[FoRK] Avalanche vs. BitTorrent
Stephen D. Williams
Thu Jun 30 18:51:11 PDT 2005
I was invited a couple years ago to evaluate an idea for a startup to
provide hosted broadcasting service for small-time broadcasters. I
analyzed the need, market, bandwidth issues, multicast availability
(UUnet only if purchased directly), and economics of their intended
model. I raised the issue that bandwidth costs would be hard to cover
and that what was really needed were generic repeaters at the edge,
something like Akamai but more generalized and not expensive centralized
capital investment. My favorite idea was that an open source server
should be developed and ISPs persuaded that it was in their best
interest to provide as a service. I knew however that ISPs were loathe
to provide anything that resolved bandwidth problems directly, even if
that meant better upstream bandwidth. I offhandedly commented that it
would be useful for end-users to repeat to other nearby people, but
suspected that users wouldn't want to do that and that there wouldn't be
enough people who weren't behind NAT or firewalls to provide routing.
Right on key issues, I failed to have faith in the right things.
BitTorrent, Skype, and others have me convinced that p2p technology is
the way to go first, not last.
The second article below is a mailing from Michael Robertson (Linspire,
michaelrobertson.com ). He's right that it would be great to have an
open Skype and that it is useful to support SIP hardware, networks, etc.
He is wrong about knocking Skype on technical grounds and it is glaring
that his suggested solution is not open source and therefor not really
open in the most useful way. Gizmo is useful competition, but an open
source solution with an available service for in/out calling and other
services would be much better. http://www.gizmoproject.com/
The Scheme to Discredit BitTorrent
By John C. Dvorak
One of the most fascinating and popular protocols and P2P
file-distribution systems on the Internet is BitTorrent, first released
in 2001. Continuous improvements led to its emergence as a force in
2003; by early 2005 it was perhaps the dominant protocol on the Net,
second only to TCP/IP itself. The problem is that no big company
controls it, and Microsoft, asleep at the wheel, let it slip too long to
do much about it. So now I suspect Microsoft is playing dirty to
discredit the thing. There is no other explanation for the recent series
of coincidental stories and events.
BitTorrent is the brainchild of algorithm and logic junkie Bram Cohen, a
certifiable genius who saw that radical thinking was needed if P2P was
ever going to work well in mass-market environments.
Swarms. What Bram managed to figure out was a way to maximize throughput
on P2P file distribution that went beyond server-centric methods,
multicasting, edge buffering and all the other schemes that have come
and gone. Moreover, this idea ends up not costing the person
distributing the file a lot of bandwidth, because the file itself goes
into the Net, becomes what is called a swarm, then uploads and downloads
itself all over the place in bits and pieces from machine to machine.
When you begin to download a file using BitTorrent, your machine
immediately starts uploading the exact same file to someone else. This
process is kind of like the fission demonstration with the mousetraps
and the ping-pong balls, since your download becomes enhanced by others
and you get multiple download streams. Meanwhile, you are still
delivering bits from your file. Data is flying every which way and
higher demand makes it work better!
Microsoft Takes Aim at BitTorrent. The process for doing this is
nontrivial, although Cohen claims it's not that complicated. That said,
he also tells me that nobody else seems to get it right, in particular
Microsoft with its Avalanche project, which he calls vaporware and
wrong. "They just do not get it," says Cohen. "They have no clue about
how the protocol works. I don't know if they can't read the source or
have not really looked at the code or documentation, but they do not
understand it." To emphasize this issue he just posted a rebuttal to the
Microsoft Avalanche research document in his blog this morning. You can
read it here.
Meanwhile, we are hearing about Avalanche as though it is in beta.
Articles begin to emerge about the product just as some dubious articles
appear all over the Net about how BitTorrent has something to do with
spyware. Interesting coincidences indeed.
Simple Lies, Told as Fact. There is no spyware in BitTorrent. There is
no way BitTorrent is being tricked into delivering spyware. We hear that
BitTorrent files are "infected." What specific to BitTorrent is
infected? Is it the BitTorrent initiation files? Or is it the payload?
If it's the payload (the media file, for example) then what's it got to
to do with BitTorrent per se? Nothing, that's what.
Here's what happened.
Someone took an executable file, which in one instance is distributed as
a Family Guy episode. Instead of just being an .avi or .mpg file, it's
an .exe or some other executable. Executing the file results in a load
of spyware being installed. So again I ask what's this got to do with
BitTorrent per se? If BitTorrent didn't exist this file could still be
traded in any number of ways. Nothing would change. BitTorrent in this
instance is merely the download mechanism. You'd STILL get the spyware
if you used something other than BitTorrent. Spotlighting BitTorrent is
a cowardly way to discredit the product.
The Root of the Accusations. This was all begun by a Microsoft MVP
character named Chris Boyd, who is always described as a "renowned"
security expert. By whose standards is he renowned? Has he written
books? Academic papers? Articles? What exactly besides blogging? So
where does this assertion come from? The blog?
He posted his BitTorrent discovery on his security blog here. He
discovered that the Aurora spyware is on machines that also have
BitTorrent installed and implies that BitTorrent has more to do with it
than a casual coincidence. Does this guy know that BitTorrent is a
downloading system and people who do a lot of downloading tend to have
it on their machines? The cause and effect logic here eludes me. Is he
saying it's impossible to get Aurora without BitTorrent?
