The wonders of BitTorrent

This is so not what living in the future was supposed to be like. Not even twenty minutes into the future.

Every time I've ever tried to use BitTorrent for anything, this is how it goes. Based on past experience, I expect that each of these will get to 98.2% and stop there forever.

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46 Responses:

  1. sc00ter says:

    Have you tried the DAP?

    It's a bit of a pain setting up the client but I've gotten great speeds and good reliability.

  2. I had to set up port forwarding on 6881 through 6889 on my DSL router before I'd get any kind of decent speed with bittorrent.

    It "works" without it, where by works we mean "takes longer than watching pain dry without even the small benefit of getting high off the fumes", obviously sucks.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, I know about that; that's not the problem, unfortunately...

    • giantlaser says:

      Since you are using Azureus, consider installing a UPnP-aware router. A Linksys WRT54GL with DD-WRT firmware works perfectly for this. I've got no problems completing torrents for anything that still has seeds.

      Curse you, Jamie, for mentioning Max Headroom. I'll have the first episode shortly.

      Another plus for Azureus: prioritising files in a torrent, including the ability to not download some.

  3. deathboy says:

    I got hold of both of those (possibly different torrents, but the shows/seasons, I mean) last year.

    took a few weeks, but they came in.

    if they don't pan out, there's usually a few folks selling dodgy DVDs on ebay.

  4. hoyhoy says:

    I concur. I've never understood why I couldn't make Bittorrent work. I thought I was too stupid or perhaps I angered Bram Cohen or something.

  5. chuckm says:

    The trick is to nly want files that everyone else wants too.

    I'd advise either auto-suggestion to change your viewing habits so that you desire to watch lots of Heroes and 24 or build a false, temporary buzz about the shows you most desire.

    • jwz says:

      "False, temporary buzz" is my middle name.

      • curlyeric says:

        With around 2500 LJ "Friends" I'm sure you can dig up a few more 80's lovin' geeks that can't help but click on the .torrent files.

        • killbox says:

          it took me months to find and get the whole max-headroom set.. and then shortly after watching it my hdd crashed.. (otherwise i woudl see about re-seeding it)

  6. The key with torrents is making sure that there are active seeds. No seeds = nobody has a complete copy.

    Additionally, (at least with Azureus+variants), you can check the contents of the torrent, check that it has what you're looking for (eg, no realmedia files, argh!). It also tells you what the availability is. In your example, that would be 0.982. Availability > 1 = good. < 1 = crap. Easy to just kill those torrents and go get a different one.

    Finally, something like Torrent Harvester (Win only app) makes finding GOOD torrents MUCH easier. Although I get the sneaking suspicion this app isn't supported any more, it continues to work just fine for me.

    • nexus9 says:

      yep... ran into similar delays w/ Tales From the Crypt -- not a popular item, so its taken weeks & weeks to get the seasons. oppositely, when i download a new Lost, or Rome (when it was on), i could get a new episode in 5 minutes. *thats* the power of torrent swarms...

  7. etfb says:

    It works for me with Heroes, Doctor Who and Cattlecar Elastica, but trying to download the obscure seventies scifi comedy Quark is a waste of time, dammit. It really is just a popularity contest -- which is logical and very democratic, but vaguely aggravating if you have non-standard tastes.

  8. ryanlrussell says:

    I used to moderated the bittorrent-help mailing list. Your level of brokage does not impress me.

    For example, you failed to ask how to get BitTorrent to download faster than the bitrate of your pipe. Or what a router is.

  9. hawver says:

    You could always watch it for free on AOL (no, seriously)

  10. taniwha says:

    I went old-school on this ages ago. I had taped them off SciFi network, and then gave the VHS tapes recently to my future father-in-law, who used his VHS-to-DVD machine of doom to turn them into , well, DVDs.

    The best part is the ads for movies and stuff from the 90s in between episodes.

  11. And then there's people like my ISP who like to filter BitTorrent, or any large stream of data. arg. I hated BT, and then I launched it on a colocated server, and suddenly it was golden.

    Not to say that the torrents you're trying to download aren't in the 'suck ass' category without an ISP getting in the way.

  12. allartburns says:

    If worse comes to worse, pester me and I'll digitize my laserdiscs (first six episodes in CAV, if memory serves) and first-gen tapes from bravo after the semester is over and put them up for some sort of semi-private torrent.

