Collaborating and sharing your know-how online
File sharing online, as well as what is technically termed P2P or peer-to-peer, is an area of collaboration and exchange online that is facing a tremendous growth and interest and it will be positively affecting anyone involved in communicating and learning online.
For the ones of you, who have only heard or read about the wranglings of the Napster debate against the music recording industry, and have never tried such services as Gnutella, Wrapster or Imesh, the time has come for you to know more about these powerful and revolutionising technologies.
A great insight into what peer-to-peer file sharing will bring to online communities is well analysed and described by John Thakara in his new article entitled "File Sharing the Future", which you can read at:
I highly recommend you to read what he says, if you want to see technology for a better and more distant-looking perspective.
For lifelong learners and believers in open sharing of knowledge, this technology really provides a good glimpse at what the future of online collaboration might look like very soon.
I have here selected a few services/tools that can open up your initial interest in peer-to-peer file sharing, and which I have personally tested and used.
Most of these technologies are still in their infancy stage, so I do not recommend the adventure for the technophobes among you as indeed you may run into some errors, conflicts with other programs and yes, a few computer crashes. While as a "pathfinder" I must endure this and more (I have to reformat my PC more than a few times a year) you can simply enjoy the tour or opt-in to follow me right through it.
This is the future. The concept is great. In fact, it was born as the same concept that gave birth to the net. As you may already well know, the internet was made during the cold war, mainly to provide an automated-protection system to be utilised to communicate in case of nuclear strike.
Previous computer networks consisted of one master computer and a group of "dumb" computer terminals connected to it. In this setup, if the master computer gets hit, then it's all over. The whole "network" goes down, as there is only one "intelligent" station.
On the other hand, on the net, each and every server has the options to enable the standard protocols (telnet, gopher, ftp, http, etc.), so if somebody destroys or handicaps any server, all the other ones are still up and running.
Following this principle, peer-to-peer networks allow users to exchange files and data without going through any centralised mechanism or technology. The internet protocol itself allows individual users to connect directly to one other and to initiate exchanges and file transfers of any kind at their will. If you add to this:
a) the ability to easily search across this distributed network for specific content;
b) the technological facility to download the same content from multiple users simultaneously, as to lighten the bandwidth load on their computers as well as to speed up the overall process;
c) the option of directly contacting individual users, and to exchange messages or to even chat directly with them, you effectively start creating and developing a collaboration network in which the power is the distribution and accessibility of knowledge and content.
In my personal opinion nothing should be feared in general about the issues of P-2-P or file sharing. Until you come to talk about copyrights. But that is an altogether different story.
The best thing that can be done for the moment is for many, many people to download P-2-P software, run their own nodes, and begin posting data to any of these free exchange networks.
Once the content is there, good quality client software will follow.
Here is a preview of this new breed of promising technologies:
Kazaa Media Desktop
= interesting, promising
Kazaa can be considered a media and content sharing community, where members can share their files (audio, video, images and documents) online. In fact, Kazaa is the most popular of P2P tools downloaded by over 230 million users as of May 2003 (Download.com statistics).
Among Kazaa's advanced features there is a media management facility to easily organize your growing file collection of downloads as well as a music playlist creation area and a facility to monitor download and upload traffic.
Also, Kazaa offers an embedded Microsoft Media Player for audio and video playback and instant messaging.
You can customize your Kazaa interface with different skins.
The program automatically resumes interrupted downloads and it automatically searches on its network of users for other sources of the same content.
The good thing about Kazaa is that it downloads one file from multiple users simultaneously. So basically you are taking little chunks from a bunch of people. This is good for you because you get the maximum download rate and it is a great boon when you are the one sharing because you are not being taken all of your bandwith at once.
The interface appears to be very straightforward and feels easy to use. However, there is some evidence that the interface in fact does not support users well enough in maintaining an overview of which folders and files they are actually sharing with other users. This might lead to privacy risks for users. (Read more about Kazaa and privacy problems and risks.)
Kazaa constantly displays advertising banners, which take up connection bandwidth. The advertising banners are displaying targeted ads that are created on the information that third party software programs, which are installed automatically together with Kazaa, gather about your browsing preferences.
Robin Good's Mini-Guide "Free P2P File Sharing Without Spyware" tells you how you can get rid of these third-party programs and gives you an overview of safe and free alternatives to Kazaa. Read more about this Mini-Guide.
Morpheus is just Kazaa under a different name. While this cross-branding strategy is very well hidden by the Fast Track, the Amsterdam-based company creating the technology (http://www.fasttrack.nu/), it is not difficult to spot some striking similarities when you download and install both software tools.
