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AT&T Labs Backs Publius, A Freenet-Like System 154

joseph writes: "This article on C|Net announces Publius, a system similar to Freenet, meant to battle censorship on the Internet. What makes this approach interesting is its backing from AT&T Labs. Of particular interest in the article are the safeguards against the common opposition to such projects, like their use for piracy. Publius features no search utility and a maximum file size of 100k."
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AT&T Labs Backs Publius, a Freenet-like System

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    anonymous shared networks are vulnerable to spammers. visit for a demo of a VERY insidous method of broadcasting spam across freent like networks. this sort of thing has started to appear on gnutella networks already.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, you see, there's this high performance compression method many people use for compressing audio speech into a much higher density-per-byte format called written language, expresed in ASCII. Unless you're illiterate, the bandwidth savings is incredible.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ah, but don't you see? This system will fulfill the few legitimate needs that the more open-to-use-by-pirates systems also serve. So this system removes the excuses which are offered for why Freenet, etc., is needed. Since those needs are met by this system, there's no reason for the other methods to exist. They can be done away with and the cries that 'poor abused women will no longer be able to communicate' are untrue and irrelevant.

    Stripping the legitimacy away from the Wares and IP pirates is a noble undertaking. You're all just about theft, and everybody knows it. Deal with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Say I write an article, saying in effect that DB2 bites in comparison to Oracle. IBM doesn't like this, and sues me for slander, libel, and false claims harming their business. None of those claims are true, and are in fact laughable

    WHAT????? Prepare to meet your maker.

    The IBM legal team

  • by Anonymous Coward
    From the article: In order to reach a file, a Publius surfer must have access to the file's complicated URL. The Publius project will provide a list of files it considers interesting, but this will not include music, pornography or anything else deemed "uninteresting."

    This strikes me as a serious shortcoming. Since it's not searchable, you can only get a file if you got the URL through other channels--in which case, you could just get the file itself through those same channels. Unless, of course, the project includes the URL in their directory--which itself exposes them to legal sanctions (eg court orders to remove certain URLs from directory), so they might as well just host the file directly. Publius does have some nice redundancy features, but that seems to be its only advantage.

    Either a medium is censorable or it's not. You can't give yourself the ability to censor porn, without also giving yourself the ability to censor political speech.

  • Bah, you must be one of those modem users. Those of us with high-speed access know that porn *really* comes in 10MB video files. :)


  • Of course, the obvious problem with eliminating searching is that somebody then has to index it. In this case, say I published an article about how AT&T were doing this, that and the other and were behaving unethically. Would they publish this? Probably not.

    Then again, the problems of systems like freenet is that the people who really need it would be drowned out by people looking for Britney Spears mp3s/mpegs :|

    With the current system of copyright and the fact that so many people want to abuse it, there is never going to be an easy common ground....

    (not that I am (necessarily) advocating the destruction of copyright, merely the difficulties of living within an imperfect world)

  • 1) Did you use it? It's not an application, you use it through your web browser (by setting an HTTP proxy). It's clearly oriented towards text.

    2) Saying something will win if it has fewer rules is silly. Freenet hosters can invoke both criminal and civil liabilty for what's stored on thier servers. By reducing how easy it is to do that, you reduce the chance of liability. See the recent discussion on programmer liabilty - it's nice to think that you can be immune from what people do with software you create, but that isn't always the case (not that that's good).

    3) Regardless, this is going to be attacked violently once the posters from alt.scientology discover it =)


  • I imagine, in theory, it would be possible to submit the images in an HTML tree seperately, and <img> them all in one page, making collections of images possible.

    As for videos, yeah, you have a point. But that doesn't make the system useless by a long shot.


  • I second that. This [] is way better, has searching, and years worth of archives.

  • Why? Why would you want to use something like Publius for that? If you already own the track, then encode it yourself. If you haven't, then you're only interested in pirating it, right? If you had a legitimate use (e.g., evaluating a band before deciding to buy it) you wouldn't need the full 20 minute epic, and a 2 minute sampler should suffice, and may even fit in the 100K limit at low quality. If you like it, go and buy the CD...
    Perhaps he wants to pirate it. The use doesn't have to be legitimate, you know ;)
  • The 100K limitation can be bypassed if you use an automated system on top of a Publius client. Consider some large package of data, say the source code to MozillaR16.

    You create a gzipped tar file of MozillaR16, MozillaR16.tar.gz. You use a simple utility to seperate it out into 100K pieces:

    piece00000 through piece99999 (10 gigs of data there, in 100K pieces!)

    If you abandoned these on Publius they'd be useless, there's no information on reassembling them into a whole and unless you're very careful there can be ambiguity in what fragment of the archive goes with what other fragment of the archive.

    You calculate the MD128 hash of each piece and rename it with the hash as part of the information:

    MozillaR16-0x01234567012345670123456701234567 and so on.

    You append all these filenames into a file

    Now if you want the files in MozillaR16 you get the file. Your client sends out queries for the various 100K packages that build up MozillaR16.tar.gz.

    This could be truely distributed in that there isn't the necessity that any one site contains the whole list of fragments needed to build an archive. You could add in a translation layer so that any individual file is a cross section of the overall archive itself such that by itself it contains little or no information. Think of grabbing 100K bytes of the archive at random and inserting them into files with offset information. Any single file would not contain any distinguishable information. It might be a safety feature against being accused of carrying certain types of information.

  • When you can get Pink Floyd's Echoes (a good 20+ minute song) in some format (perhaps mp5) and compressed to under 100k, then I'll sit up and take notice :)

    Why? Why would you want to use something like Publius for that? If you already own the track, then encode it yourself. If you haven't, then you're only interested in pirating it, right? If you had a legitimate use (e.g., evaluating a band before deciding to buy it) you wouldn't need the full 20 minute epic, and a 2 minute sampler should suffice, and may even fit in the 100K limit at low quality. If you like it, go and buy the CD...

  • nah, more like split(1) and cat(1).

    #define X(x,y) x##y
  • Cui bono indeed? For example, without the cooperation of submarine cable owners, installation of high-capacity Echelon-type tapping would not be possible. AT&T has a heritage of government cooperation that, while not undercutting the credibility of this seemingly well-documented and verifiable system, at the very least begs the question of: Why? It is very unlikely that the era of government cooperation of large carriers is over (and I mean cooperation above and beyond compliance with trap and trace orders). If it was over we would have tough crypto built in to mobile phones, and/or phone anonymity with cash pre-paid systems. When I had an AT&T mobile, I could not even activate the lame encryption the handset supported.

