A. It's a Russian language FidoNet group concerned primarily with the ZX Spectrum, various Russian clones, other Sinclair machines and in fact anything vaguely Sinclair related. Since it is carried by Google Groups and available on most good NNTP servers, a common misconception has arisen in countries outside Russia that it is another USENET news group. It certainly isn't, and the moderator of fido7.zx.spectrum rightly insists that it isn't.
It is important not to think of fido7.zx.spectrum as just another USENET newsgroup because (a) the rules are quite different for FidoNet groups which are generally much more strict than USENET groups (b) you can't just casually post to fido7.zx.spectrum on a whim like you can to most USENET groups (you need to be registered) and (c) most importantly - it does indeed originate from a totally seperate network than USENET and is not at all a true USENET group, even though to the casual observer it understandably appears as if it is one.
At the time of writing, many of the group's posters still connect to fido7.zx.spectrum via FidoNet rather than the Internet, although this is slowly changing over time from what I can gather by reading the group. Technically, the group is a FidoNet echomail conference and the word "конференция" (conference) is often used within the group to describe itself. However, I will use the word "group" throughout this document, for brevity and also because it appears as if it were a "group" for those of us connecting to it from the Internet. When actually posting on fido7.zx.spectrum though, it's probably best practice to avoid referring to it as a "group" and certainly never as a "newsgroup". If in doubt, use the word "conference"/"конференция".
Q. What's FidoNet?
A. The Wikipedia article on it is quite comprehensive. FidoNet started off in the US back in the '80s as an inter-BBS communication network. It's quite a separate entity from the Internet, and has been largely superceded by the Internet nowadays. In Russia though, it has ended up being widely used for a far longer period than in most other countries, and is still going strong in 2008. However, you don't actually need to know any of the technical details about FidoNet in order to post to the fido7.zx.spectrum group. This is because you can post to the FidoNet groups via the Internet. In Western Europe in 2008 for example, posting via the Internet will typically be the only option available.
Q. Can I post to fido7.zx.spectrum via Google groups?
A. Not as far as I know, because the entire gmail/googlemail domain is blocked from the FidoNet groups. However, you can of course read the group via Google groups, at the time of writing.
Q. So, how do I post to FidoNet group fido7.zx.spectrum?
A. You need to use newsreader software to post via your NNTP server, as if you were posting to a USENET group, but with some important caveats (see below). This works because although FidoNet is a seperate network from the Internet, it is accessible from the Internet using an NNTP gateway.
There are some things you need to be aware of though, or your post just won't get through.
Firstly you must post in Russian, as fido7.zx.spectrum is purely a Russian language group. More notes on this later. Posting in English will not block your message in itself, but it'll probably be ignored as spam by the Russian-speaking readers of the group. Character encoding should be set to Cyrillic (KOI8-R) both for reading and posting to fido7.zx.spectrum.
Your news client software must be configured using a valid email address that you have access to and is absolutely not from a free email provider. All posts made to fido7.zx.spectrum using free email adressess (e.g. googlemail, hotmail etc..) will automatically be bounced back to the sender.
You must use your real name as your "Display Name". All FidoNet groups prohibit the use of nicknames/aliases/handles etc.. Using an alias will not block your message, but a Moderator will step in and tell you to stop posting using an alias, and to use your real name instead. Failure to comply will probably result in a ban.
No commercial activity is permitted on FidoNet, so you are not allowed to use fido7.zx.spectrum to offer items for sale. Doing so will probably result in a ban. The Russian rule on this states something like:- Even the sale of a second hand children's bicyle for ten wooden rubles will result in the most severe punishment.
But the most important thing is that you must be registered within the FidoNet system before posting and fortunately this is free and easy to do. You must embed your Fidonet account ID (which is known as your "magic number") within the body of every post you make. Failure to embed your "magic number" in a post will result in it being bounced back to you and the post will simply fail to appear in the group.
Q. How do I register on FidoNet?
A. Very Simple. Firstly, ensure your newsreader settings comply with the above email account requirements, and that your NNTP server carries the group fido7.zx.spectrum. Subscribe to the fido7.zx.spectrum group. Submit a short post to the group. Bear in mind that this first post will not get through anyway, so don't write too much. Something like Привет! (Greetings!) woud do. In fact a blank post would probably suffice, although I have not tried this myself. Within the hour or so of attempting to post, you will receive an auto-generated email. This will be received at the address you had your news reader software configured with, when you made the posting attempt. First thing to check is that it doesn't say (In English) "Domain not allowed" or something similar. This would happen if you have posted using a free email provider as your email address. If in doubt use your ISP email account, but be aware of the problem of spam when posting to public groups whilst using your real email address. I created a separate mail box at my ISP just for posting to public groups, in case of spam.
Assuming your domain wasn't blocked, the email you have received will state (in English) "Not registered yet". This is good, and means that your email domain is not blocked by FidoNet. I should point out that you are bound to have read the rules in Russian in this email before posting to fido7.zx.spectrum. I strongly recommend that you do this. Now scroll down to the bottom of the email where you will see two pieces of important information, this email address <firstname.lastname@example.org> and your own Magic number which is found in a paragraph looking like this:-и в любом месте в теле этого письма поместите следующее "магическое число": 1234567890.
