Watching the Wildlife

“Keeping track of Tux…”

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the LinuxTracker! This occasion reminds me of exactly how far things have come in open source.

I remember reading about this new “Linux” in 1991 that anyone worldwide could contribute to, and thinking of how that would change things. I spent time poring over the supported hardware list and went to the site, hoping to be able to download a copy within a few days in order to try it out the following week. This was at a time when dialup was the standard, and you might have ISDN (downloads @ 128k! Blistering!) at your work if you were lucky. I was the only one supporting all of the UNIX-based clients at work at the time, and I had three minicomputers with variants like SCO and AIX and I had been working in UNIX environments for years at this point. The prospect of a UNIX environment on a desktop machine for my own use and configuration, that was free to use, and had source available for modifying and contributing sounded like a geek’s fondest -ehm- pipe dream. The other techs I was working with at the time agreed. They were doing DOS and Windows support with me, and were excited at the notion.

The rumblings of Richard Stallman‘s ideology were becoming concrete. Of course, even today, Linux is not the HURD that he often wrote about, but it’s the closest tangible thing to it.

/Fast forward/ — a few years ago, the landscape had evolved, businesses rely on Linux variants in the server room, several Linux distributions are in common use, and new ones seem to pop up on a monthly basis. F/OSS is available and more than viable on any platform. It is common practice (especially in universities) to create a mirror download point so that if the distribution’s main site is down or unavailable, you can still get it, and hopefully, can find a mirror that’s in your same region of the world.

This was after the RIAA and MPAA started cracking down on peer-to-peer file sharing. More advanced users had started using bittorrent as a better method of downloading and sharing. The torrents are very tiny files that your torrent client uses to find and update a tracker. Once you connect to the tracker and get assigned to a swarm, the downloads are much more effectively, because the shares are data packets of the file/files, rather than a whole file. This makes torrents better for large files like video and, hey, even ISO images of Linux distributions. LinuxTracker was born to take advantage of this. A distributed network of linux users and enthusiasts helping anyone who is interested to download open source software. These are all legal torrents. The writers of all of the software you will find there did the work pro bono, and want anyone interested to be able to get a copy. It’s really a beautiful thing.

The look and feel of the site have changed a bit over the last four years, but the list of available torrents is impressive, the homepage always showing the latest additions and updates. There is a burgeoning community here composed of daily linux users at levels from ‘curious’ to ‘admin’, always willing to help out.

The remainder of the month is being celebrated with almost daily giveaways to registered users from a wide assortment of tech-related sponsors. The consistent growth of the site and community is wonderful, and seeding the torrents is a very simple contribution that *anyone* can make to the FOSS community, regardless of technical ability.

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