Digital Dumpster Diving

I am uncertain whether Dumpster Drive, the creation of interaction designer Justin Blinder, is actually useful or even meant to be so. It strikes me much more as a sort of digital, networked art project. There might be an interesting thought experiment too around whether the intent and act of removing some digital media affects in anyway the legal analysis over whether the sharing done by the software consists piracy comparable to the activity on more traditional P2P networks.

Dumpster Drive is a file-sharing application that recycles digital files. Using dumpster diving as a model for recirculating unwanted objects, Dumpster Drive allows others to dig through files that you delete on your computer in a passive file-sharing network. Instead of simply erasing data from your computer, the software allows users to extend the lifecycle of their unwanted files and pass them on to others.

The application is only available for Mac. Reading around the site answered my only other question. It does not replace your existing Trash folder at all, rather it provides an additional target. Otherwise I had nightmare images of all kinds of unintentional and embarrassing sharing taking place.

Dumpster Drive, via Slashdot

Hacktivists Propose P2P DNS System in Response to Seizures

Ernesto at TorrentFreak has some solid technical details on a move by hacktivists concerned by Internet censorship in general and more recently the domain seizures undertaken by US law enforcers. He also points to COICA, a bill here in the US that could make takedowns of a key part of the Internet’s infrastructure much more common. If COICA passes, it is not a stretch to imagine trade pressure akin to ACTA being brought to bear to expand such seizure powers more broadly.

As Ernesto explains, the goal of Dot-P2P isn’t to replace the existing DNS system. Rather it will augment it, handling requests for any domain ending in “.p2p” via a distributed network partly powered by BitTorrent while passing all other requests through for normal name resolution. This reminds me a great deal of Tor’s efforts to provide directory services within its encrypted network to allow sites and surfers to stay within the network rather than potentially exposing their activity via dropping out to plain text DNS.

The project is still quite young but is attracting support, most notably from Peter Sunde, one of the co-founders of the Pirate Bay and currently working on the micro payment system, Flattr.

“For me it’s mostly to scare back. To show that if they try anything, we have weapons of making it harder for them to abuse it. If they then back down, we win,” Peter Sunde told TorrentFreak in a comment.

This is the risk of regulation like COICA, that it may spark an arms race around the technologies it targets. I see a project like Open-P2P best serving this debate by slowing things down, giving everyone pause for thought, to come up with better solutions, focused more on outcomes, than specific technological means.

BitTorrent Based DNS To Counter US Domain Seizures, TorrentFreak

Following Up for the Week Ending 11/7/2010

feeds | grep links > USB Dead Drops, Mobile Mesh for Telephony, Facebook Bans Apps that Sold User Data, and More

  • USB dead drops, embedding the dark net in architecture
    Slashdot and BoingBoing covered this project by Aram Bartholl over the weekend. He’s cemented USB sticks into walls and other fixtures at a handful of locations, with plans to set up more such dead drops. The idea is that rather than passing storage containers hand to hand, file shares can simply plug in and copy onto and from the drives what they want. The project seems more like an art installation than an IT effort, a way of weaving asynchronous, anonymous sharing into public spaces.
  • Mobile mesh for wireless telephony
    Duncan Geere cross posted this article to Wired and Ars Technica, it is about research that really is quite similar to other mesh network plans about which I’ve read. Why not make the cutely named body-to-body connections simply provide IP protocol carriage with telephony being just one application carried? I would think the growth of smart phones is what is crushing networks more so than mere phone calls. It will be interesting to see if this work which was done at Queen’s University in Belfast can make better progress on the challenges of making a mobile device based mesh as good as or better than the fixed mobile networks we have now.
  • Facebook bans apps that sold user info to data brokers
    Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb has the details of some positive privacy news from the dominant social network. I do wonder if this practice would have persisted if the Wall Street Journal had not exposed it, though. Also, why isn’t Facebook built in such a way to make this sort of thing much more difficult, if not outright impossible?
  • Users sue Google, Facebook, Synga over privacy , Slashdot
  • Justice department rules isolate gene sequences should not be patentable, Techdirt
  • Google sues US government for only considering Microsoft solutions, Techdirt
  • Researchers claim better quantum tunneling, EE Times

Following Up for the Week Ending 10/31/2010

Following Up for the Weekn Ending 10/24/2010

feeds | grep links > Promiscuous Android Apps, Virgin Media Throttling P2P, Maverick Meerkat Approaches Release, and More

Wikipedia Deploys P2P to Serve Video

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica has the details of a new technology experiment at Wikipedia.

“One potential problem with increased video usage on the Wikimedia sites is that video is many times more costly to distribute than text and images that make up Wikipedia articles today,” said today’s announcement. “Eventually bandwidth costs could saturate the foundation budget or leave less resources for other projects and programs.”

The Wikimedia Foundation is partnering with a European research group, the P2P-Next consortium, for this rollout.

Accessing video over P2P is entirely optional, the web site will detect whether a visitor has installed the Swarmplayer plugin. As Anderson explains, Swarmplayer uses BitTorrent to distribute the bandwidth demand and even is smart enough to fall back on fetching the video over HTTP if there aren’t enough peers to make the torrent more efficient.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. P2P isn’t terribly well suited to streaming media. BitTorrent doesn’t enforce any kind of ordering on the chunks of a file being downloaded. Swarmplayer uses HTTP to get the next bits of a file needed to keep feeding a stream while the torrent activity gets the pieces farther away from the playback spot on the stream.

Given how WikiMedia is working to make sure its media assets are clearly and openly licensed, this is not just a key, high profile test of P2P-Next’s technology. In this instance, it is a use that should sidestep one of the larger legal snarls of P2P, that is inadvertently making available of illicit digital copies.

Peer-to-peer tech now powers Wikipedia’s videos, Ars Technica

Following Up for the Week Ending 9/26/2010

Following Up for the Week Ending 9/19/2010