Month: February 2006

You torrent?

It’s fairly common for us-wot-use-computers to be considered experts at all things computery. However, this is often not the case are there are so many different areas of computeriness that being an expert in all of them is, invariably, impossible. For example, please do not EVER ask me about networking. Wi-Fi or otherwise. I can hack my way through the minefield if I need to but I sure as hell don’t enjoy it and most certainly don’t want to do it any more than needed.

Software usage I’m pretty good on, but that comes with the job really, so when Louise asked for some advice on how to get someone up and running and downloading torrents as quickly as possible I figured I could handle that. I also figured that I may as well post it here too as, who knows, it may be beneficial to others. The following information is based solely on what I use. YMMV.

Disclaimer: There are many illegal files that can be downloaded. There are also many legal files available as torrents, so please stick to them. I am not responsible for what you choose to download.

So, what are “torrents”? Technically a torrent is just a file containing information that is used by a torrent application. When you want to download something, be it software, music or videos, you find a torrent file, and use that to download the files.

The name comes from the underlying technology that provides “peer-to-peer” file transfers, known as BitTorrent. The clever bit is that you aren’t downloading one big file from one place (like a website) but smaller chunks of that file direct from other people. The torrent application handles the downloading of the chunks and, once it’s got all the chunks it needs, it assembles them into the file you wanted to download.

First things first, you’ll need a torrent application. I use μTorrent as it’s simple, easy to use and light on resources. I have used Azureus in the past but it can be a little greedy when it comes to your system memory. I’ll be talking specifically about μTorrent from here on out.

Right, you’ve downloaded μTorrent (or if you haven’t go and do that now). One thing to note is that you don’t need to install it. I like to keep things organised, so I created a folder in c:program filesutorrent, pasted the utorrent.exe file in there, then created a shortcut to it. You can put the shortcut anywhere you like, either on your desktop or add it to your Start menu. Up to you.

Next up, where to find torrent files. Well there are a magnitude of sites out there, but I typically use two. TorrentSpy and IsoHunt. They should be fairly straightforward to use, just search for whatever you want to download. When you see what you want in the search results, click on the link and you should find an option to “Download Torrent”.

Can you guess what the next step is? That’s right (gosh, we are clever little monkeys), click the “Download Torrent” link. Your browser will probably ask you what you want to do with it, so make sure it opens the file with μTorrent. If you don’t get the option, you’ll need to find where the .torrent file was downloaded to, and open it in μTorrent manually*.

Almost there, still with me?

μTorrent will now be opened and you’ve got one final step. You need to tell it where you want to the downloaded files to go. Again I have a Torrents folder, and under that I create subfolders as necessary.

And that’s it. μTorrent will start downloading as soon as it finds someone who is hosting the file. Simple.

A few things to note then:

  1. As soon as you give it a .torrent file, μTorrent will ‘reserve’ the filename in your system. If you browse to where you asked it to save the files you’ll see the filename there already. This does NOT mean it’s finished downloading. Check the status in the μTorrent window to see if it’s finished or not.
  2. Once you have finished downloading, it’s considered good manners to leave the files available to others. This is the basis for a peer-to-peer system. You can throttle the “upload” speed in the μTorrent settings if you are worried about impact on your connection speed.
  3. I’ve deliberately not mentioned RSS feeds, which μTorrent can handle, I’m saving that for another post.

So there you have it, a quick(ish) guide to downloading torrents. I hope it’s useful. If you get stuck, I can recommend the μtorrent forums, or if it’s a more general question, feel free to ask here.

* Whilst I like not having to install μTorrent, the downside is that it doesn’t setup ‘associations’. So you have to tell Windows which application it should use to open .torrent files.

Ketchup

I had a few hours to myself on Saturday afternoon as Louise had gone into Glasgow to meet up with her sister and cousins for a wee afternoon out. I took the opportunity to do some shopping and, after careful deliberation, decided to buy all four shirts that I had spotted. Decadence? Not really, they were £5 each in Primark (Preemark).

Headed into Glasgow later on, met Louise and wandered up to Bath Street to meet our friends for a shandy or three. According to my darling wife I was happy drunk on Saturday night, which explains my lack of motivation for doing anything that didn’t include the words “horizontal” and “couch” on Sunday. It was an excellent night though and as usual it zipped past. Last thing I remember I was playing with remote-controlled daleks and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t just some weird dream. Ohh and whilst I remember I’d like to apologise to the brunette bar-lady in Moskito. Sorry for leering, but it was my wife who pointed you out to me, blame her.

Watched some episodes of the IT Crowd last night but not as funny as the episode of Robot Chicken that we watched late on Saturday night. Admittedly I was fairly drunk by that point and can’t actually remember WHAT I was laughing at but I do remember that it was very funny. A-torrenting-we-go this evening. Which reminds me, I heard that some of the bigger torrent sites were hit by lawyers recently, anyone spotted any fallout?

Ohh and that, in turn, reminds me that I’ve got a draft post about torrents (a how to) sitting waiting to be finished. Must stop procrastinating. Wouldn’t it be great to blog full-time? Jason Kottke has just finished his “year of blogging” raising $40,000 in the process. Not to shoddy. Anyone fancy ‘sponsoring’ me to do the same?

