What’s the alternative options if Bit Torrent sites are closed ?

Survival of the fittest is the motto that Human Beings have always lived by. When faced by adversity or restriction, we tend to fight and find solutions that are tailored to the problem as well as solutions that are well sometimes out of the box. Today, the online world especially most of the people who download content from the internet are faced with some serious restrictions to what people can download and share. A wealth of information / data and content is available online but not all of it is copyright, one of the most efficient ways to share this information especially large information like music movies etc was through the very very popular Bit Torrents. Bit torrents have gained popularity over the years and as you would imagine most people use them. But with the introduction of SOPA / PIPA and now ACTA it is getting more and more unlikely that these Bit Torrent sites and clients can move further. But like I said earlier we do come out of problems with innovative solutions. Although I believe that more solutions will present themselves in due course like the Option 2, currently there is a budding solution to our woes.

The truth about piracy is simple, I would download a movie and watch it only if I am not really interested to go see it in the theatre. In fact if torrent downloads were not possible, I would not really go and see it at all ! So in that sense the movie industry does not need to fear torrent downloads per se. The real piracy is the fake DVD’s, CD’s and other activities that happen in the shadow and bringing a few websites down will fuel these activities even more. Demand Supply rule here. If you look at the infographic I posted last week this gets terribly visible. The bad movies made the top 10 list as well as the good ones, the downloading trend will probably affect by pinching away those users who would love to buy and keep copies of movies. Not the real cinema money. Food for thought.

First lets talk about Torrents in general. 

A torrent file is a document containing a number of pieces of information about a file including the names of its various component parts as well as pertinent identifying information. Torrent files do not point to specific files on specific servers but instead point to codes that identify chunks of a file. These files are actually quite large – a few kilobytes to a few hundred – and most BitTorrent feeds have used them exclusively for the past few years.

There’s a problem with torrent files, however, that has to do more with perception than reality. To the average politico – and to the average media lobbyist – Torrent files are “files” that point to pirated content.

Option 1 : Tribler

One of the technologies that builds on the BitTorrents which is going to be more relevant than before is Tribler. The Tribler BitTorrent client is no newcomer to the BitTorrent scene. It has been in development for more than 5 years and has delivered many innovative features, which have mostly been ignored by the masses. Developed by a team of researchers at Delft University of Technology, the main goal is to come up with a robust implementation of BitTorrent that doesn’t rely on central servers. Instead, Tribler is designed to keep BitTorrent alive, even when all torrent search engines, indexes and trackers are pulled offline.

So how does it work?

Like many other BitTorrent clients, Tribler has a search box at the top of the application. However, the search results that appear when users type in a keyword don’t come from a central index. Instead, they come directly from other peers. Downloading a torrent is also totally peer to peer and not from a central location. When a user clicks on one of the search results, the header information or meta date (what exists in the torrent file) is pulled in from another peer and the download starts immediately. Tribler is based on the standard BitTorrent protocol and uses regular BitTorrent trackers to communicate with other peers. But, it can also continue downloading when a central tracker goes down.

Tribler uses crowd-sourcing to keep the network clean. Content is verified by user generated “channels”, which can be “liked” by others. When more people like a channel, the associated torrents get a boost in the search results. All this without a central server, guess what no more shutting down websites, and no more losing downloading opportunities.

It simply can’t be shutdown, blocked or censored, whatever laws politicians may come up with. One thing that could theoretically cause issues, is the capability for starting users to find new peers. To be on the safe side the Tribler team is still looking for people who want to act as so called bootstraptribler peers. These users will act as superpeers, who distribute lists of active downloaders. The only other way to shut it down would be to shut down the internet. Imagine that !

While the Tribler client only has a few thousand users at the moment, for avid file-sharers it must be a relief to know that it’s out there. No matter what crazy laws may pass in the future, people will always be able to share.

Those who want to give it a spin are welcome download Tribler here. It’s completely Open Source and with a version for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Option 2 : 3D Printing

This for a lot of people including the Pirate Bay is the future of downloading. With 3d printers getting more affordable as well as a lot more advanced, the days when 3D artwork of a movie Blue Ray downloaded and printing your own copies of the Blue Ray disks is not far away. This about this as an option, you browse popular 3D sharing websites including ones like Google Sketchup, where some user uploads a 3D image of a DVD with the print of the movie on it, all you need is a 3D printer to make unlimited copies of the movie for you.

This is a bit distant but do not under estimate the importance of something like this, especially when Pirate Bay makes a prediction on these lines.

Option 3 : Other Peer to Peer tools 

The third option would be the one that people that plant viruses and malware love. Back to the age old software like Limewire, iMesh and other clients on desktops that can also help in peer to peer downloads. I think we all know the era when we relied on these and what was the result. COnstant pain of viruses and such.

Regardless the option we choose, the options for the industry to block the downloading would only mean that we will find another means and source, after all we are not the most successful species on the planet without the adversity to adapt.

Eight Simple Ways to Plan your Taxes.

