Chris Elleman Technical Stuff

16 May/10 Off

Using NewsGroups/Usenet

Update 21/05/2010 - it appears that Newzbin has gone offline due to legal action, a suggested alternative on the linked blog was NZBmatrix.

Update 28/05/2010 - Newzbin is back online, hurray!.

I often get asked about the best way to obtain files shared across the Internet, most people use Bit-Torrent, but to be honest its too distributed for my liking, and the sites keep getting shutdown. When I worked for the ISP, we used to use just FTP, but then we had a server where all of the content was regularly updated.

Nowadays, the best way (IMHO) is to use the News-Groups (or Usenet as it was originally known), to use these you will need the following:

  • A usenet provider, who allows access to the binary newsgroups, a good one is Usenetserver - they do charge ($15/month, cheaper if you bulk-buy), but they allow you to max out your broadband easily.
  • A Usenet indexing site, there are several free and paid for, my preference was for Newzbin but they have been fighting a legal battle, so a good free one is Nzbindex
  • A Usenet client (supports NZB files) which downloads the files, error checks and then decompresses them all in one go, the best tool for this is Ninan as it comes in Windows and Linux versions.

Setup: the basic set-up involves creating your accounts on both Usenetserver, and the indexing site (if using Newzbin), you then enter these details into Ninan's config. You then start-up the Ninan server which provides you with a web interface, so that you can search for files and paste the Post ID into Ninan, then it will download the files for you.

How it works: the way the system works is quite straightforward, the source file(s) are zipped up and broken down into a number of compressed files (using WinRar/.rar or WinZip/.zip), a set of parity (PAR2) files are then generated, which can be used later for error correction; these files are then individually uploaded into the usenet and a post id is assigned to each one, the uploader/poster records these post ids in an xml file called an NZB file. This NZB file is then uploaded to an indexing site, which another person/downloader can then come along and download the NZB, then use their Usenet client (Ninan) to download all of the relevant parts and re-constuct the original file. Simple.

If any of the files gets corrupted during either the upload or the download, the PAR2 files can be used to re-construct the original file - Ninan includes this capability and checks automatically.

Disclaimer: you should only use this guide/software for lawful purposes.