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Simple Offline USENET Packet Format (SOUP) Version 1.2

Copyright (c) 1992-1993 Rhys Weatherley

[email protected]

Last Update: 14 August 1993

DISTRIBUTION

Permission to use, copy, and distribute this material for any purpose
and without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice
and this permission notice appear in all copies, and that the name of Rhys
Weatherley not be used in advertising or publicity pertaining to this material
without specific, prior written permission. RHYS WEATHERLEY MAKES NO
REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE ACCURACY OR SUITABILITY OF THIS MATERIAL FOR ANY
PURPOSE. IT IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES.

NOTE: This document is NOT in the public domain. It is copyrighted.
However, the free distribution of this document is unlimited.

If you create a product which uses this packet format, it is suggested
that you include an UNMODIFIED copy of this document to inform your users
as to the packet format. All queries about this format, or requests for
the latest version should be directed to Rhys Weatherley at the above
e-mail address.

INTRODUCTION

For many years, the FidoNet community has been using QWK and other formats to
enable users to download their mail and conferences to be read while off-line.
This not only saves phone charges and prevents tying up BBS lines for long
periods of time; it also allows a user to use much more powerful tools on
their own machine to process the downloaded "packets" than what can be made
available in an on-line environment.

To date however, very little work has been done in the USENET and dial-in Unix
community to facilitate the same user operations. Some attempts have been
made to use QWK, but due to QWK's limitations and unsuitability for the USENET
message formats, such efforts have not been very successful.

Within USENET, the tendency seems to be either "dial-in to some other machine
and put up with it", or "set up your own USENET site". The former keeps the
user at the mercy of whatever user interfaces the admin of the other machine
sees fit to install, and the latter requires far more computing knowledge than
the average computer user is expected to have. Both of these can serve to
lock out large portions of the computer-literate public from experiencing
USENET. The latter option can also give rise to security problems in the form
of forged USENET messages, which a more controlled dial-in system avoids.

The purpose of this document is to define a new packet format which is aware
of the conventions used in the USENET community, forming a middle ground
between dial-in user interfaces and full USENET connectivity. It is not
limited to downloading USENET news however. The same format could be used
to enable a Unix user to package up their Unix mailbox and download it for
later perusal. The format is extensible to other kinds of news or conference
systems, so it is feasible, although not yet defined, that QWK or FidoNet
messages could be accomodated within the same packet as USENET messages.

REVISION HISTORY

1.2Add COMMANDS and ERRORS files. Renamed to "Simple Offline USENET
Packet Format". A few extra fields and type codes for the AREAS and
LIST files. Message area summaries.

1.1Add description of the LIST file. Everything else is identical to 1.0.

1.0Original version of the document.

Previously, this document was known as the "Helldiver Packet Format" (HDPF).
A variant of HDPF, called the "Simple Local News Packet format" (SLNP) was
created by Philippe Goujard ([email protected]). This document combines
the features of both previous formats and the name was changed to make it
less product-oriented.

TERMINOLOGY

Packet: a set of files, collected into a compressed archive.

Message packet: the primary kind of packet which contains messages for
the user to read.

Reply packet: a special kind of packet which contains replies composed by
the user, usually in response to the messages in a message packet.

Packet generator: a program which generates packets to be downloaded and
read, and which processes uploaded reply packets.

Packet reader: a program which reads packets, usually by presenting the
messages in a packet to the user, and which generates reply packets.

Packet processor: either a packet generator or a packet reader.

Generating host: the computer on which the packet generator executes.

Reading host: the computer on which the packet reader executes.

Download: the transfer of a packet from the generating host to the reading
host. This transfer may take place in any fashion, although the
most common method is through the use of a file transfer protocol
such as Zmodem or Kermit.

Upload: the transfer of a packet from the reading host to the generating host.

Packet stream: a logical link between the generating and reading hosts over
which downloads and uploads of packets take place.

