The alt.binaries.sounds.anime Site
 

Unofficial FAQ for alt.binaries.sounds.anime

This is the unofficially Frequently Asked Questions list (with answers) for the usenet newsgroup alt.binaries.sounds.anime which will be called ABSA from here on. It hopes to help those who are new to this group (so-called newbie's) to learn what this group is about and what to expect. It also includes certain guidelines its users should abide by to ensure the best possible user experience for all involved. It can also be used by the more veteran user as a reference. The technical aspects are kept to a minimum to reach the biggest group of people. The links section includes links to more technical, detailed FAQs and pages.

Initial draft: 17 April 2001
Written by: Onakra
Rewrite of most sections of the FAQ: 19 December 2003.
Linkcheck: 23 May 2004.

Various contributions and ideas by (in alphabetical order, sorry if I missed your name here): Hug, Maestro, S^2, Rob Maxwell, SD Maruko-kun, Shadowkin, StarJammer, Squared Root, user.

This FAQ will be updated whenever necessary and all remarks, suggestions and contributions are appreciated. It's very Windows oriented and specifics for other operating systems like Linux, Mac, etc. are welcome.

Like in a lot of binaries groups exchanging these files is not quite legal in all countries and locations. Usually you officially cannot have a digital copy unless you own a copy of the physical album or single. If this is something that you don't want to be a part of you must unsubscribe from the newsgroup immediately.

Table of contents

    Introduction
  1. Introduction
  2. Short introduction on usenet
  3. What is ABSA?


  4. Downloading
  5. Newsreaders

  6. 4.1 Regular newsreaders
    4.2 Binaries newsreaders
    4.3 Comments
  7. Encodings & character sets

  8. 5.1 Encodings
    5.2 Character sets
  9. File formats
  10. General & support files

  11. 7.1 Archives (RAR, ACE, ZIP)
    7.2 Parity files (PAR, PAR2) & REV
    7.2 Integrity checking (SFV, MD5)
  12. Requests & commercial newsservers

  13. 8.1 Guidelines
    8.2 How not to
    8.3 Commercial newsservers

    Playing
  14. Programs
  15. Tagging & Organizing

  16. 10.1 Tags
    10.2 Collecting tips

    Posting
  17. Guidelines & programs

  18. 11.1 Posting
    11.2 Programs
  19. CD encoding


  20. Buying & links
  21. CD shops
  22. Links

1. Introduction

If you're new to usenet or this group the suggestion is that you read all of this to get up to speed instantly. If this FAQ doesn't answer your question you can always ask one of the regulars in the group and most will probably be happy to answer if they can. As always on usenet: lurk and observe the regulars. Watch and learn by their examples and if you think you've learned enough, lurk some more.

As indicated above this FAQ isn't very technical or detailed. There are some links included in the last section to more detailed information.

Back to the Table of Contents

2. Short introduction on usenet

Since you found this group it's a good bet you know a little what usenet is. What a lot of people don't grasp is how it works. Therefore here is a very small section on just this.

Usenet isn't designed for binaries. It is made up of text messages and was intended as a giant electronic discussion board. In the past few years it also has become a place for exchange of all kind of files, examples of this are programs, video, music, etc. Because of the limitations of usenet all (binary) files are converted to text messages by use of different encoding techniques (which won't be explained here).

Since most files are usually quite large and the encoding-process only adds a bit to that size these text-encoded files are split up in different sections (or parts). These sections are measured in lines or bytes and become important when posting. See the posting section for more on this subject. Each of these sections is posted to your newsserver. This in turn relays this information to all other newsservers. (Of course this is simplified for ease of understanding.)

This is one of the biggest obstacles in the exchange of binaries. While the newsserver which the messages are posted to almost always gets all these sections (and thus the files) complete, there is no guarantee all these sections make it to other servers. Also the time in which these files arrive on other servers (propagation) also differs from server to server. These two factors must be taken in consideration when posting and requesting reposts.

Back to the Table of Contents

3. What is ABSA?

ABSA is a newsgroup where music from anime is exchanged and (to somewhat smaller extent) discussed. A group specific for discussing anime music is rec.arts.anime.music (no binaries!) These files in ABSA can include complete albums, singles, loose tracks, created by extracting from videos, etc. While almost never seen in ABSA this can also mean sound effects from a episode or movie or Windows event sounds (i.e. startup sound). Just as long as it's from an anime or anime related. What sometimes also appears are programs which aid in any part of the process from CD to files to posting like encoders, taggers, posting programs, etc. While they don't really belong in ABSA as long as it's not exaggerated it's usually not a big problem.

Because anime is by definition Japanese almost all tracks are in the Japanese language. Music from the English dub of an anime is very rare in this group. Sometimes an English track appears, because it's included on an album. Of course English anime music is also welcome, but a lot of the regulars seem more interested in Japanese tracks. Related groups are alt.binaries.sounds.jpop for all other Japanese music non-anime related and alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.video-games for all game related albums.

Sometimes there is some confusion since some anime also are made into games, or were games before they've become an anime. If you're not sure where to post, just ask and usually someone will make a suggestion on where an album is posted best. A few guidelines are in the posting section.

From all the audio-formats available MP3 is still used most in this group, but newer formats have been gaining. It's still the most widespread format even if there are better ones. More about this in the file formats section.

The charter, which is an official message for the creation of a newsgroup, for ABSA is available at ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/control/alt/alt.binaries.sounds.anime.gz

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4. Newsreaders

Many people who start out on usenet use a program like Microsoft Outlook Express because it's included in their operating system and they've used it already for their e-mail. Lets start off by saying that this is probably the worst possible solution for getting binaries on usenet. It's not impossible, by no means, but it's certainly not very easy. And, because of it's age can require some other external programs to get the things you want nowadays.

