Newsgroup Tutorial (Updated 3/10/2005)
1) Brief History:
Newsgroups were around before the internet as we know it even began. In the early stages of the internet, special interest groups shared information by using a system similar to a bulletin board. This system took advantage of the internet in a way an old BBS couldn't. Each location in the system had a machine (news server) that stored all the messages of the newsgroups that were desired by it's users. These servers connected to each other frequently and synchronized their messages with each other. Using this method, every message would eventually get distributed to every server that carried that newsgroup.
Not too long afterwards, some users wanted the ability to share files with each other. However, the current system was not designed to transfer binary files - it could only transfer ascii text files. However, early internet pioneers came up with a way to take a binary file and convert it (encode it) so that it reads as an ascii text message. This message could then be distributed through the newsgroup and then whoever wants to retrieve the file could download that message and convert it back (decode it) into the original binary file. Thus began file-sharing in the Newsgroups.
Understanding, navigating and downloading files from the newsgroups requires a little more effort than just connecting to Morpheus, searching for something, and clicking on the result. A typical download from the newsgroups requires more steps than other methods because a large file is always split into many pieces as shown below:
So why are files split up in the first place? Well, many news servers will not accept messages that are longer than 10,000 lines, many even less than that. A 670 MB file would take around 15 Million lines if it were encoded into one message. No news server will accept a message with that much data. The main reason for the first split into RAR files is because sometimes messages don't always get to every server for some reason or another. A large file is also split up to minimize the time and bandwidth needed to recover from a missing/bad message. So in our example above, if a message doesn't make it for the file cdimage.r06, it would only be necessary to find and download that one file instead of the whole thing if it were all one file. PAR files have now emerged making the argument for splitting into rar files even stronger. Smaller files, such as MP3's, are usually not split the first time, so downloading them is simple.
To make matters more confusing, while browsing newsgroups it can be hard to distinguish which messages are the files you need from all of the other messages that are not files but actual text messages.
2) News Servers:
On each news server the administrator will determine the retention for each newsgroup usually by allotting it a certain amount of hard drive space. So alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.classical (a relatively busy newsgroup receiving 100's of songs a day) will have a longer retention than alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.complete_cd (an extremely busy newsgroup receiving 1000's of songs a day). An easy way to tell what the retention is for a newsgroup is to look through the list and see when the oldest messages are from. If all the messages are from the last three days, then the retention is about 3 days!
There are two ways you can get access to a news server:
A) Using your ISP's news server.
A news server may require you to log into it using a user name and password. Usually the news servers run by ISP's do not require you to log on using a user name and password because they assign you your IP address (your unique internet location address) and the server automatically accepts only those IPs it recognizes. However, this also means that you will not be able to access the news server from another internet connection. You would have to be using theirs.
To find out if your ISP has a news server and to find the IP address go to the customer support section of their website and search for news server. If their website doesn't help, give them a call and ask whether they have a news server and what the address is. Bargain ISP's (such as Netzero and Juno) do not maintain news servers. Even some major ISPs such as America Online (AOL) currently do not offer Newsgroup access.
B) Using a Commercial Usenet Provider.
3) Binary News Readers:
4) .nfo Files:
5) RAR File Format:
Beginning - From WinRAR 3.0 forward the first file of the archive has an extension of .part1.rar, before version 3.0 it would be .rar. This is the file you open to extract the entire archive.
Middle - These are all the files that lie between the Beginning and the End. They should all be exactly the same size as the Beginning file.
End - This is the last file of the archive and is distinguishable by the shorter file size than the rest of the files. This is because as WinRAR adds data to the archive it chops off the file into equal pieces, the last piece will only contain whatever is left over at the end.
To Download WinRAR, CLICK HERE!
6) PAR Files:
You can also reconstruct ANY missing part (sample.r02 or sample.r06 or sample.r37) with ANY PAR file (sample.P01 or sample.P04 or sample.P05).
If you are missing 2 parts, get 2 PAR files and they will reconstruct both missing parts. 3 parts missing? Get 3 PAR files and you're good.
Here's the catch... There is a limit to the amount of files you can reconstruct. The limit is the amount of PAR files that were posted for the archive. Generally there are 5-10 PAR files per posting and have become a standard very quickly. So, if an archive has 5 PAR files, you will only be able to reconstruct a maximum of 5 parts.
PAR files are simple to spot. They use the following extension system:
The .PAR file is an index file for the set and does not count towards reconstructing any files (it is usually less than 1K). The .PAR file is the one you open in SmartPAR, although if it is missing also, it is not critical and the reconstruction will still work by opening any of the actual PAR files.
So You have a couple of missing files, you have a couple of PAR files for the archive, what do you do now? Get SmartPAR! This is the program that will take the PAR files and construct new files from them.
To Download SmartPAR, CLICK HERE!
7) .sfv Files:
8) What to do about missing parts (and there are no PAR files):