Ubuntu pushes a lot of updates.

Ubuntu pushes a lot of updates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that it uses a lot of bandwidth, and has a single point of failure.

If I’m right, service providers are going to be moving to a per gigabyte approach in selling bandwidth in the next few year (if they haven’t already in places like Australia) at which point bandwidth use might become highly relevant.

In the meantime, we still have updates being pushed from the Ubuntu main servers (generally) unless you specify otherwise. This single point of failure (not to mention bandwidth costs for Canonical) seems a little bit behind the times. Everyone uses P2P apps like Deluge to download files; why should Apt not do the same?

I think what we need is a future-looking new Apt delivery system, but also a future-looking .deb format. Imagine if you could (just for instance; I have no idea if this is feasible or not) download a binary diff and patch your updates on to the existing binaries instead of downloading the entire binary and replacing it. And that’s just what my little brain could come up with.

Imagine also that apt-torrent (or whatever it’s called) is enabled by default and across the internet there are thousands and even millions of seed for every given update over a given period of time. That would be pretty neat, I think.

Transmission

I’m downloading a bunch of British television right now (and some Scrubs so I don’t end up with an accent). Every once in a while I like to glance at the userstrings of my connected peers. The vast majority of them are uTorrent clients, with a good portion of them reporting as Azureus. There are a smattering of others, which testifies mostly to how well uTorrent has totally soaked up the market in BitTorrent clients.

What’s new and different, however, is how many Transmission clients I see. There are two or three for every connected torrent, a good sign, because Transmission is a great open source client.

One thing that always bothered me about uTorrent was that though it was free as in beer, it was not free as in speech. I didn’t really understand why that was; BitTorrent clients aren’t particularly difficult to implement from what I’ve heard. Of course, once it was bought up it made sense, but that’s another issue. The fact that BitTorrent (the people who originally developed BT, one of whom is named Bram something or other) bought it, and the fact that they are now beholden to the media interests they have gotten into bed with leaves something to be desired in a closed source client. I don’t really know what my software is doing, do I? Where’s the peer review?

Transmission solves all that, and is quite a nice little application to boot. Nice to see the few that I did.

Illegal != immoral

David Pogue writes an article in the NYTimes in which he relates an anecdote that seems to illustrate a generational difference in copyright morality. It’s an interesting article, though the comments are much more revealing than the article itself.

In that vein, let me comment.

There are several important factors to take into consideration here. First, I don’t think young people today have less of a moral bent than their parents. But let’s assume they do for a second, and ask where this dubious shift in morality comes from. Obviously, parents shoulder part of blame, as does society at large for situational morality. Yet, one can point to the big media companies who have for years put out product that glorifies every manner of immoral behaviour (showing, of course, these companies’ lack of moral fibre: they’ll do anything to make a buck, sell anything as long as it turns a profit), and I think you’ll feel a lot less sorry for them as they lie in the bed they’ve made. I think we call this, “sowing the seeds of your own destruction”.

Whether or not today’s youth have no moral compass, while an interesting question, is less pertinent to me than simple market economics.

When I buy something, it belongs to me. This is a central understanding in most of history’s transactions, except where otherwise stated, or where it’s obvious that you have to give it back.

When something belongs to me, I can do what I like with it, within reasonable limits. This is true of everything I own, from my house to my car. However, when media companies sell you something, they seem to believe it is still theirs, that they can tell you what to do with it, and even though you never have to give it back, that they can somehow control its use. This runs against human nature, though, and they should be thoroughly unsurprised when people invent tools to enable them to do what they like with what they own. This is one market, the ability to do what I like with what I own (device-shift, share, lend, et cetera).

Another market is in obtaining media. Right now the easiest way to get media is on the internet. Content owners saw this coming and did nothing to corner this market, for whatever reason. Another market a black/grey market sprung up to distribute media. When the content owners eventually came to their senses they were relegated to a ghetto of their own making, and with the lackluster efforts thus far, will continue to be. Not to mention that the media distributed by these content owners tends to be low-quality and locked into a specific device/format. Doubly ironic is that file-sharers can get a better copy (and keep in mind that this has not been historically true in many other black/grey markets) and a copy that they can do with as they see fit. Those who keep the law are penalised by the content providers and legislators who give them an inferior product, and those who break the law are rewarded by better availability and a better product.

The media companies have done their monopolies unimaginable harm in not taking the internet seriously. Much like IBM ceding control of the entire personal computing market to Microsoft, the content providers have dropped the ball so hard and so far that they seem unable to even find it to pick it up again. If anything, they seem to be hellbent on securing their place in the dustbin of history.

People take the path of least resistance. This isn’t about morality. It’s about the who will provide the best market for goods. And the content providers still don’t get that.

Add to this that (obviously) illegal and immoral are not bound at the hip. Plenty of things become illegal without being immoral. And when media companies begin to (obviously) buy the allegiances of politicians to see draconian laws made to limit how people may use what they have purchased, the immorality of file-sharing (for instance) becomes even more of a grey area.

The causes of this “moral shift” are many and varied. The internet is not an easy thing to adjust to, especially for monopolies (see Microsoft as an example). However, if the content providers made a better product, if they had more availability, and if the price was reasonable, they would be doing a roaring business on the internet. This is not a hard concept to grasp, and not a terribly difficult thing to implement in these days of almost-free bandwidth. The question become whether or not they’re not giving the market too little too late.

Human behaviour is economic behavour, and the content providers are stuck in a decade-old market with very few paying customers.

Deluge: the best Gnome Bittorrent client. Period.

I used to use Ktorrent for downloading Linux ISOs and getting free music from Jamendo. It worked well, but suffered from a lot of overhead, as was a KDE application and had to load a whole bunch of extra components. Plus (and I’m being charitable here) DHT didn’t work quite as well as one might expect.

Now, changing software is a bit of a big deal. I had a lot of settings tweaked in Ktorrent to get it right to where I wanted. Yet, when I typed aptitude install deluge-torrent and ran the thing, I was P2P-ing in literally a minute or so.

From a functionality standpoint, Ktorrent had always been all right, but not amazing. It lacked certain things, one of which was a simple layout and a nice skin. Frankly, it looked like a KDE application, and that’s not a compliment. And while it got the job done, I was always looking out something more like uTorrent, which is the gold standard in Torrent apps.

Or was. Deluge has most of the features of Azureus (that bloated hunk of crap), is free and open source, runs on Unix and Apple and has an alpha build on Windows, has a plug-in architecture, is functional, lightweight, and pleasing on the eyes.

Deluge is, in my opinion, the new gold standard in Bittorrent software.

Oops.

I just noticed my How I Met Your Mother S03E01 torrent had run up a share ratio of 26.2 and a bit. Which is pretty crazy, considering that I’m doing nothing but facilitating leechers.

For those of you who disagree with me, remember that the Bittorrent protocol starts off as a negative sum game at the beginning of a torrent, but once it reaches any appreciable seeding/leeching mass, it becomes neutral. After the first accumulation of peers (during which the initial seed, of course, passes on as many copies as possible), if everyone simple shares approximately one copy, the torrent will be fine.

But we don’t live in a perfect world: I have strewn my data all over the internet.