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Updated: May 04, 2013 at 18:12Simply aim your newsreader at news.grc.com!

Reading GRC Newsgroups with
Microsoft Outlook Express

This page provides step-by-step instructions for anyone not familiar with the newsreading capabilities of Microsoft's Outlook Express. You are invited to read the entire page, or jump directly to any of the following sections for quick instructions performing the specific task:

 Configure your news reader for news.grc.com
 Modify your news.grc.com settings
 Manage your newsgroup subscriptions
 Immediately after subscribing to a group
 Your first test posting
 Interacting with the newsgroups

Please note that this graphic-rich page may take some time to fully load since it contains many screen shots. Therefore, we designed this page to display "incrementally" and to be used before it has finished loading.



Configure your news reader for news.grc.com

Before we begin configuring Outlook Express for our specific server we should set a few global options which will affect all servers. From the main Outlook Express menu, click "Tools / Options . . ." then select the "Read" tab . . .

In the "Reading Messages" section you should enable the "Automatically download message when viewing in the Preview Pane" option.

In the "News" section you should be sure to enable the "Get xxxx headers at a time" and change the default of 300 to 1000. Once you have subscribed to the newsgroups you wish, the most recent 1000 article headers will be downloaded to give you a nice starting point from which to move forward.

Accept and save these changes by clicking the "OK" button to close the Options dialog . . .


Setting up the GRC "Account"

Outlook Express refers to the process of setting up a relationship with a news server as "creating an account", so that's what we want to do.

Begin by starting Microsoft Outlook Express and positioning it for comfortable use on your screen. From the main menu, choose Tools / Accounts ...

Click Tools / Accounts to open the 'Internet Accounts' dialog

This opens the "Internet Account" dialog box shown below. Click the "News" tab to show any newsgroup server accounts you may have:

Chances are you will not yet have any News accounts set up, so the list will be empty as shown above. Lets take care of that right now!

Click the "Add >" button at the top/left to open the Add menu, and choose "News..." to open the Internet Connection Wizard for news configuration . . .

The name that appears here will be shown as the author of your postings. While some people enjoy using a pseudonym of some sort, your questions and participation will be taken much more seriously if you use your real name. So set your "Display Name" to whatever you choose to have seen by people reading your postings. then click "Next" to advance to the Wizard's next page . . .

It is traditional to avoid the use of your real eMail address out in the wild and wooly public USENET, and even though our news postings are not published to the Internet, it's usually a good idea to at least obscure your actual eMail address.

Many people will use an address like:

John_Doe@RemoveThis.earthlink.com

 . . . where it is clear to someone looking at the address that the "RemoveThis" should be removed before the address is used. But an automated eMail address "harvester" won't know to remove the extraneous text so they won't capture a valid address.

So set your "E-mail address" to whatever you choose to have seen by people reading your postings. then click "Next" to advance to the Wizard's next page . . .

In the "News (NNTP) server" field, enter the DNS name of our news server: "news.grc.com" as shown above.

The checkbox "My news server requires me to log on" needs to be checked if you wish to be able to submit your own questions and contribute to our groups. If you only wish to read without contributing you may leave it unchecked.

Note that we provide a special "grc.test" group for performing article posting and cancelling experiments. Unlike our main groups, where all articles exist forever unless they are deliberately deleted, articles posted into the grc.test group self-expire within a few days. So it's the perfect place for you to try your first test posting.

When you have set those two fields correctly, click "Next" to advance to the Wizard's next page. If you chose to logon to our server so that you have the option of contributing, you will be presented with the following page . . .

Enter the same long and "impossible-to-guess" passphrase into both the Account name and Password fields. Note that you can easily copy the Account name field into the Password field by selecting all of the text in the Account name and pressing "Ctrl-C" to copy it to the Windows clipboard. Next place the typing cursor into the Password field by clicking the mouse there. Delete anything that might already be in the Password field then type "Ctrl-V" to paste the clipboard's contents into the Password field. This will assure that the two fields are exactly identical as required by our system.

This passphrase will never appear publicly, but it will securely "authenticate" you to our server. This will enable you to post your own messages into any of our groups, cancel anything you have previously posted at any time for any reason, and prevent anyone from "impersonating you" on our server.

You should also check the "Remember password" checkbox, and you must NOT check the "Log on using Secure Password Authentication (SPA)" checkbox since we use our own secure logon system.

A note about remembering passwords:

Windows 2000 and XP have a known bug which may prevent Outlook Express from properly remembering your logon password. This Microsoft knowledgebase article (#264672) details the steps to be taken if you are ever hit with this bug.

When everything is set correctly, click "Next" to advance to the Wizard's next page . . .

This dialog pretty much says it all: "You have successfully entered all of the information required to set up your account."

Click the "Finish" button to save these settings . . .