The Inquisitive Minds, features guest authors who are interested to contribute to the readers of this blog and the author of this article is Ramalingam Kan MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial PlannerHe is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.  He has been a regular on this blog for a while now. If you would like to contribute something then please let us know on guest [at] melvinpereira.com.

You have got only a few more months to complete this financial year. Very soon you will get a call from your company to submit the proofs for tax saving investments. So why don’t you spend some time on organising your tax plan?

1)     Proper Allocation of Annual compensation

Restructuring your salary with some additional components can reduce your tax liability. This restructuring doesn’t require any additional cash outflow. The following components can be efficiently used to reduce your income tax liability.

v  Transport allowance to the extend of Rs.800 is exempt

v  Medical expenses which are reimbursed by the employer are exempt to the tune of Rs.15000

v  Food coupons like sodexo or ticket restaurant are exempt from tax up to Rs.60000

v  Individuals who are all living in a rented accommodation can include House Rent Allowance ( HRA ) as a part of their salary

v  Leave Travel Allowance (LTA) can be part of your salary as this can be claimed twice in a block of 4 years.

2)     Effective Utilization of Tax Exemption

As far as possible utilize the maximum exemptions available under section 80 C, 80 CCF and 80 D. The maximum exemption available under section 80 C is Rs. 100000.

Under this section Rs.100000 investment or contribution can be made in PPF, NSC, Life insurance premium, 5 year FD with banks and Post offices, Mutual Fund ELSS, Principal Repayment of housing loan, and the tuition fees paid for children’s education.

Under Section 80 CCF, you can invest up to Rs.20000 in infrastructure bonds.

Under Sec 80 D, the premium paid towards the mediclaim policies are exempt. The maximum limit of exemption is Rs.15000 and for senior citizens the limit is Rs.20000 and for covering senior citizen parents there is an additional exemption to the extend of Rs.15000.

3)     Properly Structure your Housing Loan

The Principal repayment of a housing loan is eligible for a deduction up to Rs.100000. The interest paid on a housing loan is eligible for a deduction up to Rs.150000. If the housing loan is for a sizeable amount, then it is possible that the principal repayment and interest may exceed the specified tax exemption limit. To utilise the maximum tax benefit, an individual can consider going for a joint home loan with his/her spouse or parent or sibling. This will make sure that both the co-owners can claim tax deductions in the proportion of their holding in the loan.

 4)     Tax Plan in Sync with Overall Financial Plan

You should not do your tax plan in isolation. You need to do it in sync with your overall financial plan. So a tax plan is not only to just save taxes and also it should assist you in achieving your other financial goals like children’s higher education, buying a home or retirement.

5)     Avoid Last Minute Rush

In fact the right time to do the tax plan is the beginning of the financial year. If you postpone your tax planning even now and do it in the last minute, then you will not be able to choose the right investment. In the last minute rush, you will be forced to choose a scheme which gives the proof immediately. Is the investment sound and profitable? Is there any other better options? You will not be able to choose the best scheme and you may settle with a mediocre one.

6)     Invest Some Quality Time

Before investing your money, you need to invest your time. You need to take some quality time to understand the various tax saving options and compare their benefits and limitations.

7)     Check for Future Commitments

Some tax saving options like NSC or ELSS need only onetime investment. Some other tax saving options like PPF, Ulips need periodical investments year after year. You need to be careful in choosing a tax saving scheme where you need to commit for periodical future payments. You need to check on a few things like; do you need such a future commitment? Will you be able to meet the future commitments at ease? The law may change and you may not get any tax exemption for your future payments. Would you consider the scheme irrespective of tax benefit for the future payments?

8)     Changed Your Job; Redo your Tax Plan

Did you switch your job in the middle of the financial year? Then you need to redo your tax plan with consolidating the income from both the companies. It is advisable to inform the new company about the income during the particular financial year from the old company. So that your new company will deduct the right amount of TDS. Otherwise you may need to pay extra tax at the end of the financial year.

Whenever you change your job, you need to have a sitting with your financial planner or tax advisor. So that the required changes in your tax plan can be done proactively. With proper tax planning you can reduce your tax liability; save more; invest better and become wealthier.

10 Things To Do Before You Retire

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in. If you want to write for us please send an email to me [at ] melvinpereira.com or get in touch with us at the contact page.

Don’t put off today what you can’t afford to do tomorrow. In spite of the world wide pension crisis and a growing acceptance that we must plan and save for our retirement, the harsh reality is we are actually not saving enough. Research reports reveal that only 15% of the individuals are saving sufficiently for their retired life. Here are a few tips on things to do before you retire so that your retired life is more comfortable and enjoyable.

Get Rid of All Your Debts

If you are taking a housing loan, personal loan, car loan or any other loan make sure that you will be repaying them on or before your retirement. You need to choose the term of the loan in accordance with your retirement age. You can enjoy your retired life when you have 100% financial freedom, not when you have to repay your loans.

Protect Your Emergency fund

Emergency expenses can happen any time. But the possibility goes up during the old age. So we need to enhance the emergency reserve year on year based on the inflation and change in your expense levels. Emergency fund will give you a sense of security and also you need not touch your other investments during emergency where you need to pay pre-closure penalty. Also don’t forget to refill the emergency fund once you met an expense out of emergency fund.

