The BitTorrent protocol and peer-to-peer file sharing are usually
reported in the context of illegal downloading of films, TV and music.
However, the protocol itself is used by many IT and entertainment
companies for the distribution of large files. It's used by Twitter and
Facebook for server updates, for open source and the legal distribution
of files without copyright restrictions, and by game companies
distributing games and updates. For example, Blizzard uses an inbuilt
BitTorrent client for distributing World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and
Diablo games and patches.
BitTorrent allows anyone to distribute large files across the internet without the need for a dedicated file server or large bandwidth. A torrent file is created that acts as a descriptor to the original content to be distributed. Other users with BitTorrent clients usually gain access to the torrent file through the web on torrent tracker sites, and once they download the torrent, their BitTorrent client will begin downloading the various pieces of the file. At the same time, those downloaded pieces may be uploading to other users requesting the same file. Multiple users create a "swarm" of hosts that download and upload from each other simultaneously.
Torrex BetaThere are many BitTorrent clients available on Windows and other operating systems, but none were previously available for Windows RT. Torrex Beta, available from the Windows Store, is the first of the clients to make the jump to the new WinRT development environment, and as well as working on standard Windows 8 PCs, it also works on Windows RT.
Like all torrent clients, the interface is rather sparse, aimed at showing you a list of your downloading torrents. Torrex will let you open local torrent files from a URL, or allow you to search for any content. This essentially opens the browser and sends your request plus the word "torrent" to a search engine. Surprisingly, this uses Google; I would have expected Bing.
The common use of torrent clients is to act as an associated application
when you click on a torrent file link in your web browser. I went to
clear-bits.net, which is a torrent tracker for Open Licensed Digital
Media and covers a range of content. I selected Done the Impossible – a
documentary on the short-lived Firefly TV show – and clicked the Torrent
file link. After confirming that I wanted to open the file, Torrex
started automatically and displayed the file details. I selected Start
to begin downloading.
Selecting Preferences from the Settings charm will give you access to the usual properties for a Torrent Tracker. One limitation of Torrex is that it won't run in the background, so you'll need to have it full screen or in a split screen with another application. It will automatically be suspended if you move to another app.
It's good to see some "legacy" Windows applications reappearing for Windows RT as developers move to the WinRT API and reproduce them with the new UI. I look forward to seeing some more.
Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.