The Internet Connection Wizard will close and you'll be returned to the "Internet Accounts" dialog. If all went well, you will now have an entry for "news.grc.com" like that shown below . . .

Your "account" with the news.grc.com news server has now been established. However, DO NOT CLOSE this dialog box yet! Since HTML formatting should never be used with any news server, please continue with the next section "Modify your news.grc.com settings" to disable HTML in your public postings. This section will also show you how you can change any of your "account" settings in the future, such as your secret logon passphrase, etc.

If you DO close this dialog box, you will be presented with a question asking whether you would like to download newsgroups from the new account you just added. Answer "Yes", then scroll down to the "Manage your newsgroup subscriptions" section below.




Modify your news.grc.com settings
This section will help you to complete your initial account setup and also demonstrate how you may modify your news.grc.com news server "account" settings at any later time.

If the "Internet Account" dialog box is not currently being displayed, from the main menu, choose Tools / Accounts ... then click the "News" tab shown below to display any currently defined news server accounts . . .

If the "news.grc.com" entry is not already highlighted (as shown above), first click the mouse on "news.grc.com" to select it. With news.grc.com highlighted in the list, click the "Properties" button to open the "news.grc.com Properties" dialog . . .

As shown above, the first "General" tab of the properties dialog allows you to change various names. You can change the name by which this account is known (like "GRC", "Gibson Research Corp." or perhaps "Security/Privacy") if you prefer that to "news.grc.com" The other fields determine the name and eMail address which will be used to identify you in any of your newsgroup postings. You can change them at any time, though it's rather confusing to everyone who gets to know you if your "identity" keeps hopping around. And, again, you will find that your postings earn (and probably deserve) more respect if you present yourself by your real name as you probably do in the non-Internet physical world.

Next, click the "Server" tab to display the server properties . . .

As illustrated by the sample above, the server name must always read "news.grc.com" and the "Log on using Secure Password Authentication" must never be checked.

Since you will probably want the option of replying to articles you read and posting your own comments, questions, answers or suggestions, you will probably want to have the "This server requires me to log on" box checked and both the Account name and Password fields filled with the same long and secure passphrase. This will "tag" every article you post with a unique signature which allows only you to cancel the article and prevents anyone from impersonating you on our server (since there's no way for anyone to know your secret passphrase in order to generate the same article signature.)

When everything is set the way you wish, click the "Advanced" tab to display the advanced properties . . .

The Advanced properties should be set as shown above:

 The Server Port Number must remain set to 119 and secure connection (SSL) must not be checked.

 The Server timeout default of "1 minute" is fine. We have a fast well-connected news server which should always give nearly instantaneous responses.

 Since we do provide newsgroup descriptions (even though the newsgroup names are probably descriptive enough) you can check the "Use newsgroup descriptions" box to receive them also.

 We limit the size of individual posts to 20k bytes. If you ever have cause to post something larger, perhaps a screen snapshot or other binary file, you should break your message into pieces less than 20k bytes. So setting this to 16 is safe. (Most textual postings are much smaller.)

 Newsgroup postings should always be made using "Plain Text". To override any other settings elsewhere, you should check the "Ignore news sending format and post using" checkbox then select the "Plain Text" option.

Once everything is set correctly, click "OK" to save your changes and close the news.grc.com Properties dialog box. You will be returned to the "Internet Accounts" dialog which you should also close by clicking the "Close" button.

If you have just finished creating a new news account for the news.grc.com server you'll receive this question . . .

Click "Yes" to Open the "Newsgroup Subscriptions" dialog. Then proceed with the next section. . .




Manage your newsgroup subscriptions
Whether you have just created a new account for the news.grc.com news server, or you're looking for new newsgroups that may appear on the news.grc.com news server from time to time, you'll want to manage your newsgroup subscriptions.

To open the "Newsgroup Subscriptions" dialog (if it's not already being displayed), right-click the mouse on the "news.grc.com" folder in the left-hand pane, then choose the "Newsgroups..." selection from the pop-up menu . . .

The "Newsgroups Subscriptions" dialog will be displayed . . .

 If more than one news server appears in the left-hand column where you can see news.grc.com shown above (because you have accounts with other news servers), be sure to click and highlight the "news.grc.com" server to display our newsgroups.

 If newsgroup descriptions are not displayed you may enable them as explained above then click the "Reset List" button on the Newsgroup Subscriptions dialog above to update the newsgroup display.

 Since we add and remove newsgroups from time to time, it's always best to start off by "Resetting" the newsgroup list. Click the "Reset List" button to retrieve the current newsgroup list from the news.grc.com server. Please note that the list will be changing and it will probably NOT appear exactly like the one shown above.

 With the "All" tab chosen, you will be presented with a list of the newsgroups available from our server. The descriptions to the left repeat and summarize the detailed descriptions provided on our "Discussions Quick Reference" page.