There are a lot of newsreaders and which one is best for you is a personal matter. In this section there are a few suggestions you might want to try. You have roughly two categories for newsreaders. One is the 'normal' overall newsreader, which is primarily still meant for reading and posting text, but has all the necessary features for getting binaries. The other category is specialized programs for getting binaries automatically.

4.1 Regular newsreaders

In the category overall newsreaders there are two programs which are used quite often and proved quite good. Forte's Agent, and its free version Free Agent, have been and still are very popular programs among many users. Its interface is quite friendly and takes usually little time to get used to. For reading and posting text (and binaries) messages this is one of the best. The main shortcoming of the current version (1.93) is the lack of support for multiple servers. The upcoming Agent 2.0 should fix this as well as other requested features.

Another program that is also a good overall reader/poster is Xnews. Xnews is a free reader that is updated a bit more often than Agent. This one has multiple server support and has been reported to run on Linux (with Wine, but no posting).

(Free) Agent http://www.forteinc.com/ One of the best overall
Xnews http://xnews.newsguy.com/ Good overall with multi-server support
NewShark http://www.wmhsoft.com/NewsShark/ Shareware
MT-NewsWatcher (MAC) http://www.smfr.org/mtnw/ Freeware

4.2 Binaries newsreaders

These programs are specifically created to retrieve binaries. Most support multiple servers so that you can retrieve articles from all the servers available to you. Most will also download each section from the fastest server. As these are designed for downloading files, posting is usually not too good or not possible at all. Some even have some errors in this department that they post each message twice, etc. So if you need to post a request please use a regular newsreader, they are much better equipped for this.

Binary News Reaper (BNR2) http://www.bnr2.org/ Quite good program, but still beta, so not all versions are stable.
NewsBin Pro http://www.newsbin.com/ One of the most popular auto-downloaders and quite easy to use. Still has some useful missing features that should be fixed in the planned version 5.
NewsPro http://www.usenetopia.com/ Requires even more (technical) knowledge than BNR2, so probably not for starters.
Newsleecher http://www.newsleecher.com/ Relative newcomer, but has been gaining quite a lot of support recently.

4.3 Comments

The binaries newsreaders seem to have a lot of advantages, but what also must be considered is that a lot of these programs filter out all the small (text) messages and incomplete files by default. Usually these filters can be turned off. For the text files this means you will miss the invaluable so-called 00-files and other text messages like informative messages (NFO), requests, discussions, etc. Filtering out incomplete files can become a problem when downloading posts that include PAR2 parity files. More about PAR2 in another section.

It is therefore recommended that you get a newsreader in the first category, and if you find it necessary or useful you use one from the second category alongside of it. That way you can use the strong points from each of these programs categories to the fullest.

Newsreaders are also discussed in the newsgroup news.software.readers so you can subscribe to that group for more information in general. More information about newsreaders can also be found at http://www.newsreaders.com/

Back to the Table of Contents

5. Encodings & character sets

5.1 Encodings

In order to use binary files on usenet they have to be encoded to text files. This is because usenet is quite old and back then only text was posted through it. In order to use binaries on usenet a few tricks had to be implemented to circumvent this problem. The trick is to encode the binaries into text. A few of these encodings are BASE64, BinHex, UUencode and the recently created yEnc. One of the bigger problems with encoding is the creation of overhead. Overhead increases the size of the messages by as much as 30-40%. It's not actually used, but necessary to distribute binaries over usenet. The coming of yEnc has decreased that overhead quite a bit. The two most used encodings at the moment are yEnc and UUencode.

yEnc is the newest encoding for usenet binaries developed by Juergen Helbing that reduces the necessary overhead for the encoding. The previous encodings are all 7-bit because they were developed years ago and back then usenet only supported this. Currently usenet can support more characters and yEnc uses this to reduce the overhead. A typical posted binary on usenet not yEnc encoded can have as much as 40% overhead. The new yEnc encoding overhead can be as low as 5%! That means a lot less bytes for you to post or to download. Typically you save 20-30% on bytes posting and downloading (and thus time and money) with yEnc posts.

yEnc is currently supported by most newsreaders and posting programs, so getting or posting shouldn't be a problem. For those programs that don't support it (for example Outlook Express) you can use an external decoder or proxy if you don't want to switch. There are external decoders for all major platforms at this time. You use it by saving the message 'raw' from your reader and decoding it to the files later externally. A proxy does this transparently and thus requires no external action. yproxy is the program that can do this. A FAQ for yEnc (which includes info and program links) can be found here.

5.2 Character sets

Sometimes files are posted to ABSA that are not in a Western character set. These files usually have Japanese names, but sometimes a Korean encoding is used. If you're using a Windows NT based OS (NT, 2000, XP) there is no problem. The filesystem will accept these files and you can save them with no problem. If you want you can rename them after you've saved them. In Windows 95/98 and Me these files usually can't be saved by restrictions in the operating system (unless you have a Japanese/Korean version). You'll have to save the files with another name if that's possible in your reader.

Back to the Table of Contents

6. File formats

Of all the file formats used for audio, Motion Pictures Experts Group Layer 3 (MP3) is still the most used format in ABSA at the moment despite its age. The continuing popularity of MP3 is probably because of the big support in hardware such as portable devices, car audio and DVD players. There are numerous formats that offer better quality at reduced sizes, or better quality by bigger sizes. The use of other formats then MP3 has increased a bit in ABSA recently.

