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The Info-VAX Monthly Posting
PART 1 -- Introduction to Info-VAX.
(Coordinated by Dick Munroe, written by many others)
(Part 2 is Beginner "Common Questions". Part 3 is Advanced Common Questions.
Part 4 is about how to find software.)
Save this message for future reference!
There are four parts to this monthly posting. This first part is concerned
with network etiquette and is redundant to people that read Usenet's monthly
postings for new users. If you are on Usenet, you might want to skip it.
The other two parts are beginning and advanced questions respectively.
Welcome to the Internet VAX Discussion group. This group is known by
different names on different networks (Info-VAX, comp.os.vms, etc). We'll
call it Info-VAX, for convenience's sake. About 13,000 users read it on
Usenet, the global estimate is at about 50,000 users.
The purpose of Info-VAX is to discuss issues surrounding VAX computer
systems. Most of Info-VAX is oriented towards VAX/VMS. Info-VAX does have
a lot of knowledgeable VAX/VMS users; Info-VAX is *not* a forum for
discussion of absolutely everything involving VAX systems. Internet
discussion groups also exist for particular software products (for example,
PMDF and Kermit), for some general topic areas (such as security or
education), and for special purpose hardware.
This message has two purposes: first, to give you an idea of what Info-VAX
is all about, how to use it effectively, and how to make it work best for
you. Second, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions on
What this message won't do is tell you how to send messages to Info-VAX, or
how to use your own mailing system. There are dozens of mailing systems
available for VAX computers, and even more ways of connecting VAX systems to
the Internet. You should ask your system administrator exactly how to send
or post messages to Info-VAX. Some general advice is given but no specific
The best way to learn how to use Info-VAX is to watch others use it. If you
have just subscribed to Info-VAX, consider lurking for a few days to see
what people are doing and why.
Here is a brief guide to Info-VAX, phrased as a set of commonly asked
questions and our rational answers.
1. What is Info-VAX?
Info-VAX is a number of things.
If you read it on Usenet, you see it as a Newsgroup called comp.os.vms and
you subscribe and unsubscribe just like any newsgroup (ask your system
administrator, it's different on different machines). Post messages just
like any other newsgroup.
If you read it on Bitnet it is called Info-VAX but it is mailed to you (like
normal email) and you subscribe to it by sending a mail message containing
just the text "SUBSCRIBE INFO-VAX" to LISTSERV@(nearest listserv computer).
You unsubscribe by sending a mail message containing just the text "SIGNOFF
INFO-VAX" to the *SAME* listserv address. Ask your system administrator for
more help. Post messages to "email@example.com". Do not send
subscribe/unsubscribe requests to that address.
If you are reading it on the Internet it also arrives as mail. To subscribe
or unsubscribe send mail to "firstname.lastname@example.org" politely asking to
be added or removed. Send posts to "email@example.com". Do not send
subscribe/unsubscribe requests to "firstname.lastname@example.org"
If you are on the Internet in the UK, people should send a message to
info-vax-request@Uk.ac.ulcc.ncdlab containing the word: SUBSCRIBE
They will be added to the UK fanout. DELETE or UNSUBSCRIBE removes them.
2. What is a "signature"?
In order to let people not at your site know who you really are, you may
want to create a "signature" file which you append to network mail messages.
Your news or mail software may do this automatically (usually using the file
".signature") or you may create a function key binding in EDT or TPU to do
this. If someone writes up a quick way to do this, I'll include it in this
A signature file typically has your real full name, plus a short list of
addresses. Under no circumstances should your signature be longer than 4
lines. Signatures should have your name and affiliation, plus your
preferred electronic mail address. If you can squeeze your mailing address
and phone number onto a single line, put that in too. This leaves you a
whole line for personal creativity. More than that is an expensive waste of
network resources---it might not cost YOU anything to send the message out,
but thousands of people are paying phone bills to send it across the US and
around the world. Do not include cute graphics, boxes, or extended
non-crucial information in your signature.
3. What return addresses should I put in my signature?
Some readers will be able to get your return mail address from the header
of something you post. Very often, however, the address will be damaged in
transit, so you can make it much easier on them by including your preferred
mail address. Normally, a maximum of two addresses are
appropriate---putting your CompuServe/Telemail/MCI/GEnie address in, or the
address of a system you don't check every day is unlikely to be useful to
anyone. If you are on a BITNET-only node, simply include your node name in
the BITNET domain, like this: email@example.com. If you're directly
connected to the Internet, put in your Internet address, like this:
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're not directly connected, try to express your
address in terms of a nearby gateway, like this:
email@example.com. While most mailers are smart enough to
deal with domain name system hosts which aren't directly connected
(sometimes called MX-record systems), it turns out that VMS mailers
typically can't, and people won't be able to figure out what's going on.
