(or use the Master Help Index)
Use this index to find the setup instructions for your software, general setup related-information, or to find our recommendations for what
software we've found that works particularly well with SFF Net.
Detailed Instructions Page Index
What are the Secret Handshakes?
Recommended Software for SFF Net
Although the WebNews and WebMail programs are a very simple way to use SFF Net, you will probably find it helpful to use a dedicated program to help automate or better keep track of your email, newsgroups, use the chatrooms, or your other SFF Net activities. Fortunately, you have a lot of fine products to choose from, and since SFF Net is a standards-based service, virtually all standard applications will work here.
Much of the recommended client software here is freeware or shareware. Freeware software is indeed free for you to use on a personal basis (commercial usage or re-distribution is usually restricted). However, shareware software is distributed on the honor system. It's free to evaluate (often for a limited period), but if you use it regularly you should register and pay for the product. Please honor this arrangement - shareware authors deserve to be compensated for their work - and without their good-faith-try-before-you-buy efforts, we'd all be buying only $$$$ shrink-wrapped software from mega-corporations.
Here's a table of our recommended choices for client software. Click on the product name to get product information and download
from the manufacturer.
If you're familiar with configuring Internet software and don't need step-by-step setup instructions, see the Quick Summary
page for a reference list of SFF Net servers and services.
Here's a table of our recommended choices for client software. Click on the product name to get product information and download from the manufacturer.
If you're familiar with configuring Internet software and don't need step-by-step setup instructions, see the Quick Summary page for a reference list of SFF Net servers and services.
What are the Secret Handshakes?
Although much of SFF Net is freely available to everyone, there are many services and areas that are available to SFF Net members only. The automated bouncers at the doors to such areas will require you to have your SFF Net username and password with you before letting you in. Fair warning - our bouncers are incorruptible. It won't matter who you know inside, what you're wearing, or if you try to slip them a twenty. You can't get in without having the right info and configuring your software to provide it correctly.
You received your SFF Net username and password in the welcome email when you signed up for access here (Note: some people, such as SFWA members, receive their SFF Net username/password when applying for online access to their own organization and the welcome letter may have arrived as part of that process). Find that welcome email and keep it handy when configuring your software.
You can also do lots of other cool stuff with your SFF Net User Account. Read all about it at Your SFF User Account.
SFF Net offers many types of services (email, newsgroups, irc, etc.) using many different servers. Although you will always use the same SFF Net username/password for everything you use here, each service has different technical requirements. As a result, the software you use to access these services will often need to have specific configuration options set in order to perform authentication correctly. These settings vary from package to package, but the setup instructions you'll find here for most popular packages include what to look for. Read on.
The following services require authentication:
For many of the services mentioned above, user authentication was built in from the beginning (such as POP3 incoming email, where it's clear that you should be allowed to get your email only by providing a username/password). However, SMTP, the protocol used to send outgoing mail on the Internet, was not originally designed to require authentication. Unfortunately, the trusting souls that built the Internet never counted on the wily cleverness of modern spammers (those pesky anonymous senders of junk emails), so SMTP was not protected from unauthorized use until recently, when SMTP Authentication was introduced. As a result, a few older email programs don't include support for SMTP Authentication.
Since SFF Net email servers require SMTP Authentication, older software that cannot do SMTP authentication will have a problem. There is a workaround, although it presents a security risk. This is known as SMTP-after-Pop (or SMTP-after-POP3). Now, after reading the next few paragraphs, you may want to argue that the phrase POP3-before-SMTP makes more sense, but then we'd have to throw to-mah-toes at you.
NOTE: Because spammers have all learned to take advantage of SMTP-After-POP3, we no longer allow this option to be selected by individual users. We can turn it on for you only if all other attempts to work around the problem have failed. We really don't like doing this.
Here's how it works. Either
The SMTP server will accept your email as long as you do one (or both) of these things.
Another way of looking at things
Whenever your check for new email using any POP3 capable email program, you're passing your card-key (username/password) through the scanner slot, which "pops" open the lobby door for a pre-determined amount of time. The door will then let in any other program in while the light is green. This is how programs that don't do SMTP Authentication can "get in" to SFF Net in order to send mail. However, if you come back later when the door is locked again, and try the door using an SMTP-only program (like some newsreader programs which can only send outgoing mail), the program doesn't have POP3 capability and it can't "pop" the door open and get in on its own.
Security Risk: Note that while the door is open, any other program can send mail claiming to be you as well. Many spammers and viruses are constantly trying to pretend to be you and gain access to our server. It's possible that these can slip through when you've done a POP3 check. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you upgrade your software to a version that does support SMTP Authentication as soon as possible and disable the SMTP-after-POP3 option.
As if spammers hadn't complicated the world enough, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Earthlink have now decided to block all SMTP traffic to and from their network except for email coming to and from their own SMTP servers. They do this by blocking the SMTP port (port 25) at their firewall. Think of your email as only being able to go through door number 25, and someone has locked that door and posted a guard at the gates of your village.
This would normally present a problem if you want to use SFF Net servers for your outgoing email, since the default port (door) for accepting SMTP mail is port 25 here as well. However, we've added a second port (door) numbered 587 to accept email. That means if you change your software to send outgoing email (SMTP) to SFF Net servers using port 587, you can send email, even if you ISP is blocking port 25.
The configuration settings to do this vary for each version of email software; however, we've included notes on how to make this change in the setup instructions for your software.
WebTV and Other Browser-Only Services
However, other SFF Net services (such as IRC and Greyware Chat) may require special clients that your unit does not support. Check with your vendor for more information.
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