Message area: a collection of messages which are related by a common topic
or purpose. Examples of message areas include USENET newsgroups,
Unix mailboxes, and FidoNet conferences.

Reply message area: a special kind of message area which contains replies
being uploaded to a generating host.

Text file: an ASCII file consisting of lines terminated by linefeed characters
(LF, 10 decimal). Some operating systems terminate lines in a text
file by CRLF pairs: such files must be converted to LF-terminated
lines for transmission in a packet.

ANATOMY OF A PACKET

A packet is a group of files, collected into a compressed archive. The
standard compression technique defined by this document is ZIP. Other
techniques such as ARJ, ZOO, ARC, LZH, etc can also be used. It is also
possible for Unix's tar.Z format to be used to transmit packets. The minimum
requirement is a method to collect a group of files into a single packet,
and a method to expand the packet back into the original files. ZIP is
specified to provide a common compression format for packet processors.
Each of the filenames in a packet should be stored in upper case on those
systems where case matters (e.g. Unix).

The following file specifications may appear in a packet:

INFOOptional textual information.
LISTList of message areas on the generating host.
AREASIndex of the message areas within the packet.
REPLIESIndex of the reply message areas from the reading host.
*.MSGText of the messages in a particular message area.
*.IDXIndex information for messages in a message area.
COMMANDSExtra commands sent along with a packet.
ERRORSErrors that occurred during the execution of commands.

Other filenames may also appear in the packet, but are not defined by this
specification, so they should be avoided by generating software, and ignored
by receiving software.

The INFO file is an optional text file which may contain any kind of textual
information from the generating system. Typically this file would only be
present if there is some kind of urgent message that must be sent to the
receiving user. Use of this file to store the name of the generating host
and other such static information is possible, but discouraged to save space
and transmission time. If such information is required, then the COMMANDS
file can be used to transfer it.

The LIST file is an optional text file which contains a list of all message
areas that are available on the generating host, together with the format of
the messages. It is specified further in the section "LIST FILE".

The AREAS file is a text file which contains an index of the message areas
present within the packet, specifying the name of the message area, the
filename the messages may be found in, and the message format. This is
specified further in the next section.

The REPLIES file is a text file which contains an index of the message areas
present within the packet that contain replies from the user which should
be mailed or posted on the generating host. In most cases, a packet will
contain either an AREAS file or a REPLIES file, but both may be present.
See the section "REPLIES FILE" below for more information.

The *.MSG files contain the text of the messages from a single message area.
The actual format of this file depends on the type of message area specified
in the AREAS file. See the section "MESSAGE FILES" below for more information.

The *.IDX files provide an index into the *.MSG files, usually specifying
where each message starts and the contents of some of the common message
header fields. These files are intended for use by reading software on the
recipient's system to quickly display an overview of the messages present in
a message area. See the section "INDEX FILES" below for more information.

The COMMANDS file is a text file which contains commands to be executed on
the reading or generating hosts to change the behaviour of the hosts at
each end of a packet stream. The ERRORS file contains textual error messages
to report to a human at the host the packet is destined for. These two files
are explained further in the section "SENDING COMMANDS BETWEEN SYSTEMS" below.

AREAS FILE

The AREAS file is a text file containing zero or more lines, each of which
specifies a single message area, its encoding and the name of the message/index
file pair in which the messages appear. In particular, each line has the
following form:

prefixarea nameencoding[description[number]]

where "prefix" specifies the name of the message/index file pair, "area name"
is the name of the message area, "encoding" specifies the formats of the
message and index files and the type of message area, "description" is a
descriptive name for the message area, and "number" is the number of messages
in the message file. The last two fields are optional. Additional fields may
be added in a future version of this specification.

The message and index files corresponding to the message area have the names
"prefix.MSG" and "prefix.IDX" respectively. If "prefix" contains alphabetic
characters, they must be upper case.

