The Pirate Bay – Pioneer of the File-Sharing Generation

1125666854Up until recently, I wasn’t too knowledgeable on The Pirate Bay, as admittedly I hardly ever use the site, having preferred the newer Kickass Torrents file-sharing site.  However, I’m sure by now everyone has heard of The Pirate Bay – the largest file-sharing site on the planet with over a billion views per month and the focal point of much controversy surrounding breach of copyright laws and various other legal difficulties.   Be that as it may, The Pirate Bay has been around for a decade and continues to grow strong  So why the sudden interest in a service I don’t use?

I have an insatiable interest in learning and technology, so when I came across the documentary film – TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard, I owed it to myself to discover more about this infamous site.  I have no intention of discussing the inner workings behind The Pirate Bay so if the subject interests you then check out the film here.  The Pirate Bay has its roots in Sweden and was founded by Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde.  The general consensus was, as the site’s servers were in Sweden, The Pirate Bay was exempt from America’s laws on copyright and intellectual properties, of course this wasn’t the case and all three founders found themselves embroiled in a lengthy court case.

1123666955The one aspect of the film that I found to be the most interesting (and perhaps distressing), was the amount of time and effort placed onto the court case, the length and resources at which America and Sweden (among others) went to in order to try to convict The Pirate Bay is worrisome.  I say worrisome because it was like watching a trial for America’s most wanted, it’s my opinion that the various law agencies need to reevaluate their priorities.  So much time and effort is being exhausted on a file-sharing issue when there are real threats in the world like human-trafficking and terrorism.  It seems that the older generation fail to realize that as technology changes so do people.  We live in a culture fueled by a need for free information, social media and file-sharing.  Due to this ‘pirate culture’, the film and music industry need to understand that if they want people to buy their products then they need to increase their value.  Increasing the value doesn’t mean increase the price, it means make the product more lucrative for consumers.  The gaming industry has the right idea, sure I can download a cracked version of Killzone 3 but if I wanted that limited edition Helghast mask then I’d have to purchase the game legally (as I did).

File-sharing has become something of a cultural phenomenon and the growing advances in technology make sharing data all the more easier.  File-sharing is usually associated with illicit downloads and while that may be, when you consider that torrent clients can even be installed onto a user’s phone, one needs to embrace the fact that file-sharing is ingrained in our society as much as any other cultural activity.  Another thing that interested me was the idea that the founders themselves were making millions off of The Pirate Bay and that they were an organized and well-funded entity.  However, the fact is that The Pirate Bay founders are just a group of average guys, with a love for technology and a desire to create the largest file-sharing site ever conceived.  The Pirate Bay is funded by advertisements and merchandise, so despite what the authorities think, Gottfrid and co are not the multimillionaire villains they’re perceived to be, especially when you factor in the server and maintenance costs involved in running something like The Pirate Bay.

So yes, in the eyes of the law, The Pirate Bay is an illicit enterprise, and while Gottfrid is indeed imprisoned at this moment (most likely held for his drug usage and other hacking related crimes), file-sharing lives on, so much so that Gottfrid implemented such apps as the PirateBrowser (already downloaded 2.5 million times since its release in August last year) – software designed to circumvent censorship, and is already working on a successor.  In the end it’s all about perspective, when you consider the lengths at which certain software (games mostly) goes to in order to ‘protect itself’ and actually be functional (online validation, mandatory internet connection, DRM protocols and so forth), then it’s no wonder that people have taken to ‘illicit’ file-sharing in order to play the latest games or watch their favourite television series.  In closing, I think that if companies made their product more valuable then they might very well see a decline in file-sharing, then again, there are those who reckon that file-sharing actually helps the industry so who can really say?

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Internet Stamping Ground

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The internet can be a bewildering place and at times it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for.  Even with Google being just a click away, finding reliable sources for information, wallpapers, applications and so forth can be a taxing and downright frustrating exercise.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to compile a list of sites I frequent in the hopes of offering a little assistance.  Since a multitude of Linux distros enable users to download apps from their desktops (in essence) with the help of built-in features such as Ubuntu’s Software Center, this list will be for Windows users (for the most part).  Windows remains my primary OS (and probably will be for some time) for as much as I enjoy using Ubuntu, I am a gamer and unfortunately Windows still offers the best platform for gaming, though thanks to Steam that might all change as Ubuntu is officially supported by the platform.

Desktop

While many operating systems come preloaded with a multitude of wallpapers and themes, they tend to get old very quickly, luckily the internet has countless resources to remedy this dilemma.

4walled | A very handy image scraper for popular Chan sites, modify search criteria (screen resolution etc) in order to suit your needs.

The Paper Wall | Arranged by categories and resolution.  Offers wallpaper packs for download as well as a featured ‘wallpaper of the day’.

Wallpapers Wide | Offers organised categories for ease of use and automatically detects your screen resolution.

Rocket Dock | These guys haven’t really provided any meaningful updates in a long, long time, however Rocket Dock still offers a very nice and clean way to manage desktop icons.

Fences | Stardock has offered Windows users alternative themes and skinning for years now, and not until recently I began using a very nice app called Fences that allows you to segregate your desktop icons into customisable categories.

DisplayFusion | If like me, you have a dual monitor setup then DisplayFusion is definitely worth considering.  DisplayFusion allows you to spread a single wallpaper over multiple screens, set different wallpapers on each and offers a variety of window and image options.

Applications

While Windows certainly offers a variety of preinstalled software, users will typically have to download additional software and packages in order to customise their computing experience.

File Hippo | Offers a plethora of software, arranged by category.  Also offers the option to download older versions of chosen software.

CCCP | Still my first choice in codec packs, has the added benefit of installing Media Player Classic (just remember to set MPC to auto-load subtitles).

File Sharing

While file sharing sites certainly attract all sorts of controversy, they are nonetheless a necessity for millions of users, including myself.

µTorrent | My torrent client of choice for Windows, user friendly and intuitive.

Kickass Torrents | Sure Pirate Bay has been around for ages and is perhaps the most controversial file sharing site out there, but I find Kickass to be more useful and comprehensive than its infamous competitor.

Browser add-ons

By now you will have no doubt selected your favourite browser for your internet exploring needs.  I like to use a combination of Chrome and Firefox – Chrome is fast and stable but lacks features, Firefox is buggy and filled with bloat, but regardless the latter remains my primary browser due to a combination of add-ons that are fundamental to my browsing experience.

Adblock Plus | Available for Chrome as well, Adblock Plus is an extremely useful deterrent for unwanted and invasive advertisements as well as pop-ups.

DownThemAll! | A useful image scraper, I use this add-on primarily for Chan sites, open a page and download all the images without having to open each link individually.

Video DownloadHelper | The indispensable video download tool, works great with YouTube allowing you to choose the desired resolution.

Security

Comodo Internet Security | It’s a well known fact that Windows Firewall is severely lacking and one of the first things to do after a fresh install is to locate a more efficient means of securing your PC.  After trying out a multitude of free solutions, I find Comodo to be the most effective and least invasive tool to do the job.

Enjoy this post, wish to add to it? Then add a comment or click the like button.  Constructive criticism is always welcome and I’d like to hear about your favourite apps and sites too, or perhaps even better alternatives.