Monday, March 06, 2006

pg2 blocks

Biggest news in the past few days in the p2p world is the Retspan story. Lots of inaccuracies and condemnations of Ludvig Strigeus (aka ludde) over his deal with peerfactor, subsidiary of Retspan, an anti-p2p association. Some claim its the end of the world, that the client will serve Retspan directly, and through the licensing of a single DLL file, ludde is permanently tainted as a traitor to p2p.

To this end, the current version of PG2+blocklist will block attempts to even visit the µtorrent website. The block gives the message " works for anti-p2p RetSpan". Mr. Strigeus described the block as 'ridiculous' and called for it to be removed. One of the admins at PG2, gong by the name "phrosty" blamed it on BlueTack, provider of their blocklist.

Over at BlueTack, admin "fa" appeared unaware of what the connection was between Mr. Strigeus and PeerFactor. When asked why the block was added, with the natural suggestion of "ignorance of what was actually going on" 'fa' replied "fuck you". Then, to Mr. Strigeus, present with me in their IRC channel, " you better pick the peeps you work for a littel better if you wanna make utorrent apps. its staying int"

Clearly BlueTack is not concerned about accuracy in any shape or form. A log of the discussion follows

[16:18.24] <+ludde> can you remove the silly PG2 "utorrent works for RetSpan" thing? I don't work for Retspan and I never will.
[16:30.45] <@fa> well, what is it that you are doing for them then?
[16:32.23] <@fa> or with them
[16:32.28] <+ludde> I'm providing a DLL file to PeerFactor, that they can use to download content through the BitTorrent protocol. It does not have any features for getting IPs or anything from users, it can only be used to download stuff.
[16:32.33] <+Benjones> I think thats been widely published everywhere
[16:32.50] <+ludde> exactly.
[16:33.56] <+Benjones> so, why was the block added?
[16:34.06] <+ludde> ignorance?
[16:34.32] <@fa> fuck you
[16:35.09] <@fa> you better pick the peeps you work for a littel better if you wanna make utorrent apps
[16:35.15] <@fa> its staying int
[16:36.24] <@fa> lol
[16:36.40] <+ludde> fa: utorrent is not related to anti-p2p. I don't see what the reason for the block is.
[16:37.10] <@fa> helping anti-p2p in any way is relating it to it
[16:37.43] <+ludde> I'm not helping anti-p2p. I'm helping a company (separate from retspan) that wants to provide a download service.
[16:37.45] <@fa> and yes, if you did the same for microsoft, you would have made the list as well
[16:38.00] <+ludde> so, microsoft is on the list?
[16:38.01] <@fa> staying in till the source is public
[16:38.27] <+ludde> that is not going to happen.
[16:39.23] <@fa> we have a list jsut for M$ yes
[16:39.46] <+ludde> fa: utorrent is not in any way related to anti-p2p. I'm just selling an "off the shelf" DLL product to PeerFactor, more or less.
[16:39.48] <@fa> they are the biggest anti-p2p organization
[16:40.23] <+ludde> this agreement is not about µTorrent.
[16:40.30] <+ludde> so I don't see why you punish utorrent.
[16:41.57] <+ludde> fa: can you remove the block please? If I was anti-p2p, I would never have created utorrent.
[16:42.32] <@fa> everyone should get to make the Decision for themselves, first they need to see that you have worked with them, then they can choose to use the app or not
[16:42.43] <@fa> the block is the best way atm to show peeps
[16:43.33] <+ludde> why put the decision on the people? They don't have enough information to tell what the deal is about. they just have the information provided by media, which is written in a way to generate attraction.
[16:44.25] <+ludde> this deal is really nothing, they contract doesn't even MENTION µTorrent.
[16:44.27] <@fa> the whole thing is dodgy as hell, they prolly needed that dll to build an anti-p2p torrent app, and you just handed it to them

Phrosty at Phoenix Labs was also present, and said "i don't think it should be blocked, but it's out of control of phoenix labs until we launch our own lists (soon)". As Ludde suggested, its clear that this is a decision made from ignorance. The value of these sorts of programs has never been proven either. Whilst protecting from overt lists might well keep you from the corporate networks, no-one rely on well known sources to search for copyright infringement. If you are relying on these lists to protect you from being found and prosecuted, you're investing in a false sense of security. Whilst they act on empty rumours and show little attention for the facts in compiling their lists, it leaves the question of just what value their lists are.

Can I recommend peerguardian? not until their blocklists are compiled by people who know what they're doing.

Ben Jones

Sunday, March 05, 2006

All you can eat, but only 2 trips and 1 plate per trip.

