BitTorrent + RSS, step 1

I’m just chuckling to myself. Last night I was telling Dave Winer about how we could bootstrap BitTorrent downloads into the Radio aggregator. At lunch today it occurred to me that there was a much simpler way than what we talked about. I get back from lunch and there’s an note in my inbox from a fellow named Dan Gould who is doing the exact same thing on his homegrown aggregator, in the exact same way. I’ve asked him if there’s a writeup I can point to. I’ll point to it if there is.
So here’s the idea. BitTorrent (BT) downloads are typically initiated by launching the BT client against a file. To Web browsing software, BT files look just like any other MIME file. You click on a hyperlink to a file having a Content-Type of application/x-bittorrent, typically ending in .torrent, the browser downloads the file, and launches the appropriate helper application. A key point is, the .torrent file is small, just a descriptor that tells BitTorrent how to get a much larger file. The question is, how does this all fit into RSS?
In the news aggregator world, file downloads are specified as enclosures. It’s a funny idea, downloading 1kb file using a system that was designed for 100MB media files. But the funniness is a red herring. We download the (small) .torrent file as an enclosure, and then launch the BT client against that file to get the (large) media file. The same motivator for enclosures—to have the downloading happen overnight when you’re (hopefully) not sitting at the computer—applies. It’s just the details that differ.
BT has a nice command line interface, btw. We need to feed it appropriate –responsefile and –saveas arguments. An open question, at least on Windows, is dealing with client software that spawns windows who don’t know how to close themselves. Ideally we’d have a client that didn’t spawn a window and that accepted a parameter that told it how long to continue running after completion of the download, to help other downloaders.

4 thoughts on “BitTorrent + RSS, step 1”

  1. Well, whoever decided to this should supply also a powerful keyword filter that decides which files are automatically loaded and which are not. As for RSS, I would personally prefer someone develope a RSS-enabled bitTorrent client (Azureus is my bet) instead a bitTorrent-enabled news aggregator.


  2. FYI: I’ve written a simple BT wrapper in expectk that runs on Linux. It kicks off the BT session and times how long it takes to leech the file. Then it keeps running for 5 times that long to allow seeding. Once the allocated time for seeding is complete, it automatically terminates. It could also be written headless (no gui) on linux using expect instead of expectk to run completely in the background. My guess is that this would be possible on Windows, too, but I”m not the person who would know for sure. I’m really interested in getting something like this hooked up to RSS.


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