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Newzbin is back June 2, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in NZB, usenet.
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115 comments

That is all.

Interview with Team R Dogs May 28, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in NZB, usenet.
Tags: , ,
189 comments

I secured an interview with Mr White via IRC last night (the conversation has been tidied up a bit).

DS: How are you Mr White? May I call you Caesium/Freaky/Kalante now?

W: You can, but I think they might be a bit upset & I’d get confused, but I like the Bond reference ;) Srsly, we are not the Newzbin guys, I mean, the old Newzbin guys. But I guess you’ll never believe me till you get my phone number?

DS: which is?

W: (202) 456-1414

DS: yea, right. So how did you get the code?

W: We liberated it. Code just wants to be free. Specifics don’t matter.

DS: So you’ll opensource it?

W: No. That said, if we have to shut down at any stage we’ll try to opensource it.

DS: Why did you steal the code?

W: I nicked it initially just because I could, that was a while back. There was no real ‘plan’, I just kinda did it, but I didn’t want to copy the site and didn’t even really plan to use it. Then when I saw the legal news I thought Newzbin was looking like it really might fold. Since they didn’t say they would opensource the code I chatted to a couple of mates and we talked about running a site ourselves. We didn’t do anything for ages but when Newzbin suddenly closed without any warning at all we decided to make a move.

DS: So when are you going open this site? What’s the url going to be?

W: We’ll let you know the domain name later. The site is gonna open really really soon.

DS: Are you planning to change the way Newzbin works or is it going to be a straight clone?

W: We’ll be running a straight clone to start with but we want to change it eventually. Unfortunately the site backend is mega mega complicated so we’re concentrating on just getting the systems running with a minimum of falling over in the beginning. Plus, we also greatly underestimated the number & power of the servers needed to run this stuff so we’ve been trying to raise a metric fuckload of cash to buy gear.

DS: Doesn’t sound promising…

W: no it’ll be fine but I’m just saying that for a while it may all be a bit wobbly :)

DS: what are the longer term plans for the site?

W: we want to raise retention time. 240 days is a bit crap. We want to get it to at least 400 days soon and then up to 600+ days within the next 9 months. Kinda pulling figures outta my ass but something like that. Plus I want to do a redesign of the site. I reckon some people wanted the old site to have lots of features so it’s become complicated as thy added them in, but others want it simple & less confusing. It’s a tough design issue and we need to think how we can do this. We’ll probably do A/B testing on the site and maybe do polls, start a design/features discussion with users. We’ve also discussed adding non-Usenet search results to the site like torrent or Rapidshare results, but we’ve just kinda floated that idea and we don’t know how we’d incorporate it. Should all be fun.

DS: The MPA are gonna come after you. You got a plan?

W: :( yea, it’s inevitable, we’ll just do a Piratebay on them. We can run faster than them and shapeshift.

DS: Do you reckon users will return?

W: we hope to hell they do or we’re in a money hole. I reckon we’ll lose a few users of Newzbin1 but I’m hoping over time many will join us and if we can get increased retention and more services I think we may even improve over the old site in time. I’m certainly appealing to the editors and editor admins to  join us, purty purty please!

DS: Good luck. I’m rooting for you. Make it come back soon.

W: a lot sooner than you think I expect ;)

Mr White will try to answer polite questions below.

Newzbin: ex-owner Caesium’s comments May 21, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in NZB, usenet.
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106 comments

Just got this press release from the old owner of Newzbin:

