This time it’s driven by the fans. I think I’ve found a like soul there now too. Mentioning Faster Pussycat, Metallica, and Twisted Sister in the same paragraph makes me respect ’em.
Monthly Archives: December 2004
Kerry to enter the Ohio Recount Fray
2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry will file today, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, papers in support of the Green Party/Libertarian Party recount effort. Specifically, Kerry will be filing a request for expedited discovery regarding Triad Systems voting machines, as well as a motion for a preservation order to protect any and all discovery and preserve any evidence on this matter…
Kerry’s entry into this recount effort changes the math on this matter dramatically. He can likewise show irreperable harm, and unlike the Green and Libertarian candidates, he can also prove a substantial chance for success on the merits because he lost the Ohio vote by a statistical whisker.
It should be noted that Kerry’s filing of these requests does not indicate his complete entry into the recount process, but does clearly indicate that he is moving decisively in that direction. His previous stance on the matter was based simply on his desire to defend the right to have a recount in the first place. The evidence of election tampering in Ohio, specifically surrounding Triad, has motivated him to actively join the fight. The Democratic Party is also quietly putting financial resources into the Ohio recount effort.
Out of Control: The Sequel
This morning I woke up to find that the torrent had died. Someone – no one knows who – had put enough pressure onto the operators of Suprnova.org and TorrentBits.com to shut them down. SuprNova.org was amazing, the Wal-Mart of torrents, a great big marketplace of piracy, all neatly dished up and aiming to please. You want this new Hollywood release? Here’s a recording from someone who smuggled a camcorder into a screening. – How about the latest episode of that hit HBO series? There you go, and no subscription fees to pay. Just fire up your favorite BitTorrent client – BitTornado, Azureus, Tomato, or that good old-fashioned Bram Cohen code. Click on the torrent, and you’re up and downloading, sharing what you’re getting with hundreds of others. Share and share alike. What could be more friendly?
For those of you who found the last paragraph littered with weird gobblygook, here’s your opportunity to come up to speed: BitTorrent is a computer protocol (a language computers use when communicating with each other) which allows computers to freely and efficiently share information with one another. This free-for-all of sharing is often called peer-to-peer or P2P, and it has become one of the most popular activities on the Internet. Many of you have heard how the record companies are deathly afraid that their markets are about to evaporate as their customers move from buying CDs to downloading pirated music. This much is true: for the last several years, peer-to-peer software has been used to help people find audio files on the internet – files being offered up by other people for you to download, anonymously. Find a song, click on it, and down it comes to your computer’s hard drive.
All of this song swapping began before most Americans had access to high-speed “broadband” internet connections. But, as of a month ago, just about half of the home users in the USA access the Internet through a broadband connection. These connections are anywhere from 10 and 50 times faster than the earlier “dial-up” connections which tied up phone lines and kept you waiting for what seemed like weeks as you struggled to download the latest gossip from your favorite website. While it takes some time to download music over a dial-up connection, you’d only wait about ten minutes for an average song. Movies and TV shows, which are much “richer” (more data), take a lot more time to download. The new U2 album, for example, might contain 45 million bytes of data. But an episode of “Six Feet Under” – roughly the same length – would probably run to 450 million bytes of information, ten times the amount. Coincidentally, that’s how much faster internet connections are, compared to a few years ago.
This increase in bandwidth has led to an enormous underground trade in all sorts of audiovisual media. It’s not just current movies – classics and cult films are available. (I downloaded Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls the day he died, watching it that evening, my homage to the great schlock director.) And, more significantly, nearly every new TV show that airs in the US or the UK is almost instantaneously available globally, because someone watching that show is recording it to their hard disk, publishing the recording to the Internet. This isn’t rocket science: computer peripherals which convert TV signals to digital data cost less than $100, and millions of them are out there already.