    It is, at least, a sign that attitudes may be changing. If the commercial environment is tough enough, and the old Cold War fattened bag of government goodies is running out, big companies of all types might pay more attention to the desire of customers to have the benefits of privacy, fair use, and just generally fair treatment.

  • by nowan ( 4075 )
    That's a fascinating point, and you may be right. But in MLK's day, how would he have gotten the word out other than being in front waving a standard? For good or ill, this provides another way for people to communicate, and predicting the effect on society is a crap shot.

    An interesting analogy, actualy, is the Kilroy story. I'm not familiar w/ the details but (I believe it was during one of the world wars?) the phrase "Kilroy was here" started showing up in bathroom stalls and such all over the world in an entirely anonymous way. Peaple simply saw it in one place, and put it up someplace else. Whatever the reason, it captured people's imagination -- and isn't that all you need to do to effect social change?

  • by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @09:03AM (#871191) Homepage Journal
    Wow, I'd love to use this system to publish the Publius PDF []. That way people could anonymously learn how to set up their own censorship resistant networks.

    Oh wait, the PDF is 233k...
  • you should visit the Stile Project [] for all of your MPEG encoded pr0n needs. Stile has conviently encoded a lot of stuff in MPEG format which should play back fine in Linux with an appropriate player (try one based on Loki's SMPEG library, or even the bare-bones player that comes with the SMPEG distribution.)
  • There is nothing inherient about the Publius system that prevents >100k files. It's just an arbitrary restriction the research group has put on it ('at first,' they are quoted as saying) to make sure it gets used for its main purposes and not filled up with Brittany Spears mp3s. Those purposes are primarily the distribution of banned / sensitive / political documents, and general 'research' (presumably for an enhanced V2 of the system.) I imagine eventually systems like this and Freenet and others will become widespread, and the size restrictions will be raised and eventually go away.

    After all, you can go ahead and set up your own unlimited public storage network now if you wanted. Got a few RAID arrays laying around?

  • Folks,

    I spent some time this morning trying to set up Publius on my YDL server, but I'm getting series of Perl errors. (I'm a born-again Perl user, but only recently reborn. :) I get a series of errors like:

    Bareword "RC_BAD_REQUEST" not allowed while "strict subs" in use at /usr/local/apache/cgi-bin/ line 87.

    Finally it fails with "Premature end of script headers." I assume it's something related to, based on earlier errors, but I dunno.

    Can anybody help me out? I'd love to take part in Publius.


  • I don't usually reply to a block of comments, but I feel the need on this occasion. Two blocks of comments in fact.

    First, all those saying "here is how to avoid the 100K limit". Get a clue guys. Obviously you can avoid it. We all can figure out how. We can probably write an automated client to do it for us. The service itself is still extremely useful as a free-speech mechanism. And that is its intention. What is more important to you, sharing large binaries over a non-searchable mechanism or free speech? Go use ftp and archie!!

    To everybody saying "No search? It's useless!". Again, get a clue guys.

    Consider a website, The / page contains a cookie, randomly generated. The contents of the / page are randomly generated, but link into the rest of the website. All the links are based on your cookie (perhaps using javascript) and so none of them work for anybody else - behind the web site is a large dynamic SQL generation tool, running realtime.

    That's the situation. You have now a website that's effectively impossible to search (any results you provide will be invalid links).

    If the front page of that website always contains a link to a copy of the US Constitution, within that website, can you find it? Yes. Every time. Go to the site, click on the link.

    All you needed to know was the site -

    So, in the same way, consider Publius. Everything stored in Publius has a URL. That URL can be on a page in Publius that has a URL. Suddenly it's looking a bit like a website. All you need is the entry point, and the links to follow, and you can find what you need.

    The entry point is the dodgy area. If that can be targeted by here then the content is vulnerable. But since the entry point is not a single node, and no individual node has the capability of displaying anything dodgy, it is effectively impossible to legislate/subpeona/sue any individual site. And if sites are hosted worldwide, most of them wont even be in your durisdiction.

    Ok, my argument has flaws. I've spotted a couple of them myself, feel free to point out others. But the basic principle is (I believe) sound. And I can see the benefits of such a system, even within my own country (the UK). When something like deCSS turns up, the benefits apply almost anywhere. So embrace the new system, use it, appreciate it. Don't moan about a lack of a search engine - you don't actually need it.

  • I think the name of the system, "Publius", with its ties to the American Revolution, suggests another reason for the 100k limit, besides treading lightly around the RIAA. By not getting bogged down in .mp3-sharing and copyright issues, more attention can be drawn to free speech in the strictest sense-- text, probably political.

    But sad to say, plain .TXT is not much of a marketing tool these days. Tom Paine's handprinted manifestos lit the fire of revolution; today, only a multimedia manifesto would catch the public attention. We are a society of Web surfers and couch potatoes. The revolution had better be televized, or it's not gonna fly.

    (It's offtopic, but those televised images [] of the Bosnian prisoner camps that TMiB mentions are a great example. It turns out they were faked (there's an article [] and even a video [] with the skinny on how it was done. But they sure built up a lot of sympathy for the Bosnian Muslim separatist movement, didn't they?!)

    But pirate radio and TV transmitters are easy to jam and track down. That leaves computers. Freenet is not going to be a speed demon, and Publius will enforce this 100k limit. So the single most important way for people of limited means to disseminate controversial information is, I would argue, the Web. And, in fact, just about any political or controversial group you'd care to name has a Web site [] by now.

    Once the Web becomes truly a mass medium worldwide, I predict that we will soon start seeing national governments go after the Web sites of movements they don't like. Thing is, some of those sites will be backed by other national governments. I wonder what the 'net will look like then. More firewalls like China's? Special agents attacking server rooms? ISP workers getting threatened like judges in South America?

  • "Publius features no search utility and a maximum file size of 100k," and is therefore useless.
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @08:43AM (#871198)
    No, it is not useless. It is designed for people with a REAL reason for being anonymous, yet wanting to spread information. For example, whistlerblowers, or people in countries with a less than perfect track record of censorship.

    Except that, without the ability to do searches, no one will be able to find the material in question. Giving out the precise key is tantamount to publishing, so anonymity is preserved at one level, but possibly compromised at another.

    Furthermore, whistleblowers and the like often need audio-visual proof of what has happened, such as audio recordings (ideally compressed with ogg or mp3 format for space), images, and even video footage. How is one going to reasonably publish that kind of important evidence of wrongdoing with a 100K filesize limit? By breaking up the files into 100K chunks? Then why not get rid of that limit to begin with.