 Choose which newsgroups you wish to monitor and "subscribe to" by double-clicking the newsgroup's line, or by highlighting the line with a single-click then clicking on the "Subscribe" or "Unsubscribe" buttons to the right of the newsgroup list. Subscribed newsgroups are shown with the distinctive folder icon which you can see in front of four of the newsgroup names above. You can also select multiple newsgroups at once by holding down the "CTRL" key for toggling the selection or the "SHIFT" key for selecting a range of groups.

 Your newsgroup subscription choices may be freely changed at any time. So don't worry about needing to make all of the right decisions the first time. You can easily change your mind by returning to this dialog and double-clicking any newsgroup name.

 When you have subscribed to the groups you desire, click "Ok" to confirm your subscriptions and close the dialog.




Immediately after subscribing to a group or groups
Since most of our newsgroups are "archival", the number of messages in each group has grown quite large over the years — but this also means that they contain a huge body of knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Since you probably won't want to read every message back to the dawn of time (in several cases more than 100,000 article postings) the steps you take immediately after subscribing to a group or groups is critical.

 With the GRC news server selected in the left hand pane (the hierarchical tree view) click the large "Synchronize Account" button at the top left of the right hand pane . . .

Outlook Express will connect to our server and update the article counts for every subscribed group. Click "OK" on the pop-up complaint about there being nothing to synchronize — that's exactly what we want for now.

 Now, in the left hand pane click once on each GRC newsgroup name to select it. Each time you do, the most recent 1000 message headers (assuming you changed the default from 300 to 1000 at the top of this page) will be downloaded into your news reader. Wait for the download to complete while watching the status line at the lower left. Step through each newsgroup, selecting the group and downloading the most recent messages.

 After briefly viewing each group and downloading the most recent 1000 headers, right click on each group in the right hand pane and set its synchronization setting to "Headers Only". This will cause Outlook Express to check each subscribed group and download any new article headers . . .

 Finally, return to the left pane and right-click on each newsgroup, selecting "Catch Up". This "forgives" the tens of thousands of older articles that you will never read, and marks the most recent thousand articles as "read" so that any new articles will be highlighted, shown and easily located . . .




Your first test posting
We have created a special "grc.test" newsgroup specifically to receive any experimental postings. Articles posted there appear immediately and self-expire after a few days. So it's the perfect place for you to experiment to see how your own postings appear.

PLEASE restrain your experiments to the grc.test newsgroup to keep the other groups clear of extraneous postings. We will immediately remove "debris" postings from the other groups, and you won't be making a great first impression if you post tests other than in grc.test.

This is also a perfect place to experiment with cancelling your own articles, which is something we all need to do from time to time.

Thank you!




Interacting with the newsgroups
With your account established and newsgroups subscribed, you are ready to begin reading and, if you choose, posting your own messages into our newsgroups.

 When you click the "Synchronize Account" button or select an individual newsgroup your newsreader will retrieve updated message counts from the news.grc.com server and display the count of unread newsgroup messages for each newsgroup.

 At this point interacting with the newsgroups will be very reminiscent of eMail: When a "folder" (newsgroup) is chosen from the pane on the left the message subjects and other information is shown in the pane on the upper-right. When individual messages are selected the newsreader will retrieve that message and display it in the lower-right pane.

 Note that it may be more useful to show message size as a line count than in "k bytes". To change this, right-click the column headers and choose "columns..." from the pop-up menu. Turn off the check mark in front of "Size" and turn on the check mark in front of "Lines". After you have made any changes you desire, click "OK" to close the dialog and show the new column headers.

 Messages that have been replied to will show a [+] which you can click to "open" and see the message's discussion thread. Clicking individual message subjects will pull successive messages from the server to display the messages.

 You should not feel overwhelmed by the number of "unread" messages. Unlike eMail, where every message is uniquely addressed to you, it is unlikely that you will, or should, ever be interested in reading every message. And some of our groups are extremely high-traffic. Any time things get away from you, you can right-click on the newsgroup folder in the left pane and select "catchup" (just as you did initially when you needed to be "forgiven" for not reading the first 120,000 articles in the grc.techtalk (or other) group). This will mark all previously downloaded headers as if you had already read them. In this way any new messages — posted after you "caught up" — will be marked as unread and you can follow the various conversations forward.

 Also unlike eMail, you do not need to explicitly delete messages you have read and, in fact, there's no way to do so! The standard settings automatically delete any message five days after it is downloaded, so the system maintains itself without you needing to delete messages you have read.

 Now that you have some sense for the way this all works you might want to re-open the "Options" dialog and browse through the various tabs. You'll probably find a few things you want to change. To open the Options dialog select "Tools / Options..." from the main menu.

If you have questions about the operation of your
newsreader, the grc.test group is also a great place
to carry on such "off topic" conversation.

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