How To - Download files from the Internet
The Internet is a vast repository of information. Some of it good and some of it unfortunately not so good. Navigating the morass of information that is out there to find the small little piece that you are looking for and interested in is very much like looking for a needle in a haystack - only this time the haystack is the size of the world!
However there are many tools and resources available to help you with your search and also to protect you while you are searching, which I shall detail for you below.
Search Engines are the most common way to search for information. While Google is a default destination for many, there are quite a few different ones available (Bing (by Microsoft) and Yahoo are two of the larger competitors) and using them has become second nature. In fact, most people just say that they will "google it" when they talk about searching for information now!
While Search Engines are constantly evolving and the algorithms they use allow for much greater natural language search than in the earlier years, they are still only as good as the information that is publicly available.
The Google Wonder Wheel
One way improving the results from your search is through the use of the "Wonder Wheel". You can find this on the bottom left of the screen whenever you do a search using Google and by utilizing this you can "drill down" to your results in a much more intuitive and natural way than by navigating through pages of results.
Downloading through the use of Search Engines
Search Engines take you to the information that interests you. In most cases these are standard web pages (.html pages) with little content to download. However you can also use Search Engines to find files to download, simply by putting the extension name into your search. You can try this yourself in the Wonder Wheel to see exactly what I mean.
Once you have reached the page that has the information you are interested in, it is a simple matter to click on the link and save the file to your hard drive.
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I've written a couple of hubs already about downloading from newsgroups so I won't go into a huge amount of detail here (as you can and should read them!) but in a nutshell, while newsgroups came from bulletin board systems (BBSs) they are significantly different now to their earlier progenitors.
What do you need?
To use Newsgroups, there are couple of things that you need to have as follows:
- A Newsgroup account - check out Giganews as while they are not the cheapest, they are far and away the best, with the greatest amount of retention (over 1000 days now and climbing!) of any provider.
- A Newsreader - I've found a lot of success with two different applications here. If you're after speed then go for Grabit ... nothing I've seen so far can beat it and it will definitely utilize your Internet connection to the greatest extent. If however you want a simple and easy to use experience without any further programs,check out SABnzb - its a weird name, but it does the job.
- A Newzbin account - fairly nominal in terms of cost, but Newzbin is the best for providing a consolidated list of files/documents for downloads. With the way newsgroups work, its next to impossible to search out all the articles that you need to find and Newzbin ensures that you do not have to.
Once you've got all the essentials in place, do a quick search on Newzbin for whatever you are interested in and then (if you are using SABnzb) bookmark it. SABnzb will automatically connect to your Newzbin account for you, find the items you are interested, and start the download process using Giganews or another Newsgroup provider. Once your item has been downloaded, SABznb will then extract all the relevant files for you from the different parts and you can watch/play/read/enjoy whatever it is that you have downloaded!
Peer to Peer and Torrents
While not as popular now as it used to be, Peer to Peer file sharing is still an acceptable way of obtaining data. Peer to Peer file sharing basically works by creating a "virtual" network of hundreds if not thousands of computers around the world. It was first popularized by programs like KaZaA which allowed users to download and share music and files from member computers.
Following from KaZaA, sites like Pirate Bay were launched - these sites hosted Torrent files (which were basically compressed files similar to .nzb files (newsgroup files), but which included the details required to connect to other networks were parts of the file resided).
Personally I would not recommend either Peer to Peer or Torrents for several different reasons -
Viruses and Malware
Unfortunately there seem to be a preponderance of "fake" files out there that are just homes for Viruses and Malware. There have been many instances of downloads that are nothing more than a camouflaged site to infect your computer.
Torrents and Peer to Peer networks are slow ... really, really slow! Since the way in which they work is by downloading parts of files from many different computers all over the Internet, the fastest that you are able to download anything is dependent upon the slowest computer that you are connected to. This is in stark contrast to Newsgroups.
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Unfortunately the Internet is not a safe home for the unwary as there are lots of predators and predatory programs on many different sites. If you are not careful, your computer could become infected and in some cases your identity stolen. There are steps you can (and must) take though that can protect you somewhat from these activities.
- Anti Virus: Viruses and Worms are the most common infections of Personal Computers on the Internet but they are reasonably easy to protect against if you ensure that you have an anti-virus program installed on your computer. If you do not have an Anti-Virus program installed on your system, you risk your hard drive becoming completely corrupted and your computer becoming just a great big paperweight. There are many Anti Virus programs out there and a great free one that you should look at is called AVG. AVG has a paid option also but I've found that the free one works for most things that I need.
- Spam & Scams: Check your email and your face-book updates very carefully. Make sure that you never click on a link that you are unfamiliar with as there is a chance that the person who sent the email to you in the first place had their computer infected and this is just a transference of the virus!
- Linux/Mac: Most of the viruses out there are written to run on Windows systems as these are the most popular. As such if you have an operating system that is not running Windows, you actually have some built in protection by default - this does not mean you shouldn't consider an anti virus anyway, but your risk is not as great.
- Common Sense: It might seem fairly obvious, but really just use your common sense. If a link doesn't look right don't click it. The Internet has lots of stuff out there, but more often than not that salacious email about the new celebrity furore is not really something that is safe or something you really need to click on! Stick to the sites that you are familiar with and use aggregation sites like Google News to keep you up to date on the information that matters to you.