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Is yEnc A Dirty Word? 27 March 2002 Edition
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When most people talk about the Internet, they're referring to popular services such as the web or email -- but there's a lot more to the Net than this.

One of the most popular net-based services is usenet, sometimes referred to as internet newsgroups.

Much like the BBSs (bulletin board systems) that were so popular before the Net came to prominence, these systems are a public forum in which people can post public messages that will be distributed (usually world-wide) so that others can read and respond to them in the same way.

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It's quite surprising however, just how many people don't even know that usenet exists -- which is a great shame, since there are now well over 30,000 different newsgroups to choose from and they are now readily accessible through the web.

While most people use usenet to engage in discussions on topics as diverse as Appalachian literature through to windsurfing.

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    One very popular block of newsgroups are the "alt.binaries" and they contain binary information such as games, graphic images (yes, including porn), music and movies (including pirated stuff), etc. (note: your ISP's news-server may not have all these groups).

    Unfortunately, because usenet has its origins way-back when the Net was far more primitive than it is today, such binary files had to be converted into text before they could be transmitted using this system.

    To date, two systems have been widely used to enable this conversion of binary files to and from text for the purpose of including them in a usenet posting. Those systems are referred to as uuencoding and Base64 encoding.

    One unfortunate side-effect of this conversion has been that the size of the text created from binary data is significantly larger than the original file -- and that has meant that usenet binaries download slowly and consume huge amounts of server space.

    Thanks to advances in the infrastructure of the Net, it is now possible to store binary data using a new alternative to uuencoding/Base64 -- a system called yEncoding.

    Unfortunately, not all newsreader software (the programs you and I use to access newsgroups) can handle this new method, and that's creating a real bunfight in the binaries newsgroups.

    Those whose software does support yEnc are praising its ability to cut download sizes by 33%, while those without it are bitching about the fact that they can't make sense of yEnc files.

    And then again, some dial-up users have noticed that despite the fact that the encoded files are smaller, they take just as long to download because it the effectiveness of the built-in data compression provided by most modems is somewhat reduced by the more dense data.

    The fight will eventually die down with yEnc looking set to replace the older standards in the very near future -- and in the meantime, the porn, pirated music and "warez" (pirated software) continues to flow like water through usenet.

    Have your say.

    Aardvark's Garage Sale
    It's time to clear out the closet here at Aardvark's country residence so I'm having a bit of a garage sale. I need to spend a whole lot more time and money on my jet engine R&D activities (now that the defense industry has shown a very real interest) -- so I'm trying to scrape up some more cash.

    First up -- I'm selling my pulsejet manufacturing business. This would be perfect for either a semi-retired engineer/machinist who wants to earn some pretty good money building these things and exporting them to the world -- or an established engineering shop who want to break into a new (very export oriented) market. I can provide an ongoing stream of orders through my website and since I've run out of time to meet the demand, the sale will include a growing "waiting list" of new customers ready to place their orders.

    Second up -- I've still got 30,000 7am.com shares (representing about 30% of the company) that I'm looking to unload. I'm afraid I can't offer much information on the state of the company -- they haven't spoken with me for ages so it's a bit of a pig in a poke. However, they survived the most critical part of the dot-com crash and are now claiming to have nearly 250,000 websites in their ticker network so that's got to be worth something. Any sale would be subject to other shareholders exercising their preferential rights -- but all offers will be considered.

    Thirdly -- I have an RC model helicopter here that I have built but never flown. It's a Robbe Mosquito Basic with a JR X-3810 radio, JR piezo gyro, OS46FSH engine and a Dave Brown flight simulator. Everything was purchased brand-new a couple of years ago and is in pristine condition (having spent all that time in a box in the storeroom). Since I haven't had any time to fly it in the past two years I figure there's little chance I'll find time to fly it in the next two years, so out it goes.

    Anyone interested in any of these things should drop me a line.

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