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slrn: Configuring a stable newsreader

Contributed by: Scot Hacker
This tip is valid for: Both BeOS and Haiku

With the exception of Pineapple, most of the BeOS newsreaders have serious problems with stability and functionality. While not as fancy, the command-line client slrn is 100% stable, very fast, and has great hotkeys. Unfortunately, setting up slrn can be a little tricky if you’re not familiar with command-line apps. Here’s what you need to do to get up and running with slrn:

  1. Download the precompiled slrn installation distribution from BeBits (you no longer have to compile and set up libraries for slrn source code!)
  2. Open /boot/home/.profile in a text editor and add a line like this:

    (using the name of your own news server, of course). Then, type into a Terminal:

    source ~/.profile

    to activate the new environment variable.

  3. Look in the doc folder of the slrn distribution for a file called slrn.rc. Move this to your home directory and rename it to .slrnrc.
  4. Open .slrnc in a text editor and change a few lines. Anything you want to make active, you’ll have to uncomment by removing the % signs. For example, the lines:
    %hostname "YOUR.HOSTNAME"
    %set username "jd"
    %set realname "John Doe"
    %set replyto  ""

    might become:

    hostname ""
    set username "bounce.waxwing"
    set realname "Scot Hacker"
    set replyto  ""

    This will set both the From: line and the Reply To: line to read Season to taste. If you want a signature block appended to each article you post, uncomment the .signature line, then create a .signature file in your home directory. Farther down in this file, you’ll find that you have complete control over the colors slrn uses for different parts of the articles it displays. This can be very useful if you run your Terminal in non-standard colors, or can’t stand the garish greens that slrn uses by default.

  5. Now you need to create a default list of newsgroups. Initialize this file by typing into a Terminal:
    slrn -f .jnewsrc -create

    Later on, you can add or remove groups to .jnewsrc from slrn’s interface, or just open it in a text editor and restart slrn.

  6. You should be good to go now. Just type slrn to run the news reader. It’ll probably take a bit of getting used to, but it’s not hard. Press ? at any time for help on the current screen, and read through the docs that come with slrn.
  7. The only other tricky thing about using slrn is that every time you post or respond to an article, it invokes the vi shell-based editor by default. This is great if you like vi, but sucks if you don’t. Fortunately, you can set the editor to be anything you want. Open up .slrnrc again and look for the line:
    %set editor_command "jed '%s' -g %d -tmp"

    and change it to

    set editor_command "StyledEdit '%s'"

    If Pe is your preferred text editor, use this instead:

    set editor_command "lpe '%s'"

    Now when you post or follow-up to a news article, it will be launched into a graphical editor. When you save and close the editor window, your changes will be passed back to slrn for posting. Very cool.

  8. If you want to be able to reply to messages via email, look for the line reading:
    %set sendmail_command "/usr/lib/sendmail -oi -t -oem -odb"

    and change it to:

    set sendmail_command "mail"

    Note that you’ll need to have the email daemon running in order for this to work properly (enable it from the E-Mail Preferences panel).

    Note that you must manually insert hard returns before every 80 characters — slrn won’t post articles with soft-wrapping. The character counter in Pe’s status bar makes this easy.

  9. If you don’t have a full-time connection, or if you pay for connect time, you might want to grab slrnpull from BeBits. Configuration instructions are included in the package.

One small bummer about the current distribution is that if people look at your usenet post’s headers, you will appear to have posted from a Unix machine. To properly brag that you’re posting from BeOS, you’ll need to make a small modification to the slrn source code.

Downoad the slrn and slang complete packages from

Unpack both of them in /boot/home/Desktop/dev (this path is hard coded somewhere in the source). Open the file /boot/home/Desktop/dev/slrn/src/post.c . Find the section

and change it to:

Save and close, run make, and replace your old slrn binary with the new one.

Posted in Applications

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