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           tknewsbiff [ server or config-file ]


           tknewsbiff  pops up a window when there is unread news in your favorite
           newsgroups and removes the window after you've read the news.  tknewsb-
           iff can optionally play a sound, start your newsreader, etc.


           By default, the configuration file ~/.tknewsbiff describes how tknewsb-
           iff behaves.  The syntax observes the usual Tcl rules -  however,  even
           if you don't know Tcl, all but the most esoteric configurations will be
           Each newsgroup (or set of newsgroups) to be  watched  is  described  by
           using the "watch" command.  For example:
           watch dc.dining
           watch nist.*
           watch comp.unix.wizard  -threshold 3
           watch *.sources.*       -threshold 20
           For each newsgroup pattern, any newsgroup that matches it and which you
           are subscribed to (according to  your  newsrc  file)  is  eligible  for
           reporting.  By default, tknewsbiff reports on the newsgroup if there is
           at least one unread article.  The "-threshold" flag changes the thresh-
           old  to  the following number.  For example, "-threshold 3" means there
           must be at least three articles unread before  tknewsbiff  will  report
           the newsgroup.
           If  no  watch commands are given (or no configuration file exists), all
           groups which are subscribed to are watched.
           To suppress newsgroups  that  would  otherwise  be  reported,  use  the
           "ignore"  command.   For  example, the following matches all comp.* and
           nist.* newgroups except for nist.posix or .d (discussion) groups:
           watch comp.*
           watch nist.*
           ignore nist.posix.*
           ignore *.d
           The flag "-new" describes a command to be executed when  the  newsgroup
           is  first  reported  as having unread news.  For example, the following
           lines invoke the UNIX command "play" to play a sound.
           watch dc.dining -new "play yumyum"
           watch* -new "play vroom"
           As  an aside, you can put an "&" at the end of an "exec" command to get
           commands to execute asynchronously.  However, it's probably not a  good
           idea to do this when playing sound files anyway.
           "newsgroup"  is  a  read-only  variable  which contains the name of the
           newsgroup that is being reported.  This is useful when  the  action  is
           triggered  by a pattern.  For example, the following line could run the
           newsgroup name through a speech synthesizer:
           watch * -new {
                exec play
                exec speak "New news has arrived in $newsgroup."
           The flag "-display" describes a command to be executed every  time  the
           newsgroup is reported as having unread news.  The special command "dis-
           play" is the default command.  It schedules $newsgroup to be written to
           tknewsbiff's  display when it is rewritten.  For example, by explicitly
           providing a -display flag that omits the display command, you can  dis-
           able the display of newsgroups that are already reported via -new.
           watch dc.dining -new {exec play} -display {}
           If you want to execute an action repeatedly and still display the news-
           group in the default manner, explicitly invoke the display command  via
           the -display flag.  For example:
           watch *security* -display {
                exec play
           Actions  associated  with the -new and -display flags are executed only
           once for each matching newsgroup.  The  command  executed  is  the  one
           associated  with  the  first  pattern  in  the  configuration file that
           matches and observes the given threshold.
           Any command that is simply listed in the configuration file is executed
           each  time  before  the  update  loop in tknewsbiff.  The reserved (but
           user-defined) procedure "user" is run immediately after the  newsgroups
           are scheduled to be written to the display and before they are actually


           The following example lines show variables that can affect the behavior
           of tknewsbiff
           set delay          120
           set server
           set server_timeout 60
           set newsrc         ~/.newsrc
           set width          40
           set height         20
           set active_file    /usr/news/lib/active
           tknewsbiff  alternates  between  checking  for unread news and sleeping
           (kind of like many undergraduates).  The "delay" variable describes how
           many seconds to sleep.
           The  "server"  variable  names  an  NNTP  news-server.   The default is
           "news".  The "server" variable is only used if the "active_file"  vari-
           able is not set.
           The  "server_timeout"  variable  describes how how many seconds to wait
           for a response from the server before giving up.  -1 means wait forever
           or until the server itself times out.  The default is 60 seconds.
           The  "newsrc"  variable  describes  the  name of your .newsrc file.  By
           default, tknewsbiff looks in your home directory for a newsrc file.   A
           server-specific  newsrc is used if found.  For example, if you have set
           server  to  "",  then  tknewsbiff  looks  for  ~/.newsrc-
    (This  is  the  Emacs gnus convention - which is very
           convenient when you read news from multiple servers.)  If there  is  no
           server-specific newsrc, tknewsbiff uses ~/.newsrc.
           The  "width"  variable  describes the width that tknewsbiff will use to
           display information.  If any newsgroup names are long enough, they will
           be  truncated  so  that the article counts can still be shown.  You can
           manually resize the window to see what was truncated.  However, if your
           configuration file sets the width variable, the window will be restored
           to that size the next time that tknewsbiff checks for unread  news  and
           updates its display.
           The "height" variable describes the maximum height that tknewsbiff will
           use to display information.  If fewer newsgroups are reported, tknewsb-
           iff  will shrink the window appropriately.  You can manually resize the
           window but if your configuration file sets  the  height  variable,  the
           window  will  be  restored  to  that size the next time that tknewsbiff
           checks for unread news and updates its display.
           The "active_file" variable describes the name of the news active  file.
           If  set,  the  active file is read directly in preference to using NNTP
           (even if the "server" variable is set).  This  is  particularly  useful
           and article numbers anyway, there is no point in trying to do this in a
           single process.)
           You can point tknewsbiff at a  different  server  with  an  appropriate
           argument.   The argument is tried both as a configuration file name and
           as a suffix to the string "~/.tknewsbiff-".  So if you  want  to  watch
           the  server "kidney", store the tknewsbiff configuration information in
           ~/.tknewsbiff-kidney".  The following two commands will both  use  that
           configuration file.
                tknewsbiff kidney
                tknewsbiff ~/.tknewsbiff-kidney
           In  both cases, the actual server to contact is set by the value of the
           server variable in the configuration file.
           If no configuration file is found, the argument is used as  the  server
           to contact.  This allows tknewsbiff to be run with no preparation what-
           If the argument is the special keyword "active" (or ends in "/active"),
           it is used as the name of an active file.  This is in turn used to ini-
           tialize the variable "active_file" so that tknewsbiff  reads  from  the
           active file directly rather than using NNTP.
           Creating  your own active file is a convenient way of testing your con-
           figuration file.  For example, after running the following command, you
           can repeatedly edit your active file and trigger the update-now command
           (either by pressing button 2 or setting the delay variable very low) to
           see how tknewsbiff responds.
           The active file must follow the format of a real active file.  The for-
           mat is one newsgroup per line.  After the newsgroup name is the  number
           of  the highest article, the lowest article.  Lastly is the letter y or
           m.  m means the newsgroup is moderated.  y means posting is allowed.