  13. cheruborg says:

    The interesting thing is that... well, you're a pretty well-ranked blogger. First thing I did when I saw that was joined the swarm. Bigger swarm=faster speed.

    Anything else we can help you get? :)

    (btw I auditioned for the kid computer geek role.)

    • ciphergoth says: did something that actually might help solve the problem?

      You've misunderstood the rules around here, kid. Our job is to make useless aggravating suggestions, like recompiling his kernel or getting a Mac, that either solve a different problem or no problem at all, while making optimistic references to the "fanboy army" all of whom will be as useless as our comment. Actually seeding the files he's trying to download clearly contravenes that.

  14. iota says:

    You might want to take a look at your bandwidth utilization while downloading. If you're saturating your connection, you'll take a real performance hit when downloading. Try setting the global max upload speed in your BitTorrent client (Transmission, is the best for OS X) to 80% of your max upstream bandwidth and you should notice a speed increase.

    • hermeticseal says:

      i agree, if you fill your upstream pipe with data, then tcp acks cant get through and your performance sucks.

      always rate limit your total upstream to something like 80% as suggested above.

  15. Ouch! Only one tracker site listed. Generally, that doesn't seem to help with transfer speeds as the BT client will go off and do a round-robin poll of trackers to see who has what.

    I'm currently getting 12 (out of 15) seeders giving me about 20K/s, although I'm not doing the first episode which is about twice the size.

    Most of the clients showing up are in the US (µtorrent draws country flags next to clients) and I can see tr**t*r listed as having 42% that's lifted about 2megs from my system. There's 15 seeders with 100% (good sign) and I'm getting about four of them D/ling to me now.

    It's just a case of sit and wait I'm sorry to say. Are you after the whole torrent or just the one episode? I'm getting weird speeds; the second episode seems to download like it's trawling through treacle. The first episode seems to be flying along; it's showing just over 5 hours to d/l.

  16. I had problems snarking Max Headroom previously ( bad/no seeds ). I used isohunt for success ( took a few days to download with a throttled upload @ 32k ). YMMV. The greater seeds @ long time arcs are a good bet ( > 50 weeks && > 10 seeds ).

  17. tjcrowley says:

    This post combined with a smart alec comment I made today on baconmonkey's LJ means that there is some weird synchronicity that I have tapped into in the universe. I must have had a good idea when I made that smart alec comment -- I am taking this as a sign.

  18. zonereyrie says:

    I have a set of DVDs a friend of mine compiled when one of the cable networks (TechTV perhaps?) re-ran it a few years back, pulling it off his TiVo. I can dig it out and copy them if you want.

  19. jwm says:

    The basic problem with peer to peer file sharing is everyone want's to download as fast as their big fat pr0n pipe will let them, but no one wants to share their bandwidth cap with strangers. With bittorrent, that means throttling the upload rate and number of upload slots.

    Though I wonder whether bittorrent's overall poor speed might be by design: using a client that isn't 'cheating', you're always uploading while you're downloading, so if downloads are artificially slower than they could be, you're forced to share for much longer, which kind of makes the whole thing work, I suppose.

    The popularity problem could be solved with a little organisation, given that the point of diminishing returns for active seeds and peers is probably about a dozen and a couple of hundred respectively.

    Suppose a mailing list or LJ community was created for people who want to fetch old scifi TV shows. The community would work by, each week or fornight, selecting on a particular series to download, via some active torrent. The particiants would all agree to download that series over the course of the period, and continue to seed the torrent for the rest of the period.

    Shall we all point our clients at those Max Headroom torrents and give it a go?

  20. jason0x21 says:

    Based on past experience, I expect that each of these will get to 98.2% and stop there forever.

    Oddly enough, this is exactly what I expected living in the future would be like: Almost there, stuck forever, unsatisfactory.

  21. wfaulk says:

    To summarize what other people have said, plus add a few notes of my own:

    Make sure that your upload bandwidth isn't maxed out. I'm not entirely sure why that has an effect on your download speeds, but it definitely does.

    Limit the total number of connections possible, if you can. Given the size of the swarms, it's easily possible to max out your OS's total number of TCP connections, and that can cause big problems. Chances are that your client is already set up this way, but I don't know what client you're using. On the other side of the coin, your client may be limiting you too much. Try increasing the limit, to maybe a couple hundred at most.