Your system administrator will be able to tell you if you're directly
connected or not; one of the nice things about the domain name addresses is
that you can't tell just by looking at the address. If you're a part of
usenet, your return address should include some relatively well-known site,
like this: arizona!small!smaller!smallest!user. Finally, don't try to
second-guess mailers. If you're on BITNET, don't advise Internet users on
how to send you mail---you'll be wrong about half the time.
Your parents' postal address, an Email address of only local significance,
or your longitude and latitude are only useful to (a) your parents' friends,
(b) people at your site, or (c) operators of thermonuclear devices. None of
(a), (b), or (c) read Info-VAX. Note that there's nothing wrong with having
multiple signature files (each used for different "kinds" of postings).
4. How can I make sure that my message gets through ungarbled?
There are a couple of good rules. Keeping the lines of your message under
80 characters, and under 72 if possible, will make sure that everyone can
read what you have written. Leaving out all special control characters is
another idea. In particular, tabs probably will get screwed up somewhere
along the way. Finally, if you intend to put in characters which are
somewhat off the beaten path, you may want to include a translation table at
the end, giving the character and the name, so if a tilde comes out as an
ampersand, the reader knows how to map properly. This is a particular
problem for BITNET users. You might opt to use VMS_SHARE which encodes text
files (they are semi-readable until you decode them.)
5. Why do I see replies before the question?
Info-VAX is asynchronous---messages flow in what should be considered a
completely random way. What you think is the previous message probably
isn't; your reply may well get to sites before the message you're replying
to. If you reply to a message, excerpt the message you're replying to so
that readers have a little context. Including the ENTIRE message, however,
is in very bad taste. Cut it down to the minimum needed to remind the
reader what's going on.
6. I'm going to write a letter to the President of Digital because some
Digital employee said ...
Don't forget that we're all people out here. The nature of Info-VAX makes
it easy to forget this. If someone writes something which you think is
totally outrageous, a public computer conference is NOT the place to take
the issue up; this is one of the reasons that mail was invented. All
messages on any conference should be considered (a) in the public domain,
for you never know who will excerpt and reprint your words and (b) the
opinion of the author only, not their company.
7. Someone posted a 28 part software package, and I didn't get part 26.
What do I do?
There are lots of things you can do; the one thing you DON'T do is send a
message out to Info-VAX asking if someone can please resend part 26.
Instead send a message to the poster of the other 27 parts asking them to
send you part 26.
In general, the answers to questions 6 and 7 can be boiled down to this:
when possible, use electronic mail. Anything which is of primary interest
to a single person only should be directed to that person, not to the other
50,000 people who read Info-VAX. This includes, but is not limited to:
o A Request for copies of answers they receive to a posted question.
o A request to summarize answers and post them to the group.
o A message telling someone that their answer is all wrong (let the
poster correct the mistake; you're probably not the only one who
noticed the error).
o A message telling someone that something they said is inappropriate
Actually, if someone sends out something particularly obnoxious, the last
resort is to forward it to their system administrator, usually an account
called "postmaster." This should only be done after personal mail to the
person has failed to get results. Everyone else on Info-VAX saw the original
message; posting a message to the entire network won't help matters any.
8. What does :-) mean?
This is the net convention for a "smiley face". It means that something is
being said in jest. If it doesn't look like a smiley face to you, flop your
head over to the left and look again.
There's also ;-) (a knowing wink), :-( (displeasure, bad news), :-| (Straight
face or "no I'm not joking"). There are many variations, and the validity of
publishing even this many on Info-VAX is pretty questionable :-).
9. What is the address of foo company?
Despite the fact that you can certainly get the address of virtually any
company by sending out a broadcast to Info-VAX, doing so will earn you the
scorn of your peers. Telephone books, trade magazines, buying guides, and
directory assistance should all be tried before asking 50,000 people to
check their files. This is not to say that all such queries are
inappropriate --- obviously some companies are hard to find, and the
multi-national character of Info-VAX means that some of this information is
not readily accessible.
