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                      NetNews Offline CD-ROM Vol.  1
                             By:  Jason Compton 

I suppose the nice thing to say about NetNews Offline is that it's the sort
of thing I think needs to exist.  It's just a shame it's not something that
deserves to fly off the shelves.

NetNews Offline, Volume 1 (promising more) is a CD full of archived Usenet
material from Amiga and computer-related newsgroups.  Included is the GRn
newsreader to make browsing through the hundreds of megs of text palatable.

Like I said, this is the sort of thing that deep down I like to see
existing.  I always wonder what history will record of this time period and
how it will be interpreted.  Past history seems to be based on a
ridiculously small sample of texts that survive wars, plague, and
destruction which may or may not really be indicative of an era.  While I'd
hardly say that Usenet is indicative of our era, it is a part of it, and I
hate to see collective wisdom just vanish.  The more places something that
is written is archived, the better.

Now, of course, is the flip side--do we really need the dozens of Amiga
Tech-slamming postings recorded for posterity?  More to the point, do you
personally?  While I will readily admit there are benefits to having a
Usenet archive handy (useful information really does get shared sometimes
and you forget to save it for future reference), there are public Web
search engines that allow for this sort of thing now.  I'm not sure having
the CD in your own home will be all that useful, because even on an 040
machine with a 4X CD-ROM drive, plowing through these thousands of messages
takes GRn quite a lot of time.  Another general GRn complaint is the amount
of overhead you need to get it to recordkeep for the CD (30 megs), and the
amount of time it takes to start running and quit.  It's a result of having
tens of thousands of articles to handle, but it's just that much LESS
convenient for the home user.

What about the other marketing angle of the CD, that it's for those who
either don't have time or don't have the connectivity for Usenet?  Well,
for the latter I suppose it's a relatively painless and risk-free way to
introduce them to what actually goes on in Usenet.  But part of Usenet's
whole concept is that it is interactive and shared.  The conversation on
the CD is already stale and dead (most likely) by the time you get the CD.
There's no good way for you to get your two cents in, unless you really
want to run the risk of reopening a dead issue and old wounds.  For the
former, those who don't have time for Usenet--if they don't have time to
browse through TIN on their service provider, they'll hardly have time to
go through stale dead Usenet articles on CD-ROM.

It's a good idea.  Years from now I know I'm going to enjoy pulling this
CD out, just to see the sorts of things that I used to talk about with
Usenet regulars of the era.  Who knows, there may not even BE a Usenet as
we know it by then.  But for the present day, I just don't see the value.
Altavista or DejaNews are just a whole lot cheaper and in general are going
to be faster to use, too.

NetNews Offline Vol. 1
Published by Stefan Ossowski's Schatztruhe
Veronikastr. 33
D-45131 Essen
+49 201 788778 voice
+49 201 798447 fax e-mail