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Your Guide to Configuring and Using BitTorrent

Your Guide to Configuring and Using BitTorrent

Your Guide to Configuring and Using BitTorrent

    The BitTorrent protocol has been out in the open for around seven years now, and in that time it’s become one of the most popular methods for distributing large files on the Internet. Despite futile efforts by the RIAA and MPAA to shut down file-sharing in all its forms, people both tech-savvy and computer illiterate are using it. A few major bands have even released lossless versions of their albums using BitTorrent.

    Because so many of BitTorrent’s users are computer illiterate, and given the security features in modern computers and routers that interfere with BitTorrent’s speed effectiveness, very few people are actually using this protocol, and its associated applications, to its full potential. Here’s your guide to configuring your BitTorrent client, computer and router for the best possible speeds.

    Disclaimer: I do not support nor endorse illegal downloading of copyrighted content. Respect the rights of the creator; if you’re a creator, consider licensing your work under Creative Commons.

    BitTorrent Clients

    There are countless BitTorrent clients, including the official multi-platform client from the protocol’s creator, BitComet and uTorrent for Windows and Xtorrent and Tomato Torrent for Mac. One of the most popular clients that also happens to be cross-platform is Azureus, and it’s my personal favorite, so I’ll be using Azureus as my guide in writing this tutorial. It’s free and open source.

    Configuring Your Router

    If you’re on a network (wireless or not) at home, using a router of any kind, you may be experiencing painstakingly slow downloads. This is because most routers have built-in firewalls that block incoming connections on certain ports, and you must specifically declare your ports and configure your router to accept connections on them.

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    Here’s how to do exactly that, assuming fairly standard router settings. If you have a router that doesn’t work with these instructions, a bit of Googling around will get you the answer.

    1. Open your browser and head to 192.168.1.1 – this is almost always the router’s address on your network.

    2. Log-in using the user name and password you set, or the default which is probably admin for both fields.

    3. Look for a page called port forwarding, port range forwarding or something similar.

    4. Add the port range under External Port (for instance, 9080 – 9090).

    5. Enter your IP address. If you’re not sure what your IP address is, it’s a fairly easy number to find. On Windows:

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    • Go to the Start Menu, then to Run, and type in cmd. Hit Enter.
    • Type IPCONFIG. Hit Enter. This will return a few lines of information, one of which will contain your IP address (clearly marked). Go to the router settings and add it in.

    On Mac OS X (I’m using 10.5):

    • Go to System Preferences, then to Network. Your IP address will be on this page.

    6. Tick the boxes for UDP, TCP and most importantly, the one that says Enable.

    7. Head to your BitTorrent client’s preference or options page and enter the port number you’ve selected in the appropriate fields. There will most likely be one for both UDP and TCP.

    Remember to save your router’s settings, or you will need to go through this process all over again if it gets reset. It’s never as fun the second time around!

    Limit Your Maximum Upload Speed

    DSL connections have finite capacity, and if you allow your BitTorrent client to use an unlimited amount of upload bandwidth, not only will your download suffer, but your regular surfing, chatting and email use will suffer too. Keep your connection usable and your downloads snappy by setting your maximum upload speed to a sensible level.

    Remember, BitTorrent depends on each downloader doing some uploading. Never, ever shut uploads off all together, nor below a reasonable level. Give back what you take. You should also seed for a while one the download is complete – that is, keep uploading even after the download has finished. It’s considered proper etiquette to seed until your ratio is at least 1:1 – you’ve uploaded as much as you’ve downloaded.

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    Since the right maximum upload speed will be different for each connection, you’ll have to work yours out. Down in the land of slow broadband, my torrents have a maximum upload of 18kb/s, and then unlimited when seeding. The right speed is usually 80% of your upload capability.

    Fortunately for you, there’s an upload speed calculator here.

    Windows XP Specific Configurations

    If you’re on Windows, configuring your BitTorrent client has its own set of problems. First, we’ll have to configure the Windows Firewall if you’ve got it on.

    1. Go to Network Connections and right click on your Internet or LAN connection, and click on Properties.

    2. Select Advanced and see if Internet Connection Firewall is ticked. If it’s not, you don’t need to do anything. If it is, click through to Settings.

    3. Click on the Services tab and press Add. Fill these fields in just as you did in the router, but choose TCP.

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    If you’re using Internet Connection Sharing, you’ll need to download this tool and configure it using the same information that you used when configuring the router and the XP firewall.

    If you’re on Windows XP Service Pack 2, your half-open outbound connections is severely limited, and this tends to slow your BitTorrent speeds down, too. You can use this tool to fix that problem.

    Protect Your Privacy

    In numerous cases, RIAA and MPAA bots have tracked IP addresses of those using BitTorrent and wrongly accused them of piracy. This can happen where they track IP addresses on legitimate and legal torrents, for instance. One of the beauties of Azureus is its wide range of plugins and one that will protect your privacy by blocking connections from RIAA and MPAA computers is SafePeer.

    If you use Azureus, you’d be wise to download and install this plugin, and keep the block list up to date, since the agents of the evil empire are always changing tactics and IP addresses.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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