I had this vague idea that BitTorrent was a useful thing for snagging Linux distros and Lord of the Rings trailers, but then the Editor of a very well-known publication said, in casual conversation, that he thought it was a game-changer, something important. So I went and got it, and here’s an initial report. [Update: Good stuff from Raph Levien.]

FAQ · I poked around a bit and read some FAQs and figured out how it works, which is pretty damn clever, and makes excellent irrefutable sense for the scenario where you publish something on the Web that’s big (distro) and a lot of people want (distro) right now (distro); there is no doubt whatsoever that in this case, BitTorrent is going to spread the goodness around way quicker than anything else I can think of.

So I went and got the OS X client and went poking around to see what was out there in BitTorrent-land. Let’s see: Anime — Porn — Anime — Movies — Anime — TV Series — Hentai — Games — oh yes, more Anime. Hmm. Is there anything legal here? Apparently not. Oops, looking in the wrong place. Distros. Lots and lots of distros.

So, I thought, let’s give this a try. The TV series were right out; since I haven’t watched network TV since 1991 or so I’d never seen any of ’em, and the Anime, well, for me there’s Miyazaki and then not too much else, and I don’t have any bare iron to drop a distro on. Hmm... right on the front page at warez.pl or some other monument to civic-spiritedness, there was Debbie Does Dallas and what do you know, it was almost exactly one gig in size, which not only appealed to the quantitative geek here, but I seem dimly to remember actually having seen it at a stag party in 1979 or thereabouts, which is more than I can say for the rest of the loot out there in BitTorrent-land.

Go Debbie Go · So I clicked “Go” and BitTorrent connected to fifteen “peers” and began to slog through Debbie at an average of about 30K/second, and pretty soon began to upload to others at about twice that. Then it did the time estimate and told me it would be done in six hours or so, so I went to bed. When the alarm went off it was just finishing up, and the numbers were consistent, it’d downloaded a gig and uploaded about twice as much to my PornoPeers. Foggy-eyed and pre-coffee, purely in the spirit of experimental verification I clicked on DDD.avi and Quicktime emitted some incomprehensible gibberish about the wrong coder or the wrong version and sorry ’bout that, and shut down.

I gotta say, if you want classic porn it’s probably less hassle to put on a dirty raincoat and drive down to your local smut outlet, and if you want to spend all night spreading looted network TV episodes around, then what we have here is a failure to communicate.

But if you’re in the business of getting big chunks of data widely distributed to lots of people (of course, they need to want the stuff), then BitTorrent is just the ticket.

Of course, maybe I’m just missing the point. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Here’s The Point · I saw Raph Levien’s name pop up in my referer-log, and I’d never heard of him, so I followed it back to find this thoughtful piece on why BitTorrent might really be a game-changer; check it out.

author · Dad
colophon · rights
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October 16, 2003
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