MT-NewsWatcher 3.1, by Simon Fraser
Posted: 20-Jan-2002

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Author: Simon Fraser Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: Bob Kenyon Class: INTERNET
     
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When I first started reading newsgroups back around the turn of the 90's, the only real way to do it was to log on to a UNIX or other mainframe, and run "rn" or "trn" or some other awful UNIX style newsreader. The commands frequently consisted of single letters that meant one thing when you were in one screen and another when you were in a different screen, with sometimes disastrous results. The programs had a slapped together feel, and seemed to consist of several different programs glued together.

Around that time, the legendary John Norstad wrote a little program called NewsWatcher for the students at Northwestern University. It ran on that newfangled Macintosh computer and used a TCP/IP stack to access the NNTP servers that were supplying the USENET newsgroups that, up until that point, had only been accessible via a mainframe.

The program was an instant hit. Brilliantly conceived, it presented a window to select the desired newsgroups, and allowed saving of newsgroups so that you only had to read the news once and your place would be saved for the next time around.

Over the years, John worked on the program and it got better and better. After some time, John ran out of time to update it any further, but it is still available as NewsWatcher 2.2.2. Meanwhile, the Mac grew up, was able to run more than one program at a time, and even within a program, was able to do multiple tasks at once.

A fellow named Simon Fraser picked up the program and gave it multitasking abilities, killfile capabilities and expanded it's abilities to deal with more than one user. His version of the program is called MT-NewsWatcher (MT stands for multi-threaded), and it is currently at version 3.1 for Mac OS 9, with a new Carbonized Mac OS X version due real soon.

When the program is started for the first time, you are asked several questions about whether or not the program will be used in a lab or privately, to set up the program for multiple users or not. It also prompts you for the name of the NNTP server, the email address of the user and several other items. When this is complete, the program contacts the NNTP server and downloads a list of all the newsgroups. This can take some time over a modem, and results in a list of every newsgroup carried on your ISP's NNTP server. This can be just a few or as evident at my isp, 20,000 or so. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to select your favorite groups and drag them over to the groups window that appears. This window is titled "Untitled" and will be renamed when you save it to what ever you want. You are aided in your newsgroup selection by a find command, or you can just type the first few letters of what ever group you might be looking for and the group will be selected.

Once you get the groups you want, you just double click each group to open it. The headers of the news articles are downloaded and presented to you in order. This order can be alphabetical, or by date or by article number. The articles are presented as threads, so that just the first article on their server is presented. You don't have to see every article at once, but you can if you want, by clicking on the familiar triangles, which expand each subject.

After that, you simply double click each article you want to read, and when you want to reply to something, you select Followup to Newsgroup, and a window is presented in which you can type your reply. You can also create new articles and respond via email.

That's all pretty straightforward, but if you've been on the internet for a while, you know that there is a lot of SPAM, and a lot of people who's opinions you just don't care for. This is where the kill file capability comes in. In MT-NewsWatcher, killing and sorting are actually done using the same mechanism. You can select articles in many different ways, and either kill them or highlight them. And you can do this permanently or only for a specified time. The filters, as they are called, are contained in a convenient window, which allows them to be dragged to different newsgroups, and copied as well.

There are many other features of NewsWatcher that I don't have room to discuss here. You can set up personalities, so you can be one person in one newsgroup or someone different in another. You can track more than one news server, and the program takes care of the dirty work of tracking all those article numbers for you. And for those with faster connections, you can download and upload binaries from the binary groups, with decoding and joining or encoding and splitting done automatically by NewsWatcher.

All in all, given the choices for newsreaders out there, I would pick MT-NewsWatcher hands down.

Pros

  • Fast and supports multi-tasking
  • Familiar Macintosh interface
  • Easy configuration of killfiles
  • Automated downloading and upload processing of binaries

Cons

  • Takes a long time to download groups (not really NewsWatcher's fault)
  • Doesn't post in html format

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice