Using Debian Apt-get over Freenet

Although its reputation suggests the contrary Freenet does have many mirroring uses.
What Else Is There?

So you can get Debian packages off Freenet. Big deal. You could have done this with the FTP or HTTP servers you had been using all along. Not only that, but now you have to worry about packages dropping out of the store just because they aren't popular enough.

Well, it is a big deal. The huge list of mirrors that are a pain to keep maintained are now largely unnecessary, replaced by automatic updating within Freenet. This relieves a lot of bandwidth congestion.

Still, how do we keep packages from falling out? On a healthy Freenet, a file would have to be very unpopular to ever fall out. Needless to say, the current Freenet isn't so healthy (although having a few thousand über-stable Debian boxen might help). However, we need a way to ensure that little-known but oh-so-needed packages will remain available.

One suggestion is to create a wrapper script around Apt-get. This will first invoke apt-get install <package> through a Freenet request. If the package is unavailable, it will automatically download it from an FTP or HTTP mirror, e-mail the Freenet maintainer for your particular Debian distribution (provided you have mail set up properly on your machine) and warn them the package has dropped out of Freenet. Then it actually will install the package it downloaded.

But that won't work. You would have to know the private key of the subspace for it to be of any use to anybody except you. On the other hand, documents in a subspace are almost always going to be redirects to a CHK (a key where the name is a hash of the data, so the same data will result in the same CHK name). If the redirect still exists but the data under the CHK has fallen out, you could re-insert the CHK. However, the best we can hope for if the redirect document fell out is to e-mail the maintainer to ask them to re-insert.

Moving along to other thoughts, we come to the problem of the unstable distribution, which provides a unique challenge to Freenet. Current versions provide no real means to update content. This does not work well with the fast-moving Debian unstable. A hack of using date- and version-based redirects actually was put into Freenet in response to the problem of keeping Debian unstable the same in Freenet and FTP servers. Even so, this still takes a lot of bandwidth to accomplish.

The concept of date-based updating (putting the date in the name of the key and re-inserting every day) was brought up, specifically due to the question of how to update Debian packages. My personal feelings are that date-based updating is fine for relatively small web sites, but it's too much for the number of files being put into an entire Debian distro. Others may disagree.

In any case, those FTP or HTTP mirrors still will be needed to some extent. However, most of the mirrors are now unnecessary as most of the bandwidth can be distributed efficiently by Freenet.

Also note that many new means to make Freenet more efficient are being placed in the upcoming 0.4 version of Freenet. The 0.3 version was broken in some fundamental ways, making only the most popular files easily available. With any luck, we should see more files survive in version 0.4 of the network, which may very well be available by the time you read this.

Help Us Mirror

One great way to help the Freenet and Debian projects is to help us mirror the Debian packages in Freenet. Scripts are available to aid in this; we just need people with a lot of bandwidth to help.

Basic requirements for helping the mirroring effort are that you have a Freenet node running and are willing to use a lot of bandwidth all at once. These are preferable so your ISP won't come knocking because you blew up a T3 trying to insert all this stuff. This isn't something to do casually; the current Debian 2.2r2 main archive for i386 weighs in around 2GB. The non-US version is quite a bit smaller, so if you don't live in the US and don't have much bandwidth, this might be a good option for you.

Complete information on helping mirror Debian packages can be found on There you will find the script for mirroring and a list of what distributions need to be mirrored.

Freenet Is for Music Pirates and Pornographers

Freenet can do much, much more than provide an efficient way of distributing porn; it is also an efficient way of distributing the latest 'N Sync album. More than that, though, this article has shown that Freenet does have far greater uses.


Timm Murray is a student who spends his free time trying to come up with a useful contribution for Freenet.