SBNews: News Robot Utility

(C) Scott M Baker, smbaker@sb-software.com


SBNews is also referred to as "NewsBot" and occasionally "News Robot".


Table of Contents


Purpose:

The purpose of this program is to automatically download and decode files from newsgroups via an internet connection. SBNews supports all popular encoding mechanisms, including uudecode/uuencode, base-64, mime, and yEnc.

SBNews excels at downloading all sorts of binary attachments, including images such as jpegs, gifs, and bmps, movies files such as mpeg (mpg), and avi, and music files such as mpeg layer 3 (mp3). SBNews automatically pieces together multipart files.

Here is a sample of (G-Rated) picture type newsgroups where you can download images:

alt.binaries.pictures.astro
alt.binaries.pictures.animals 
alt.binaries.pictures.cartoons 
alt.binaries.pictures.fractals 

There are a wealth of adult-oriented newsgroups -- if you're interested in such things, I'm sure you can find them on your own. SBNews will download the list of newsgroups (often called a newsrc) and let browse, search, and pick newsgroups to download.

The primary goal of SBNews is automatic unattended downloading. Newsbot can be used to gain a large number of files with little or no user intervention, allowing the user to spend most of his/her time viewing the files. Nevertheless, there are several manual features supported to give the user control and status information, such as thumbnails displayed during download, anti-SPAM controls, and the ability to manually select headers to filter out unwanted mail.


Requirements:

Distribution:

Features:

Files Included:


Installing and Using the Program:

Here are some very quick notes on installing and using Newsbot:

Installation:

  1. Unzip the distribution archive into the (temporary) directory of your choice.
  2. Run the file SETUP.EXE -- this is an automatic InstallShield setup program and will copy all files and do everything else necessary to get the program installed for you.

Running:

  1. Run NEWSBOT.EXE -- this can be done in various ways:
  2. On your first session, you'll be prompted for a "News Host Name".
  3. On your first session, you'll be prompted for a "download path". This is the path where you want the files you download to be placed.
  4. Once NewsBot is loaded, you'll want to add some newsgroups.
  5. Press the "CONNECT" button to start everything. All else should be mostly automatic from here on. Feel free to tinker around with the menu items

If your news server requires authentication (a user name and password), then you should enter those before connecting for the first time. Use the pull-down menu "configure" and the option "authentication"


Command Line Parameters

How to use command line parameters:

You can enter command line parameters in several different ways. Here are some popular methods:


Image (Jpeg/Gif/Bmp/etc) Viewer

SBNews has a built in Jpeg viewer for viewing JPEG and other image files offline. The JPEG viewer can be operated in several ways:

  1. By double-clicking on a [RECEIVED] entry in Newsbot's log window
  2. By single-clicking on one of the preview pictures on the right hand side of Newsbot's main window.
  3. By using the FILE:VIEW JPEG option from Newsbot's pulldown menu.

Once loaded, the JPEG viewer window will display the JPG file selected and include a listing of filenames and directories on the left-hand side of the window. This listing is provided to let you easilly select other files to view. Double clicking on a directory in the directory list will change to that directory and double clicking on a filename in the file list will display that file. The CHDIR and VIEW buttons perform the same functions, respectively.

The "<" and ">" buttons will view the immediately previous and next files in the currently selected directory. You may use these to rapidly view a list of files that were downloaded overnight for example. The ">" button will activate a slideshow of the current directory. Each file will be displayed, there will be a slight delay, and the next file will be displayed.

The FILE menu of the viewer has several options:

The SlideShow menu has a few options as well:


Configuration

Appearance:

Newsbot has several different main window styles. You may select whichever style appeals to you most, they all convey more or less the same information:

Host Name:

The host name is the name of the nntp host which NewsBot will connect to. If you don't already know this, then you may wish to contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or check an existing news program on your system for the name.

Download Path:

The base path where downloaded files will be placed. If you enable any of the download path expansion (see misc. preferences), then files may be downloaded into sub-directories of this base path.

Path Expansion:

By default, all files will be downloaded into the download directory that you have specified. However, this can lead to confusion, since you will not know which files came from which newsgroups. Thus, there are several "path expansion" options that will create a sub-directory tree for the individual groups. The options are:

Path Expansion Example (alt.binaries.pictures.misc)
Path Exp Setting Resultant Path
None c:\download\
Group Number c:\download\group1\
Exp Group Name c:\download\alt\binaries\pictures\misc\
Full Group Name c:\download\alt.binaries.pictures.misc\

For the "group name" options, you may wish to trim repetitive prefixes from the front of the path name. For example, there's no need to include "alt.binaries.pictures" in the beginning of each pathname -- it just leads to wasted space. The Path Prefix Removal box is used for this purpose. Any string(s) that you enter in this box will be removed from the front of the newsgroup name before the path is generated.

Miscellaneous Preferences:

Miscellaneous preference options are located under the Configure menu under the heading Preferences.

Lockout Lists:

The lockout lists are used to lock out messages that contain certain text strings. For example, you may not wish to download messages written by a certain person, or messages whose title contains a certain string. There are several types of lockout lists supported:

All lockout lists are case insensitive (i.e. capitalization does not matter). All lockout lists support wildcard characters, * and ?. "*" is interpreted as "any sequence of zero or more characters" and "?" is interpreted as "any single character". Here are a few sample wildcard strings:

The is an additional toggle which lets you toggle between an "exact match" and "match any position in text".