10. How do I get from BITNET to UUCP, ARPA to BITNET, JANET etc etc?
It's tempting to put these kind of queries on Info-VAX, but the answers vary
so much from site to site that most answers you get will be meaningless.
Ask your system manager. On the other hand, if you are a system manager,
and you don't know, your question is best phrased like this: "We are
running x Operating System using y Networking Software and attached using z
Communications Channel to w Network. Can anyone suggest a way to increase
our connectivity?" If you're a new site on a larger campus, other system
managers on your campus will probably be able to give you better help
11. What is "anonymous ftp??
"FTP" stands for File Transfer Protocol; on many systems, it's also the name
of a user-level program that implements that protocol. This program allows
a user to transfer files to and from a remote network site, provided that
network site is reachable via the Internet or a similar facility. (Ftp is
also usable on many local-area networks.)
"Anonymous FTP" indicates that a user may log into the remote system as user
"anonymous" with their network address as a password. This is sometimes
useful to those sites that track ftp usage. Also note that most sites
restrict when transfers can be made, or at least suggest that large
transfers be made only during non-peak hours.
Bitnet and Usenet users can not do FTP. There are similar facilities
available to you; ask your system administrator.
12. What does RTFM mean?
It means this: "you have asked a question which I believe would best be
answered by consulting the manual, a copy of which should be in your
possession. The question you have asked is clearly answered in the manual,
and you are wasting time asking all these people to read it to you." More
specifically, "Read the F-ing Manual."
If someone posts a question which you feel is best answered with "RTFM," the
prevailing wisdom on Info-VAX is that it is more polite to mail your "RTFM"
than post it.
Other common abbreviations:
IMHO - In My Humble Opinion
FYI - For Your Information
BTW - By The Way
FAQ - Frequently Asked Question(s)
FAQ when used in a context like "the FAQ" generally refers to a posting of
answers to Frequently Asked Questions, such as this posting. Such postings
are usually posted monthly on many newsgroups or mailing lists, so it is a
good idea to try to find one if you join a newsgroup or mailing list. Note
that a large list of all known FAQ postings in newsgroups is posted
periodically in the usenet newsgroup news.admin (since "is there a FAQ for
this group" is itself a FAQ).
13. I couldn't get mail through to somebody on another site.
Again, this answer is more a "don't" than a "do." DON'T post it to the
entire list with the caveat, "I couldn't get mail through to this guy, so
I'm posting instead."
There are lots of good ways of getting in contact with people --- directory
assistance if you don't know the phone number, or the phone if you do, as
well as services offered by the US Postal Service, which can be had for a
mere 29 cents. People outside of America have complained about the last
sentence and rightfully so. I know that user-directory services are
forecoming, but until then I guess everyone must make do.
14. I just installed some new software; I want to test it out.
Don't send a message to Info-VAX with the text "this is just a test; please
ignore." Figure out some other way to test your software. People on
Usenet can use misc.test for this purpose.
15. OK, I've got a question for Info-VAX. What do I do ?
Your question on Info-VAX should read like this:
a. Here is our configuration.
b. Here is an exact description of the problem.
c. Please send replies to me; I will summarize and post a summary.
Point (c) is very important. When you ask 50,000 people the favor of
answering your questions, you should return the favor by gathering,
summarizing, and posting your summary.
16. Someone just posted a question I know the answer to. What do I do?
It depends. If the answer is short, and likely to be repeated, send the
reply to the poster, and suggest that they summarize and post a summary.
If you think that you're the only one who will have the right answer
(unlikely, but it happens) or, if you think that the answer you will write
is so interesting that others will want to read it right away (you can be
liberal in this judgment), then post it to Info-VAX.
Many sites, particularly those outside the continental U.S. receive
messages from Info-VAX four or five days after they were first sent. It is
not uncommon for a message to generate twenty or thirty replys from sites in
the U.S., followed, seven to ten days later by a fresh wave of replies from
Australia and New Zealand. If you are not certain that you have something
unique to say in your reply, wait a few hours before posting it. You might
find that everything you wanted to say has already been said by someone who
got the original message first.
Dick Munroe Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Doyle Munroe Consultants, Inc. UUCP: ...uunet!thehulk!munroe
267 Cox St. Office: (508) 568-1618
Hudson, Ma. USA FAX: (508) 562-1133
GET CONNECTED!!! Send mail to email@example.com to find out about DMConnection.