    It is not designed for pirates who want their MP3's (go to freenet for that sort of stuff).

    This is a very unfair characterization of freenet and downright slandorous.

    Freenet is intended to do precisely the same thing as publius, with the exception that freenet make no judgement whatsoever about content. Publius may make use of some better algorithms, but has also clearly made policy choices which make it less than ideal for dissidents to skirt censorship (such as the lack of searchability and the filesize limit, and worse: a philosophy of passing judgement on material and what is "fit" to be protected from censorship and what is not, with who deciding such criteria an open question). FreeNet can always adopt better encryption and storage approaches now or in the future, without making the same kinds of misguided compromises.

    FreeNet remains IMHO the most promising approach to thwarting censorship of all kinds, today and in the future.
  • Of particular interest in the article are the safeguards against the common opposition to such projects, like their use for piracy. Publius features no search utility and a maximum file size of 100k.

    An admirable effort, but this just means that someone will circulate a third-party utility that does indexing and can reassemble fragmented files from 100k packets.

    Still, it should cut down on the number of people storing CD images.
  • Am I the only person who remembers years of UUEncoding large files into small chunks for usenet? It is trivial to work around such a limitation, which makes intentionally adding it in the first place just stupid.
  • Seriously, if I write a critical article and I point out hard, technical facts to back up my claim there is *ZERO* basis for the suit and it should be thrown out.

    Until they haul in UCITA, and show that you couldn't have installed their software without agreeing to their licensing agreement, which happen to prohibit benchmarking, profiling, comparisons, or any other mention of their product without their express permission.

    And before you state how silly that is... MS, Oracle, and I'm sure other database vendors routinely put these kind of restrictions in their licenses, today, without having the 1000-pound gorilla of UCITA to back them up. I seem to recall MS, at least, trying to enforce it in one case.

  • True, and I know that is common practice on usenet, but it still is kind of a pain. Still, it will be interesting when people do that, and the RIAA goes up aginst AT&T

    Maybe we will get lucky and they will destroy each other :)

  • I kinda did that on purpose :)

  • Agreed, but there is also a perfect method already in place to spread information (well, almost) called FreeNet. Not only does it have search capabilities, but it imposes no limit on what you can spread.

  • Wrong, I have a couple hundred MP3s, and all of them downloaded from napster. I also own the equivilant CD for every song on my PC. Why didn't I just rip them myself? I'm lazy. :)

  • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:43AM (#871206) Homepage
    When you can get Pink Floyd's Echoes (a good 20+ minute song) in some format (perhaps mp5) and compressed to under 100k, then I'll sit up and take notice :)

    Seriously, what does this offer over freenet aside from "let's make those whining children over at the RIAA happy" type restrictions? If it's the same as freenet, but with a strict set of rules, then freenet will eventually beat it no matter how much corporate money it has backing it.

  • Ok, so what? It's just like FreeNet but smaller, and it doesn't have micropayments like MojoNation. This is boring, the state of the art is already one upped it.
  • You can't give yourself the ability to censor porn, without also giving yourself the ability to censor political speech.

    Or without giving someone else the ability to get a court to order you to censor political speech.
  • by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:41AM (#871209) Homepage Journal
    Let's test how serious they are by publishing a list of AT&T calling card numbers :)
  • by YoJ ( 20860 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:13AM (#871210) Journal
    Without getting into the actual mathematics, let me say that the system of having n shares and you need k of them to reconstruct the message has been worked out. This isn't pie-in-the-sky stuff, this actually works. And it's cool.

    Here's a simple example. Suppose we have three servers that store information (n=3). We want to store a number on the servers such that each server individually doesn't know the number, but any two servers taken together are enough to reconstruct the number (k=2). The system we can use is to encode the number as an angle. Draw a line at that angle to horizontal, and choose three random points on the line. Send a single point to each server. Each server knows one point, but it can't figure out the angle of the line. But if you put the information from two servers together, you get two points which lets you draw the original line (and hence figure out the angle and get the information). Of course with bigger n and k you need real cryptographic systems (and not just lines).

  • I can't believe how many posts I see complaining about the project just because it can't be used to trade warez and mp3s. I find it incredibly hypocritical. Systems like Freenet are often defended because of their legitimate uses include the ability to protect people from being prosecuted by unjust governments, etc. Now we have a system which can do the same thing, but that's about all it can do.

    Now, I'm not here to debate the ethics of filesharing. I think there can be a good case made for the legitimacy of mp3s under certain circumstanes, but that's besides the point. Whether or not you believe mp3 sharing is right has nothing to do with whether or not it is illegal. And if it is considered illegal (which it almost certainly will be, seeing how the RIAA 0wnz Congress), then the RIAA can attack systems like Freenet and possibly even get them declared illegal. Now here we have an alternative which can accomplish the legitimate and considerably more important use of Freenet without being attacked by the RIAA.

  • Napster was wonderful, in that the idea spawned dozens of clones. We can never go back. These distributed file-sharing services are here to stay.

    The new problem is the sheer number of clones, gnutella, napster/opennap, sx, freenet, blocks [just saw on FM], and now this. There are onyl so many internet savvy people out there. Why will this service take off? you need people to use it. And people won't come unless others are using it.

    The question now is interoperability. How can we defragment these services, which in the logn run, the voerabundance will *hurt* access to information.
  • Marketing this 100k/file limit as a safeguard is a total joke. If Publius ever becomes popular, you know that some VB kiddie with too much time is going to whip together a program that splits up and reassembles files into 99k chunks.

    You mean like say... a TCP/IP stack?
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:46AM (#871214)
    AT&T also started funding my BlackHoleNet project. See, what you do is you send a file (less than 100K, so break that MP3's into 100 files!) and BlackHoleNet sends it to a special device (/dev/null). Later, when you want to get a file out it is retrieved from a different special device (/dev/random). The only remaining bug in my system is that the process of traversing the wormhole from /dev/null to /dev/random is somehow scrambling the files. I just need some funding to get over this last hurdle.
  • > how would he have gotten the word out other than being in front waving a standard?

    Believe it or not, in MLK's day there was something called the printing press. It used a series of moveable type pieces to imprint dye markings of analog representations of the ASCII character set, as well as other character sets and even arbitrarily complex graphics onto pressed sheets of bleached wood pulp fiber. The system, which is still in use today, has a very high display resolution, requires no power, is not subject to magnetism or eletrical fields and is quite durable.

