I am Departing for Greener Pastures…

February 18, 2009

I discovered last night that WordPress does not permit any linking to Adsense or any form of advertising. Thus, the only monetization allowed benefits wordpress.com and not the content creator. Although I sympathize with bloggers who blog for the joy of writing, I have been down that route countless times in the past. I have probably donated thousands of hours, gratis, to the online community in a variety of forums, not just advice but actual programs and snippets of code I wrote and gave to the public as freeware. Now I’m at the stage where I want to see the money, if there is any to be had. If that makes me crass, so be it, but there are bills to pay, and I could be doing other things with my time besides sitting at the computer divulging the best parts of my experience and learning.

My new blog can be found here:  http://techlorebyigor.blogspot.com/

Don’t be surprised if I lift an article or two from this blog and place it over on that one.

Seven Reasons to Stay with Windows XP

February 17, 2009

1. You will not have to buy additional hardware or software, saving potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars.

2. You will not contribute to pollution by dumping your old hardware before its time. Many commentators believe Microsoft made some kind of mistake by rendering so much legacy hardware obsolete with their Windows Vista. I do not think it was a mistake, but intentional, in order to generate more unnecessary consumer spending worldwide. Microsoft has a partnership with many hardware vendors, and cares less about the end user than about those lucrative partnerships.

3. You will not experience the many hidden problems that Windows Vista users have reported.

4. You will not experience any learning curve as you would with Vista.

5. After so many years of using XP, you have probably adjusted to its foibles, downloading third party applications to overcome certain of its limitations. A good anti-virus package such as Avast!, which is free, makes Windows XP secure enough.

6. Most of your newer applications are now delivered via your web browser, which is independent of Windows anyway. Firefox remains fully compatible with Windows XP and due to its add-ons, is superior to Internet Explorer. Vista quite simply has nothing to offer the end user other than fancier games, which I don’t care about. Microsoft does not understand the Internet and probably never will.

7. Vista is a step in the wrong direction, towards a fatter and less efficient OS demanding more and more electricity, memory, and resources. This in a time when energy costs are at a premium. This is quite unnecessary and simply the result of Microsoft adding bloat to enhance their own and their partners’ profit margins. It is self-evident that Microsoft does not develop with the end user in mind, but with their shareholders in mind.

Microsoft Operating Systems keep getting fatter and greedier

Microsoft Operating Systems keep getting fatter and greedier

Personally, when Vista came out, I used that moment as an excuse to try out the latest version of Ubuntu. Unfortunately, it did not install successfully on my computer, which was optimized for Windows. After a several hours of trying to get Ubuntu to work, I gave up. Besides, I was reluctant to leave the world of Windows compatibility. I returned to Windows XP, which I am satisfied with. I am not concerned about Microsoft dropping support for Windows XP, as long as Avast antivirus and Mozilla Firefox continue to support Windows XP.

How to Upload Binary Files to the Usenet

February 17, 2009

This guide contains the bare essential information you need in order to begin posting. The three most common systems are covered: Mac, Linux, and PC Windows.

If you own a Mac, here’s what you need to do: Get Unison for both downloading and posting. Drag and drop the files you want to post, set the “Segment files larger than” to 10 or 15 Meg, set “PAR2 Redundancy” to about 20%, name the par set, and click upload. Period. Unison will save the parts and the par files in case you want to re-up a single file of the posting. It gets no simpler.

If you run a Linux box, obtain newsposter script for linux. You do nothing but answer some quick questions (what newsgroup, Title you want to give it, what to name your archive) and it does all the rest. Nothing else to have to fiddle with. You can obtain the latest version of this script from alt.binaries.multimedia.documentaries. Check in that newsgroup for the latest version, or write to the author at email address: coffee one seven seven at comcast dot net.

If you own a PC, then the following is intended for you.

Two freeware utilities help you post files: QuickPar and PowerPost. They are really essential.

PowerPost A&A V11b:
http://powerpost.cjb.net (official URL – watch for popups)
http://powerpost.free.fr (alternative URL, may change – no popups)

QuickPar:
http://www.quickpar.org.uk

Drop your source file into Quickpar. Set the Quickpar options as follows. ‘Limit File Size’ to 10,369,536 and ‘Block size’ to 327,680. Set the recover blocks to between 5 and 10 percent, or slightly more if you feel generous with your bandwidth and time. These parameters have been shown to result in good completion rates on many popular servers.

