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Clarinet: UPI, Dave Barry and Dilbert

Usenet "newsgroups" can be something of a misnomer. They may be interesting, informative and educational, but they are often not news, at least, not the way most people would think of them. But there are several sources of news and sports on the Net.

One of the largest is Clarinet, a company in Cupertino, Calf., that distributes wire-service news and columns, along with a news service devoted to computers and even the Dilbert comic strip, in Usenet form.

Distributed in Usenet form, Clarinet stories and columns are organized into more than 100 newsgroups (in this case, a truly appropriate name), some of them with an extremely narrow focus, for example, clari.news.gov.taxes. The general news and sports come from United Press International; the computer news from the NewsBytes service; the features from several syndicates.

Because Clarinet charges for its service, not all host systems carry its articles. Those that do carry them as Usenet groups starting with clari.*. As with other Usenet hierarchies, these are named starting with broad area and ending with more specific categories. Some of these include business news (clari.biz); general national and foreign news, politics and the like (clari.news), sports (clari.sports); columns by Mike Royko, Miss Manners, Dave Barry and others (clari.feature); and NewsBytes computer and telecommunications reports (clari.nb). Because Clarinet started in Canada, there is a separate set of clari.canada newsgroups. The clari.nb newsgroups are divided into specific computer types (clari.nb.apple, for example).

Clari news groups feature stories updated around the clock. There are even a couple of "bulletin" newsgroups for breaking stories: clari.news.bulletin and clari.news.urgent. Clarinet also sets up new newsgroups for breaking stories that become ongoing ones (such as major natural disasters, coups in large countries and the like).

Occasionally, you will see stories in clari newsgroups that just don't seem to belong there. Stories about former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry, for example, often wind interspersed among columns by Dave Barry.

This happens because of the way wire services work. UPI uses three-letter codes to route its stories to the newspapers and radio stations that make up most of its clientele, and harried editors on deadline sometimes punch in the wrong code.

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