What is Usenet anyway?
Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system. It was developed from the general purpose UUCP dial-up network architecture. Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979 and it was established in 1980. Users read and post messages (called articles or posts, and collectively termed news) to one or more categories, known as newsgroups. Usenet resembles a bulletin board system (BBS) in many respects, and is the precursor to Internet forums that are widely used today. Usenet can be superficially regarded as a hybrid between email and web forums.
Usenet is one of the oldest computer network communications systems still in widespread use. It was conceived in 1979 and publicly established in 1980 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University over a decade before the World Wide Web was developed and the general public received access to the Internet.
Though it was clearly not designed to share digital files, some ingenious person(s) discovered that it could also be used to share such content. But uploading files could be (and still is) a cumbersome process, and downloading anything was almost just as time consuming because of all the things that had to be done manually.
Fortunately, downloading files from the Usenet, at least with Nzbget, is now as easy as downloading a torrent - and much better.
The advantages of Usenet
* The download speed is only limited by your broadband connection. You download your files from large server farms, and not from individual users, as on Bittorrent. (The vast majority of them have upload speeds slower than their download speeds.)
* File availability. The top uploaders tend to use Usenet for distribution, and it then trickles down to Bittorrent. And only then it lives only as long as there are users uploading it. On Usenet the main providers have retention times of more than 2000 days, and obviously most torrents never reach that age.
* Security. When you download a file on Bittorrent, you not only show the version of your P2P-application and the IP-address to everyone in the swarm, you also upload content. When you download a file from the Usenet, the traffic is SSL-encrypted it is between you and your Usenet provider, just the same as when you are using a VPN. Even your own ISP will only see SSL-encrypted traffic to servers in the USA or in the EU.
As mentioned above, you don't have to upload anything to download. As a consequence, no one has ever been sued for illegally downloading anything from the Usenet.
Only one. You need a Usenet provider to get access, and that is going to cost you about 8-11 USD every month. Bittorrent wins if you can't afford it, or if you are unwilling to pay for what I wrote above.
If that is the case, just skip what I write below.
Getting a provider
Here is a list of the best providers: http://www.usenet-newsgroup.net/.
You will need a client to read newsgroups and/or download binaries. There are many different clients out there, and believe me, I have tried many. Below we will use a text based and highly automated client (Nzbget) that can only download binaries. In order to read the actual content on newsgroups, you need another client like e.g. Pan.
What is an .nzb?
An .nzb is the same in the Usenet world as a .torrent is in the Bittorrent world. It is basically a file that makes downloading of multiple binaries much easier. You can download .nzb files from many sources, for instance on binsearch.info or usenet-crawler.com (requires registration).
The advantages of Nzbget
Nzbget is a headless Usenet binary downloader. When these .nzb files are dropped into the nzb folder they will be automatically queued and downloading will begin. When it is finished, the content is extracted automatically to another folder, and .rar and par2-files are deleted automatically.
Since it does not need a GUI, Nzbget is extremely stable and will outperform everything else and use less resources than anything else, making it ideal on older and slower hardware. It will for instance run just fine on a RaspberryPi. It will also be the superior choice on headless servers, where you just drop the .nzb-files from ftp or sftp and get the content later.
Installing and configuring Nzbget.
Apart from the application itself, we will need unrar to extract the downloaded .rar-files. Unrar is non-free software. (I have not tested if is possible to use unrar-free. If you test it successfully, please let me know.)
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# apt-get install nzbget unrar
Nzbget can now be configured with a single config file.
Sample files can be downloaded from /usr/share/doc/nzbget/examples, or you can just use my settings that I know will work just fine.
By default Nzbget will look for a config file in e.g. /etc/nzbget.conf
As an example I will use my own. If you want differently, look in /usr/share/doc/nzbget/examples.
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# nano /etc/nzbget.conf