If you’re just one person with one recording of one show, and it’s a popular show, your computer’s internet connection is going to get swamped with requests for the show; eventually your computer will crash or you’ll take the show off the Internet, just so you can read your email. And in the early days of peer-to-peer, that’s how it was. Someone would find a computer with a copy of the song they wanted to listen to, connect to that computer, and download the data. It worked, but anything that got very popular was likely to disappear almost immediately. Popularity was a problem in first-generation peer-to-peer networks.
In November 2002, an unemployed programmer named Bram Cohen decided there had to be a better way, so he spent a few weeks writing an improved version of the protocols used to create peer-to-peer networks, and came up with BitTorrent. BitTorrent is a radical advance over the peer-to-peer systems which preceded it. Cohen realized that popularity is a good thing, and designed BitTorrent to take advantage of it. When a file (movie, music, computer program, it’s all just bits) is published on BitTorrent, everyone who wants the file is required to share what they have with everyone else. As you’re downloading the file, those parts you’ve already downloaded are available to other people looking to download the file. This means that you’re not just “leeching” the file, taking without giving back; you’re also sharing the file with anyone else who wants it. As more people download the file, they offer up what they’ve downloaded, and so on. As this process rolls on, there are always more and more computers to download the file from. If a file gets very popular, you might be getting bits of it from hundreds of different computers, all over the Internet – simultaneously. This is a very important point, because it means that as BitTorrent files grow in popularity, they become progressively faster to download. Popularity isn’t a scourge in BitTorrent – it’s a blessing.
It’s such a blessing that, as of November, 35% of all traffic on the Internet was BitTorrent-related. Unfortunately, that blessing looks more like a curse if you’re the head of a Hollywood studio, trying to fill seats in megaplexes or move millions of units of your latest DVDs releases. And, although BitTorrent is efficient, it isn’t designed to make data piracy easy; BitTorrent relies on a lot of information which can be used to trace the location of every single user downloading a file, and, more significantly, it also relies on a centralized “tracker”- a computer program which registers the requests for the file, and tells a requester how to hook up to the tens or hundreds of other computers offering pieces of the file for download.
As any good network engineer knows (and I was a network engineer for over a decade), a single point of failure (a single computer offering a single torrent tracker) is a Bad Thing to have in a network. It’s the one shortcoming in Cohen’s design for BitTorrent: kill the tracker and you’ve killed the torrent. But network engineers know better than to design systems with single points of failure: that’s one of the reasons the Internet is still around, despite the best efforts of hackers around the world to kill it. Failure in any one part of the Internet is expected and dealt with in short order. Various parts of the Internet fail all the time and you only very rarely notice.
Back to today, when the hammer came down. SuprNova.org and TorrentBits.com each played host to thousands of BitTorrent trackers. When these sites went down the torrents went Poof!, as if they’d never existed. This evening the members of the MPAA must be feeling quite satisfied with themselves – they see this danger as passed; never again will BitTorrent threaten the revenues of the Hollywood studios.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As Hollywood is so fond of sequels, it seems perfectly fitting that today’s suppression of the leading BitTorrent sites bears an uncanny resemblance to an event which took place in July of 2000. Facing a rising sea of lawsuits and numerous court orders demanding an immediate shutdown, the archetypal peer-to-peer service, Napster, pulled the plug on its own servers, silencing the millions of users who used the service as a central exchange to locate songs to download. That should have been the end of that. But it wasn’t. Instead, the number of songs traded on the Internet today dwarfs the number traded in Napster’s heyday. The suppression of Napster led to a profusion of alternatives – Gnutella, Kazaa, and BitTorrent.
Gnutella is a particularly telling example of how the suppression of a seductive technology (and peer-to-peer file trading is very seductive – ask anyone who’s done it) only results in an improved technology taking its place. Instead of relying on a centralized server – a fault that both Napster and BitTorrent share – Gnutella uses a process of discovery to let peers share information with each other about what’s available where. The peers in a Gnutella peer-to-peer network self-organize into an occasionally unreliable but undeniably expansive network of content. Because of its distributed nature, shutting down any one Gnutella peer has only a very limited effect on the overall network. One individual’s collection of music might evaporate, but there are still tens of
thousands of others to pick from. This network of Gnutella peers (and its offspring, such as Kazaa, BearShare, and Acquisition) has been growing since its introduction in 2001, mostly invisibly, but ever more pervasively.