    Seriously though, MLK's public actions, as well as Jesus, etc, were very important to getting their point across, but the fact of the matter is none of us were alive when Jesus was and many of us were not alive when MLK was. We have found out about these event by either oral tradition or reading about them (I think it can be argued that TV is analougous if much more elaborate), i.e., communication by language.

    At the core, any kind of public discourse must and will be at the level of an exchange of words. Actions are certainly necessary to back upo your point, but they only directly affect a small number of people.

    The ability to exchange even simple text documents freely (beer and speech) and anonymously will greatly empower anyone, particularly in an oppresive regime.

    By the way, Kilroy happened during the Second World War. IIUC, he was working somewhere that involved shipping supplies for the military and would write "Kilroy was here" on the crates. Since these supplies were being shipped all over the world, his name started appearing mysteriously all over the place and no one could figure out how someone could spread graffiti literally from one side of the world to another. Eventually the reason came out.


  • On a side note, they can, if they wanted, create a key that can unlock if x% of they total key is present. Thus data won't be lost by on person losing the key.

  • If so, the 100K limitation would be pretty easy to blast out, as would b ethe dependance on the good graces of a single company (AT&T) in a single country (USA).

    Hmm - actually, it may be more useful to leave the filesize limitation in - move it to something like 500K chunks. Then add something similar to the keysplitting to redundantly split the actual content as well. Put those split parts on differenet servers with redundancy on a distributed net, and you have cryptogtaphically secure, redundant information that protects the servers from knowing the content and hence prevents their ability to be pressured legally. Plus the redundancy of the parts and their ability to be reconsituted via the net from multiple sources makes it nearly impossible to eliminate content.

    Combining this with Freenet shoudl be an object for anyone that really values freedom.
  • Auuugh. It is "open source" of a sort (you can DL the perl source).

    "Please contact the authors for permission to redistribute this code with or without alterations, or to use this code for commercial purposes."

    But it would be interesting to see it under GPL though - and its certainly alterable in its current state for private use.

    Freenet should maybe look at this for the distribution model - and kidnap the infrastructure if not the acutal code. Roll into that a bit of gnutella for spice.

    A good programmer should never be never too proud to borrow from someone else with a good idea.

  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:01AM (#871219)
    ...that the most subversive file extension in the world is not MP3, or JPG or DivX. It's TXT - the plain old written word in electronic format. Ma Bell's service may be useless for exchanging large files but it could well be a very useful service for anyone who wants to be published and can't right now for whatever reason.

    It's all in the words folks. The Chinese Government doesn't give a toss about its citizens downloading MP3s. It *does* care a lot about what they read...

  • The MP3 format is not the most effective for all audio data.

    If your really making a point, you don't need music. Music is what MP3 was designed for.

    Speech can be encoded in a simple u-law format. This is basically a slightly modified WAV file (requires virtually no processing), at 64 kbps. This is telephone standard, and is barely considered a form of compression.

    ADPCM (Adaptive differenial pulse code modulation) gets to 32 kbps, by exploting sample to sample differences.

    You can use a CELP (Code Exicted Linear Prediction) algorithm, to get easily recognisable speech in 4800 bps (that's 4.8 kbps).

    If you push it, and have plenty of decode time available, some clever acoustic vector prediction, and an LPC algorithm can get you as low as 300 bps, although prehaps 1200 bps is more reasonable.

    This extreme compression will also distrocrt the voice, making it more difficult to identify. This is hardly a problem.

    At 4.8 kbps, you can get 20 minutes of speech in 100k. Compare that to MP3.

    see comp.speech FAQ for more data.

  • So we all know that Pulius is hackable. The safeguards are easily circumvented or whatnot. The point of Publius is not, as many here see it, to provide what is essentially an encrypted geocities site.

    The purpose *is* to "strike a blow against censorship". By putting safeguards in place, Publius establishes an unassailable incarnation of free speech on the net. There isn't a bad-mojo buisiness plan behind closed doors to profit from copyrighted material. There aren't scads of copyrighted songs getting traded (though at some point there probably will be). Big Companies can't attack Publius.

    What this means is that a bastion for digital distribution is being established, apart from corporations that have a huge interest in controlling this stuff.

    So stop whining about the restrictions. If they piss you off, write a tool to split the files. Write (even more useful) a search engine. Publius is the skeleton by which we can build a legitimate file sharing system with a watertight defense.

  • But it IS the point. Publius didn't encourage those utilities. Some anonymous user did. And who's to say they're only for use with publius? Maybe the program splits up files for you in the case you wanted to try doing raid-striping on your own or something... :)

    Anyways, publius as an entity is free from attack if they don't create those utilities.

  • The newsgroups will only allow so many lines, I believe...So they have many utilities which will break up 20 meg posts into 93 parts, and then piece them together later...

    But with other services that do the same thing, who will use this?
  • I just gave it a shot and it's kind of weird to use. I like the idea... but What good is the free speech if it's nearly inaccesible?

    Apparently to read a document you have to know the full URL which is HUGE. And since there is no search You can't find things on the subject of say... "Search and Seizure." You would have to wade through the web and find a link to the Publius Document.

    The encryption and the anonymity are great. And i understand not having a search function... but I think that it is at the expense of ease of use and actually getting the free speech "heard".

  • these systems are very important...i wonder if they have thought of the p[rotection against spammers angle ? especially now that the first spammer ( has surfaced on gnutella networks.
  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:02AM (#871226)
    Limiting the file size to 100kB will drastically hurt this systems ability to support the freedom of speech. Unlike the days of the original Publius and the Federalist papers, not all speech today is, or can be, in the form of text.

    Next time Will Smith gets a video of the NSA killing a Senator he will be able to upload it to Freenet. Will he be able to place it on Publius?

    Does it say something about the sick influence of money in our world that they are willing to tolerate the usage of the system by child pornographers, but not by people who don't feel like giving money to the RIAA?
  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:07AM (#871227)

    It's called an Information Dispersal Algorithm, or IDA.

