May 16, 2007

FoxTorrent, a Firefox BitTorrent client

Author: Chad Files

BitTorrent clients are all over the place these days. One of the newcomers, FoxTorrent, is a fully functional cross-platform Firefox BitTorrent client created by Red Swoosh, a company that is now part of Akamai. What FoxTorrent lacks in features it makes up for in simplicity.

As of this writing the current release is 1.03 (version 1.0 was released on April 26). This version fixes an issue that caused the extension not to work on Linux and OS X; I ran into this issue under Gentoo (Firefox 1.5), but everything worked fine with Ubuntu 7.04 (Firefox 2.0).

FoxTorrent works like any BitTorrent client. When it finds a torrent it starts downloading the files and displays a screen to show the user what is going on.

FoxTorrent - click to enlarge

Out of the box FoxTorrent does not require any configuration -- it simply works. You don't need to configure NATs or UPnP, or bypass firewalls. The client also keeps running even if Firefox has been closed, because it starts a daemon process named RedSwoosh in the background when Firefox is first launched.

FoxTorrent has a small footprint. On my machine the client never consumed more than 5MB of memory while downloading files and 2MB when idle. Consumption rates depend on the OS, system configuration, and several other variables, so your results may vary. Some Microsoft Windows users have reported that the client has memory leaks, and has forced them to reboot.

The application's most noteworthy feature is the stream/play feature. When FoxTorrent starts downloading files, a button appears next to the download status that allows the user to stream incomplete files and play files that have finished downloading. Unfortunately, I could not get this feature to work on my Ubuntu system because Totem did not want to play the SWF file that FoxTorrent uses to stream audio. I am not sure why Firefox chose Totem to play the SWF file instead of the installed Adobe Flash plugin; my search for an answer was fruitless. FoxTorrent uses the Google Flash video player to manage audio playback.

It is great that FoxTorrent does not require any configuration to use; however, it also lacks the ability to be configured. The only configuration option that is currently available is the ability to change the default download directory. It would be nice to be able to throttle uploads and downloads, not start the daemon when Firefox starts, or bypass FoxTorrent and directly download a .torrent file (FoxTorrent automatically consumes all .torrent files when they are clicked).

Currently FoxTorrent does not continue to seed after a download has completed. In my opinion that is a deal breaker. Personally I like to let my torrents seed for several hours -- sometimes days -- after they have finished downloading, just to make sure that I am providing more than my fair share of the bandwidth. The FoxTorrent blog states that FoxTorrent uses the one-for-one protocol for uploading that is common in most BitTorrent communities, but I don't see how it is possible to make sure a true one-for-one transfer has taken place if the uploading is only done while downloading. I hope that in future releases the interface will show exactly how many bytes have been transferred to and from the client.

FoxTorrent is a simple, easy-to-use BitTorrent client. With that said, I still plan to stick with rtorrent until some of the issues I mentioned have been worked out -- mainly the ability to continue seeding after downloading.

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