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Chris Fehily

Part 3

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That's right. Don't use it. Like a gated community, antimalware makes you no safer and may prompt you to take more risks through a false sense of security (the Peltzman effect). Vigilant pirates are paranoids who don't use antimalware and yet rarely, if ever, get infected.

Antimalware publishers can't keep up with the enormous number of malware variants in the wild, and independent tests show low rates of malware recognition (even for malware hidden by rudimentary techniques). Still, if you notice suspicious disk, network, desktop, or browser activity, scan your machine for malware. For Windows, try Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast, and Kaspersky (in tandem if necessary). For other OSes and products, read Wikipedia's list of antivirus programs. If an infection or threat is recognized, it's deleted or quarantined; otherwise, you must wait for a fix, hire a geek, reinstall your OS, or live with the infection.

Antimalware programs tend to be bloated resource-suckers that increase startup and load times, and a.s.sert themselves throughout your works.p.a.ce. Their frequent warnings, self-updates, and pop-up messages will interfere with your workflow, program installations, routine internet transactions, and peace of mind. But they're popular BitTorrent downloads, so pirates do use them. If you use one, keep in mind that its barrage of cry-wolf warnings will eventually cause you to regard all warnings as false positives, and you'll blandly click "Yes" when a real threat finally comes along. Also, antimalware often causes problems with BitTorrent clients (Chapter 6). In my brief tests, Microsoft Security Essentials was easiest to live with; it's free via Windows Update or at microsoft.com/security_essentials.

A few more tips: Antimalware is popularly called "antivirus software," a term too specific for marketers, who say "internet security suite."

Media files (movies, photos, music, and so on) are almost always benign. The Bloodhound.Exploit.13 trojan horse (2004), however, involved .jpg images and flaws in Windows, which have since been fixed. Even so, these types of threats are so unlikely that you're better off worrying about more-common vectors of infection.

To turn off Windows antimalware alerts, open the Start menu, choose Control Panel > System and Security > Action Center > "Change Actions Center settings" (in the left pane), and then turn off the security messages for "Spyware and related protection" and "Virus protection."

See also "Spotting Fakes" in Chapter 8.

Chapter 5 Archives.

If you've ever downloaded a .zip file or received one attached to an email message, then you have experience with archives. Pirates need more than the simple support that Windows and OS X have for archives.

About Archives.

An archive is a collection of any number of files and folders compressed and combined into a single file. Compressing files reduces the s.p.a.ce they occupy on drives and decreases the time they take to download, so it's common for people to share their files as archives. Common, but misguided. The formats used for video, picture, audio, application, game, book, disk-image, and almost every other type of file distributed over BitTorrent are already compressed, so archiving doesn't reduce download time and adds the extra step of decompressing after the download finishes. (You can't repeatedly compress a file to make it ever smaller; otherwise, you'd ultimately be able to compress all the world's data into a single byte.) Archives also limit choice. A season of 24 distributed as a single archive file rather than as 24 separate video files forces you to download the entire archive rather than only the episodes you want (say, all but the middle 20 episodes). In fact, an archived media file is a yellow flag that the torrent's creator might be forcing you to download more than just the files of interest. Force-fed files are often spam, malware, or self-promotion in the form of small text, executable, or internet-shortcut files (see Chapter 4). Happily, you can extract only the files that you want from the archive and toss the rest without a glance.

Often, archives arrive split into smaller parts (one file per part), which are rea.s.sembled silently and automatically when you open the archive. Split archives are a holdover from the s.p.a.ce-limited days of yore. Now, we have cheap terabyte drives, cloud storage, and filesystems that can accommodate monster files.

Archives also tend to shorten a torrent's life. After extracting an archive's original files, it's natural to delete the now-redundant archive. This loss makes it impossible to seed (or reseed) the torrent.

By fashion or inertia, archives remain part of piracy.

Types of Archives.

Archives, like other cla.s.ses of files, come in various formats. The most common file format used for torrents is RAR, followed distantly by ZIP. (In mainstream computing, ZIP is king and RAR is rare.) RAR beats ZIP as a compression format because it produces much smaller archives in about the same amount of time. When you finish downloading an archive, you extract copies of its original files to your drive, leaving the archive itself unchanged. Extracting is also called unarchiving or unpacking. Conversely, making an archive file is called archiving or packing. For ZIP archives, there's zipping and unzipping. You may encounter the odd torrent archived in 7Z, GZIP, TAR, SIT (StuffIt), or another format. These archives are all extracted in the same way. In general, approach non-RAR and non-ZIP archives with caution.

Working with Archives.

Windows and OS X have built-in support for ZIP but not for RAR, so you must install a file archiver to extract files. Wikipedia lists file archivers. I use WinRAR for Windows and WinZip for OS X. Popular open-source archivers include 7-Zip and IZArc. All work similarly and support RAR, ZIP, and other formats.

ZIP files have the filename extension .zip and RAR files have the extension .rar. If a RAR archive is split into parts, its filenames end in .part01.rar, .part02.rar, .part03.rar,...

or.

.rar, .r00, .r01, .r02,...

