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Self-Replicating Usbs Spread Software Faster Than an Internet Connection

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A map of the relative density of IPv4 addresses.

The map shows the density of IPv4 addresses around the world, a useful proxy for the density of Internet servers. Uneven geographic distribution of the Internet means that, in most parts of the world, a free operating system several gigabytes in size will

Credit: Carna Botnet

Montpellier 2 University computer scientist Thierry Monteil says he has developed an easy, inexpensive way to transmit large software packages rapidly without using the Internet via a self-replicating bootable USB stick.

The method could be especially relevant in the developing world, where bandwidth limitations make even modest downloads prohibitively expensive.

Monteil has written a script that clones the contents of one USB stick to another, copying only the designated software while maintaining the second stick's existing data. Because each new stick can transfer programs to others, the approach could potentially spread software to large numbers of people much more quickly than even the fastest Internet connections. Monteil tested the method in Burkina Faso with 60 participants, with transfers completed in six cloning rounds during a coffee break.

Monteil says the amortized bandwidth becomes 30MB/s, which is significantly faster than an unreliable dial-up modem connection. However, Monteil suggests the approach be used only for short distance communication, such as a classroom, because of the risk of malware. "While being very efficient for our purpose of spreading huge free software inside a community, it is definitely not advisable for spreading sensitive software, or for large-scale distribution," he says.

From Technology Review
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