Wednesday, August 6, 2008

uTorrent Developer Shares BitTorrent Speed Tips

Configuring your BitTorrent client is essential if you want to enjoy optimal download speeds. In our quest to help users get the most out of BitTorrent, we asked one of the uTorrent developers how we can speed up our downloads.

bittorrent speedAt TorrentFreak we have written quite a few speed guides, but we are not as knowledgeable as the people who work with BitTorrent clients daily. A few weeks ago we asked Olivier Chalouhi, developer and CTO of Vuze (formerly known as Azureus) to share some of his BitTorrent speed tips with us.

Today we continue our mission to help people get the most out of BitTorrent, by asking uTorrent developer Greg Hazel to give us his recommendations on how to optimize BitTorrent download speeds. Here are his three suggestions.

Cap the upload speed

Limiting your upload speed is by far the most important suggestion, and was also mention by Olivier Chalouhi in our previous BitTorrent speed guides. The rationale behind it is simple. Your connection is a tube (sort of), if you max out the upload capacity, the tube gets clogged.

Choose the correct maximum number of connections

Too much connections can actually slow down your torrents, instead of increasing the download speed. The uTorrent speed guide (Options > Speed Guide in uTorrent) automatically recommends the ideal settings. For users with a maximum upload speed of 256 kbit/sec, uTorrent suggests a maximum of 35 connections per torrent, and 60 in total.

Run as few torrents as possible

Less is more, sometimes at least. Running fewer torrents will guarantee that your connection can handle all the connections and requests properly. Since BitTorrent rewards people for uploading, the less torrents you run, the faster they will download. Again, the uTorrent speed guide will suggest the optimal settings, which is a maximum of 2 torrents for users with a maximum upload speed of 256 kbit/sec.

These three settings are the most important according to Greg, and configuring them correctly in your BitTorrent client, is the key to faster downloads.

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IBM targets Microsoft with desktop Linux initiative

By Ryan Paul

During a press briefing at LinuxWorld today in San Francisco, IBM announced a new partnership with Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical to offer "Microsoft-free" personal computers with IBM's Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony software. The goal is to provide a preintegrated stack that can serve as a complete alternative to Windows and Microsoft Office.

IBM hopes that disillusionment with Vista and uncertainty about Microsoft's long-term roadmap will create an opening for Linux to emerge as a stronger contender in the desktop market. The Linux and Lotus bundle will give consumers a low-cost desktop productivity option that is built around open standards from the ground up.

IBM's Jeff Smith describes the desktop as "one of the last bastions of proprietary technology" and notes that it is "disproportionately dominated by one vendor."

He says that IBM aims to change that and he believes "bring[ing] openness and choice to the client and desktop side of the [IT] environment is one of the next things to explode in the march for Linux."

Improvements in desktop Linux usability and broader support for interoperability with Windows client systems in mixed environments are making Linux an increasingly viable option, IBM contends. Another major factor is growing awareness of the need for open technologies and open standards.

The Linux vendors will deploy IBM's Lotus-based open collaboration client software in preinstalled configurations through various hardware distribution channels. Canonical will also be offering the software through its software repositories.

Unseating Microsoft's desktop dominance is not something that will happen overnight, but efforts to provide preintegrated open alternatives could accelerate Linux adoption and make software freedom a practical choice for some businesses and home computer users.

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Textbook Torrents Makes Long Awaited Comeback

After a month of downtime, TextBook Torrents makes its return, right on time, as the first semester starts in just a few weeks. The BitTorrent tracker, dedicated to sharing knowledge in the form of textbooks, was pulled offline by Dreamhost early July because the hosting company received a takedown request.

textbooktorrents The Textbook Torrents tracker is considered to be the largest library of textbooks on BitTorrent. The site had been flying under the radar for quite some time but this changed a month ago. On July 1st, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story on the site, which was picked up by Slashdot and later the LA Times blog.

All this attention led to thousands of new visitors to the tracker, but the publicity also had a downside. Geekman, the administrator of Textbook Torrents told TorrentFreak that their host, xlHost, and their domain registrar, Dreamhost, both received a takedown request a few days after all the press coverage. “We received a DMCA notice from Pearson Education a week or so prior, which we complied with, but it was a group of publishers that contacted our host,” he told us.

