Thursday, July 2, 2009

Torrent Buzzwords

Just started using torrents to download stuff? Using torrents to download files via Peer to Peer technology is becoming more and more popular these days. This article explains some of the most frequently used terminology in the wonderful world of torrents! I found this very useful guys.

The word torrent usually refers to a small file you receive from a web server. The file extension for this is *.torrent. So for example, myMusicTune.torrent. This particular file is called a metadata file. This means that the file contains information about the data you want to download, not the data itself. Each torrent receives a unique Info Hash identifier.

In the torrent world, a peer is a computer that you are downloading from (another users computer). Once you download and run a torrent in a torrent application, peers are computers that you download the file from.

A leech is usually a peer who has a negative effect on the swarm by having a very poor share ratio - in other words, downloading much more than they upload. Most leeches are users on asynchronous internet connections who through either ignorance or choice do not leave their BitTorrent client open to seed the file after their download has completed. However, some leeches intentionally hurt the swarm to avoid uploading by using modified clients or excessively limiting their upload speed.

The term leech is also incorrectly used to refer to what should properly be called a peer, a member of the swarm who has not yet downloaded the complete file.

A seed is a computer that has a copy of the full file the that torrent is representing. Seeds provide the bandwidth so that others can download the represented file.

When there are zero seeds for a given torrent (and not enough peers to have a distributed copy), then eventually all the peers will get stuck with an incomplete file, since no one in the swarm has the missing pieces. When this happens, someone with a complete file (a seed) must connect to the swarm so that those missing pieces can be transferred. This is called reseeding.

The group of machines that are collectively connected for a particular file. For example, if you start a BitTorrent client and it tells you that you're connected to 10 peers and 3 seeds, then the swarm consists of you and those 13 other people.

A server on the Internet that acts to coordinate the action of BitTorrent clients. When you open a torrent, your machine contacts the tracker and asks for a list of peers to contact. Periodically throughout the transfer, your machine will check in with the tracker, telling it how much you've downloaded and uploaded, how much you have left before finishing, and the state you're in (starting, finished download, stopping.) If a tracker is down and you try to open a torrent, you will be unable to connect. If a tracker goes down during a torrent (i.e., you have already connected at some point and are already talking to peers), you will be able to continue transferring with those peers, but no new peers will be able to contact you. Often tracker errors are temporary, so the best thing to do is just wait and leave the client open to continue trying.

Receiving data FROM another computer.

Sending data TO another computer.

share rating/ratio
If you are using the experimental client with the stats-patch, you will see a share rating displayed on the GUI panel. This is simply the ratio of your amount uploaded divided by your amount downloaded. The amounts used are for the current session only, not over the history of the file. If you achieve a share ratio of 1.0, that would mean you've uploaded as much as you've downloaded. The higher the number, the more you have contributed. If you see a share ratio of "oo", this means infinity, which will happen if you open a BT client with a complete file (i.e., you seed the file.) In this case you download nothing since you have the full file, and so anything you send will cause the ratio to reach infinity. Note: The share rating is just a number that is displayed for your convenience. It does not directly affect any aspect of the client at all. In general, out of courtesy to others you should strive to keep this ratio as high as possible, of course.
distributed copies (AKA availability)
In some versions of the client, you will see the text "Connected to n seeds; also seeing n.nnn distributed copies." A seed is a machine with the complete file. However, the swarm can collectively have a complete copy (or copies) of the file, and that is what this is telling you. Referring again to the "people at a table" analogy, consider the case where the book has 10 pages, and person A has pp.1-5 and B has pp.6-10. Collectively, A and B have a complete copy of the book, even though no one person has the whole thing. In other words, even if there are no seeds, as long as there is at least one distributed copy of the file everyone can eventually get a complete file. Meditate on this, the Zen of BitTorrent, grasshopper.

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