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Avalanche P2P May Be In Vista

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-31

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Microsoft has been quietly developing its BitTorrent alternative in the UK, and the announcement that Windows Vista-equipped laptops with built-in WiFi will be able to do peer to peer connections could indicate its pending arrival in the marketplace.

A ZDNet report about a technology called "People Near Me" in Vista will enable P2P connections between laptops in close proximity.

Microsoft has already built one program, Windows MeetingSpace, that utilizes the P2P technology to permit the sharing of files between those machines. Last August, beta testers of Vista noticed that a P2P application was in place and running by default.

At that time, Microsoft said the application had been turned on for testing purposes and would be turned off by default in the final version of Vista. The article noted that the MeetingSpace application had been known as Windows Collaboration.

Last July, a few details on Avalanche became known to the public. In that model, Avalanche overcomes BitTorrent's problem of finding the rarest bit of a file by using network coding instead.

Network coding receives more detail in Microsoft's research report on Avalanche:

Instead of distributing the blocks of the file, peers produce linear combinations of the blocks they already hold. Such combinations are distributed together with a tag that describes the parameters in the combination. Any peer can generate new unique combinations from the combinations it already has. When a peer has enough independent combinations, it can decode and build the original file.

Such encoding ensures that any piece uploaded by a given peer can be of use to any other peer. Peers do not need to find specific pieces in the system to complete, any subset encoded piece will suffice.

In that research note, Microsoft specifically noted how Avalanche includes "strong security to ensure content providers are uniquely identifiable, and to prevent unauthorized parties from offering content for download. The project also ensures content downloaded to each client machine is exactly the same as the content shared by the content provider."

While the initial debut of MeetingSpace will be limited to those laptops with close proximity to other MeetingSpace users, plans by Microsoft to forge content deals with Hollywood studios could use this as a stepping stone toward those negotiations. Especially if Avalanche is part of the package.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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