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"Introduction to Binary Newsgroups: Downloading and Decompressing" 

In the previous binary newsgroup tutorial, we looked at how to locate the files you want to download using various tools on the Internet. Now that you know how to locate them, we’ll go over how to download and decompress them so that you can use them on your PC.

The first step is to decide if you are using a newsreader or if you’ll be downloading files from a web based interface such as the one offered by Newsguy. If you are planning to use a newsreader, you probably already have one installed on your PC. Both Netscape and Internet Explorer come with free newsgroup readers. They will suffice for many needs, but there are also many third party applications that offer additional features than they offer.

The popular software third party applications include Forte Free Agent, Gravity, NewsXpress, Tin (rtin), NewsWatcher, WinVN, MacSoup, Nuntius and Xnews. Although they are all good general purpose news readers, there is a package called NewsShark that works extremely well for binary newsgroup downloads. Depending on your software, downloading a binary attachment will require different steps. If you don’t understand how to use your particular software, please refer to its documentation.

Once you have a newsreader that is configured and you know how to find the binary attachments located in the various newsgroups, the next step is to save them to your computer where they will most often need to be uncompressed. When a file is uploaded, it is often compressed into a single smaller file and then split up into many smaller files. This saves upload and download times, which helps everyone involved. The problem is that these files need to be recombined and uncompressed to get the original single large file back. For instance, if a 3 MB file is uploaded, it might be compressed into a 2.5 MB file and then divided into several files that are each 500KB.

There are many types of programs that can be used to compress the files and split them up, but two of them dominate the binary newsgroups: RAR and ACE. In the above example, you might download several files that are named clip.rar, clip.r01, clip.r02, clip.r03 and clip.r04. The .RAR and .RXX extensions immediately inform you that it was RAR that was used. To recombine them, you can use Winrar (www.rarsoft.com) to put them back together and then uncompress them so that you can use them. If you had download files that read clip.ace, clip.c01, clip.c02, etc. you would have known that it was ACE (www.winace.com) that was used. They are similar enough that we can mention their functionality at the same time.

After downloading and installing the respective software, you will double-click either the clip.ace or clip.rar file which will open the files in the appropriate program. Next, you can click the Extract To button which will prompt you for a location to save the decompressed file. That’s really all there is to it. The file will be created in the directory you give when prompted and then you can use it like the original file. In the next article in the series, we’ll look at how you can repair damaged files that have been uploaded (which happens regularly).

 - by Clayton Crooks

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