Whatever the case, someone managed to get his discovery of spyware
(spyware is news?) into CNet News, eWeek, and IDG News service, as well
as hundreds of blogs talking about how BitTorrent was an "adware
distribution vehicle." Hey, BitTorrent will distribute whatever you
choose to distribute. How is this news? This all happened just as the
once skeptical, now wishy-washy Register (which also reported on the
BitTorrent issue without questioning it) reported on Avalanche being
oh-so-superior to BitTorrent.
For a good laugh view the Avalanche PowerPoint slide show. It shows all
sorts of graphs as if Avalanche is actually in the wild being used. I
have never seen such a crock in my life. Can you say "dry lab?"
Where Is the News Reporting? What bothered me the most about this
episode was that there was no reporting whatsoever regarding the
BitTorrent as spyware claims or even the credibility of the renowned MVP
Chris Boyd. It was basically parroting a leap-of-faith accusation in a
blog that somehow developed into these eventual talking points: Use
BitTorrent and you'll get spyware. BitTorrent sucks, and oh, Microsoft
has something better, although it's never been shipped?but it's better!
Does this sort of media irresponsibility and laziness ever end? Or why
don't we just shoot everyone doing good work, lie about the facts, and
turn everything over to Microsoft and its Redmond compound? The only
defenders of BitTorrent I saw regarding this issue were buried here and
there on Slashdot. They sure were not in the newsrooms?or the blogs for
that matter. All the stories I saw were disgraceful.
Discuss this article in the forums.
Skype Bad, Gizmo Good
June 29th, 2005
Net calling software Skype has exploded onto the scene. Its ease of use
and robustness have quickly built an enormous user base and introduced
many to the power of net calling. But Internet users should be wary of
Skype because its strategy is a throwback to the '80s built on
proprietary standards that locks out all others. This week, a product
called Gizmo is being unveiled - the first viable Skype alternative
built on open source that pledges to connect to all.
Learn more about the Gizmo Project
At a recent conference, a Skype founder suggested "regulating the
incumbents" to force others to carry Skype calls. Skype calls go over
the public Internet, but are often carried on telephone company wiring
(DSL) which Skype is worried could be configured to block their calls.
They are proposing that the government should step in and demand that
those telephone company networks carry Skype calls.
Meanwhile, Skype is refusing to carry anyone else's calls on their own
phone system. They are engaging in exact behavior - they are worried
about others trying. Skype can't have it both ways. If Skype wants to
lock others out of their system, shouldn't the telephone companies have
the same right also?
To understand how Skype currently works and why it's dangerous for the
future of net calling, you have to think back to the days of online
services such as Prodigy, AOL and Compuserve. Each was a closed system
with no ability to email across services - AOL users could only email
AOL users, Prodigy users could only email Prodigy users and so on. It
was a confusing mess since people were required to have many different
accounts on different services just to be able to communicate with
others. Fortunately, the world grew and coalesced around open standards
and those email systems agreed to interconnect. This made it possible
for example for an AOL user to email an Earthlink user or any other
email account on the Internet. Today you just need one email address to
email anyone in the world, which is great.
Skype's calls go over the same net that we all connect to, but they are
locked away from the rest of the world. They are recreating the old
closed world rather than embracing the new Internet where all users are
interconnected. It may be good for Skype's business to lock out other
number directories because it gives them complete control, but it's
terrible for consumers because they will be forced into a monopoly.
The world needs open solutions where all systems are connected and are
built around standards. This lets consumers choose from multiple
software and devices from many manufacturers. It ensures that they will
always be treated fairly and the market won't be controlled by just one
company. SIP is that standard, but until today there hasn't been any
SIP-based software that could compare with Skype.
About 6 months ago, SIPphone decided to build a standards-based net
calling program that would push the industry in the right direction.
Today, we're announcing beta versions of Gizmo available for Mac and
Microsoft Windows (and soon Linux). Gizmo matches Skype's features plus
add some neat ones, but more importantly it's based on standards so it
gives consumers choice and prevents one company lock-in like we have
suffered through with Microsoft.
Gizmo works with the open standard SIP AND we are committed to
interconnecting with others. Gizmo users can already make free calls
directly to thousands of business, university and other organizational
phone numbers around the world as well as to other net calling
communities with absolutely no charge. (If you'd like to connect your
business, university or network to Gizmo please go here.)
Skype v. Gizmo - The Comparison
Works with all networks
Gizmo is the first SIP-based software program which works behind complex
networking setups like Skype does.
Gizmo uses the SIP standard so it can be used with any SIP-compliant
router or phone adapter. See www.siphardware.com for more info.
Any WiFi SIP phone can send/receive calls from Gizmo.
The Gizmo directory is open to connect to everyone and currently
connects to hundreds of universities, companies and network directories.
Gizmo also connects to Asterisk systems via DUNDI.
"Gizmo" started off as internal project name and we know it's lame.
We're looking for a better name! Send your suggestion to
name-idea at sipphone.com
Record any call or conference call with a click of a button.
Free voice mail
Receive voice mail messages via email as audio attachments.
Map call location
Graphical map can show location of caller.
Developers can write voice applications based on VXML standard. For
example, dial "info" and a voice-driven application takes over.
I recently tested Gizmo while flying to Europe on a plane that had WiFi
capability. Passengers around me were stunned that the calls were
possible. Several downloaded Gizmo and began using the beta from the
airplane and marveled at the audio quality. If you use OS X or XP, you
can download Gizmo today and the Linux version is coming soon!
swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw
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