If Napster hadn’t been run out of business by the RIAA, it’s unlikely that any need for Gnutella would have arisen; if the RIAA hadn’t attacked that single point of failure, there’d have been no need to develop a solution which, by design, has no single point to failure. It’s as though both sides in the war over piracy and file sharing are engaged in an evolutionary struggle: every time one side comes up with a new strategy, the other side evolves a response to it. This isn’t justa cat-and-mouse game; each attack by the RIAA, generates a response of increasing sophistication. And, today, the MPAA has blundered into this arms race. This was, as will soon be seen, a Very Bad Idea.
Pointing up the single greatest weakness of BitTorrent take down the tracker and the torrent dies – has only served to energize, inspire and the resources of an entire global ecology of softwaredevelopers, network engineers and hackers-at-large who want nothing so much, at this moment, as to make the MPAA pay for their insolence. Imagine a parent reaching into a child’s room and ripping a TV set out of the wall while the child is watching it. That child would feel anger and begin plotting his revenge. And that scene has been multiplied at least hundred thousand times today, all around the world. It is quite likely that, as I type these words, somewhere in the world a roomful of college CS students, fueled by coke and pizza and righteous indignation, are banging out some code which will fix the inherent weakness of BitTorrent – removing the need for a single tracker. If they’re smart enough, they’ll work out a system of dynamic trackers, which could quickly pass control back and forth among a cloud of peers, so that no one peer holds the hot potato long enough to be noticed. They’ll take the best of Gnutella and cross-breed it with the best of BitTorrent. And that will be the MPAA’s worst nightmare.
Hey, Hollywood! Can you feel the future slipping through your fingers? Do you understand how badly you’ve screwed up? You took a perfectly serviceable situation – a nice, centralized system for the distribution of media, and, through your own greed and shortsightedness, are giving birth to a system of digital distribution that you’ll never, ever be able to defeat. In your avarice and arrogance you ignored the obvious: should have cut a deal with SuprNova.org. In partnership you could have found a way to manage the disruptive change that’s already well underway. Instead, you have repeated the mistakes made by the recording industry, chapter and verse. And thus you have spelled your own doom. It’s said that the best sequels are just like the original, only bigger and louder. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for one hell of a crash. This baby is now fully out of control.
Mark Pesce: Sydney/Hobart: 12/20/04: Released under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0
And so, an experiment begins
I’ve enabled anonymous moderated story posting at Philly Future. Now, anyone can post a story, and the site’s membership team will decide if it is worthy to go live. Previously, you had to be a member to post.
Something I need to get thru my thick skull
The absolute worst place to spend your time on the web is in someone else’s comments threads having an argument. What a waste of effort. Far too often people argue just to win. I have a hard time dealing with that. I have a hard time dealing with people that just want to win at any cost. I know, I know, it’s life. People’s pride is in the way. Dave would say it’s human nature. But there is a part of me that holds on to a belief that people are better than that.
I need to swear it off once and for all. The time I spend trying to argue is time better spent elsewhere.
the important thing about MSN’s blogging tool isn’t that it’s a blogging tool
It’s the name: “MSN Spaces”, and the theme: “Create your online space”. Why this has been overlooked by so many folks, I have no idea. Even if the execution leaves something to be desired right now, the idea is terrific. Right on the money.
“more people to express themselves online”
BitTorrent sites being shut down
Very, very sad. You can’t stop rock n’ roll. Nor can you stop BitTorrent. BitTorrent is a protocol. Not just one piece of software or a network. So make a bet on it. Here is an unofficial SuprNova.org Closure FAQ.
delicious-java API version 1.3 available
You can get details here.
