Dummies Guide
newsgroup & sub-groups
"...the lossless faq for fuckwits" (n. goode)

  1. What's a.b.s.l and what's this FAQ page for?
  2. What are the rules?
  3. Can I just download stuff right away, or do I need to contribute?
  4. I'm familiar with MP3 music. How's "lossless" different? Is it for me?
  5. Ok, sounds interesting but a bit overwhelming; what are the steps to download and enjoy the music?
  6. I'm having problems with downloads
  7. Requesting music
  8. I'm contemplating posting music. What's involved?
  9. Glossary, technical tid-bits, and FAQ
  10. Credits

This site is written as a single HTML page. All contents are on THIS page, and are not written in any logical sequential order. In other words, it's as if the whole book's here, but the chapters are all over the place.

What does it mean in practice?

For best results, you should not simply read it from top to bottom - if you do, you might find it slightly incoherent. Instead, make use of the internal hyperlinks: start with a topic of interest, zoom in via those hyperlinks and use your browser's "Back" button to navigate. Since all contents are on this page, once it's loaded, navigating is blazingly fast.

Lastly, this page is a synthesis of a large and diversified contribution of many members of a.b.s.l groups. I've tried my best to remain impartial: whenever I have a personal opinion/preference, I clearly state so. Everything else is the merged opinion & know-how of a good many long-time members of the lossless groups, and as such, comes as close as possible to what an official page for a.b.s.l. might be.


1. What's "a.b.s.l" and what's this FAQ page for?

"a.b.s.l" stands for "alt.binaries.sounds.lossless". It is a Usenet binaries newsgroup dedicated to lossless audio contents. Its aim is to post and download lossless music as attachments. While a.b.s.l is not a discussion group, discussions are welcome (especially those that are on topic) since the toll on bandwith and news servers' storage space is negligeable. In other words, if you have any questions/ideas/etc, don't hesitate to post them.

Since its birth, several sub-groups have sprung up (a.b.s.l.classical, a.b.s.l.jazz, a.b.s.l.country, etc) and no doubt more will in the future. The contents of this website applies to the entire hierarchy (i.e. a.b.s.l and all its sub-groups). To make things easier for you to read (and for me to write), I'll refer to the entire lot simply as "a.b.s.l". In other words, whenever I say "this group", or "a.b.s.l", it is implied that all sub-groups are equally concerned - unless otherwise noted.

The purpose of this web page is to help newcomers and veterans alike to find their way and live in harmony, participate in the groups - passively (i.e. just downloading) and/or actively (uploading/posting) - and to hopefully help everyone find something they like & enjoy.

This site is mainly written for PC users. If you are a MAC user you'll find MAC-specific information here: Welcome to the Mac OS X Corner of the Lossless Audio World - site created and maintained by a long-time MAC user member of absl. UNIX users are welcome to contribute to this site with material which would help them with UNIX-specific issues. Either that or emulate the above-mentioned MAC site, UNIX style, and let me know the URL so that I can include a link to it right here.

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2. What are the rules?

There are no "rules", and no "moderators". We all expect users to be grown-up and "do the right thing".

The groups self-regulate: if you behave in a way that fits within the spirit of the groups, you'll enjoy a place where freedom *IS* the rule. If not, expect some sharp comments by other members. The users of these groups make them what they are, not some arbitrary document or FAQ-man with a big stick "à la MP3-Land" telling people every day what to do and not to do, and how.

This website does not profess to be a what to and not to do page: it is simply a reflection of the spirit of a.b.s.l. This spirit may and probably will evolve as more participants help mold it. Indeed, everyone - veteran or newbie - is a part of it all, and is welcome to suggest ideas to the group as well as changes to any of this website.

A bit like in real life: you meet a bunch of people, you gauge the atmosphere, and if you decide you like it, you try to fit in, yet with your own personality. Fitting in doesn't mean you must become a mindless robot: you can have your own way, your own personality. Everyone else expects you to be different, not just a prefabricated clone of the "perfect brainless & obedient member".

Many a time, the different and fresh approach of a new member will enrich the group to the point where even long-time members will not only enjoy the *new blood* input but also be inspired to further refine the posting techniques they had long settled into.

Observe what's going on, get the flavor, and if you're of good will, you'll fit in just fine while remaining yourself.

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3. Can I just download stuff right away, or do I need to contribute?

You don't need to contribute to be able to download.

If you're new, download to your heart's content - you can't go wrong. But when it comes to uploading, take your time before you take the jump: see what other people do, especially the regular posters. The technical tid-bits are much more involved than for posting MP3s, although not insurmountable. However, it takes time to master them to the point where your posts will be useful and appreciated. If you do take the time to watch and understand, you'll notice that even long time posters further refine their technique every now & then.

You'll see different posters chose variations around a same theme:

Some people post headers 5km long, describing every bit of the post - others post cryptic 10 character long headers; some ppl post a whole array of support files, others practically none; you'll find most people take care to at least describe the contents of their posts via an NFO/TXT file.