    Enable DHT if your client supports it. It allows you to find other clients that you might not see through the tracker, increasing the size of the swarm. Why, exactly, there are clients that are invisible via the tracker I've never understood, but it almost always seems to be true. Of course, don't do this if the tracker you're using explicitly forbids using DHT.

    Make sure that your firewall is set to allow incoming BitTorrent connections. Most clients seem to notice when you're not uploading much and then don't send you much. Many clients have a feature that will test this. I know I've done things in the past where I thought I set up my firewall properly but screwed it up in some way.

    Make sure that your client is reporting an external IP address to the tracker and not your RFC1918 address. There is usually an option in the client to override the default.

    Don't use the standard BitTorrent ports. There are certainly ISPs out there that throttle based on inspecting the actual data, but far more throttle based solely on the port. You might argue that you're certain that your ISP doesn't do this, and you might be right, but the ISPs of all the people you're connecting to do. Choose some random-ass number and plug it into your client. Update your firewall, too, obviously.

    Use a client that people respect. Many people will intentionally throttle or deny clients that they don't like. Given that you're not using Windows, I think this pretty much leaves Azureus, unfortunately.

    Of course, none of this will help if there are simply not enough seeds to support the swarm. Which leads me to: don't just disconnect immediately after you get the last bit. Stay on a while, or you'll just be perpetuating the problem you're complaining about.

    That's all I can think of at the moment. I hope one of those suggestions helps.

    • erorus says:

      Upload as fast as you can. But not too much.

      Connect to as many people as possible, some magic number in the hundreds. But not too many.

      Enable an obscure DHT setting. Except if the tracker says not to (and you may not know).

      Change settings on a piece of hardware that governs all your internet traffic.

      Manually specify your outside IP, even though most bittorrent clients are run behind NAT, and even though the tracker doesn't need your client to tell it your IP.

      Don't use default ports. Don't wonder why we have default ports in the first place.

      The brand of your BT client matters, even though it shouldn't. The right "brand" isn't established.

      Ignore the fact that the old, original BitTorrent client, and indeed the protocol itself, was set up to "open a .torrent file and just work." And you may follow all of these suggestions, most of which only a computer geek could implement, and get no better performance.

  22. toykeeper says:

    Thanks for the link.

    Those torrents have been going for nearly 3 years now, and I'm amazed they're still alive. Your post should help keep them alive longer.

    This is the first time I've heard anyone complain about those torrents. The same files are (probably) still available from DAP, if you'd prefer. DAP is a little odd, though. To save you some grief, here is the rough process for an average user getting DAP's files :

    1. Search for, and find the right site.
      1. Go to google.
      2. Search for 'max headroom videos'
      3. Click the 85th link. (YMMV)

    2. Click an episode number, or "more...".
    3. Try one of these relatively obvious paths:
      • Click "Downloads" in the menu, but discover there are no videos there.
      • Try to download the video using the provided ed2k link.
        1. Find, download, and install ed2k.
        2. Paste the ed2k link into ed2k.
        3. Wait. Perhaps a few hours, or even days.
        4. Fail, because those links aren't valid on public ed2k networks.
    4. Look at the FAQ, to find out what went wrong.
    5. Click on "HOW DO I DOWNLOAD FILES???"
    6. Read for a while, hopefully figuring out that the answer is under "How do I set up eDonkey?"
    7. Click "setup guide for Windows", if you're using Windows. Or if you're not.
    8. Read.
    9. Click to go to the next page of the guide.
    10. Read.
    11. Click to go to the next page of the guide.
    12. At this point, you may need to uninstall your existing ed2k client, and download a different one. The recommended clients are available from DAP, if you aren't paranoid about installing executables from people you've never heard of who are not actually associated with the software they're providing. BTW, the only compatible Linux client seems to only be available from DAP. It's really, really old.
    13. Read.
    14. Click to go to the next page of the guide.
    15. Read.
    16. Delete some files.
    17. Create a text file.
    18. Add the text file to your ed2k shares.
    19. Change several settings.
    20. Click to go to the next page of the guide.
    21. Test your connection.
    22. (probably) Forward some ports through your firewall:
      If you know how to do it, cool. If not, click the firewall info link. Follow lots of directions, if your configuration is one of those few covered. Otherwise, figure it out on your own.
    23. Click to go to the next page of the guide.
    24. Read.
    25. Do one of the following:
      • Create a DAP web site user, and run the web-based IRC client.
      • Find/download/install an IRC client, set up a new network in it, and connect to DAP's server/channel.

