Posted by Versatile
Define STD: STD for The Underground Blog is short for Savvy Tech Dude/Dudette. The STD story is my attempt to share some insight into some of my practices, as well as others as to how they are using technology to make their life better, saving money, or perhaps bettering the environment. (Hopefully, I can find a female contributor… 🙂 )
Frequency of Story: When it feels right.
Personal Comment: I really love the STD idea, and with topics so broad, I can go anywhere with this series. The question is, how far down the rabbit hole do you and I want to go? 😛
In the meantime, I encourage all forms of interaction. Please sound off in comments, I’d appreciate it. If you have an idea, or want me to consider something different, I will. If you want to spread the word, be my guest. As time goes along, I’m asking for people to contribute, or if you want to be interviewed (I’ll protect your identity), then we can dig deeper. Please consider my offer, thanks!
All right guys, I’m back in action to continue the STD stories. Last time around, I dived a little bit into the minds of the pirates, and how casual pirating has become “OK” in today’s society, especially among our youngsters, and even among the elderly. This time around, I want to slightly touch upon P2P scene in general, and what this means for the world around us.
Do not expect me to go into hardcore detail as to what is a torrent and how it works. I will go over a brief overview, but if you really want to learn about the protocol, please see the Wikipedia link at the end of this post. This is based off an interview account with a fellow internet user. His account is below, and we shall name him Cracker Jack.
(Image source: http://crunchgear.com)
[This is Cracker Jack’s Story]
Cracker Jack went to high school during the late nineties, and his first introduction into P2P was Napster. Do any of you remember using the old school Napster? Without Napster, you would not have iMesh, Scour, Limewire, WinMX, BearShare, and the sort.
What was Napster? It was a program that let you search other people’s hard drives for media content. You could find music, movies, pictures, text files, pdfs, just about anything to your heart content if you put in the right search term. See image below for example of the old school Napster interface:
So Cracker Jack’s family was just coming online with high speed internet and Cracker Jack remembers using 56K since the mid nineties, and when Yahoo DSL came to his neighborhood, he felt like a spoiled kid inside a candy store. Cracker Jack made a long list of must have movies like Terminator 1 & 2, Predator 1, Predator 2, whole slew of Adam Sandler movies, and bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes because he was old school like that.
Then a grim day came in Year 2000 when Metallica found out that their song they had made for Mission Impossible 2 was leaked onto Napster. Since Napster used a centralized system for keeping track of all the files, it was very easy to take down the system. Destroy the central server, and good bye illegal file sharing…right? (Note: Today Napster is a legal music machine, where you pay to download music. Napster is a sell out. :P)
Surprise! The ball for P2P has already started, and there was no turning back. within a short amount of time, you started getting decentralized networks popping up, good examples being Edonkey, and the Fast Track network which used programs like iMesh, or Kazaa.
Well, did you know that the Kazaa program was riddled with spyware? Hell, it probably is still today. Hence, it was no surprise that some programmer came out with Kazaa Lite. Kazaa Lite was everything the original Kazaa program was, but without the spyware. It ran fast, and you can search everything you wanted for without worry big brother is watching you.
So Cracker Jack used Kazaa lite for a long time, but after awhile he and others got sick of it. Fake music files, and incorrectly named movies was becoming the norm. Cracker Jack dabbled into the IRC scene, downloaded music, and even messed around with the AOL Warez scene. He had been on serial key websites, and even made his own (short lived though). Since then, Cracker Jack had visited Warez sites, and underground forums with links to rapidshare and all kinds of digital media.
Life was good, but was it? In 2001 the biggest thing since sliced bread was the invention of BitTorrent, created by Bram Cohen. Now I won’t go into all the technical details as to how that works, but what it does is it allows people to distribute files very quickly and efficiently.
What you do is you get a “torrent” file, and the torrent file is like a pointer file that points to the complete file that is hosted on a bunch of computers that are sharing the file, or otherwise known as seeders. When you download a file, you are considered a leecher. The whole entity of seeders and leechers is considered the swarm.
Unlike traditional HTTP downloads, bitTorrent throttles its bandwidth. The beauty of the protocol is that it allows the user to download a file very fast, since it downloads bit and pieces of the file simultaneously from all computers in the network. The interesting part of bitTorrent is that when you download, you also upload at the same time. Thus, the file never dies until there are 0 seeders in the system. See below picture for more clarification.
Now in the P2P torrent scene, there is something called trackers. Trackers are employed by both public and private torrent websites. What these trackers do is keep track of the files activity, and it is what tracks the upload/download ratio of any specific user, as found on private websites like Demonoid.com.
Now I (Versatile1) won’t go into all the details as to how to get involved with torrents, but just know there are programs called torrent clients that allow you to use torrent files so you can download whatever to your computer. To find torrents, you can visit private membership sites (demonoid.com), or you can go to public sites like torrentz.com or isohunt.com. (See end for more resources).
With the advent of torrents, it has become the prime medium for file distribution. Please note that bitTorrent protocol is not illegal, it is sharing of copyrighted materials that make it illegal.
This is why you hear stories of the MPAA, BSA, and the RIAA cracking down on file sharers. When you use a torrent client, it effectively shares your IP address with the rest of the world. The copyright organizations can effectively log onto any torrent, collect all the IP addresses that they see at any given time, and then hunt you down. *shivers*
Of course, programs like Utorrent and Azureus allow you to use encryption, but I don’t think it saves you from having your IP address shared. Hence, we talk briefly about another program called PeerGuardian 2.
In short, Peerguardian 2 is a IP blocklist program. It allows the user to connect to a blocklist website and download a list of IPs that is affiliated with evil organizations. Of course, the protection of the user is only as good as the robustness of the blocklist. Nonetheless, using PG2 is better than using nothing at all. I still use torrents today with PG2, and if you use torrents, you should too.
The bottom line: Peer to Peer technology has come a long way. As people find ways to share digital media online, it is a battle between sharing items without being undetected, while at the same time achieve optimal network efficiency. The P2P scene started with decentralized technology, but now everything has either moved to decentralized networks, pay to play schemes, IRC, UseNet, or underground DC++ hubs. File sharing will always exist, and it will be here forever. The only thing we as consumers need to do is just be careful in what you decide to download/upload, because big brother will be watching.
- Napster started the P2P scene for the general public. It used a centralized system, but was easy to take down because of its centralized server.
- Today Napster uses a music subscription system, and is considered a sell-out to hardcore P2P fans.
- When Napster first went away, new decentralized programs took its place such as Kazaa, iMesh, Scour, Limewire, BearShare, and more. Many of these programs still exist today.
- BitTorrent came in 2001 and is the most popular technology today to distribute files. Never ever use the original bitTorrent client, as it sucks. I used to use Azerus, but I highly recommend Utorrent instead.
- To protect yourself in any forms of P2P media, please use IP blocking programs such as Peerguardian 2 or Protowall. Both of these programs will help protect you, although it is not 100% foolproof. It is better than using nothing.
Versatile1 comment below:
I realize this STD story is very long, but you can see, I wanted to show the life of the P2P scene. Cracker Jack let me use part of his story, along with my explanations to get the message through. I think it worked quite nicely for the most part, don’t you think? :p I’m sure other people live in the P2P scene. To stay current and to learn more about P2P items, please refer to the links below:
Update 5-28-08: I didn’t touch upon anonymous P2P, but it does exist. Thanks to Commentor Ezzy, I have a new link for you undergrounders to try out: www.dargens.com. It is a another program that lets you trade P2P files anonymously. I have not tried this out, but it is worth checking if you want to try out something new.