Episode 49: October 10, 2012
by Eric Escobar
In this week’s episode, we will pick up where we left off last week. In the previous episode, An Introduction to BitTorrent, I went over how BitTorrent works and some of the controversy surrounding it. If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode I highly recommend checking it out first!
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Creating Your Own Torrent
In last week’s episode I briefly went over how to download a file using a torrent. In case you need a memory jog, this requires you to use a freely available program called µTorrent. This program will organize your downloads and uploads and will take care of all the complicated networking stuff that goes on behind the scenes.
What’s surprising about µTorrent is how small and versatile this program is. You can even run it off of a flash drive. This program also works with any operating system out there which is great because if you go between computers often, you won’t need to relearn different pieces of software.
Once you go through the quick setup, simply click “File” then “Create new torrent” and µTorrent will open up to create your own torrent. You’ll search for the file or files you wish to share and then click “Create and Save As.” The program will create small file that you can send to a friend via email or chat program which contains all of the information needed to establish a connection between your computers.
There are also other options available such as creating a private torrent, or changing which tracker gets used.
What is Tracking?
This leads me to my next topic: trackers. This is a term that gets thrown around in the torrenting world, and basically a tracker coordinates who is using a specific torrent so that all of the files you are sharing for that torrent go to the right place. It keeps tabs on who is uploading and downloading the torrent and what parts of the torrent get shared. And just to clear up any misunderstandings, when I say “it keeps tabs,” I do not mean that some big brother program watches your online activity. Tracking is a necessary part of the torrenting process. If you picture cars on a street, the tracker is the street light that directs traffic and keeps things organized.
While I’m on the topic of other terminology you might see thrown around in the world of torrenting, here are some useful terms to keep in mind:
A seeder is a person who is hosting the file for you to download. A seed is a person who has already completely downloaded the file and is letting others download it. The more seeds that a torrent has, the faster it will be.
Why, you ask?
Well if you have one seeder, or just one person who has the full file, then the speed that file can get sent to you is limited by how fast the person can upload the file. And if they leave or delete the file, then there will be no way to continue the torrent without them. This is why having a torrent with many seeds is so important. That way, seeders can come and go but there will always be others hosting the file.
The term leecher sounds like it has a bad connotation, but in the torrenting world this term actually has two meanings. The first is definitely negative.
The first definition of a leecher is a person who will download a torrent, but will not allow other users to download from him. This goes against the entire design and ethics of bittorrents and should definitely be avoided whenever possible. The reason is because bittorrent’s success and efficacy is based on as many people sharing a file as possible. If people leave as soon as they have the portion of the torrent they need, then the torrent will be slow to download from. So in this context, being a leecher is a bad thing.
But being a leecher also has another meaning, that is, being a user who has not completely downloaded a file. Generally, it’s better to keep the terms “downloader” and “leecher” separate, and here’s why:
A downloader is someone who is downloading the file currently, and may or may not continue to share or “seed” it. But a leech is someone who has downloaded the file completely and has selfishly left the torrent.
Next there is ratio, which is basically just the ratio of seeders to leechers. So the higher the ratio, the more seeders and the faster the torrent!
The term swarm refers to everyone who is actively sharing the torrent, be it downloaders or seeders. And if you’re the latter, when you’re done seeding a file, you can simply right click on the torrent, choose “remove torrent,” and voila, you’re removed from the swarm. It’s just that easy.
This was a pretty brief overview of a huge portion of the internet. In fact, torrenting is so big that it accounts for 20%-40% of world’s internet usage! If you want to know more about torrenting, check out my blog posts later this week where I’ll tackle more advanced torrenting questions, such as how to encrypt your torrents.
Now that you know all the key terms and concepts, you can start torrenting like a pro!
Well, that’s it for today. Be sure to check out all my posts at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.
Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!