Check the box that says “Split Files.” This will cause QuickPar to split up large files into more manageable sizes for upload and download. Next, click “Create,” and QuickPar will split your file into multiple parts for easier and more reliable posting to the Usenet. It will also create Par files which allow recovery in cases where blocks are missing.

In PowerPost, set the ‘Max Lines’ to 2560.

All parameters for various programs are listed here:

PowerPost: Default Max Lines Per Part: 2560
QuickPar:
Limit size to: 10,369,536
Preferred Block Size: Exact: 327680
Restrict blocksize to multiples of Usenet article size: On
Split Files: Checked

There are other programs used by certain posters. JAS is a file splitter still being used by some people. You can use it to split and splice multiple parts of a file, even though QuickPar can also do that. Thus, many people today feel that JAS is obsolete. However, due to some posters failing to use QuickPar to split their files, it may be necessary to use JAS to combine a file that was split with JAS. Life would be easier all around if posters abandoned JAS and just used QuickPar to make splits. WinRAR is an archival program used primarily for compressing software and very large files such as movies. Note that compressing an already compressed file format, such as jpg, mp3, and most video formats, may result in a larger file size, rather than a smaller one. Only use WinRar if you expect considerable savings in file size.

If you use JAS or WinRAR, the options should be set as follows:

JAS: Options/Split: Part Size: 10,369,536 Bytes
WinRAR: Split to volumes, bytes: 10,369,536

N.B. Many posters deviate from the above recommendations, which are just that: recommendations, borne of experience. The bottom line is getting your post, intact, to as many eyeballs as possible, without having to repost. A secondary objective is efficiency, i.e. minimizing the time it takes to perform the upload. If you discover you get better results using other numbers, then have at it!

A Brief Introduction to the Usenet

February 17, 2009

My usual reaction when I mention Usenet to family or friends is a look of confusion. Most people have not even heard of it. Even technical gurus with many years experience under their belt do not know what it is, which I find strange. I have attempted explaining Usenet probably a dozen times, which is why I decided to write this entry to educate people about an important network that exists alongside the world wide web.

The Usenet is not accessed via a web browser, because it does not exist on the web. It has nothing to do with the worldwide web. The Usenet is a message base and file transfer community that predates the P2P bittorrent scene and has to some extent been replaced by the P2P scene. On the Usenet, instead of connecting directly to peers, your computer reads messages from a centralized server located either within your ISP itself or a private service to which you may subscribe, such as Easynews, Astraweb or Giganews. Don’t be fooled by the term, “messages,” because such messages can be either text such as you are reading now, or parts of files–games, movies, sound clips, e-books, and so on.

The servers that support the Usenet are called “news servers,” although they are not really serving “news” in the sense of today’s headlines. The word “news” refers to the fact that messages on the Usenet typically have a limited lifespan, depending on the news server. On Easynews, only the newest 99 days of messages are retained. On Giganews, the newest 240 days are retained (these numbers are subject to change). The Usenet is organized into a series of categories called “news groups,” although these are not usually moderated and tend to get a certain variable percentage of off-topic posts, spam, porn, viruses and other unwanted material. However, some groups are better than others; your mileage may vary.

The Usenet has been around for a long time and originated on college campuses among researchers, scholars and students in the United States as a method of exchanging advice and information on a wide variety of topics, not all of which were technical in nature. Its primary focus remains communication, although over the years it has also become a popular vehicle for file-sharing among hobbyists, enthusiasts and fans of various genres.  For instance, there are groups dedicated to Windows wallpaper, animated .GIFs, folk music, html coders, java, C++, and so on.

The advantage of Usenet over P2p is that your downloading is only limited by the speed of your connection and the allowance of your news servers. Most subscription news servers do not throttle your connection, which means you download at full capacity. At the same time, no uploading is expected. You may download to your heart’s content without any limitation other than one that may be imposed by your ISP or news server. Another advantage to Usenet is that communicating with other users is encouraged. You can make requests, share your opinions, give advice, seek advice, and so on.

