Useless Features of a Newsgroup Provider: A follow-up to Slyck's article

// 17th Feb '10 Useless Features of a Newsgroup Provider: A follow-up to Slyck's article

Earlier today Slyck posted an article entitled "Useless Features of a Newsgroup Provider"" and while we usually agree with the knowledge and news that comes out of the Slyck factory; we couldn't quite wrap our heads around some of the points made in the post so we've decided to write a short response.

The article summarises four main features of a newsgroup provider: retention, completion, connections and security. There are definitely other factors which separate the various providers but we agree, these are the main ones you should be looking out for when purchasing access to Usenet.

Retention

The length of time that files stay on the server after upload

Most serious providers these days are advertising well over 500 days and within a few months will hit two years of binary retention...{snip}....The truth of the matter, as we see it, is that anything over 7 months is unnecessary. Why? Because anything that's posted will likely be reposted within a few months anyway.

via Slyck

We don't think this is a fair comment really; if you're simply using Usenet to get the latest TV shows there is absolutely no need to have more than about 2 weeks retention given that you probably download them immediately after they've been on TV. However, if like many you're on the lookout for rarer files, old movies, shows that do not get frequently reposted - then retention is a godsend. One perfect example of this is the files in alt.binaries.music.jungle, some of those files are reposts from pre-1996, and they don't get reposted often, it's nice to have the opportunity to grab them at a much later date.

There is also the fact that retention is so prevalent among Usenet providers these days that most uploaders simply won't repost something that's been on Usenet for only a year as they know most people can grab it anyway.

Connections

The number of simultaneous connections between you and the provider

The bottom line with connections is this: they represent the number of simultaneous data transfers that occur between the news reader and the news server...{snip}..However, it doesn't take much to overcome this issue - most US broadband users can maximize their download speed with only 5-10 connections. Don't waste your money buying extra connections!

via Slyck

This we agree with, it's completely true - the "connections war" that went on a few months ago between the providers was mostly pointless as we covered in our article on why the number of Usenet connections does not matter. 99% of people will max out their connection with less than 10 connections, anything more and you're actually wasting bandwidth with the overheads and making your computer & router work harder than they have to (albeit not a lot).

Completion

The percentage of the file/post that made it to the provider

This is a characteristic that describes how many articles have successfully transferred from sever to server (a process known as propagation). Back in the day before reliable propagation and PAR2 recovery files, a news server with poor retention could ruin a hard night's download. But today, most commercial providers have well over 90% completion.

via Slyck

Again agreed but that's not to say it's still not a problem. Frequently there are posts on the likes of Newzbin about certain providers about files being incomplete on certain providers; 99% of the time it's simply because the files haven't propagated fully to that provider yet. As opposed to the files not getting there at all, they still take a bit of time to peer between the providers and this is always something the various providers strive to improve.

Security

Whether or not your connection to your provider is encrypted via SSL

SSL conceals the contents of your data, but doesn’t conceal the fact your data exists. A determined ISP will still know that copious amounts of data are streaming to your computer....{snip}...But is this level of protection necessary in the Usenet environment? Let's answer that question with a question. When was the last time an average binary newsgroup citizen was sued or received a monetary demand from the entertainment industry? Anyone? (Chirping crickets need not apply.) The bottom line is that no one has been sued. Yes - uploaders are sued and pursued quite often. But downloaders? Not that we know of.

Using this logic is similar to a burglar breaking into a house and because they haven't been caught yet, leaving a trail right back to their own front door. SSL conceals what you're downloading, it doesn't matter that it doesn't conceal how much or where from; with the content hidden the traffic could be anything and without evidence of what it actually is, you're infinitely safer. In the United Kingdom (and in France already), the government are trying to push through legalisation which will see your connection cut off after "3 strikes", whether this will force the ISPs to actively police your connection is yet to be discovered, but you can be assured they're more likely to monitoring the accounts downloading hundreds of GBs a month. You still want to leave tracks of what you're downloading? Feel free but we'll hide them thanks.

