Usenet is a network that is often referred to as a service that allows people to communicate to one another. However, there is an interesting quirk to UseNet – the ability to download releases hot from the scene.
A quick note: It has been reported that a number of ISP’s are ending their UseNet services. If none of the articles are downloading, chances are, your ISP has discontinued their newsgroup services.
Usenet has become important to many who download content for a number of years, yet few know the potential of newsgroups. Some today may think, ‘well, I use BitTorrent and I get everything I want at max speeds. I don’t need anything else!’ Well, that may be all fine and true, but for some, a share ratio has always been a nagging issue. It’s probably important to note that even if you don’t use BitTorrent, UseNet offers a very useful resource to get content. For BitTorrent users, on Usenet, there’s no share ratio, yet it’s quite easy to max out your connection speed downloading. How is that possible?
How does UseNet Work?
Wikipedia explains, “Usenet is distributed among a large, constantly changing conglomeration of servers which store and forward messages to one another. These servers are loosely connected in a variable mesh. Individual users usually read from and post messages to a local server operated by their ISP, university or employer. The servers then exchange the messages between one another, so that they are available to readers beyond the original server.”
So basically, in a way, it’s like the eDonkey2000 network where there is a number of servers that hold the network together. The difference, of course, is the fact that users are downloading directly off of the servers instead of downloading from each other.
Users can post something on what is known as newsgroups. Each group is basically a “discussion”. The discussion is a hierarchy and the most well known major hierarchy is the ‘alt.binaries’ ‘Alt’ stands for Alternative. The discussions can continue down the line like ‘alt.binaries.music’, ‘alt.binaries.tv’, ‘alt.binaries.tv.FamilyGuy’, etc. Think of it like a file path on your computer – it’s generally the same idea.
The messages on the servers propagate to different servers around the world so everyone has access to what is being “discussed” This is one way that UseNet is decentralized.
So what is an NZB file?
An NZB file operates a lot like a .torrent file. It points to a file or number of files on the usenet network. With a newsreader, an application that reads the newsgroups, one can simply open the NZB file and the newsreader will then find the files on Usenet and download the files from UseNet.
It is entirely possible that your ISP doesn’t offer UseNet, but most ISPs do offer UseNet. The easiest way to find out is via a Wiki on NewzBin that shows pretty much every ISP around the world what the respective situation is on UseNet from the ISP. If you’re going to connect to UseNet, these graphs offer critical information to connecting to UseNet.
How to connect
You’re newsreader will allow you to actually connect to the network. While there are a number of newsreaders available, it’s recommended that you use Grabit (no adware/spyware/malware). Once you install and configure it, you’ll probably see something like this when you open the program:
1. This will show the servers you use to connect to.
2. A nice feature that can tell you how much space you have left on your hard drive.
3. The ‘Batch’ tab will show you what you’re downloading and how many connections you have, etc.
Right away, you’ll want to click on ‘My Grabit’ that shares the same space as the ‘1.’ in it and click ‘add server’
In the above screen that pops up, just add th server name in the two places denoted as ‘1.’ and hit ‘ok’ The port number should be fine in most cases.
How to download
There are a number of websites that offer NZB files. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll stick to an NZB search engine that scans UseNet for files and conveniently puts them into NZB files for us for now. This would be known as Binsearch. Unlike a number of other sites, Binsearch doesn’t index the NZB files, but it does create them for easy access. Simply do a search for what you want.
When you have found something you want, pay attention to the column on the far right that says ‘Age’. This will correspond with the retention you are allowed via ISP which can be measured in a mere few days. It’s important to remember that Usenet is like a river, there’s so many files going through the system that it’s impossible to keep them all. Eventually, files will get deleted from your provider strictly for the purpose of saving space and bandwidth. If the age is longer then your allotted retention on your service, you won’t get the file because it was already deleted off of the servers you can connect to.
Whatever you searched for, make an effort to try and find the release with ‘par’ or ‘par2’ files. While they also take up space, they are absolutely vital while downloading from UseNet in this fashion. More on that later. Tick the item you want and click on the ‘create NZB file. Now open that file with Grabit.
Number of Connections and Downloading
When Grabit opens the NZB, simply click on ‘Grab’ and the file will start downloading.
1. Number of connections
2. Area where your download will appear.
The ISP information directory will tell you how many connections you are allowed to have at a time, though this number is not known for every ISP. If all you see is a question mark next to how many connections you can have next to your ISP, the only thing you can do is experiment through trial and error. For example, if you have three connections, tick off 3. Setting the newsreader to download with the maximum connections will allow you to download more quickly – often allowing you to download at your modem limit.
You’re download will appear in the area occupied in the ‘2.’ area. The number of downloads in the “job” is merely the number of “lines” there are in the respective download. The release will download in whatever the download directory you set your client to download into.
As you may have noticed, what you download is actually multiple files, even if it was suppose to be one file you were actually after. While there are multiple Rar and similar files, look in the folder (which should be named after either the nzb file or newsgroup) for some par or par2 files. These are what you’ll be needing to repair the release. The reason the release needs to be repaired is that there is a very good chance that the release was damaged at some point in the process.
To use the Par2 files, download and install QuickPar. Quickpar will take the Par files and repair the release if there is any damage. It’s usually a good idea to check the release before attempting to unpack it. For a more detailed guide on using QuickPar, check out the Binaries4All tutorial.
Rar and .r01, .r02, etc. Files
The release is separated into partial files. the reason for this is because there is a limited amount a release can have on a line. When a release is longer then one line, it’ll be split into multiple files. To make reassembly easier, the files are split into ‘.r01’, ‘r02’, etc. files. If you have WinRar installed on your system (demo or full), you can simply right click on the first part and click to extract the file. WinRar will reassemble the files into the release in it’s original form.
Many ISPs employ a binary quota. This means that there is a limit to how much you can download. The information is available on the NewzBin documentation site.
All I got were a bunch of text files, what’s going on?
This is probably one of the most common issues with using UseNet. If you got nothing but a bunch of blank text files, chances are, the files were removed from the server (typically because the retention ran out) The easiest thing to do is simply try and find a post that is newer and try again. Otherwise, you may be out of luck.
QuickPar says that I need more repair blocks still. Can I get more?
If you don’t have enough repair blocks, you can hope that the par files were posted separately. There is the occasion when using binsearch that a number of Par files were posted separately. Be warned though, sometimes those pars are for a different release and won’t work on the particular release you have downloaded. It’s not usually possible to find this though and you may not be able to repair the file, causing the whole download batch to be useless.
I can’t get what I’m looking for. Are there any other servers I can connect to for a longer retention time? / My ISP doesn’t offer UseNet, can I still use UseNet?
It may be possible to find a public server, but it’s unlikely it’ll be very good. This is why many users buy in to premium news services. The retention is far longer and the quota’s can even be unlimited. Unfortunately, this costs money. A few commonly recommended premium news services are GigaNews, EasyNews, UseNet Server and news.astraweb. While it may look strange to some to pay for such services, thousands do swear by premium news services.