giganews blog

Corporate culture, personal experiences, and unique observations about Giganews, Usenet, Newsgroups, and Usenet related technologies.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day, From Giganews

Happy Valentine's day! Today's the perfect day to share your love of Giganews with friends and family. When you refer a friend that sticks around Giganews for a month or more, we'll give you up to a free month of Usenet – whatever the value of that account is. Everybody wins!

Just log into your control panel here to email, tweet, or Facebook out to the ones you love most, anytime.

The Giganews Team

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays, From Giganews.

We would like to wish all Giganews members Happy Holidays and the best for 2015. Without all of our great members, Giganews would not be what it is today. We are honored by all of your support.

Have a wonderful holiday season,

The Giganews Team

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Giganews "For Dummies"

Giganews would like to send out a special thank you to Woody Leonhard the author of "Windows Vista Timesaving Techniques For Dummies" for mentioning Giganews in his book!

In the chapter "Technique 20: Downloading from Newsgroups" Woody states...

"I, Personally, use Giganews. It's fast. They claim 99%+ completion. Binaries stick around for 90 days or more."

(Obviously this was written before Giganews' last retention upgrades to 100 and then to 120 days.)

The chapter is one of the most comprehensive "how to" instructions on Usenet we've ever read, and is an excellent read for anyone looking to learn how to use Usenet (especially good for first time users!).

If you're running on Vista, purchase a copy of "Windows Vista Timesaving Techniques For Dummies" and check out the mention of Giganews on page 216.

Thanks Woody!

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

1 Billion Usenet Articles

As we were writing our recent announcement regarding our upgrade to 120 days retention, I was surprised to discover that our news servers were offering nearly 1 billion newsgroup articles in over 100,000 newsgroups.

This is a significant achievement for Usenet, which was originally designed to handle only a few dozen articles per day.

In Usenet's beginning there was a steady march of Usenet server software development centered on the evolving challenges of a growing community. These evolutions of server software were primarily spearheaded by graduate students working in their spare time to solve problems with matters such as naming conventions, performance, and portability.

Since the early days of Usenet, a lot of things have changed. Internet access in the developed world is commonplace, personal computers are widespread and readily available, and Usenet has grown to over 100,000 newsgroups.

Now that Usenet is a global network with countless participants, the landscape has changed. No longer will the collaborative efforts of graduate students working in their spare time solve the challenges of operating a Usenet network processing nearly a billion newsgroup articles. These challenges require significant investment, time, and experience.

Luckily for Giganews, we have a loyal customer base which allows us to focus our efforts on reinvesting in our network and technology. This investment has been used to develop a scalable, patent-pending news server software platform designed around plug and play storage upgrades.

It is this technology that allows Giganews to perform massive retention upgrades with no service interruptions. Seamless upgrades are one of the more understated things that we do at Giganews, and are something our company and our customers tend to take for granted.

Service improvements like our 120 day retention upgrade represent huge engineering challenges, but thanks to tremendous efforts by our programmers and engineers, Giganews is able to deliver these advancements with little to no impact on our service.

Now that Giganews has taken Usenet to the next level and is making Usenet more accessible than ever before, I wanted to take a second to thank our engineering staff for developing systems and technologies which allow Giganews to improve service for our customers with virtually no downtime. If you enjoy Giganews' service, post a comment on this blog post and let our engineers know how much you appreciate them!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Giganews in Cambodia

Below is a picture of Jerry from Giganews' design department with his Giganews t shirt on at the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Riep, Cambodia. Jerry snapped this photograph on his trip to Bien Hoa, Vietnam to visit family. Thanks Jerry for the cool pic!

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Accurately Measuring Usenet Retention

As you may have seen, Giganews recently announced a storage upgrade which will raise our binary retention to 100 days over the next two weeks. This got me thinking about how retention is measured and reported by various Usenet servers.

Articles on a news server are commonly stored "first in / last out". What this means is that every time a new article is posted to a Usenet system the oldest article is deleted. The oldest available article on a news server is generally what defines a news server's retention.

Some Usenet systems will also apply this "first in / last out" rule based on hierarchy.

For example, Giganews does not expire any text articles so our text retention is 1300+ days. Our binary retention (based on available storage) is 100 days. This means that it takes 100 days for a newsgroup article to drop off of our servers in the binary hierarchies.

When you're discussing a news server's retention make sure you understand exactly which hierarchy you're referencing. If you see people refer to a news server's retention based on text hierarchies then chances are they're embellishing to make the news server seem better. In reality their retention in the more challenging binary hierarchies is probably much lower.

In addition to people using text retention to embellish the quality of a news server, you'll also see some Usenet systems carry long retention rates in just a handful of newsgroups. If we use our simple definition of retention— "the oldest available article on a news server"— then this would be an accurate description of that news server's retention. Of course most people aren't going to want long retention on just a handful of newsgroups, so you could consider this misleading. Many people sign up for Giganews after using other Usenet servers which advertise long retention rates but provide those retention rates in just a couple of newsgroups.