As in picture and video encoding there are two sorts of encoding in audio. One is lossless and the other is lossy. Lossless means that it doesn't remove any of the information contained in the original. Because of this the file sizes are quite large since nothing is removed. This usually also means the best possible quality. As you've guessed lossy removes data from the original either by removing information that is not 'important' to the track or can be interpolated from the rest. Depending on the encoding and bitrate this still means very good quality and usually most people cannot differentiate it from the original. The biggest benefit is of course the size. It's a lot smaller than any of the lossless formats meaning you can download and store more and thus save yourself money on its storing and downloading cost (newsserver, harddisk, CD/DVD).

Also, like in video, the data can be encoded using a constant bitrate (CBR) or a variable bitrate (VBR). Bit rate is the number of data (bits) used to encode 1 second of music. Thus with CBR this number of bits stays the same in the entire file. This means that the amount of data used for passages with no, or very little, music is the same as in passages where there is a lot going on such as passages with a lot of instruments. This is quite inefficient and thus VBR was invented. With VBR the data in the more quiet passages is less than in intense moments. This improves the quality a lot and even shaves off a little on the file size. Some encoders can make multiple passes on the same file to recalculate any differences from the first run. This improves the quality even more.

Of course it's also possible to not encode at all and just post the data as is. This is almost never done, because of the big file sizes that come with this. This can de done by posting an image (such as ISO) of the CD or by extracting to Wave (WAV) and posting those. Due to the good lossly and lossless encoding techniques the reason to post like that becomes virtually unnecessary.

Below you find limited information on the most popular file formats.

Motion Pictures Experts Group Layer 3 (MP3)

MP3 is the most used format. It is a lossy encoding, but can attain quite good quality. Especially by use of high bitrates or VBR the quality is quite good.

Information at http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/amm/techinf/layer3/index.html

Advanced Audio Coding (AAC)

AAC is a lossy MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoder. It can handle more channels and higher sampling frequencies so that the quality should be better then MP3 at smaller sizes.

Official site: http://www.audiocoding.com/

Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)

FLAC is a completely free (OSI approved license) lossless file format currently available on most platforms. its file sizes are usually a bit bigger then APE, but is a bit faster to encode. More info can be found on the official project page at http://flac.sourceforge.net/

Monkey's Audio (APE)

APE is a lossless file format. The format is also said to be open, but details on that are sketchy. The license is any case not OSI approved.

Official site: http://www.monkeysaudio.com/

MusePack (MPC)

Another lossy codec. Previously known as MPEG Plus (.mp+) and currently supported on a few platforms. MPC was free, but is considered now shareware due to use of patented mp2-algorithms. The decoder as well as the plug-in and the related sources will remain free.

Info: http://www.rarewares.org/mpc.html

Ogg Vorbis (OGG)

Ogg Vorbis is a lossy file format, but features higher quality at lower file sizes compared to MP3. It's also free with GNU GPL and BSD-like licenses for the libraries and SDKs.

Official site: http://www.vorbis.com/
More info: http://www.xiph.org/ogg/vorbis/

Back to the Table of Contents

7. General & support files

Before you go and download a posting, make sure you read the so-called 00-file for information on that post. If this is included it's usually the first message that appears. Because there aren't any attachments it usually shows up as part (0/n) where n is a number and thus the name 00-file. This can include the bitrate, where it was found, if it's the poster's own rip, specific information on requests for reposts, etc. This information can also be in an included NFO (for info) file or a regular text (TXT) file.

Other files that may be included to support a post are a track listing, lyrics to the songs, cover(s) for the front and back of the CD, scans of the booklet and a scan of the CD(s) itself. These scans aren't always very big or clear, because the one posting may not have the CD and thus is forced to find the covers somewhere else. Other specific support files are integrity checkers and parity files. More on these below.

In order to keep things together or for splitting purposes it's also possible that the files are contained in an archive. You'll also find a specific section on this below.

7.1 Archives (RAR, ACE, ZIP)

Archives are used to combine a lot of files with the possibility to compress them. The most popular application in this is currently RAR (older versions also use the extension R00, R01, R02, ...) and can compress well. Other ones that sometimes turn up are ACE and ZIP. A relative newcomer in the archive formats is the free (GNU GPL) 7-ZIP.

These archives are not always supported on all platforms so when posting you should take this into account. The reason for archives is not too big anymore at the moment for lossy formats. The compression is negligible due to the already used compression in the audio encoding. One of the big reasons to use archives was if parity (PAR) files where posted alongside it, since PAR(1) works best with equal sized files. With the arrival of PAR2 that reason has become less important. Some players such as foobar2000 (more in the players section) have the ability to read directly from archives without the need to unpack them.

7.2 Parity files (PAR, PAR2) & REV

There are currently two versions of the so-called parity files; the original, commonly known by its extension as PAR files and the new version PAR2. They where originally created by Breaker and Tobias Reaper in alt.binaries.anime to restore missing files in post similar in theory to RAID in disk storage. Their original program (Mirror, discontinued) served as a test case for this project. Quickly after the introduction it began to take usenet by storm and are currently being posted in almost all binaries groups. Soon other clients came for Windows (and after that for other platforms) and WinRAR 3.0 has added a system with similar features based on the original PAR(1) specifications.

PAR

The original PAR files work as 'wildcards' in getting a post. That means that for each missing file in a set you can download a PAR file (with the extension P01, P02, ...) to restore another one. The small PAR file itself serves as a method to signal corrupt and/or missing files in a set. So you download the files you want to get as well as the small PAR file. This PAR file checks the downloaded files in the set by using the md5 algorithm and signals which files are corrupt or missing as well as detect any files that may have been renamed.

