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VNS Production

The automated system for publishing VNS was described by Colin Blake in issue 3000 on 17 Jan 1994 at which time VNS had been in circulation for almost twelve and a half years.

Using the vocabulary of the time and of Digital:

“VNS is produced each morning by a batch job {using VMS software tools}. The batch job, actually a collection of DCL command files, TPU section files and RMS data files is the VNS publishing system and is referred to simply as “VNS”.Articles are sent by the various correspondents to a mail address on EXPAT where VNS automatically stores them for inclusion in the next edition. Then, each weekday, just after midnight (5am UK time), VNS checks to see if it has received the Main News yet. If it has received the Main News then it will publish the next edition. If it hasn’t received the Main News then it will wait and re-check at regular intervals and when the Main News does arrive the next edition of VNS will be published. If the Main News hasn’t arrived by 5am local time (10am UK time) then VNS checks to see how many articles it has received and it there’s sufficient will publish VNS without the Main News.To publish an edition VNS collects the articles it has received, adds the appropriate header to each one, sorts them, creates the main header (which contains the contents and circulation information), adds the trailer section, and mails it out. This is all totally automated and requires no action on my part. VNS also creates the VTX edition and sends this out to the appropriate infobases and instructs the relevant servers to update these pages.”

With the direct circulation at that time being over 6000 readers, the system used a feature called “node hopping” to reduce significantly the number of email messages sent over the network. This used a VMS software tool called NMail and a list of primary and secondary hopper nodes. The primary nodes got their edition of VNS direct from the publishing node. Secondary nodes received their edition from their own primary node. Readers get their edition from their nearest primary or secondary node. At the time of VNS 3000 (Jan 1994), there were 12 primary nodes and 28 secondary nodes.

Whenever a new subscriber was added, or an existing subscriber changed their email address, VNS automatically determined which primary or secondary hopper node to use based upon their physical location.”

Exactly how VNS ended has been lost with the breakup of Digital. The service was left running on the node EXPAT::. Issues would be published whenever contributions were received from the staff writers. The last post on soc.culture.british was on Monday 9th January 1995.

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