BitTorrent Guide and FAQ

This a article will give you a very brief overview of BitTorrent and how to get started downloading files, movies, software using BitTorrent files (.torrent).

  • BitTorrent is the name of a protocol designed for transferring large files using a peer to peer architecture.
  • Usually the name of a BitTorrent file ends with .torrent, like an MS Word file ends with .doc.
  • BitTorrent files are usually called “Torrent files” for short.
  • Torrent files carry information about where to find the particular file you’re trying to download.
  • Before you can download a file, movie or software you must first download the Torrent file that contains information about the file of interest.
  • To find a Torrent file use one of these sites to search for what you want to download.  Then download the Torrent file to your computer.
  • Open the Torrent file using a BitTorrent Client.  A BitTorrent Client is an application that opens Torrent files and downloads the files of interest.   For the Mac my favorite client is Transmission.  See previous post called Best BitTorrent Client for Mac – Transmission.

Here are some BitTorrent terms that you may run into when reading other sites.

  • Peers – People who are currently downloading files which in turn shares the file with others.
  • Leeches – Similar to Peers but leeches are people who download files but do not share the files they are downloading.  The spirit of BitTorrent is to give a little, take a little.  Don’t be a leech and just take.
  • Seed or seeder – A person/computer with a complete copy of a BitTorrent file (At least one seed computer is necessary for a BitTorrent download to complete.)
  • Swarm – A group of computers simultaneously sending (uploading) or receiving (downloading) the 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.
  • .torrent – A file that contains information about the file you want to download.  It knows where the file you want to find the actual file you want to download.
  • Tracker – A server that manages the BitTorrent file-transfer process. When you open a torrent, your machine contacts the tracker and asks for a list of peers to contact.

To learn more about BitTorrent here are some great sites:



Hitler’s Angry Reaction to Apple’s iPad

I must say this is by far the best video parody in reaction to Apple’s iPad.  I’m a huge Apple fan but must say I was very disappointed that the iPad does not inlude a camera.  I’m sure the camera will be in the next release, Apple always keeps some features out of the first product release so people have a reason to upgrade 6-12 months later.  It will be interesting to see if the iPad will revolutionize mobile/handheld computing. I believe it will.

A few items most people aren’t acknowledging is the 3G AT&T deal.  NO CONTRACT.  Activation right on the iphone.  You can sign up for it, disconnect and sign up as often as you like.  This is HUGE and no one else has been able to make a deal like this.

This video sums up my initial thoughts and feelings very well.  However I’m sure I will still be one of the first to order an iPad.  In fact, in a couple years I’m sure I’ll have one to keep in the living room, one for the bedroom and one for the living room.



Best BitTorrent Client for Mac – Transmission

I’ve been using Azureus (now called Vuze) for awhile as my BitTorrent client.  I’ve also used XTorrent in the past.  I’ve never been very happy with either one.  I just want a very fast and lightweight app for downloading Torrents. I don’t need a video player or organizer.

After a few searches and reading some reviews I decided to try Transmission.  Here are some of the highlights from Transmission’s homepage:

The first item is what really caught my attention.  The download is fairly small, only 4.8mb for Mac OS X.  After downloading and dragging it into my Applications folder I launched it.  It gave a nice warning about file sharing (something I appreciated).  It launches much faster than both Vuze and Xtorrent.

SimpleHelp.net has posted a nice article on How to use Transmission as your BitTorrent Client.

Steve Balmer (CEO of Microsoft) Signs a MacBook Pro

Steve Balmer, the CEO of Microsoft was visiting Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn when a student asked him “Will you sign my laptop?.  Several students laughed as well as Steve Balmer laughed after seeing it was a MacBook Pro.  The student said “It has Windows on it, I promise”.

See the entire video below.

Landline Cancelled, We’re Moving to VoIP – No More Monthly Phone Bills!

I’m trying to save a few extra bucks off of our monthly bills and one way do this is to cancel our telephone service.  The telephone service was part of my Verizon FiOS triple play bundle but the 1 year commitment is over so I’m free to change/cancel the service.  Verizon FiOS Internet is outstanding and I would recommend it to anyone so we definitely will be keeping the Internet.  The FiOS TV Service is great as well but a little bit expensive when you add in the extras such as the HD DVR Receiver at $15.99/mo.  In the next few weeks I’ll be looking into cancelling our TV Service as well but that will require some more research.  I want to be sure it will be just as easy to get all our favorite TV shows in HD at a cost less than our monthly cable service first.

Since the fiber optic Internet service to our home has been so blazing fast I decided it may be time to move to a VoIP phone service. I would not be considering VoIP service on a slow cable or DSL connection though.  Poor voice quality and dropped calls are bad enough on my mobile phone.  I don’t want to experience the same frustrations on our home phone.  So I’ve been spending most of my weekend researching what VoIP service would meet my needs.  I begin my research with a few requirements in mind.