    See: 89-36-2/p335-rabin/
  • Let's take this the next step. I proposed a system a couple of years ago that would eliminate the single point of failure of these systems. I propose that the system *never* write any of the bits of a data element to persistent store. Instead, use a probabalistic Markovian algorithm to immediately re-multicast the data to a number of other hosts in the system, thereby keeping the data always in the *net* (i.e. the routers), and never in the systems themselves. If you want a particular file, your client sends a query in the form of a bias-inducing message that propogates through the system as a diffusing computating. In essence, the bits you are interested in end up in your lap with higher probability, so you just wait a time interval (probably O(lg d*h) where d is # of data elements and h is # hosts participating, based on my back-of-the-envelope calculations given the algorithm I've played with) and the bits happen to show up on your computer and your client reassembles the data appropriately. This is similar to the software distribution multicast work out of MSFT that uses FEC (Forward Error Correction). See GemmelSchoolerGray99 at for more information.
    Joseph R. Kiniry
    California Institute of Technology
  • by stuyman ( 46850 ) <> on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:52AM (#871229)
    If you go to the actual Publius site [] you'll see the information on how the system works. It kind of reminds me of steanography, in that technically all the servers appear to have is random data. The difference is the key retrieval method.

    The publisher takes the key, K that is used to encrypt the file and splits it into n shares, such that any k of them can reproduce the original K, but k-1 give no hints as to the key. Each server receives the encrypted Publius content and one of the shares. At this point, the server has no idea what it is hosting -- it simply stores some random looking data. To browse content, a retriever must get the encrypted Publius content from some server and k of the shares. Mechanisms are in place to detect if the content has been tampered with. The publishing process produces a special URL that is used to recover the data and the shares.

    I'm wondering just how that cryptography is implemented, whereby having less than n of n shares still permits us to read the document. The pdf on their site seems to involve MD5 hashes in the process, but I was wondering if someone more cryptographically inclined could elaborate. Of mathematical note, they generate d*ln(d) shares, where d is the number of servers. This has something to do with the coupon collector problem, and that if you check d*ln(d) servers you get to every "unique" server.

    All in all it seems a really good system; hopefully the common carrier concept will be better applied. Since the pages can be retrieved with special (CGI based I think) URLs, they could probably be indexed by standart search engines such as Google []. I hope this works out

  • If submitting a document generate URLs to access it and if to access the document you have to use URLs, how does the system prevent knowing what people upload/download just with traffic analysis (even if the data itself is not in "clear text")?

    Note the traffic analysis would be based on the URLs, not on the random servers the data parts are stored on.

  • Program a client to seek and re-assemble the MP3 based on url 1. It's merely inconvenient (to the point where freenet will probably darwinize this to obscurity) but hardly a showstopper for pirates.
    You're missing the point, I think. This is not designed to be the end-all of file sharing. It's a particular application of file sharing for a particular kind of file. There's plenty of room for other kinds of file-sharing.

    The authors of this particular application didn't want to be overwhelmed with audio and video files. To some people, sharing mp3 files is low on their list of 'important things in life.'

    If this was the only file-sharing 'hammer' in existence, then you might certainly be justified to use it to pound your particular mp3 'nail.' Since there's already numerous other (and perhaps better) ways to share large audio/video files, splitting one up in the manner you suggest above is probably a waste of energy/space.

    If napster/freenet/etc. all disappear, I'll remove my objection, of course.

    '...let the rabbits wear glasses...'
    Y2038 consulting
  • I see your point, but diversity is a good thing. There's more than one web browser, mp3 player, OS, etc. Putting all your eggs in one basket and all that.

    At this point in internet development, we haven't figured out what the best way to do things is yet. It may turn out that Freenet has the best implementation, but I doubt it. The Publius system seems more robust to me. Distribution of data such that loss of some nodes still allows you to retrieve the original data. It has more appeal to me on a pure mathematical basis.

    In Freenet, nothing is encrypted. If some 'bad guy' wants to get rid of some information shared on Freenet, he could theoretically do that, since he could find everyone that hosted that particular file. (Assuming certain capabilities built into things like Echelon, Carnivore, Cisco routers. :) ) With encryption and a mathematically defined way of distributing data, doing the same thing in the Publius system would be much more difficult.

    Publius for stuff that's subversive, proscribed, titillating, banned, etc. Freenet for other things.
    '...let the rabbits wear glasses...'
    Y2038 consulting
  • I thought that GETs were supposed to be idempotent? Then they should be indexable.

    Additionally you might need is (probably already exists, there is nothing new under the sun) epiration dates for GETted pages.

  • and for n=2, you just use XOR. Not much redundancy in that tho.
  • erm.

    litteracy in the asian continent is usually quite high.
  • This led me to wonder what will become of the terabytes of garbage that will be dumped into the Publius system by trolls, spammers, flamers, first posters, and the other mutant fuana of the net.

    But isn't the Publius system based on a "pull" (request/response) architecture, much the same as the Web itself? If so, "spam" in Publius should be no worse than a Web page with "spam" -- it isn't affecting anybody who doesn't request it. (Indeed, the use of the term "spam" for a non-push publishing method seems counter to the meaning of the term itself.)

    Politics... []

  • Publius has been on /. [] before, guys.

    You'd think Hemos would take five seconds to use /.'s own damn search engine to check for past stories.

    Jonathan David Pearce

  • by technos ( 73414 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:45AM (#871240) Homepage Journal
    Anonymity may breed distrust, but if you're not anonymous, they sue you into the ground. Piss off someone with money, or a powerful lobby, or a big corporation, and you might as well be dead. They'll make sure no one hears you. This is the age of the frivilous lawsuit, where anyone wishing to silence someone else may do so simply by making it horribly expensive to exist.

    Say I write an article, saying in effect that DB2 bites in comparison to Oracle. IBM doesn't like this, and sues me for slander, libel, and false claims harming their business. None of those claims are true, and are in fact laughable, but I still have to hire a laywer and spend huge amounts of money just to get the judge to not rule by default against me for a huge sum. In the mean time, no other publisher is going to hire me or take my works for fee because of the lawsuit. And what if the judge dismisses? Well, that doesn't happen. IBM drops the suit, and refiles next week.

    Pretty soon I'm 20K in the hole, the article was pulled so no one ever saw it, and IBM offers to drop the suit if I retract my statements and only write 'the truth', as their marketing dept sees fit to spin it..

    You know what? I'd do it too.

  • by MostlyHarmless ( 75501 ) <artdent@ f r> on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:54AM (#871242)
    I suspect that they did so for precisely that reason: To keep out mp3s. The system was designed to be a safeguard for free speech; if someone wanted to speak out against $CAUSE then he could do so without fear of retribution by (corporation, government, cia, pick one). There already is a perfectly good system (several in fact) for trading mp3s, so these guys wanted to focus on issues that, dare I suggest it, matter more in life than music.

