Giganews Adds New Mimo Browser + Golden Frog Search
BoDark Sees the Light
I must say I am rather impressed with my new Mimo. No, Mimo is not my Gramma or some multi-antennae wireless router. Mimo is Giganews' latest Java-based multi-tabbed Usenet browser that runs on Windows and Mac OSX, and is offered free to folks with a Giganews Diamond Account. While Mimo is clearly a fully functional newsreader able to read and post a regular text message to a non-binaries group, Giganews and the developer Golden Frog prefer the descriptive "Browser". The word browser to me means; "search-capable", and that is exactly what Mimo delivers, the integrated ability to search and capture the 2+ years of Usenet text and binary retention stored on Giganews servers. Features that promise to make the Mimo browser a strategic value-add to the top-tier Giganews Diamond Account.
While I found one serious flaw, this Beta release of Mimo is not the typical crashy, bug-filled released-too-early POS. This is a Beta, but newsreaders have been perfected for decades, and Usenet design usability requirements are not news. To make customers happy, any newsreader needs to get the very complex job done with the least amount of hassle and cost, and in reality that's a tall order. Mimo delivers on all fronts, and more. So, why should you care to fork over $30 USD/month (~22.37 EU) for a Giganews Diamond Account just to get some "free" Beta newsreader? ...and "whadda ya mean Bo, you found a serious flaw?!" Well let's get to the flaw first, and get that out of the way.
The single complaint was my unattended Windows went to sleep, and Mimo stopped downloading. I would have hoped Mimo could have kept Windows "awake", since it was in the process of downloading. When I did manually resume from suspend, Mimo was logged off Giganews, so it needed to be closed and re-opened to reconnect to Giganews' server and restart from where it left off. For all my whining it did handle that perfectly, so really almost no problem at all. I just set my power-save time higher so I could allow it to run unattended for longer in the future. Solution? Maybe a checkbox to offer a stay-alive option? One of the best features of Mimo is light-weight operation, and I don't want to start bloating it with change requests. This Beta loads rather effortlessly, and the verbose splash screen details all the things happening during the brief wait ...very nice. I don't like mysteries. I do like fast.
I had mentioned in Part 1 that I was unsure if Mimo could deliver search queries as "collections" like those presented on many NZB Indexing search sites. I promised to investigate further, and it turns out my initial Part 1 test query result did not have a compiled "Collection" on any other NZB sites either, so yes Mimo can display multiple posts as a single line item. Duh, actually it depends more on the post itself. With that out of the way, remember the competing Newzbin2 has an enhanced human element of Editors and a live Community, so they deliver a much more interactive view of the quality of what is available on Usenet, and virtually everything is delivered as a single NZB-based "collection". This is vital to understand as those Newzbin2 features can help insure you find the complete and un-infected, non-passworded, Ubuntu release in the shortest amount of time, every time, via their NZB function. However it also requires you be a paying member, have some other NZB-friendly Newsreader, and your own Usenet subscription.
While search results in Mimo do not display any such additional interactive information, Mimo's search results perform just like the other simple Usenet NZB search index sites. Most importantly, in Mimo, any "collection" results are precisely and instantly guaranteed to be available from Giganews with just one click. Unfortunately that find could also be passworded, or contain a virus, or be incomplete. Nothing new for Usenet Veterans. While you can search for free on Newsbin2 and avoid those pitfalls, you must also be a paying member of Newsbin2 to utilize their NZB feature, and that NZB result must also be available from your independent News service. Interestingly, once Mimo becomes associated to process .NZB and you obviously have Giganews, this threesome becomes a no-brainer. Meaning, no ideal single solution exists ...only opportunity!
Step 5 of the Mimo install asks if you would like to associate .NZB with Mimo. Be careful how you answer, because you likely currently already have your old newsreader handling that task. I say go ahead and agree to allow Mimo to take over handling all your NZBs. I was pleased with my own full adoption ...which was a change from my beloved Newsbin (with a "s"). I also have to say I was able to get different search results using the same query, using both the Golden Frog Search and the NZBIndex.nl search options, both within Mimo ...hmmm interesting, and in my test evaluation, useful!