           When unread news is found, a window is popped up.  The window lists the
           names  of  the  newsgroups  and  the  number of unread articles in each
           (unless suppressed by the -display flag).  When there is no longer  any
           unread  news,  the window disappears (although the process continues to


           Button or key bindings may be assigned by bind commands.  Feel free  to
           change them.  The default bind commands are:
           By  default, button 3 (right) is bound to "unmapwindow".  The unmapwin-
           dow command causes tknewsbiff to remove the  window  from  the  display
           until  the  next  time  it  finds  unread news.  (The mapwindow command
           causes tknewsbiff to restore the window.)
           As an example, here is a binding to pop up an xterm and run rn when you
           hold down the shift key and press button 1 in the listing window.
           bind .list <Shift-1> {
                exec xterm -e rn &
           Here  is  a  similar  binding.  However it tells rn to look only at the
           newsgroup that is under the mouse when  you  pressed  it.   (The  "dis-
           play_list" variable is described later in this man page.)
           bind .list <Shift-1> {
                exec xterm -e rn [lindex $display_list [.list nearest %y]] &


           Built-in  commands already mentioned are: watch, ignore, display, help,
           update-now, unmapwindow, and mapwindow.
           Any Tcl and Tk command can also be given.  In particular, the  list  of
           newsgroups  is stored in the list widget ".list", and the scroll bar is
           stored in the scrollbar widget ".scroll".  So for example, if you  want
           to  change  the foreground and background colors of the newsgroup list,
           you can say:
                .list config -bg honeydew1 -fg orchid2
           These can also be controlled by the X resource database as well.   How-
           ever,  the configuration file allows arbitrarily complex commands to be
           evaluated rather than simple assignments.
           Certain Tcl/Tk commands can  disrupt  proper  function  of  tknewsbiff.
           These will probably be obvious to anyone who knows enough to give these
           commands in the first place.  As a simple example, the program  assumes
           the font in the list box is of fixed width.  The newsgroups will likely
           not align if you use a variable-width font.
           The following variables are accessible and can  be  used  for  esoteric
           uses.  All other variables are private.  Private variables and commands


           tknewsbiff automatically rereads your configuration file each  time  it
           wakes  up  to check for unread news.  To force tknewsbiff to reread the
           file immediately (such as if you are testing  a  new  configuration  or
           have  just  modified  your  newsrc file), press button 2 in the display
           (see BUTTONS above).


           tknewsbiff defines the number of unread articles as the highest  exist-
           ing  article  minus the highest article that you've read.  So if you've
           read the last article in the newsgroup but no others, tknewsbiff thinks
           there  are  no  unread  articles.  (It's impossible to do any better by
           reading the active file and it would be very time consuming to do  this
           more  accurately  via  NNTP  since  servers provide no efficient way of
           reporting their own holes in the newsgroups.)  Fortunately, this  defi-
           nition  is  considered a feature by most people.  It allows you to read
           articles and then mark them "unread" but not have  tknewsbiff  continue
           telling you that they are unread.


           Your  news  administrator  may  wonder  if many people using tknewsbiff
           severely impact an NNTP server.  In fact, the impact is negligible even
           when  the  delay  is very low.  To gather all the information it needs,
           tknewsbiff uses a single NNTP query - it just asks for the active file.
           The NNTP server does no computation, formatting, etc, it just sends the
           file.  All the interesting processing happens locally in the tknewsbiff
           program itself.


           The man page is longer than the program.


           "Exploring  Expect: A Tcl-Based Toolkit for Automating Interactive Pro-
           grams" by Don Libes, O'Reilly and Associates, January 1995.


           Don Libes, National Institute of Standards and Technology
                                    1 January 1994                   TKNEWSBIFF(1)

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