  • Nope, not useless. If I want to get on my soapbox, here's a way of doing it. Or, can you say "DeCSS source code"?
    The trouble is, it cannot carry any warez, or MP3, and that puts it waaaay behind Freenet and similar efforts.
    The totally distributed PTP type network model like Freenet will be the next Internet killer app. And watch entrenched institutions like RIAA, MPAA, FBI, MI5, MI6 etc turn blue as they try to regulate and control.
    Once you get this sort of PTP nettech together, imagine wireless networks getting together, all communicating as mini routers, DNS etc, you basically have a network that is pretty hard to compromise... I think the Nomad Mobile Research Centre [] has something to say about this... Interesting reading...

    Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

  • If it's searchable then you can legally pursue folks that have it on their systems. Note that they don't say they won't host certain files, just that the publius project will only list "interesting" files. I assume that you can still add and retrieve files regardless of content.

    My (admittedly limited) knowledge of freenet leads me to believe that it operates on a similar principal, if you don't know the file key then you can't retrieve it (or it'll be that way when they get to .3).

    The file size limitation does seem somewhat arbitrary though. What's to prevent you from breaking a large file into several smaller files? It's a merely inconvenient method to try to suppress warez. You could even use the 100k file format to store a list of Publius URLs and then use a client program to download all the fragments listed.
  • The issue I see with this being like the "Snow Crash" repository is that it's artificially limited. The "Snow Crash" repository had voice and video feed, as well as extensive AI.

    A better bet would be a system that is not at all limited, like Freenet. While it may eventually host a fair % of pirates, that's not the point of the system, it is built to provide a network of anonymous and ubiquitous data availability without allowing for contentious files to be deleted. Publius, on the other hand, is psuedo limited to text (although posting multipart fragments of a warez file is still entirely possible).
  • Here we are at /. discussing a tool that has obviously been crafted to help encourage online collaboration without enabling the D00DZ who want to distribute WAREZ. What are the first reactions?

    It sucks cuz I can't distribute illegal files

    It just makes the suits who are concerned about abuse say "See: we told you so. All they want to do is abuse it."

    That's entirely the point. If you want to distribute LEGAL files then you don't need a system like this. You're assuming that a file being illegal means that it is a "bad" file. This is not necessarily the case, as what is legal may be dictated by malevolent (or at least not benevolent) forces.

  • IMO the guessability of the key is irrelevant. For a document to be accessed, the key must be known. For contentious files (like MP3) there will be warez channels that post the URLs or keys. All anybody has to do is find out where the URL/key is being listed and you have access.

    The central goal of both Freenet and Publius is to make documents available. Thus spending time obsfucating documents beyond the simple idea of not being able to explicitely know what's on your system is relatively pointless (as access info will have to be made public to be used).
  • by Borealis ( 84417 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @08:33AM (#871254) Homepage
    You're making an assumption that all MP3s are pirate. MP3 is highly effective for any audio data. While I will concede that it currently seems to be primarily used for piracy it's still just a form of media.

    Besides, as I note in an earlier post, this is hardly going to stop anybody:

    url 1: list of Publius URLs for file fragments 1-19
    url 2 through 20 (listed in url 1): MP3 of "They Might Be Giants - Istanbul" in fragments.

    Program a client to seek and re-assemble the MP3 based on url 1. It's merely inconvenient (to the point where freenet will probably darwinize this to obscurity) but hardly a showstopper for pirates.
  • by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @08:14AM (#871256)
    You can split a large file into pieces and insert them separately. Then insert a list of the pieces as another file. Voila - large file support. The 100k limit is almost certainly there to avoid attacks which flood the system using bottomless data streams, or use large files to diplace a disproportionate number of smaller files. A similar limit will be used on Freenet, for similar reasons. It doesn't drastically hurt the system's ability to support freedom of speech; it protects it.
  • by cnj ( 87028 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:51AM (#871258) Homepage

    Slashdot Article [] Lots of info.


  • We just need a few bytes to index the starting and ending digits in pi where the song is located. Since pi is infinite and random, it's gotta be in there somewhere.
  • The "angle" example above generalizes roughly like this:

    A (monic*) polynomial p(x) of degree k is completely determined by knowing its value at k distinct points. So, you can "prove" that you have collected k different values by generating p(0) based on these values. If you had fewer than k values, the information is useless, because p(0) could be any real number at all!

    Of course, you could distribute the value of the polynomial at n different (non-zero!) points to n different servers and any subset of size k would do the trick.

    *monic polynomials are polynomials for which the coefficient of the highest order term is 1.

  • by cpytel ( 89261 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:52AM (#871261) Homepage
    This is refreshing for 2 major reasons, it is actually backed by someone with major clout, namely AT&T.

    Second, this system is out to provide a safehouse for truly free speech, and not to provide a safehouse for rampant piracy.

    With the right development, I wouldn't be suprised if this could be developed into a robust information repository (Like the library in SnowCrash?) However, it will be interesting to see if it becomes popular because it won't attract those who are really just in it for the warez and mp3z.

  • They can read english in China, Hong Kong for example. Granted your average chinese farmer isnt going to be able to read english, but he probably wouldnt be able to read chinese either, let alone have an internet connection.

  • I can see it now...
    • "Where did you here that?"
    • "A bloke in the Publius told me."

    (Quick reminder for the slow of brain a Pub is like a Bar, but British)


  • I would say it depends on your article

    You make corporations now a days sound like some embodiments of evil out to take away all of our privacy and market to us in our dreams.. hmmn oh wait

    Seriously, if I write a critical article and I point out hard, technical facts to back up my claim there is *ZERO* basis for the suit and it should be thrown out.

    And I think if there is a clearly defined technical logic behind your 'slander' or 'libel'... Then the suing company will know and be much more wary because losing a lawsuit even at the expense of 20K to you can spell total disaster for a corporation to lose a court battle, whats left? Your paper you wrote with all of its content free to be viewed. No they do not lose often but if and when corporations do lose.. its hurts them a lot more than the slight legal fee's it tookj to sue you so it is still a gamble, and I think the little guys still have a decent chance at standing up to corporations... right now


    If you think education is expensive, try ignornace
  • Since the pages can be retrieved with special (CGI based I think) URLs, they could probably be indexed by standart search engines

    Many search engines (such as webcrawler) automatically throw out all URLs containing a ? because they don't want to waste the resources to index CGI.

    Adopt a bird today!
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! []
  • by Raunchola ( 129755 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @08:12AM (#871280)
    Yeah, this story was already posted []...

