There are things on Usenet that you want to download regularly. Doing so is a time-consuming chore that'd be better accomplished through automation. This guide aims to show you how.
The problem with Usenet is that, even with the requisite utilities, you still find yourself manually extracting RAR files, applying PAR2 files to regenerate missing chunks, and then disposing of all the compressed/encoded files after extracting your media file. Not to mention seeking out and downloading every episode of everything you want to download. It's not for the faint of heart.
Here's where it gets awesome, though. There's a free, open-source application called SABnzbd+, available for every platform, that does all that for you. Even awesomer, it can monitor RSS feeds and watch for user-defined strings in the filenames to facilitate the automatic downloading, unpacking, repairing, renaming and moving of files into your media library with zero intervention on the user's part. After setting up SABnzbd, the content you want to download is magically downloaded FOR you, with no intervention on your part. This is the future, and it is AWESOME.
To get started with your magical new life of automatic content delivery, you first need a Usenet account. And, you're probably going to want a 'premium' account, meaning that you'll have to spend some money every month. There are many different options when choosing premium Usenet providers, but I recommend Giganews. They even have a free trial, allowing you to see how awesome this whole thing can be. You can sign up for your free trial by clicking the nifty banner below. (We'll supposedly get referral credit or something if you end up being a paying customer.)
The next thing you need to do is install SABnzbd on a computer in your household. On Mac/Windows it's a super-easy installer, and it runs using a web interface rather than a GUI. Upon installation you'll need to specify the username/password for your Giganews (or other Usenet provider) in the Config tab.
The next stop is giving SABnzbd one or more RSS feeds to monitor looking for things to download. There are many different options for sites that provide RSS feeds of nzb files. A quick Google search can help you find one that has the type of content you're looking for. Once you add a feed, you can enter in names/words in filenames to either 'accept' or 'reject.' SABnzbd will then periodically check the rss feed, and when it finds an nzb that matches your rules, it queues it for download.
You then configure the Folders option to specify where you want finished downloads to end up. That's really all there is to it. Now your computer will periodically check any configured RSS feeds for things it should download, and when it finds something, it just does. And then it decompresses, repairs (if necessary), and then gets rid of the compressed stuff. No muss, no fuss. Set it and forget it.
An average 360meg file downloads in about 2 and a half minutes. But you don't care how fast it is because it'll just be there waiting for you automatically.
An added perk, is the SABnzbd Firefox extension , which gives you a constant indicator of things that are downloading, right in your browser's status bar -- and also the ability to click on any nzb file from any nzb search engine and have SABnzbd automagically start downloading it, even if you're surfing from a different computer than SABnzbd is running on. Very awesome.
UPDATE: I've now written an app for Android phones that will allow you to queue nzb files on your SABnzbd installation: NZBdroid
Few things have excited me as much recently as that of the OLPC project. Since last we talked about it, I've donated another to the efforts. This means that I'll have two of them to play with, which I figure is essential to seeing how the mesh networking functions. I also figure that when the nerds begin doing really awesome things with them, people who are kicking themselves for not having the foresight to have gotten in on the ground floor may suddenly be willing to pay considerably more for them than those of use who donated did. This, of course, comes after the joy of knowing that I've helped two kids get one.
Before I get into trying again to explain just how awesome the project is -- despite all the negative attention the press, Intel, Microsoft, John Dvorak, and Digg commenters have been lavishing upon it -- I've a couple links for you.
First up, from the BBC: A child's view of the $100 laptop. In that story a virtually computer-illiterate 9-year-old in the UK gets his hands on an OLPC and talks about all the things he was able to do with it WITHOUT HELP from an adult. And how fun and creativity-inspiring it is, despite the abundance of video gaming systems he owns. Now imagine a 9-year-old kid who has never had an electronic device before, and now suddenly has one that can help bolster creativity in many, many ways. Remember how cool it was when you first exchanged instant messages with people from all over the world via your computer? Now imagine being able to do that from your bug-laden tent, and being able to get skills and contacts that might be able to get you out of the dirt into a job in a more technological world at some point in the future. I just don't see how people can bad-mouth the amazing thing the OLPC people are doing.
Next: for those of you that've donated to the project and are anxiously awaiting the shipment of yours, I learned that the OLPC is maintaining a delivery estimate on their site without prominently linking to it. Click on over to Give One Get One Shipping Information to see when you can expect to get yours. (My first one is in batch two; my second is in batch 3.)
On to my excitement. Remember in Orson Scott Card's novel "Ender's Game," the futuristic space-school where the students' textbooks and assignments were all on digital tablet-thingies, with which they could communicate amongst their peers via text chat and email whilst working on said assignments from their living areas? And how they could play learning games to help them unlock what's inside themselves while having fun? I would have killed to have something like that when I was in grade school and actively wished for such a thing a little later in life. Now, thanks to the work of many individuals who came together under the OLPC initiative, kids in some of the worst parts of the world are going to have EXACTLY THAT -- minus the zero-gravity and attacking aliens, natch.
If you want to help one of these kids have something nice in their otherwise unpleasant-seeming (to this westerner, anyway) life, you can still donate to the project over at laptopgiving.org. If you donate before December 31st, you'll be able to get one yourself. This helps in two ways: the Give One portion puts one of these laptops into a kids hands, while the Get One part helps increase the production quantities. This helps makes things easier and cheaper for the manufacturer, which means it's good for everyone involved. $200 of the $399 cost is tax-deductable (here in America, anyway), and I'm confident that post-Dec. 31st you'll be able to recoup the rest by selling it to some other nerd -- assuming, of course, that you won't find a tiny, low-power, uber-portable eBook reader/word processor/email/drawing/web-surfing machine useful yourself. (If you're outside of America, you will require a US postal address to get one. If you're otherwise interested in participating but don't have such an address, drop me a line and I bet we could work something out.)