A couple weeks ago, as luck would have it, I was looking for new software to review, and was also looking to download a pre-release version of Ubuntu 10.10, which is scheduled for release in about a month. I’ve always downloaded these pre-release versions straight from Ubuntu, but decided to grab the disc image off Usenet, as I’d just heard about SABnzbd+ (for brevity and the sake of my typing, I’ll just call it SAB for the rest of this article).
SAB is the backend used by the development versions of LottaNZB, a great Usenet downloader I’ve used in the past. One of the biggest advantages to SAB is that it’s accessed via the web browser. So while the daemon is running on your home computer, you can access the downloads, check their progress, and even start new downloads, all “from the road,” so to speak.
In spite of my relative newness of using web frontends (I’ve used Transmission’s web interface before, but that was about it), there wasn’t much involved in setting up and using SAB. After installing it (easy, now that SAB can be found both in the Ubuntu repositories and its own PPA), the daemon needed to be started, but after that, simply typing “http://localhost.com/8080/” in a web browser would bring up its interface.
Once using the web interface, everything is pretty self-explanatory. There are menus for loading NZB files. NZB was the now-defunct NewzBin’s method of grouping the hundreds or even thousands of individual posts and their attachments that make up Usenet binaries. It’s also part of the full name of SABnzbd (which stands for SAB nzb daemon). SAB also has an option for accessing a lot of preferences.
In the SAB main interface, you can see all the binaries currently loading, as well as those queued to download next. Below is a list of previous downloads. For downloads in progress, you’ll see the current speed as well as the estimated time until completion. You can pause downloads or delete them from the queue. And SAB can also deal with your downloads when they’ve completed. By this I mean that SAB will take the individual files (RAR files are most common), and if they’ve been damaged, look for the appropriate PAR files online (assuming they were part of the original NZB file), download them and repair the damaged files, before expanding the compressed files and finally deleting all the leftovers, leaving you with just what you wanted to download.
For those who want to set up a program exactly to their liking, SAB doesn’t disappoint, having nearly a dozen different settings tabs. Among the options you can set are different Usenet providers, which folders are used for temporary files and where completed downloads should be stored, and switches, which allow you to specify different actions for different types of files. You can schedule SAB to kick in at a certain time (nice if you’re sharing a connection and don’t want to hog all the bandwidth during the day), and even sign up to follow RSS feeds, which are often available for downloading – for example – complete series of television shows. There’s a lot of options in the SAB preferences, but happily it works just fine without getting too deep.
In my testing, SAB worked great. It was definitely a little odd seeing my web browser open instead of a separate program, and it also felt weird closing the web browser after starting a download (SAB keeps running in the background, even after the browser quits). But after a couple days of using it, it felt a little more normal, and I was more than happy with the speeds I got with SAB. I don’t know if I’ll stick with it as a Usenet binary, but it’s a great choice for those who want something that can be used on any platform (SAB is written in Python, and is available on Windows and Mac, as well as Linux).