So say of a 15 track album you've downloaded you weren't able to download 1 track because it was incomplete on your newsserver and the small PAR file says that another track is corrupt as well. You should download two parity files to be able to complete this set; which ones doesn't matter. So if 5 PAR files have been posted (P01-P05) you can download any 2 of those. Placing them in the same place as the other files and re-running the check the missing and corrupt file can be restored.

Because PAR is used as a wildcard the parity files themselves have the size of the largest file in the set plus the size of the small PAR file (the index is included in every parity file). Otherwise you wouldn't be able to restore the largest file. Because the filesizes of audio files are different from each other they are usually packed with an archive program (described above) and split at a fixed size when posted with PAR files. The parity set is then made of this archive set. The reason for this is that if you don't do this you'll always have to download a parity file which has the size of the largest, even if you miss the smallest file. If all files are equal in size this doesn't matter. Make sure when creating PAR files you don't include any small files (for example SFV, MD5, NFO or TXT) or set them to non-recoverable which is an option in the creation process. The reason for this is that if someone is missing 1 file and that smaller file, he'll still have to download 2 parity files to be able to restore his set which is highly inefficient.

PAR2

PAR2 files are a new version of the well known first version of parity files. Instead of the 'wildcard' system of PAR where you would have to get 1 replacement for every missing file, it can now recreate only the missing data of a file. This means that you'll only have to get the amount of parity data you need to repair the corrupt or missing data, not to recreate the entire file.

This is a big benefit, but has a side effect; it's also slower then the original PAR. PAR2 works (of course simplified) by taking all the data in a set and dividing it in a number of blocks. For these data blocks parity data is created to be able to restore them. So PAR2 works the same as PAR, only on smaller parts. If you create PAR2 files with 1 block per file you in fact have PAR files. Of course doing this would make PAR2 as efficient as PAR was...

Since the amount of parity data one will need to get the files repaired can vary, and you only have to get the exact number of blocks you need, the size of the PAR2 files also varies. What one has to remember is that it can repair the missing and corrupt data and is designed to work with incomplete files. In order to speed up the recovery process as well as minimize the number of PAR2 blocks you have to download you should get all that you can get of the original files. That means download the incompletes! Just like with PAR you also download the small PAR2 file to check your set and see if, and how many, blocks you need to repair your set.

The PAR2 parity files have an indicator in the filename to see how many (repair)blocks it contains, as well as the number of the starting block. So the file album.vol03+04.par2 contains 4 repair blocks and starts with block 3. Thus by checking the numbers at the end and downloading the exact number of blocks you need to repair your set you are able to download only the parity data you actually need.

Posting PAR2 files: As indicated above PAR2 works with blocks instead of with files like PAR. So when you create a PAR2 set you'll have to set the number of blocks you want to split up your data into. As you may now usenet uses multiple articles to post a single file. This is usually indicated if you are missing one of those articles and thus the file is incomplete (i.e. missing 13/30). The ideal size for a PAR2 block is the exact size of one such article you intent to post (as set in your posting program in lines or bytes). That way if an article is missing from a file the user would need exactly 1 PAR2 block to recover it. The PAR2 program QuickPar has built in settings to be able to select the best possible size when you enter the article size you are going to post with. The table below also gives an idea which block size is best used with which article size:

UUEncode (lines) yEnc (lines) Block size (bytes)
7000   315000
7500   337500
8000   360000
  2500 320000
  3000 384000
  3500 448000

The number of PAR2 files posted is increasing all the time, but PAR2 is still in its early stages. It's faced with problems in acceptance due to fact that it is slower as well as the problem that some clients aren't able to download incomplete files. The speed problem is of course directly related to the design as well as the hardware (CPU, memory) used. One thing that a lot of users forget however is to download the incompletes as well. If you don't download those, the process is a lot slower than if you do download them.

For more info about PAR and PAR2 you can check the main parity project page at http://parchive.sourceforge.net/. This site has some guides and FAQs as well as technical information. Also check out the forums and mailinglist for more useful information. The author of QuickPar also has created a guide to use his program in getting and creating PAR2 files. It is included with QuickPar and can also be found on his site (for link see below).

Because there are clients that aren't able to download files which have missing articles it is best that if you post PAR2 files you use the same recovery percentage as you would when using PAR (i.e. 10-15%). If everybody would have a decent newsserver and is able to download incompletes this percentage could be lower. Unfortunately this statement is also unrealistic for the near future...

Programs

QuickPar   http://www.quickpar.org.uk/   Supports PAR2 as well as PAR
FSRRaid   http://www.fluidstudios.com/fsraid.html   One of the better PAR(1) only clients
par2cmdline   http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=30568   Free commandline client for PAR2 as well as PAR

REV

REV files are more or less the WinRAR 3 equivalent of the original PAR files. These REV files work only with WinRAR version 3 and up, and are used in the same manner as PAR files. Because of the limited support for non Windows operating systems of WinRAR v3 and up it's recommended that posters use PAR2 (or PAR) files for posts instead of REV. Some of the reasons for this can be found in the AB(M)A FAQ here:
http://abma.x-maru.org/faq/annotated/support.php#support_rev

7.3 Integrity checking (SFV, MD5)

When not using parity files, which include their own integrity check, it is useful to have (and post) a SFV or MD5 file. These small text files containing checksums provide the possibility to check if the file you downloaded is the same as the poster posted. This way you can verify if the file has become corrupt when downloading and take the necessary steps.