The message area name may be any sequence of printable ASCII characters (space
through tilde). Under USENET, this is typically a dotted name like
"comp.lang.c". Other networks may include spaces or other unusual characters
in the area names, so the receiving software must be aware of this fact,
and act accordingly. Also, receiving software must deal gracefully with
characters that have the high bit set, or names that contain control
characters, since people in other countries that speak a language other than
English may wish to use their country's native encoding for the message area
name. The only hard rule is that the name may not contain TAB, CR or LF.
Receiving software should treat the name as an indivisible string to be
displayed to the user.

The encoding field consists of two or three ASCII characters (usually
alphabetic). The first specifies the format of the message file, the second
specifies the format of the index file, and the optional third specifies the
kind of area (private or public). The following message file formats are
currently defined (case is significant):

uUSENET news articles
mUnix mailbox articles
MMailbox articles in the MMDF format
bBinary 8-bit clean mail format
BBinary 8-bit clean news format
iIndex file only

The individual message file encodings are explained further in the next
section. The format 'i' indicates that no message file is present, and
the index file should be used as a summary of the messages in the message
area. This is explained further in the section "MESSAGE AREA SUMMARIES".
The following index file formats are currently defined (again, case is
significant):

nNo index file
cC-news overview database format
CShorter C-news overview database format
iOffset/length pairs delineating the messages

These types are explained further in the section "INDEX FILES" below.

See the section "MINIMAL CONFORMANCE" for information on the minimal number
of message and index formats that should be supported by packet generators
and packet readers.

The following kind of message areas are currently defined (again, case is
significant):

mThe message area contains private mail
nThe message area contains public messages, or news
uThe message area kind is unknown (the default)

This third letter is optional. If it is not present or unknown, the kind
of area depends on the message file type. Message types 'm', 'M', and 'b'
default to kind 'm', and message types 'u', 'B' and 'i' default to kind 'n'.
It is not recommended that the value 'u' for this third letter be used,
although future versions of this specification may add additional letters,
necessitating 'u' to be placed in the third letter if the kind is unknown.
If the message area kind can be solely determined from the message file
type, it is recommended that the third letter be omitted to save space and
transmission time.

Further types may be defined in future versions of this specification. If
the packet processor does not recognise a message file type, it should ignore
the corresponding message and index files. If the packet processor does
not recognise a index file type, it can either ignore the message file, or
attempt to break down the message file into separate messages by some other
means. If the packet processor does not recognise a message area kind,
the kind should be treated as unknown. The user should be warned if a message
area has been ignored.

The optional message area description in the AREAS file consists of any
sequence of printable ASCII characters. This may be used to insert a
"readable" name for the message area. It may not contain TAB, CR or LF.

A message area may appear more than once in the AREAS file, each time with a
different prefix, but this is discouraged. This could be used to split large
message areas across more than one message file, but this is more conveniently
handled by generating a separate packet containing the area contination.

The following examples demonstrate the capabilities of the AREAS file:

0000000Emailmn
0000001comp.lang.cucC Programming Language Discussions125
0000002news.futureBcFuture of USENET38

EMAIL/usr/spool/mail/fredunmPrivate e-mail for fred
U000001comp.bbs.miscMCn
U000002 comp.bbs.waffleui

MESSAGE FILES

The format of the message file depends on the message file format specified in
the AREAS file. This version of the specification defines three formats,
which are in common use in the USENET and Unix community, and two additional
binary formats which permit messages to be stored with no modification or
assumptions about line lengths and byte values.

For each of these formats, lines are terminated with LF characters. Any CR
characters in the messages should be considered as data characters, or ignored
on receipt. In particular, MS-DOS systems should strip CR characters from
text messages before writing them to a packet.

A 'u' (USENET) message file is a text file consisting of one or more messages
prefixed with an rnews header. This header has the form "#! rnews n" where
"n" is the number of bytes in the message that follows the header, excluding
the line-feed character which terminates the header. If the number in the
header is followed by white space and other characters, these other characters
should be ignored, until the terminating LF character is encountered.

