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Is the default download of ubuntu-11.10-desktop-i386.iso identical to the torrent ubuntu-11.10-desktop-i386.iso.torrent?

I'm asking because am finding the direct download 25% faster, but would be happy to seed back to people if I can simply place that file over my only slightly started torrent and then verify the data?

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Yes, no matter where you download it (so long as it's an official source) the ISO will be the same.

You can check the hash to make sure the download is correct:

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