Saturday, September 17, 2005

P2P file sharing

P2P stands for peer to peer and is an amamzing concept that is brillian because of its simplicity. Its yet another technology thats modelled on human behaviour of one on one talk and thats what p2p systems exploit, they build on one on one interaction between computers to deliver value to users.
The most popular category of p2p systems is file sharing systems such as napster, gnutella , KaZaa etc. These systems have exploited peer to peer to different extent. Napster had central-distributed architecture whereby the information about all files shared on the network as stored at certain central servers where the users could search for files. After obtaining info about where the file is located the users directly obtained the file from the concerned user. Thus the file retrieval was peer to peer. Napster was revolutionary it lamost became synonymous with rebellious technological endeavours. But it was a rebellion which was dependent on its leaders i.e. the central servers. These were pivotal in its functioning because without them you couldnt know who had which file. And this pivot was what enabled the anti-music piracy camapigners(read RIAA) to cripple it. AFter the court ruled against napster these servers were shutdown and there ended the first generation of p2p file sharing systems.
But the community leraned a lot. Centralization in any aspect was a strict no-no and anonymity of sharers was also important. Gnutella protocol fulfilled the first objective, it did away with centraliztaion. Initally released by nullsoft (which after making the source code available for sometime on the net withdrew from the project) the protocl was reverse engineered from the source code. The protocol specification allowed numerous clients to be written.
The protocol basically worked in simple terms by friend asking friend model, whereby you ask your friends if they know anyone who has that file. And if they knew anyone who had it they just sent you his/her number so that you could obtain the file directly from them. Thus there was no central repository and the network would continue to exist as long as even two nodes were present.
There have been other attempts - Pastry, CAN, CHord but none have proved to be as popular as Gnutella or napster.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Linux fairytale

Linux pronounced "Lih-nux" is a storey teller's dream. Its a fairy tale really of how it started with a man(Linux Trovalds) in the Nokia-country(Finland), and has caught on to become one of the nightmares of the tech Czar Bill Gates.
So lets go the fairy tale way: Once upon a time there was an Operating System called Unix that was used by the educational institutions as well as in the industry as the backbone. But it had a problem it was not available for free, and some people had made computing with it their life. So a man called Linus Trovalds from Finalnd, (who incidentally was writing his own game for a gaming console his dad had bought him)had a novel idea. He wrote the underlying crux of the operating system called the Kernel and instead of selling it for the potential millions he just released it for free!! Released it on the biggest medium for communication the Internet and that was where the Linux movement started.
Now all those people who had spent dark nights configuring there systems, writing programs to make their newest piece of hardware work, figuring out archane protocols had found pure nirvana. They had a full operating system to play around with and the freedom to change it,improve it, or in their terms hack it!! And they took great pride in calling themselves HACKERs!! The term might have a different connotation now, but the older tribes of these people collaborated over the internet to create what we know today as the full blown Linux Operating System in tis various flavours Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE and what not. There is even a distribution(another flavour) called DSL which stands for Damn Small Linux.
The romantic aspect of this tale lies in the fact that this method of collaboration of people who have never seen wach other through an extrmely unsure medium such as the internet, had all the indregients of chaos. The method is a Software Engineer's nightmare with no official documents, no formal deadlines, no responsibilties and no managers and no employees collaborating only through unreliable channels such as IRC and mailing lists. But still it has worked and it has worked like a dream with Microsoft set to loose 20% more of its Desktop market share to Linux in the next 2-4 years. Its the biggest technological revolution of the 90's generation and the bandwagon still rolls on.
Over the years people have devloped Linux into a succesful business model with dedicated Open Source Software companies such as Red Hat, SuSE etc and big corps like IBM increasingly becoming Open Source oriented Linux or the Open Source Software movement is steaming ahead. But still at the heart of movement remain the eternal hackers, 14 year olds - 40 year olds who just write code for the fun of it. And thats what the Open Source movement is about you have fun and shre the fun that you have i.e. the code so that everybody can have fun. And the spoilers, the Microsoft's of the world who force people get locked into a pay for our mistakes deal will have to come up with a wonder or just submit to people exercising their fundamental right, The right toc hoose freedom.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Hello, and a very warm welcome to all of you looking to start your life as an open source developer.
I am using this space to enlist the things that iam going through as a novice open source developer.My primary focus right now is to get involved in one of the GNU projects as i ahve been influenced a lot by the FSF thoughts esp the thoughts of Prof G. Nagarjuna who is the chairman of FSF India. My second love in technology is mobile devices and applications. The current project that interests me the most is The GPE Palmtop Environment, whcih marries the GNU idea to the new and emerging field of mobile devices.
I came accross this as a part of the bounties that the Ubuntu linux project has for google summer of code program, which is a great program for student OSS developers to get paid for doing what they do best right open code. Anyways thats it for the first post, i hope this blog will be helpful as it develops to novice OSS developers.

Time to time just to keep it refreshed i will also post about european football which is my second pasiion(Iam a barca man).