Download Newsgroups: A Tale of Three NewsReaders


This article presents three popular Usenet News Downloaders and compares and contrasts them. The news downloaders are:

All three newsreaders are shareware, fully featured, with no disabled features, timeouts, or expirations. All three can be downloaded immediately and tried out with no difficulties.


Disclaimer: We do not advocate or recommend sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet. Please use this guide at your own risk. It is your responsibility to adequately research the copyright status of any material before posting it to or downloading it from the Internet. Please obey any and all copyright laws that apply to your locality.


Section 1: Choosing what type of newsgroups you want to download from.

It might sound obvious, but the first thing you have to do is to decide what kind of content you are looking for. You probably already know what you're looking for, but in case you don't, here are some common binary newsgroup contents:

Picture NewsGroups

Example: alt.binaries.pictures.celebrities

Recommended Tool: Binary Vortex, SBNews / News Robot

Description: The picture groups all start with "alt.binaries.pictures". Picture group content usually consists of fairly small items: jpeg and gif images that are at most a few hundred kilobytes in size. Usually one picture is contained in each message, and pictures rarely span multiple messages.

Adult Picture NewsGroups

Recommended Tool: Binary Vortex, SBNews / News Robot

There is a whole hierarchy of adult picture groups. If you're looking for them, then you won't have any trouble finding them...

MP3 Newsgroups

Example: alt.sounds.mp3.1980s

Recommended Tool: SBNews / News Robot, QuadSucker/News

The MP3 groups contain music. MP3 is a lossy form of compression -- the quality is not as good as you will get on a CD, but for many people it is acceptable. MP3 files typically are in the 10 MB range. This is a lot larger than the attachments in the picture groups, and therefore MP3 files often times span multiple news messages.

Music Videos

Example: alt.binaries.mpeg.video.music, alt.binaries.mpeg.videos

Recommended Tool: QuadSucker/News

Music Videos are typically 3-5 minutes long, and are encoded using MPEG1 or MPEG2. These result in fairly large attachments that always span multiple news messages. Attachment size ranges from 40 MB for MPEG1 VCD quality video to 150 MB for MPEG2 DVD quality.

Movies, TV Shows

Example: alt.binaries.multimedia.comedy

Recommended Tool: QuadSucker/News

These things can get big. Some people post SVCD and DVD images that can reach 650 MB to 4.7 GB in size. You need a broadband connection for this type of content. You need a tool, such as QuadSucker/News that does an excellent job of piecing together multiple messages.

As with the picture groups, there are "adult" movie groups as well that contain clips of an adult nature.


Section 2: Determining your Skill Level

Your skill level influences which type of tool you'll want to try:

Novice

Recommendation: Binary Vortex

If you don't know what the heck you're doing (and don't feel bad, a lot of us don't know what we're doing most of the time...), then you'll want to pick a tool that is good for novice users. Binary Vortex is an excellent tool for the novice, because it presents a very simple interface without a whole lot of things that can go wrong.

If you're new to newsgroups, or don't know what a newsgroup is, then we suggest that you give Binary Vortex a shot first, and try downloading from one of the picture newsgroups.

The only exception is if you wan't to download the BIG attachments, such as MP3s or Movies. In this case, you should step up to QuadSucker/News from the get-go, since QuadSucker/News is much better at handling large attachments.

Intermediate:

Recommendation: QuadSucker/News, SBNews / News Robot

If you know your way around newsgroups, then both of these tools will suit you well. Of the two, I believe QuadSucker to be the easier one to start using, especially if you want to download from the BIG newsgroups, such as movies or mp3 files.

Expert User:

Recommendation: QuadSucker/News, SBNews / News Robot

If you're an expert user, then QuadSucker and SBNews both have a lot of power-user options for you to use. QuadSucker/News, again, excels at downloading the BIG stuff. SBNews is very good at downloading the small items (i.e. picture groups).

Of the two, SBNews is the more customizable. You'll find options there to do literally everything and anything. There's so many options, that you probably never will learn what they all do.


Section 3: Connection: Broadband or Dial-up

The type of Internet connection that you have has a big impact on what you can download:

Dialup:

Dialup, or "POTS" (plain ordinary telephone system) is the old technology that uses modems, typically at 56 kbaud. You're not going to get a whole lot downloaded with a dialup connection. Dialup does work reasonably well for the picture groups, since the attachments are small. All of the downloaders mentioned in this article support unattended operation, so you can download your binaries while you sleep.

Dialup is suitable for MP3 files, but it will still take a long time to get stuff downloaded.

