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    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


Macintosh Software Setup Instructions

Recommended Software for SFF Net


What are the Secret Handshakes?

    Usernames and Passwords
    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.

    Authentication
    The process of providing your username and password to our servers is called Authentication. Authentication is usually done automatically by your software, but in some cases (usually with older software) you may be required to do some of the process manually.

    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:

    • POP3 (Incoming) Email
    • SMTP (Outgoing) Email
    • NNTP Private and member-only areas of the news server
    • IRC Private and member-only areas of the chat server
    • FTP Uploading to web pages and accessing SFF Net archives

      A special note about SMTP 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

      1. Your email client provides SMTP authentication, OR
      2. You check your POP3 box just before trying to send mail

      The SMTP server will accept your email as long as you do one (or both) of these things.

      Another way of looking at things
      Think of email here as a private post office lobby with one of those electronic card-key security doors to get in. Once you're in the lobby, you can pick up or drop off mail.

      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.

    Alternate Connections
    Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other devices have restrictions on what kind of connections and clients can work with their service. In many cases, there are simple workarounds that will allow you to easily use SFF Net. Read the following, and the SFF Net Detailed Instructions for the software you're interested in using.

      My ISP is Blocking My Ports!
      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
      WebTV, Internet Appliances, and other browser-only users can indeed use SFF Net! In order to use the newsgroups or email you'll need to use WebNews (http://webnews.sff.net) and WebMail (http://webmail.sff.net) as your clients. WebNews and WebMail work beautifully with any browser.

      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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