[clug] Freenet - is it worth it?

Paul Wayper paulway at mabula.net
Mon Aug 16 11:30:33 GMT 2004


I'd like to have a short rant here.  Don't worry, it's not that important 
unless you're interested in free speech.

Ever since I got a DSL connection I've run a Freenet node.  Of course, not 
being on a permanent IP address or a huge connection has meant that a lot 
of the time it has been pushed to the bottom of the queue by other things 
such as downloads.  Finally I'm on a symmetric 512 connection, and tonight 
I notice Freenet quite happily downloading 9K/sec and uploading 
18K/sec.  So I go to its 'web interface' thingy thinking "finally, I can 
actually see some of these highly important pages".

Nup.  "The network is busy".  WHY?  It's not like its using all my CPU or 
my network connection.  And almost every single time I've gone to use it in 
the last three years it's either said that or "The node you're requesting 
couldn't be found".  I'm looking for one of the five main Freenet 
collections - one that's listed on the main page of every Freenet node's 
'web interface'.  Freenet is designed to cache frequently used pages nearer 
the requester - so why are all of these pages impossible for me to see?

Mind you, the one time I did see the FIND index, it seemed to be pretty 
much exactly what was on the real, unencrypted, 'expensive' speech 
Internet.  Some lunatic with more time on their hands and lots less idea of 
its relative worth has archived every Strong Bad email animation.  As fine 
an example of free speech as you could ever find!  Whooee!  That's pretty 
damn important!  None of the "how to build a bomb" or "things the 
government doesn't want you to know" sites - and I have to admit the one 
time I got this to work I did want to see what sort of radical things 
people thought were worth preserving - weren't things that I've seen linked 
to from places like Dan's Data.

So what is the actual point of this all?  It's not like all this 
hypersecurity is actually going to protect you.  I heard a speaker from the 
UK Government talking about their decision not to sell a piece of 
intelligence collection software to Argentina, and he noted that, while 
they didn't, the sort of place that you wouldn't sell a piece of 
intelligence gathering software to was the sort of place where they didn't 
worry about not presenting documented evidence, they just raided 'suspected 
terrorists' houses at night and made them officially disappear.  Crypto on 
your computer and plausible deniability isn't going to stop the goon squad 
kicking down your door and bashing you senseless.

So what's the point of Freenet?  Does anyone run it?  Has anyone every 
found it worthwhile?  Has anyone even got it working so that it actually 
displays pages reliably?  Because as far as I can tell it's a well-meaning 
project that has completely missed the point.

Have fun,


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