Ubuntu 10.10 came out earlier this month, and early reviews of the operating system have been very favorable. Right now many thousands of people around the world are downloading it.
In the Ubuntu tradition, you can do your part to make this process go well for all. With just a few mouse clicks, you can donate some of your upstream bandwidth to smooth the process for others to download the open source OS.
To do so, you'll be using a peer-to-peer file transfer process called BitTorrent. Invented by Bram Cohen, BitTorrent gained fame for its usage in downloading pirated movies and software, but it can be used for legitimate, legal purposes.
To tap into BitTorrent's magic, first download a BitTorrent client program to your computer. The one I recommend is called Transmission, available as a free download for Linux, Mac, and Windows computers. You'll need a broadband connection to proceed.
Next, go to the Ubuntu Website and click on the prominent Download Ubuntu link on the right side of the page. Now you'll click on "Alternative downloads" link.
At the next screen, click "Bit torrent download". You'll see lots of options on this screen, but I recommend choosing the one named ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso.torrent. Clicking on that link should start the download of Ubuntu 10.10 using Transmission.
Soon after your download begins, your computer also will start uploading Ubuntu 10.10 to other BitTorrent downloaders. This will only use part of your upstream bandwidth and will cost you nothing. You probably won't even know this background process is going on on your computer.
I chose to do this on an extra computer at my house, an Apple iBook G3. (Note: I won't be installing Ubuntu 10.10 on that machine, which I'm just using to download a copy of the new OS to copy onto my USB Flash drive, to seed for others.)
After downloading Ubuntu 10.10, I'm leaving Transmission running night and day for the next week or two. Within 24 hours I uploaded about 6GB of data, which works out to about eight full copies of Ubuntu 10.10. This process is called "seeding the torrent", which relieves the pressure on Canonical's Web servers and on the various download mirrors for Ubuntu.
This process of seeding fits in perfectly with the Ubuntu spirit of defining ourselves by what we do for others. The actual meaning of the word Ubuntu is: "I am because we are."
I noticed on Twitter that some people have been downloading Ubuntu 10.10 in as few as 7 minutes using BitTorrrent. So not only does BitTorrent share the burden of file transfers, it actually speeds the transfer process, too.
Next time you're stuck in an online traffic jam, spend a moment thinking what you could do to relieve it. Analyze the situation not from the perspective of what's best for you, but what would be best for the persons behind you. If the sacrifice is not too severe, you might choose to do what's best for the persons behind you. If that's your choice, I'd say, "Welcome to Ubuntu."
Phil Shapiro is an educator and community activist in the Washington, D.C., area.