't even access your card number myself!

Once I receive the email notification, I run a little program that generates a registration code for you and I email the code to you. I usually download my mail several times per day, so most people get their registrations within a few hours. You should expect to have it within 24 hours and I make the absolute guarantee that you will definitely have it within 48 hours. If not, then email me at smbaker@sb-software.com and I'll look into it ASAP.

The credit card charge will show up on your credit card as "SB Software". This will be all the information that shows up on your bill -- there won't be anything indicating which product of mine you purchased or the nature of that product.

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Why do you only charge $29.95 for registration?

I'm not kidding, a lot of people do ask this question! :) I'm betting that selling a greater number of registrations at a lower price will be more profitable then selling few registrations at a high price. The low price makes the product more accessible to the majority of Internet hobbyists who are already strapped for money. After all, the goal of my programming efforts is as much to provide a useful and beneficial program that makes users happy as it is to provide an income for myself.

That's also the same reason why I include SBJV, SBImgExp, and the other applications all in the same package. They all share code (SBJV is basically an external version of Newsbot's image viewer) and I just wouldn't feel right about making people pay for each of them separately.

I think $29.95 is a very fair price to ask. I've spent a huge number of hours on this project, mostly implementing suggestions from users and correcting bugs that users have reported. Registering your copy helps to provide me with the incentive to continue working on the project, which in turn leads to better versions for you to use! Shareware programming is my sole source of income and it is what I'm using to pay for my education.

Many people have stated that they feel SBNews is worth more than $29.95 and that they would like to pay me something extra for my efforts. I have no problem with this! In fact, I can use all the support I can get! If you would like to send me something extra, I would be very grateful. You can contact me personally via the email at smbaker@sb-software.com to discuss this if you'd like. I have considered perhaps setting up a "sponsors" page (entirely optional, of course) on my site to list those who send additional support.

Also, check out the Top-10 Reasons to Register Your Software at http://www.newsrobot.com/credit/top10reg.html.

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Do you accept suggestions for new features?

Absolutely. Most of the enhancements I make are generated from user suggestions. Feel free to suggest anything you'd like. It may take me some time before I can get it implemented, or I may tell you that it's too complex of a modification, but I do value all suggestions. You may have come up with something I haven't though of.

Here's a few hints in suggesting new features and/or reporting bugs:

  1. Email them to me at smbaker@sb-software.com.
  2. Try to keep your message focused on the features that you'd consider most important. Sometimes I receive HUGE posts of dozens of suggestions, and I'm afraid I tend to get a little lost in them. A handful of specific suggestions is easiest for me to digest, and I can usually get to them quickly.
  3. If you notice spelling errors (I am a terrible speller), don't hesitate to let me know. If you'd like, send me a list of every one you find and I'll correct them all.
  4. Please don't be offended if I don't respond immediately. Sometimes I hold on to a message for a couple of days until I get a chance to work on it, then I can just fire you off one "It's done -- you'll see it in the next release" message rather than a half dozen messages telling you I'm working on this or that, which part's finished, etc.
  5. Yes, I do tend to place more weight on suggestions from registered users. Many people ask me this question. I feel it's only right to let the people who've sent me their support have first say and the highest priority on my list. That doesn't mean I don't pay attention to unregistered users, and it doesn't mean that I guarantee I can do everything a registered users asks for, it just means I place a greater emphasis on those who have supported me.
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Do you support bulk-email or spam ? No!

I feel very strongly about the right of individual privacy. To this effect, I do not participate in bulk-mail schemes, nor do I use "SPAM" techniques to promote my products. I never have, and I never will. I do not give out email addresses to anyone. Period.

You, as an individual, have a right to your privacy. And you have a right not to be bothered with bulk-advertising tactics. Some day, someone with the necessary authority will take charge and put and end to it. I encourage you to act to protect your rights.

Lately, I have noticed a disturbing trend -- The owners of certain "other" news utilities have been shamelessly spamming the newsgroups to promote their products. These people purport to sell you utilities designed to filter out SPAM, yet they use SPAM to advertise their own product? What's going on here? Paying for their services will only contribute to the problems that we're all facing!

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Can I register WITHOUT using a credit card?

Absolutely! With all of the emphasis I've placed on credit card registrations, some people have gotten the opinion that I don't like registrations via mail. This is not true. In fact, payment by check/money order through the mail entails significantly less cost overhead compared to credit card processing, which works out great for me. So I encourage you, if you're in no hurry, or you don't want to reveal your credit card information, go ahead and pay through the mail. Checks may be addressed to either "SB Software" or "Scott Baker" and should be mailed to the address below:

Please go to http://www.sb-software.com/credit/mail.html for instructions on contacting me via US Mail.

For international customers, there are a few special conditions. With the exclusion of Canada, it is very hard for me to accept foreign checks or money orders. In particular, my bank refuses to accept any Eurochecks for under $100, so I am unable to accept payment by those means. What most international customers do is send me cash. Although I hate to recommend sending cash through the mail system, so far we have not had one single problem. Either US funds, or your own native currency at the approximate conversion rate would be fine. I recommend wrapping the money in thick paper to disguise it. You can send airmail certified to me which will require my signature and thus guarantee delivery.

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How do I upgrade to a new version of SBNews ?

Upgrading SBNews is very simple. You simply install the new version right over the top of the old version! SBNews is designed to be fully backward compatible and all of your existing data files (duplicate lists, lockouts, etc) should work fine. In fact, you should also be able to install an older version over the top of a newer version if you wanted to switch back.

SBNews is currently distributed in the form of a ZIP file, and all you need to do is run your favorite unzip utility on it and tell it to overwrite the existing files. This goes for all versions of SBNews 4.9 and below.