There have been plenty of stories in the media in recent weeks, and indeed months. Ok, YEARS in fact. "User kicked off for excessive usage" was popular in the Uk in 2001 and 200 with both dialup and broadband customers. REcently, smeone was kicked from their comcast account for going over 100Gb/month. the BBC NewsNight program also spoke to a UK ISP, Plusnet, about their new traffic shaping. TheRegister also ran a piece recently about why people using skype can be getting a worse service now than a year ago. The reason si the same in all these cases, Bandwidth.

How many of you, when you were going for your ISP, looked at the advertised speeds, and the price, and no further? The vast majority, I'll bet. That the speeds are a best case, and you can't use them for the majority of the time is something they don't tell you.

100GB is a lot, you might think, but over a 30 day month its only 3 1/3gb per day. still seem a lot? Its also 40kb/second, or 0.4mbit. Comcast's range is 4Mbit to 8Mbit, according to its site, so you can have this fast speed, but don't use more than 1/10th its capability.

Why is this? Well, ISPs are a lot like airlines. They have a set capacity (seats for airlines, data infrastructure bandwidth for ISPs) and they want to get the most out of it. So, what both do is overbook. If an aircraft has 100 seats, the airline will accept bookings for 105 seats on that flight, and expect at least 5 to not show. If everyone turns up, 5 people get 'bumped' and can't fly. There are regulations in place in amny countries to deal with bumping. It is after all, a product/service you have bought and paid for, and through no fault of yours, they are unable to honour it. ISPs, however, have no such regulations, and instead they take it out on the person, to continue our metaphor, who turns up on time for the most flights. Whats more, it doesn't give them any compensation. They claim its excessive usage, but is it?

If you have paid for a connection speed, and can't get it ever, because someone else is always using up the bandwidth, then you might feel cheated. You might fel the other person (or persons) are being unfair. Thats the position Comcast and the other ISPs take. Are they though? the other person has as much right to the bandwidth as you, they're paying customers as much as you are. If you only drove your car 10 miles a week, would you want all those who drive more than you to give you priority, because they're 'using up all the road'? Clearly thats stupid, so why should it be any more applicable to internet connections.

If i'm only allowed 100Gb/month, then limit my speed so that, if I use it to its full, I can only just reach that limit. Comcast's 100Gb liit would mean they'd have to advertise that account at a 400Kbit account. not so liekly to draw int he punters. If I bought a hair dryer that came with the instructions "may only blow hot air for 2 minutes a day, or warm for 8 minutes" would you buy it?

If an account is sold as an 8Mbit account, and 'always on' common sense would dictate that means you can download at 8Mbit always. Anything else is mis-selling, and should be delt with accordingly. If your ISPs infrastructure can't cope, they should lable them accordingly, or upgrade their network. Theres no other excuse for such deceptive practices.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Copy protection, a necessary evil?

Nowadays, almost every game comes out with copy protection, claiming its essential in order to secure sales, and avoid pirates. But, in all honesty, is it really that necessary? On February 21st, 2006 Stardock Entertainment released Galactic Civilizations II – the follow-up to their successful game of 2003. What's more, its sales figures are up beyond all expectations. A new game selling well might not seem like news, until you realise that it ships with ZERO copy protection. You don't even need to authenticate a serial to play it. At a time when everyone blames the potential of downloaders for a multitude of sins, sales flops and marketing disasters, Stardock has made a product that they've not protected, or even advertised, and its flying off the shelves.

Yes, flying off the shelves. To quote Brad Wardell, one of the games developers n an announcement on the games frontpage says, “We just got our report on the first week of sales of Galactic Civilizations II. Despite some availability problems, we're told that we're presently the best selling software title at Walmart. Let me be clear: Not just #1 PC game, but overall software. Best Buy, EB, and Gamestop have put in additional orders that actually exceed their initial sell-in orders.”

Heres another thing to consider. It wasn't only available at stores. It was also available for purchase through the games website as a digital download. It's predecessor, Galactic Civilizations, was the first PC game to be offered in such a manner, a method popularised in recent times by games such as Half life 2. There's still more though; as Brad says, “you can install the game and toss out the CD and use the included serial # (which you don't even have to use to install) to redownload the entire game from us even years in the future.”

A company that looks out for its users then, and doesn't burden them with potential malware, such as Starforce. Nor is it by any means a poor game. I've been playing it the last few hours (I had a copy on layaway at Walmart, which was rushed home this morning) and its clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into it. Even to the point where its not restricted, as many games are nowadays, to users running high-spec'd machines. If only other companies trusted and had faith in their potential consumers as Stardock does. Regardless, it was a brave decision to entrust so much work to users honesty. That being said, you do need a valid serial number to get any updates and patches via StarDock Central, for all those with an illicit copy.

Clearly the moral of this is, if you have a good game, people will pay for it, even if its easy to copy. If it's not worth the price you're asking, they'll copy it regardless of how much protection you put on it.

Ben Jones.

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