A Bit(Torrent) of Advice

In preface to this article, piracy is illegal. Now that I’ve made myself clear, on to more important things.

You probably have not heard of BitTorrent (unless you slogged your way to the end of my last column) and I’ll give you a warning: you’re going to get confused, but don’t give up I assure you, the results are worth it.

BitTorrent is a peer to peer file sharing protocol. You might immediately think of programs like Kazaa and the late Napster, which also utilized peer to peer methods to allow transfers of MP3s. But unlike Kazaa, which is constantly corrupted by bad files and encumbered by slow speeds, BitTorrent enables file sharing in a different way.

Before explaining exactly how BitTorrent works, it’s important to realize that there are two different components to torrents; first you need to download some sort of BitTorrent client. This is a program that has a similar interface as Kazaa, but doesn’t have a search bar.

There are quite a few different options for clients, but for Macs I would recommend Azureus, and for PCs, uTorrent.

Once you have a client, you search for the files that you’d like (music, movies, games, etc.) to download from various Web sites, the most popular being Isohunt.com and ThePi-rateBay.com. After download-ing a few times, it’s easy to navigate around to find what you need.

When searching for torrents, you will see how many seeders and leechers there are for each file. Seeders are people who are currently sharing the file while leechers are people who are currently downloading the file. To get the fastest download speed, you want more seeders and less leechers.

BitTorrent works almost like an assembly line. Rather than obtaining information from one server, the information is passed from peer to peer, and once all of the bits and pieces are downloaded, they are put back together to form the final product, or the downloaded file.

This process alleviates pressure on the server and also means that no one has to maintain that server and prevent it from getting bogged down, saving you time and the creators of BitTorrent a whole lot of money.

Another advantage to Bit Torrent is the integration of user comments. This allows users to warn other potential downloaders of corrupt files or other issues they had with a specific file, eventually weeding them out.

BitTorrent seeks to amass both free and content and priced products in the future. But at this point it’s easy to find pretty much any content you would ever want, for free.