Understanding Torrents

Internet Service Providers have grown over time, providing greater facilities and higher bandwidth to their consumers. People can finally dare to download more than just documents or mp3s. A step clear of the dial-up service ADSL, cable internet, wireless broadband services etc. now yield somewhere between 20-200 Kbps in download speed. This in turn encourages day to day users to download movies, games, software packages, music and all sorts of large media files. This is where torrents come in, the newest means of downloading files on the internet. 
In 2001, Python-language programmer Bram Cohen gave birth to a new and revolutionary file transfer technology that hinted towards seamless data sharing with everyone on the Internet. But it only really took off in 2005. The idea was both simple and shrewd. Torrents rely on torrent clients such as BitTorent, Utorrent or Vuze. Usually, when we download files directly from the internet, this happens either through the browser or an external download manager such as Download Accelerator Plus or Internet Download Manager

Similarly, the torrent client is merely responsible for tracking and downloading files from its provided location. Here is the interesting bit. Very similar to a download link, what torrents use as source coordinates is called a torrent file (*.torrent). A torrent file stores metadata used for BitTorrent which is defined in the BitTorrent specification. It contains the URLs of many trackers and integrity metadata about the file. Simply, a torrent acts as a control file for BitTorrent sharing as it contains data about the location of the target file and nothing more. It is void of any information or content of the file itself.

The process is simple. You download the torrent file (2 -20 KB average) from the browser like you normally do. Then run the torrent file via any one of the BitTorrent clients. On the application window, you will see that the torrent has loaded and the download will shortly begin. The application shows information about the amount of data downloaded, download speed, estimated time remaining etc. And the best thing about torrents is that downloads need not be completed in a single stretch. You can take days and even though your system is shut down, downloads will resume from where you left off. 

To truly understand what separates torrent networking from other download models, let’s consider a brief model of what a torrent network looks like. Unlike the client-server model or publish-subscribe system, the data that is to be shared is actually never uploaded anywhere on the Internet. Instead, the torrent is a peer to peer model which works in real time in a rather dynamic manner. As mentioned earlier, the torrent file contains metadata with a series of URLs or trackers. The torrent file that is being posted on the internet is then shared through various torrent sites such as www.piratebay.org, www.kat.ph, www.isohunt.com, www.toorgle.com etc. For greater download speeds, the data file is up streamed by not just one individual but many at the same time, and the file is also broken into chunks so that it can be downloaded from the peer that produces the best speeds or via multiple users with high speed. Whenever a new user loads a torrent on his torrent client, he is not just extracting the data file from one location but skimming and pulling chunks in random order from different peers simultaneously. Once he has downloaded a chunk, automatically he too becomes an uploader (seed) of that chunk. After his download is complete, if he wishes to, he can continue to be a seeder of the file and act as another source for new users to download the file from. This way, torrents get the most in terms of download speed and in fact reach speeds in up to several Mbps. This brings us to the health of the torrent. Seeds/Seeders and leeches/leechers are the common terms one ought to know while selecting
torrents. Seeds are uploaders or hosts from whom we can download while leeches are those who are downloading the file. Simply put, more seeders means more download speed while more leechers result in a lower download speed. On the BitTorrent application, a health meter is available these days that lets you know how good your torrent file is. But given the popularity of torrents these days, torrent health should not be much of a problem.

Pros :

Download speeds attained by torrents is lauded by all users. But if you have a slow internet connection, it won’t help. All types of files can be shared through torrents. And with the dynamic peer to peer distribution network, the data is still transmitted even in the absence of the seeds. Bittorent clients and data files are also ad free, although you might come across some on the torrent sites. Close monitoring and filtering of fakes and in-appropriate torrents make these a reliable source; the fact that it is open source means there are usually no profit-motives.

Cons :

Some torrents simply run out of seeds which makes them static and in certain cases undownloadable. Also downloads are conducted in a random manner, say you are downloading an audio album—you can never really listen to the first song without completing the entire torrent. However, the biggest issue is piracy. While the BitTorrent protocol was designed to share and distribute data, it was never intended for copyright violation. Torrent sites offer the newest albums, latest series, new releases and newly launched software on their sites within weeks or sometimes even days. As this is illegal and banned in certain countries, torrent downloads of unauthorised data or files that violate copyright law are subject to punishment and considered a cybercrime. So in a way, yes, it is illegal to download inappropriate data through torrents. Illegal torrent activity is strictly monitored in most nations and easily traceable using the ISP and your computer IP, and readers are advised to abstain from such download attempts.

Source: The Kathmandu Post

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GulmiResunga.com: Understanding Torrents
Understanding Torrents
Understanding Torrents
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