July 01, 2015

uTorrent -- retreat

For a long time I was in the habit of leaving about 250 torrents running 24/7. That all ended when my WHS bought the farm and took most of my anime collection into the bit bucket, and I had to start over rebuilding my collection using my other NAS to hold the booty. Right now I have 58 torrents running but about 20 of those will go away in a couple of days. (For instance, 13 of them are individual episodes of Senran Kagura because I couldn't find a batch torrent for the series.)

When I first started doing torrents several years ago I didn't impose any limits on bandwidth usage, and I noticed that when I got really busy on uplink, suddenly it would cap at about 240Kbytes per second. Which if you do the calculation and allow for some overhead, is about 2 megabits. It was Comcast doing that, and just so that I didn't keep running up against their cap (and maybe get them mad at me), I set uTorrent to limit to 200K per second.

And a lot of the time I would saturate that, but a lot of the time I wouldn't. Last weekend I noticed something strange: every once in a while my uplink was suddenly plunge and spend a couple of hours pegged right at 50K. Then it would loosen up again. It made me worry that Comcast had decided to drastically lower the cap. But it also reminded me, back when I upgraded from uTorrent 2 to uTorrent 3, my uplink got a lot more finicky and was used a lot less efficiently.

So a couple of days ago I reinstalled uTorrent 2.2.1, the earliest install file I had retained, to be used instead of uTorrent 3.2.3. What I wanted to see was whether the older version would use my uplink more aggressively (i.e. more generously).

And it does. It's spent most of the last day pegged right at 200K, which is what I want. 3.2.3 almost never did that. The user interface is different, too, and I find I prefer the older one.

Which proves once again something that shouldn't really need to be proved: sometimes an upgrade is really a downgrade. (I'm looking at you, Microsoft Vista, and your younger sister Windows 8.) BakaBT doesn't permit any version of uTorrent beyond 3.3.1, and 2.2.1 is their recommended best version. And I think this is the reason why: the guys behind uTorrent made the newer versions try to game the tracker.

So I'm happy to retreat to 2.2.1 and I'll be sticking with it. For my purposes it's better than any other version, before or since.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Computers at 09:47 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 448 words, total size 3 kb.

1 I ended up switching to qBittorrent sometime last year.  Wasn't any huge reason for a change, just that I was thinking of upgrading uTorrent, noticed the new one was terrible and went searching for something effective and "newish".  It's worked well enough, but the changes in uTorrent are fascinatingly bad.
And I remember when it first got popular, it was really efficient with the transfers.  These days, not so much.

Posted by: sqa at July 02, 2015 02:28 AM (pKtXo)

2 (Poorly managed) programmers get paid to add features. But there's a reason it is said "Simplicity is a virtue."

Posted by: Boviate at July 02, 2015 06:56 AM (XRvFv)

3 I believe the specific management goal was "we need a way to make money off of this".

I switched to qBittorent after my old laptop finally died, and I couldn't find a trustworthy installer for the old version of uBittorrent.

Posted by: J Greely at July 02, 2015 11:54 AM (ZlYZd)


Yeah. The later versions are increasingly annoying in their efforts to get you to upgrade to the paid version.

I'm not averse to doing that, actually. But the features which are added in the pro version aren't anything I have any use for, and they look like they are particularly bad at abusing trackers.

For instance, the ability to watch a video while it's downloading. On the face of it that seems like a nice feature. But it means your torrent program is trying to download blocks in order, not scattershot.

Scattershot downloading is an essential feature of the torrent protocol. Without it, the whole system works a lot worse. Scattershot means that two people who are leeching can each have blocks the other does not have, and thus they can exchange. If everyone is downloading sequentially, then you can only get data from someone who has more than you do, and you can't give him anything back because he has everything you already have.

That also makes the initial seed work a lot better. He can give a few blocks to one guy, and then switch to another guy for another few blocks, and they become proxy seeds for that little part that they've received. If it's set properly, the initial seed sends each block out only once until it's sent everything one time. And most of the distribution is done by leeches in the swarm. Without scattershot downloading, though, that mostly collapses and the initial seed period takes longer.

The guys that designed the torrent protocol were really hotshots. I'm continuously amazed at how well they thought things through, in terms of efficiency and in terms of security and resilience. But it only works if the people in the swarm play by the rules. And it looked to me like the "pro" version of uTorrent was an exercise in cheating. So I don't want it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 02, 2015 12:27 PM (+rSRq)

5 Way back when, I used the original command-line Python BitTorrent client to build a software distribution system that pushed large builds out to 700+ machines. Everything else we'd tried to use was either fragile, flaky, or required carefully defining your network topology. BitTorrent just figured out the optimal way to push the bits around.


Posted by: J Greely at July 02, 2015 03:23 PM (fpXGN)

6 Because it's scattershot, each block finds its own path to distribute through the swarm, unaffected by how any other block is going out. It really is clever.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 02, 2015 06:00 PM (+rSRq)

7 Torrent is an interesting technology (check how it's applied in the gittorrent).

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 03, 2015 07:22 AM (RqRa5)

8 Gittorrent sounds like a Japanese file-sharing network assembled out of spare parts by a mad scientist; no doubt it can only be piloted by a middle-school girl. 


Posted by: J Greely at July 03, 2015 09:54 AM (ZlYZd)

9 Pete, was there supposed to be a link there?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 03, 2015 10:38 AM (+rSRq)

10 Sorry, I presumed it was easy to find out (the Chris Ball's announcement was widely circulated).

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 03, 2015 11:32 AM (RqRa5)

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