File Transfers...again (yet?)

Charlie Summers charlie "at" lofcom.com
Fri, 22 Mar 2002 17:05:42 +0000


Mr. Elliott;

   First, let me thank you and all of the others who have responded.

   Instead of responding on a point-by-point basis, let me comment that all
of the responses I've received seem to run to making things _more_ complex,
not less. Some suggest tunneling through secure protocols, some suggest a
file server with filesystems mounted on every machine in the room (we have a
server running atalk and samba on the same filesystem, we just don't see any
reason to mount those filesystems on machines [like the voicemail machine,
for example] that don't need them), and everyone seems pretty convinced that
running an FTP server on one machine is the "sensible" solution to the
problem. VNC is an example of a simple application that allows view/control
of an outside machine (reasonably) efficiently; why not the same thing for
file transfers?

   So let me try something else, avoiding references to VNC completely. Joe
and Sam have two laptops which are connected to each other through TCP/IP,
but not connected to the Internet (I'm doing this to eliminate the inevitable
requirement for securing the data...let's keep it simple for now and add
public encryption later). Joe wants to give Sam a file. One file. Joe doesn't
want to run a full-featured FTP server, require Sam to log into the server
(even as anonymous), Joe just wants to send Sam One File. Oh, and to keep
things honest, I won't tell you what operating system Joe _or_ Sam are
running; it doesn't matter if Joe is Mac and Sam is linux, or Joe is FreeBSD
and Sam is Windows. (I made the mistake of giving a real-word example sending
a file from Windows, and some assumed this was the only direction this
mythical application would need to work.)

   Isn't it reasonable that somewhere I haven't looked there is a small,
efficient application to solve this one really simple issue? If you use ICQ,
you can transfer a file to anyone while chatting with them...I want to do the
same thing between two machines without the chat or the central icq.com
server. If you use IRC, you can transfer a file directly (DCC)...I want to do
the same thing without the central IRC server to coordinate the initial
request. Think _really_ simple - both guys open the VNT (Virtual Network
Transfers, with apologies to AT&T) application, Joe pics the file from a
picklist, and Sam has it. Both quit the app, and move on.

   (Wasn't P2P supposed to be the hot new thing? Why do all P2P schematas
_require_ a central server? Doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose?)

   Oh, I will answer one specific point you raised:

At 18:00:06 -0500 3/22/02, John Roland Elliott is rumored to have typed:

> For my own idle curiosity, why do you prefer a little peer-to-peer utility
> to a file service on one of the boxes that has interfaces usable by all your
> platforms?

   Because it's clean in situations when machines don't need to mount an
entire filesystem. Forget the internal network with central fileserver, and
look at my friends Joe and Sam...or think about the large number of small
home networks being cobbled together today as newbies connect their machines
with wired and wireless networks _without_ fileservers. This small, simple,
impossible-to-screw-up-the-setup-since-you-just-double-click utility is so
obvious in this world I can't _believe_ I'm the first guy to see the need.
(Trust me, I ain't that smart.) It almost _has_ to exist somewhere I haven't
looked yet.

         Charlie
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