Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Basics #1: Torrents

Torrents!!! Odds are you know what torrents are, you've been using torrents since you came out of the womb, and you are seeding your entire porn collection right now, while downloading new House; and by House I mean porn. However, if you were not so fortunate as to be born with absolute knowledge of the universe, odds are you still fap to magazines and you have to continuously get new ones because they either get boring real quick, or all of the pages stick together... either way, torrents are the answer to your problems.
------------------------------ What is a Torrent? ------------------------------
A torrent is a file that contains meta data regarding  a specific file or files in question. It typically contains its name, size, other things, and most importantly it contains information about its whereabouts. The file.torrent will contain at least one tracker, which is a URL that points to a website which contains more tracking information. Ultimately, a torrent is a very very small file, maybe a few kilobytes or less which just contains information that a torrent client uses to find and download the torrent.
------------------------------ How Torrents work? ------------------------------
Torrents rely on the BitTorrent protocol. The BitTorrent protocol is a peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol in which seeders and leechers communicate with each other directly and exchange data. What makes torrents so unique is the way in which they utilize P2P file sharing. Let's assume that a large group of people (1000+) want to download a particular file that has just been uploaded by one BAMF (just one cool individual, if you don't know what BAMF stands for); in a classic P2P system such as Kazaa, Limewire, or Azerus, everyone would download from the individual that has a complete copy of the file. Once more people obtained completed copies, other people could download from them, but until other people successfully downloaded the file, the file could only be gotten from one person. Everyone trying to download a particular file from one source created a HUGE bottlenecking problem which could cause everyone to download at insanely slow speeds, or could possibly end up DOSing the uploader such that no one could get the file.
With BitTorrent, anyone with a completed file that they are uploading is considered a seeder because they are "seeding" (letting it sit on your computer and upload to others), whereas the people who are currently in the process of downloading a file are considered leechers because they are "leeching" (downloading) that file. Now, the fundamental difference with BitTorrent is that each file is broken down into a number of pieces (the actual number varies based off the size of the file in question), and any user can download different pieces from different people at the same time, even if the person they are downloading from has not finished downloading the entire file themselves. Simply put, leechers can leech from seeders, and leechers can also leech from other leechers. This allows for a much better distribution of bandwidth which avoids any hardcore bottlenecking problems.
------------------------------ Pros and Cons of Torrents ------------------------------
This also is the reason the BitTorrent protocol has become so popular amongst websites which distribute pirated software... it is extremely difficult for someone to determine what file I downloaded if I downloaded 5/200 pieces from source A, 20/200 from B, 1/200 from C, and so on and so on. The best part about this is that although I may not have the completed file, I can share what I have with other people who also may not have the completed file, but we can all download from each other and successfully obtain copies of the completed file in question even though technically there may never have been anyone seeding the file throughout the time I was downloading it; in other words, at any given point in time, no one may have a complete copy of a particular file, however all of the pieces are out there floating around such that it can be obtained. In theory, this is nice (and typically in practice it does work really well too), but it does depend on people seeding files, or at least uploading while they download. BitTorrent has created a new file sharing problem that is quite unique to torrents. The problem arises when people fail to seed the file they just downloaded or if a number of people aren't allowing uploading as they download (they aren't allowing anyone to leech from them). This will cause some pieces of the file to fall out of circulation (assuming there is no main seeder) which will result in you, and Everyone else that is leeching the file to get close to completion but stuck around 95-99% because a few pieces of the file are distributed to peers that either don't allow uploads or they finish downloading and don't seed
------------------------------ How-To Torrent ------------------------------
In order to download torrents you need two things: a torrent, and a torrent client.
Torrents themselves are typically found on websites because you can read reviews and ratings of the torrent in question. However, some torrent clients have a built in "search" feature that allows you to search for torrents that way for convenience... personally I would never download anything that way because you can't be 100% sure of its source and legitimacy.
Torrent Clients come in all shapes and sizes. If you are running a Linux distro such as Ubuntu (currently what I am using; highly recommended) it comes with the ability to handle torrents natively, with a bare-bones program called Transmission Client that will handle and manage your torrents for you. While this works, it looks really shitty and lacks key features I look for in a torrent client. If you are running Linux, I recommend getting a torrent client called Deluge.
$>sudo apt-get install deluge //if you are running Ubuntu
And if you are running any version of Microsoft Windows, I recommend you get a light weight program called uTorrent.
Once you have downloaded and installed a client, there are a few settings you may want to look for and enable if they are available to you.
*****Note: I am not responsible for any damages caused to your computer if you mess something up while installing anything, changing any settings, or browsing any of the following sites. I am also not responsible for the way in which you choose to use this torrenting software. I, of course, only using torrents to download 100% free and legal e-books. trollface.jpg******

If available, find and choose the following options:
- encrypt the steam of data (outgoing and ingoing) for your torrents.
- choose to ignore local bandwidth limits on your network.
- choose to carry out your torrent activity on Random ports.
- make sure you are uploading and at least seeding twice as much as you leech.
- set your download limit to unlimited (-1), and your upload limit high (~500Kbs).
- allow more active downloads if you download a lot of files at once.
- prioritize first and last piece of torrent, so that VLC or another media player you may have can at least attempt to play it for you if your anxious to see your porn.

Here are a few good sites to find torrents on:
The Pirate Bay - a classic, will never let you down. Also, they may be on the forefront of the legal battle of the intrawebz, so if your rich, donate.
IsoHunt - another classic; however, they used to be much much better until they got sued and had to revamp their site to become "isoHunt Lite"...
Kick Ass Torrents - a newer site, seems ok, but be weary of malicious files. Although often times I can find what I'm looking for on this site, if you search for "X09j34ioemrfi$#$f" it will consistently return like 3-4 files claiming to be EXACTLY what you searched for... ALWAYS read comments and check ratings before downloading any torrents.
h33t - A decent torrent site with plenty of filter options including HD and Anime
Demonoid - probably the best torrent site out on the web right now, and for a reason. It is a private torrent site that is invite-only, and you must maintain a positive seed-to-leech ratio otherwise your account will be closed. Comment on this article or get a hold of me and I'll consider giving you an invite. (Though I don't mind giving you an invite, I get penalized somehow if a person I referred has a negative seed/leech ratio, and I only get something like 1 inivite per month, so forgive me if I am unable to give you one).
What.CD - the most exclusive and best torrent site for everything music. This website only deals with music and typically keeps everything in FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) which is extremely inefficient as far as compression is concerned but is the highest quality possible since nothing is compressed at all. This website is also invite only and I actually lost my account due to inactivity (what can I say... I don't listen to a whole lot of music... *shrug*).

If there are any better torrent clients you know of or personally use, or any torrent websites that are really good as well, please leave a comment and let me know, I would love to find new sites and test new clients. Thanks!

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