Morpheus is targeted more specifically to a music audience. It provides support for higher quality bitrates file transfers, for people looking for higher quality music files saved in the MP3 file format.
Morpheus has create its own community of music lovers called the MusicCity Network.
With Morpheus you have the following key features:
Fully encrypted communications to protect privacy, transmissions and unauthorized intrusions.
Digital Rights Management - the Morpheus application allows content providers to utilise outsourced digital rights management technology to protect the copyrights of their digital content distributed through the MusicCity network.
A direct distribution tool that allows content developers direct access to consumers and customers.
A powerful search engine where you can search on 'meta data,' such as media type, category, performer, product name and more.
Search results are grouped together so the same file will only be displayed once.
Morpheus also simultaneously transfers content files from multiple sources for fast downloads of large files, even from users with slower connection speeds.
Like on Kazaa you also have the benefit of an Embedded Microsoft media player functionality for audio and video playback and the ability to do instant messaging within the Kazaa and MusicCity networks.
= interesting, promising
iMesh is a Napster-like program that lets you search its servers for audio, video, images, software or documents.
This is a great tool to "get the feel" for peer-to-peer file sharing, if you have had no experience with this technology before.
iMesh sports an easy interface and some very powerful features. Also it taps on a very rich and populated network where you can find hundreds of users logged on simultaneously at any time, and terabytes of content of all kinds that you can download to your desktop.
The tool is completely free, but there are some clear penalties for having all this.
The first payback is an annoying advertising banner at the bottom of the interface which keeps displaying animated ads.
The second, and less evident cost, is the hidden installation by Imesh of some spyware software on your PC, which will track and report back to advertising agencies and other companies your surfing behaviours and preferences.
*PROS*: Simultaneously downloads different versions of the same file, making sure you always get the fastest rate.
You can search either from the iMesh application or through its Web site.
The program has a simple interface, and gives you a lot of control over what others can download from you.
*CONS*: The server can be busy, making it hard to find what you want.
According to technical reports available on the web the program can actually create specific software conflicts and General Protection Faults when utilized in conjunction with Win 98 and Internet Explorer version 5.1.
Imesh will install SPYWARE to your system (CYDOOR). While you are looking for good music in the net, the program CYDOOR connect itself to the Internet and transfers files like cookies and other information stuff about your consumer behavior and your local system to advertising services. Check it for yourself with programs like Adaware (link for download further down), OptOut or other spyware-finders.
The saddest news is that it is not possible to delete this spyware. When you delete it, your are not able to start imesh anymore.
Go download Imesh at: http://download.cnet.com/downloads/0- 3291790-108-52376.html?bt.dl-10013
Other popular software and free downloads that presently contain spyware are:
AUDIOGALAXY SATELLITE, BEARSHARE
(both are in the top 10 downloaded software for this last week)
Here are some of the systems that are OFFICIALLY considered spyware: Adware, Alexa 1.0-5.0, Aureate v1.0,2.0 and 3.0, Comet Cursor v1.0,v2.0 and v3.0, Cydoor, Doubleclick, DSSAgent, EverAd, Gratisware, OnFlow, SaveNow, Flyswat, Gator, TimeSink v1.0, v2.0 and v5.0, HotBar, Web3000 and Webhancer.
If you want to know more about spyware and what it does read on to the following sidebar:
Spyware is ANY SOFTWARE which employs a user's Internet connection in the background (the so-called "backchannel") without their knowledge or explicit permission.
Silent background use of an Internet "backchannel" connection MUST BE PRECEDED by a complete and truthful disclosure of proposed backchannel usage, followed by the receipt of explicit, informed, consent for such use.
ANY SOFTWARE communicating across the Internet absent these elements is guilty of information theft and is properly and rightfully termed: Spyware.
Sneaky Spyware has nowhere to hide, is the aptly named title of this site which provides good insider information on what is spyware, where it is hidden and how to get rid of it fast. To find out more about spyware and if you should be personally concerned with it, go and check this great resource online:
At this site you can immediately type the name of any software you are about to download and it will tell you in real time if it contains spyware or not.
Ad-aware is a free multi spyware removal utility, that scans your memory, registry and hard drives for known spyware and lets you remove it safely.
Ad-watch, included in the Ad-aware plus package, is a realtime spyware-monitor, watching your memory and registry for spyware that tries to install or change your system.
You can run Adaware to remove spyware installed by Imesh.
blog comments powered by Disqus