Bittorrent (pronounced and sometimes spelled “Bit Torrent”) has the potential to completely change the way files are served on the internet. Bittorrent was created by genius programmer Bram Cohan. It allows large files, like open source software distributions, to be downloaded quickly from several “grassroots” file sharers.
This technology is closely related to Peer to Peer file sharing. Bittorrent differs from some file sharing programs in that it breaks up the files into several bite size pieces and allows users to partially download files from several sources.
One major problem with sharing large files over the internet is that many broadband web hosting companies significantly limit your upload speeds. This means that you may be able to download a file at 8mbps but only upload the file to your friend at 0.8mbps. Thats like saying you don’t have a speed limit, but the guy in front of you does (in the no passing zone of course).
This bottleneck is solved by allowing a downloader to solicit pieces of a file from several people who also have pieces of the file. Eventually the goal is to have the whole file, but in the mean time, it significantly increases your ability to download. You can now download from ten people who each upload at 0.8mbps. If you multiply that out, you are now maxing out your download speed. Not bad at all.
Bittorrent can be a little confusing, and may not be for the ungeeky at heart. But with a little background, it becomes much easier. So without further ado, I will give you Terry Pearson’s 7 steps to bittorrent success.
- Download a Bittorent Client. Bittorent downloads require a special software. Don’t worry, the best of these are free. I recommend Azureus. It is free of spyware, and very reliable.
- Install the client. This is pretty straight forward. You will need the latest version of the Java Runtime Environment which is provided at the link to Azureus found in number one.
- Determine a file that you want to download. For starters, go to http://distribution.openoffice.org/p2p/. You will answer three questions about your operating system and language. After answering those questions, you will begin to download the “.torrent” file. More than likely you will want to choose to “open” rather than save the file. By the way, this is for OpenOffice, an office suite similar to Microsoft Office, but with more features. Sun Microsystems, used to charge for it (under the name StarOffice) but now gives it away in hopes that people buy support packages for the software.
- Agree to Import Your Torrent. If you are using Azureus, this will be done automatically. It will pop up a temporary message in the bottom of your screen.
- Wait patiently, and do not shut down your client. Remember that your file is huge. More than likely, it will take a little time, but you will hopefully have a much better download than you would get from a file transfer from one computer. By the way, Bittorent is designed to help those who help others. If you disable sharing your pieces of the file, you are known as a leach. Leaches are often blocked, so you will actually download slower than otherwise expected.
- Explore your new software. If you are using Azureus, click on “My Library” and go to the “Advanced” tab. You will see a much more “Windows-ish” looking interface. The table will give the file size and status among other things. Some terms that you will come across include Peers, Seeds, and Trackers.
- Peers – These are computers that you are currently either connected to, or attempting to connect to. Sometimes, Bittorent programs set a maximum number of connections. Therefore, you may have to wait in line for a part of a file.
- Seeds – These are computers that contain the entire file. It is not mandatory that a torrent have a seed, but torrents with seeds are more likely to be completed since at least one member of your torrent has the complete file.
- Tracker – This is a server that coordinates how the files will be downloaded. It keeps a record of which computers have certain pieces of the file, and then gets the file pieces to the right places in the most efficient manner.
- Practice good Bittorent Etiquette. In order to allow others to get completed files, at least one person needs to be sharing each part of the file. Remember that someone shared with you, so please share with them. This could involve keeping the files shared in your Bittorent client as long as possible. The upload rate will usually be slow, so don’t worry about it bogging down your bandwidth. Remember, you can download a lot faster than you can upload.