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Breck Carter
Last modified: March 24, 1999
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Tip 87: Getting Started With Powersoft and Sybase News Groups

(To skip ahead to the "Rules To Live By", click here.)

You can ask questions and get free advice about Powersoft and Sybase products by using their news groups on Here's how to get started, step by step, using the popular Free Agent newsreader from Forte Inc:

  1. Get a copy of the Forte Free Agent newsreader software by going to the web page at It's a 1M download.
    (If you can't use a newsgroup reader because of firewall restrictions or other problems, try using the web-based browser at A real newsgroup reader is more powerful, though.)
  2. Install Free Agent by running the .EXE program you just downloaded.

  3. Configure Free Agent as part of the install (see Figure 1 below). The NNTP News Server name is

    The other names apply to you: your email address, your ISP's SMTP mail server, and so on. You can find this information by looking in your email software or your web browser "options" or "preferences" displays.

    Figure 1: Free Agent Setup - Fill in Names and Addresses Figure 1: Free Agent Setup - Fill in Names and Addresses

  4. Get the list of newsgroups as part of the install; see Figure 2 below. (You can get this list later if you want, and refresh it, via Free Agent menu options.)

    Figure 2: Free Agent Setup - Get List of Newsgroups Figure 2: Free Agent Setup - Get List of Newsgroups

  5. Pick a newsgroup to look at (see Figure 3 below). The display has three panes:

    • Groups - click on the title to show 3 different lists: All, New and Subscribed Groups

    • Message List - shows the message headers in one group, after you retrieve them

    • Message - shows the content of the selected message, after you retrieve it

    Figure 3: Groups Display for Powersoft and Sybase Figure 3: Groups Display for Powersoft and Sybase

  6. Use Online - Get New Headers in Selected Groups to download the latest message headers in a particular group. Then look at the Message List pane and double-click on a header to download that message. Look in the Message pane to see the result. You can see each pane full-screen, or all together as shown in Figure 4.

    Figure 4: Free Agent Panes Figure 4: Free Agent Panes

  7. Have fun! Here are some other Free Agent menu items of interest:

    • Navigate - View Next Unread Message

    • Post - New Usenet Message

    • Post - Follow-Up Usenet Message

    • Post - Reply via Email

    • Options - General Preferences

  8. Here are some Rules To Live By by when posting messages in a newsgroup:

    1. TANSTAASQ... There Ain't No Such Thing As A Stupid Question. Personally, I like simple questions, they give me a sense of accomplishment when I can answer them. Nobody should ever put you down for the quality of the questions you ask... if they do, send me an email.

    2. Some people practice Cyberspace Triage: there's too much to read so they make snap decisions about what to skip. These busy people are sometimes the ones you WANT to read your questions, so govern yourself accordingly:

      • Put separate questions in separate messages. Some people skip messages with more than one question.

      • Use meaningful Subject headers, not vague descriptions like "Help!" or "Urgent!". Some people only read messages with subjects that interest them, and meaningful subjects also help folks who are browsing the newsgroups.

      • Start each message with "How do I [do some specific task or solve some specific problem]?" Some people skip messages that don't start with a question. Put your life history, er, supporting information AFTER the initial question.

      • Be patient. If you don't get an answer in 48 hours, try rewording your question and posting it again, and/or try posting it on a different newsgroup.

      • Keep this in mind: Very busy people in very busy newsgroups sometimes don't read any messages that already have replies. They figure the question's already been answered. If you don't get a helpful reply within 48 hours, try posting it again.

      • Don't reply to a question unless you're fairly sure you know the answer. Unless, of course, no one else has replied for two days or more... then feel free to take a guess. But if you immediately reply with a content-free message, you may create a victim of Cyberspace Triage!

    3. If you have sample code, don't edit it, just copy and paste the real thing. When you edit or re-type code, two bad things can happen: (1) you might introduce new errors that will confuse the reader, and (2) you might remove the real problem without knowing it.

      • However, everything you post to these newsgroups will be available for the whole world to read, forever, so be careful with secret stuff. Don't post customer support ID's, passwords or even database server IP addresses.

    4. If you are getting an error message, post the exact text of the message. If you are getting a General Protection Fault or an Invalid Page Fault, please:

      • Include the module and address information (we can look those up),

      • Leave out the Dr. Watson stuff unless someone asks for it (that's unlikely!), and

      • Tell us what you were doing when the error occurred.

    5. Newsgroups and email work together:

      • If you are really happy with an answer, send a "Thank You" via email. Please don't post "Thank You" messages in the newsgroup.

      • The same applies to personal messages: send them by email.

      • Exception: Sometimes it's OK to post a "Yes, it worked!" reply in the newsgroup. It may be helpful to others, especially if there was some doubt in the original reply: "Try this, but I'm not sure if it will help."

      • When posting a question in a newsgroup don't ask "Please reply by email". Other people may benefit from the reply, and the public nature of newsgroups is one of their main benefits.

      • Don't ask your original question by email, either - same reason.

    6. Post plain text messages only! Don't include HTML tags or strange MIME types... if you can't type it in Notepad, don't post it. That's because many people read your messages in ASCII text format and the other stuff gets in the way.

      • Don't attach any documents or files: no EXE files, no Word documents, no UUENCODED text. And don't open or execute any attachments to other peoples' messages. Viruses and worms lurk there!

    7. Don't post the same question in more than one newsgroup at once.

    8. Never, ever, post advertisments in technical newsgroups. The system operators reserve the right to remove all inappropriate messages.

      • And don't even think of using profanity, obscenities or racist remarks unless you want to be locked out of the newsgroup.

    9. Please use your real name, not an alias.

      • If you want to avoid having your email address added to spam lists, just code it like in the Free Agent options. That way automated newsgroup crawlers will pick up an invalid address but real human beings can still figure out how to send you email.

    10. Use to see if your question has already been answered. Don't post replies in Deja News, though, because they don't get through to the newsgroups themselves.

    11. Use and to search for documentation, etc. If you want to report a bug, do one of the following:

    12. When replying to a message, don't >quote the entire contents of the original message. Just include enough to let the reader know what you're replying to.

      • Put your reply ahead of the >quoted stuff. That way people don't have to scroll down to see new material.

    13. Be polite. No one's getting paid to answer your questions in the newsgroups. We are all volunteers, and most Team Powersoft and Team Sybase people don't even work for the company.

      • Don't get carried away criticizing the products, or other newsgroup members.

    14. Remember, there's a Money Back Guarantee on all free advice!

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