June 22 2006
They teach kids about the war in Elementary School now. Radios, TV, and movies mention it constantly. Yet it’s still remains a guerrilla war. An insidious war whose propaganda teaches no clue of the other side.
I’d been reading about the war for thirty years. Now, Charles had me face to face swapping stories with a bona fide war hero!
“Back in the dark ages,” Michael Weiss told me, “I was a music promoter. I helped artists who couldn’t get played on radio, get played in clubs. Then in 1978, I opened one of the first video rental stores. When the movie industry complained, I organized the video store lobby supporting Sony. You probably don’t remember, but…”
“Oh, I totally remember!” I interrupted, telling him a bit of my story.
“After that, I started one of the early web radio companies. We did the first concert broadcast ever over the internet.” Mike was still a music promoter at heart. That was why he’d launched Morpheus. He hardly seemed the evil pirate the industry painted him as. He seemed more like… Well… More like a big brother. Every story he told I seemed to have one to match. We talked about Sony, Rio, Napster, and his Grokster fight.
Still, it took more than a half hour (and a little prompting from Clay) before I got up the nerve to show him. I’d brought a two CD demonstration I called “Shock” and “Awe”.
I have to admit I felt a little twinge of pride each time his eyes rolled up in quiet contemplation. I couldn’t wait to get to my big finish…
So each data block can be used to simultaneously retrieve multiple files. I showed you the files that can be retrieved from blocks on the Shock CD, and files that can be retrieved from the blocks on the Awe CD.
But here is the fun part! There are files that don’t exist on either CD, but… which can be retrieved only by accessing blocks from both CDs!
I played it up over dramatically expecting his blank stare. Everyone presumes I just stacked the deck while making the disks…
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I said smiling. “Here’s the cool part…”
Among these new files are election results that didn’t exist until a month after the Shock CD data had been burned into plastic and distributed!
Could the Shock node operator be responsible for hosting that data?
That violates cause and effect!
Those files can’t be retrieved from Awe, so you can’t presume that operator even knows they exists. How are you going to hold him responsible?
Mike’s eyes rolled up and to the left as his head fell back again in quiet contemplation. I couldn’t help but grin as the browser refreshed.
That’s why this page is named “Disbelief!”
But wait! It gets even better…
We’d started out in a big room that was almost empty. An engrossing hour later, I remained oblivious to the room filling with people. The conference cocktail mixer had started…
“See these four links,” I said clicking each in turn.
These files can’t be retrieved. Each file is missing one of the core blocks in the URL. So in the copyright sense, no one can claim these files were ever “distributed.”
But if you look closely at the error message, you’ll notice that each file is missing the same block. Block ID ee858bcf6fdca0a51199ce047c580704539c28a5.
If you could find that one 128K block, you would have access to an additional 20 megabytes of data! But the block doesn’t exist on either CD so you’re screwed…
This is where the fucking magic comes in! I have a secret URL that lets me retrieve that block!
I pasted the URL into the browser and downloaded the missing block as Mike watched.
Now I take this block and put it into the block cache and voila!
20 Megabytes of movies and music accessible via a single 128K block…
Now, the question becomes, “Who exactly distributed those files?”
The guy who gave me the URL for that block?…
There’s a funny story about that particular block. It was created entirely randomly. In fact it was the first block I ever created. It existed before I inserted any actual data files. How on earth can random data infringe copyright?
Mike’s eyes glassed over and his head fell back in contemplation again. I had no idea others were watching.
So, like I said. The “copies” don’t exist inside the data blocks at all. So, only place left to argue they exist, is in the URLs. But that doesn’t really make sense either…
“And you could just put the URLs into a file and store them in the system.” Mike recognized immediately.
Exactly! We call those OFF Directories. And since everything is immutable the links never break. And they nest over time to make a tree. So, theoretically, you can recursively access every file in the world by possessing only one single URL.
I get all the way to the end and almost forget the point I started out to make!
The whole point of The OFF System is that you can access anything and everything in complete privacy! See, each URL starts with “localhost”.
Your file requests never leave your local machine! Only meaningless blocks of arbitrary data are ever transferred across the network. We don’t even use encryption because there’s simply nothing at all to snoop on.
“Tell me what you told him! I want to know what you told him!”
Tom Meredith had been watching Michael from across the room as he went catatonic. Over my shoulder I heard Clay say assertively,
“Later, Tom! We’ll talk later. Bob and Mike need a moment.”
That twinge of pride turned to a warm glow as I realized I’d impressed my hero. I was still quietly waiting for Mike to regain his composure when Clay could no longer stand the silence. As always, leave it to him to cut to the chase…
“But Mike… Awesome as OFF is… That’s not even what we wanted to talk to you about. We’ve got an even cooler idea. One that actually makes money. We’d like to work with you…”