Usenet is a world-wide distributed Internet discussion system. Basically, think of a forum. Usenet has “groups” that people can go to and read/post information to. The groups represent the categories a forum might have. Only Usenet is humongous and is distributed world-wide.
What do I mean by saying Usenet is “distributed world-wide”? Well, I mean there are slews of Usenet servers located all over the place. It’s like websites, there are so many of them you could never account for them all. The servers can all share the same groups and information. A posting to one of the groups would result on every server seeing the posting because they are all linked together.
Obviously, servers have the ability to be customized by the owners though. Some servers only host certain groups and don’t include the rest. Also, retention span is a huge concern. Retention span is how long the server might hold a posting. If postings were never deleted and everything is world-wide and distributed, then the servers would have to be MASSIVE, which they already are, and still have a problem keeping up with the requirements given to them. That’s where retention span comes into play. The owner of the server can adjust the retention span based on different factors. Sometimes it’s based on a date so that after a certain date, the posting is removed from the server. Other times it’s based on group storage allocation. A “group” might be given a specified amount of storage space allowed to be consumed, and as they go over that amount, the server removes the oldest items first to clear up just enough space. That way, if a group is given 1 TB of data storage, if someone submits a post then the oldest items get removed. Only “enough” items get removed to allow space for the new items, which allows for maximizing storing as much as they can for as long as they can. Each servers retention span may differ, so you may want to watch for that when selecting a Usenet server.
There are two ways that Usenet is really used. The first is like a social network, because it’s really just one huge forum. The other use is called “alt.binaries.*”, where the star designates any group beneath the “alt.binaries” group. For instance, there is “alt.binaries.dvd”, “alt.binaries.warez”, “alt.binaries.warez.0-day”, etc. Under these categories, people post binaries/programs/movies/music. For now on, we’ll refer to binaries as programs, movies, music, etc.
The binaries happen to usually be RAR’d by using a program such as WinRAR, so you’ll need WinRAR if you plan to download these. Most of the time the RAR files are separated into very many little files that when extracted combine into the final result. For instance, if I had a program called “program_a.exe” and I wanted to RAR it up, I could do it by just making “program_a.rar” but that would result in one huge file. There are several common reasons you don’t want to do that with large files but we won’t go through that right now. The other way, and more common way, is to create many files such as “program_a.part01.rar”, “program_a.part02.rar”, “program_a.part03.rar”. To create these many files, WinRAR will offer it as a choice as long as you know how to operate WinRAR properly. To extract these files is even easier then creating them. All you have to do is find the first one, right click it and click “Extract..” and boom, it does it. There are two ways to usually tell which file is the first of the series, which is important, because if you right click on the wrong file and try to extract it, it will tell you that it is not first in the series and give up.
The first rule is “Does the file have a program_a.r00″(which is another way the files might look, which is also created with WinRAR)? If it does, then you know it has to have a “program_a.rar” and you use that file. If there is none of those, and all you have is “program_a.part*.rar” files, then look for the lowest numbered one which will be something along the lines of “program_a.part01.rar”, “program_a.part001.rar”, etc. Then use that file as the one you click and extract.
There are also files known as PAR files but I’ll leave that for another discussion. I’ll be writing more articles on PAR files, Usenet Services, Usenet Newsreaders, and even Usenet Search Engines. For now, go out and look up some Usenet servers, there are plenty of free one’s out there! The best servers tend to be the pay servers though, and the reason they cost money is because of their connection speed and how long their retention is. GigaNews is a great Usenet service to use, I’ve got their unlimited service plan and they have approximately a 200 day retention span! You’ll need a Usenet Newsreader so be sure to use Google to find one of those first before you find a server!