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Bittorrent

Essay by   •  February 23, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,326 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,026 Views

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If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing the internet in the past half-decade, you’ll probably have heard about BitTorrent, a popular program used for downloading media. Whether or not you know how to use it is another thing altogether. I’m here to tell you that it’s invaluable and to show you how to get started with it.

Disclaimer: BitTorrent is an entirely legal program and infrastructure. Downloading copyrighted material through it is not. If you follow my instructions here, you will have done something wholly illegal and morally reprehensible. Good people pay for their media. If you don’t intend on downloading copyrighted material, BitTorrent is still extremely useful, as it is a powerful method of distributing legal information. Even if you don’t ever plan to use it at all, I still recommend you internalize what I lay out here, because this system is changing the world.

I, the author, am not responsible for any damage you incur in relation to this piece of writing.

A Bit of History

The seminal Napster hit its peak usage with roughly 25 million users in mid-2001. At this exact same time, Bram Cohen produced the BitTorrent protocol and first client. Since then, BitTorrent’s uptake has been exponential. In 2006, an estimated 35% of the world’s aggregate internet bandwidth was reported to have been being used for BitTorrent traffic. More than every third bit travelling across the world was being used specifically in these programs, and this number has only been on an incline since then. Now, even commercial companies like Blizzard (the creators of Starcraft and Warcraft) use BitTorrent to dispense software updates. To say that BitTorrent is the new Napster is massively underestimating its impact. Torrents represent a sea change in electronic information transfer.

A Torrent of Technical Details

BitTorrent is a means of distributing large amounts of data from one computer to another to many, many others. It differs from client-server downloads (the standard “save as” protocol you see in web browsers, for instance) in that it does not access a server and download a file that is directly stored on that server. It differs from other peer-to-peer (distributed) protocols, such as the original iteration of Napster or the newer Kazaa, by using a truly distributed means of finding the trackers.

Trackers report on “who” has “what” of a particular torrent’s information and may actively maintain torrents’ health. The actual “torrents” are small files that tell the client where to find the actual files. People who have the actual files and are willing to allow you to download from them are called “seeds.” Seeds help the growth of the torrent by spreading its information to people who are downloading it, called “leechers.” Everyone beginning to download a torrent is initially a leecher. Some trackers may cut your download off if you never seed while continuing to leech. It all sounds complicated but is behind the scenes and very seamless, as you’ll see.

An Overview of Clients

To get started with “torrenting,” a term that’s come to be used commonly and summarizes the act of downloading and using torrents, you need a client. Clients allow the tracker information to be processed onto your computer and generally smooth the experience by automating many processes and managing your downloads. There are dozens and dozens of clients from which to choose, but I’ll hand by recommendation out to a client named Vuze. Vuze (formerly known as Azureus) is by far the most robust client available in terms of features and is fairly user-friendly. It is available at www.Azureus.com.

A Briefing on Indexes

What do you want to download? You can find anything imaginable. Torrent trackers are found on thousands of sites. Last Friday’s The Incredible Hulk was available on dozens of indexes on its day of release, for instance. The second “Futurama” movie, due out on DVD on June 24th, has been downloadable for weeks in select places. You just have to know where to look.

The most common way to access these indexes is simply to go to the sites themselves in your browser. Popular public torrent searches include www.TextbookTorrents.com, www.ISOHunt.com, www.mininova.org, and the infamous www.ThePirateBay.org. If searching these individually leaves you fruitless, you can also try compilation searches, such as www.CompleTorrent.com, which search dozens of sites at a time, giving you a composite result of their findings. You simply enter your query and tap “Enter” to be graced with up to tens of thousands of results. As well, there are private sites, like www.Waffles.FM and www.Demonoid.com that require invitations and a reputation. These tend to give enormous speed boosts over normal index trackers, but, being private, they are more exclusive.

If you are uncomfortable with using your browser like this, most popular clients (ОјTorrent, Vuze, etc.) have inbuilt searches, usually in their top-right corners. These internal search dialogs simplify the process further but still usually open in your web browser.

A Walkthrough

So, you’ve

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