Right, it’s 8.25am, time for coffee and the perusing of emails. Ohhh wait, I almost forgot.

Anyone know the rugby scores from the weekend?

Willpower-less

Popped into Waterstones at lunchtime in the vague hope of finding a decent book about Microsoft Word (2003). Nothing on the shelves worth bothering with so I left.

Somehow, when I arrived back at work, I was carrying a bag containing 3 recently purchased books. Such is the power of the ubiquitous 3 for 2 offer.

There’s a thought, are there ANY bookstores that don’t have sales on?

Anyway, I can now add the following to my “to be read” stack:

Suggestions on which to read first are welcomed.

50 million

£50million, that’s a lot of money. Makes me wonder….

Would it spoil some vast eternal plan
If I were a wealthy man? – Topol

Personally I don’t think the uppermost priority in my mind would be to build a house with “one long staircase just going up, and one even longer coming down, and one more leading nowhere just for show” as, frankly, if I had a house built and the architect put in a staircase “just for show” I’d have him taken to the top of it and shoved off.

Since the introduction of the National Lottery a common pondering is “what would you do if you won?”. A more common pondering is “why do they STILL have those crappy game shows, can’t they just show the numbers during a break between programs?”, but I digress. I have to admit my first answer to the “you’ve won, now what” question is always:

“Turn up at the airport with my passport and take the first long-distance flight to somewhere exotic.”

This is mainly because I like the “devil may care” attitude it suggests, unlike my normal pragmatic approach to life, and also because I’m absolutely, unmoveably certain that I’d make much better decisions about how to spend my new found wealth if I was lying on a beach somewhere sipping Margaritas from the belly-button of a svelte yet buxom groupie (by which, obviously, I mean my darling wife… ).

Anyway, it’s nice to ponder such impossibilities, but as I don’t buy lottery tickets anymore and have never really thought of myself as the type to commit armed robbery as guess they will remain dreams.

Either way, it’s much nicer than contemplating a day of wrestling with Microsoft Word templates and staring out of the window at the dreich, dank day that is unfolding.

So, presuming there are no limits and you only have your own moral compass to guide you (god save us all) what would YOU do with £50million?

Snippets

Coffee at its best – Just opened, fresh this morning, the jar of Nescafé we brought back from Spain. Yes, that’s right, we brought back a jar of instant coffee. Why? Because it tastes GREAT!

It may be because it’s not granules but powder, it may be because I don’t normally drink Nescafé and ALL Nescafé tastes great, or we may be getting back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago. Continental tastebuds are different from ours and most of their goods just taste better.

Working at home today, the advantages of which are many-fold (manifold?). However, over the past couple of weeks, a new benefit has been added in the fact that I wasn’t shouted at this morning.

Low-level Glasgow Central has two exits which take you from the platform and up some stairs to street level. The exit I use has two options when you reach the top of the stairs, turn left towards the north side of Argyll Street (and the upper-levels of the station) or turn right to emerge on the south side of Argyll Street. Most of the people, like myself, who turn right are heading for the same “office district” in which I work. We know where we are going. Or so I thought.

The people who run the station have seen fit to hire a very loud man who likes shouting. He stands at the top of the stairs and shouts at people to let them know that “THERE IS AN EXIT TO YOUR RIGHT” “THERE IS AN EXIT TO YOUR RIGHT”. Loudly. Repeatedly.

Isn’t that why we invented robots?

Gridlines don’t help but no-one has told Reckitt Benckiser. Despite the appearance of some funky gridlines on their package of Lemsip MAX I can feel no additional benefits between that and regular (non-MAX… um… MIN?) Lemsip.

Worryingly the packaging also includes the sword and circle motif found on bottles of Dettol (here’s Lemsip for comparison).

What AM I drinking?

[voiceover man] This post was brought to you by a variety of influences and goes to show you can construct a post from anything … um… nothing [/voiceover man]

Presenting

A while back I mentioned that I’d been ask to give a presentation on “Blogging and Communities”. Well I’ve finally finished writing the damned thing and wondered if anyone would be interested in giving me some feedback. Obviously I’ll be talking over and through these slides, and I’m confident enough on the topic that I won’t just be reading the slides (death by powerpoint!), so I can only really ask you guys and gals for thoughts on structure and topic choice.

The audience is people who want to explore different ways of increasing communication and learning in their organisation or business place, but it’s more about the basics of blogging and I’ll give them a quick demo of creating a new blogspot blog as well (all 4 minutes of it). It’s a 45 minute slot, and I’m pretty sure I can waffle for that long on this topic, as I’m sure you’ll agree. I will be rehearsing, so please spare some thought for my captive audience darling wife.

Anyhoo, here’s a PDF of the presentation (final draft).

Have at it!

Why I worry

Yesterday I was a tad worried about my post. Apparently I shouldn’t have been, and that’s all well and good but it does bring to mind a pet hate of mine.