Requirements:

  • Must be a hardware solution as apposed to software that requires your computer to be on.
  • Ability to use our current phones (Panasonic VTech).
  • Must be affordable, ideally under $20/mo.
  • Ability to move our current home phone number to the new service.
  • Ability to change phone number if we move.
  • Voicemail Service that is retrievable through the web.
  • 911 Service (E911)
  • Unlimited long distance is not a requirement.  Most of our long distance calls can be done from our cell phones.
  • Inexpensive international calling is not necessary since we rarely ever make international calls.
  • Freedom to cancel service at anytime without having to pay cancellation fee.
  • Good Customer Service.

I already knew that Skype and MagicJack required your computer always be on so I never even looked into their services.  I don’t want to be required to have my computer running to receive a phone call.

I begin doing Google searches for “VoIP service providers”. Vonage was at the top of the list and I’d heard of Vonage many times before.  At first I figured since Vonage is one of the largest VoIP providers it would be safe to just stop here, save time and go with them.  It also appeared that Vonage met all my requirements above and included many extras as well.  For $17.99/mo I would get:

  • 500 minutes of outbound local and long distance calling to anywhere in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico
  • Only 3.9¢ for each additional minute
  • Unlimited incoming minutes
  • Unlimited Vonage-to-Vonage calls
  • 25+ amazing calling features included like Call Waiting, Voicemail, and Caller ID.
  • Switch to Vonage and keep your existing phone number¤
  • Includes International Rates as low as 1 cent per minute

Additional charge would be to purchase the Vonage V-Portal for $9.99 (regularly $79.99).  This is the adapter that you plug your home phone into so it will work over the internet.

My personality wouldn’t allow me to just go with Vonage without doing some more research. Next I searched Google for “Vonage Customer Experience Reviews” as well as “VoIP Service Provider Reviews”.  I wanted to see what others were saying about Vonage and how other services compare.  Vonage is one of the largest so it seems like a good baseline to begin my research.

I learned that Vonage has a $39.99 cancellation fee if you cancel within the first year.  Also, I read more unhappy customer reviews than I’ve ever read for any product.  I thought I’d give Vonage a call and see how there customer service responded.  Also, I wanted to question them about their Cancellation Fee and if there are any other hidden costs.  My wait time was only a couple minutes and I got right through to a Customer Service Rep.  I immediately go the feeling that I was talking to a Telemarketer and not a customer service rep.  As soon as I said I was looking into signing up she begin her entire speech about how great Vonage was and how much it could save me money.  She was asking all the question and not me.  What do you currently pay? As you know we are in a recession, wouldn’t you like to save money? Blah blah.  It was very frustrating.  I did learn that there is a $39.99 cancellation fee if you cancel within the first year.  To be fair if you cancel within 30 days you get a full refund.  However, from reading all the reviews and from my call I would never want to go through the cancellation process as I don’t think it would be very easy. [Update:  It’s been one week since I called Vonage.  They have called my home phone 4 times in the last week trying to get us to sign up.  They are insistent telemarketers.]

I was now very turned off by Vonage and looking into other service providers to see how what kind of reviews they received.  In looking at the many other VoIP providers they all met my basic needs so I began to really focus on cost and customer service.  CNet provided some of the most useful comparisons and reviews.

I read about Lingo, BroadVoice, and AT&T CallVantage (no longer available).  All of these provided the services I needed but I wasn’t happy with the customer reviews.  No one seemed happy any of these services.  There was no clear winner but I was starting to think maybe continuing with my landline service was the best option.

Then I came across an article at tech.spotcoolstuff.com as well as an article at nytimes.com.  Both mentioned the ooma.  I did some more reading about the ooma at About.com and www.consumersearch.com.

Now the ooma sounded very exciting.  I loved the idea of no more monthly bills even if it meant a small up front investment.  For $199.99 you purchase the ooma Tele.  This device is your telephone adapter that goes between your current telephone and you internet connection.  After plugging in your ooma Tele you sign up online for your service and never pay a monthly telephone fee for the basic service.  If you want to convert your current phone number you must pay a $40 fee.  No other services charged a $40 fee this conversion but then again, all other services charged a monthly fee.

I read through the Amazon.com reviews of ooma and was very pleased with what others were saying.

I came across a few reviews questioning the business model of ooma and how it could maintain profitability.  Since CES 2010 is taking place this week I thought I’d see if they were making any announcements.  I was hoping this would give me some insight to what kind of current development was being done.  At CES 2010 ooma made several announcements.  PC Magazine was one of the first to publish them.

After reading through the entire ooma.com site I decided to purchase it.  Amazon.com had the best price of $199.99.  No more phone bills ever again.  The item should be here next week so I’ll let you know how the setup and configuration goes.