Monday, April 11, 2011

Giving up Torrents.

Yes, I've given up the use of Torrents. I'm now using an alternate source of content, I've gone back to using Usenet Newsgroups.
First, why have I given up the use of Torrents? The Torrent protocol is awesome in its efficiency and for many files, availability of content. I've often achieved 8Mbps via torrenting files from peers. The one downside is that your IP address is necessarily publicly available to everyone in the swarm. This means of course that you can be tracked, and if your ISP is given a good reason, can be contacted. Now just in case you accidently download some copyrighted material, which some company kicks up a fuss about, you could receive, like a friend of mine recently, a warning from your ISP to cease and desist. There have been rare cases where people have been sued. This is extremely unlikely for any given individual, but still possible.
The alternative is to either use an anonymising proxy, or VPN service to torrent through, but this costs money, and slows down the torrent feed. I've opted to use Usenet Newsgroups. Yes, they are still alive and well, and predate the web. All the interesting stuff is in the binaries newsgroups, and free newservers just don't host them, because of the volume of traffic they have to support. So you need a premium news provider.
I'm using the Newsdemon non-expiring block plans, which means I can download content from the server at about 12Mbps at a cost of around 10c per gigabyte. It's not a lot of money. Because this is a simple one to one download, it's much harder for anyone else to see what you are downloading, and if you are really paranoid, you can enable SSL connections, so even your ISP can't snoop on the data. If you want.
While this gives you access, there are a lot of bait, virus and trojan downloads on the binaries groups, so you can't just go and download stuff that looks ok, you need to go via an NZB indexing service which finds real content for you. I use NZBMatrix. The premium version costs £7 for 10 years. Next you need something that can download content from NZB files, and I am using It's an awesome little service that runs on your PC, and you can set it up to automatically schedule the downloading of your bookmarks in NZBMatrix during your off-peak bandwidth usage.
Then there's this other little awesome service that runs on your your PC called SickBeard. It knows all about TV shows, and uses sabnzbd to automatically download TV shows you are interested in, as soon as they appear in the newsgroups. Once configured, they just start appearing on you local disk, ready to be streamed to your media player.
The end result is I can sit on the couch, bookmark a video at NZBMatrix via my iPad, and a short while later it's available for my media player under the TV. Or via SickBeard, it is as simple as receiving an email saying the latest episode of my favourite TV program is now available to watch, and just, play it. [Thanks to a friend at work for the heads up.]

[update - 10/12/2012] NZBMatrix has just gone down. Change your Sickbeard search provider to "Sick Beard Index".

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