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Sunday, March 6, 2016
How USENET works
What is Usenet and how it works
If you are a
regular torrent user, then it is time for you to
graduate to using Usenet. If you have never used torrents, then this article
will help you understand how you haven’t missed out on much and that there is a
better option out there.
Usenet became visible
around the same time when Bill Gates came out with his BASIC interpreter and
was such a big hit that it ended up being copied and distributed among
programming hobbyists like teen girls around the world went crazy over Justin
Bieber’s “baby! baby! baby! oooooooh!”. This happened almost five years before
anything called Microsoft Windows came into existence – so somewhere around
1979. We’ve come a long way because BASIC is now the programming language of
choice to teach kids in High School! Need I say any more?
Let’s start with the
most commonly use download techniques: torrents! If you have ever used a
torrent, you know how a download manager works. If you have never used a
torrent, I have the pleasure of telling that you can come out of your Nuclear
Fall-Out Shelter and give torrents a try – the Mayans were wrong about the
world ending in 2012. The most commonly identified similarity between a
torrent’s download manager and a Usenet download manager is that they both work
by letting you select what you want to download and when you want to download
it. Everything else that follows is essentially automated.
managers (sometimes also called clients, newsreaders, applications, or simply
software) are your gateway to access Usenet forums. In Usenet’s specific language, the Usenet client is often
called a News Grabber (no, no news bulletins or headlines are involved at any
What do I mean by
Forums? Usenet is not your regular data download center. Content is classified
into specific categories and is available in the form of discussion threads
that come together to form forums. Fret not my fellow netizens! This basically
means that you will have to do a bit of scrolling around if your Usenet client
is not state-of-the art.
Usenet clients are
usually open-source (read: free). Some commonly used Usenet clients are
Binreader, PAN newsreader, NZBGet, HelloNZB and SABnzbd. I think this would be
a good time to clarify that NZB is a file extension (which is a
pointer/identifier used to distinguish between file types) that helps retrieve
posts from Usenet servers like ‘.doc’ and ‘.docx’ are popular Word Document
extensions, and ‘.torrent’ is the file extension for torrent files.
Not interested? Not a
lot of people know this, but forums were the big thing before emails, instant
messaging and VoIPs like MSN and Skype.
Large messaging boards (more like bulletin boards) existed in cyberspace and
people could post their messages on those community-like bulletin boards from
across the world. Before emails became popular, these bulletin boards were the
hippest thing around.
How A Torrent Works
Look at this image.
This is how a torrent works.
You use your browser
to search torrents and download a torrent file once you’ve found the one you
like. You download the torrent file (usually to your desktop) and once you
execute the torrent file, your Torrent client kicks in to manage the download
for you. ‘Download management’ is a fancy word for the process in which your torrent
client uses the information in the torrent tracker. What is a torrent tracker?
A torrent tracker is a
file containing the IP addresses of all the people who have your desired file
(or pieces of it), and then downloads those pieces for you while putting them
together for you at the same time.
FUN FACT: This is the part where the cops kick
your door in and the movie studios kick your teeth in for downloading content
without paying for it.
You see the movie
studios often setup fake servers to fool torrent trackers into registering them
as download-worthy users. Simply put, they bait and wait When the torrent
tracker goes to the systems in red, white and blue to download a file for you,
your IP address is recorded.
Once your IP address
has been recorded, the crack-down begins with warnings, followed by internet
blocks at the ISP level if you still keep downloading (or keep getting caught
downloading) content off torrents. That is if the movie studio goes chooses to
go to your ISP, which it will only do if it doesn’t want to make an example of
you by going to court instead.
How Usenet Works &
Look at this image.
This is how Usenet works.
Using Usenet is
similar to using torrents. You start by using your web browser to search for
NZB files on NZB search engines – of which there are countless on the internet.
Using VPN encryption when searching for NZB files on the internet will make you
virtually invisible because neither your ISP nor anybody intercepting your data
will be able to decrypt the data transmission and decipher what you’re up to.
On finding your
desired content, you will be required to download the NZB file for the content
(which you will probably download to your desktop, much like you would with a
torrent). Executing the NZB will lead your Usenet client to kick in and will
handle your data correspondence with the Usenet server for that file from that
The speed at which the
Usenet server will transmit data to your Usenet client at this point will be
many times more than what is observed in the case of torrent downloads.
The two seperate boxes
identifying ‘Sickbeard TV PVR’ and ‘CouchPotato Movie Grabber’ are popular
automated NZB search-and-download software. They correspond with your Usenet
client and stay on the alert for the availability of any content that you
desire. As soon as it is available, the software uses your Usenet client to
download the desired content for you. ‘Sickbeard TV PVR’ works to identify and
download television series while ‘CouchPotato Movie Grabber’ does the same for
The Small Service Characteristics That Matter
Usenet servers almost
always offer a significantly higher download speed than that which your ISP
will provide you. That means you get to download faster and can also rely on
the speed to sustain when you activate multiple downloads.
Usenet helps you stay
under the radar. When you download content via Usenet, you manage to reduce the
odds of getting caught like you would get caught downloading torrents. The
nature of the technology is such that it performs encryption and anonymization
actions as part of the process.
The presence of an SSL
connection between you and the Usenet server is a traditional component of
Usenet services. This means that not even your Internet Service Provider knows
what you’re downloading when you download files off the Usenet servers. Usenet
is an all-in-one service. That means you don’t have to setup heavy-duty
firewalls and anti-virus before you begin downloading.
Usenet servers prefer
to keep content available regardless of the popularity (unlike Torrent hosting
websites/servers that tend to remove unpopular content). However, this
characteristic is generally only seen in premium Usenet servers. Regular Usenet
users will tell you that it is not wise to download files that are visible on a
free Usenet server after that Usenet server’s official retention time for files
has passed for that file. You may end up downloading corrupt files because
Usenet servers keep making room for new content and therefore tend to purge
older less-popular (or down-voted) files over time.
download files by connecting to Usenet servers. During download, files are
stored in ‘Temporary Download Folder’ and are only moved to ‘Completed Download
Folder’ once the download has fully completed. Most Usenet clients will let you
may select these two folders for your convenience.
Why the discrimination
between download folders? Because your Usenet client will download the file for
you and assess it to make sure that it is not broken and/or incomplete before
it serves it out for you. If any broken and/or incomplete parts are found the
Usenet client will repair and/or complete them before moving the file to the
‘Completed Download Folder’.
In the next article, I
will be comparing Usenet’s with VPNs. Got any special requests you want me to
add in the upcoming article or simply wanna know more about Usenet? Hit me with
your questions and queries in the comments section and I’ll get back to you