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How to Combine and Decode Multi-part Newsgroup Messages

There are many Usenet newsgroups that exist for the purpose of exchanging binary files (pictures, audio, video, etc.). Because the Internet is text-based there needs to be some way to take a binary file (a program or other digital data) and transmit it as plain text. That's where encoding comes into play. An encoder takes a binary file and turns it into plain text. A decoder reverses that process.

Because these files are so large they are normally broken into several smaller parts to facilitate uploading and downloading. They are also compressed to save space and transmission time. This process (to encode and compress the files) can be done using several different schemes. One of the most popular is called yEnc but there are others including: uuencode, Base64, BinHex and xxencode.

To be able to use these newsgroup files you need software to combine the parts together again and also decode them so they are restored to their original state (say as a .jpg image file, an .mp3 music file, etc. etc.).

Outlook Express will combine and decode uuencoded, Base64, BinHex and xxencoded files. It will combine but not decode yEnc files. For that you need a separate utility program such as UUDeview or yEnc32. I prefer UUDeview but you pick one. Links to each are at the bottom of this page.

Mozilla and Netscape will not combine and decode multi-part binary messages. However, it's very easy to do as I explain below.

Okay, let's look at how to use two of the major email/news programs to do this.

Outlook Express (OE)

The messages will have a subject line something like this:

Click on the first message in the sequence, then hold the SHIFT key down and click on the last message to highlight all of the messages.

You'll see a bunch of nonsense text in the message preview pane - ignore it.

Right-click on the highlighted messages.

In the pop-up dialogue choose "Combine and Decode." A progress indicator will appear. Let it run to conclusion.

In the next window verify the order in which the messages will be combined, beginning with (Duh!) part 1 of x through x of x. Click OK.

A message window will eventually open up; again, ignore the meaningless text.

If there is an "Attach:" field above the message body there will be a filename in it. RIGHT-CLICK it. Choose SAVE AS, find a place to put it, click OK. Assuming that the files are NOT encoded using yEnc, you're done. Go to where you saved the file and you should have a single file, in the example I used above it might be named GORDON LIGHTFOOT - CHICAGO MARCH 1973 - Track-13.mp3.

If there is NOT an "Attach:" field above the message body, look in the bottom status bar of the message window. If you see a message like "Searching message for hyperlinks ... (1%)" then wait until that process completes before trying to do anything else!

WARNING! - When this happens I've seen OE jump to 100% CPU usage and take minutes to complete this process. I've also seen OE hang during this process. I've found forum and newsgroup complaints about this going back to 1999. Some people have said that OE will take HOURS to complete this process. There is no fix for this that I've been able to locate.

At any rate, once this silliness is done, click File - Save As. Pick a location, then in the bottom of the window where it says "Save as type:" make sure you choose "Text files (.txt)" as the file type. Click Save to save.

Once the save is done you should be returned to the OE message window. You can close it, you're done with OE for the moment.

The next step is to use a utility to decode the combined file. I'll assume you're using UUDeview for this example.

Run UUDeview. Click ADD and navigate to where you saved the combined file. Highlight the file and click OPEN. Click PREVIEW. All the files to be processed will appear in the right-hand UUDview pane.

Click Path: and navigate to where you want to store the decoded file. Click OK.

Click GO! ... Once the program is finished doing its thing, you're done too! Go find your file and enjoy.

November 2006 - I received an email from Charles Barber with another possibility for Outlook Express. I haven't personally tested it but it appears sound and it may help some folks. See his message for details. (Thanks, Charles!)

MOZILLA MAIL/NEWS

In Mozilla (also applies to Netscape 7.1 and it should work in Thunderbird as well) the process is similar but it involves using an external program to combine and decode the messages. However, in my experience it is as fast, if not faster, than using OE. And I've never had Mozilla crash like OE does!

IMPORTANT CONCEPT: A folder in Mozilla Mail/News is actually a PLAIN TEXT FILE on your hard disk (more info below).