## OFFICIAL PERSONAL STATEMENT OF ‘Caesium’ Chris Elsworth
## Ex-owner/director of Newzbin Ltd / http://www.newzbin.com
##
## THIS STATEMENT IN NO WAY REFLECTS ANY OPINIONS OR VIEWS OF NEWZBIN LTD,
## ONLY MY OWN PERSONAL SITUATION.
##
## 21st May 2010
There’s a lot of questions being asked of me in the last few days, many of
which I simply can’t answer either through legal responsibilities or because
I plain out just don’t know.
So here I will set out what I do know and what I’m allowed to say.
The Newzbin site is not coming back under my control. I have no further
interest in Usenet indexing sites. The legal proceedings over the last two
years, which I will admit the Newzbin team fucked up pretty badly with, has
drained all my remaining motivation for either resurrecting Newzbin now it’s
gone, or starting a new site at all.
The final reason Newzbin actually closed its doors because it went into
liquidation in order to pay the MPA costs.  Companies are not allowed to
carry on trading while in liquidation proceedings.
The Newzbin source code *is* in the wild. Someone has it. I don’t know who,
and I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, and I don’t really much
care. Best of luck to them, it won’t be competing with anything I choose to
do in future.
Don’t ask me to share the Newzbin source with you, it is not mine to share.
Control of Newzbin Ltd was transferred away from me (because I sold it. not
by force) in January 2010 and with it, all my rights to the source code and
servers etc etc. Whoever obtained it didn’t get it through me – how did they
get it? I don’t know.
The NZB specification was on Newzbin servers which are now unavailable and
that’s unfortunate. I will ask the new owners of Newzbin’s assets, whoever
they might end up being after the liquidation, if it’s possible to re-host
the NZB specification and DTD for further development to take place.
Coincidentally, today I was made aware of an attempt to re-engineer the NZB
specification by adding optional metadata – that’s already been in the
official NZB specification for months! Clearly someone doesn’t keep up to
date.
Did I get rich from Newzbin? Not really. I made a comfortable living but at
the same time I had no job while I was working on Newzbin, so I pretty much
think I was entitled to take a decent wage, thanks. Newzbin ate my life for
more or less a decade, being one of only three people working fulltime on
it, caring for servers, making regular datacentre trips to replace dead
disks, lugging heavy servers around, being woken up at all hours by the
pager telling me a server was dying, maintaining the accounts, paying VAT
returns, playing nicely with the UK taxman, as well as actually writing the
site on a near continual basis. Anyone who thought it was easy money is
sadly mistaken. Try running a busy site sometime.
If you want a Newzbin refund, you will have to talk to the liquidators,
Bennett Verby. Newzbin Ltd is no longer in my control, in fact it’s not even
in the control of who I sold it to, so I’m twice removed.
I will remain on irc.freenode.net #newzbin for the forseeable future, not
because I have any part in Newzbin anymore, but because I have plenty of
friends there I want to stay in touch with. If you want to come throw abuse
that’s where you can find me.
As for real life, chances are I’ll go find myself a nice simple sysadmin or
coding job where I don’t have to worry about VAT returns or legal
challenges. Anyone hiring? ;)
To all previous competitors of Newzbin – best of luck.
See you round.
Chris

Caesium has volunteered to answer (polite!) questions in the comments.

What are you looking for in a Usenet NZB indexer May 20, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in NZB, usenet.
47 comments

Now Newzbin is gone I’m looking for somewhere else and I see a lot of commentators saying “nzbrus sucks” or “nzbmatrix doesn’t have what it takes”. Most people seem to think Newzbin was the best site. I always thought the site was dog ugly and complicated; brilliant content & the reports were great, but a usability nightmare. Is that bullshit? Why do some nzb sites suck so badly? Who’s the best and the worst, and why?

If you were designing a site what features would you add? Or for that matter lose?

refunds, source code, privacy May 19, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in Uncategorized, usenet.
Tags:
94 comments

Reading the comments on the Newzbin story three issues seem to crop up repeatedly. I’ve asked the right people and here’s the score:

Refunds.

I reckon it’s a bit cheesy wanting a few dollars back but maybe some people are poor and others are cheap. Some people have said Newzbin ‘ripped off’ customers but Newzbin always did the right thing. Caesium, Freaky & Kalante didn’t start Newzbin to make money, they did it because they were geeks with a good idea for the technology, the NZB format, and accidentally started a profitable business. All the way through they were about the community and doing the right thing: they didn’t let people buy large credits just in case this situation ever arose; they gave refunds to people who asked for them – whereas other site operators would just have told them to screw off (I’ve never tried asking Giganews for money back for a month when I didn’t use it, I’m guessing I’d not get a very receptive response); at the end Newzbin stopped taking any more money when they knew how it was going – they could have been taking money right up to the day the site closed if they were scammers. Yea, the guys made good money, but they earnt it for the valuable service they performed and for the risks they took: I guess if you’re a bit of a commie you might not like people making a profit from a useful service, but I dont care.

Anyway, if you want your money back the liquidators are Bennett Verby, ask them for claim form. My guess is that after the bills are paid you’ll get nada, but it’s your call.

Privacy

Liquidation doesn’t put anyone at risk. As was said on the site news at the time, and as some people have repeated in the comment to my original story, Newzbin kept almost no logs (other than for DoS prevention) and that was one of the things that upset the judge. There are no weblogs to tell who downloaded what or when.

Credit card records are irrelevant since they only say you were a member of the site, they don’t say what you downloaded or even if you downloaded anything at all. There was plenty of legal content indexed on the site.

The liquidator may sell Newzbin’s servers but the data disks will be probably be reformatted so even the minimal information that is on them will be trashed.

source code

This is where it gets intriguing. I mentioned the rumours that the site had been hacked and the code and databases stolen. Usenetshack have suggested that the timing is fishy and they seem to be suggesting it’s a put up job. As I understand it the hack was several months ago not recent. I PM’d Caesium on irc and he denies it’s an inside job either by him or the new owner. I believe him for no reason other than he is simply too worried about getting back into the MPA’s crosshairs to pull a stunt like that. Also Caesium, as I understand it, has a new squeaky clean project to work on and is out of the Usenet game.

