Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This

Newsgroups–MP3s the Hard Way

There is another way in which the wily hunter might track down the elusive MP3 song. This is using the newsreader built into your Internet browser. In a nutshell, this is a primitive way to get MP3s or any other type of file. Newsgroups, which communicate over a worldwide network called Usenet, are a leftover from the earlier days of the Internet when it was entirely text-based and its primary use was the exchange of notes, messages, and other information that could be expressed by the alphabet, numerals, and ordinary punctuation.

MP3 Fiend provides Billboard magazine's latest charts for rock, rhythm and blues, rap, country, dance, and adult contemporary songs.

The "news" part of the name is a misnomer. They are really message groups–electronic bulletin boards where everyone reads and replies to everyone else's messages. Each new message can start a thread, which is a linked string of answers and replies. Each newsgroup has a specialized area of common interest. For example, alt.binaries.sounds.mp3 is a newsgroup devoted to MP3s. The topics can get endlessly specific, such as alt.sounds.mp3.80s.billyidol.albumsonly. The "alt" means alternative, but not alternative music. Instead, it describes a type of newsgroup that doesn't have all the rules and moderation that other newsgroups have. Binaries tells you to expect to find binary files–non-text files that include computer-readable-only data, such as MP3 files, graphics, or software. You can find newsgroups on practically any subject. It's not unusual for a news server, where the messages physically reside, to have 50,000 topics going at the same time.

Although news servers are designed to handle text only, someone figured out how to use newsgroups to distribute binary files, which use codes other than those that represent the alphabet. The trick to distributing MP3s via newsgroups is to translate binary codes into combinations of alphanumeric characters. The result, when you open such a message, looks like nonsense to us, but a computer on the receiving end easily converts the gibberish into usable code or data.

Versatility

I don't want to give the impression that newsgroups are used only for distributing bootleg Britney Spears songs. They're also used to distribute nude Britney Spears photos–or at least pix that make that claim–along with other, more genuinely raunchy stuff.

If this seems a roundabout way of doing things, you're right. The advantage of newsgroups is that you can leave a message asking for some obscure song, and someone else with your weird tastes in music, just to be nice, might post the song there. This would probably all be very touching if fundamentally we weren't talking about violating federal law. With the exception of some MP3s from bands, such as the Grateful Dead, which encourage taping of their concerts and so fall into a legal limbo, you can be certain that any popular song you find posted on a newsgroup is illegal.

Not that I care. I'm just going to show you how to find MP3s in newsgroups. In the next chapter, you'll see how to download and decode them. Then you're on your own.

Finding News Servers

If you haven't set up any newsgroups before, that's your first job. When you signed up for Internet service, whoever's providing that service should have told you the name of its network news transfer protocol (NNTP) server and whether you need to log on and use a password to get to it. There are three types of news servers:

Free News Servers aren't necessarily free by intention. These are often servers that have been configured incorrectly so that they don't require usernames and passwords. Other servers are free intentionally, but might allow you to only read messages, not post them.

Commercial News Servers charge a subscription fee monthly, quarterly, or yearly. In return, they provide faster service, more reliability, and a wider range of newsgroups than do public servers.

Web-Based News Servers have integrated the drab text of traditional news servers with the graphic look of a Web page. Messages are easier to navigate using the ol' point-and-click. Deja, at deja.com, has done the best job of civilizing newsgroups.

Even if you already have a news server, you can tap into others. Not all news servers have the same contents. This means that if you can't find the song you want in one server's newsgroups, maybe you can find it in another's. To find some news servers that will let you hitch a ride, go to http://www.newsservers.net/ and click on the Servers tab. Then scroll on down past the text and click on Complete List of Free News Servers. Or, just go directly to http://www.newsservers.net/news_servers/complete.html. (Another good site is http://usenet.startshere.net/.) You'll see a list similar to the one shown in Figure 3.9. The list of free connections at Free Usenet Servers includes the numerical name of the site in the xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx. format, followed by the site's text name. For example, the first listing in this screen–128.230.129.221 (dp-news.maxwell.syr.edu)–identifies an open server at Syracuse University. The list also gives you information about the site so you can determine if the site is fast enough, big enough, and stable enough for you to link to.

Figure 3.9 News servers. Whether you use a news server associated with your Internet provider or one of the publicly, if unintentionally, free servers, you must add the server to your newsreader. Many newsreaders are available as shareware. We're going to stick with one that comes with Windows in the form of Outlook Express, which also handles email.

Outlook Express–not Outlook, which is a more powerful program that comes with Microsoft Office–provides a Wizard that steps you through the process. Launch Outlook, click the Tools menu, and choose Accounts. In the Internet Accounts dialog box that pops up, click the News tab. You'll be presented with a list of any news servers to which you've already created links. To add a new news server, click the Add button and then News.

This starts up the Internet Connection Wizard. Most likely, the wizard will already have the first two items it presents for you to fill in: your display name and email address. Change them if you want to be more mysterious. The third wizard screen asks you to type the name of your Internet News (NNTP) server. Fill in the name you received from your Internet provider or one that you've found in a list of free news servers. The name you type will look something like that in Figure 3.10. Don't check the box about requiring a password unless you've been told to by your Internet service provider.

Figure 3.10 News wizard. You're not limited to only your Internet provider's news servers. There are others, and they're free for the picking.

Click Next and then Finish. The wizard sends you back to the Internet Accounts dialog, where the news server will have freshly appeared on the list of accounts. The name of the newly added server also appears in the menu on the left side of Outlook Explorer's main screen.

Close the Internet Accounts dialog box. Because you haven't used that news server before, you're asked if you'd like to download newsgroups. Yes, you would. In a few moments, Outlook Express displays a Newsgroup Subscription list that starts off much like the list in Figure 3.11, where newsgroups named with numbers have been sorted to the top of the list. Page down through the list a couple of screens just to get an idea of what it's like. Each one of the items in the list is a separate newsgroup, filled with messages and replies on whatever topic is suggested by the newsgroup's name. Newsgroups are organized into subject hierarchies, with the first few letters of the newsgroup name indicating the major subject category. Major subject categories are news, rec (recreation), soc (society), sci (science), and comp (computers). The names of sub-categories are separated by dots.

Figure 3.11 Newsgroup subscriptions. When Outlook Express's Internet Connection Wizard prompts you, enter the name of a news server to which you want access.

With tens of thousands of newsgroups, you need to narrow down the list by typing "mp3" in the box beneath the instruction "Display newsgroups which contain:". Checking the box to the right, "Also search descriptions" will be more thorough in dredging up groups associated with MP3, but it greatly increases the time the search takes. Most of the time, you can safely leave it unchecked. That way, it takes Outlook no time at all to display a shorter list in which every entry has "mp3" somewhere in its name, like these examples:

alt.binaries.mp3

alt.binaries.mp3.bootlegs

alt.binaries.mp3.macast.skins_plugins

alt.binaries.mp3.throttle.news.and.piss.off.sabrina

alt.binaries.mp3.zappa

alt.binaries.mpeg.mp3

alt.binaries.music.mp3

alt.binaries.remixes.mp3

alt.binaries.smash_pumpkins.MP3

alt.binaries.sounds.1940s.mp3

alt.binaries.sounds.1950s.mp3

If a newsgroup sounds interesting, double-click it to subscribe.

On my computer, as I'm writing this, the complete MP3 list contains 286 newsgroups, with a variety that runs from Beatles to bluegrass, jazz to ninja, acid rock to gospel.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020