Note: In the future, I may be distributing SBNews with an InstallShield install program, since most people have asked for something more automated. In this case you would have to unzip the archive into a unique directory, then run the install program and tell it to install into your existing directory. Please note that as of version 4.9 there is no install program; I'm just including this note in case I do implement one in the future and somebody is reading an old FAQ.

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Can SBNews be used with a Proxy Server or Gateway ?

Proxy Servers are the software currently being released to allow multiple computers to use a single phone line. They are becoming quite common and many different ones are presently available.

After being asked the above question by many different users, I decided to setup a Proxy Server myself. I chose Midpoint Gateway (www.midcore.com). I'll describe how to get SBNews to work with Midpoint Gateway, with the assumption that other Proxy Servers work in a similar manner.

A Proxy Server handles requests by having you direct your requests to the Proxy Server itself and then the Proxy Server forwards the request to the actual Internet service. Therefore, all applications that will use the Internet must be made aware of the Proxy Server.

Midpoint Gateway handles NNTP (news) by having you set your news server to the local Midpoint Gateway machine (midpoint). Then on the Gateway machine itself you specify the real news server. For example, on my configuration, the gateway machine is called "midpoint" -- this is what I specify as the "news host name" in SBNews. SBNews will then send it's requests to the gateway which will forward them to the real news server.

So, how do you figure out what to set your configuration to? My solution was to load up an existing news reader (I used Netscape Navigator) and look at what it specified as a news host name. When I installed Midpoint Gateway, it was smart enough to update Netscape's configuration automatically, so this was a valid solution. Under Netscape, this is found under Options:Mail_And_News_Preferences:Servers.

Again, I must use the disclaimer that the above only directly applies to Midpoint Gateway, but there is a very good chance that whatever Proxy Server you choose will do things in a similar manner. As a last resort, you can always read the documentation that came with the Proxy Server! :)

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Can I put a link on my web page to the SBNews website ?

Certainly. I welcome anyone who wishes to link to any of my pages. Please note however that I do not usually place return links on my pages to other user's unless there is something directly related to and/or dedicated to the subject on the page. Also, I would appreciate a note when you do link to my site, just to keep myself aware of how many sites are linking to me.

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I'm receiving "502" errors! What is authentication?

When your computer needs to get new news messages, it must connect to a news (or NNTP) server. The news server is usually operated by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and supplies news to all of the ISPs customers. In the old days of the net, news servers were always unprotected and you could simply connect and receive all of the news you wanted.

However, as the net evolved, ISPs started having unauthorized users connecting to their news servers trying to pull down large amounts of binary files. Since these unauthorized persons were not customers of the ISP, it would cause an unfair load on the ISPs server. Hence many ISPs started requiring authentication to access their news server, in order to ensure that only their customers were able to use the server. Authentication also serves the dual purpose of helping the ISPs to attack spammers, but that's another story...

To the point: If your ISP requires authentication, then SBNews must be able to transmit authentication information to the news server. This authentication information is in the form of a user name and a password, which in many cases is identical to the user name and password that your ISP requires at login. SBNews doesn't know your name or password when you install it in your computer, so you must type the information into the appropriate dialog box to set this up.

The authentication options are located under the configuration pull-down menu, under the option authentication. Two things are required, a user name and a password. Remember, your ISP maintains the new server, and they are the ones who set names and passwords. Usually it's the same as your generic ISP login password, but in some cases it could be differently. A call or email to your ISP can usually provide the necessary information, just say to them "I'm setting up a news reader application and I need to know my name and password to access news", or something like that.

I should also point out that many news servers do not require a name and password, and you should probably not enter one unless it is necessary. Sometimes a news server which is setup not to require passwords will actually get confused and refuse access if you're sending it passwords when it's not expecting them. The best thing to do is experiment -- first try running SBNews without authentication options -- and then only enter them if you encounter problems.

The problems you will most likely encounter manifest themselves as "502" errors. SBNews will say something like "RECV 502 Authentication Required". Other problems could be an abbreviated newsgroup (newsrc) list, since some ISPs only list binary groups to those users who present authentication. Another possible scenario is the ISP that leaves normal groups unprotected and only requires access when you attempt to open a binary or an adult group. If any other situations happen, then verify that your authentication options are set properly.

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Problems adding newsgroup; no newsrc.lst

The process of adding new newsgroup in SBNews can be a bit confusing for new users. This is partly my fault in that I originally designed SBNews to have the user manually type the group names rather than picking them from a list. There are two ways to add newsgroups:

Downloading the newsrc.lst file. The newsrc.lst file is a listing of all the groups that your ISP provides. SBNews is capable of automatically getting this list from the news server for you -- the steps to do it are just a little bit confusing:

  1. Make sure you have entered the correct news host name into Configure:Host-Name and, if necessary, your authentication into Configure:Authentication.
  2. Press the connect button. (It doesn't matter at this point whether you have any groups or not)
  3. SBNews will connect to your news server and download a newsrc.lst file. This will usually take several minutes.
  4. When complete, SBNews will probably stop with the message "no groups" or "finished" or something like that.
  5. Now, the newsrc.lst has been downloaded, and you can use the<Add>/<Browse> buttons to begin adding groups.
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Can SBNews be slowed-down for high-speed users?

For users with extremely high-speed connections (cable modems, DSL, satellite, etc), SBNews may download messages too fast. For example, you aren't able to use the delete/lockout options effectively because the stream of pictures is just too fast.

SBNews does support a delay option which will delay for a certain number of seconds between messages. This option is located under the Configure:Timeouts pull-down menu option.

During the delay period, you are free to delete or lockout the current/previous images. You may also proceed to immediately download the next message (i.e. bypass the remaining delay) by pressing the <Connect> button.

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email smbaker@sb-software.com for more information.
Copyright Scott M Baker and/or SB Software. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 21, 2006.