More importantly, I may have been contacted by the code thief/liberator: ‘may‘ being the operative word. I was PM’d on irc by someone who said that my hack rumour was right and they’d grabbed the code plus database of reports and other operations files. He claimed they’d done a simple SQL injection attack that got them an account on the server, and that a privilege escalation had got them root on their account. I don’t know if this is true or if I am being bullshitted by some clown. I asked Caesium and he was sceptical, though he no longer ran the server at the time of the attack. Mr Hacker would not say what he intended to do with the code. I’ve asked him to prove that he has it by giving me a few lines of code that Caesium or the guys can verify. I’ve heard nothing yet.

It may be that I am an optimist, or engaged in wishful thinking, but the guy was convincing and I reckon that the code is out there and a clone will pop up sometime in the next few months; fingers crossed. Question is: will you return to Newzbin if it resurfaces? I’d be an editor again like a shot if a new site asked me. Any other ex-editors with an opinion on that?

Interesting update: 19th May

Had interesting side channel discussions on irc with Mr Code Thief. Initially, yesterday, he approached me and said he had the site code and databases. I thought he was probably a clown. Today he PM’d me with several lines of code. Caesium has just confirmed that these lines of code ARE from the site source code:

What does that mean? I doubt if Mr Code Thief is just doing it for bragging rights, may be but I doubt it. My guess is he’ll sell it on, or dump it on a filesharing site somewhere, perhaps Usenet.

Bottom line is that my guess is one or more clones will be popping up sooner or later.

Newzbin gossip May 18, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in usenet.
1,329 comments

Things are moving fast at everyones favourite Usenet indexer Newzbin. A Newzbin Editor let slip some interesting gossip to me on IRC. Apparently Newzbin has been put into administration yesterday because it couldn’t pay its debts. Word is that they owe the MPA £230,000 just in interim costs, and that’s without a full costs ruling or a decision on damages. Apparently they also owe a software development house over £500k. They also stopped taking payments a few weeks back. Fucking ouch.

I predict Newzbin is toast.

Does it mean the end of the service for users? Maybe not. While I can’t see how Newzbin can dig themselves out of this hole or carry on, there have been odd developments. Users have been pressing Newzbin to Opensource the site code but they’ve refused. However the rumour is that someone hacked their servers and grabbed the code and several databases. I PM’d a Newzbin guy and he denied knowing anything about this but the rumours are strong. Added to which Newzbin have been hacked before: about 5 years ago a database of their Paypal transactions ended up on Usenet! (Oh the irony) And another Usenet indexer also turned up running, ahem, similar looking code.

If that is right I’m guessing a clone site will spring up soon, or maybe several.

Update:

Wow. Slightly freaked that Newzbin has both closed AND linked to this blogpost to give an explanation. Just to say, I am nothing to do with Newzbin but I am (OK, was, it would seem) an editor and I knew the original guys fairly well via IRC.

I’ll see if I can get answers to questions asked below and post the replies in new blogposts.

As someone in comments said, there is a newzbin users group on irc.freenode.net #newzbin

Update 2 – 19th May

New story: privacy, source code refunds.

Update 3 – 19th May

The original site owners have confirmed that, based on source code fragments examined by them, and supplied by a third party, the site source code does appear to have been stolen and is in the hands of unknown parties. An Attack of the Clones imminent?

update 4 – 28th May

Mr White – code ‘thief’ interview

update 4 – 1 June

Newzbin is back

Newzbin woes March 4, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in lawsuits, usenet.
Tags:
3 comments

Looks like I am late to the story about Newzbin being sued. Anyway seems the trial ended yesterday. Maybe these guys are pessimists but it looks like they anticipating a partial defeat:

It’s always difficult trying to guess what a judge is thinking as his questions and comments, where probing of either parties submissions, may be no more than professionally required scepticism. Nonetheless, here is our guess.

Our hunch is that they will fail on some of their assertions but will probably win on others. They may not be able to prove damage or loss from copying, but they may convince the court we have facilitated others in obtaining their works.

If they win then, as we said in a previous news story, Newzbin will not be shut down. In all probability there will be ‘enquiry as to damages’ (the legal expression) and a new mini-trial over the terms of an injunction compelling us to block material of the Claimants. For example we may be required to develop filter mechanisms. At the moment we remain unfiltered and we would fight for the current notice and take down system that we already use. Again this is just our best guess and we may be well wide of the mark.

My experience of these things suggest the judge will argue about how wide the injunction will be. Presumably Newzbin want it just to relate to specified films and the MPAA want it against an copyright film of theirs.

Filtering would be a disaster though. Mininova etc showed that when that happens the popularity of the site just collapses. I hope Newzbin have a Plan B.

I’ll try and have a chat with the guys on IRC and see what’s up.

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