The disadvantage of Usenet is that a fair amount of technical know-how is required to get started. An internet browser is insufficient for browsing Usenet, in my opinion, although there are certain web sites that for a fee will allow you to do so. I recommend using instead a dedicated news reader, because it is faster and more powerful by any measure you care to apply.  I recommend Forte Agent, because it has been around a long time and there are many users that can help you with it. It also supports many essential features, such as the ability to sort messages by date, subject, author, or byte size. In addition, you can subscribe to a news server directly from Forte at a quite reasonable price, beginning at $3 per month. Although Microsoft’s Outlook Express can also browse the Usenet, it is not recommended because it lacks certain features.

In order to get started on the Usenet, I recommend going with Forte Agent and subscribing to their news server, rather than attempting to use your ISP’s news server. Unfortunately, ISP support for Usenet has been spotty through the years. ISP’s view the Usenet in a negative light, because it represents an added expense to their bottomline. Very few of their users use the Usenet, typically less than 2%, but these consume a lot of bandwidth. There is no opportunity for the ISP or its partners to profit on Usenet, whereas there are ample opportunities for profit on the world wide web, beginning with an ISP-manufactured home page that inserts various advertisements and paid placements on the end user’s PC. You may even discover that your ISP attempts to throttle your Usenet connection or downloads. If you are in doubt, call them up and ask whether this is the case. The unfortunate reality in today’s marketplace is that there is little competition among ISP’s. Most people have only two ISP’s available in their area, and many in rural areas have only one. Capitalism has failed where ISP’s are concerned, and many consumers face what amounts to a monopoly situation today, particularly where broadband internet is concerned.

The sweet part of Usenet where you will find the vast majority of binary files is, appropriately enough, located in the alt.binaries.* hierarchy. When you search for newsgroups, you may want to begin there, but also keep an open mind about discussion groups where you may share information with others. Remember, Usenet is much more than just file-sharing. In its original design, the Usenet was not engineered for file-sharing but for discussion. Users often talk about “completion rates,” which refers to the fact that not all binary files make it to the news server intact. Sometimes, files are incomplete. This happens on almost all of the news servers, more often on ISP news servers, although less so on paid ones like Giganews, Astraweb and Easynews. In order to rebuild the missing parts, a tool known as QuickPar is used. This is what all of those .par and .par2 files are about. They assist in the reconstruction of files that may be missing various parts. Quickpar is a free, open-source utility and you should definitely install and use it. Download it here. It should be said that a news server such as Easynews today enjoys a completion rate better than 99.9%.

The second utility you may require, if you choose to download binary files, is something that supports the .rar archive format. .RAR is simply a method of compressing large files into smaller sizes in order to conserve bandwidth. Also, subdirectories are preserved, which is important for certain applications. You can obtain WinRar here. Note that still pictures, e-books and audio files usually are not compressed into .rar format due to their small size and because audio files and pictures are usually already compressed, a built-in feature of the .JPG and .MP3 formats. You will only need a .rar application if you choose to download larger files, such as multimedia. Keep in mind that the legality of such downloads varies by jurisdiction. Also, be wary of trojan horses, viruses and the like, just as is the case on the P2P networks.

As always on the internet, it is a good idea not to divulge your real name or address, because you never can tell what humorless type may be watching on the other end. Anonymity, and whether it truly exists on Usenet, is a more complicated subject and beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice to say, no one is truly anonymous anywhere on the internet, but there are certain layers of protection that should be employed. The most likely consequence of divulging your real email address in a message on Usenet would be the receipt of spam to your inbox, because the Usenet has long been harvested by bots searching for valid email addresses.

How to Reseed a Torrent

February 16, 2009

To my surprise, I found it very difficult to find instructions on this easy task. Finally in the SupraBay forum, after an hour of searching I was able to find the method.

To reseed, download the torrent. If you already have the torrent, you can click on the file (with an extension of .torrent) and let your client open it. When your client asks where you want to save the torrent, choose the directory path where your source file is located. The client should then detect that you already have the file. After scanning the file to ensure it is the same as the one in the torrent, your client will begin seeding.