A note about the rnews header: although a terser separator could be used, the
rnews header has the following advantages: (a) the messages can be extracted
in the absense of index files, or where the index files have an unknown type,
and (b) the message files can be imported into a USENET system as standard
rnews batches. Thus, if the user wishes to set up a real USENET site, or
simply use dedicated USENET software to read packets, they can use their
existing packet provider as a convenient read-only newsfeed, with no extra
burden placed on the system administrator of the generating system.

A 'm' (Unix mailbox) message file is a text file consisting of one or more
messages. The first line of each message must start with the character
sequence "From ". Any remaining lines in the message which start with
"From " should have the character '>' prepended. Thus the "From " lines
delimit the message file into separate messages.

A 'M' (MMDF mailbox) message file is a sequence of one or more messages,
separated by at least 4 Control-A characters. The message file may optionally
start and end with a sequence of such characters. If a sequence of 4 or more
Control-A characters occurs in a message, it should be "adjusted" by the
insertion of spaces to split the sequence. The use of Control-A characters
within a message is discouraged.

The 'm' and 'M' formats were chosen for mail because of their common
occurrence in the Unix community. The generating system may elect to instead
convert a mailbox into the USENET format if it wishes, and set the area kind
to 'm' to inform the packet reader that the message area contains private
e-mail rather than news.

The 'b' (binary mail) and 'B' (binary news) formats are identical. The
contents of each message must conform to RFC-822/1036 and may contain content
information compatible with RFC-1341 (MIME). The only difference between
the messages of these formats and the preceding formats is that no assumption
is made about line lengths, and any of the 256 values for a byte may be used
in any position. Each message is preceded by a 4-byte value which indicates
the length of the message in bytes, stored in big-endian order (i.e. high
byte first, low byte last). The difference between 'b' and 'B' is a semantic
one: message files of type 'b' are expected to contain mail messages, and
message files of type 'B' are expected to contain news messages. Thus, reader
software can make a distinction between the two if it desires.

For most practical purposes, 'u', 'm' and 'M' should be sufficient. The binary
'b' and 'B' types should be used for articles that contain 8-bit binary data.
It is possible to use type 'u' for binary data as well, but 'm' and 'M'
cannot be because the message contents may be modified. When MIME becomes
more wide-spread, it is expected that binary messages containing programs,
sound, pictures and video will become popular, necessitating these binary
types.

Note that MIME messages can be stored in 'u', 'm' and 'M' message files, but
any binary components should be encoded with quoted-printable or base64 (which
is expected to be the most common usage of MIME in the near future). It is
not required that 'b' or 'B' be used for MIME messages: only those containing
raw unencoded binary data (as indicated by the Content-transfer-encoding
header value "binary").

INDEX FILES

This specification defines four index file types, which provide varying
degrees of support for packet readers.

Type 'n' indicates that no index file is present, and it is up to the packet
reader to extract messages from the message file. It is useful where the
generating system is providing a USENET newsfeed using packets, and the
receiving system is not interested in the index information.

A type 'c' index file is a text file (LF terminated lines), with one line per
message that occurs in the message file. The lines in the index file should
be in the same order as the corresponding messages. Each line has the
following form:

offsetsubjectauthordatemesgid
refsbyteslines[selector]

[Note: the line-wrapping here is for document-formating purposes only. No
line-wrapping occurs in the index files]. The fields have the following
semantics:

offsetSeek position in the message file of where the corresponding
message starts. The first seek position is 0. For the 'u'
format, this indicates the start of the line following the
rnews header line. For the 'm' format, this indicates the
start of the "From " line and for the 'M' format, this
indicates the start of the article after the Control-A
sequence. For the 'b' and 'B' formats, this indicates the
first byte of the message after the 4-byte message length.

subjectThe "Subject:" line from the message.

authorThe "From:" line from the message.