    Of all the comments to this story, the ones that get to me are the ones complaining about the lack of MP3s. People, we have enough Napster-like clones out there, we don't need any more! File-sharing programs are a Good Thing(tm), but because of programs like Napster, Gnutella, and Freenet, people see this programs as only being useful to MP3 traders and warez kiddies. The great thing about Publius is that it implements true free speech, i.e. the sharing of sensitive and critical information without fear of reprisal, without worrying about MP3 traders and warez kiddies. And because of that, maybe some people will get turned on to the idea of file-sharing programs, and will see them as something more than another road for piracy. It'll be interesting to see how this program will function down the road, and I hope it continues to develop.

    Remember, just because you can't download a copy of AutoCAD or a Britney Spears CD from it doesn't make Publius useless. There's plenty of Napster-like programs out there, don't make Publius into another one.

  • by Yardley ( 135408 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:53AM (#871285) Homepage
    Ha-ha... well, then, it's perfect for porn!

    (Trade secrets, product rumors, & illegal device compatibility descriptions - like DeCSS - will fit nicely, too.)

  • by TMiB ( 169465 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:06AM (#871296)
    The 100k limit will keep out MP3s, but it may also stop the system being usable as a free speech tool. Sure, you can express a lot in a 100k text file, but what about photos and videos ?

    Given the power and importance of images (remember the Ethiopian famine, Tiananmen square, the Bosnian prisoner camps ?) a mechanism for distributing materials that's limited to 100k just won't work.

  • Compare, for example, FTP and Napster. Both are conceptually similar, but one offered a coherent use and user interface, while the other was an incredibly general tool. Which one got popular notice really quickly, and generated all this attention?

    Similarly, Freenet and Publius have similar basic goals and technologies at their core. However, Freenet is an incredibly general system, which could be used for everything from snippets of text to warez and pirated movies. I think Publius may do quite well, if for no other reason than its purpose is easily understandable by the average user, it will probably have a much simpler interface, (especially with strong corporate backing) and there will be less opportunity to shut the whole thing down on the pretense of preventing piracy.

    What I really want to know is why AT&T would back a project like this. Where is the gain to them from making anonymous free speech easier? How exactly are they going to answer, say, their Board of Directors, or a shareholders' suit, if someone decides that is could be economically detrimental to them?
  • I love reading slashdot. It combines links to interesting, newsworthy articles WITH commentary. But I don't read all 500 posts about .NET, or DeCSS, or whatever. I read the highest scores first, because my time is valuable.

    If Publius is to be effective, ie. getting me to read it as part of my routine, it NEEDS indexing, searching and moderating. The most valuable resource in the 21st century is going to be the attention of humans, specifically wealthy and educated humans. Think about it, that is what advertisers pay Billions of dollars a year for.

    How is Publius going to attract and keep attention?
  • From their discussion of preventing "Denial of Service" attacks on Publius, which would also be effective against spammers:

    "Publius, like all Web services, is susceptible to de-
    nial of service attacks. An adversary could use Publius
    to publish content until the disk space on all servers
    is full. This could also affect other applications run-
    ning on the same server. We take a simple measure of
    limiting each publishing command to 100K. A better
    approach would be to charge for space.

    An interesting approach to this problem is a CPU
    cycle based payment scheme known as Hash Cash
    The idea behind this system is to require the publisher
    to do some work before publishing. Thus, it becomes
    difficult to efficiently fill the server disk. Hopefully,
    the attack can be detected before the disk is full. In
    Hash Cash, a client wishing to store a file on a par-
    ticular server first requests a challenge string c and
    a number, b, from that server. The client must find
    another string, s, such that at least b bits of H(c . s)
    match b bits of H(s) where H is a secure hash function
    such as MD5 and "." is the concatenation operator.
    That is, the client must find partial collisions in the
    hash function.

    The higher the value of b, the more time the client
    requires to find a matching string. The client then
    sends s to the server along with the file to be stored.
    The server only stores the file if H(s) passes the b bit
    matching test on H(c . s). Another scheme we are
    considering is to limit, based on client IP address, the
    amount of data that a client can store on a particular
    Publius server within a certain period of time. While
    not perfect, this raises the bar a bit, and requires the
    attacker to exert more effort. We have not imple-
    mented either of these protection mechanisms yet."
  • by Thellan ( 187645 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @07:13AM (#871305)
    This will probably be considered a flame but I think it needs to be said.

    Finally someone has produced a product that uses the technology Napster and Gnutella are based on to do something good. Despite what many proponents of Napster and Gnutella say, the main use of those programs is to get around having to pay for music and other electronic info like videos.

    Some of the posts already on this board say "What is the use of this program?" Now we just have to split the mp3s into lots of little files. The people saying this apparently totally miss the purpose of this program. It is NOT to get music without paying for it. It is to help people communicate in an anonymous and secure way. Which many of the /. readers say it key to the internet. No doubt eventually someone will make a wrapper so that mp3s and such can be put on Publius but that is not really a good thing.

    I think it is great that a major corporation has helped to produce a product like this. Especially one that goes against what many government agencies want, that being anonymous, encrypted communications across the internet.

    Just my $.02

  • No, it is not useless. It is designed for people with a REAL reason for being anonymous, yet wanting to spread information. For example, whistlerblowers, or people in countries with a less than perfect track record of censorship. It is not designed for pirates who want their MP3's (go to freenet for that sort of stuff).

    There is also going to be a list of files which is found to be "interesting". I hope that there will be some way for users to decide what is interesting enough to be listed (possibly a moderation system?), but even if not, there will be a list of some sort. Yes, it will be eventually abused, but it's primary purpose isn't piracy, unlike certain other programs out there which will remain nameless.
  • I actually think the 100k file limit is a good move. Yes, it's trivial to work around, but only for those with more nous than the average user of this sort of system.

    Of the millions of Napsterites, I would guess that a very large percentage indeed wouldn't have the knowledge or - more importantly - the patience to take a really big file apart for posting or to bother to track down the whole thing and put it back together. Napster's great strength for copyright violation was that it was very, very easy to use indeed.

    Adding a significant amount of ballsaching effort (whether assembling a dispersed file by hand or writing the script to do it) to the process of getting an MP3 or big piece of software is going to discourage the casual pirate, just as the trouble of getting through locked doors and windows and an alarm system will discourage the opportunist burglar.

    In effect, it's likely to head Napster-style legal trouble off at the pass.

  • Okay, my first thought is about censorship.
    It works a bit like Slashdot commenting, except the Publius people do the modding, not the users. They get this giant collection of anonymous pages, and they pick out a few and label them "interesting." Somebody posted in the C-Net article that this doesn't remove censorship, it merely transfers it to the Publius staff, allowing them to censor something by labeling it "uninteresting." Is this really true? Can you only reach the "interesting" sites? Or are "uninteresting" sites reachable but not advertised? Because the latter doesn't seem to be censorship to me, but the former clearly is.