We would honestly rank security very highly in your choice of a provider; if a provider is charging you extra for it then there are plenty that do not such as Newshosting or SuperNews.

Anyway, that's it, just a few thoughts!

djm posted by djm
This entry was posted in Informative and tagged newsgroups, providers, slyck. Leave a comment. Header image by baxterclaus

11 Comments

  1. Borndog
    Posted Feb 19th, 2010 at 02:02 a.m.

    Nice article.

    About connections though, sure - the connections war might no be important, but I feel that they're being used to get more sales regardless. When I was on astraweb, I maxed in only 5 connections. I recently moved to supernews, where I need 15 connections and I still don't get a constant max speed as I did with astraweb.

    I'm just guessing, but seeing as supernews is just a giganews reseller, I find it hard to believe that they can't handle the same upstream in those connections. For whatever reason, if they limit each connection so that you DO need a lot of connections to download, that 30 connections stamp on their home page looks mighty fine.

    (Yeah yeah, more or less conspiracy theory, but I don't know why else I would need so many connections with supernews).

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  2. Posted Mar 3rd, 2010 at 20:03 p.m.

    Nor do we, is it still the same way for you? Or have things improved with Supernews?

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  3. Posted Feb 20th, 2010 at 09:02 a.m.

    It's important to educate users about the features that really matter when choosing a Usenet provider. It's however unfortunate that most Usenet review sites, including Slyck, are just in it to generate commissions.

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  4. Posted Mar 2nd, 2010 at 00:03 a.m.

    And are Bintube not in the industry to generate profit?

    There are sites out there (we don't name names) that are merely in it for the commission but Slyck's work deserves some respect - he's been in a lot longer than a lot of us. It was in fact his articles that first got us interested in Usenet all those many years ago; you can't blame the guy for wanting to earn some money off what he clearly loves doing.

    A very sour grapes comment if you ask me.

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  5. BinTube
    Posted Mar 2nd, 2010 at 04:03 a.m.

    Don't disagree with you. But I still think that reviews should be honest and unbiased. Favoring providers based on commissions is not helpful to the reader who will eventually figure it out.

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  6. Posted Mar 2nd, 2010 at 09:03 a.m.

    Agreed; reviews should be honest and unbiased. We're currently working on some features for this site (hence why you got the email with our reply in I hope!) which will include user reviews among other things.

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  7. snappy
    Posted Feb 21st, 2010 at 08:02 a.m.

    Some comments about the number of simultaneous connections. This maybe a "feature" because the NSP rate limits connections on unsuspecting users, so it may take more than 5-10 connections to max out bandwidth. But then you need to buy & use more connections so it makes sense that more connections are useful. So it actually is a useful feature imposed by useless policy (rate limiting connections), but in the end contributes to an NSP's bottom line (profit).

    Dovetailing the simultaneous connection comment, SSL also helps bypass ISP ratelimiting on connections to NNTP. ISPs are well aware that USENET will continue to consume bandwidth and it maybe on their agenda to shape such connections.

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  8. luke
    Posted Mar 3rd, 2010 at 20:03 p.m.

    I think you would be foolish not to use SSL for any connections via usenet, it doesn't slow down my connection speed one bit.

    Using the argument that there is no point is like saying, theres no point wearing a seatbelt as you're unlikely to get into an accident, one day you will and then you'll be glad you wore it. Same with SSL

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  9. Posted Mar 3rd, 2010 at 20:03 p.m.

    I spent ages trying to think of a decent analogy; that one is definitely better! Cheers.

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  10. Posted May 9th, 2011 at 20:05 p.m.

    The wealth of a soul is measured by how much it can feel; its poverty by how little.

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  11. Posted May 9th, 2011 at 20:05 p.m.

    There is no fire without smoke.

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