Establish a Retirement Budget

You need to visualize your retired life well in advance and need to create a budget for your retirement. That is you will not be going to office. So the expenses on transport and clothes may come down. Also you will have more time to spend. You may need to spend more on leisure travel and health care.

 

Examine Your Cash Flow

Take a close look at your cash inflow as well as outflow. Is there going to be any income after retirement? Like rent, royalty…. Would there be any unwanted outflow during retired life? Like paying life insurance, or SIP. At times during your beginning of the career , you could have taken a policy where you need to pay premium up to the age of 60. But now you may plan to retire at 55 itself. So you need to realign your existing policy and other investments in sync with your retirement age.

 

Grow Your Retirement Corpus

Find out how much corpus you need to have when you retire so that you will be having complete financial freedom. A professional financial planner will of great assistance to you in this regard.

 

Develop a withdrawal strategy

How are you planning to withdraw your cash outflow during retirement from the retirement corpus? Monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually? Through Sytematic Withdrawal plan in mutual funds or by way of dividend or interest. All these will have a great impact on the corpus you need to accumulate. So you need to decide in advance.

 

Minimize taxes

Your retirement corpus and retirement income need to be tax efficient. You need to pay taxes as and when the fixed deposits matures irrespective of that you withdraw interest or reinvest under a cumulative option. But you need to pay interest only when you withdraw from the mutual funds. Careful selection of investment vehicle can reduce your tax during the retired life.

 

Get Sufficient Mediclaim coverage

The moment you retire, your employer will stop covering you under the group mediclaim. So you need to plan for your individual medical cover well in advance. At old age the medical expenses are inevitable. If you have not planned it properly the all your retirement plan will become a mess.

Consider Inflation adjusted annuities

The monthly income you need when you retire is not going to be the same even after 5 years of your retirement. Inflation will increase your retirement expenses year after year. So year after year your retirement income needs to go up.

Oversee estate planning

How your fixed assets and financial assets need to be distributed to your legal heirs? Create a WILL. You can avoid creating relationship problems to your next generation because of your left out wealth.

5 Easter Eggs for Easter

Yesterday was Easter, and with it comes the great big tradition of parents hiding Easter eggs in homes / gardens etc to be able to search and find them for an added bonus. The tradition of easter eggs were loved by the Software Companies who would have loved to relive their childhood days I think, what they did was hide interesting pieces of code within software such that people could find them, or it would come up when you were trying something unexpected. So this Easter, since I cannot really give real easter eggs to the readers of this blog, I thought I will try providing the next best thing, Software Easter Eggs. 5 of them to be precise.

1. Solitaire made easy (only in XP)

If you are finding it difficult to win in Solitaire, just press Alt + Shift + 2. Presto! The game ends and you win.

2. Foul play at FreeCell (only in XP)

Start a new FreeCell game. Hold down Ctrl + Shift + F10 during play. A dialog box appears asking you to Abort, Retry or Ignore. Select Abort and then move any card anywhere to win the game.

3. Windows Clean Speech

Go to Control Panel, open up the Speech properties applet and in the Preview field type ‘Crotch’ (without the quote). The voice preview says “Crow’s nest” instead.

4. Windows Welcome Music

An ambient music track you might not have heard before. Navigate toC:WindowsSystem32. We are looking for a folder named ‘oobe’. This folder has a subfolder named ‘images’. In ‘images’ click on the sound file called ‘title.wma’ to hear the soothing track ““ Windows welcome music.

5. Firefox and the Kitchen Sink

In the address bar type in “˜about kitchensink‘ (without the quote but with a space). Look at the interesting graphic that opens up.

You can find plenty more of similar Easter Eggs here:

Egg Heaven

A comprehensive site which lists Easter eggs in different categories and also has a section called Curios which mentions tricks and other program quirks.

Eeggs

Another widely inclusive site which has category listings such as DVD Easter Eggs, Software, Movies, Music, TV, Books and Art.

Mac OS Easter Eggs

Mac Users can try out the listings available here.

SoftwareTipsAndTricks

Another good list site with a section on Easter eggs.

Gamespot

The gaming site includes information about some of the greatest Easter eggs in gaming.

In listing just five, I have deliberately missed out a lot more. If you come across any other let me know, it is definitely worth a list here.

 

18 Uses for your Phone Camera as a tool

When the first camera phones were introduced we all said, “Why the heck would I need a camera phone?”. It will never replace my camera because the quality and clarity is really bad with the camera phones. More so now, that a lot of people are looking and slowly upgrading to SLR’s. So where is the need for the camera of the camera phone ? Well in the new technology world, the camera becomes a very handy tool for managing your life. In fact the camera serve a lot of functions making your life all the more easy. I have listed out a few below but then definitely there will be more uses, these few are enough to convince you take your camera phone around everywhere if you don’t already do so. Your camera may be a toy, but there’s no reason it can’t also be a tool. Continue reading 18 Uses for your Phone Camera as a tool