SFV is the simpler sort and checks files by doing a CRC. Even though it's simpler it's more used than any other checksum, just because it's so simple and is usually sufficient for most applications.

MD5 is a lot stricter then SFV by using the md5 algorithm and provides a more accurate check. Despite its better checking capability it's about just as fast as SFV. The use of MD5 originated on Unix systems and maybe that's the reason why it hasn't been too popular on the Windows platform.

Some programs for SFV and MD5 are:

hkSFV http://www.big-o-software.com/products/hksfv/ Free MD5 and SFV checker and creator
QuickSFV http://www.quicksfv.org/ Free SFV checker and creator. Also verifies CRC, CSV and CKZ
MD5Summer http://http://www.md5summer.org/ Free (GNU GPL) MD5 checker and creator
Check SFV http://www.fodder.org/cksfv/ SFV checker and creator for Linux and FreeBSD

Back to the Table of Contents

8. Requests & commercial newsservers

8.1 Guidelines

There are usually two kinds of requests in ABSA. One sort is for the repost of (parts) of a post and the other is the request for something to be posted. In this section there are some guidelines on how you could best go about this as well as how you shouldn't do this. This will help you to get what you need probably a bit faster.

Repost requests

Seeing the workings of usenet it all depends on your newsserver if all the articles for a file arrive, after which period and for how long they're available. How long an article is available (retention) on your server is dependent on the size of its storage capacity. Some servers have a retention as low as a few hours, to days or weeks for some commercial newsservers. Therefore you must remember that it's not always the fault of the poster that files aren't complete on your server. Nor if they have expired and are not available anymore.

Always make sure you read the 00-file or informative messages (NFO, TXT) regarding a post before you request anything. It is possible that the person posting isn't the one who is handling reposts, or the poster only accepts requests for reposts a specific time after the posts or for a certain period of time. Of course if parity files (PAR, PAR2, REV) files where posted you should try and use them to complete any missing or corrupt data you might have. See the section on parity files for more information on that subject.

Because it takes time for files to arrive at your newsserver you must wait a at least a while before you make any sort of repost request. This is to make sure your server really hasn't gotten the section, instead of that it's just too soon after the post and it hasn't gotten a chance to arrive yet. A safe margin for this period can be assumed to be about 6 hours. So please not make any requests 10 minutes after the post, because there is a big chance it will arrive (propagate) on your server in the near future. If it isn't on your server after those 6 hours it's likely that it won't be coming anymore and then you can make your request.

If there is no specific information available on how to request you can follow the general

ATTN: {poster} - Please repost {filename} - Thank you

Where the text between {} of course must be correctly filled with the right information.

The 'ATTN' stands for attention and is used to get one's attention. Make sure you include the posters name, because a lot of posters have set up a filter in their newsreader for their own name so that these messages will automatically be highlighted. In this group a message isn't missed that easy anyway, because of the usually not too high volume of this group, but it still makes good practice to do this.

Beside the filename you can for example also ask for the title of a track, or the tracknumber. Just make sure it is clear what is requested and not that the poster has to ask "Track 7 from what disc?". Please don't use a filecount in a request like: "Please repost file 13 of 33 of your {Album-name} post". If you do that the poster then has to go back and check what exactly file 13 was. This is not always the same as track #13, because of support items posted before track #1 like a 00-file, cover(s), PAR(2) file, etc.

If you have requests for a few files you can specify them in the body of the message, or shortened in the subject. So it can be:

ATTN: {Postername} fills requested for {Album-name} - Please read inside

And then the body has the list of tracks needed. Another possibility in the form:

ATTN: {poster} - Please repost {track 3, 6, 24} of {Album-name} - Thanks

Politeness (please, thank you) will get you a very long way. Remember that posting something is only done by posters because they're nice enough to share with you. They aren't forced to do anything.

What some newbie's think is a person or some kind of codeword TIA in a request means nothing more then 'Thanks In Advance'. Since it's used so often it has lost its meaning quite a while ago. Just 'Thanks' or 'Thank you' shows you took a bit more time then to just write TIA (or PLZ) and is a bit more personal which is usually appreciated more by people.

You can also pay attention to other people's requests. If person A already has requested the same track that you need it's not necessary to post the exact same request. It will get most likely get filled anyway. Also please retrieve the new headers in the group before you make a request, because there is a possibility your request got filled already.

Requests for a posting

General requests for the posting of an album or specific track can be made in about the same manner as described above. Of course you don't have to use an 'ATTN' since you don't know who has it. Just make a meaningful subjectline with at least the title and in the body provide any information you can give, like for example which anime it comes from, artist, catalogue number*, releasedate, etc. Don't forget the politeness here either please. :-)

If you know the title you can also try to search for other ways to get it such as for example on bittorrent sites, IRC, Winny, eMule, eDonkey, etc). In case it's a popular album/single/song it can be found on such locations usually as well.

* Every CD has a catalogue number for easy referencing and ordering. These numbers are unique and can so be used to identify a CD. These catalogue numbers are logged in the posting history of this site (currently not updated anymore) and can also be found on for example CD Japan.

8.2 How not to

Now we've seen some guidelines on how you should request, this section lists how you should NOT do it. These points below are regarded as bloody annoying by a lot of people (the ones who can actually help you) and will more likely get yourself ignored then your request filled. If you repeatedly request in a manner of any of the points below you're even likely to end up on a killfilter. This filter makes sure all the messages by you don't show up anymore for the person who added you to his/her killfilter. Keep that up and the chances in getting your request filled become drastically low...

