Beginners Guide to File Sharing

 Free music, software, and movies. You won’t find these juicy titbits on a website – instead you must run a filesharing, or “peer to peer” program to download them. I recommend Kazaa the filesharing program with the largest user base.

The Artists
Be warned – you won’t win any new showbiz friends if you fileshare, they’ll hate you in fact. Here’s what a couple of them think of you swapping their material on the web.

“I think that shit is fucking bullshit. Whoever put my shit on the internet, I want to beat the shit out of him, because I picture this scrawny little dickhead going, ‘I got Eminems new CD! I got Eminem’s new CD! I’m going to put it on the internet’”


“If they want to steal Metalllica’s music, instead of hiding behind their computers in their bedrooms and dorm rooms, they should go down to Tower Records and grab them off the shelves”

The musician’s union – the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) take a dim view of you downloading their products for free. They are pressing to get networks closed and are they are strongly suspected by users of file sharing networks of sabotaging the networks. They are suspected of flooding the networks with fake files.

How to avoid the fake files with Kazaa
Every file has a ‘signature’ or ‘hash’ – a calculated number that uniquely identifies that file. So in order to avoid the fake files (songs with endless loops of the chorus, for example, or misnamed files) you search for the signature of known genuine files. ignatures for genuine files can be found on websites like, and FastTrack Central.

Alternatives to Kazaa
One problem with Kazaa is predominance of low bitrate MP3 files, as it has only recently supported bitrates of 128 KB/s (a higher bitrate gives a better sound). The next major player is WinMX, which has a lot of high quality MP3 music files. WinMX has a movie signature site called MX Movies. How the typical peer to peer distributed network works.

A client connects to the network through a computer that stays on 24 hours a day whose purpose is to provide a an address for the client to connect to. These machines are known as ‘hostcaches’. Once connected to a machine (and hence the network) via an IP address supplied by a hostcache, you can search for files, which is the start of the file sharing process. Your client sends out “query” packets, with the name of the file you want. When a computer on the network receives the query, it passes it on to another, and so on.

A query has a TTL (Time To Live – A number that determines how times your query is passed on), and so it doesn’t get passed on forever. When a computer receives a query and it has the file, it’s IP address and port is returned to your computer as a “query hit”.

At your behest, the client then connects to one of these computers to download the file. This part is outside of network, and uses HTTP (a different protocol to the one the network uses). A lot of traffic is generated with queries, taking up valuable bandwidth. So, in response, UltraPeers were introduced. Ultrapeers, answer all queries for any connected computers because connected computers post their list of files to it.

The Centralised Filesharing Network
Have you heard of Napster? The now closed down service was centralised. Every user on the network connected to a server. But it wasn’t to download files from. The central server contained a large list of files and addresses for all of it’s connected clients. It would return search results and an IP address to connect to.