From the Editor - Don't Kill Peer-to-Peer, Make It Stronger

Why you should block Kazaa and encourage better P2P.

At a recent demonstration of a network statistics tool, the presenter pointed out a bar on a chart and said that about half of the bandwidth used at the site was for a peer-to-peer (P2P) system called Kazaa.

P2P systems have enormous potential to free independent artists and Web sites from big ISP bills, sneak political information past censors and, perhaps most importantly for our readers, provide a challenging new platform to develop software ideas. But, Kazaa is proprietary, mostly unencrypted and, with a little work, can be filtered out. On page 56, Chris Lowth explains how.

Please do it. Read the article and filter your company's Kazaa users into oblivion. It's one of the projects you shouldn't have trouble convincing management to approve, because legal threats for hosting illegal copies of files on P2P systems are big news. With the techniques covered in Chris' article, you might be able to get a Linux firewall approved for a company that doesn't use Linux yet. There's always a first Linux project for every company, and this makes a good one.

However, there's another, more important reason to block Kazaa. The gap between what P2P needs to do in order to be a useful free and anonymous speech system and what Kazaa bothers to do, is shocking. If you can detect Kazaa traffic, repressive regimes certainly can. Help encourage the development of strong P2P by blocking inadequate P2P.

Ready to start working on a P2P system of your own? Brandon Wiley introduces a fundamental technique, distributed hash tables, on page 71.

And, because the theme of this issue is system administration, we cover two of the classic problems: how to design a backup plan for quick and painless restores and how to set up robust, sane file servers. Now that blank CDs are cheap, it makes sense to give each system its own custom recovery CD. Craig Swanson and Matt Lung cover Mondo for bare-metal restores on page 46. Erez Zadok lays out the problems with NFS and covers a flexible automount solution you can live with, on page 52.

After the movie industry, the next big leap for the Linux desktop is into electronic design automation (EDA). Not only are open-source EDA projects gaining features, the established EDA vendors are porting their proprietary tools to Linux as well. Michael Baxter explains how you can do hardware design almost at the speed of software with Xilinx chips and development tools on page 74.

Reuven Lerner's series on open-source content management systems for the Web continues with coverage of Bricolage on page 12. And, Eric Jeschke is back by popular demand with more GIMP techniques on page 80.

All you kernel hackers and scalability fans out there can check out page 18 where Paul McKenney explains the read-copy update (RCU) algorithm he developed at IBM and how he and other kernel hackers are making it work in the eagerly anticipated 2.6 kernel. Don't forget to download and test a 2.6 kernel with your own favorite apps and hardware. With the freedom to hack comes the responsibility to report bugs.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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Re: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

Block FTP as well since it's arguably as flawed and insecure as Kazaa.

Hmm, HTTP works for downloads too, so better block that too.

And kids do like sending through IRC, might as well lock that range of ports down too.

Doh, there's attachments on email, better lock down SMTP also.

There, all safe and secure like the RIAA wants you to be.

Re: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

you're a ***** loser. a frustrated end user that has no idea of what being a sysadmin is.

Re: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

the author of this drivel is out to lunch. Does he care about true freedom of choice? Does he want freedom for users? I think not. Re-read this drivel (quoted verbatim) and weep for the future of rabid Linux evangelism, whose image is tarnished by this fruitcake. However, there's another, more important reason to block Kazaa. The gap between what P2P needs to do in order to be a useful free and anonymous speech system and what Kazaa bothers to do, is shocking. If you can detect Kazaa traffic, repressive regimes certainly can.Rather than making a valid point, he wishes me to block Kazaa out of spite. The point can be made that the author is obviously American, and living under a repressive regime; however, it is not logical to assume that EVERYbody reading this is American. America represents the minority of people actually sharing on Kazaa now.

Re: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

The author isn't against freedom of choice or users, the focus of his article is on company employees using company resources for downloading music, and most bosses would rather their employees got down to work. I'm sure the author is all for freedom of file exchange when you're using your own internet connection. (and I'm not American.)

How to Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

Blocking Gnutella would do more to encourage stronger P2P than blocking Kazaa will. Gnutella is such an inefficient, archaic protocol that it has the added advantage that nobody would miss it. Reduced risk of annoying the people you serve (as a network admin) and encouraging the Gnutella crowd to evolve at the same time! Think about it.

Re: From the Editor, October 2003: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

I am fairly new to open source and can contribute very little right now, but I want to do something. Would it be possible to off load some bandwith costs of some opensource projects/websites using a form of p2p and an ftp server. Everything could be md5'ed and capped at a gig or two. I like the security that comes with some ftp servers and linux (3 years and no recorded compromise with an anon setup). Distribution or alocation may/could be designated through FSF or the like, maybe a second page for interested shoppers.

What about for commercial use-say something like file planet or file front. Note: file front did try something similar at one time but the p2p software was fairly insecure. I could allow a gig or two to be donated on behalf of an open source project.

Re: From the Editor, October 2003: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

Well.. there's BitTorrent.. which is quite a novel way of using P2P to offload low-bandwidth sites, although it's only efficient for large files. It's actually the only P2P software I've seen so far that is actually useful to a large number of people, and isn't primarily targeted at piracy.

If you want to do something along those lines, I think native BitTorrent-protocol support for browsers would be a great idea.

Re: From the Editor, October 2003: Make P2P Stronger

Anonymous's picture

I've suggested that it be added to kget, the KDE file download manager. Please read the bug report (http://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=57591), and if you feel that this would also be an appropriate place for this functionality (and you use KDE), I recommend you register on bugs.kde.org and vote for it.

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