History – Many people consider Usenet a technological relic of the past collecting dust next to a stack of Commodore 64’s. The reality is Usenet is old by technology standards. Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis receive credit for developing Usenet in 1979 while graduate students at Duke. The upside is that Usenet has been evolving this entire time.
Usenet grew from its infancy at universities. As its popularity, grew many ISP’s began offering Usenet access to subscribers. “Eternal September” is a famous expression given to one of the most famous periods when AOL added Usenet access in 1993. The expression is a reference to Usenet’s academic origins. When a new freshman class entered in September, they were initially regarded as newbies due to their lack of netiquette. Eventually, the students learned. The AOL users…well they used AOL for Pete’s sake.
In 1994 Giganews stepped to the forefront offering premium Usenet service. They were followed the next year by Supernews. Premium Usenet access ushered in a new era for Usenet. Where retention was previously one or two days, these companies lead the way to the current retention levels of 500+ days.
Near the end of the 2000s, most major ISPs began to drop Usenet access. Financial pressures and political expedience were the stated rationale. Fortunately, premium Usenet providers dominated the service by this era. Today Usenet is stronger than ever with more information available at blistering speeds and near 100 percent completion than ever before.
Usenet has two main offerings: text and binaries. Text is good if you want to research and/or discuss a topic in a multinational setting with every imaginable view. Binaries are when you want to download the latest copy of Ubuntu, but you don’t want to have to pick from the slow offerings on their website.
- Select a newsreader
Newsreader selection varies based on the desire task and the operating system used.
Binary NZB Newsreaders
- SABnzbd+ – the emerging leader among users in the know. SABnzbd+ is free, multi platform (Windows, Mac, Linux), multilingual, and works in conjunction with NZB sites. On top of this PAR and RAR processing is fully automated. SABnzbd+ is a good choice for anyone who wants to set it and forget it.
- NiouzeFire – this newsreader is an exceptional choice and particularly recommended for French speakers. It is free, works on both 32 and 64 bit Windows operating systems, has automated PAR (file repair) and RAR support, and an NZB search tool based on BinSearch.
- alt.binz – is similar to NiouzeFire. It is free up to version 0.25.0. It has automated PAR & RAR features, supports several NZB search engines, and allows downloads to be easily scheduled. alt.binz works in Windows and will work in WINE for Linux.
Text + Binary Newsreaders
- Grabit – does a lot of things good, but nothing great. This is a solid newsreader for someone searching for a free option that wants to download headers. It also has a respectable search feature for a monthly fee. Grabit works in Windows.
- Xnews – is a good free choice for reading text on Windows machines. It is small, nimble, and has stood the test of time well.
- Pan – is the recommended choice for Linux users who want to read and send text. It is a solid newsreader, but like much of the software for Linux feels a few years behind the times.
- Subscribe to a Usenet Service
- Giganews Usenet Service – they have the best speed, retention, completion, and support. Plans start from $3. The top level plan now includes access to VyprVPN for free. Giganews offers every imaginable feature including SSL, up to 50 connections, a free trial, the Giganews Accelerator (speeds header download), and 24/7 support.
- Power Usenet – this company trails slightly behind Giganews in retention but offers similar completion rates at a cheaper price. Power Usenet is a good choice for French speakers who want a cheaper price than Giganews. Unlimited transfer plans start from $14.95.
- Supernews – an amazing deal! Supernews offers unlimited Usenet access for $11.99 a month. They only have one plan, but who needs more when it is this good. 30 connections and SSL come included. Supernews is a good choice for anyone on a budget.
- Usenet.net – these guys are near the top of the pack in retention, speed, and support. They also offer a free trial and a 50% off discount for the first month. They offer unlimited plans starting from $14.99.
- Configure Your Newsreader
Once you have selected a newsreader and a Usenet provider, you need to configure the newsreader to connect to the provider. This is where a lot of non-technical people start to hyperventilate. Some newsreaders, like SABnzbd+, have a convenient test server option to confirm all the settings are correct. I will use Giganews Newsgroup Service as the example.
Host or Server Address: news.giganews.com
- 443 and 563 are the SSL ports
- 119, 80, and 23 are the non-SSL ports
Whether you are using SSL or not determines the appropriate port. Most newsreaders require clicking a button in the server configuration screen to enable SSL. Many newsreaders will automatically change the port to a default of 563 when SSL is enabled. All Giganews Diamond accounts have SSL.
determined by your account. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It adds encryption to downloads. It helps most if your ISP tends to throttle.
this is also determined by your account. Giganews Diamond accounts offer up to 50 connections. If you have a standard 7 or 8 megabit a second cable line, you should be fine setting this at 10 connections.
Username: Giganews Service allows users to create a custom username
Password: it is provided by the news provider
- Find Content!
Now that you have downloaded a newsreader, subscribed to a Usenet provider, and configured your newsreader, you are ready to find content. This has been revolutionized in recent years with the invention of the NZB file. NZB files are small and magical. They direct a newsreader where to download binaries without downloading thousands or millions of headers. There are many NZB search engines. Some are free, some require small fees, and others are invite only.
- Newzbin – this is the granddaddy NZB site, and a wise investment. Newzbin has an impressive amount of content and an intuitive organization system. Newzbin’s faults are that it is invite only, expensive, and only has 240 days of NZB retention.
- NZBMatrix – I recommend this company for the average user. It costs £7 GBP (Approx $10 USD) to buy a full access VIP membership. It is well worth it because this buys 600 days NZB retention, similar organization to Newzbin, and NZBMatrix now works with SABnzbd+ 0.5.0 to allow one click downloading.
- NZBsRus – this is another good site. Again they require registration and a nominal fee for a full access membership. They also have good organization.
- NZBindex.nl – this site is free and does not require registration. It is a good search engine, but lacks the organization of the first three. You may accidentally download crap if you are not super vigilant.
- Binsearch.info – another site similar to NZBindex.nl. These guys are free and do not require registration. The price you pay is in organization and having to be very careful about file selection.
- Start your Download
Download an NZB from one of the above search engines. Open the NZB files with your preferred newsreader and watch the download fly!
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