    My other thought is Filtering. They claim that this technology prevents censorship. Does the prevention lie in the fact that you can't filter these sites, or in the fact that you can't delete them, or what? Because they can easily be filtered, you just have to have a filtering program that interprets what it reads, like your browser does, then filters the end result, rather than the inital scripting. As for deletion, if the US wants it deleted, they can order AT&T to delete it just as they could if it was hosted normally. So what is it that they are actually accomplishing? I'm missing something.
  • This is from the C-Net article:

    In order to reach a file, a Publius surfer must have access to the file's complicated URL. The Publius project will provide a list of files it considers interesting, but this will not include music, pornography or anything else deemed "uninteresting."

    "We don't view this as censorship," Rubin said. "We view what we're doing as a directory for things we think are interesting. For now, people publishing content on the system will have to email URLs and descriptions of their files to be included, although a search feature might be added in a later version, Rubin added.

    It sounds like you'll be technically allowed to access any of it, but you'll only be provided with useful information about the ones that they consider "interesting." Hopefully, some outside group will start a directory/search engine that indexes them.

    As for the deletion, I don't think that really helps. It just puts them in Napster's position:

    Judge: Remove the illegal content from your service.

    AT&T But we can't, we specifically designed the service so that it couldn't be censored. In order to remove the illegal content, we'd have to shut the whole service down!

    Judge: Hey, there's an idea. Shut the whole service down. Now.
  • Hopefully, some third party will make a search engine that indexes the URLs, or the existing search engines will index them. It's really only about giving people a place to host their free speech. Once you've posted, you should have your own URL, and you're free to plug that wherever you want. (Be it Slashdot or Yahoo or television commercials, whatever.)
  • It's as if Napster looked at every song header and decided whether it was OK or not.

    No, it's not. It's as if Napster picked out a few cool, non-copyrighted songs, and listed those songs when you start up, but without actually preventing any copyrighted songs from being traded.

    AT&T isn't monitoring the pages and deciding if they're "OK or not." They're allowing all pages, just like Napster allows all file-transfers. The 100k cap keeps people from trading mp3s (or at least makes them work a little to do so) but there's more that's illegal than mp3s.

    As for shutting them down, there's still a "head" somewhere. You pick a URL, and the DNS for that URL points somewhere, and that somewhere contains the information to go out to the myriad servers and fetch the page. All you have to do is shut down the "head." Or even one of the servers. If you chop out a chunk of it you probably corrupt the rest.
  • by TOTKChief ( 210168 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:51AM (#871316) Homepage

    As an Internet publisher [] myself, I'm a bit miffed as to what's going on here. Sure, I publish stuff about sports, which is not exactly Earth-shattering in terms of societal impact (though I can argue for its societal worth, mind you), but what seems weird to me is that this is a way to hide behind the computer screen.

    Looking at the root of the name of Publius -- familiar with the Federalist Papers myself, because I have to soon explain why we made all those changes in the UAH SGA [] last year anyway -- I see their point, but societal change is more often brought about by grassroots efforts led by out-in-front, standard-bearing individuals.

    To demonstrate my point, could the American Civil Rights movement have progressed without someone like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marching? Sure, he could have sat in Atlanta (or Memphis, or Selma, or . . .) and written beautiful works on what was wrong with the oppression of "Negroes" in American society. I dare say his impact was strengthened by his visible action.

    Heck, to take it to a whole other level, Jesus Christ himself could have just written a bunch of stuff, but I guarantee fewer people would be affected by Christianity -- whether you have a positive or negative view of it -- without some decisive action in there.

    Anonymity breeds a small hair of distrust. If you're going to take over the world, you've got to have people's trust.

  • michael was here [].
  • From the publius site, it seems that there is no flagging as "interesting" or whatever. If you have the URL-equiv, you can get to it. There will obviously be sites (perhaps including some supported by AT&T) that catalog such URLs and list the interesting ones. They may or may not be censoring, depending on your interpretation.

    I think that things can't be deleted in any way because of the distributed thing. AT&T can't delete something without removing from all the servers, and they can't do that.


  • But that's not the point. It's a matter of time (days? weeks?) before some person writes a little program that you download, give it some name of a distributed file, and it searches it out for you and puts it together, proerly verifying hashes and all. A little more work for the comp and a bit more work for the person writing it, but not for the end user. You will get the people who are somewhat tech-savvy (ie average napster user) and interested in trying something new, untested, and small user base (very few napster users), but there will be such people. So it will discourage some casual pirates, but not by the mechanism you suggest. It will be the lack of publicity and the small user base, instead.

  • Several things...
    They can't shut it down, because there are other people out there with servers over whom they have no control. And, they are arguably doing all they can to prevent piracy by not listing pirated stuff and limiting to 100K. Admittedly, this doesn't solve everything, but it helps. It's as if Napster looked at every song header and decided whether it was OK or not. Sure, you can use wrapster or whatever, but that's clear abuse of the system (to a greater degree at least).

    And, I agree there should be a massive indexing service. I would even consider doing a simple perl script one if I had a place to put it and a bit more knowhow... Then that server could be indexed easily by web search engines.


  • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2000 @06:53AM (#871322)
    Ok, here's what it looks like to me. Publius is more secure in protecting the servers from the content they host; Publius has ability to maintain a "pseudonym" without outside software; Publius has the ability to hyperlink. Here's some elaboration:

    Secure servers: It is publicly known who runs the servers, but it can be kept private what server has what. In order to download something, I need to know where to get the key shares. The server doesn't know that. Also, a server can't know what it's hosting without the ability to download it. However, things are less secure in that all this means that if I know how to get something I know who is hosting it, and a govt. etc. could use an attack based on such. So servers are both more and less secure.

    The last two are really just based on the document format and software architecture.

    This was all written without knowledge of the code, and is jst my interpretation of the web site.


  • This is the kind of reaction that fuels the fires of distrust.

    Here we are at /. discussing a tool that has obviously been crafted to help encourage online collaboration without enabling the D00DZ who want to distribute WAREZ. What are the first reactions?

    It sucks cuz I can't distribute illegal files

    It just makes the suits who are concerned about abuse say "See: we told you so. All they want to do is abuse it."

    We shouldn't mindlessly rally around the suits just because they think it's cool. But, we shouldn't snub it because it's not made for warez distributors. Let's judge it on some other basis.

New systems generate new problems.