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Quick Question about Newsgroups

Discussion in 'Windows - P2P software' started by mv10, Jul 21, 2007.

  1. mv10

    mv10 Member

    Jan 7, 2007
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    I know how to use them and used them, but I always wondered how it worked. Who am I downloading from and how "safe" is it compared to a bittorrent, for example.
  2. Indochine

    Indochine Regular member

    Dec 21, 2006
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    Newsgroups are decentralized, which means that the messages are not maintained on a single server, but are replicated to thousands of servers around the world.

    You connect to a Usenet server that you have an account with. This might be a server run by your ISP or a commercial one such as GigaNews.

    Here's what happens when you access a newsgroup:

    1. Your newsreader, using NNTP, connects to the news server designated in your configuration. Typically, the news server's connection information is provided to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If your ISP does not have a news server, you can refer to a list of publicly accessible news servers.

    2. Once the connection is established, your newsreader downloads all of the new messages posted in the newsgroups that you are subscribed to.

    3. You read through the messages and decide to reply to a couple. You also decide to start a new thread with a post of your own.

    4. Your newsreader sends your messages to the news server. (If it's an offline newsreader, it must first reconnect to the news server via NNTP).

    5. The news server saves your messages in the file for that newsgroup. Newsgroup files are large text files, meaning that each new message is simply appended to the end of the text file. As the file reaches a certain size, or after a certain length of time, the messages at the beginning of the file are removed and placed in a newsgroup-archive text file.

    6. The news server connects to one or more other news servers using NNTP (or UUCP) and sends the updated information. Each news server compares its own file for the newsgroup with the files it receives for that same newsgroup. It adds any differences that it finds -- this is important, because if the news server simply saved the received file over the one it already had, it would lose any messages posted to it during the update. By comparing the files, it can extract the new messages and add them to the file it has, without losing any new postings. The news server then sends the combined file to the other news servers.

    7. The newsgroup changes are replicated to each news server until all of them have the updated information. This process is ongoing, and most large newsgroups change so quickly that the updating is virtually continuous.

    8. Other subscribers read your messages, plus all the others posted since the last time they looked at the newsgroup, and reply.

    9. You see their replies and new messages, and the process repeats.

    I am not sure what you mean by "safe". As with anything on the internet, if someone wants to find you, it is technically possible.


    To read an article in a newsgroup, your newsreader connects to the server and requests the article. The server can see which host this request comes from. It must know that to send the data back, after all. It could therefore keep a log file of which user requested which article. Is this realistic? Not really. There are so many people using a news server, and there are so many articles retrieved during one day that any log file which keeps track of users and articles would be way too large for anything useful. Unless there is a real pressing need to find out the reading habits of a particular user, this is not likely to be done. Unless that particular user was ***already*** being suspected by law enforcement agencies or the RIAA, for various reasons, including...


    Unless you use an anonymous remailer to post, every message you post contains your real name and address. If you fill in a fake value in your newsreader's configuration menu, there are still enough traces inserted by your server to make it possible to trace the message back to you. Even if outside users may not be able to find out your real name, the server's sysadmin most certainly is.

    Usenet is traditionally seen as a public medium, so you shouldn't post to Usenet if you want it to remain private.

    This means that if you upload something legally dubious, whether it be illegal pornography, copyright material, or information likely to be useful to criminals or terrorists, someone, somewhere, will probably notice it, and may decide to pay more attention to you in future. If you post a request in a binary group the same thing could happen.

    I am not just talking about government agencies such as police and intelligence organisations. Usenet is patrolled by self-appointed "vigilantes" who, for example, will report uploaders to their ISP. This might result in prosecution or account cancellation, depending on the severity of the infraction. Child porn? Bomb making instructions? Almost certainly. That latest Dixie Chicks album or that new game or Hollywood movie? Quite possibly. I'm talking about uploading here.

    "Historically, the RIAA have targeted those who share, not those who download," said Toby Lewis of MusicAlly, a digital music consultancy that advises the record industry on technology issues. "So, yes, technically it could be 'safer' for people to download from Usenet."

    So to get mp3s or whatever, Usenet is probably "safer" than peer to peer systems like Bit Torrent, where your IP address is easily discoverable without the need to subpoena your ISP. You are "sharing", that is, uploading, so they already have you for uploading as well as downloading.

    [legal stuff]

    Of course, discussing pirating or downloading illegal material of any kind is strongly discouraged by the rules of this forum, and you shouldn't do it, and I am presenting these remarks to you for information purposes only.

    [/legal stuff]


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