dateThe "Date:" line from the message.

mesgidThe "Message-Id:" line from the message.

refsThe "References:" line from the message.

bytesThe number of bytes in the message. If this field is zero,
then it indicates that there is no corresponding message
in the message file. This is used for summaries: see the
section "MESSAGE AREA SUMMARIES" for more details.

linesThe "Lines:" line from the message. Note that this field
is pretty useless these days on USENET, but is still popular.
It is meant to indicate the number of lines in the body of
the message. Generating software may elect to re-generate
this value if it is not present in the original message,
but this is not required.

selector A string used for summaries to request that a message be
sent in a future packet. See the section "MESSAGE AREA
SUMMARIES" for more details. This string will usually be
a number, but other values such as Message-ID's could be
used. Packet readers should treat this string as an
indivisible string to be sent in a "sendme" command in the
COMMANDS file. A zero-length string indicates that there
is no selector string.

If any of these fields contained TAB's, newlines or other white space in the
original articles, they should be converted into single spaces. All fields
must be present, but some may be empty. The "bytes" field must not be empty,
since it provides necessary information for packet readers. Each field must
conform to the Internet RFC documents RFC-822 or RFC-1036.

Optionally, a header line may end with one or more extra TAB-separated fields
for other RFC-compliant header fields, together with the header field names.
e.g. "Supersedes: <[email protected]>". These fields are not defined by this
version of the specification, and are by arrangement between the generating
host and the reading host only.

This format is compatible with the news overview (NOV) database format of
C-news. The only difference being the substitution of an offset for the
article number used by C-news, and the addition of the "selector" field.
The C-news format was designed to assist threading newsreaders, so this packet
format should provide similar assistance to threading packet readers.

The 'C' format is similar to 'c', except that the "mesgid" and "refs" fields
are dropped. These fields can commonly be quite long and are mainly of use to
packet readers which perform Message-ID based message threading. Packet
readers which perform subject threading (i.e. sort on the subject line and
then on the date and/or arrival order) do not require such information. The
format of the header lines in this case is as follows:

offsetsubjectauthordatebyteslines[selector]

Further TAB-separated fields may be added in future versions of this
specification.

The "author" field is slightly different to the 'c' format. Instead of
an RFC-822 format address, it is just the author's name, extracted from the
"From:" line of the message. Most RFC-822 and RFC-1036 "From:" lines have one
of the following forms:

address
address (name)
name


Names may sometimes be surrounded by double-quote characters, have embedded
"(...)" sequences, or contain "useless" information after a comma (",") or
slash ("/"). The main requirement is that the generating software produce
some kind of (more or less) meaningful string for the name of the author which
can be displayed to the user by a packet reader. See RFC-822 and RFC-1036
for more information on the syntax of the "From:" line in messages.

The 'i' index format is purely binary, using 8 bytes for each message in the
corresponding message file. The first 4 bytes specify the offset into the
message file of the message and the remaining 4 bytes specify the number of
bytes in the message. Each 4-byte quantity is stored in big-endian order
(high byte first). This format is supplied to provide a trade-off between
transmission time and easy extraction of messages from a message file.

REPLIES FILE

One of the requirements for an off-line reading system is a mechanism for a
user to upload replies or new messages to a generating system for mailing or
posting. While it is possible to re-use the AREAS file for this purpose,
keeping the download and upload sections separate will help prevent messages
being fed back into a network erroneously.

The REPLIES file has a similar format to the AREAS file. Each line has the
following form:

prefixreply kindencoding

The "prefix" and "encoding" fields are as before. The "reply kind" field
indicates the mechanism to use when transmitting the messages in the message
file. The following values are currently defined:

mailTransmit an RFC-822 compliant personal mail message
newsTransmit an RFC-1036 compliant USENET news posting

On a Unix system, transmission of mail and news is usually performed with the
"sendmail" and "inews" programs respectively. Additional kinds may be
specified in a future version of this specification for other message formats.
Note: it is discouraged that the kinds "mail" and "news" be used for anything
other than RFC-compliant messages. In particular, FidoNet or QWK messages
should use a different reply kind. Messages of the same reply kind can be
placed in the same message file, or in separate message files.