First, go download and install UUDeview or yenc32. (see "Utilities" below)

Next, in Mozilla Mail/News create a new mail folder under your mail account called ENCODE.

COOL TIP! - This comes from Beverly Howard. If you name the folder ENCODES.uue this will associate the resulting folder (file) with the UUDeview program in Windows. You can then double-click it in Windows Explorer and that will automatically launch UUDeview. Nice trick, Bev. Thanks!

Then find and subscribe to a newsgroup that is dedicated to binary files. There are hundreds. Try searching your news server for "binar" (that's not a spelling mistake). Here are a few examples:

Go to one of the groups. Click the "Subject" column header to sort the messages by subject. This will put all the message parts next to each other. Find the binary multi-part messages you want to download. Click on the first message in the sequence, then hold the SHIFT key down and click on the last message to highlight all of the messages.

You'll get a bunch of nonsense text in the message preview pane - ignore it. Or, click the little tool in the center of the horizontal bar separating the message list pane from the preview pane to close the preview pane.

Once you have all the messages highlighted, LEFT-CLICK AND DRAG the entire group of highlighted messages to the ENCODE folder and drop them there. (You can do this with, apparently, an unlimited number of messages. On numerous occasions I have done this with well over 100 messages which represented about 15 individual mp3 files and it worked just fine.) It will take some time for the messages to actually be transferred from the newsgroup to your Mozilla Mail folder. Check the status bar in Mozilla. Wait for the transfer to finish before proceeding to the next step.

You can leave Mozilla running at this point, just don't actively use it while the combine and decode process is running. Click Start and navigate to wherever your UUDeview program installed its shortcuts. Run UUDeview.

Click ADD and navigate UUDeview to your Mozilla Profile and the Mail folder. The exact path depends on your operating system (see: http://www.holgermetzger.de/pdl.html), OS user name, and mail account name. However, a typical path in Windows XP will look like this:

C:\Documents and Settings\JOHN\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\Jack\xxxxxxxx.slt\Mail\JacksMail\

Where:

Highlight the ENCODE file (which is the Mozilla Mail ENCODE folder) and click OPEN. Back in UUDview, click PREVIEW. All the files to be processed will appear in the right-hand UUDview pane.

NOTE: Make sure you use the ENCODE file, NOT the ENCODE.msf file.

Click Path: and navigate to a place to store the combined and decoded files. Click OK.

Click GO! ... Once the program is finished doing its thing, you're done too! Go find your file and enjoy.

GENERAL

1. You may have to use some mp3 program or utility to create the ID3 tags for Artist, Title, Track #, etc. Also, you may have to rename the files to reflect their content. Kind of a tedious process but there is software that makes it a bit easier. My current favorite for this is: ID3-TagIt. It's no longer developed, and out of date, but it works and it's very powerful.

Music Match Jukebox Plus and Winamp also have tag editing features. Although, Jukebox is dead since it was gobbled up by AOL. And, Winamp is being discontinued as of December 20, 2013. See this for more information.

2. Be aware that most large music files will be many more parts than the example I used above (just 3 parts). I have seen some music files broken into 10, 15, 20 or more parts. These messages represent a file that is likely to be (in the case of a single mp3 file) at least a few Megabytes in size. If you are using a dial-up connection be prepared for this to take a long time.

3. A tip - when you go into a newsgroup click the "Subject" column header to sort the messages. It makes it a lot easier to find all the parts of the file.

4. Make sure you have all parts of the file, e.g. all "10 of 10." There is no point to getting only 9 of 10.

UTILITIES


Another interesting approach is the program "yDecode". It acts as a proxy between your newsreader software and the news server. It can perform several useful functions automatically, meaning it's less labor-intensive than the manual method above. At this writing it costs $29.95. If you are a heavy user of binary newsgroups it's worth a look.


This page last changed: August 14, 2014 - 11:35 AM USA Eastern Time

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