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Downloading From Newsgroups

Updated on October 14, 2010

Newsgroups - an explanation

Newsgroups are old school, passe and dead ... most technofiles would have you believe it but its just not true. With the advent of the World Wide Web and its graphical user interface, newsgroups definitely took a back seat during the early part of the decade ... however for those in the know, they are back (and never really left!) and better than ever!!

A usenet newsgroup serves as a central location for message storage from many users in multiple locations. Generally considered a discussion group, it has taken on new prominence as a location to store files also.

Newsgroups generally come in either of two types, binary or text. The one we are most interested in for the purposes of this article is the binary one. There are currently 100's of thousands of newsgroups, but only 10's of thousands actually have any activity. You don't really need to worry about that number though as the method I shall show you, will provide you with a simplified way of finding the information that you are most interested in.

How newsgroups work

NNTP or Network News Transfer Protocol Servers are hosted by various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or private/public organizations around the world. These different companies each retain (I'll describe retention in greater depth later) the articles for a different length of time and depending on what you are looking for, even if your ISP provides a news feed, you still might need to go to a private source!

Now the key thing to remember is that regardless of where it is hosted, these different server synchronize with each other to ensure that information and articles are the same and in this way they form a seperate network. When a user posts to one news server, it is stored on that server until it synchorinizes with its mesh of servers which synchronize with theirs and so on until the whole network has the new article.

Binary newsgroups

While newsgroups were not initially created or designed with the intention of distributing data, or large files (remember, they started out as text repositories), they have actually proven to be quite good at it! Being restricted to smaller files sizes has meant that specialized applications needed to be designed which would recombine the files that were split into a seamless whole but although this seems cumbersome it actually works really well, as it is now possible just to download a single part of a file that was missing vs having to obtain the whole file saving a significant amount of time and bandwidth. However, its greatest strength and claim to fame is the speed! Because of the way that newsgroups work, when you are downloading from them, you are downloading from a local server and are not dependent on any other users "sharing" the file with you. This means that your connection and speed is significantly faster and dependent on your newserver, the length of time that files are retained ensures that you are able to download anything you want!

How to Download

Getting Ready

Ok, the first step is ensuring that you have the following programs downloaded on your computer, installed and ready to use. All of these are free and the best I have found for the functions needed. Please note - all of these files/applications and the links I'm providing were virus free but if your anti-virus application states otherwise do not download!!

  • Grabit - this is the application that actually downloads the files for you and will accept *.nzb files (I'll get into them a bit later). As mentioned it is free and it is extremely fast! Click here to get a copy.
  • VLC media player - much better than windows media player or anything else ... small and really fast. You will end up using it to play a variety of media files. Click here to get a copy.
  • WinRar - an archiving/un-archiving program. You won't need this all the time, but in some cases when the files you have downloaded are in a variety of parts this will help you put them back together into the seamless whole you are looking for. You can get it here.
  • (NOTE: I have recently come across a program called SABnzbd (available here) that takes away the problem or issue with having to worry about archives. This program actually takes the place of both Grabit and WinRar but I have not had an opportunity to fully evaluate it.

Getting Some Accounts

Unfortunately, even though this is a low cost option, there is still some costs and the 2 that you need to pay for to have a seamless experience are (1) News-index site and (2) News-server ... I'll give you details on both below.

  • Ngindex - ngindex.com! The premier newsgroup indexing site! Allows you to easily browse all binary newsgroups and get the appropriate *.nzb files ... NGindex covers 1200 groups, and carires the last 190 days worth of data! (Soon to be expanded to 400)NGindex currently indexes ... Fees for Ngindex are as low as $1.39/mo depending on the length of the contract/commitment you choose. I would suggest starting with a more expensive (but shorter) contract initially and as you find the usefulness of this application/site moving to a longer term (cheaper) contract. Some other good sites are Newzbin (unfortunately you need a referall from another user to get an account here), Newzbox and Binsearch.
  • Giganews - Giganews newsgroups provide the fastest, most reliable Usenet experience on the planet. With the longest retention - Currently Giganews will be the first Usenet Company to hit the 800 day retention mark.  This will occur on Saturday 10/16/2010.  In addition all Diamond customers get a free version of VyprVPN and new customers can receive a 10 gig /14 day free trial.  All new customers who signup at the Diamond level receive 50% off their first month of service.. With multiple gigabit-plus backbones running at a fraction of capacity, Giganews gives you all the speed you'll need to enjoy your favorite newsgroups. As the world's largest Tier 1 Usenet provider, Giganews is the source for more Usenet articles than any other server on Earth. There are a whole host of other reasons for choosing Giganews and although not the cheapest choice - they are the best! Pricing - from $2.99/mo to $14.99/mo depending on the plan you choose. Click here for more details.

Getting Started

  1. Now that you you've got everything in place, the next step is to find some files and setup your applications. Launch grabit and input all the information about your news server - this would be the nntp information as well as your userid/password ... make sure you've selected the newsserver that is geographically closest to you to ensure you are getting the speediest connection.
  2. Log into ngindex.com and select the appropriate category for your search. Input the title your are searching for in the search field and click submit to find the appropriate files. Files that are 4GB or greater are generally files which you should really only download if you are planning on burning to disc and utilizing away from your computer. They are obviously the largest in size and take the most amount of time to download. Generally you would be looking for divx or avi type files that are viewable on your computer ... these vary in size from 750MB to 1.5GB so are significantly faster!
  3. Once you have selected the appropriate file (& file type) click on the download *.nzb link and it should automatically launch Grabit and start the download. If it doesn't, save the nzb file to your desktop and then open it inside Grabit.
  4. Grabit will start downloading the files to a specific location on your hard drive I would suggest that you go to this location on your hardrive view the *.rar file that is in that location as it should give you an idea whether or not you're downloading the right thing - you can do this using VLC (see told you it was a great program) ... simply open VLC and ... select the appropriate *.rar file to get a quick glance (about 5min) ... assuming you've got the right file - ngindex.com is pretty good with its indexing and naming (i'd say 90% accurate) but sometimes they get it wrong and you don't want to waste bandwith downloading files that you're not interested in - download the rest of it and in 90% of the cases, Grabit will automatically compile it for you and present you with a format that is usable directly. Just click on the file and open it in VLC and you're golden!
  5. If however, the files are not all compiled into a usable state, click on the 1st *.rar file and winrar should automatically compile all the different rar/par files into the specific item you're looking for - ie. iso or avi or mpg etc...click extract and give it about 5-10min and you're done! Click on the compiled file and watch in VLC as above!! NOTE: if you are using SABnzbd - you probably will not need to do this step as it takes care of it all for you based on what I have seen so far.

Hopefully this information is fairly easy to use and self explanatory, however, feel free to ask any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

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