You do not have to be the creator of a torrent in order to reseed it. All you require is a valid intact copy of the file and the .torrent.

Tailoring your Torrent

February 16, 2009

You have decided to upload a torrent for the first time. Very good.

First of all, does a similar torrent already exist? If so, why should anyone download yours? Always search first before adding a new torrent. Ask yourself whether your contribution is better than, or inferior to, an existing torrent.

In general, keep it small. These ambitious multi-gigabyte torrents take forever to download. Break up a large torrent into several more digestible chunks. This allows people to examine portions of your files instead of getting all-or-nothing.

Programs like WinRar and WinZip allow you to compress files, which may conserve bandwidth. Bear in mind that files with an extension of mp3, jpg, avi, mpg, divx, xvid, zip, and many other formats are already compressed, and you are unlikely to conserve much space or bandwidth by using a program like Winrar or Winzip. This is why, when you download such files, they are seldom contained in an archive. A good rule of thumb is to always use compression if your files are text or still images, but never use compression if the files are audio/visual, because the most popular audio/visual file formats already have compression built-in.

In the case of movies, a quality rip is preferable to a full DVD, because it is a tiny fraction of the size. However, rips vary a great deal in quality, and the shoddy rips are the least preferable.

Always disclose as much information as possible in the comments section. If video, tell the resolution, bit rate, and format, at a minimum. If audio, the same applies. Disclose the file format(s) and everything else you can think of. Torrents with cute little mysterious comments tend to waste people’s time. If you do not think your torrent is worth taking the time to describe, then it is also not worth anyone downloading.

Why Should You Bother with Uploading?

February 16, 2009

Limewire has an option that allows users to throttle their uploading, supposedly in order that downloads might become faster.This is deadly to P2P file sharing, but even worse are certain torrent clients like BitThief that claim to eliminate uploading altogether. Apparently, many people are wondering why it is they should upload anything. There are actually pragmatic reasons for uploading, besides just the obvious ethical position that one should give as well as receive and not be a total parasite.

By uploading, you send packets to others who would otherwise leech from the same sources you are downloading from. You help to reduce demand, making the supply more plentiful for everyone, including yourself.

If you are working on the computer or surfing the net, leave your client running so that it can upload in the background. You will not notice much, if any decrease in speed.

Torrent clients and trackers can, and should, reduce the downloads of leeches who contribute little or nothing. It has been said that a proper ratio of uploads to downloads is 2.0, meaning you send two copies for every one copy you leech. However, a ratio of 1.0 is a good minimum contribution to avoid a negative impact.

Programmers working on clients and trackers continue to devise new safeguards to ensure that the cheaters are detected and their downloads restricted. If your download speed is very low, it may be because you have been identified as a leech who contributes nothing. Open up your uploads and become a contributing member of society again. All will be forgiven when your ratio improves.

How to Configure your Network for Optimal P2P

February 16, 2009

There are two main obstacles that hinder effective P2P file sharing: your Windows firewall and your router firewall. While you may download and upload even if your firewalls reject incoming connections, your speed will be slower than would otherwise be the case.

The key is to not to remove the firewalls, but to open one port through which P2P activity can take place in an efficient and secure manner.

BitTorrent recommends a helpful site. This site offers many useful tips on configuring your network, especially your router. Pay careful attention to the screen captures, as they sometimes give clues that are not spelled out in the directions. Use their recommendations with discretion. They imply that the router firewall should be turned off entirely. I did not find this to be the case. I only had to change my router’s security from “Medium” to “Low,” because “Low” permits port forwarding, which is desired. Setting up a static IP address on your network may or may not be necessary depending on how your network is configured.

To configure your Windows (or other software) firewall, visit this site.

This excellent guide shows, step by step, how to configure the Windows firewall to permit P2P traffic. However, there is one outdated reference. As of version 6.0, BitTorrent does not use UDP, and it is not necessary to set up anything for UDP. Setting up port forwarding for TCP is sufficient. However, other clients may use UDP. Check your client’s documentation to determine if port-forwarding for UDP will be helpful.

This guide has some good general info for beginners, and discusses configuring the client itself.


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