Old Habits Die Hard

As part of my effort to reduce the complexity of my IT infrastructure at home I’m currently reviewing which parts of it I really need and which I don’t. My intention is to have to spend less time in front of my computers at home. And if I spend time in front of them I want to do things which I enjoy rather than routine work.

One of the things which I reviewed was whether I really need to have a news system on my server at home. I’ve been running an own news system for a long time. It started with running the Universal Message System on my Amiga many years ago (probably in 1993). Echomails from the FidoNet were the first newsfeed into that system.

A few month later I got Usenet news (and Internet e-mail) via an UUCP uplink operated by another student from the local university. After I bought my first PC in 1995 and installed NetBSD on it I discovered that the bundled Taylor UUCP performed much faster and more reliable than the UUCP software I was using on the Amiga. So I decided to let the PC handle the UUCP connections. But because I still wanted to read Usenet news on my Amiga using IntuiNews, a GUI client for UMS written by Markus Stipp and me, I needed a way to exchange news between the Amiga and the PC. And so I installed Cnews, a news system for UNIX under NetBSD.

A year later my Amiga developed a hardware problem which made it very unstable. I therefore decided to use one of my NetBSD PCs as my main mail and news client. After quickly replacing ELM with Mutt as my e-mail client I begun using Knews for reading news. And Knews didn’t like the primitive NNTP daemon provided by Cnews very much. I decided to install INN as news server which seemed like a bold venture back then. If I remember correctly I spent indeed hours to get INN to compile (luxurious things like configure scripts where not known at that time) and run under NetBSD and to configure it afterwards. But when I was finished I had a nice and fast news system and Knews finally ran smoothly.

Knowing how to administer an INN installation turned out to be useful. At times I looked after four INN installations (work, major customer, home and the uplink for home) which fortunately didn’t require much effort after the initial installation. But after changing my job and my ISP for my home Internet connection only a single INN installation remained. And I’ve kept that INN running to this day.

But I recently wondered whether I really need that INN on my server. My current ISP provides NNTP access to a large news server which even offers german language newsgroups. And while feeding NetBSD mailings list into newsgroups seemed like a good idea initially it didn’t work out too well. I usually forget to start a newsreader to look at them and when I do there are often too many messages to handle. And running a news server also requires somebody providing you an uplink for it. The Individual Network Berlin e.V provided me with that service in the last few years. But because they have to cover their expences and I had to pay the a monthly membership fee.

Saving money and work by stopping to stopping to maintain by own news system? That sounded like I great idea and I started to shut the INN down by termination my membership of the Individual Network Berlin e.V. and asking the administrator of my backup news uplink to pull the plug. But in all that enthusiasm I also felt a bit of a loss. It was like throwing away a worn out piece of clothing which was once your favourite thing to wear. You know that it is the right thing to do but a part of you don’t want to let it go nevertheless.
I guess it is just that old habits die hard …