Again, there is no rule on exactly how to do it or else! Use your judgment and do what you think is best - do what YOU would like to see others do. If it falls flat on its face, then revise your thinking. If nobody complains, and if you get praises for your postings, then you are obviously on the right track.

Believe me, I screwed up many a time myself (and still do, I'm sure), but there is nothing like being willing to listen to constructive criticism and adapt if needed to get along with other people and make the a.b.s.l groups a success story for everyone.

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4. I'm familiar with MP3 music. How's "lossless" different? Is it for me?

Lossless audio groups are for people who want an exact replica of the original music material source. The penalty is that, all other things being equal, a lossless audio file is many times bigger (and thus longer to upload/download) than its MP3 equivalent (even at highest quality settings - 320KB, etc). But that is the price lossless fans are willing to pay for the sake of 100% integrity of the material. You could say lossless fans are kind of purists: even if the recording is a shitty 1935 LP, with a 300Hz-3kHz bandwith, the lossless user will want the no-loss replica.

How is this "lossless" result achieved?

The principle is similar to MP3s in that the original WAV files (i.e. the actual digital musical contents of your CD) are compressed to take less disk space and transmit quicker over the Internet. From WAV files, you now end up with music files that are called *.APE, *.FLAC, *.SHN, etc (there are several "lossless" schemes around) instead of *.MP3.

Here ends the similarity, though: the big difference with MP3 (and other "lossy* compression schemes such as MPC, Ogg, etc) is that when you decompress a lossless file, you end up with the exact original WAV file. As if you had ZIP'ed or RAR'ed it. I won't go into more details here in this introduction - if you want to know more about it, check the Compressing software section.

As well as taking longer to up[down]load, lossless files naturally take up much more HDD space than MP3s. This brings me to point out a difference between lossless and MP3 users in their thinking of why they download music in the first place:

As you'll notice, a.b.s.l posters go to great lengths to ensure that not only the musical content is posted accurately, but also supply detailed info regarding the layout of the CD, verification schemes to allow downloaders to make sure nothing got corrupted (even if audibly unnoticeable), etc.


If you're mostly interested in getting *quick bulk* music easily playable from your computer's HDD, and find the idea of going back to CDs to play music a pain in the butt, then a.b.s.l is probably NOT for you. Even if you have zillions of gigabytes of hard drive space, the steps involved between downloading and getting to play the music will give you the shits no end.

On the other hand, if you view the exercise as lossless enthusiasts do, and accept that some substantial active input from your part is needed (even just to download and play the music, let alone to upload), then this may be for you a home with new horizons of enjoyment & satisfaction.

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5. Ok, sounds interesting but a bit overwhelming; what are the steps to download and enjoy the music?

You need a little investment in software. Luckily, most of it is freeware, i.e. the investment is in time rather than money.

You will naturally also need an Internet connection and access to a news server. Not all news servers carry all newsgroups. Also, "quality" varies greatly from one server to the next. For an explanation on this "quality" term as well as many other useful hints, see "News Servers" section.

MAC users, please see this excellent site created by a long-time absl member: Welcome to the Mac OS X Corner of the Lossless Audio World.

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6. I'm having some problems with downloads...

This being a rather broad topic, I'll split it into sub-sections:

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7. Where and How do I request music ?

In most NGs (newsgroups) there is no such thing as a *sub* NG for requests: you simply post your requests within the group - this is the case for a.b.s.l. How do you do this ? No hard and fast rule, but most people post a header along the lines of:

"REQ: some artist - some CD title, please!"

You can optionally add variants such as: ".... pretty please, grovel grovel", etc :-)

From my limited experience, it is always a good idea to WRITE something in the body of the message, i.e. not simply post a header. For instance, a header like:

"REQ: anyone got Mr Bean's Best of?" accompanied by a body text like:

"I really dig this guy. I've been on the lookout for this particular CD for a long time. If anyone could upload it, it'd really make my day :-) Thanks in advance!"

....rather than just a header (with no body content) like:

"REQ: Mr Beans - Best Of"

Not sure why, but it seems to get more sympathy - and more chances of a positive outcome.

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8. I'm contemplating posting music. What's involved?

If you've got downloading (meaning downloading + decompressing + verifying + burning CD) under control, then you're half way to posting successfully. Posting requires everything downloading does, plus a few more things:

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9. Glossary, technical tid-bits, and FAQs:

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10. Credits

Many members of a.b.s.l contributed to this page. We all hope it will help newbies and veterans alike, and endeavor to update it as often as possible. Any suggestion, however *unimportant* is welcome. If you want to make a suggestion just post a message to the main group.

Here are the nyms (i.e. nicknames) of the people in a.b.s.l who contributed with material, ideas, and constructive criticism:

Thanks to all of you for making this page what it is! J

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Last updated on 06-Aug-2007

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