Appstorm’s Beginners Guide to Usenet

There are a lot of ways for getting files (music, video, software) from the Internet. Some of you might use a peer-to-peer network, such as BitTorrent, or a dedicated file hosting service, like RapidShare. These services are great, but Peer-to-Peer can be slow, and a dedicated file hosting service can be expensive. If you are looking for an alternative, with lightning fast download speed, secure connection, and cheaper pricing plans, you should perhaps try Usenet.

A Short History about Usenet

The history of Usenet dates back to the 1980s. It was originally designed as a global distributed discussion system, but its heyday as a discussion system has long ended. These days, we use mailing list, or online forums, but even these Usenet successors are beginning to feel dated. Since then, Usenet has evolved into a file sharing network.

Eventually, Usenet evolved as a media where people shared copyrighted material. People started using Usenet as a tool to share copyrighted material. RIAA filed a suit against Usenet, and they triumphed when U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of RIAAA. We write this article because we feel that our readers will get some benefit from knowing how to use Usenet, and not because we support copyright infringement. There are a lot of useful, non-copyrighted material available in Usenet – such as free books, and open source software. Plus, it’s a trip though internet memory lane before web were even conceived for the most part.

Choosing a Service Provider

Usenet works differently than peer-to-peer systems like BitTorrent. Usenet consists of a cluster of servers, where each server hosts your files, and distribute them to other servers in the cluster.  We have to pay a price for accessing these servers – a small price to pay for a blazing fast download speed and privacy.

GigaNews, Astraweb, and Newshosting are the most popular Usenet providers around. They provide different level of services. Before you sign up with one of these providers, you have to consider these factors:

  • Retention: Everyone is adding massive amount of binary data to Usenet. Service providers can’t retain all this data forever. Eventually they will run out of disk space. Retention is the number of days you’re guaranteed to have access to a file after its original posting date.
  • Data Transfer Cap: This is how much data you can download on a monthly basis. In the most ideal scenario you would want to have unlimited data transfer, but most Usenet providers will have a cap from 5 to 50 GB.
  • Connections: This refers to the number of sessions that you open with a Usenet provider’s servers. Most servers limit the number of connections to help control the speed at which you can connect. And, this is a good thing. If you find a server with a high limit on the number of connections you may be able to download at a faster rate. Most Usenet service providers give more than 10 concurrent connection, and anything more than 10 connection will easily saturate your broadband connection, unless you are sitting on a fibre backbone connection.
  • Security Features: You need to make sure that your Usenet service providers gives you a secure connection. The most basic secure connection is SSL, and never skip on SSL! Some high end providers will even offer you additional security feature like VPN – especially useful when you want to access extremely rare files.

GigaNews: Currently the premium Usenet provider, GigaNews has a fast connection, their own Usenet browser (Mimo), and customers in over 180 countries. They also offer 24/7 support with a low average response time on support tickets. GigaNews gives 1000+ days of retention rate, and they have been in the business for nearly 20 years. Plans range from $5 and up to $35 for their diamond plan that includes Unlimited Usenet and SSL. GigaNews beats other Usenet service provider hands down, but they are very expensive. You can end up paying up $35 a month, while you can get similar packages for $10/month from other providers.

Astraweb: If you are looking for a Usenet provider with good value, Astraweb is where it’s at. GigaNews beats Astraweb hands down, but Astraweb is the premium Usenet providers for those who are on a budget. Their prices ranges from $10 to $25, 1173 retention days, and unlimited DSL with SSL.

Newshosting: over the past few years Newshosting has been upgrading their services, and become one of the most popular Usenet providers. They recently create their own Usenet Browser. With built-in search and file previewing, you can browse and download from their newsgroups at superior speed. They have monthly and yearly pricing plans that range from $13 to $20. These plans come with 1174 retention days and SSL.

Setting up a Usenet Client

In this section, we will show you how to use SABnzbd+ to download binary files. SABnzbd+ is by far the best Usenet client in the market. If you are interested to read newsgroup, you’ll want a proper Usenet client. You can download Unison if you are using Mac, Grabit or unPoster for Windows, and Pan or kLibido for Linux.