The final thing to look out for when trying to measure retention is "invalid date headers". In some newsgroups the headers of certain articles will contain the wrong date. In the beginning of this post, I said that most news servers apply a "first in / last out" rule to newsgroups and that the oldest article on a news server defines its retention. What I didn't mention is that the "first in / last out rule" is based on article numbers (number assigned to an article based on when it is posted) and not the date displayed in the headers. This means that if an article contains a date in the header older than the retention of the news server it still may appear in the newsgroup because it hasn't been purged based on its article number.

The best measure of a news server's retention is to look at the oldest article date in *many* popular binary newsgroups. This will generally give you the best idea of the news server's retention. If you notice a few groups with longer than normal retention, the news server is either hand picking certain newsgroups to misrepresent their overall retention levels or there is an article with an invalid date header.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Alternate NNTP Usenet SSL Ports

As you may have already seen, Giganews recently announced support for 256 bit SSL encrypted Usenet access on port 443. The reason we decided to offer support for port 443 is that some customers were experiencing slow download speeds on port 563 due to port-based speed limiting on networks between their computer and Giganews.

One of the quickest ways to get around speed issues is to try switching ports. Many customers downloading on non-encrypted accounts have already found this out by switching their Usenet downloads from port 119 to port 80. This trick oftentimes quickly improves throughput rates when the source of the slowdown is port based-bandwidth limiting (networks limiting speeds on port 119).

There are two advantages to downloading Giganews' 256 bit SSL encrypted Usenet access over port 443. First, it will help you avoid port based speed limiting on port 563. Secondly, you may also avoid service-based speed limiting as your NNTP traffic is completely encrypted and running over a web-based port (port 443).

The goal of Giganews' support for port 443 is to offer our customers another path to access our encrypted Usenet service and to assist customers dealing with port based speed limits.

If you have experienced speed issues while downloading on port 563 and notice a speed improvement while downloading on port 443, please feel free to leave us a comment.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Usenet on the Go

At Giganews, we love to try all sorts of gadgets and applications to make our day a little easier. Which is why when we learned about an application that allows you to access Usenet away from your desktop/laptop using any computer and a USB thumb-drive, we were itching to try it.

How does it work?

For starters, you need to download a program called MojoPac and have access to a USB thumb-drive (my drive was a twenty dollar 1GB Memorex USB thumb-drive). Note: MojoPac will ONLY run off of flash-based removable storage devices. Also, MojoPac only works on 32-bit Windows XP based OS's, sorry Mac.

After downloading MojoPac you need to run the install and point it to your thumb-drive. MojoPac will create a profile setting for you similar to creating a new user profile in Windows XP. All of your personal settings, shortcuts and … installed programs are accessed via your MojoPac "virtual desktop" stored on the thumb-drive. Awesome!

Usenet Testing

To test Usenet access, I installed NewsBin Pro and Newsleecher from my MojoPac desktop portal on my thumb-drive, and after configuring the servers, subscribing to my favorite newsgroups and some last minute tweaking, I was browsing Usenet Newsgroups without any noticeable drop in speed or performance. Pretty cool! Better yet, all of my subscribed groups, server settings, etc, are retained every time I start my news client within MojoPac. Security isn't a problem using Giganews' SSL feature and the stealthy ability of MojoPac to secure your files apart from the host computer. After unplugging my drive, no trace of my activity was left on the host computer. That's because everything resides within my MojoPac profile stored on my thumb-drive. Simple and Powerful!

With MojoPac, access Usenet Newsgroups anywhere using any Windows XP host computer and flash-based portable USB thumb-drive, now that's cool.

If you have any suggestions or tips on unique ways of accessing Usenet, comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

SSL Can Increase Your Download Speeds

Giganews recently announced the deployment of Encrypted Usenet Access. This service enables Giganews customers to transfer all authentication, header, and article data over an SSL encrypted connection.

The obvious benefits of this service are increased security, anonymity, and privacy; however, there seems to be one more...

Securing your connection with SSL typically slows down your download speeds. The reason for this is that it takes a little bit of extra time and CPU power to encrypt and decrypt the data on each end. This extra latency in turn decreases your throughput rate; however, many of Giganews' customers are actually reporting faster download speeds.

How can this be?

SSL encryption helps beat ISP traffic shaping!

Through Giganews' newsgroups and support lists we have seen that many ISPs have implemented traffic shaping measures over the last year to curb usage on their networks.

This is typically done at the protocol or port level. For example, if your ISP wanted to curb your newsgroup usage, they could say that any traffic being transferred over the NNTP protocol on port 119 cannot exceed 500 kilobits per second per customer.

In the past the best work around for this problem was switching to port 80 (typically used for HTTP), but if your ISP is filtering on the protocol level (all NNTP traffic for example) switching to port 80 would not do you any good. Your ISP might be looking for NNTP commands and limit your connection when it sees them.

This is where SSL comes in.

Because SSL is encrypting the authentication, header, article, and protocol data passed between your computer and Giganews any protocol-based filtering measures will be ineffective. The speed difference can be very dramatic. Many Giganews customers have already commented that downloading over SSL has made a huge improvement in their Usenet performance.

