How do I newsgroups?

Newsgroups are a pretty great part of my life. They are very high performance, secure, relatively inexpensive, and reliable. The terminology and technology working in the background is different, but for those familiar with torrents, the process is virtually identical. Let’s get started.

1. Premium Usenet Provider

First, you’ll need a premium usenet provider. If you do a google search for “usenet provider” you’ll get a bazillion results. You’ll also see hits for sites that compare different providers and different plans so you can pick one that best suits your needs. I’m signed up with Astraweb. I got in on their “special” (includes SSL) which has been around for what seems like forever. I didn’t do a whole lot of research before signing up with them, just went with the recommendation of one of my best friends who was already a subscriber. He had been with Astraweb for a while and had zero complaints. Same from me. I’ve had more issues with ISP’s than I’ve had with my usenet provider. Get billed every month through paypal, easy as pie. Think of a subscription to a premium usenet provider as your access to newsgroups. I realize the concept of paying for something might seem inconceivable to many people, but, as I’ve said before, its incredibly fast (as fast as your internet connection), secure, and probably has what you’re looking for 95% of the time.

2. Client

Second, you’ll need a client. Just like with torrents, you had uTorrent or Transmission to handle your .torrent files, newsgroups follow a similar process. It goes like this: Download .nzb file from newsgroup search site (like binsearch.info, for example), open .nzb file in client, content gets downloaded. Think about what it was like with torrrents: get the torrent file, open torrent file in client, content gets downloaded. The process is exactly the same. SABnzbd+ is my favorite client. Cross platform, reliable, and very customizable. It wasn’t the client I started with, but it’s definitely my personal favorite now. The way it runs is a little different than how many people might expect an app to run. For most people, when you double click on an app, stuff pops up on the screen. SABnzbd+ isn’t like that. It runs as a daemon in the background, and you interact with it through the browser (localhost:8080 is the default address). During setup, SABnzbd+ allows you to advertise the service on your local network. This lets you manipulate SABnzbd+ from other computers on your home network (or beyond if you forward the port on your router). There are also some really awesome plugins for Chrome and Firefox that let you interact with SABnzbd+ as well. These plugins add functionality to search sites like binsearch.info and nzbsrus that grab nzbs directly. I didn’t use those extensions for a long time, but I’m definitely glad I do now. Those extensions make the newsgroup experience even better.

3. Search Engine

Third, you need a place to get .nzb files from. I first signed up with a paid search engine, nzbsrus. Why would you pay for a search engine? I’ll tell you. Go to binsearch.info and search for metallica. A little confusing and chaotic to say the least. Nzbsrus (and other premium newsgroup search engines) provide things like categories, comments, and handy features. I’m not sure if they’re still doing it, but I paid for a “lifetime” (10 year) subscription for $10 bucks. Entries are uploaded to nzbsrus by members, so if its on nzbsrus, whatever you get is probably (definitely) going to be what you intended to get. As you gain more experience with newsgroups, binsearch.info gets easier to use. Binsearch.info is EVERYTHING that’s on newsgroups, nzbsrus and other premium search engines are a subset of that. I use it like this: I check nzbsrus first, if I can’t find it there, then I’ll check binsearch.info.

So, long story short: Get a newsgroup account with a premium usenet provider, get a client, definitely consider getting an account with a premium search site (trust me), and have at!

I’ll talk more about newsgroups in future posts.  If you have any questions, hit me up.

Recommended App: MarsEdit

I’m writing this post using a program called MarsEdit.  MarsEdit is a weblog publishing utility.  This is handy for me because the WordPress interface is pretty beefy and my old PowerBookG4 struggles a little bit with big websites like that.  MarsEdit doesn’t have a huge processor/RAM footprint.  Give it a shot.
Also, PureMac is an awesome site.  I found out about it a very long time ago, and I’m happy to see that it’s still up.  It’s a great resource for people who are new to the Apple fold that aren’t sure what apps to get.  Old school lookin, but I always find myself back there for something or other.

Zork is hard and confusing, revisiting “Themes for an Imaginary Film”,and “Pump Up the Volume”

So I played Zork for a little bit…  and stopped.  I managed to get underneath a house and kill a troll and pick up some stuff and get hella lost.  Maps are very helpful for text adventures, by the way. I get how to move around and pick stuff up, but I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to do.  Perhaps I just need to keep playing it and the plot (?) will present itself.  Another reason why I might have gotten frustrated by it is because I was playing it on my iPhone in Frotz.  Typing on the iPhone can be rather tedious.  I haven’t made it that far in the game, and one thing that I’ve realized is that playing through the same text adventure again goes really fast, so perhaps I can start again on my laptop or something.

In the mean time, I’m listening to “Themes for an Imaginary Film.”  Its pretty great and you should definitely check it out.  Don’t expect four to the floor dance intensity, as its more feaux italo driving soundscapy ambient kind of stuff.  RA says it better.  If you like it you can purchase the album for the low low (low) price of $8.

Lit the fire tonight, so that was fun.  No that’s not a pun, I actually have a fireplace.

