Programs I Use

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2010/08/29: Updated this for the first time in about 6 years and had to change very little.

Thanks for this list!

BTW: can you point me to any online tutorials on downloading movies with Usenet? I have the BitTorrent thing down, but have no idea how to grab binaries.

I have a thirty page report on Usenet that I wrote for my senior seminar class, but it covers Usenet history, change, and usage. I love that it has gone from being an alternative to arpanet to being the seedy dark pirate alley of the internet.

Getting into Usenet is easy.

Step 1: Do you have access to a Usenet server?
Some ISPs are dumping Usenet access because it's not worth the cost considering how few people use it. Other ISPs are outsourcing it to companies that specialize in it. Check your ISPs website to see if they have one and what it is. I'm on RoadRunner here and it's, surprisingly, fantastic at the moment. You're in Austin, right? If you're using RoadRunner, your news server is: but only if you're on RR.

Step 2: Is it a decent server?
My RR server used to vary in quality. Some days nothing would come in complete, other times I'd have a couple days worth of complete posts. Recently, and this came as a big surprise, an entire month worth of posts are available. So if I pass on something now, I can still get it a couple weeks down the line if I change my mind, which is great. If the server you have access to doesn't come in complete, you're out of luck, unless you want to pay for access. For about the price of a Netflix subscription, you can get access to top notch servers.

Step 3: Download Xnews (see list above). There are other clients, but I like Xnews.

Step 4: Install and setup Xnews. Installing it is simple. Just extract it where ever you want it and run the executable. When you do that, I believe it asks for the news server address. Put that in. It then asks for an alias, just put in whatever you want. I think you'll end up at this. If it asks for an smtp/outgoing address, either put it in or put in whatever. It's only important if you plan on posting messages, and there's no sane dialogue on Usenet. At that screen in the link, you may want to go over to the storage tab and change it to 'save nothing'. Otherwise it stores headers you download, which ultimately ends up taking lots of space. The rest you can leave alone, unless you want to change font/colour or whatever else.

It then should ask if you want to get the group list, if you start seeing groups show up, you're now on Usenet.

Step 5: Find a group with content you want.
If it's movies you're looking for, alt.binaries.movies.divx is the place to start looking. If your server is carrying it, find it, double click it. You may get a screen like this.

The only thing you need to be concerned with is the 'Get:' number. It's the number of headers you'll be downloading. If your server is carrying a month's worth of posts, you do not want to download them all. It'll take forever and Xnews will probably end up freezing trying to sort them all after it gets them. You'll get the feel of how many you want after a while. If your server only carries a couple days worth, you'll probably just end up getting them all every time you check.

Step 6: Threading and Downloading
Okay, you've downloaded some header files. If you're sitting there with a bunch of gibberish with little notepad icons beside it, look down at the bottom for the 'T' button. It threads the multi-part files into one. You'll have to push that stupid 'T' button everytime you use that search box, which is stupid.

Everything should be threaded and you'll now have to learn how to read the message headers. Some times people won't tell you what the files are and you'll have to check the .nfo files.

There are three icons to the left of the file. The sort of teal block, which means it is complete. The blue incomplete block means the file is incomplete. And the notepad, which means it's a single-part message, possibly text. Note that most everything on usenet (except music, pictures, and text) are posted in rar format. This is done so that it's easy to reupload a single part if it doesn't show up complete, but these days we have par2 files to fix things. If something shows up incomplete, check to see if there are par2 files. If there are, download the incomplete file and enough par2 files to fix it with QuickPar.

If everything seems complete and you want something. Highlight it, and click the 'decode' block at the bottom (or hit f4). It should begin downloading the parts into the assigned folder.

This is the getting started stuff.. there's also nzb files and a few other things which I can tell you about later if you become a Usenet addict.

Wow. Thanks very much for this info!

I use AT&T/SBC/Yahoo DSL and they don't provide access to the binary groups, so I'll have to sign up with a news server (any suggestions?). I'm sure the cost will be well worth it, though.

I'll try to get this going over the weekend. Thanks again for your help.

I've never used any of the premium providers, but there's a good breakdown of price/limit/retention comparisons here.

Also, according to their ISP providers page, RoadRunner recently outsourced theirs to Newshosting, which is why I've been getting great retention lately. Huzzah for RR!

The great thing about Usenet is that you don't have to worry about the MPAA/RIAA grabbing your IP address and suing you like you do with torrents. Plus, you don't have to worry about seeder/leecher speed. Everything will download as fast as possible. The only problem being that you're limited to what other people decide to post. I pass on most everything but find a few things I do want all the time.

Plus, you can always use the newsgroups as an alternative to tivo. The day after a new episode airs, you can always find it in

And there's porn all over Usenet.. gobs of it! And games.. and software.. and e-books/textbooks. If it's downloadable, you can probably find it somewhere on Usenet.

I like the idea of higher download speeds and no RIAA/MPAA worries, but wonder if it's worth the extra $15-20 I'd have to pay for premium access. What do you think?

Depends on how much you expect you'll use it. To me, it's the greatest thing about the internet. This morning alone, I downloaded a couple Ozu films (Equinox Flower and Kagamisjishi) from alt.binaries.multimedia.vintage-film and Come and See from the divx group.