Thursday, 19 March 2009

Technical Help Please

Out of curiosity I've been looking into what it means when people say they are downloading films or TV using 'torrent'. I've never done it.

Along the way I've also been advised about or have read of various horror stories that befall torrent users. These generally fall under the categories of:

Legal penalties
Technical (equipment) ruin
Security breaches (theft of data)
Virus infestation
Identity theft enabled by collection of personal data, leading to fraud - or worse...

and, to top it off,

A generous frosting of SPAM.

I am just wondering if any of these disasters are common, or are we talking about the odd few events that have caught out the unwary, which have then been blown out of all proportion?

Are there good ways to download, and preferred sites to go to?
Do you need better or new software?
Is setting up for the whole process really like wearing 15 condoms for safety's sake, so that it's not really worth bothering to go through with it?

I'd be grateful if any regular torrent-eers could offer me some sage advice.


fourstar said...

Considering that software distributors (mostly open source) have taken to using peer-to-peer torrents as a way of distributing their updates, torrents are a perfectly safe method. It is more about the site you go to and its rating as a source of reliable torrent files.

Personally, I use Mininova ( which has never failed me yet for films, TV series, music, etc. I would state here that I download these to test them out and will generally purchase the aforementioned media if I like it. That said, some things are not available here (yet) and as such this is the easiest way to get hold of them.

Basically, download the bittorrent client ( and install it. Then go to Mininova and find something you like the look of - worth checking the number of seeds as this is crucial to the speed and/or success of your download (aim for 20+). Click on the Download link and the bittorrent client should 'intercept' the click and ask you where to save the file. Then leave it be for a while... can check the progress in the client...

...eventually, you'll have your media.

The nature of torrents means that the more people who have the entire file and are online (seeders), then the faster it will download. Similarly, if there are a lot of people who want it (peers) but not many with the whole file, it will be slower. It is good manners to leave a file seeding after you have downloaded it; your ratio improves and sites use this to determine your quality as a 'torrenter' (some only allow people above a certain ratio to download or have a built-in delay for those with a low ratio).

Sorry, that went on a bit. But it's a piece of cake. Right, are you actually working for the RIAA?

office pest said...

hmmm, the flypaper WORKS Carruthers...

*ticks box marked 'INVESTIGATE' and adds name 'fourstar'*

Thanks for your help 4*. I have saved your advice elsewhere, should you want to delete your post...I don't think there's a high risk but one never knows.

fourstar said...

Heh, why do you think I have this outrageous wig ;)

Nah, its fine. Keep an eye on the Pirate Bay (another torrent site) court case though, v interesting.

Piley said...

Keep in mind that your ISP knows everywhere you go, and everything you download.... and would be obliged to pass those details on if they were asked for them....

fourstar said...

Asked for the details by......who?

Piley, I see from your profile that you list your industry as 'Government'. So come on, are you a snooper? Nice gig.

Thing is, those who consider the idea that they can monitor the internet have absolutely no concept of the scale and/or scope of the task they think they are in control of.

I agree that your ISP is obliged to store usage data but to be honest, a bloke downloading a TV series via a torrent because he cannot buy the box set in his home country is somewhat less of a bother than international closed-IP paedo rings, no?

Anyway, carry on. This lot wouldn't know one end of a Cat5e from a another.

office pest said...

That's all very interesting chaps, thanks. If I ever get an internet connection that can reliably stay connected for a reasonable length of time, I'll definitely be giving it a go.

Piley said...

fourstar - I don't give a fling one what you do mate, honest!

Everone is big enough and ugly enough to make there own minds up, and you do what you wanna do, and i'm sure the vast majority of people get away with it forever... But at the end of the day it shouldn't be forgotten that it's illegal, and IF someone ever decides they wanna follow it up, then you won't have a leg to stand on.

But hey, enjoy!

office pest said...

Noted, Piley, noted.

fourstar said...

"...and IF someone ever decides they wanna follow it up..."

Fair point, but it's a HUUUUUUGE 'if' barely registering on the scale of 'things you ought to worry about' IMHO (and I work in internet content distribution :)