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"yEnc: A New Method Binary Newsgroup Encoding" 
  03/01/2002

The past few weeks we have looked at a wide range of topics related to binary newsgroups. During this time, we have looked at searching binary newsgroups to locate the files you want to download, downloading the files, decompressing them, repairing them and how to handle the files that you are finally left with. Because we have covered so many topics related to binary newsgroups, it seems fitting to cover a relatively new encoding method called yEnc that seems to be gaining some momentum in binary newsgroups.

If you are familiar with binary newsgroups, you are probably familiar with the standard UU encoded and BASE64 encoded messages that continue to be the most widely used method for encoding. While these formats are sufficient in certain situations, there are several problems that make them less than desirable for binary newsgroups: the size and resulting overhead, lack of error-checking and finally the lack of a standard where it relates to multi-part postings. We’ll look at these in some greater detail.

According to various sources, it has been suggested that there is 30% (and as much as 40%) overhead associated with the standard method of encodings. The resulting posts then required more space for storing the files on servers along with more bandwidth usage and longer download times for the end users. We have looked at PAR files which help for error correcting as a sort of “add-on" to standard encoded files. The addition of these PAR files are a great help for posts because of the second problem with standard encoding methods: a lack of error-checking. Unless PAR files are included, the lack of error-checking increases problems in binary newsgroups tremendously as files that contain errors will need to be reposted. 

Again, this increases storage requirements and download times for end users. The last problem with standard methods of encoding is a lack of a standard when it comes to multi-part postings. You may have already noticed this when you download these types of posts. You often have to search through the posts trying to determine how the poster relates these parts. This is completely up to the poster so sometimes this can be more difficult than it needs to be.

Now that you understand what is wrong with the standard methods, we’ll look at yEnc (short for yEncoded) which solves all of these problems. Instead of going through the technical aspects of why and how yEnc works (although this is important, we’re more interested in using it), we’re going to look at how you can begin using this for your posts and downloads.

First, you’ll need a tool for encoding/decoding these files. As the format has gained popularity, you can find built-in support in many newsreaders. It’s worth noting that yEnc has been released to the public domain which allows developers to gain access to the source code and easily add it to there software. These newreaders all have yEnc built-in:

Windows:
Gravity (SuperGravity): http://members.home.net/gravitypages/
NewsBin Version V4.0B22: http://www.newsbin.com
XNews: http://xnews.3dnews.net/
NovusNews: http://www.novusnews.com
Nographer: http://nographer.com
NewsPro: http://www.usenetopia.com
NewsPro: http://www.usenetpro.com
MyNews: http://www.winews.net
BNR Binary News Reader: http://www.co.jyu.fi/~ap/bnr.html
Binary Boy: http://www.binaryboy.com
TyDecoder & TyEncoder: freeware with sourcecode: http://code.blitzaffe.com/delphi/

Mac:
MT News Watcher (OS-X): http://www.smfr.org/mtnw/downloading.html
Thoth - newsreader: http://www.thothsw.com
Rosetta - decoder: http://www.thothsw.com

Linux:
BNR2: http://www.co.jyu.fi/~ap/bnr.html
yDec for LINUX - external freeware decoder source code: http://www.winews.net/yenc/
yDec for FreeBSD (Unix): http://www.winews.net/yenc/
yDec for SunOS 5.0 (and Linux): http://www.winews.net/yenc/

Web Based:
Newsguy: http://www.newsguy.com

There are probably more tools that have included (or plan to include) yEnc into their applications. If you don’t see the application you use, you can probably still utilize yEnc by using one of the external encoder/decoder applications such as TyDecoder and TyEncoder for Windows. 

This allows everyone, regardless of their newsreader, to use this new and efficient format which should benefit everyone that uses binary newsgroups. You may also notice that Newsguy supports the format via their web based newsgroup access. If you are a frequent binary newsgroup downloader, you may want to check this out as it is undoubtedly the easiest way to gain access to yEnc files.

 - by Clayton Crooks

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