P2P is in the news, every day. You see organizations like the RIAA hunting down file sharers, you read about Trojans and viruses that are spread through P2P networks. Everything seems rather risky at the moment. A new player is emerging from the shadows which is using a very old communication system, the Usenet. You might know a part of the Usenet if you ever read something on Google groups. Google Groups is an archive of the part of the Usenet that looks similar to bulletin boards.
But there is a hidden side, a side that many never heard about: The binary side. The Usenet holds also a large binary archive which is growing by 2800 gigabytes daily. Yes, you read that right, 2,8 Terabyte of files every day. All files (and the discussion as well) are stored in groups, like alt.binaries.dvd or alt.binaries.mp3. You can take a look at some of the files that are stored at the Usenet by visiting Binsearch.
It is a Usenet search engine that you can use to find files that have been uploaded to it. You can alternatively browse groups as well. If it finds matches you are able to download them, if you have a Usenet account and a program that is able to download such files, that is.
Difference between P2P and Usenet
So, what are the main differences between P2P and Usenet? First, if you want to download something from P2P networks you are always uploading the same file to other users while downloading it, provided other users are also downloading the file.
It is easy to detect file sharers by simply looking at the IPs of people who upload a certain file. If you use the Usenet, you don't upload at all. You download with full speed without ever uploading a single bit. You can of course upload files but you do not have to, and both actions are completely unrelated to each other.
Second, P2P downloads are slow most of the time. If you have only a few seeders the file may take very long to complete, if at all. Sometimes the seeders decide to stop seeding the file and you sit there with a file that is unusable. Usenet files are always complete once they have been uploaded. If you see the file you know it is finished. Sometimes there are incomplete files but this is seldom if you have the right Usenet provider and there is a way to complete those files even though they are incomplete.
I'm using a commercial program to download files from the Usenet, it is called newsbin. There are free tools out there that have the same functionality, one of them is grabit. I will explain how to configure grabit at the end of the article.
You also need an account from an Usenet provider. I'm using Giganews because it is the provider that has the highest retention (stores files the longest time) and offers the highest speeds of all Usenet providers. I'm for instance downloading files with 1,8 Megabytes per second using all the bandwidth of my 16 Mbit line.
Binary accounts to the Usenet are not free. Providers have to charge money due to the immense transfer volume of the Usenet. As I said earlier there are many Usenet providers, some are good, some are bad. Giganews is the best in my opinion, they offer three different account types. I'm using their unlimited account type, which means I'm allowed to download an unlimited number of files without download restriction for 34,99 $ a month. The smaller unlimited plan for $24.99 gets you access to the Usenet as well but less add-on products, more about that in a minute. The smallest plan lets you download 5 Gigabyte per month for $4.99.
You do get online file storage on top of that with all plans, and the plan that I'm using gets virtual private network access and a Usenet browser on top of that. If you do not need that, select the Platinum plan instead and save $10 a month.
So, the Usenet offers more or less what P2P networks offer. The pro is that you don't have to upload, that you can download with full speed and that RIAA and the like are concentrating their efforts on P2P networks and not the Usenet. The bad might be that you will have to purchase an account to download files from the Usenet in first place.
Let us take a look at the Grabit configuration.
Clicking on articles will reveal all files that are stored in that group. New files are added all the time, it is worth to check groups more than once a day if you are looking for a special file. You double click an article to download it. It is really that easy.
It is of course illegal to download copy protected files and I do not encourage you to download such files. If you are interested, the Usenet holds the largest amount of files worldwide, applications, games, movies, books, music and of course porn.
If you have further questions let me know, I will be glad to answer everything that came up during this long article.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.