If a multi-threaded binary post is properly constructed, Mimo's search function easily displays them as a single click-able button, and therefore very much equal to what other sites refer to as a "collection". Mimo takes it to the next level because it removes (hides?) that next NZB download step and instead just starts downloading the binary post. It not only offers it's own Giganews/Golden Frog-powered Usenet search as the default, but you can also choose NZBIndex.nl as your search engine via drop-down menu. If you indeed did perform a NZB search with your Internet browser and manually downloaded an .NZB file from another site, the file association would cause it to open and be captured and successfully process to completion in your Mimo.
I cannot forget to highlight the multi-tabbed browsing feature, because for me that turned some primary search results into some very satisfying multiple tab Usenet "Surfing". Because Mimo seamlessly integrates NZB search and download as part of a Usenet Provider subscription, Mimo is bringing the competitive heat to NZB Search/Index sites, and software developers like the fine folks at Newsbin (with an "s") and all other Usenet subscription services. Hey, not only am I impressed by how well it works, the price was also right! That is about to change as Giganews' Diamond accounts are going up after Jan 1, 2011, so if you have been on the fence, you have till year's end to lock your Diamond account in at the current price.
My first review was based on my immediate excitement and first impression ...without reading the manual. A local copy of the manual installs with the product, but you can also see an online copy of Mimo's User Manual here. I will spare you reading my full description of Mimo's features, because it is covered very clearly and quickly in the Manual. Simply stated, Mimo has managed to integrate almost every core functionality most Usenet Consumers manually acquire from disparate sources. The usual (old!) process goes something like ...web-based NZB Index site search in your Internet browser (on multiple sites) , results in an NZB file download, associated to open with an NZB-enabled newsreader, triggering a specific download of multi-part postings ...then (if you are lucky enough to have a top-end newsreader like Newsbin) automated (or manual) file restoration via par2 parity checking software, and un-rar decompression (more software) to a final complete intended download. Mimo handles all this seamlessly and with as few as one mouse-click ...well after typing in your search. Hello? That's a big deal.
I did more than just open and run Mimo, I tried to break it. This is one self-healing mofo. Opening and closing the running browser had little effect, especially in mid-download. The worst-case I had to click "Pause" ...wait a few seconds, and click "Restart Download". I could not trip this thing up! Well Mimo did crash one time in mid-Par-Rar, but honestly I did not wait long enough to see if Mimo could have recovered from my stop/restart brutality during this final step. As a fix, I simply browsed to the folder and manually ran Par2 recovery using non-Mimo tools. Another tiny complaint, as Mimo's final par2/un-rar process did not display any progress bar, and I could not really tell if it was able to recover or not (after I had maliciously crashed it on purpose). However, Mimo is not so seamless that the automated rebuild process is obscured, and I was easily able to complete the Par2/Rar manually.
So, why Mimo? Newsbin is an example of a competing Newsreader that is also already offered by Giganews as a bundled download supporting Giganews proprietary compression. Newsbin newsreader actually can likely do all of the same integration as Mimo, but the path to Customer adoption was not so thoughtfully Socially Engineered. Exactly how has Mimo bested the competition? I have found my own reaction to be surprising. Ask yourself a few questions, mostly focused on your process of finding items on Usenet and getting them to your local machine. Efficiency is easily measured by the number of mouse clicks, and almost always starts with a successful search.
As I said above, Mimo already offers two search engine options, but it also offers a third option, the old-school group search using the manual browsing of headers like any "newsreader". The multi-tabbed feature was something I would expect, and did use and enjoy ...it's very 2011. Being Java-based seemingly made it Modern, lightweight, and resilient. While automated par2 recovery and un-raring a multi-threaded post is nothing new, Mimo handles it invisibly in the background. Newsreader? Browser? Mimo is both! The only thing that did not seem apparent were any tools focused on uploading binaries, but that is not an area in need of new tools. Other than that Mimo has it all. Talking about Mimo's competition, the reality is that "adoption" is the key here, so the manner in which it was presented as something I could easily (freely!) adopt for my own process will drive it's success.