Although the tracker was pretty popular, with around 20,000 peers trading files at any given point in time, Geekman said he had never received takedown notices from big publishers before. “We had a couple of emails from individuals before, but nothing from organizations. One was an editor complaining about being cheated out of his 10¢ per copy commission.”

On July 5th Dreamhost suspended Geekman’s account, and despite his many efforts to contact them, they simply didn’t respond to his inquiries. It took more than a week before he was allowed to transfer the domain. Now, more than a month after the site went down, Textbook Torrents returns, and it’s not planning to go away anytime soon.

Geekman plans to focus on making the site’s resources redundant, to reduce vulnerability and to make sure the site remains online. In addition he will work on the legal issues and improve the privacy of the site’s users. One of the most drastic changes is the decision to stop the logging of IP-addresses, which means that the site will stop ratio tracking. Making the tracker public will ensure the privacy of the users, in case the server is compromised.

“I want to see the textbook industry change such that we are no longer needed,” Geekman says when we ask him about his main motivation to bring the site back, while mentioning cheap books and responsible business practices as examples of positive change.

He doesn’t think publishers should give away their books –even though some authors profit from doing so– but he does think most books are too expensive. “The companies may be corrupt, but they have a right to make money. They can’t be expected to give their material away for free. After all, there is a significant amount of work involved in the production of a textbook. We need a middle ground,” he says.

“I’m not naive enough to say that if something can be distributed in a digital form it should be free but there needs to be some adaptation here,” Geekman added. For now, however, all the publishers see is a threat to their revenue stream, as Allan Ryan of Harvard Business Publishing put it: “We have been fairly vigorous in monitoring these sites and in requesting that they take down our copyrighted content.”

They sure have something to monitor now, as Textbook Torrents has made its return…because you still can’t torrent beer. Currently, the site can only be accessed directly via the IP-address, however, the domain should be working again shortly.

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EFF: MySpace suicide charges a threat to free speech

The case against a mother who posed as a teenage boy to harass another teen online, in the process driving her to suicide, has taken another turn, as rights groups are opposing the government's criminal charges against the mother. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, along with Public Citizen and a group of 14 law professors, have filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that violating MySpace's Terms of Service agreement shouldn't be considered criminal offense under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The groups believe that if the mother, Lori Drew, is prosecuted using CFAA charges, the case could have significant ramifications for the free speech rights of US citizens using the Internet.

The story about Drew and the tragic MySpace-related suicide of her 13-year-old neighbor Megan Meier is a complex one that goes back to 2006. For those not familiar with the situation, Meier had received messages on MySpace from someone who purported to be a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. The two became online friends, exchanged some online flirtations, and her family said she seemed happier after having "met" Evans. In October of 2006, however, Evans' messages turned sour as he accused her of being mean to her friends and began forwarding her messages to "him" around to other people, prompting malicious gossip (both online and off) to spread about Meier being fat and a slut, among other things.

At one point, Evans allegedly sent a message to Meier saying, "You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you." Meier eventually told her mother about the messages, who had told her to stop using MySpace, and the two got into a fight. Meier then went back to her room and committed suicide. Several weeks later, it came out that the person behind Evans' account was, in fact, a neighbor and the mother of one of Meier's friends. Drew, who first denied everything, but later admitted to creating the account, said that it was all supposed to be a joke.

Fast forward to this May, when Drew was indicted on federal charges by the Department of Justice for fraudulently and criminally breaking MySpace's ToS in order to harass Meier. These are the charges that the EFF, the CDT, and the other organizations take issue with, as they believe they could cause chilling effects across the Internet that would ultimately limit free speech. "The Government's novel and unprecedented response to what everyone recognizes as a tragic situation would create a reading of the CFAA that has dangerous ramifications far beyond the facts," wrote the EFF in the brief.

The EFF says that a MySpace user doesn't gain unauthorized access to MySpace's servers by disregarding the ToS, which is what the DoJ's reading of the CFAA would criminalize. Additionally, the groups argue that the legislative history of the CFAA supports the view that it's meant to prevent trespass and theft on computers or computer networks, not improper motives or use. The EFF and CDT believe that holding Drew criminally liable for violating MySpace's ToS would be an "extraordinary and dangerous extension of federal criminal law," as it would turn practically everyone into federal criminals.