Also, I watched a great documentary about the history of house music, called “Pump Up the Volume”.  If you’re a clubhead or want to learn more about that repetitive music you hear at the club, or if you question whether dance music existed before dubstep, watch this film, its pretty great.

Frotz

Frotz is a free interactive fiction app for the iPhone.  I just played through Photopia on it just to test it out, and it works quite well.  If you happen to get the free app, go to Settings > Getting Started.  Getting started has “New to Interactive Fiction?” and “No, Really, Where Do I Start?” sections that are very readable and highly informative.  It’s a great solution for people wishing to enjoy IF on the go, and for those wanting to get their feet wet in IF.

Frotz

Finished Photopia

Well I just finished Photopia…  I think I got it?  I suppose since I haven’t read much lately so I don’t read that well?  I mean I can read Engadget and Autoblog posts, but this is a different kind of reading.  Throw in the chopped up nature of Photopia’s story and the fact that I’ve never played an IF before…  I had to play it again to get a better gist of the story.

For those of you wanting to play the game, know that the game is VERY short.  It’s more fiction than interactive (I can’t take credit for that), so it’s not even really that much of a game (virtually no puzzles).

From the reviews that I’ve read, this is a gem in the genre of interactive fiction.  As this is the first piece of IF I’ve read, I don’t have any basis for comparison.  It’s sort of like Memento (the movie) in terms of choppiness, except perhaps more so, because you are different characters throughout the story…  so…  maybe take notes?

I think that if you’re an avid reader, this story probably won’t be lost on you, even if it is your first IF.  To a certain extent I kind of wish that I had more IF’s under my belt because I might have enjoyed it more.  At any rate, it’s very short, but there’s a LOT to it.  It doesn’t have the reputation it has for no reason.

Get it here.

Interactive Fiction Intro

Inspired by the film Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary (watch), I decided I wanted to play one of these games.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have started playing Photopia.  However, I thought I would post some links that may be useful to someone wishing to know more about the genre of interactive fiction and text based adventures.

Brass Lantern

The Interactive Fiction Archive

The Interactive Fiction Wiki

Baf’s Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive

IFDB

All of these sites have a wealth of information about interactive fiction.  As I’m so new to the scene, I’m still getting a feel for what’s where and such.  The beginners guides that I have read so far are on Brass Lantern.

Two documentaries for really nerdy people

I’ve watched a couple of documentaries recently by a guy named Jason Scott.  The first one, Get Lamp: The Text Adventure DocumentaryI had seen before.  Its about text-based adventures, which is a form of interactive fiction.  The genre was largely killed off with the proliferation of graphical video games, but, as you can tell from the documentary, text based adventure games are no less immersive.  In fact, I’ve actually started playing one called Photopia.  It was written by Adam Cadre, an IF author interviewed in the documentary.  I’ll post more about that as I progress further in the game.

Prior to making Get Lamp, Jason Scott made a multi-part documentary about BBSs called BBS: The Documentary.  It’s kind of long, but very very good.  I have embedded part 1 in this post, to view the other parts, click here.

BBSs were popular before the World Wide Web became the de facto means of communication between computers (and between the people who used them).  BBSs enabled people to communicate with other people using their computer, a modem, a telephone line, and a BBS on the other end.  Since users connected to BBSs by dialing into it, and long distance phone calls were expensive, most users of a particular BBS tended to reside in a small geographic area around the BBS (the size of an area code for example, or even smaller).  This created a strong sense of community among users of a BBS.

We take computer-computer communication for granted nowadays with the internet and world wide web, but there was a time when that was not the case.  There were a multitude of computer companies vying for supremacy, those computers were very expensive, and their functionality was limited.  Despite this, people did buy them, and they did all sorts of amazing things with them.  We don’t really think about it nowadays, but at the time, the future of computers wasn’t a given; nobody was exactly sure where this whole computer thing was going to go, and you can absolutely get the sense that it was a VERY exciting time to be alive and active in that community.

I wont ruin it, but the documentary portrays a very unique culture.  This culture and these communities grew out of cutting edge technology and met its demise before it reached fruition.  Almost as soon as the internet came out and was accessible by the majority of the public, BBS activity plummeted.  There are very few BBSs that still exist today, and had it not been for the documentary that Jason Scott made, the history of BBS culture and the communities that grew out of BBSs would be lost.

The focus of the documentary is less about the technology, and more about the people and communities that grew out of it.

Here we go again

I reformatted the iMac so I’m starting over.  Not a big deal because I didn’t have much content anyway.

I was debating over whether I should use iWeb or WordPress as the homepage creator thingy.  iWeb has a really sexy interface and can do lots of stuff.

My main beef with iWeb is that whatever computer I use to write pages/create content/do anything, that data is local to that computer, then uploaded to the iMac.  I have multiple computers that I use on a regular basis.  I use my desktop, which is a triple boot machine (running OS X, Windows 7 Pro, and Debian), and my laptop.

WordPress doesn’t depend on local content as everything is on the computer that WordPress is running on.  It doesn’t matter which computer I want to create content on in the case of WordPress because there is no local content.

So, WordPress it is.