Further TAB-separated fields may be added to the lines in the REPLIES file
in a future version of this specification.

It is recommended that a message file type of 'b' or 'B' be used for sending
replies to minimise the chance of message corruption. The recommended index
file types for replies are 'i' and 'n'. The index types 'c' and 'C' are
discouraged because they do not provide useful information for reply purposes.

The format of the messages in the message files should follow the relevant
RFC standards, with the following restriction: any "From:", "Sender:",
"Control:", "Approved:" or other similar "dangerous" header lines should be
ignored by the system transmitting the replies to prevent forgeries from
occuring. In particular, the "From:" header should be determined from the
user's login name, or some other similar means, rather than from any data
supplied in the user's message.

In most cases, mail messages will contain "To:", "Subject:", "Cc:", "Bcc:"
and "Reply-To:" header lines, and news messages will contain "Newsgroups:",
"Subject:", "Followup-To:", "Keywords:", "Summary:" and "Reply-To:" header
lines. Other optional headers (especially MIME content headers) may also
be present.

The automatic addition of a signature by the generating host which receives
the reply packet is discouraged. Signatures should be added by the user's
packet reading software instead, if desired.

A method for allowing replies from more than one person to be stored in the
same packet was considered, but was rejected for security reasons.

The following example demonstrates the capabilities of the REPLIES file:

R001mailbn
R002mailbi
R003newsBn
R004newsBi

LIST FILE

The LIST file may be used to send a list of available message areas to the
receiving system. Its format is similar to the AREAS file, with the prefix
field deleted. Each line has the following form:

area nameencoding[description]

where "area name" is the name of the message area, "encoding" is a 2, 3 or 4
letter message, index, area kind, and subscription code, and "description"
is an optional message area description. Further optional fields may be
added in a future version of this specification.

The message, index, and area kind codes are the same as for the AREAS file.
The subscription code has one of the following values:

yThe user is subscribed to the message area
nThe user is not subscribed to the message area

If this field is not present, it defaults to 'n'.

Note that the message areas in the LIST file should only be those that can
be subscribed to or unsubscribed from using a request in the COMMANDS file.
Private e-mail message areas will normally not appear in the list.

The following example demonstrates the capabilities of the LIST file:

alt.flameucnn
comp.bbs.miscucny
comp.bbs.waffleucny
comp.lang.cucnnC Programming Language Discussions
news.futureucnyFuture of USENET

SENDING COMMANDS BETWEEN SYSTEMS

The COMMANDS and ERRORS files contain information for changing the behaviour
of each end of a packet stream, or for reporting errors in the execution of
commands or the generation of packets. Each is a text file with LF-terminated
lines.

The ERRORS file is the simplest: it consists of error messages from the
program which generated the packet to report on the progress of previously
executed commands. The format of these error messages is not defined, but
they should be human readable so that packet readers may present the errors
to the user for perusal.

The COMMANDS file consists of a sequence of commands, one per line, which
modify the behaviour of the packet processor at the other end of the
packet stream. Usually these commands are sent from the packet reader
to the packet generator to change the subscribed message areas, send
files, etc. The names of the commands are NOT case significant, but SHOULD
be sent in lower case. Any commands that are not understood by a program
should be ignored.

version n.m

The command specifies the version of this specification that the
packet conforms to. For this document the version is "1.2".

date dd mmm ccyy hh:mm:ss [zone]

