Newsgroup FAQs


This article presents a bunch of Frequently Asked Questions about newsgroups and newsgroup downloading software.


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Q. What is a "news header"

A. The News Header is a sort of like a one line summary of the news article. It contains such information as the subject of the article, date it was posted, name of the person who posted it, etc. Most (if not all) news downloaders retrieve the headers before they retrieve the articles. The headers allow the news downloader tool to piece together multiple messages for large attachments, and to figure out what order to download things. Tools such as QuadSucker/News and SBNews: News Robot allow you to view the headers, manipulate them, and choose what you want to download ahead of time.

 

Q. What is a "news server"

A. The news server is the computer, located at your ISP (Internet Service Provider) that stores the news articles and sends them to you. When you download a news article, your news downloading software contacts the news server, and retrieves the article from it.

News servers are a lot different than web servers. You always go to the same news server (usually the one provided by your ISP) regardless of what type of content you want to download. For example, with the web, if you're looking for pictures of Britney Spears, you might pick a Briteny Spears website (www.britneyspeers.com or some such thing...). However, with news, all of the news articles are stored on the one server, and you always go to the same place for them -- that's why it's so important to know the name of your news server.

If you don't know the name of your news server, then you can usually ask your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Just tell them you're trying to set up a third party news reader. You don't have to tell them you're using a news downloader, or what type of thing you want to download. If they ask and you don't want to tell them (after all, we all like our privacy), then you can always just tell them that you're setting up the free agent newsreader any you want to read science articles in the sci.electronics.design newsgroup or something like that.

You'll also need to know your "user name" and "password" on the news server.

 

Q. What is nntp

A. NNTP is the protocol that the news downloading software (i.e. Binary Vortex, QuadSucker, etc...) uses to speak with the news server. A protocol is kind of a like a language -- it's how the two components speak to one another. You shouldn't need to concern yourself with it -- all of the protocol work is handled internally and automatically by the software. Sometimes a news server will be called an "nntp server" -- they mean the same thing.

 

Q. What is yEnc

A. yEnc is a relatively new (with the Internet, everytihng is "new"...) message encoding format. You don't need to worry about it, as most modern usenet news tools automatically support it -- including Binary Vortex, QuadSucker/News, and SBNews: News Robot

 

Q. What are uuencode, mime, and base64

A. These are other encoding mechanisms, similar to yEnc. All modern news downloader tools should automatically support these encoding mechanisms.

 

Q. What is the difference between "Steaming Download" and "Pick and Choose"

A. These are two modes supported by QuadSucker/News. The streaming download is the mode to choose if you just want to receive "everything" and sort it all out later. The Pick and Choose mode is what you want to select if you want to go through the news headers ahead of time, and pick the articles that you want to download. Streaming download mode is good for the picture groups where the files are relatively small. Pick and Choose mode is good for the mp3 and mpeg groups where the attachments can be pretty big.

 

Q. I've downloaded some video files -- how do I burn them to DVD or SVCD or VCD ?

A. I've used a couple of programs called "tmpgenc" and "tmpgenc dvd author" (I'm have no affiliation with the authors of those program; I'm only listing them because they're the ones that I happen to use). tmpgenc is useful for converting the format of the video files that you download. DVDs require a very specific format to play on your home dvd player, and much of the content posted to newsgroups is not compliant, because the people who posted it chose compression methods that are nonstandard, usually in an attempt to make the file size small, so that it is easy to post and download to a newserver. You can use a tool like tmpgenc to re-encode the video file into a format that will work on your dvd player. Then you use a program like tmpgenc dvd author to take your video files, assemble a dvd image, and burn it to the dvd.

Discussing these topics is really beyond the scope of this document, but hopefully I've given you a place to get started from.

 

Q. How to I listen to mp3 files

A. There are lots of good players out there. I use one called "Sonique". A program called "Winamp" is another popular one.

 

Q. Can you recommend some good family oriented (i.e. non-adult) newsgroups.

A. Unfortunately, adult material tends to permiate the entire usenet, mostly due to spammers trying to flood the whole internet with their junkmail. Thus, you can be prepared for adult content to show up at any time, even in non-adult groups. A favorite group of mine is alt.binaries.pictures.avation -- pictures of airplanes. Groups that I've used to construct the FAQs include alt.binaries.pictures.bikini-central and alt.binaries.pictures.celebrities.

 

Q. What is "spam" and what is a "spammer"

A. Spam is generally used to refer to off-topic junkmail that is posted to email or newsgroups. These people flood the internet with junkmail, trying to peddle worthless products that nobody wants to buy anyway. Spammers are the next step down on from those annoying telemarketers that call you all hours of the day. Most decent tools (such as Binary Vortex, QuadSucker/News, and SBNews: News Robot) include built-in features to help eliminate and filter out spam.

 

Q. Can you recommend some good adult newsgroups

A. The adult newsgroup hierarchy generally begins with "alt.binaries.pictures.erotica". It's beyond the scope of this FAQ to give you any specific instructions. The names of the groups are specific and explicit enough that you should be able to find whatever you are looking for.

Beware that most ISPs and News Servers are not responsible for the content of the newsgroups and many spammers (and sometimes just idiots) post off-topic inappropriate pictures to newsgroups (and yes, even in "adult" newsgroups there is such a thing as inappropriate content). So be warned that it's very possible that you might encounter material that might be illegal (i.e. violate the obscenity laws in your city/state/county), and you might end up downloading such material even if you didn't intend to.

 

Q. Why should I register my software

A. You should register your software for lots of reasons: 1) It will eliminate the "nags" built into the software (i.e. the shareware delay), 2) it enables me to continue working on the software, 3) I provide priority support to registered users over non-regsitered users, 4) You're required to do so by the license agreement in the software, 5) it's simply the right thing to do.

I've tried to make my registration policy exceptionally user-friendly. All of my products are "lifetime registrations", which are good for all future versions. You never have to pay again -- no matter what.

 

Q. Can I download copyrighted material from newsgroups

A. If you do, then you are probably violating the copyright of the material that you are downloading. Some would say that's morally (and perhaps legally) wrong. However, it's not my position to judge. Many people do download copyrighted material from the usenet. The newsgroups are full of copyrighted material. Download it at your own risk.

Most (if not all) of the time, the ISP or news server is not responsible for the material that is found in the newsgroups.

 

Q. Can I post copyrighted material to the Internet

A. Beware that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is currently sueing people for posting copyrighted material via peer-to-peer networks. Fortunately, I haven't seen much in the way of reports that they've been going after people posting material to newsgroups. However, that's not to say that they might not decide to do so in the future. When you post to a newsgroup, beware that the articles could be "archived" by a third party, such as google, and thus incriminating evidence against you could be preserved and persist indefinitely....

As with the prior question, it's not my place to tell you whether you should or should not post copyrighted material. Lot's of people do and lot's of people don't. However, I would ask to to consider some of the people who may be harmed (either directly or inadvertantly) by your posting of copyrighted material.

 

Q. Can you recommend a good product to sort through the pictures I've downloaded

A. Try SortPics. It is designed to categorize pictures, and filter out duplicates.