A new method for encoding binary files on usenet, which should decrease the size of the encoded file by up to 40 percent. yEnc takes advantage of usenet servers being almost able to transfer 8 bit data, apart from a few characters. Previous encodings (such as uuencoding) converted the 8-bit stream into a 7-bit one. yEnc only escapes the untransmitable characters. It also adds CRC checking, and builds handling of multiparts into the protocol. Unsupported in outlook express, but Forte agent are working on supporting it.

yEnc lives at yEnc.org, which has news, howtos, and information on software support.

-- The following is the yEnc specification, which was written by Juergen@Helbing.de, and is in the public domain.

yEncode - A quick and dirty encoding for binaries
Version 1.0 - 31-July-2001 - by Juergen@Helbing.de

- Motivation

Transporting binaries by eMail or Usenet is done today with 7-bit encodings which add a lot of overhead and require up to 40% of more bandwidth than necessary. UUencode, base64, binhex, ......

yEncode is a quick approach to introduce an encoding which uses the fact that 8-bit transmission is now widely used and acceptable - but respects the fact that some special binary codes are reserved.

The overhead of a yEncoded binary can be 1-2% - so it is worth the effort.

- Principle

The principle of encoding is really simple: A few special characters are reserved from the 8-bit-charset, one character is used as escape character to encode the 'critical' ones.
Critical characters are usually: NULL, TAB, CR, LF. (The list could be easily extended - if necessary) As escape character we use the '=' equal sign.

A lot of binaries are using a lot of NULL characters - so the entire character table is rotated by 42: 0-> 42, 1->43, .... 255 -> 41 So just a few exotic bytes will be encoded with the escape character. And these 'exotic' codes have usually a probability of 0.4%. With 5 'critical' characters up to 2% of overhead are produced. The CRLF-overhead for every line depends on the (flexible) line size and would be another 1-2%. The 'lean-in' and 'lead-out' lines are tiny in a large binary.

- Inner encoding loop

So the 'inner loop encoding' is:

* Fetch the character
* Add 42
* Check for NULL, TAB(ascii 9), LF(ascii 10), CR (ascii 13) and '='
* If one of the critical chars encounters 
  then write '=' as escape character to the output stream followed by the critical+64.
  (NULL -> =@,   TAB --> =I,  LF --> =J,  CR --> =M,  '=' --> =}

For allowing proper transport we will create only 128/129 or 256/257 characters in the output stream. Then a CRLF is added to terminate a line. This adds redundancy - but still allows to view such a file with regular tools and ascii-editors. Of course the last line is shorter.

The 128/129 line length happens because the escape charcter is never wrapped to a new line - but always combined with its predecessor. So a line with 128 bytes cannot end with '=' and a line with 129 bytes MUST end with an escape-sequence. (Ths makes encoders & decoders & environmental information far easier).

- Headers and Trailers

It might be possible to embedd such an encoding into the MIME standard - but this takes a long time - and that standard does not add value. So most q&d programmers do not implement it.

(Whoever wants to define the MIME types and add them to the standard is invited to do/try - the author is programmer, not a chair).

For making things as EASY as possible the yEncoding is introduced in a similar way to UUencoding. A 'keyword line' starts the yEncoded part, another 'keyword line' stops it. So it is again possible to add an yEncoded to a normal 8-bit-Text-stream and decode it from there. Any kind of text file on every computer system can be created or decoded.

The header line:   =ybegin line=128 size=123456 name=mybinary.dat
=ybegin is so special, that you wont find it 'by mistake'. (This is similar to 'begin 644 ' from UUencoding)

yEncode adds ALWAYS the typical size of a line, the size of the attached binary and - at the end - the name of the file. Because _name= cannot be used elsewhere the name can include all possible charcters - and is easy to find. However quotes are not recommended (")!

The trailer line:   =yend size=123456
=yend is again similar to UUencode (end). The combination =y at the line start cannot occur elsewhere - because '=' is the escape char and 'Ctrl+Y' is not an escaped character.

The repeated size is _mandantory_ for redundancy checks. Every decoder should compare the value in the =ybegin line with the value in the =yend line AND the really found bytes. If any of these three values is different, then the attachment is corrupt - and a warning to the user must be issued - the resulting, decoded binary file must not stay on the harddisk in this case.

