A happy coincidence of events -- that Unison, the far and away best OS X usenet client, went free and Google Groups' digest emails started working again -- has me using usenet a little again. Then last week, we have a sign of life on rec.games.video.classic beyond Robert Bernardo's C= user group announcements, which I admittedly do enjoy seeing, and posts by Bravo Sierra Computers, which I might find spammy iff there were real discussions going on. So that's awesome.

But when I go to sign in, of course Teranews, the "free" usenet server that only runs you $3 to sign-up and then promises free access for life, is down. Its web site, rarely updated since it appears to be the early 90s, even recognizes the outage, with a somewhat ominous message that there's no ETA on when it'll be back up. A quickly googled thread on alt.free.newsservers shows it's been down for a week or more.

Time for a fallback, at least for when Teranews is down (just in case it comes back up, which it apparently does each time folks think it's finally given up).

The Netherlands in particular seem to have a number of free options (a list that I haven't vetted is here), but it seemed somewhat convoluted and often not in English. The most popular option doesn't allow posting. I'm going to shy away from that.

I did bump into Astraweb selling blocks of access that don't expire, which looked promising. Since I'm just pulling text on two or three groups I feel nostalgic about, like rgvc, even 5 gigs should be nearly limitless access. I doubt I've pulled that much down from TeraNews -- heck, I wonder if I've pulled in 200 megs -- since I got it in 2007.

While searching for reviews of Astraweb, I ran into this post on reddit that was awfully helpful as it listed a number of block usenet vendors. Seemed time to find out what I could about buying blocks of usenet access rather than just checking out Astraweb in detail.

After stumbling over a usenet review site linked on slickdeals a while back looks like the most important consideration past price is expiration. Atranet, TheCubeNet and NewsDemon, eg, don't have an expiration on their blocks. NewsgroupReviews.com has a listing of blocks with prices that claims that all of the providers listed don't have an expiration here.

So then it's simply a quick check to make sure there isn't an expiration, and then a price-check for their smallest blocks. Here's my random sample.

TheCubeNet: 5 gigs for $3
NewsDemon: 10 gigs for $2
Astraweb: 25 gigs for $10

The NewsDemon FAQ says the block doesn't expire, and I've seen some not uncomplimentary reviews, so I think I'll give that a shot. We'll see what happens.