Understand Bit-Torrents (Basics)

Understand Bit-Torrents (Basics)

Bit Torrent Philosopy.

Let’s begin with the torrent philosophy. A long time ago, when almost everyone was on dialup … people still are. But that’s not the point. Everyone used standard peer to peer technology, i.e. you connect to one or more users and download what your looking for from them. Now, the drawback in such a network architecture is that uploading is not only an option but a kind of philanthrophy. Only those people with Cable/DSL or T1 connections could afford to stay online so that other people could download information from them. Whereas, users like you and me on dialup connections would download our information and scamper offline to listen to our ripped music with satisfaction in our hearts. Such users as we will see ahead are classified as leechers. This clogs the network, as on one side you have a massive demand, and if the demand is for information that is not poular, then you have very little or no supply at all.

Moving on then, Bram Cohen decided that he wanted to change things, so he came up with the Bit Torrent protocol. What makes Bit Torrent cooler and more practical than any other peer to peer technology out there is that Bit Torrent makes it cumpulsory for you to upload information to the internet as you download it.

If you think that’s trivial, or it might not have any impact on how things work on a peer to peer network, think again. In December, 2005 Bit Torrent accounted for 52% of all internet traffic, all internet traffic. Of course ever since those damned peer to peer wars the RIAA and the MPAA are limiting BitTorrent traffic, and with ISP’s in the US blocking BitTorrent traffic altogether it’s now been neutered to 30% … but still 30% of all internet traffic is a big deal!

Bit Torrent jargon.

On a Bit Torrent network there are certain words that you should know about:

Tracker:

A server that manages the Bit Torrent file transfer process. So if your downloading some file(s) off a particular tracker it would know everything, how much you’ve downloaded, who are you(IP Address), how many people your downloading from, etc. Think of a tracker as the father of what’s going on. He know’s everything.

A .torrent file:

A .torrent file is what you will download from a torrent search engine. This is a small file that basically points to the file you want to download, so it would contain a pointer to all the information like who to connect to, how many seeds, peers, are there for a particular file, what is it’s size etc.

Torrent Search Engine:

This Search Engine isn’t a search engine for the files that your looking for, but rather an index into a set of torrent files. This is a web application that you will be accessing to download your .torrent file.

Seeders:

A seeder is someone who has a whole copy of a paricular file or set of files, and is willing to share them, i.e. is allowing you to connect with him/her. At least one seeder is necessary for any Bit Torrent download to operate.

Peers:

A peer is someone who has a partially downloaded file or set of files. A peer uploads information while he downloads. While it is always good to have a large number of peers for a particular download. If given an option go for a download which has a large number of seeders.

Leechers:

A user who is not willing to share files, just downloads files and keeps them to him/herself. Such a user should be shot in the kneecaps … many, many times over.

Swarm:

A collection of peers.

Bit Torrent Client:

Software installed locally on your computer, that enables you to connect to a tracker, get information about a file, and hence connect to n number of users using that information, and hence download a file.


Get started with a checklist.

So we’re done talking. Now it’s time to step into the ring. Let’s make a checklist of the things you need so we can go about this in a little organized manner.
You need.

  • A client.
  • A search engine.
  • To know what to download.


Bit Torrent clients.

Downloading a BitTorrent file still involves a client-server two tier architecture. You use a client ask a server for a service. In our case, you use a client, and a .torrent file to find information about a particular file on a tracker(server) and connect to people(peers) to download information.

There are about a gazillion clients available for you to use. Some of the more popular one’s for the Windows platform are:

The Official BitTorrent Client.

I haven’t heard anything bad about it, but then again haven’t heard anything good about it either.

Azureus

A feature-rich, pack it in there Java based client. Most of those features won’t be used by a beginner.

uTorrent

My personal favourite. A small file, no install. Doesn’t leave any footprint on your system, modifies nothing, needs very little processing. Has all the necessary features. I would reccomend using this client.


Bit Torrent search engines.

So now your half way to being cool, you got the client down, now it’s time to pick a search engine to use. Now most good search engines index almost all torrents, from software to MP3’s to movies. But if you want Desi movies, Desi music, this is the wrong place to look. I may be Desi, but I don’t act like it šŸ™‚ Moving on then, here’s a list of popular search engines. I use them all the time.

Your ready to download.

You already know what your searching for, or else you wouldn’t be here. So plug it in the search box. You will get a result set of torrent files. Make sure you read the comments, so that you get an idea of how the file is, does it contain a virus etc… or is it the right file.

Click on a download link, a prompt will ask you if you want to save it to your disk, or open it. You can choose to do either.

If you choose to just open it, make sure you open it with the client that you have chosen to download.

if you chose to save it to disk, once you’ve saved it, open it with the client you’ve downloaded.


Kick some ass!
So now your download has started. As you can see, you are uploading as you are downloading, thereby you are not clogging the network, only ensuring that things run smoothly.

To Conclude

Torrents are not all about ripping and downloading stuff. In all honesty you should buy things from the people who have laboured to give them to you. “Pay the Man” in the words of The Offspring.

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