In the living years
Dave Winer marks today what happened when weblogs.com went down and was reborn as Buzzword.com. As the Wired article states, one hell of a flame war went off. Some people had legitimate issues over how it was handled, but others attempted to take advantage and make it personal. No doubt, some of this was in retribution for past real grievances. But it was far too public to have accomplished much except bad blood. A lot of it was spilled. What I’m about to talk about is not related to this, but than again, maybe it is.
Vinnie Paul Abbot lost a brother December 8, 2004. His band mate, his brother, was murdered on stage, while they were performing, by a derranged fan who was upset at the breakup of their former band – Pantera.
Phil Anselmo was lead singer of Pantera. He became like a brother to Vinnie and Darrel. You don’t spend twelve years together thru the ups and downs in life without becoming close. Pantera, speaking as a fan, always resembled to me the sound of a closed fist. They, like Metallica used to, had a “unifying” sound going on. It’s hard to describe, but you can feel it when you listen. Heavier than heavy. That can only comes from band mates who are close. In fact, you could say that Pantera carried the torch for metal when Metallica dropped it in their quest for? well I have no idea. But what I do know is that fans loved Pantera for it. Unlike so many other metal bands, they seemed to somehow get heavier album by album.
Phil traveled to Texas, to mourn the loss of his band mate, his brother, but didn?t attend the funeral – he wasn’t permitted: “to respect the Abbot family’s wishes, and they do not want me there. I believe I belong there, but I understand completely?. I wish his family the least grief they could ever have, and I know it’s impossible. Just bless his family, bless his friends. I love him like a brother loves a brother. . . . I’m so sorry to his family and everyone else who was senselessly killed in Columbus, Ohio.” Why didn’t the family want him there? Bad blood.
As Pantera grew famous, Phil started to lay out grievances with his band mates in more and more public ways. Not simply attacking the opinions of his band mates – but attacking them personally. In magazines. On stage. Phil eventually started his own side project. Recrimations were made both ways. Pantera pretty much imploded. Phil continued to rip on Darrel, and just recently told Metal Hammer magazine that Darrell “deserves to be beaten severely.”
You can imagine how bad Phil feels. My heart goes out to him.
Now I look over to one of my fellow bloggers, someone who?s opinion I value enough to read regularly, ralling a cry to “blogbat” another blogger while calling him pond scum. This very same blogger called on the community to take a pledge for civilized discourse so that the country can come together after the election. He has legitimate things to critique of the other blogger. Giving a in-depth critique of someone else’s views, positions, and so forth is a great thing and blogs are terrific for this. Hyperlinks are terrific tools. But he made it personal without giving the chance for discussion. How is this “civilized discourse”? It looks like anything but. “Fact checking his ass” is good. Calling someone “pondscum” and telling others to “blogbat” him without attempting to reconcile…err…. not so good. I’ve been accused of flaming others on occasion, but I try my best not to blog-to-blog anymore – the consequences can be very bad. Links increase the impact of anything we say exponentially.
If I attack someone personally, instead of attempting to deal with what they are saying or doing first, I decrease the chance to reconcile, or to persuade and bridge. If I publicly attack someone personally, I know now that I pretty much eliminate those opportunities. Unless I want to bring someone or something down (and Lord knows there are some people and things that should be), than I try not to do it. I try to attack their ideas, attack what they are doing. I’m blunt. I can’t help that. But I avoid attacking them personally. That is, unless it is personal. If so, I try one on one communication first. If the other person takes it public – well I gotta defend myself.
I think these are principals that heavily linked to pundit bloggers should think about. You have a responsibility. You help define the truth as far as Google searchers see it. Need I remind you to search for “miserable failure” or “bush mandate” on Google?
Otherwise, all you are doing, in the words of Jon Stewart, is “hurting America”. Don’t be a partisan hack. Have real discussion and argue your view based on it’s merits.
If you think this is preachy, or that I am boring, I don’t give a shit. This is a hard road to take, but I hope I live up to these responsibilities.
(yeah, yeah I know… isn’t this how Democrats lost the election? We were too ‘nice’?… errr… you’re probably right!)
..Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got
You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence
Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts
“The Living Years”, Mike & The Mechanics (1990)