- Options

There are options to the header/trailer lines: * CRC-32-Value - to guarantee data integrity

Example:  =yend size=123456 crc32=abcdef12
The CRC value _can_ be used in the trailer line to improve data integrity.

- Example for a 'simple' real yEncoded part:

=ybegin line=128 size=111401 name=al_larsonbw030_ball.jpg 
=yend size=111401 

- Multi part splitting

A common problem today are very long binaries which are splitted into parts. The problems are incompleteness and corruption of parts. yEncode offers a method to verify the validity of a splitted message:

All message-parts are collected from the input source (Mail, News, ...) They can be identified by a counter in the message-subject-line (001/123) (002/123) ... (123/123).

The single messages are yEncoded as usually. So _every_ message contains a =ybegin and =yend line (for one part). But an additional line is used:

=ybegin part=1 line=128 size=500000 name=mybinary.dat
=ypart begin=1 end=100000
.... data
=yend size=100000 part=1 pcrc32=abcdef12 

=ybegin part=5 line=128 size=500000 name=mybinary.dat
=ypart begin=400001 end=500000 
.... data
=yend size=100000 part=10 pcrc32=12a45c78 crc32=abcdef12 
If the keyword 'part=' occurs in the =ybegin line then a multi part message is expected and the next line MUST specify that part. The specification of the part is the position of the first and the last byte of the part which is encoded in this message. In these cases the =yend line is also extended. It MUST contain the same part number - and it MUST contain also a computed crc32 value for the range in this part (pcrc=). Again there should be also a crc-value for the entire post. But this is not a must - especially if the sending is done on several days.

You should noticy that the SIZE= in the ?yend line is the line of one part, not of the entire file. It must be recomputed from the first and last position in the =ypart line. If a decoder fails to detect the multiparts (because they are not implemented), then he will not decode single parts because the sizes are different !

Multipart binaries are usually very sensitive to corruption and transporting hundreds of Megabytes in vain just because nobody can identify which part is defective is a giantic waste of bandwidth (and nerves). The strategy to identify the position of a multi part in a larger file permits the decoder even to collect binary information from several posts - even with different part sizes !

No other binary encoding supports such features - and they are so easy to implement (during sending ;-).

The 'more formal' description for multipart encoding is:

If a binary is sent in multiple splitted parts, then the =ybegin line is extended by a 'part=' keyword. If the 'part=' appears there, then the next line defines the position of the part in the file:
=ypart begin=#### end=#####
For multi parts the =yend line must also contain the same part number plus a calculated crc32 value (pcrc32=xxxxxxxx). A regular crc32 value for the entire binary file is recommended in the last part's =yend line.

- Subject line conventions

Normal 'single part' yEncoded binaries need no special conventions for the subject line. However because they will be unusual in the first time - and perhaps some providers cannot carry them - they should be marked also.So this is only a recommendation:
Subject: [Comment1]  "filename" 123456 yEnc bytes  [Comment2]
The [comments] are optional.
The filename should be enclosed into quotes. This allows easy detection of filenames - even with spaces in them.
The string yEnc should be placed between the filesize and the word bytes - which are following the filename.

Multipart binaries should _always_ be marked!
Downloading one GigaByte first and seeing it was senseless is extremely frustrating!
Subject: [Comment1] "filename" yEnc (1/512) [size] [Comment2]
Again the comments are both optional. The [size] is also optional here. The Filename _must_ be included into quotes and the keyword 'yEnc' is mandantory.
Additional information for later implementation will be inserted between yEnc and the '('.

- Protection and Copyright

This encoding method is released to the public domain. Everybody is permitted to copy it, to use it, to implement it. Public domain example software is also available. It is not possible to create a patent or protect it in any way. Everybody should benefit from it... and its predecessors. This document can be freely distributed. But please dont claim that it would be your own work!

- Credits

This document has been created based on my own experience and the help and input from a few Usenet activists.
Thanks to:
Jeremy Nixon
Curt Welch
Marco d'Itri
The Meowbot
Jan Ingvoldstat
The UseFor taskforce
nn (Please remind me)

- Conclusion

This is a proposal - not a draft and no rfc. Your input is highly appreciated.The author is just a poor programmer - with a few years of binary experince.

Thanks for reading.

Juergen Helbing
archiver@i3w.com (The Archiver)

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