Saturday, January 24, 2009

Download from Usenet

If you like downloading your favorite movies and TV shows, you've probably worried about getting in trouble for doing it. I have received the dreaded ISP emails alerting me to my alleged violations on more than one occasion. Showtime is especially diligent, and have nailed me twice.

Most forms of filesharing require you to upload as you download. That's where you run into trouble. It's usually the uploader who is considered the perpetrator of copyright violations. What you need is a way to download without uploading.

Enter Usenet. If you've never heard of Usenet, you're not alone (I recently called my ISP's tech support line, and their "expert" had no idea what it was). It's a dinosaur from the early days of the internet that is enjoying new popularity. It is a collection of discussion groups -- known as newsgroups. Or at least, that's what it was set up to be. But it didn't take long before people figured out how to use it for filesharing. People upload files to Usenet, where it is held on servers, and you can download at will. Ironically, the server often belongs to your ISP, who have chastised you for sharing material. We'll just turn the tables and let them be the perps now.

Enough chatter. Now for the HOW-TO:

1. Download and install NNTPGrab. This is software made just for Usenet downloading

2. Run the program, and click the Configuration tab, then click SERVERS on the left pane, then ADD on the right (look for a big plus sign).

3. Add a server. This is the only tricky part, since you have to have access to a server. Chances are, your ISP has one. Go to their website and look through their support pages. You want to find their instructions for setting up Newsgroups. Also look for the word Usenet, as the two terms are used interchangeably.

Here's a tip: See if your ISP has multiple servers. The more servers you add to NNTPGrab, the faster you'll download. I'm a Cox customer. They have three servers. (,, and They tell you that your area is served by only one of them, but that's not true. You can use all three at once. For Cox, no password is needed, so I don't click the "Server requires authentication" box. Check with your ISP to see if you need to use a password.

Add as many servers as you can. Here's a list of free servers, but don't count on them working very well...

There are also pay servers, that claim very high speeds. I haven't tried them.

4. Now you need to find content. Click the "NZB Creator" tab in NNTPGrab. Search for the title you want. Wait for the list to load, then click the checkbox next to the files you want, and click "Import Selected File(s)". I recommend importing one at a time, since multiple selections will be downloaded as one large file that you have to wait a long time for.

That's it. If you have multiple servers working you'll be shocked at some of the download speeds you'll get. Sadly, those speeds often drop down to Torrent speed over time, but for a while I get consistent speeds of over 1MB per second, compared to 85k per second with Bittorrent.

This is a simplified version of the process, but it's all you need to get started. Google "NZB" to learn more about where to find content and how to download it.

Good luck.

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