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Peer to Peer programs

When you have a file on your computer that someone else needs access to, you need to share it with them, and preferably in a way that stops the two copies getting out of synchronisation. Once, you would do it primarily by moving files around on floppy disk, but now that networking is so common, most people use some form of file sharing software.

This software has been in the news quite a bit of late due to the sharing of copyright materials over these networks, but at least part of the problem is down to faulty planning by the recording industry. This includes songs being over priced, and often unavailable except as a "bonus track" on "best of" albums, not yet having an effective online purchasing model so you can get the music conveniently, and the mistaken belief that any playing of the music that they have not been paid for is costing them sales when a good percentage of it is actually giving them free advertising.

The simplest way to share files at the moment is just to attach them to an email, but this has disadvantages, especially the fact that you can only send the file to a small number of people, and the maximum file size being small.

If you have a website, you can publish it on your website, which gets around the limited number of people you can send it to, but the more popular it is, the more it costs you to publish it.

What most people do instead is use some form of file sharing program to access a peer to peer network. The more recent versions of this share the hosting of the file, so the more popular the file, the less it costs you to publish it.

The easiest, but least powerfull method if you run microsoft windows is to have the machines on your network running the netmeeting software that is part of the operating system.

If that isn't good enough, then you will probably want to use on one of the large peer to peer networks.

Probably the most famous of these is the napster system. While napster had been sued out of business due to debatably infalted claims of copyright theft, the software is still out there in the form of OpenNap. This connects to unauthorised napster servers on the internet, but due to the centralised nature of the servers, is prone to being sued out of existance like their parent software. The technology is also a little dated. A usefull link for this is Napigator and a windows program for accessing these servers was winmx.

However the napster company was ressurected, and is now a company providing legal downloading of copyright material.

Created as a response to napsters legal problems, gnutella uses a decentralised model of servers. While immune to being sued, there appear to be problems with scale-up, as the broadcast access method seems to "flood the network" with requests for files that the local system doesn't have. You can access the gnutella network using the BearShare, Morpheus and LimeWire programs.

A more recent system is the fasttrack network. I don't really have much information about this network, but you can access this network using the grokster and Kazaa software. Because of the ever changing, but always large amounts of spyware that kazaa installs, some clever people have made available KazaaLite which is basically kazaa minus the spyware.

Another program, but I'm not sure which network it uses is Direct Connect

File sharing is a tool that is so usefull that even microsoft is building it into it's software, so it is definately here to stay.