SAB runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It runs as a web-based application, and you’ll control it from your web browser.Grab a copy of SABnzbd for your operating system here. The installation wizard is pretty straight forward. The only thing you’ll want to do is check all the options on the Choose Components screen.

Choose Components

After the installation finishes, your default web browser will open up a connection to the local host on port 8080 or 9090. Head over to the config screen and open the servers tab.

Download Queue

The first thing that you need to do is to connect your SABnzbd to your Usenet provider. Open the servers tab.

Configuration Scree

Here you’ll enter your Usenet service provider’s server address, the corresponding port, whether SSL is on or off, and your username and password. This is also where you set the number of connections you want to use.

Server Setup

Make sure to use the proper port for SSL  and check the SSL box. When you’ve filled everything in click Test Server to test your connection.If everything went well you should get a Connection Successful! confirmation. At this point, SABnzbd is ready to rock, but there are a few configuration settings you may want to tweak. Open the folder tab. Here you’ll enter where you want to store your files.

Choose Your Download Folder

Feel free to browse the sub-menus to take advantage some of SABnzbd useful features, like scheduling and sorting. Read through the individual settings of SABnzbd here to read more what they do.

Feeding NZBs to Your SABnzbd

Now that you have setup SABnzbd, it’s time to download some stuff. To do this we have to feed it some NZBs, which are pointers to binary content on Usenet. Most binaries on Usenet are split into several pieces, usually in RAR format, and NZBs allow you to download a single file that holds the location information for every piece.  These are popular sites that serve NZBs. Most of them have free access with limited retention, but some require payment for full access. An important thing to consider is whether the index is raw or hand-indexed. Raw index is simply a big database of searchable NZBs. It’s great, but can be very tricky to navigate. Hand-indexed database are personally sorted, filtered, and they tend to be safer to download. However there is no harm if you scan files that you download from Usenet, just to make sure that they are not infested with viruses, or trojans, that will wreak your PC.

NZBMatrix: well organized, and has an API that integrates with SABnzbd. You’ll only need to pay $10 for 10 years. If you do decide to sign-up with NZBMatrix, open the index sub-menu, and enter your username and API key. An API key will be a long string of alphanumeric characters.

Index Sites API Screen

Newzbin: is the oldest indexing site. They are the one who invented NZB files, but they lost in a trial against MPA and no longer provide services as it once was. Like NZBMatrix, they have a solid API and are supported by many clients and third-party applications

NZBClub: gives 1000 days retentions with great search result and features. Once you are familiar with their keyword search function, you’ll find that this is a great place to find some good stuff.

NZB.su: the good thing about this site is that you can categorize your search. This feature will save you a lot of time. NZB.su offers a free account that allows users to make 15 NZB downloads a day. IF that’s not enough, you can upgrade to their VIP account, and get 400 NZB downloads per day.

Did You Learn Anything?

If you have made it this far, we have reached the end of our beginner’s guide on Usenet. We started by looking at a short history of Usenet, how to choose a Usenet service provider, installing SABnzbd, and getting NZB files to download files from Usenet. There are plenty of other Usenet clients, service providers, and indexing services that our short article can’t possibly cover. Feel free to share your experience, and tips on Usenet with the other fellow readers.

 


Summary

SABnzbd is an Open Source Binary Newsreader written in Python

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  • Adam Rotman

    Great article…You mentioned that SABnzbd is by far the best Usenet client on the market, but how is SABnzbd so much better than Unison?

  • anon

    “Since then, Usenet has evolved into a file sharing network.
    Eventually, Usenet evolved as a media where people shared copyrighted material. People started using Usenet as a tool to share copyrighted material.”

    A bit redundant…

  • http://www.yoba.co.uk Yoba

    For those of you in the UK on Virgin Media (Cable or ADSL), then good news is you have free newsgroup access via news.virginmedia.com

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