BitTorrent Best Way to Download Files

The OpenOffice.org 2.0 review is delayed. Because I have gotten a free moment to test it out. But while reviewing older issues of this column to see what I’d promised readers. I found a planned BitTorrent client overview. And here it is.

First and foremost is Bram Cohen’s (original) BitTorrent client. That seems to have changed over from freeware to shareware. But it’s still possible to download an older, free version. Originally developed for Linux, BitTorrent was subsequently ported to Windows. But a key issue with this client is the really basic user interface that on the Windows version may come with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that’s U-G-L-Y! I’ve had cause to this client among the most unstable. And despite installing it on at least five separate occasions. I have uninstalled it even faster after unsuccessful attempts at downloading Torrents. If anything the BitTorrent client included with Opera 8.5 Preview 1 beta is easier to use and more stable!

Most BitTorrent clients are written in Python, an OS-independent development platform. But Python on Windows just can’t hold a candle to a C++ application. And while many ex-Linux Python-based BitTorrent clients have been ported to Windows. Overall, the native C++ clients work better, are less resource-hungry and are far more stable. Unless you have the entire Python SDK installed on your Windows system.

But arguably the best BitTorrent client is the open-source Azureus available for Linux/Unix, MacOS and Windows. Developed in Java, Azureus needs the Sun JRE (Java Runtime Engine) version 1.4 or later installed. It won’t work with the now-outdated Microsoft JVM (Java Virtual Machine).

Azureus is a feature-rich client that supports UPnP port forwarding, super-seeding, built-in tracker, NAT Traversal and trackerless torrents. The two latter features require DHT: a method for distributed storage of pairs. There’s no central server and every client take charge of a small routing range with a small set of data storage so that across the connected DHT network data can be found, read and written. And is the P2P community’s response to industry groups like the RIAA attempting to track down and prosecute users sharing or downloading copyrighted materials.

Azureus is the preferred BitTorrent client for most P2P sites. And you find your download attempt rejected on certain tracker sites if you use a client other than Azureus. There are several plug-ins available for Azureus including an RSS Broadcast plugin. Because the BitTorrent network works best when there’s high demand for a resource, RSS (Remote Site Syndication) is the best way to announce details of new torrents. Another plug-in offers a web-based remote control interface. But on the negative side, this client has issues working with firewalled connections. And if you are unable to open the remote port (usually 6881) used for file upload its really hard to download anything.

Azureus uses colored smilies to depict a Torrent download’s status. Other clients usually just use colored buttons. But on average red or black indicates download problems. Blue/Green means you are receiving the files. Yellow indicates connectivity problems.

uTorrent displays detauiled BitTorrent tracker detailsuTorrent is a recently released BitTorrent client on Windows. Offered via a really tiny download (98 kB) it also plays nice with system resource too occupying under 6 MB. The software offers a 6-tabbed window view displaying torrent meta data, peers, (file) pieces available and downloaded, files contained within the torrent, and a traffic graph. uTorrent also supports multiple simultaneous downloads that can have bandwidth (high, normal, low) priorities defined. As well as scheduled downloads and speed-throttling on a global or Torrent-specific level. And you don’t need to worry about updates as there’s a integrated auto-update feature. And development is active with 7 versions being released in October alone!

But before we continue here’s an abbreviated Glossary (annotated from the Wikipedia). Torrents refer to the downloadable .Torrent meta data (file names, sizes, checksums and hosting tracker site address) file. You download .Torrents, open them in your BitTorrent client, and if you have a 128 kbps or better Internet connection with direct control over your firewall. You can immediately begin sampling the vast resources available.

A tracker is a broker service mediating contacts between peers, isn’t directly involved in data transfer and doesn’t retain a copy of files being shared. Peers are active BitTorrent clients that you connect to transfer data from. They usually lack the complete file and can only share the parts downloaded. Seeds have a complete copy available for upload. And the greater the seeds the better your chances for a complete file. Leechers are peers with incomplete copies who often exit the moment their downloads end. And a swarm is a group of leechers with some possible seeds sharing a torrent.

AnalogX BitPump Torrent transfer status windowAnalogX BitPump is another new BitTorrent client. It offers a really minimal interface. But integrates directly into Windows Explorer. And you can add any downloaded file to BitPump. However the interface is quite a loose cannon. Unless you let BitPump to become your default Torrent client, its difficult to access the application; except when its running! And on the two trial runs I took it, it downloaded files directly into a folder root. Other BitTorrent clients respect the Torrent file’s defined folder. This client is among the few that let you select which files in a .Torrent are to be download.

And while BitTorrent is used most often to download illegal content. There’s an increasing amount of legal stuff available. Many software publishers. Including Opera, OpenOffice.Org and the Linux community make releases available as Torrents since the eventual distributed load is easier to manage than hundreds of thousands of direct downloads. of the many Torrent search engines, the most trustworthy are ISOHunt, Mininova, TorrentReactor, The Pirate Bay and BitTorrent Search. And the ISOHunt forums are an invaluable source of information about new BitTorrent tracker and search sites.

BitComet’s excellent for Windows and supports multiple simultaneous downloads and uploads. Along with UnPnP port forwarding, NAT traversal, DHT support and includes a built-in Web browser. BitComet also has a really simple configuration options that work with firewalls and proxy servers. What I really like about BitComet is its ability to selectively exclude files from the download list; a feature not found with the other Windows and Linux clients I use. BitComet also offers a separate tracker add-in.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And there are two clones. BitSpirit is a pretty good imitation. But nowhere as stable as the original with a penchant to crash every once in a while especially when you have multiple .Torrents scheduled for download. Avoid BitLord even if it includes an integrated Torrent Search feature. Because this utility actually disguises the bundled spyware!

Burst downloading BitTornadoAnother simple, yet powerful BitTorrent client is Burst. This Python-powered update of Bram Cohen’s original BitTorrent client. Is like the proverbial little girl in the nursery rhyme. When it works its great. Even though it’s unable to handle multiple simultaneous downloads. You can open multiple instances. Each of which will open a separate DOS process window for each download. However on Windows XP SP2 I find it crashing the Windows IP stack. And Burst also has load issues on Windows 2003.

That’s it for now. Stay Safe. And come by next week for the OpenOffice.org 2.0 review.

2 Comments

Yamini says:

We have become big fans of yours-why cant you review some music related stuff for us music lovers, maybe something like Sound Forge?

Great stuff anyway. Keep it rolling!

[…] I received lots (for this blog) of reader appreciation for BitTorrent Best Way to Download Files (October 30, 2005). And to reward yon loyal band here’s more Torrent stuff. […]

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