A few postings ago I introduced webseeds, a method for distributing the pain of sharing large music or video files hosted online with the users receiving them, using an extension to the BitTorrent (BT) protocol. Around the same time I discovered VODO.net, an indie-film distributor who use webseeds as their primary distribution technology, and who distributed the excellent crowdsourcing documentary ‘Us Now‘. They also endorse the GPL-licensed SwarmPlayer project:

“With the SwarmPlayer you can view videos using Bittorrent swarming. Any Ogg video inside a Bittorrent swarm can directly be embedded on a webpage. Users visiting a page can view videos in mere seconds. Website visitors never need to be aware of any underlying technology, video simply works.

This week, I was excited to stumble across ClearBits (formerly LegalTorrents), who offer a range of hosting options - from free listing in their indexes to paid hosting of official copies of works - with unlimited distribution using webseeds. I was also excited to discover that BT founder Bram Cohen has announced the start of beta-testing for BitTorrent Live, a system for using BT swarms to share the load of streaming events like sports games, and concerts (and police brutality at protests and occupations?). The homepage for the original BT organisation now promotes legal distribution of new cultural works, featuring links to legal downloads of music, and documentaries. While looking for more info about BT Live, I also noticed a blog entry announcing BT distribution of the science fiction film L5, although on closer inspection in turns out L5 is also being hosted on Vodo. 

These, and others like them, are opportunities for emerging artistic creators to find and grow an audience. Especially those who use CreativeCommons licenses and crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo, KickStarter, and our own PledgeMe, hoping to cover their costs (and even make a living) through micropatronage rather than by enforcing an artificial scarcity of copies in order to individually monetize them.

Filed July 30th, 2012 under independent media

Last year I wrote a post about transcoding the CCKiwi animation into patent-free formats using Arista Transcoder. Earlier this year, I noticed some of the music files on my computer were in a proprietary .WMA (Windows Media Audio) format, and investigated using Arista to transcode them into Ogg Vorbis. I don’t usually bother transcoding songs from one lossy format into another as long as my GNU/ Linux can play them, but RhythmBox (my media player) couldn’t update the meta-tags, so I decided it was worth it. Unfortunately, Arista couldn’t do what I wanted it this case, but another quick trip to the Ubuntu Software Centre turned up Sound Converter, which did the job nicely. 

Filed July 25th, 2012 under free software

I finally got around to trying out Haiku, the free code operating system modelled on BeOS. I downloaded the latest public version, Alpha 3, wrote it to a 2GB USB stick, and booted my Acer Aspire One laptop off the stick. Voila! It boots off the USB in seconds, leaving the bloated Ubuntu install on my hard drive coughing in the dust. I could connect to the network, access web pages, mount my hard drive partitions, and play music files. I also got it to boot on a desktop system. I’m very impressed!

Haiku was developed by replacing modules of code in BeOS with free code versions written from scratch, according to Ryan Leavengood, one of the current developer group and treasurer of the not-for-profit Haiku Inc.  Further development, mainly around improving hardware support, will produce one more Alpha release, due out soon, and at least one Beta release. Leavengood hopes to see the first production version, R1, released in early 2013. Even if it takes until 2014 for this group of volunteer developers to release a better OS than the exciting alpha they’ve already released, I’ll still be very impressed.

Filed July 7th, 2012 under open source

The A-Infos Radio Project (Radio4All.net) is a digital archive of radio programs set up by micro-radio activists in 1996, three years before the first Indymedia website. Like Indymedia.org, Radio4All was founded with an ethos of open-publishing. The vision was to create a public access host for digitised radio shows uploaded and downloaded by users as digital audio files.

Every few years I hear rumours that Radio4All is having trouble keeping up with demand, or bringing in enough donations to pay hosting bills. I’ve always thought a solution could be to use BitTorrent to distribute their audio files, rather than having every copy direct downloaded from their hosting. This way, the more popular a file gets, the more people there are in the swarm to share the load of distributing the file. This creates an easy way for people to donate to the project, by donating their upstream bandwidth rather than cash.

One easy way for Radio4All to integrate BitTorrent into its existing system would be to use ‘webseeds’, an extension to the BitTorrent protocol created by BitTornado author John Hoffman. Webseeds are used to distribute films like the documentary ‘Us Now’ on VODO.net

Keshav Khera describes the basic idea in his blog post, ‘What Are Web Seeds‘:

“What seeds give the torrent client the ability to download torrent pieces/data from an http source in addition to the swarm. So if you have a file somewhere on the internet, you can simply add its link to your torrent. Now if the swarm is weak, the torrent client will fetch data from the http source… However, if the torrent becomes popular and self-sustainable, the torrent client will fetch data from the swarm and only use the seed for pieces which are not available or are deficient in the swarm.”

What they could do is start adding download links on the Radio4All site for a torrent file (or even better a magnet link) next to the link for each audio file. The torrent file would include the url of the actual audio file as its webseed. Khera continues:

“If you’re creating a torrent in uTorrent, just add the http (or https or ftp) link to the Web seeds box. Only http, https or ftp links will work.”

When a particular audio file is threatening to overwhelm their server, they could simply remove the direct link to the file, and people could continue to download via BitTorrent. They could also encourage regular users to download via BitTorrent instead of directly as standard practice.

Filed July 4th, 2012 under independent media
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