The date and time when the packet was created. To prevent confusion
with different country's date formats, the date MUST always appear
as "dd mmm ccyy". For example, "25 Jul 1993". This date format can
be converted to local conventions if desired. "hh:mm:ss" is a
24-hour clock time value. The "zone" field is the number of hours
and minutes that the timezone is offset from Greenwich Mean Time as
"+HHMM" or "-HHMM". For example, US Eastern Standard Time (EST) is
"-0500", and Australian Eastern Standard Time is "+1000". If the
zone is omitted, it defaults to "local time", however the zone should
only be omitted if there is no way to determine it.

subscribe name

This command requests the packet generating program to subscribe to
a new message area. The area name may contain spaces, but not TABs.
Additional fields may be added in a future version of this
specification after a separating TAB. For now, ignore anything after
a TAB. This command may generate an error message if the message area
does not exist, or cannot be subscribed to.

unsubscribe name

This command requests the packet generating program to unsubscribe
from a message area. The same remarks about TABs and errors above
also apply to this command.

catchup [name]

This command requests the packet generating program to catchup on
the nominated message area. That is, to mark all messages in the
area as read and continue batching from the next message received.
If the area name is not present, the packet generating program
should catchup on all message areas.

list [always|never]

This command requests the packet generating program to send a
full list of all available message areas as a LIST file in
the next packet. If the argument "always" is present, then
the LIST file should be sent in every packet. The argument
value "never" reverses this. For minimal compliance,
"list always" should be treated as "list", and "list never"
should be ignored.

hostname string

This command specifies the name of the host or BBS the packet was
generated on. It serves an informational role only. The string
can be any sequence of printable ASCII characters.

software string

This command specifies the name and version of the software which
generated the packet. It servers an informational role only. The
string can be any sequence of printable ASCII characters.

sendmeareaselector[selector[...]]

This command requests that the packet generator send a number of
messages from the nominated message area. The "selector" arguments
are taken from the "selector" fields in a 'c' or 'C' index file.
Multiple "sendme" commands for the same message area may be present
in a COMMANDS file. The maximum length for this command is 500
characters. Note that other commands use spaces to separate
arguments, but this command uses TAB's.

mail y
mail n

This command changes whether or not private e-mail should be sent
in generated packets.

deletemail y
deletemail n

This command changes whether or not the user's private mailbox should
be deleted after being batched into a packet.

mailindex x

Set the preferred mail index format, where 'x' is one of the values
'n', 'c', 'C' or 'i'.

newsindex x

Set the preferred news index format, where 'x' is one of the values
'n', 'c', 'C' or 'i'.

get filename [putname]

Request that a file on the generating side be placed into a packet
and sent to the packet reader. "putname" specifies the "filename"
argument for the corresponding "put" command. If "putname" is
not specified, the default is to use the base name of "filename".
If directory paths are specified, the separator must be '/'. It
should be noted that security could be breached through the use
of this command, so programs which support this command should be
very careful, preferably restricting requests to a particular
directory tree.

put pktname filename

This command is usually sent in response to a "get" command, although
it can be sent on its own. "pktname" specifies the name of the file
in the packet which contains the requested file's contents. The
"filename" argument specifies destination file to write the contents
to. Note that security could be breached with this command, so
the destination filename should be checked, or restricted to a
particular directory tree. It is also recommended that the user
be prompted for confirmation before writing the file. If directory
paths are specified in "filename", the separator must be '/'. It
is recommended that the extension "FIL" be used for files in a
packet which contain data sent with this command. For example,
"put 001.FIL abc.zip"

supported cmd ...

This command is usually sent from a packet generator to inform a
packet reader as to which commands are supported by the generating
program. The argument is a space-separated list of command names.
For example, "supported subscribe unsubscribe list", or "supported
subscribe unsubscribe catchup list mail deletemail".

It is recommended that at least "subscribe", "unsubscribe" and "list" (with
no arguments) be supported. Packet generators are recommended to add a
"supported" line to all packets generated to inform the packet reader
which commands can be used. In the absence of a "supported" line, only
"subscribe", "unsubscribe" and "list" should be assumed to be supported.

