From time to time, I may link to files associated with posts which are available via BitTorrent (magnet links). Without getting overly technical, BitTorrent is a technology which allows files to be shared without the use of something like a web server; computers or devices share the files directly among each other using a “seed file” (filename ending in “.torrent”) which contains the file names, file sizes, and enough information about the files to ensure that the correct data has been transferred (specifically, a checksum for each piece).
I recommend these BitTorrent programs (clients) specifically:
- Unix-like and GNU variants (including the many distributions of GNU/Linux): Transmission (available on most distributions as a package/port)
- Multi-platform (Unix-like and GNU variants, Windows, MacOS X): Deluge
- Android: LibreTorrent, available from the Google Play Store, will accept both *.torrent seed files as well as magnet links. (Note that unlike most BitTorrent clients, the stock version of LibreTorrent will not allow you to make your own torrents, though it will download ones that already exist just fine.
- iOS: use your computer or Android device instead (see below)
While I know of others, these are the only ones I can really feel comfortable recommending for a variety of reasons.
Note that at the current time I specifically recommend against the unofficial Transmission binaries for Windows. This is, of course, subject to change as improvements are made. Also, do not use Transmission 2.90 for MacOS X due to malware (earlier or later versions should be fine). If you are stuck using an iOS device (either iPhone or iPad), note that despite substantial non-infringing uses of BitTorrent technology, Apple does not approve apps for the App Store that can download from BitTorrent; this could be seen as a symptom of Apple having final say on what apps are allowed in the App Store, a topic I have blogged about on many occasions. (You will need to use a computer or Android device instead.)
I also recommend against the official BitTorrent client (it is proprietary software, the most recent versions are a rebranded version of µTorrent).
Note that Android and other mobile BitTorrent apps may not necessarily continue downloading while running in the background. Keep an eye on your battery level if you aren’t plugged in.
You are of course free to use something different, particularly if you have one you like. As some torrents may be shared trackerless (and trackers are known to disappear for a variety of reasons), DHT (Distributed Hash Table) should be turned on, and I recommend also enabling PEX (Peer Exchange). Both Transmission and Deluge have settings for these (I think both even have them turned on by default), and just about any other relatively modern client should as well.
Contrary to what some might tell you, use of the BitTorrent protocol and other peer-to-peer technology is not unlawful (in the United States at least) in and of itself. Any BitTorrent link from this blog will be to files which I believe to be legal to download and share within, at minimum, the United States of America. However, it is quite possible to share files via BitTorrent unlawfully (particularly with regard to copyright law) and thus by reference a potential violation of your internet provider’s terms of service/acceptable use policy. If staying squeaky-clean lawful is a concern for you, be careful about what you download using BitTorrent and make no assumptions.
Note that some particularly strict providers of internet access may not allow the use of BitTorrent at all and/or may run a non-neutral network where BitTorrent traffic is either blocked entirely, limited, or otherwise interfered with. Using BitTorrent from public wireless internet access points, even if it is not specifically blocked (as it quite often is), is a bit riskier than normal and thus ill-advised; at minimum you will usually not be able to accept inbound connections (and thus, often not able to seed back properly).