The list of things you shouldn't do when requesting:

a. (Vertical) Spamming (aka v-spam or billboarding)

This is when you post the same request several times in the same thread so that they appear below each other. Another one is when you post the same request (possibly combined with option b.) in separate messages so that they appear below one another to get more attention.

Your request will be seen even if you post it once, really. This is not some warez group where this seems standard practice and is generally accepted. If you accidentally did this because of a bad newsserver, just make a message stating that. This is appreciated by a lot of people so they know they don't have to add a name to that killfilter...

b. Excessive use of capitals and or punctuation

Posting messages all in capitals (regarded as shouting) or with a lot of punctuation like ### *** !!! @@@, etc.

c. Asking for albums/singles that are not out yet

A lot of the digital fansubs become available very quick after the Japanese airdate nowadays. This can be as soon as a few days and usually spawns a lot of requests. But requesting albums/singles for new series is useless, since it takes a while before these come out. Check out CD Japan (link in links section) for releasedates. Just type in the name of the series and see if an album is scheduled. If no hits come up it's about 80% sure there is no scheduled release yet, since CD Japan is usually quite up to date. Another possibility is searching on the web with your favorite search engine. Try to find the info yourself before you request non-existing items. So if you request "Please post the OST for ... if it's out yet!" you haven't read this point well enough.

d. Name shifting

If you post a request under a name, change that name in your newsreader and then post the same request (using a different choice of words) to make it appear a different person is requesting the same thing.

e. Asking the same thing a few times per day or shortly after each other

Not exactly the same as a., but requesting the same thing a few times per day or a few days in a row can also get annoying. Not everybody checks the newsgroup a few times each day or even every day. Don't worry nobody saw your request. It's more likely nobody has it. If you want something desperately just constrain yourself and wait at least a week (or two) before you make a request again.

f. Asking the wrong person

This usually isn't intentional, but still annoying. This can easily be prevented by reading the 00-file and informative messages concerning a post.

All of these points must be avoided at all costs in ABSA. Not only in this group, but in most binaries groups this makes good practice. Your consideration will definitively be appreciated by a lot of people and be more inclined to fulfill your request.

8.3 Commercial newsservers

If you have become really frustrated with your newsserver and want to get a better one, it's possible to get a commercial server. What they offer is better completeness of the articles and longer retention. There are usually two kinds of subscriptions available. One is a speed limited account with unlimited download capacity and the other a subscription with a limited amount of data (Gigabytes) you can download with a download speed as high as you can get with your equipment and infrastructure. Prices vary from service to service and from subscription to subscription. A few of these providers worth checking out are mentioned here:

Easynews http://www.easynews.com/
Giganews http://www.giganews.com/
Eurofeeds http://www.eurofeeds.com/
Newscene http://www.newscene.com/
Newshosting http://www.newshosting.com/
Supernews http://www.supernews.com/

Discussion about commercial news-services with the possibility to request the current status of a server can be found in the newsgroup
alt.binaries.news-server-comparison
An overview page with information on servers and their account types can be found for example on this page.

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9. Programs

Now you've got the files complete you can finally play them. If you have a DVD or CD-writer you can for example also store them in the encoded form or make an audio-cd of it again. There are several programs that can play audio and, like in many program choices, which one you want to use is a quite personal matter.

There are players that are (originally) created only for audio and there are media players that can handle audio as well as video. The formats it can handle, how it handles tags (see below), how extendible it is, visualizations and skin support, if it's free or not are just a few of the things to look at when choosing a player.

Some players worth checking out are:

Foobar2000 Free player that supports most audio and tags formats. Control how text appears by the use of formatting strings and works with plug-ins to extend the possibillities of the program. Interface is simple, but with a plug-in called looks (skin) support is possible.

Winamp A well known player that supports a lot of audio and video formats. Free, but a commercial version is also available. Plug-in support as well as extensive skinning possibillities. Winamp 2 is the more simple version with less features, but a lower memory and CPU footprint.
Apple iTunes Gaining some support player this audio jukebox can do a lot. Also includes a shop where you can buy your music.
Musicmatch Jukebox Another audio jukebox with lots of functions and shopping capabilities.
Helium 2 Audio jukebox type program with lots of functions.
Windows MediaPlayer Classic Extended version of the well known Microsoft Media Player 6.4 that includes loads of video and audio features. Great if you want to have 1 player for almost all your media.
Zoom Player Also a media player with many video and audio features.
Realmedia's Realplayer All-round media and audio player with lots of features including skinning support.
Windows MediaPlayer Included in Windows operating systems is the MediaPlayer that can handle audio as well as video. If you're starting out this is probably the player you have used so far.

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10. Tagging & Organizing

When you're starting out with collecting music you're not likely to run into problems on where everything is and exactly what it is. As you can imagine this can become quite a daunting task when you've been collecting for a while and have lots of albums. In order to be able to find it back later there are a few things you can do. You can add tags to your files that add information about the file such as title, artist, album, etc. You can also name your files, and the directories they are in, using a uniform way and in addition you can also use a program to keep track of things.

10.1 Tags

In order to keep better track of your collection you can add tags to your files. These tags are put inside the file and can contain information such as title, artist, album, genre, year, etc. Programs can then search on these tags and should make displaying information about, and organization of your collection easier. Unfortunately there are a few different types of tags, which are not really compatible with each other. Choosing which tag(s) you are going to use is a decision dependent on whether you have hardware (i.e. MP3 player) which only supports a certain kind of tag, how future proof it is, etc.

