I nearly didn’t write this week’s column 🙂 Not from a lack of topics but just general holiday ennui. That has a lot to do with too much excellently rich Christmas plum cake. Heavy it is. And for every slice I eat beckons me closer to the Land Of Nod.
But for those readers quite enamored by the power of P2P, you may want to watch out. According to such data I chanced across today, Big Brother is alive and watching what you do. The BayTSP service quietly scans all known P2P networks, web sites, Torrent search engines, over 65,000 news groups, public FTP sites, the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) network and auction sites for keywords indicating possibly pirated content.
So contrary to popular reporting its not the RIAA that snooping. But BayTSP spiders diligently collecting content and reporting back to their master. The surveillance runs 24×7. Of course BayTSP’s web site is suitably corporate and doesn’t offer any statistics. But if you sniff around you will learn that in November 2005, The Interpreter was the most popular movie (downloaded 50,336 times) followed by The Skeleton Key (47,348). And the most pirated software was SUSE Linux 9 (78,159) followed by Adobe Acrobat 7 (43,803). The data collated indicates the peak download times, the average shared files per user and the methods used to share/transfer files.
But that’s not going to slow down Torrents. Because the pirated content being exchanged is just the visible part of the iceberg. Below the water line is software being downloaded legally. BitTorrent is the best protocol to share popular files like full Operating System (OS) versions, patches and updates without a need for high-end servers able to sustain high traffic for really long periods.
Opera Software, who include a stripped down and experimental Torrent client, in their browser, no longer seem to experience total download site collapse when a new version is released. By embracing Torrents as a transfer protocol they have successfully shifted the traffic from their server to users sharing a complete version.
Meanwhile Microsoft hasn’t been sitting pretty. And no they haven’t rolled out a BitTorrent client. Microsoft Research has released SNARF (Social Network and Relationship Finder) designed as a mail management add-in for Outlook users overwhelmed by messages. SNARF offers a quick overview on unread messages, sorted by importance. The contacts whom you frequently correspond with are listed higher than the one offs. However I’m not sure how effective this approach is for those in sales and marketing. Because its possible that a new business lead hasn’t contacted you before. But SNARF will list their message below your colleagues who send you jokes and other typical intra-office junk.
If you use Outlook 2000/XP/2003 there’s a crude form of the SNARF UI built-in. Change your messages displayed view to be sorted by author. SNARF goes a bit further and can in the same window display unread messages sorted by author.
Although I much prefer Mail Alert; a free Outlook add-in that displays a semi-transparent, and quite non-intrusive desktop alert about the message. Details displayed include the sender, subject and the beginning of the message. You can choose to directly delete a message or reply to it immediately. Oh, and did I mention why I really like it? You guessed it: 100% free! So if you too use Outlook (not Outlook Express) download and integrate a copy immediately. Mail Alert supports Unicode support and Windows XP themes. And clicking Reply and Forward will implicitly mark the message as read.
Last week I also downloaded the IE Tab Firefox extension that offers access to the Internet Explorer rendering engine from within Firefox. All you have to do is open a new blank tab (after you have installed the Extension and restarted Firefox). Then click the Firefox icon in the status bar to switch to IE.
Of course, use with care because while handy, this extension isn’t 100% pure IE and remains a bit buggy (even as the developer keeps making improvements). But with IE Tab you can access hitherto-forbidden ActiveX controls from within Firefox. The recently released IE Tab 1.0.7 Beta 1 resolves several bugs and adds new improved menus. I first came across this extension while attempting to find a solution to run an ActiveX-powered RootKit scanner from within Firefox as I no longer use Internet Explorer for anything. Firefox with IE Tab installed can also be used to access Windows Update.
There’s also a new Maxthon 1.5.1 Build 39 version available in Standard and Combo editions. This upgrade can also be downloaded via the integrated component update feature. Besides bug fixes other improves are improved Popup blocking, and improved Start page with links to blog posts about Maxthon development and an ability to “Pin to start page” items selected from subscribed feeds in the RSS side bar. Actually the start page is a neat link maximizer that just happens to include posts from the new Maxthon Blog.
I often wonder why Maxthon updates seem to be based around AvantBrowser updates! The latter in comparison is a very shoddy, nay crappy tool. Stay posted for news and download links for an early Beta of the under-development Maxthon 2.0 in the making. I just hope this new version doesn’t require Internet Explorer 7. Because the Maxthon chief developer is cosying up to Microsoft. The company’s is participating in the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2006, Las Vegas, as an official Microsoft partner with its own booth.
There’s also a new Gaim 2.0.0 Beta 1. This is an exceedingly unfinished version with so many bugs that it managed to crash my computer (no mean feat). I had a devil of a time cleaning out its very last remnants, before re-installing GTK and finally Gaim 1.5.
Pretty good post don’t you think for someone not planning on writing one :p Stay Safe and there will be more next time.