To open an archive file, double-click it. Split archives self-a.s.semble in the file archiver, provided their parts all are in the same folder. If you double-click an .r00 file (or any .rnn file), your OS might complain that it doesn't know which program to use to open the file. To a.s.sociate .rnn files with your file archiver, see Chapter 3. (WinRAR registers .rnn a.s.sociations automatically on installation but most other archivers don't.) Archives work somewhat like folders in that they "contain" files, so archivers display an archive's contents like files listed in a Windows Explorer or Finder window. Your archiver's help system explains how to display, select, and extract files. The main operations are consistent across archivers: To extract files, select them in the archiver window (some archives contain only one file), click the Extract b.u.t.ton, and then specify a destination folder. Extraction can take minutes for large archives.

To select adjacent files in a list, click the first file and then either Shift-click the last file or press Shift+arrow key. To select nonadjacent files, Ctrl-click each file (or Command-click in OS X). To select all files, press Ctrl+A (or Command+A).

Double-clicking a file in an archiver window opens it without copying it to your hard drive.

You can drag files from an archiver window to the desktop or a folder window, where they auto-extract. Don't use this method if maintaining the files' original folder structure is important.

Archivers can integrate with the sh.e.l.l, meaning that they can add commands to context menus in Windows Explorer or Finder. If you right-click an archive file and choose the "Extract Here" command, for example, the archive's complete contents are extracted without actually launching the file archiver. For security, always double-click an archive and inspect its files in an archiver window before extracting them.

Some archives come with a separate SFV (.sfv) or checksum file, created by the archiver. SFV stands for Simple File Validator. You can open this file in a text editor and, with a bit of technical skill, use its contents to determine whether the files downloaded correctly. Don't bother: BitTorrent already takes care of file integrity by using its own checksums for each piece of a torrent. You can delete SFVs or omit them from your download altogether.

Chapter 6 Installing a BitTorrent Client.

A client is a program that can, among other things, download files. A web browser, for example, is a client that downloads and displays webpages. An email client (say, Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail) lets you download and manage your mail. To download files via BitTorrent, you must install and configure a BitTorrent client. (In the broader context of networks, client refers to an entire computer; in this chapter, it's a specific piece of software.)

About BitTorrent Clients.

Wikipedia lists BitTorrent clients. For Windows and OS X, I use Torrent, the most popular client. Other commonly used clients include Vuze, BitTorrent, and Transmission. Lately, I've been experimenting with Tixati. All are free and some run on several operating systems. For basic tasks, mainstream clients work similarly - learn to drive one and you can drive the rest. This book's examples use Torrent. (The "" is the lowercase Greek letter mu and here denotes the scientific prefix for "micro." For typographic ease, "Torrent" goes by the name "uTorrent" on the web. To make searching easier, this ebook uses "uTorrent.")

Installing a Client.

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Installing a BitTorrent client is no different from installing other programs. To be sure that a client isn't infected with malware, download it only from the publisher's website, not some third-party site. Before installation, shut down any antimalware (antivirus) programs. Separate instructions for Windows and OS X installations follow.

Before you start pirating, configure uTorrent to work with your particular system. Following the general instructions in this chapter will usually get you fast download speeds with uTorrent's default settings, but ekeing out every last bit per second depends on more factors than can be covered here, including your operating system, connection speed, latency, internet service provider (ISP), router, and firewall. If you need to troubleshoot, tweak, or better understand your configuration, try any of the following resources: Read the uTorrent help file, particularly the Setup Guide and Port Forwarding sections. In Windows, open uTorrent and choose Help > uTorrent Help (or press F1). In OS X, go to utorrent.com/doc.u.mentation, click "uTorrent Help File," and then download and extract the .chm file. To open .chm files in OS X, install a reader such as Chmox.

Read the uTorrent FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), particularly the Network section. Choose Help > uTorrent FAQ or go to utorrent.com/faq.

Ask a question on the uTorrent forums. Choose Help > uTorrent Forums or go to forum.utorrent.com. Before posting your question, search the help file, FAQ, and forums to see whether it's been answered already, lest you be ignored or abused by the forums' partic.i.p.ants.

Search the web for increase bittorrent speed (or a similar phrase) and read articles by speed-obsessed pirates.

Experiment. Change settings to find what works best for you.

Hire someone. In most cases, a networking geek can get everything working (and explain the process) in less than two hours.

Limiting Upload Rates.

Recall from Chapter 2 that BitTorrent requires all peers to simultaneously upload and download shared files. The top speed at which you can transfer data (up or down) depends on your bandwidth - the more you pay your ISP, the greater your bandwidth. Data speeds for DSL, cable, fiber, and other broadband connections let you download much faster than you can upload. This asymmetry arose because ordinary users generally receive (download) many more webpages, videos, pictures, messages, programs, and doc.u.ments than they publish (upload).

Because too much outbound traffic can choke your download speed, you must throttle, or limit, uTorrent's maximum upload speed. In general, you don't have to throttle download speed. You can throttle upload rates automatically or manually.

To set the maximum upload rate automatically (Windows): Quit all programs that access the internet, including browsers, mail/chat clients, antimalware, Skype, iTunes, and backup tools.

Open uTorrent and choose Options > Setup Guide or press Ctrl+G.

In the uTorrent Setup Guide, choose the location closest to you from the Bandwidth drop-down list. If a somewhat nearby place isn't listed, skip the remaining steps and set the upload rate manually, as described later in this section.

Click Run Tests and wait until the tests finish.

If the Bandwidth test succeeded, click Save & Close. If it failed, set the upload rate manually, as described later in this section.

If the Network test succeeded, click Save & Close. If it failed, check the resources listed in "Getting Help" earlier in this chapter and search for firewall or router or port forwarding.

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