The possibly best known tag format is ID3. It exists in a few versions today with the newest being ID3v1.1 and ID3v2.4 There are however some negative sides to the ID3 format which has made it less popular to some. Some of the reasons for this are the specifications being open to interpretation resulting in different implementations in programs, unreadable tags and corruption of the tag. Besides that the format of the tags themselves changed with various revisions of the format. Despite this it's probably still the widest used tag today.

A tag format that can be used in a lot of different audio formats, is clearly defined and is very flexible are APEv2 tags. its fields are UTF-8, so Japanese can also be used always without problems. It also can store replaygain information. This makes sure your audio tracks are played at an equal volume level, without the need to physically adjust the volume each track. its biggest problem however is the current lack of support. Only a few programs can read and write it at the moment, with the player Foobar2000 being the most prominent.

Another development is that a lot of the newer container and audio formats like Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, MP4, MKA, etc. already have their own tagging formats that are part of the bitstream itself. In that case you should always use the tagging format defined by the stream itself instead of generic tag formats like APEv2 and ID3 to prevent any possible problems.

So which should you use? Not an easy answered question. A lot of people use a combination of tags such as ID3v1 and ID3v2 or APEv2 and ID3v1. The second combination offers full flexibility (APEv2) as well as support for hardware by using the ID3v1 tags, so if you don't have loads of audio already and your player selection already has led you to Foobar2000 it's a good choice.

Programs

Which programs you can use to tag your files mainly depends on the audio format and the tagging strategy you've decided to use. A lot of players can also tag your files, but there are also programs designed specifically for tagging. Some of these programs also support getting the most important tags (such as title, artist and album) automatically from the freedb database. A few of those specific programs for updating multiple files at once are:

Tag Free commandline utility (front-end's are available) which supports ID3v1.x, ID3v2.x (reading and removing), APE v1.0, APE v2.0, Vorbis comments, FLAC tags and Lyrics3 v2.0
MP3tag Free program that has support for ID3v1.1, ID3v2, APEv2 and Vorbis Comments
Tag&Rename Commercial program that supports ID3 tags (up to v1.1 and v2.4)
Tagscanner Free program that supports ID3 tags (up to v1.1 and v2.4)

10.2 Collecting tips

Besides making use of tags for you collection you can also define a uniform way in how you name your files and directories containing your albums. That way searching through your collection a few years from now wouldn't pose too many problems. Otherwise the problem of "What was that track03.mp3 again?" might surface. An example of a directory and file naming strategy would be:

Dir: {anime name} - {album} (catalogue id)}
i.e. Gundam Seed - Complete Best (AICL-1489)

And for the files in that directory:

{track number} - {title}
i.e. 01 - INVOKE

You can also mention the artist in the filename or directory, but note that the filenames can become quite large and may introduce some problems. Since most anime albums and its filenames are Japanese you'll also have to decide if you want to name your files (and tags) using the Japanese language or in Western characters (roomaji or translated).

When storing files it's also quite nice to have scans of the cover, booklet, etc. Maybe also a text file containing a track listing or general info about the album in case you didn't include that in your tags. After that maintaining some sort of database to locate where what is will also most likely benefit you. For this purpose you can use an audio jukebox program, or a general cataloging tool such as for example WhereIsIt?

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11. Guidelines & programs

Before we go into the process of posting itself there are a few guidelines to what's posted best in which group as well as the guides to the posting limits for each day:

  • Albums from games belong in alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.video-games
    That means that if the album was made for the game, but is also an anime it still belongs in ABSMVG.
  • Albums from seiyuu's (which are not related to an anime) belong in alt.binaries.sounds.jpop
    So even if a seiyuu album has an anime track or 2 on it, but wasn't created specifically for an anime, it still belongs in ABSJ. Tracks with only anime tracks belong in ABSA however.
  • The recommended maximum posting limit per 24 hours is 150-200MB.
  • Concert registration videos and music videos do not belong in ABSA, only audio does.

11.1 Posting

Ok you've been in the group for a while now, know how everything works and want to post something to share with the group. Great! Your efforts are appreciated. Just remember posting isn't something that must be taken lightly, because it requires some dedication to your task. Besides posting it you should also be able to fill some requests if you don't post parity files as well, since it's possible that not everybody got all the files complete.

Before you post an album you might want to check out the list of what albums have gone through the group recently. This list on this site isn't updated anymore (last update 4 Nov 2003), so you should check out http://anime-nl.net/absa/absalog.html that has a (simple) log of the posts since then. If it was posted not that long ago you might want to wait a while (week or 2-4) before posting it again, just to keep the newer stuff going as well. Otherwise the old stuff will just be reposted constantly.

When the album you want to post hasn't been posted recently, and you've retrieved the headers of the group to see if it's being posted now, you are ready to go. Besides a short note in a 00-file or NFO it's a good practice to post with your files (if possible) as much support files as you can. A few example of these are a track list (possibly with catalogue number, company, track duration, etc.), covers, parity files or a post verification (MD5 or SFV) and name the files according to the track list. A lot of people will be very grateful if you can provide these things, but of course are not a requirement. (Also see the sections on support and parity files.)

Defining the subjectline depends on whether you're using yEnc or not, since that keyword should be included if it's encoded with yEnc. Examples for a subject for a posting could be:

{Album name ((catalogue ID) - (disc n of m)} (({bitrate}) - Day n of m - [{filenumber}/{filecount}] - {filename}]}

Macross - The Complete (Disc 1 of 3) (160) - Day 2 of 6 - [03/48] - Track 01.mp3
MAMESHIBA - Sakamoto Maaya (VIDL-30514, Single) (Flac) - file 01 of 4 - yEnc - "01 - MAMESHIBA.flac"
Lain OP - Duvet (Remix, Q6).ogg
Ranma 1/2 (128) - yasashii, ii musume ni narenai (Baka song).mp3

Note that the {filenumber}, {filecount} and {filename} should be added by the posting-program with the help of parameters. The text about various days and number of discs is only needed where applicable of course.