There is a TEST button on the lockout dialog which will let you enter a string and see if it matches anything. This is useful if your a little confused about the wildcard strings and want to make sure what you entered does actually do what you think it should.

Note #1: The "NNTP-Posting-Host" and "XRef" lines of a message are not normally displayed by SBNews, so you might be wondering where to get the information to type into those lockout lists. If you notice a particularly annoying message, you can use the Headers button to bring up a header listing for the group, then use the Read button to display the full text of the annoying message. Inside the read screen will be a header listing where you can find NNTP-Posting-Host and XRef fields.

Note #2: Some lockout settings, such as Lockout Poster and Lockout Subject can be determined before the message is downloaded. Thus, Newsbot will bypass the message completely. Others, such as Lockout File, Lockout Host, and Lockout XRef, can not be determined until the message has begun to be received. Thus, Newsbot must start receiving the message and then abort the message while the download is in progress.

Authentication:

The authentication options are used for news servers which require a user name and password to access the newsgroups. If your news server does not require a name and password, then you should leave this option alone. Authentication is located under the Configure menu.

Acceptable File Masks:

Newsbot allows you to specify which types of files will be downloaded. Specifying "*.*" will enable any file to be downloaded, and this is the default. For example, if you only wanted to receive images, then you may wish to remove *.* and add in *.gif and *.jpg. If you only wanted archives, add in *.zip. etc.

Dupe Checking:

Two different types of dupe checking are supported. They may be used independantly, or you can use both of them at the same time if you wish. By default, the dupe checkers maintain a list of approximately the most recent 2048 messages received.

Both of the two above mentioned dupe checkers have some options that control their behaviour:

AutoSave:

Automatic save is used to automatically save the current state of Newsbot periodically during operation. This is useful since if Newsbot crashes, Newsbot will be able to start back up at the correct position in the newsgroups and with all of your dupe checking and lockout information enabled. There are two types of autosave:

Auto-Encryption:

Auto-Encryption is intended to keep files that you download "private". This is primarily in case you are downloading sensitive information that you don't want unauthorized people to be able to access. If Auto-Encryption is enabled, then files will be encrypted with a key that you specify. Only those persons who have this key will be able to retrieve the information in these files.

Note #1: Be careful when you pick an encryption key. If you forget what you picked, then there is no way to "find out" what it was. Case is important, so make sure you know what parts (if any) are capitolized. Longer encryption keys do offer better protection. However, my algorithm is by no means perfect, and someone with enough time and computing power could undoubtably crack the code.

Note #2: Encrypted files cannot be "read" by another other programs until they are decrpyted in some manner! No other program except Newsbot and it's associated utilities can deal with files encrypted in this manner.

There are two ways to retrieve (or "decrypt") encrypted files:

FILES.BBS Generation

FILES.BBS files are used by bulletin board systems to catalog files in download directories. If you're the sysop of a bbs, then you may find the automatic FILES.BBS generation useful. Otherwise, it probably won't be of much interest to you.

Newsbot can create a variety of different FILES.BBS styles; You may select whichever one works best with your bbs. If none of them do, then you can probably find a conversion or import program for your bbs software which will do the trick. The various styles are listed in the listbox. Selecting "none" will disable files.bbs generation.

By default, Newsbot will generate a FILES.BBS file in each directory that files are downloaded into. The FILES.BBS file will be "appended", not "overwritten". You may specify an alternate filename if you wish. If you include a drive/directory in the filename, then all groups will be listed in one big file.

The "Convert to 8.3" option will put standard DOS 8.3 (filename.ext) filenames in the FILES.BBS rather than the Windows-95 long filenames. For example, "longname.jpg" would be entered as "longna~1.jpg". This may be useful for bbs programs which do not understand long filenames.


Statistical Options

There are a variety of options listed under the statistics menu item. Most of these simply return information that SBNews has collected while processing newsgroups.


Coord: The Newsbot Coordinator

Coord.Exe (only available in 32-bit version) may be used to synchronize the dupe-checking capabilities of multiple news robots. Running multiple Newsbots at the same time may allow you to better utilize some of the slower news servers out there. To do this, you must run COORD.EXE before loading any instances of Newsbot.

Some notes about using Coord:


Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the following people for their help, support, or contributions to SBNews/Newsbot:


Registration

SBNews/Newsbot is a shareware program and as such, you are only granted the right to operate it for a limited time to evaluate it's performance. If you do continue to use this software, then you are expected to pay a modest "registration fee".

Registration may be performed online at http://www.newsrobot.com/credit/credit.html

For information on registration, please see REGISTER.DOC (or REGISTER.HTM).


Contacting Me

US-Mail:

Scott M. Baker
2241 W Labriego 
Tucson, Az 85741
United States of America 

Email:

smbaker@sb-software.com

My Homepage:

http://www.newsrobot.com Primary site for SBNews: News Robot
http://www.sb-software.com Generic site for all of my 'SB' products

Find the latest SBNews/Newsbot at this address:

http://www.newsrobot.com/sbnews/sbnews.html

Find the latest SBJV at this address:

http://www.newsrobot.com/sbjv/sbjv.html


Revision History