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New to P2P? Part 2
April 15, 2004
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Networks and their Clients.

An example of a network would be Gnutella. An example of a client would be Limewire. A network does not exist in one specific place. It exists in the files on people’s computers, and their bandwidth. When you share files on Gnutella, you are part of a network. Any files you share are a contribution to a network, which is most welcome. Limewire is a client, which enables you to connect to a network. You can use Limewire to search for and download files, as well as let folk upload them. Any multimedia files you have available for sharing are useful to the network, and any new material is especially welcome.

Without the Client, the network is useless, and without the network, the Client is useless. A word you may hear with regards to networks is "Decentralized". Napster was a centralized network, which meant it had central servers. This server handled all the requests that were sent through the network. The RIAA closed these servers down, which meant the network had to close. After that, the client was pretty much useless, as there was no network to connect to.

Most networks these days are decentralized, which means that it would be very difficult to close them down. It also increases the stability of the network in general - it makes very little difference if one computer goes down, as there will be hundreds more to take its place. To enable decentralized networks to grow, most developers use "temporary indexing servers", which are known by such names as "ultrapeer", "Primary", "supernode", etc. These act as mini-servers, performing a similar job to Napster’s central servers, but they are folk’s home computers. Usually they require a fairly fast computer, and a broadband connection.

Do not worry too much about how clients and networks interact. They usually do it with the minimum amount of fuss and interaction from the end user. If you are interested, feel free to post your question to our forums.

Filetypes you are likely to meet, and the software to open them with.

There are lots of file types that you will meet when you search for something. The following are arranged into broad groups, but the lists are by no means extensive.

| Audio - mp3, ogg, wma, wav, midi
| Video - avi, mpg, rm, mpeg, asf
| Picture - jpg, gif, bmp, png
| Archives/Software - zip, rar, iso, bin, cue

Some files will have a double extension - .exe.txt for example. These files are occasionally unsafe to download, as they may contain viruses. Always be careful when downloading software files, as they ALL have the potential to contain viruses and Trojans. Make sure and scan them with your antivirus software.
Windows Media Player will handle most kinds of Audio/Video files. If you have downloaded an Audio file, and WMP will not play it, try Winamp instead. Search the site for a plug-in that will play that kind of file. A good piece of software for Video files is BSPlayer. MS Paint will open several kinds of picture files, but a good alternative is Irfanview. Archive/Software files are more specialized. Zip files can be opened with Winzip, rar files open with Winrar (also does zips) while ISO, bin and cue files can be opened with Isobuster. Zip and rar files are special, because they can contain any kind of filetype. You may find an album listed as .mp3.zip, for example. The software you use to open the archives is the same, but the programme you use to open the contents varies with the filetype.

What if I want to find a specific type of file?

Several networks "specialize" in certain types of files. The MP2P (Manolito P2P) network only allow mp3/ogg files, while the ed2k (eDonkey2000) network tends to have a wealth of larger files - typically software and videos. Certain networks also carry very few files of a certain type, or those files may be corrupted.

| Audio - try KazaaLite, WinMX, SoulSeek or one of the MP2P clients.
| Videos - try one of the ed2k Clients, BitTorrent, or possibly WinMX (as a last resort)
| Picture - pretty much all networks carry pictures
| Archive/Software - ed2k reigns supreme for software. Don’t use KazaaLite for software!

There are lots of other networks that you can connect to, but the above are the most user friendly. Feel free to explore the others, but try the above first. Of course there are the Newsgroups, which are argued to be better than any P2P network; however they are difficult to use.

Hashes

There are certain algorithms that will take a look at a file, and release a series on numbers/letters. This is called a hash. When even the tiniest part of that file gets altered, the hash will change. This is useful in a P2P sense, because the client can check to see that the file you downloaded is (or is not) corrupt. Certain clients use hashes better than others. The ed2k clients, for example, use MD4 hashes, which are *very* secure. You can be 99.999% sure that something you download from an ed2k client is exactly what the original file is. Some other networks use custom hashes, which are not all that secure. They should still be OK, though.

DRM

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is not often encountered (thankfully!) on P2P networks, but you most likely will find it on websites. DRM is the industries way of trying to prevent piracy. Various types work in different ways, but behind them all is the concept of stopping piracy. You might have heard of Macrovision on VHS tapes - if you tried to copy the tape, you would get dark/light patches on the screen, etc. With music, you get limited to what will play the song (usually WMP), how many times you can listen to it, whether or not you can burn the songs to CD, etc. Wma files are the types that are usually affected - currently, mp3 and ogg files are not being infected


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