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Heard on Hanselminutes

Hanselminutes is a weekly 30-minute podcast with Web developer and technologist Scott Hanselman hosted by Carl Franklin

Hanselminutes is a weekly 30-minute podcast with Web developer and technologist Scott Hanselman hosted by Carl Franklin. The following is a transcript from show number 19 on BitTorrent. You can listen online at www.hanselminutes.com.

Carl Franklin: So, we're talking about BitTorrent today.

Scott Hanselman: BitTorrent, video squishing, things you can do with BitTorrent, optimizing BitTorrent, how it works, and various legalities.

CF: And that would be a good time for a disclaimer, would it not?

SH: It would indeed.

CF: Yeah.

SH: We cannot, we're not lawyers, we're not legal or illegal people, we're just guys talking to you on your iPods, hopefully in double speed if you're not wasting your time, and we have no way to know whether this is legal or not legal. Carl, what have you found in your research?

CF: Well, I found that certain things are legal to share and certain things are not and the list of legal things is small indeed. However, there are some major television studios that are now coming out with - and media companies that are now coming out with BitTorrent feeds but you know they have their own terms and conditions. There isn't just blanket stuff. I've heard people say that you know what fair use means if I can watch something on my TV, then I don't feel bad going to download it if I missed it. While that may be true, it still may be illegal. So you really need to check your laws for the particular media that you are trying to download.

SH: Absolutely and it's fair to say that using BitTorrent and the BitTorrent protocol is certainly a legal thing.

CF: Yes.

SH: It really gets down to a gray area when you download something hot.

CF: It's all a matter of what you're downloading.

SH: Yeah, but don't think poorly of the protocol, but like you said, Warner Brothers is going to allow downloads of their shows. There's information about that at shrinkster.com/fhz.

CF: Yeah.

SH: On Warner Brothers' agreement with BitTorrent. Okay, so what is BitTorrent?

CF: What is it?

SH: BitTorrent is...I call it a kind of equivalent of a protocol if a protocol could shout. Like BitTorrent is a bunch of people getting into a room and going "Hey! I've got this version of this file," and, "Aaah, aaah," and then just screaming and yelling at each other.

CF: You ever see the stock market guys on Wall Street, and they're just screaming and yelling at each other?

SH: That's it exactly. It's the stock market protocol.

CF: Yeah.

SH: It's basically, there is a hundred gig file or some giant file I want to get and you know downloading it classically from Carl Franklin studios means that I tie up one of your connections...

CF: Right.

SH: And if you want to distribute that to a million people, let's say it's a really popular file, the more people that want to get that file, the fewer can.

CF: Yeah.

SH: So you get squeezed. So BitTorrent tries to solve that problem of the more people who want it, the fewer do.

CF: Yeah.

SH: To the more people who want it, the more people who can. BitTorrent works better with popular files.

CF:It also works really, really well with podcast clients because a podcast client you know will typically wake up when there's new stuff, right? And when there's new stuff, you have thousands, possibly tens of thousands of clients trying to download the same file at the same time, and if those files are big, why BitTorrent is just perfect for that...

SH: Right.

CF: The rule of BitTorrent is, the more people that are downloading simultaneously, the faster everybody gets the file. That's a simple rule you can remember.

SH: Exactly. The protocol says, hey, I've got you know parts two, six, and eight of this file and you have parts three, four, and two of, you know, three, four, and five...

CF: Right.

SH: Let's exchange them. So you may for a very long period of time have just chunks of a file and another guy may have chunks, and no one in the swarm has the entire file yet but perhaps among the group of us, the union of us, we have the whole file.

CF: Right.

SH: If we stand in line long enough, we'll all get the complete file.

CF: Right and...

SH: Now after you've got the complete file, you've got to stay on line though because there's an unspoken moral code within BitTorrent, which actually is not unspoken, it's baked under the protocol...

CF: It's totally baked.

SH: If you leech then you'll be less likely to get good bandwidth downloads later. So once you're done downloading something with a BitTorrent client, stay online for at least as long as you were on before.

CF: Right.

SH: To seed the swarm, the swarm is the group of computers that are all kind of simultaneously sending and receiving that file. And seeding is when you've got the complete copy and in order for BitTorrent to work, you have to have at least one person in this swarm have a complete copy...

CF: Right.

SH: Of the file and be a seeder. So actually we're super-seeders for you.


More Stories By Carl Franklin

Carl Franklin has been a figurehead in the VB community since the very early days when he wrote for Visual Basic Programmers Journal. He authored the Q&A column of that magazine as well as many feature articles for VBPJ and other magazines. He has authored two books for John Wiley & Sons on sockets programming in VB, and in 1994 he helped create the very first web site for VB developers, Carl & Gary's VB Home Page. He now teaches hands-on VB .NET classes for his company, Franklins.Net. He has taught developers from Citigroup, Aetna, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Foxwoods Casino, UTC, Hubbell, Microsoft, Mohegan Sun Casino, Northeast Utilities, to name a few. Carl is co-host of a weekly talk show on his website for .NET programmers called .NET Rocks! Carl is MSDN Regional Director for Connecticut.

More Stories By Scott Hanselman

Scott Hanselman will be starting a new job at Microsoft as a senior program manager in the developer division. His blog is at http://www.hanselman.com.

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