If you've recently experienced slow download speeds with any NNTP based downloading (Giganews or other) which you suspect is being caused by ISP traffic shaping, try out our new encrypted Usenet service to see if you can get around it.

If you're a new customer, you can try out our 3 day free trial. If you're already an existing Giganews customer, log on to your control panel and select "Manage Service" for special offers just for you.

We're glad so many of our customers are seeing this additional benefit to our SSL service, and we're looking forward to offering even more advanced tools to improve your Giganews experience. If you have any other tips for avoiding troublesome traffic shaping, leave us a comment!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Get the inside scoop. Read Usenet.

Get the inside scoop. Read Usenet.x-title>
On episode 28 of The Science Channel's "Beyond Tomorrow" there is a segment discussing wireless security. The expert for the segment is Adam Laurie, the founder of a company called The Bunker. The episode featured a datacenter built by Adam in an old missile silo in the United Kingdom.

Adam was speaking with the host of the show regarding the original purchase of the silo. He said "They wanted to sell it (missile silo) but at the same time they wanted to keep it secret so you had to actually know it was for sale". He went on to say that he had heard about the sale of the silo after reading discussions in "Newsgroups".

Obviously, Usenet is a great source of inside information on a variety of topics. Classifieds, real estate, dating and employment newsgroups are just a few of the groups people use to gather information for use in their personal and professional lives. Adam was able to use newsgroups to get inside information on the sale of a unique facility in a way he might not have been able to through traditional sources.

For years Usenet has been a source of information you can't readily get in other mediums. On June 5th, 1991, Kelly Goen posted the first release of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) on Usenet on behalf of PGP's developer, Philip Zimmermann. As you may know, PGP was a huge breakthrough in digital security and was available via the Usenet community before any other widely used medium.

Whether people are using newsgroups to share information on the availability of unique facilities or to find a new job, there are countless ways to participate in the Usenet community to improve your personal or professional life.

What are some of the ways you've been able to use information from text newsgroups to purchase something unique, get a job, or otherwise get information you might not have been able to get through more traditional sources?

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Newsgroups, Grupos de noticias, Nieuwsgroepen, Groupes de discussion

We were reviewing some of the comments on our last blog post Newsgroups vs. Usenet and we were reminded of a question we've been asking ourselves for the last 3 months or so….

"What do people who speak languages other than English use to reference Usenet related terms?"

Listed below is a breakdown of several popular Usenet related terms and the terms provided by our translation company. Are these accurate? Do you just use the English version? Feel free to comment with your thoughts….

French – groupe de discussion
German – newsgroup
Dutch – nieuwsgroep
Spanish – grupo de noticias

French – groupes de discussion
German – newsgroups
Dutch – nieuwsgroepen
Spanish – grupos de noticias

News Server
French – serveur de nouvelles
German – nachrichten server
Dutch – nieuwsserver
Spanish – servidor de noticias

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Newsgroups vs. Usenet

When I first started working at Giganews a question quickly rose to the top of my mind. Which is used more, the word Usenet or the word Newsgroups? This kind of information can come in handy when writing articles or descriptions about Giganews to people unfamiliar with the technology so I decided to take a closer look.

According to Giganews' own marketing data Usenet is definitely the clear leader. Listed below is the percentage of time Usenet was searched for compared to the overall search data for Usenet and newsgroups.

Searches for Usenet
2003 - 52.35%
2004 - 67.95%
2005 - 55.15%
2006 - 53.25%

So why would people use the word Usenet more often than the word newsgroups? I believe there are two primary reasons.

Wikipedia® defines Newsgroup(s) as "a repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages posted from many users at different locations. The term is somewhat confusing, because it is usually a discussion group. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forums on the World Wide Web."

In this definition we see the fundamental problem with the word newsgroups. In many people's eyes the word newsgroups can be confused with web based applications like forums and discussion boards. Services like Google Groups and Yahoo! Groups which provide a blended mix of text newsgroups and their own "create your own" groups which are not NNTP based further confuse the issue.

Since full access Usenet services like Giganews are far more popular than text only newsgroup services the word Usenet seems to be a more natural choice when referencing the technology.

Another reason for Usenet's dominance may be a communication issue. I’ve been to many conferences representing Giganews and from time to time you run across someone who says “What does Giganews do?”. When I respond with “Newsgroup services for individuals and ISPs” they quickly respond with “I know what newsgroups are. I read CNN® all the time!”

Obviously some people are trying to infer meaning from the word “newsgroups” that isn’t there, so perhaps a communication problem has created a shift to the more specific reference “Usenet”.

In any case, it seems like Usenet is clearly more popular and may be a more descriptive term when referencing the NNTP network. This is especially true as web based text newsgroup applications further dilute the definition of what exactly a newsgroup is.

Which term do you reference when you talk about Usenet?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Giganews' first blog post!

Welcome to the Giganews blog. This is a corporate blog set up to keep our customers up to date on everything going on at Giganews. We’ll be posting on our own experiences using Giganews and other Usenet related technologies.

Take advantage of our RSS/Atom feeds and social bookmarking features to keep up to date and spread the word.

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