Of course, your ten-digit "magic number" will be different than the one above, and unique to you.
Next you need to use exactly the same email account to send an email to email@example.com containing simply your magic number copied and pasted into the body of the email message. You need not have a subject. You need not write anything else in the message. Sending this message from any email account other than the one which received the above email will result in it being rejected, due to mismatching email addresses.
Again, within an hour or so you will hopefully receive a second automated email which states in English: The result of the request is: registered
You can now post to fido7.zx.spectrum using your newsreader software in the usual way, as long as you always have the same email account configured in your news client software, and as long as you always remember to insert your "magic number" anywhere within the body of each of your posts. Don't worry about the magic number being visible to other users - the fido7 system automatically strips it out of your messages before relaying it to the group. If you forget to insert the "magic number", as I have done a few times, then your message will not be posted to the group, but you will receive an email reminding you of your magic number, which is quite helpful. You can configure some newsreader clients to automatically embed the "magic number" into each message for you e.g. by inserting it into a signature. I would recommend against doing this, as if you accidentally posted the magic number to groups outside the fido7 heirarchy, then it would not be automatically stripped out and everyone on USENET for example would be able to see it.
Q. My Russian isn't very good, can I still post?
A. Well, I do, and my knowledge of Russian is only very basic. The moderator of the group says it is OK for me to post there, as long as I obey the rules! I would strongly recommend against just running English text through Babelfish though, as the meaning will become very mangled, and there will be quite blatant mistakes. The result would be quite illegible to group members. If you at least make an effort to translate word by word using a selection of better translation tools e.g. the PROMPT translator or The SDL International translator (both have maximum word limits), in conjunction with a free dictionary or two, then the result will be a lot better. I also "reverse translate" everything I write back into English before posting to ensure the meaning is still intact. Finally, reading up on the basics of Russian grammar is also not a bad idea! Sometimes the translators get the word orders mixed up, or use the wrong translation. Still, be prepared that group members may helpfully point out and correct any mistakes you may make, and this can only help you to learn more about the Russian language! You will almost certainly have to know how to directly type in Russian on a western keyboard in addition to using translation tools in order to post effectively, the answer to the question below explains why.
Q. I can't translate other group member's posts back into English, why is this?
A. You will find that some words on fido7.zx.spectrum will translate to English OK, but many do not. In some sentences, you may find that the majority of words will not translate. Apart from the usual spelling mistakes, this is usually because posters do not always use the completely standard Cyrillic character set when posting. Some posters do, and some don't. This appears to be some sort of FidoNet poster's convention, there is something mentioned about it in the rules, although posting in standard Cyrillic seems to be permitted, which is what I do. You will find both Cyrillic letters and "false-friend" Latin letters mixed together within Russian words. For example, Привет might be written as Пpивeт which looks the same, but it isn't as the second one has two Latin letters masquerading as Russian letters. This will confuse all known translation software, and so you need to typically re-type the word purely in the Cyrillic character set into your Dictionary/translation software in order to decipher it's meaning. Hence you need to at least be able to type in Russian, perhaps even on a western keyboard in order to have a two-way conversation with other forum members.
Q. Which newsreader software do you recommend?
A. I happen to use SeaMonkey, as it is free, available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS, and it supports separate per-group character encodings, as well as multiple online identities. There are many alternatives out there.
Q. Which NNTP/USENET service do you recommend?
A. Although I previously stated that the fido7 groups are not part of USENET, you still need access to an NNTP server to post to them (in Western Europe at least). In the west, this is commonly known as a USENET service or a newsgroup service, even though that is not technically what we are posting to here.
I personally use the one already provided to me by my ISP at no extra charge, which I think is Giganews. If your ISP's news server does not carry fido7.zx.spectrum, then you could subscribe to one cheaply e.g. the non-binary provider http://www.individual.net which according to their website carries the fido7 hierarchy and costs only 10 euros a year at the time of writing. This one was recommended to me by spike on comp.sys.sinclair, although I have not yet tried it myself.
Q. This seems quite involved, just to post in a Speccy group! Are there any other places I can read up and get involved in the Russian Speccy scene?
A. Yes, there is a large Russian web forum at http://zx.pk.ru. Obviously, Russian is the main language there too, although they do have one sub-forum where English is permitted.
Q. Why did you write this FAQ?
A. On hosting the comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Compo 2008, I decided to announce the competition on as many forums and groups around the world as possible. On doing this, I stumbled upon fido7.zx.spectrum. Since it is non-trivial for a non-native-Russian speaker to work out how to post there, I thought I would simply write about my findings in English. This is so other ZX-Spectrum hobbyists like myself (with only very basic Russain skills) could also find out how to post there, and avoid all of the pitfalls I stumbled upon. Also, a fascination on discovering FidoNet probably helped me here.
I hope this guide was or will be helpful to some fellow Spec-chums. Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital Prawn 2008