Every scout should familiarize themselves with the technology of Torrents. They at once allow you to be in two places at once, reverse time and in the process, allow you to see the future.
Sound too good to be true? It should. There is no doubt that Torrents deliver. But it is equally true that dealing with Torrents can be difficult, and even impossible, unless a code of conduct is followed.
Read on to learn how to make it a painless process...
What are Torrents?
I won't get too technical on you, but you will definitely benefit from understanding a little bit about the underlying program and protocol that makes torrents possible.
The idea behind torrents springs from the fact that a lot of files that people wish to share online (like video and music) are HUGE files, and that it would take VAST amounts of time to upload and download these files from one another. The problem that was most significant here, was that if you got interrupted in the middle of the download, the data was lost and you had to start over. And given the long amount of time required for the download, the chances were VERY good that you would get interrupted, eventually. Enter a gentleman by the name of Bram Cohen.
He realized that there was an asset to be realized in the enormous NUMBER of people that both wanted to share and download (not always a proportionate number, but we will get to that), and from this realization was born the Bittorrent Protocol.
In a nutshell, what this protocol says is that if ten people are in a room and one of them has a copy of a file everyone wants, the quickest way to share it wasn't the traditional way of giving one person a copy and then having that person give someone else a copy. Instead, it would be much faster if PART of the file was given to one person, part to another, and they in turn would share their part with someone else, while simultaneously receiving whatever part that person had. The protocol defined a method for breaking things up into small, quickly transferrable "packets" or "bits" and spreading these packets out in an organized manner, while allowing everyone to keep track of which packets they had and which they needed. Coupled with a "rarest-first" prioritization of the bits and the result was interruptable, highly available, relatively fast downloads (they can always be faster) to unlimited numbers of people at a time.
Cool Idea. How Do I Do It?
Your first step will be to download a bitTorrent client. This is a program that essentially tells your computer what these fancy files are, and keeps the "bits" organized, while providing an interface to make the whole process relatively simple for the user. I highly recommend uTorrent for reasons from small file size, low memory usage, great compatibility and security issues. But you are welcome to try any from this comprehensive list if you wish, keeping in mind that the Torrent site that I will be reccomending works best with uTorrent.
Next familiarize yourself with the following terms, which will come up often when you are working with Torrents:
Peer: This is technically the person who creates and distributes the Torrent files (ie, the guy who recorded the game and made available), but has come to mean primarily the distributor, which is usually a website that maintains a tracker and the server space to make specific types of Torrents available.
Seeder: This is the process of uploading files via bitorrent protocol. Upload speeds are significantly slower than download speeds for most people, and thus you will quickly download more than you upload if you are not vigilant. More on this, later.
Leecher: This is the process of downloading files via bittorrent protocol. This is what everyone is trying to do, fundamentally, with torrents, but as we will see, seeding is probably the more important concept, since without seeders, there are no leechers.
Tracker: due to the traditionally disproportionate number of seeders to leechers, many methods have been tried to encourage people to be seeders. One fo the best methods is the idea of a tracker. This is basically an account you sign up for that keeps track of your uploads and downloads for any particular site. Its purpose is to punish you with slower download rates if you fail to hold up your end of the bargain as a seeder. This in turn has been enormously succesful in aiding communities and aiding their growth, as serial leechers who tie up critical bandwidth are slowly choked out. The basic rule of thumb? Give and ye shall receive.
Your next step should be to check out the torrent sites that you are interested in downloading from. They will usually be organized as a forum to help you find what you are looking for as well as effectively communicate and troubleshoot the process. You should familiarize yourself with the layout, read all the must read stuff (clearly marked as such), and then get yourself signed up at their tracker . This will consist of setting up an account (use a valid email address), and then responding to a confirmation email. That is the easy part. The link above will have additional links that you will need to follow in order to configure your ports, the idea being that the standard bittorrent settings in most clients (uTorrent included) are not set right. Go to this page , and do your best to follow along, as it will help you identify which ports you are curently using. You will want to set them in the 49152–65534 range. I wish I could make this part easier for you. I can give the following steps, and hoepfully between me and the above site, you will be able to get this taken care fo successfully:
- Start up uTorrent. Open up the PREFERENCES under the OPTIONS menu. Select CONNECTIONS on the left hand side.
- Uncheck Enable UPnP if it is selected, and make sure that utorrent is allowed to talk through the XP firewall, by selecting that option.
- At the top of this screen should be a box for selecting a port: change it to a number between 49152 and 65534. Enter this number as well on the web page linked to above, that is leading you through this process.
- Go to this page and note the ISP number in the middle of the page. Paste it into your browser's address bar and you will be taken to a webpage that will allow you to configure the settings on your router. You may need to log in, or create an account that will allow you to login.
- Select your firewall settings. Select your computer from any computers listed on the network. Select the option to ADD A NEW USER DEFINED APPLICATION. Select TCP and in the range boxes enter the number you entered for the router ports above. Then go ahead and click ADD DEFINITION.
- Go back to your firewall settings page, and select the new aplication you just created and move it to the list of hosted applications.
You are now port-forwarded, and have set up your connectability. Congrats!
Whew! The rest is easy right?
Absolutely. Just download whatever torrents you would like to look at, and be sure to leave your computer on and uTorrent running between downloads, which will allow you to be an effective seeder.
My last piece of advice is to put whatever you download onto a disc, and to set uTorrent to seed from that disc. This will require a DVD burner and a handy supply of blank DVDs but it is very much worth it, as you will now have an uncluttered harddrive, hardcopies that you can reference easily, and a quick and easy way to meet reseed requests, whenever someone asks for a game that has stopped being seeded, which really helps your seed ratio.