Dialup is no good for the BIG stuff like MPEG movies and stuff like that. It will take you forever to download a single large file. Nevertheless, if there's something out there that you just have to have, let your computer run for a couple of days, and you might get it downloaded!

Broadband:

Broadband technologies are such things as DSL and cable modems. These things are fast. You can download hundreds of megabytes per day, or even a couple of gigabytes with no trouble.

Broadband is the way to go with you want to download video, and it really helps with mp3 files as well.

However, your news server may still limit your connection speed (see below)

 


Section 4: News Servers, NNTP Hosts, ISPs, etc

First, some terminology:

ISP:

Your "ISP" is your Internet Service Provider. It's who you get your internet service from. You probably know who they are because you probably pay a bill from them every month.

News Server or NNTP Host

The News Server is the computer that your ISP places on the Internet to serve usenet news articles. Most ISPs provide this service, albeit sometimes the news server that they provide can be kind of a crappy one. If your ISP doesn't provide a news server, or it's too slow, then you can go with a third party provider. Third Party news providers will charge you a monthly fee, but offer you a blazing fast service (only of use if you have a fast broadband connection)

Getting your configuration / access information:

In order to configure any of the tools mentioned in this document, you're going to need to know some information:

If you don't know this information, then don't worry, there are ways to get it. The first is to look at the information packet from your ISP -- they probably sent you a bunch of paperwork when you signed up. Alternatively, if you have another program configured for usenet news (such as free agent or outlook express), then try checking there. As a last resort, you can contact your ISP. Just tell them the following:

"Hello, I'm setting up a third party news reader on my computer, and I need to know the news server name and my account name".

You don't need to tell them what software you're installing, or whether it's a news reader or a news downloader if you don't want to. Just tell them you're setting up a third party tool -- it's a very common thing to do.

A note about slow news servers

Some news servers are "slow", even if you have a broadband connection. This is because your ISP, in a continual effort to save money, has limited the bandwidth to the news server. IF you're faced with a slow news server, then you have a couple of options:

  1. You can use QuadSucker/News -- it's download articles in parallel, which will make better use of your (broadband) connection, and get more stuff downloaded.
  2. You can find a third party news provider, and pay them extra $$ to get a fast news connection.

News server limitations:

Some news servers limit the amount of bandwidth you can download in a month. For ISPs, they could limit you to 10 GB (gigabytes) per month, or even as low as 1 GB per month. The third party providers usually give you more, but at more money, offering 30 GB per month or more. Contact your provider for more details.

1 GB is probably enough to satisfy you if you're using the small picture newsgroups, or if you have a dialup connection. If you have a broadband connection, and you want to download MPEG movies, then you'll go through a gigabyte in no time at all....

Some news servers also limit you on simultaneous connections. QuadSucker/News can download up to four things in parallel. Most news servers don't have a problem with that, but some will try to limit you to only 2 or 3 things downloading at the same time. If you run into problems, then you can throttle QuadSucker back.


Section 5: Encoding Methods

In order to put a binary (i.e. a picture, song, or movie) into a news article, the binary needs to be "encoded" for transmission. This is because the news system was originally intended to transmit text, not raw binaries. If someone tried to send a raw binary over new, it would get all messed up. For this reason, there are several different encoding mechanisms:

Note: All three tools (Binary Vortex, QuadSucker/News, and SBNews) support all of these encoding mechanisms, so you really don't need to know any of these specifics, but if you're curious, here's some background.

Uuencode:

Uuencode was one of the original mechanisms for posting binaries in email and news.

Mime / Base 64:

Mime and Base 64 are newer mechanisms, but still very similar to uuencode.

yEnc:

yEnc is the new kid on the block. It is slightly more efficient than uuencode and base64, but nothing that you should get real excited about. Some people in the newsgroups react violently to yEnc posts, usually because their old tools don't work right with yEnc attachments. But never fear, all three of the tools presented in this article all support yEnc, and it's all automatic.


Section 6: What is Shareware?

Shareware, or "trialware" is a relatively new method of distributing software. The author of the software lets you download and try out the software free of charge. This lets you gain experience with the software, and make sure you have no trouble using it on your system.

However, once you've determined that the software meets your needs, you are expected to "register" or "buy" the software. This pays the author for his work. If the author never gets paid, then he can't write the software.

It's considered very bad manners to not pay the author if you use the software. Usually shareware authors place very low prices on their software. The news downloaders in this article range from $15.00 to $26.95. For this small fee, you are getting something that someone has spent hundreds or even thousands of man-hours perfecting.


Section 7: To be Continued....

Well, that's all I feel like writing for now.... Look for more in the future.