It is important that you include the filecount, total filecount and the filename with parameters. Do not make these yourself as there could arise problems with the auto combining of your post in readers. Most newsreaders combine the different sections of a file together on certain rules and depend on the filename being last. So you should use the file parameter (usually $F) and put it at the end of the subjectline. Also make sure the last character of your file isn't a space, since this could cause similar errors. It would need the manual combining of articles which is time consuming and not necessary.

The actual posting

To post something you best can use one of the many available automatic posters. The better ones are the modified Power-Post 2000 versions with added yEnc support. One thing you have to remember is that files are split into various articles. The size for such an article can be set in these auto-posting programs usually in lines or bytes. Because of the age of usenet and the many different pieces of hardware, programs and protocols not every part in this chain has an equal capacity. This article-size is one of the major affected areas for limits. If one such article is too big some newsservers will refuse to accept it and just drop the article. So it will never arrive on that server. To prevent this from happening there is a practical maximum of about 9000 lines for articles. Most of the servers will accept articles up until that size. Most posters however keep a safe margin on this and make their articles 7500 lines (about 472500 bytes) long when using UUEncode. This assures acceptance on almost all servers. Note that because of the differences with the yEnc encoding scheme you should set this a lot lower if you are posting in yEnc; around 3000 lines is a good average.

Each newsgroup has a size limit (storage-space) for which articles will be held on your newsserver. This size differs from server to server and from group to group. These limitations are depended on the configuration of the newsserver and its software. When the limit is reached the oldest articles will be deleted to make place for the new ones. So if too much is posted in a short period of time some newsservers will loose articles while some people might not have been able to get the files. Remember that this doesn't have to mean your server with its large harddisk, but it can be the other person that has a server with little storage space. So, as mentioned in the guidelines, please limit yourself when posting.

Your first post should be to alt.binaries.test or alt.binaries.test.yenc These are test groups where you can see how things turn out. Just do everything like you should do with a few small files and see how it works. If all goes well and looks good, then you can start posting to a regular newsgroup.

11.2 Programs

You now know if you should post that which you intended to post to ABSA, how much you should post at maximum within 24 hours as well as how would be a good way. Below is a list of some recommended programs you can use for the actual posting itself.

PowerPost-A&A A modified version of Power-Post 2000 (yEnc & UUE) with support for multiple posting threads, bandwidth cap, multiple server profiles, file sorting and the creation of SFV and PAR(2) while you post.
SharkPost Also a modified version of Power-Post 2000 that can post in both yEnc and UUE. Lots of features where added such as for instance a bandwidth cap (from the A&A version) and interface enhancements.
Power-Post 2000 The original. An updated version was created to support yEnc, but is posting it incorrect. So please do not use it to post in yEnc, use one of its variations instead.
Agentpost A program used with Forte's Agent for easier posting. Quite old and not really recommended; please try one of the newer auto posters instead.
Newspost A Unix auto binaries poster.



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12. CD encoding

Yes, most of the time you can. The process is to get the tracks from CD (sometimes first extracting them to WAV) and then encode them to whatever format you like. There are a lot of encoding programs that can do this in one step. A good ripper and encoder is ExactAudioCopy that can extract the audio and encode it to the format you like by the use of external encoders.

As mentioned in a previous section there are a lot of different file formats. Which one you want to encode to depends on a lot of things and is a choice you'll have to make. Take a look in the Hydrogenaudio forums about the various formats, recommended encoders for that format as well as it recommended settings. For example if you would like to encode to MP3 because it's so well known it's best to use the LAME encoder.

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13. CD Shops

Since a lot of anime CDs are only available in Japan the best way is to get them through a Japanese company. CD Japan is a online Japanese retailer with a large selection and has good service. Animenation is an American-based company that also sells Japanese CD's. American versions of CD's can be ordered through a variety of online retailers.

Support the artists who created the music you like by buying their albums. They deserve it! Unfortunately there are also countries where laws aren't as strict and piracy of CDs is allowed. Two companies that are quite famous in this section are Son May and Everanime. These companies release CDs that are NOT official, so if you're going to support the artists by buying their stuff you should avoid these companies.

CD Japan http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/
Anime Jungle (Also second hand shop) http://www.animejungle.com/
Animenation http://www.animenation.com/

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14. Links

Here are some links to sites that may be useful.

FAQ's and information
Forums & knowledgebase all about audio. Covers a lot of topics including things such as recommended encoder settings, etc. http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/
Site about audio on the Mac. http://www.macdigitalaudio.com/
Official alt.binaries.sounds.mp3 FAQ. http://www.mp3-faq.org/
IRC info page, in case you want to try to get audio elsewhere as well. http://www.irchelp.org/
Site with links to anime BitTorrent links, where sometimes also audio links turn up. http://anime.mircx.com/
Netiquette, one of the more older documents about it. http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1855.html
 
Track listings
The 'Japanese side' of CD Japan. Here you can find a lot of track listing for CDs. http://www.neowing.com/
Site with track listings for CDs. http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Bay/7427/
Site with track listings for CDs. http://yaacc.cjas.org/
 
Other
Lyrics and translations to a lot of anime and JPop songs. http://www.animelyrics.com/

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End of the FAQ