They point out that even checking out the popular dating site for the mere purpose of research into this case would have turned the brief's author into a criminal, as she is married and the ToS prohibits those who are not single or separated from using the site. "[T]he Government's theory would attach criminal penalties to minors under the age of 18 who use the Google search engine, as well as to many individuals who legitimately exercise their First Amendment rights to speak anonymously online," adds the brief. Although the groups agree that Meier's death was a tragedy and that there is a heavy desire to hold Drew accountable for her actions, they believe the First Amendment rights of citizens outweigh the "overbroad" interpretation of the CFAA in order to prosecute her, and urge the court to dismiss the indictment.

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Psystar lawyers hint at antitrust filing against Apple

By Justin Berka | Published: August 05, 2008 - 09:04AM CT

When Psystar responded to Apple's OpenComputer lawsuit last week, it came out that the company had retained law firm Carr & Ferrell LLP to defend it. Carr & Ferrell happens to have had some success with lawsuits filed against Apple in the past, and Psystar's move seems to have signaled the company's willingness to tango with Apple. And now, although Apple isn't saying anything about the case, one of the Carr & Ferrell lawyers spoke to Computerworld about where the case could go if Apple decides to tango as well.

According to attorney Colby Springer, the issue has been "mischaracterized" and isn't just about trademark or copyright infringement. The other significant issue that could be involved is antitrust, which would likely be related to the Mac OS X licensing agreement. Springer didn't say much about what such a defense would look like, although he did point out that Apple's lead attorney has antitrust experience, and was on the legal team that won an antitrust suit against Microsoft.

If you're curious about the antitrust defense for the OpenComputer might look like, Psystar's claim would probably be that the Mac OS X EULA is a form of illegal tying (making the sale of one good conditional on the sale of another), and thus isn't binding. As you're all well aware, I'm no lawyer, but if you'd like to learn a bit more about tying, the Department of Justice has a good article on the subject. Of course, the case may never get this far and Psystar's lawyers may take a different approach, so we'll just have to wait and see if Springer's plan gets put into action.

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Steve Jobs on MobileMe: the full e-mail

By Jacqui Cheng

Ever since our report last night on an internal e-mail sent by Steve Jobs about the botched launch of MobileMe, we have received an outpouring of requests for the full text of the e-mail. Although we originally weren't comfortable publishing the entire thing, it is now slowly becoming available in its full form across the Internet. Because of this, we made an editorial decision to give into your requests and publish the text for your reading pleasure. Here it is.


The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour. There are several things we could have done better:

– MobileMe was simply not up to Apple's standards – it clearly needed more time and testing.

– Rather than launch MobileMe as a monolithic service, we could have launched over-the-air syncing with iPhone to begin with, followed by the web applications one by one – Mail first, followed 30 days later (if things went well with Mail) by Calendar, then 30 days later by Contacts.

– It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

We are taking many steps to learn from this experience so that we can grow MobileMe into a service that our customers will love. One step that I can share with you today is that the MobileMe team will now report to Eddy Cue, who will lead all of our internet services – iTunes, the App Store and, starting today, MobileMe. Eddy's new title will be Vice President, Internet Services and he will now report directly to me.

The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services. And learn we will. The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year.

Firmware 2.0.1 breaks PwnageTool, could render iPhone 3G un-unlockable

As some of you already know, updating your iPhone to firmware 2.0.1 means that you've lost access to all your jailbroken apps. That's pretty much expected and should be rectified by the DevTeam soon enough. What's notable from an unlocking perspective, however, is that Apple's 2.0.1 release also updates the iPhone 3G baseband. This puts iPhone 3G owners in a bit of a quandary: update now via iTunes in desperate hopes of the stability and improved keyboard response we've been seeing but do so at the risk of not being able to unlock your iPhone 3G in the future (if and when the DevTeam gets around to releasing it for firmware 2.0). A lot can happen in the course of a 2 year (or longer) carrier commitment. According to the DevTeam, you'll get all the benefits of Apple's 2.0.1 update (without the pesky new baseband) just as soon as they can kick out the updated PwnageTool (current version is 2.0.1) onto the Internets. Decisions, decisions.
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