    26. Optional, for some Windows users: read the note on IRC about edonkey and spyware, and realize you've probably just infected your computer. Find some way to remove the spyware, then start over again.
    27. Get the server IP/port from IRC. (repeat weekly, if your transfers take a while)
    28. Follow instructions to add a new server to ed2k.
    29. Connect to the server.
    30. Wait a bit.
    31. Paste the ed2k link from earlier, or search for the file you were looking for.
    32. Begin a download.
    33. While you're at it, manually start one download per episode you're interested in.
    34. Wait.
    35. Close ed2k sometime after the download finishes.

    This may be a bit out of date; the last time I tried was about 3 years ago, and I haven't had the urge to repeat the process. I hear the process has improved a bit, though. If you go to the DAP site by way of its front page, instead of a search result page, the words "Please read the FAQs" have been added to the top center of the page in 32-point bold lettering. This might save some steps for a few users.

    Last I checked, bittorrent is easier... basically tell google you feel lucky about "max headroom videos" and then click a link. But the longer DAP process might get you faster download speeds.

  23. keimel says:

    Well, your post rekindled my interest in this show so I jumped on the bandwagon to snarf those torrents as well. Well, Season One completed a couple hours ago, then my client turned around and seeded automatically, thereby killing my providers Internets.

    15.338G in... well... enough time to get lunch, come home and get the call from my ISP "I had to null route you... "

    Silly me for not throttling in advance. I continue to seed though. Hoping to see season two in another 3.3Gig - no time determined. *sigh*

    • wfaulk says:

      Your client (should have been) seeding the parts you'd already downloaded the whole time.

      • keimel says:

        Only when I got the whole thing did it REALLY start cooking. It _was_ contributing while it was downloading, but nothing significant until I had the whole thing. Then BAM!

        Odd. Fixed now though.

  24. marapfhile says:

    What client do you use? If it's not Azureus, try Azureus. The interface sucks ass (as is typical of Java crap), but the torrent engine is the best out there, especially for sparsely seeded stuff. I've had torrents that read "60 days" in the reference client take 10 hours in Azureus.

    • jwz says:

      I'm using Transmission, because the interface doesn't suck, and because unlike every other BT client I've tried, it doesn't use gargantuan amounts of CPU.

      • marapfhile says:

        The interface does indeed rock, but the engine isn't anywhere near as good as Azureus's, at least for sparse stuff.

        • babasyzygy says:

          Seconded, with emphasis. He's not kidding - it has most of the features that you will really want, sooner or later, that nothing else does.

          For example, someone above suggested worrying about your upload speed not being so high (because your upload saturation squeezes out the TCP/IP ACKs for your download, and you have to wait for the download packets to be retried).

          Azureus has a plug-in for this in its standard set, that monitors lag to other clients and fine tunes your upload speed as apropriate.

          Prioritizing files is something I use on any of the large season downloads - set the first few episodes to "high," the next few to "normal," and the rest to "do not download" and you can start couch potatoeing so much sooner.

          Azureus has an option to encrypt all of your packets' data payloads (including choice of crypto), so that if your ISP is throttling or banning IP feeds on the basis of it being Bittorrent traffic, they'll never know

          Frustrated with a flaky tracker? Azureus maintains its own distributed database of peers across all Azureus peers for use when the tracker is unavailable.

          Also, some sites have banned Transmission - it doesn't report statistics properly so users can use it to "cheat" on their upload/download ratios. This isn't knock against Transmissions' developers, it's just that it's not gamma quality yet.

          As a Java app Azureus eats memory and CPU, but it's still worth running. I've retasked an old PPC Mac Mini for Azureus use (and iTunes service to the house network), and it works pretty well. I can "feed" the Azureus machine from elsewhere in the house through a network mounted directory that it polls every minute for new .torrent files, and when a file completes downloading Azureus automatically moves it into another network mounted directory (I download to a local drive for obvious reasons).

          Really, give it a full try. It's worth learning to love.

  25. jcfiala says:

    So, I downloaded those seasons and have been seeding them off and on for the last few days - did your downloads ever finish?