If more than one command is received for the same item (e.g. "subscribe",
"unsubscribe", "list", "mail", ...), then the last command in the COMMANDS
file takes precedence over any previous commands.

The following example demonstrates a typical COMMANDS file sent from a
packet generator:

version 1.2
date 25 Jul 1993 12:34:38 +1000
hostname frobozz.domain.com
software Fubar 1.3
supported subscribe unsubscribe catchup list sendme get
put 001.FIL abc.zip
put 002.FIL def.txt

The following example demonstrates a typical COMMANDS file sent from a
packet reader:

subscribe comp.lang.c
subscribe comp.lang.misc
unsubscribe alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork
list
get xyzzy.zip
get /usr/local/lib/fubar.txt frobozz.txt

MESSAGE AREA SUMMARIES

The preceding sections have described a number of features for supporting
message area summaries. This section provides greater detail.

Since some message areas, notably USENET newsgroups, can get quite large,
the user may want to download a summary of a message area instead of all
of the messages, and then request that messages of interest be sent at
some later time for reading. Usually the summary will list the messages'
subjects, authors, and other similar "header information". Optionally,
the user may request that the first few lines of the messages also be
sent so that the user may peruse the beginning of the message and decide
whether to retrieve the rest of the message.

This activity is supported in the following fashion in this packet format:
summary information is sent in an index file of type 'c' or 'C', usually
with no accompanying message file. Therefore, the message file format in
the AREAS file will be set to 'i'. Each line in the index file has its
"bytes" field set to 0 to indicate that the message is not present in
the message file, and the "selector" field is set to some string that can
be used to request the message by way of a "sendme" command. Usually this
selection string will be the message number of the message on the generating
host, but other values such as Message-ID's are allowable.

If the first few lines of each message are also desired, the message file
format is set to something other than 'i', and the "offset" and "bytes" fields
in the index file may be used to extract the trimmed-down messages for
perusal. The "selector" field is once again used to request that an entire
message be sent at some later time, by way of a "sendme" command.

It is possible to create a message area which contains both ordinary messages
and summary messages. If the "selector" field is not present, or is
zero-length, then the message should be processed in the usual way, and if
the "selector" field is present and not zero-length, then it is a summary
message and the "bytes" field can be used to determine if the first few
lines of a message exist in the message file or not. This mixture can be
useful in some situations where the user wishes to download all messages
less than a certain length, and download the larger messages as summaries,
so that the larger messages can be explicitly requested only if the user
really wants them.

MINIMAL CONFORMANCE

This section describes the minimal amount of work that a packet processor
must do to be compliant with this specification.

Packet generators should be able to generate message areas for the 'b'
and 'u' message formats for private and public message areas respectively,
and process replies for the 'b' and 'B' message formats. For minimal
conformance, index format 'n' must be supported, and if message area
summaries are required, one of index formats 'c' or 'C' should be supported.
It is recommended that either 'c' or 'C' be supported in all packet
generators, even when message summaries are not required. If message
summaries are supported, the minimal requirement is to send an index file
with the message file format set to 'i'. Packet generators should support
the "subscribe", "unsubscribe" and "list" commands, and also the "sendme"
command if message area summaries are required.

Packet readers should be able to read all message and index formats, and
generate replies for the 'b' and 'B' message formats. If message area
summaries are not supported, all areas with message format 'i' should be
flagged to the user as not understood. Packet readers should also be
able to display the INFO and LIST files if they are present in a packet
and be able to prompt the user for "subscribe" and "unsubscribe" requests
to be sent to the packet generator.

FUTURE ENHANCEMENTS

The obvious enhancement that can be made is to support other message formats,
especially FidoNet formats. Currently the message area file code 'q' is
reserved for QWK-format messages. This will be defined in a future version
of this specification if demand warrants.

Experimentation with other formats and auxillary files is encouraged, but
please contact the author first to prevent double-ups from occurring.
The author may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]


 December 26, 2017  Add comments

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