I don’t think I have EVER posted something that was deliberately inflammatory or overly opinionated. Now that’s mainly because it’s just not in my nature but also because, frankly, I don’t see the point. It may sound awfully “right-on” but life really IS too short to waste any of my time and energy trying to berate and antagonise others. Don’t get me wrong, I have had fallings out with people, and have been asked not to comment on certain blogs but that is usually down to my (mis)use of sarcasm.

This is not to say I don’t have opinions, nor that I will not express them if I see a need or opportunity to contribute to a discussion, and I can certainly point you to several occasions when I’ve been a little hot under the collar about a particular topic. However, I’d challenge you to find anything I’ve written that deliberately sets out to shock and I’d warrant it harder to find proof of me ignoring a well reasoned argument/comment. I’m a tolerant guy but even the most laid-back person can be provoked.

My dislike of the loud and arrogant, issuing forth their proclamations and shouting down others, is not limited to blogs. That kind of loathsome individual may think they are ‘winning the argument’ because they made the most noise and that may be true in the political sense but as far as I’m concerned it spanks of insecurity. The worst mix is the overly intelligent which, when coupled with a presumption that they are correct and their opinion SHOULD be held by others because (after all) they’ve spent years studying the topic (which makes the rest of us no better than uneducated oinks), can lead to an obnoxious mix of overbearing pomposity from which I rarely hide my displeasure.

And of course the single most annoying thing about the overly opinionated is that they remain so blinkered to others views that they don’t even realise how disgustingly gross their company can be.

The simple fact is that no-one is right all the time.

Not even me.

Why I like reading blogs

I mentioned this at the blogmeet at the weekend, early on, and thought I’d expand on my thoughts here.

Whilst I can’t remember how we got onto the topic and admittedly I might have leaped from something completely unrelated, I do recall mentioning that now and again I’m still taken aback when I read something on a blog that I hadn’t previously considered. I don’t mean a radical new political stance, or a wonderful way of getting ink stains out of shirt pockets or anything like that. I mean when someone, as part of a post, mentions something specific about themselves that I hadn’t previously noted.

The example I gave on Saturday was NML who writes Tired of Men. I’ve read her site for a while now, although I don’t comment very often, and recently, in the middle of a post, she mentioned how you “didn’t often hear that kinda thing from a black girl..”*.

Similarly, despite having read Clare’s blog for some time now and having bought and enjoyed her book, (which I do recommend) her recent mention of an ex-girlfriend had the same effect.

THIS is what I love about blogs. As you read you start to build mental pictures of people, their opinions and their pet peeves, yet we don’t know the person at all. Now I know this isn’t a startling exclamation, and know that I’ve KNOWN this all along, but it’s one of those things that you start to forget as you aren’t constantly remind about it. This is probably because my regular reads haven’t changed for quite a while, so I’ve had less exposure to new blogs where this kind of “revelation” is expected as you gradually learn about the person behind the blog.

Obviously, the two examples I’ve cited weren’t (and shouldn’t feel any need to) hiding these facets of their life. Rightly so, it’s part of who they are, and I’m not… ohh look.. I could lose myself in a statement assuring you of my political correctness, so let me cut to the chase and say that it is NOT the details that NML and Clare posted but the fact that they are so fundamental to them and to who they are, and yet so startlingly new to me especially, and this is the crucial bit, as I’ve been reading their sites for quite a while. It’s a most odd situation, and I don’t think you get the same kind of thing happening in real life.

Or maybe it is just me. Again.

I’m quite sure that someone much smarter than I will have dissected and examined this behaviour, and I’m certain that one of you will know of the correct anthropological term. Regardless it forms one of the key reasons I enjoy reading blogs. It’s a constant reminder of a larger world, a place to experience differing viewpoints, to try and better understand my own take on the world through the eyes of others.

So to everyone I read, thank you. Thank you for posting about your day, your experiences and your thoughts. Probably without realising it you’ve made my life and my experiences all the richer.

* My memory is awful, so when I say recently, I could be referring to any post in the last six months or so. In a similar vein, she may not have used those exact words, but it was the fact that she had mentioned her colour that stuck in my head.

Post post update: I’ve swithered about even posting this, for fear it would taken the wrong way. I have contacted both Clare and NML to assure them this is not meant in any derogatory way. I guess it’s a lack of confidence in my writing ability that has me slightly wary. This post may be edited based on feedback.

Blogmet

Another day, another blogmeet. After spending a couple of hours wandering around Edinburgh, I had the pleasure of meeting some old friends, and some new faces, in the Jolly Judge pub. Amongst a lot of laughing we discussed all sorts – politics, blogging (why?), stats, Edinburgh, and a lot more that I can’t remember. It’s always a bit odd meeting with, essentially, a bunch of strangers, but for some reason it works. Granted there are now a few familiar faces, but this was no different from the last two blogmeets with the conversation leaping all over the place, to a fascinating degree.

Anyway, for the record, I’d like to thank the following people for taking some time out of their weekend:

Unfortunately I had to head off for the last train around 8pm, but it was an excellent afternoon, in wonderful company. If you couldn’t make it along this time, keep an eye out for the next blogmeet.

Some photos taken by Will (on his rather fancy phone).