Torrents for Fun and Profit
October 28, 2005
Well, I need an article. And several people have asked me recently how to find/download neat things off the internet. So here it is, my very first article.

I hope you're all happy and entertained.

The internet is a great place filled with all kinds of fun and exciting things to do, even without venturing into the seemy underbelly of dirty pictures and illegal downloads. But, of course, it's even more fun if you throw those things in, too. I don't want to sound like I'm in favor of anarchy here on the web where my words will no-doubt be indexed for all eternity by Google, so we're going to pretend that everyone's interest in BitTorrent and Torrent downloads is a legitimate, wholesome and perfectly legal thing.

So here goes: Step one is to obtain a BitTorrent Client Program. There are several to choose from, and as it happens, none of them work in quite the same way, so all of them bring something unique to the table. Torrent Client Programs interoperate with your web browser (that is to say, Firefox, and not some other, stupid program). You find a .torrent file on the internet or on your computer, click on it, and your browser should let you either Save it or Open it. Most of the time, choosing "Open" is what you want to do. Some Clients don't have download managers, though, and if you're using one of those, saving the torrents you've been using is not a bad idea. Anyway, you open your torrent file, and one client or another opens. Very simple so far.

Azureus is a client program written in Java. It works on just about every operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux). My personal evaluation is that it's a great choice for users who need to be considerate of other users on the same local network (i.e. all the other people using your cable modem). I also appreciate that it has a download manager, so you can close the program or shut down your computer without losing track of what you were downloading. Azureus is also different for offering a very simple private torrent server, which is great if you want to start your own shares. The down side of Azureus is that it doesn't seem to use network resources as efficiently as other clients; downloads go slower than with other programs.

BitComet. Not my favorite program in the world. 'Comet has a functional download manager. It's somewhat faster than Azureus. On the other hand, its default mode of operation seems to be "Suck all the available bandwidth away from anyone else who might want to use it". I absolutely assure you that with BitComet open and doing anything, your internet connection will seem slow as molasses. I'm sure there are network settings someplace within the program that can fix that, but I'm not motivated to look for them.

BitTornado. Fast, fast, fast. BitTornado is a minimal client. No download manager, which means you'd better remember what torrents you were downloading and where you got them, if you have to shut down your PC (or save your .torrent files and open them off your hard disk, which is what I do). It's also kind of touchy about network settings; sometimes it doesn't work properly on computers where pretty much any other torrent program is fine. And if that's not enough, it's also kind of hard on your PC, as far as how much RAM and CPU time it uses.  Oh, and while it's not as hard on your network connection as BitComet, you will notice when it's running.

Once we have a Torrent Client program installed, the next thing we need to worry about is where to find torrents. Again, the assumption I'm making here is that you're looking for something legitimate. There are plenty of illegitimate things out there, and the various sites and search engines don't really bother themselves with the distinction.

So where do Torrents come from? A good place to start looking for just about anything is For the purposes of this article, I think I'll be looking for a download of Fedora Linux Core 4, something that I know can be legitimately redistributed on the internet. You can put whatever you want in the search bar on Isohunt. As it turns out, the pickings are rather slim. Fedora Linux is a whole operating system that is usually distributed as a DVD-ROM image or a set of five CD-ROM images. IsoHunt has found what I'm looking for, but when I look in the column headed by the letter S I see only 0s, meaning that no one is actually sharing what I'm looking for.

S in this case stands for SEEDER. Seeders are computers sharing complete copies of the files contained in a particular torrent.

L's represent LEECHERS. Leechers have partially-complete copies of the files in the torrent.

Those two terms are used almost everywhere there are torrents.

Pay attention here, 'cause this is how Torrents actually work
: A web server hosting torrents is called a TRACKER. The tracker maintains a list of everyone who is downloading (leeching) or sharing (seeding) the files that go with any particular torrent file, along with information about how much of the download they have actually finished. The Tracker does NOT host the files. It's just a "meeting point" for everyone interested in whatever set of files are described by a torrent. When you connect to a tracker with a BitTorrent Client Program, your Network Address gets thrown in the ring along with everyone else's, and your computer connects to whichever other computers happen to have pieces of the file(s) you're downloading that your computer does not have. In other words, you download from and upload to everyone else connected to the tracker. If there are lots of Seeders and not very many Leechers, your download should be fairly quick. If you download something that has lots of Leechers and only a few Seeders, expect things to be slow.

When BitTorrent is fast, it's faster than anything else on the internet. I've been able to download 500MB CD-ROM images in under two minutes using Torrents. Even when it's slow, as long as your client still shows a Seeder is available, you'll eventually get the file. I downloaded an 80GB torrent once that took over 4 months to finish.

But, OK, my search on Isohunt didn't work so well. It might've been my search terms. Or maybe Isohunt isn't the best place to look for the thing that I want.

Isohunt actually searches a whole bunch of popular Torrent sites, but it doesn't search every site I like. Instead I might turn to a site like TorrentSearchPlace, which does individual real-time searches on sites like,, and Note that some of these sites may include Not Work/Wife-Safe materials. Don't click through if it'll make your life more difficult. You were warned.

A quick scan of those sites isn't really helping all that much. The search of last resort here is my good friend Google. Google indexes web sites that Torrent Search sites might not normally look at, and in this case that's probably a good thing. So I go to, and it its search box I type "Fedora DVD filetype:torrent" (filetype: is a search term that restricts google to only returning actual torrent files as search results). Wham. I have dozens of search results to look through. Turns out the first one is more than good enough - I've been downloading my 2.7GB  Fedora Core 4 DVD image file for 6 minutes and I already have 7.1% of it (200MB).

Hopefully, the information in this article is enough to at least get someone started on Torrenting. I'll be updating it with screenshots and perhaps individual pages for different clients over the coming days and weeks.

version history
revision 2 - October 28, 2005 - added links in obvious places.
revision 1 - October 28, 2005
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