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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Deja Google News Groups

Those of us who still read Usenet proper have probably all seen instances of 10+ year old threads getting a new post by someone who found it on Deja News or it's Google successor. Eg, last month I saw this reply to a twenty five year-old post.

Newgroups: comp.editors
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 2021 19:21:33 -0800 (PST)
Injection-Info: google-groups.googlegroups.com; [...]
Message-ID: <42d18ee7-712f-41f4-b4af-dba9988b192an@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: Maximum line length in Vi
From: Tejasvi S Tomar <tstomar@outlook...>

On Monday, April 17, 1995 at 12:30:00 PM UTC+5:30, Paul Fox wrote:
> G. Ioannou (gi...@cus.cam.ac.uk) wrote:
> : ed
> : Vim
> : Vile
> : They all worked fine with lines over 2000 characters in length, but I
> : don't know the exact limit.
> lines on vile, at least, are limited by the size of an int.
> anyone know what it is in vim?
> paul
> ---------------------------------
> paul fox, p...@foxharp.boston.ma.us (arlington, ma)

It seems there isn't any limit. https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/learning-the-vi/9780596529833/ch15s10.html

Anyway today I encountered a new twist on this. Instead of replying to decade(s) old post through Deja Google, someone instead hunted down my Wikipedia user page and answered a question of mine about Usenet II (dead for at least ten years) on the User Talk page. Really, I had no pressing care about why 4gh was used for the "Distribution" header. I knew it was a reference to some sci-fi book, but didn't really care more than that. And if I did care, the Usenet II page at Wikipedia has had the answer for a while: Usenet II, diff=prev, oldid=181389883

(The same person who added the reference in 2008 is the person who who answered me today on User Talk.)

It makes me wonder if people used to (or maybe still do) get the problem of people writing letters about long ago published stuff after finding it in a library.

C. R. Boffo
123 Main St
Small Town
14 January 1958
Mark Twain
345 Taylor St
San Francisco
Dear Sir,

I am writing to you in regards your piece about the jumping frog trainer that lived in Calaveras County. I don't know if Jim Smiley is training frogs for use in jumping contests, but he should be aware that California law now has mandates about frogs kept for jumping contests. I would also like to say that feeding lead to frogs as that stranger did to Dan'l is just cruel.

Yours sincerely,
C. R. Boffo

Any relation of "C. R. Boffo" to the .a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_River_toad "bufo "lick for high" toads" is surely coincidental.

A Usenet Lifetime

I'm in my 29th year of using Usenet and Netnews, and someone who can still tell you the (increasingly irrelevant) difference between the two. Usenet, tainted by the "gigabyes of copyright violations" as one binary group was jokingly summarized once, was dropped from the free and/or included offerings of most ISPs perhaps fifteen years ago or so. The format resists pictures, fancy formatting, easy tracking, serious moderation, or ethical money making opportunities, so it has not been encouraged by corporate Internet. Mozilla runs their own newsserver, news.mozilla.org, with Mozilla-specific groups only (an example of non-Usenet Netnews), but I don't know any other company that does likewise. (At least for free use. Panix has panix.* for Panix customer use.)

One of the things that happens when something exists for multiple decades and has been in decline for over a decade is that losing people to dying begins to exceed new people joining.

Returning home from Sea Ranch today, I saw a pick-up truck parked on the side of the road at one point. It was facing me, and if it had markings on the hood they couldn't be seen. But I could see a bunch of antennas on top. I was reminded of Ron Echeverri, an old Usenet personality who commented that California Highway Patrol "unmarked" cars are always obvious by the dozens of antennas.

When we passed the truck, I saw a sheriff's department logo on the door. But I continued to think about "rone", as Ron always went by on-line. He came down with a rare nerve disease in 2016 and spent months paralyzed. Rone did come through, but has not been posting anywhere that I've seen. Yet the last message I did see credited to him was a second-hand report late last year that another Usenetter we both knew had died.

And so this sighting of a car parked by the side of the road led me down a path of thinking of people I've known only through the text medium of Usenet who have since died. I have four names in mind for 2019's deaths, and know of others from earlier years. (One of whom I won't miss, so I'll not name any of them.) Add to that all those who stopped posting and for which I'll never know death, "moved on" or just lost easy access to Usenet, and it feels like an end of a lifetime.