Slyck’s Guide to BitTorrent

By Cory Higgins and Ciarán Tannam 5/18/03

A large core of mainstream P2P readers may be unaware of much details related to BitTorrent. However, the client is beginning to explode on the P2P scene lately with everyone including the BBC talking about it and even Shareaza supporting it . Slyck takes a look at how get the most from this client, Shareaza support and more.

Most importantly, while Kazaa Lite or WinMX provide a good solution for most Mp3 files, BitTorrent is used more to find different types of files.


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In Particular, BitTorrent has developed a reputation as the place to find new files such as newly released TV shows (even before their US release), films and DVD rips. For example it was one of the first places online where The Matrix Reloaded was available.

So how does BitTorrent work?

While not a true P2P client it is very similar to the popular Edonkey/Emule client. Unfortunately Bit Torrent is centralized in nature. A “tracker” is need for a file to spread threw Bit Torrent. There's a central "tracker" that's encoded into each .torrent file you run. The file holds the tracker location, the file ID and a few other pieces of information. So to distribute a file, you start a tracker and create a .torrent file with the info in it. Then people run your. torrent file, it tells Bit Torrent to connect to your tracker and your tracker then directs Bit Torrent to where it can get the file from.

If Bit Torrent were compared to any of the current mammoths networks dominating the file-sharing world, it would be the Edonkey/Emule/Overnet networks. Like them a peer when receiving a file off of the Bit Torrent client, they receive little chunks off the file. You may get a chunk from the middle, then one from the end. The last chunk you get could be the first part of the file. Also like ED2K, you are forced to upload the chunks you have to other peers seeking the file. More comparable to Emule, Bit Torrent also keeps track of the total amount of data you upload/download. Your download speed over time becomes proportional to your upload speed.

How do you get connected to BitTorrent?

There are currently three ways to get files with Bit Torrent. One is the official Bit Torrent client. With it you download one file at a time. All your bandwidth goes towards the one file you are downloading/uploading. However, while download's are blazing fast, Bit Torrent will actually use ALL you’re bandwidth making browsing impossible for some people.

Using a bandwidth management tool or via the ‘BitTorrent experimental unofficial client’, you can get around the bandwidth issue with the official client. The unoffical client allows users to set the maximum amount of bandwidth for both up and down streams. It also can handle multiple files at a time.

The third and newest of the methods is the Bit Torrent support that has been added to the newest of the Shareaza betas. Bram Cohen the creator of BitTorrent told Slyck that in his view Shareaza's implementation was not perfect. Based on comments he had read he said that “the shareaza author doesn't understand BitTorrent's tit-for-tat algorithms at all” and therefore “the client is unlikely to be able to offer as good performance as the official one.” He also slammed Shareaza for not speaking to him saying no one ever told him anything about Shareaza's support.

However it is worth remembering that Shareaza 1.9 is still in beta so existing algorithm issues may yet be resolved and with Shareaza’s support for other networks (Gnutella 1, Gnutella 2 and eDonkey) it may provide a better experience than the official client for some users.

Where can you find links to Torrent Files?

Once you have downloaded BitTorrent you will need to be able to find the .tor files. This is far from an easy task. Websites that provide .tor files seem to be under constant attack. When it’s not on the legal front they attempt to deal with DoS (Denial of Service) attacks, and costly hosting fees. TorrentLinks is probably your best source for sites that provide .tor links. That site compiles a list of all the sites that are providing them. It is updated very often. Other good sites include Torrentse.cx and SuperNova, while BitTorrentSites and Smiler’s BT Site also provide an extensive list of links to other sites out there.

The small files on the web pages contain the hash information to enable you to download the file. Simply, Click on the torrent file and a Bittorrent window will pop up and the file will start downloading.

BitTorrent may not be ready for a mainstream audience nor is it likely to be the only P2P tool that you use. However, BitTorrent’s efficient distribution method has found a niche in P2P content in which it is thriving.



The official website is here

Information on how to host files on BT is here


 

The team from Slyck.com are regular contributers to MP3 Newswire. Their insights on other digital music issues can be read on his site and we encourage you to check it out.


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Other MP3 stories:
The RIAA Offensive - Part I (6/25/03)
The RIAA Offensive - Part II (7/11/03)
The RIAA Offensive - Part III (7/17/03)

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