So, what didn't I like?
Actually the things I changed were purely customizations of the Window itself. Just a few menu clicks here and there to make it look and work the way I wanted. Be sure to check out the hotkeys, they mirror similar Internet browser hotkeys for opening and closing tabs etc. The multiple tab feature proved useful, and most menus/operations were accessible with simple context targeted left and right mouse clicks. Check out the "View" menu option in the toolbar for the ability to get more info on your downloads and status, or to browse the groups list. I found myself clicking the "View" -> "Downloads" to watch my progress and ETA ...I liked the ETA feature. When you first open Mimo it goes to a "Getting Started" home screen with a little advertising from Giganews ...a wee annoying. Obviously I couldn't give them any more money and I don't need to be sold VyprVPN, but it does add to the intuitive use ...the first couple times.
If you close Mimo with the Window maximized (full screen) it reopens to a non-maximized Windows position. This is not uncommon as screen resolution and Windows size/position have been factors in browser development from day one, but it causes one small problem. Every time I first opened it, the Mimo status bar (bottom) was under my Windows Taskbar, making it not visible ...and there's cool stuff on there! Basically it has those "View" toolbar options I mentioned above available as buttons below in Mimo's status bar. That's important because the buttons change the core delivery features of Mimo from a "newsreader" to a "NZB browser". Again an easy fix, just double-click your top Windows Titlebar to maximize. One quick click of the "Downloads" button on the bottom left and you are ready to go find a nice Open Source distro, or blah blah (Look! Ubuntu!) Click the "Groups List" or "New Conversation..." buttons and bing! it's a newsreader. In the lower right corner you have a network performance graph (sweet!) and file download counter, plus other icons to display Giganews connectivity, SSL status, and Giganews compression (on).
BoDark Reads a Manual!
The Manual? I did read it, and must confess it may be one of the best bits of technical brevity I have ever enjoyed. I will make it's Technical Writing style my own ...ok, seriously that's not possible as I love the sound of my own typing, and Mimo's User Guide is short and sweet. In the installed three PDF pages it delivers everything you need to get started and fully understand every feature and function of Mimo. The Web link above is even prettier. I know, I'm gushing over a manual ...but I did start this review with a "Wow". Mimo is best described as tight and slick, and will undoubtedly strike some degree of Fear into the competition. For one, because of it's full integration, and that "competition" is spread across multiple Markets. It's replaces your newsreader, and your NZB Index searching. Plus if you are deciding to switch to Giganews from another provider to get the bundle (don't forget VyprVPN is also in there!) that makes for some powerful persuasion. Competition is good. Fascinating how in a marketplace that has seen it's price-point being forced ever downward, Giganews has managed a reversal, but this is no Marketing flim-flam. This is giving Customers what they need and want. Kudos to Golden Frog ...I even dig the pinwheel spinner.
I mentioned in a comment on Part 1 of this series that some NZB Indexing and Usenet search engine sites have seemingly escaped legal persecution (and ultimately prosecution) because they did not make it so easy, as say the old former Newzbin, to successfully find and grab, what was available on Usenet. Did that Editor assisted browse list, and Community supported comments and NZB functionality make it perhaps too "point-and-click"?. Did working too well make the original Newsbin a target of prosecution? Do we have to give up hope that a similar "Look Out! That's Cr@p" warning system be incorporated into some future Mimo-like product? ...because that is the only process it does not address ...and maybe for good reason.
It's not rocket science to foresee a partnership that could deliver it all, but have we been forewarned? I mean if the folks at Golden Frog decided to incorporate the full automation of anonymous uploading (which they did NOT) to alt.binaries would it only guarantee their own demise? I mean, is making it too easy to access Usenet in all her glory painting a target on your back? Comments Below. I say "Obviously", which is sad, but that makes Mimo about as good as it gets [peering into crystal ball] ...for now.