As children, my brother and I spent many hours trawling though the alleys of our suburban Chicago neighborhood, bringing home treasures that amazed and horrified our parents. I remember there was an apartment building half way to our elementary school that consistently had top quality magazines just inside the dumpster lid: Swank, OUI, Cheri, High Society, Club International, Chic, Gallery, Genesis, Penthouse all of the best 1970’s titles - "tasteful nudes” by today’s anything-goes standards. Current issues, mint condition, every week. We had huge stacks under our beds. Wish I had them now.
As an adult I have continued to roll though the Minneapolis alleys treasuring other men’s trash and laughing all the way to the bank: bicycles, vintage furniture and industrial miscellaneous. It’s built in now, it’s natural. If you and your neighbor are standing there when I ride up, I won’t be shy – if it’s out there it’s up for grabs. As it should be. Thanks! I love getting great stuff for free.
Torrents is where the modern scavenger goes to look for music and movies and other cool random stuff - and to try new stuff. The computer’s digital format has allowed for capture and storage of several primary art forms; video, music and photography. When we can create three dimensional objects, I will have everything I’ve ever wanted - some day that will happen, isn't that exciting and scary? Unlike Newsgroups, torrents is not under the radar, Torrents is huge with literally millions of users world-wide. As far as legal, it’s not; It's stealing copyrighted content. Well that's not always true... Did you know that Buddy Holly’s music catalog became public domain this year? 50 years dead now. Wow.
One interesting thing about this kind of stealing though, is that for me to get it, you don't have to lose it, in all other types of stealing you do.
So, how do I get some?
A “Torrent” is a simple text file, with instructions on where (from which other computers around the world) to gather the pieces of a particular file - mp3s of ABBA's Greatest Hits for example. When you download the torrent file from the tracker, you are added to the list of places to get the file pieces from. The servers that provide the torrents are legal because they don’t provide stolen content, they provide text files. Tracker = the computer that knows who has the pieces of the files.
To do it, you need two free pieces of software and a website:
- Software to download the pieces and put them together. (Utorrent).
- Software to block certain organizations that are providing pieces but capturing your IP address. (PeerBlock).
- A website to search for and download the torrent files. Currently the best trackers are: ISOhunt, BTJunkie and PirateBay. Demonoid is currently off line.
I don't really want to steal, but more importantly I don't really want to get caught: How safe am I doing this? When running away from the bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear, you have to be faster than the other guy. Blocking known RIAA servers makes you faster than the other guy. Could I still be stripped of my worldly possessions and face jail time? - theoretically, yes.
Tonight we watched the IMDB top 15 of the decade: Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (the fabulous destiny of...). A french movie with subtitles - doesn't sound great but it was. A movie that I would probably never have seen if I had to rent or buy it. A good one. Thank you torrents.
After your torrent has downloaded and you are enjoying the results, continue to allow others to get pieces from you (seeding) by leaving your application running. This is what makes the community work. The tracker knows how much you have downloaded and how much you have uploaded, having too low a ratio will eventually get you banned from private trackers. The rule of thumb is at minimum run it until you've uploaded as many bytes as you've downloaded.