M∞ ANGEL APPLICATION
Hundreds of ANGEL-APPLICATIONS running on personal computers and servers on all five continents build the nervous system of the distributed eternal memory. It is designed to provide MISSION ETERNITY with secure, affordable, easy-to-use, ultra- long-term storage. In February 2007, etoy pre-released a functional prototype for alpha testing. The tool and the source code are available under the GPL: http://angelapp.missioneternity.org/.
The desktop tool enables common computer users (OS X and LINUX at this point) to collaboratively store and share redundant copies of M∞ ARCANUM CAPSULES (later other data of users as well) online. etoy started to spread the application among a community of MISSION ETERNITY ANGELS and to form a social file system which provides safe, reliable, globally accessible storage for anyone willing to participate. Ease of use is provided by hiding most of the complex, networked environment technology behind standard network-storage interfaces (WebDAV etc.).
Due to the widespread availability of broadband internet access, a new class of storage solutions has recently received significant attention by the academic community: redundant, self-replicating, distributed, community-driven (peer-to-peer) file systems [1-3]. Here, the central idea is that users can collaborate to form a shared storage space, consuming the storage they need and providing the storage they don’t need to other users. By ensuring that multiple (encrypted, check-summed) copies of each file are stored in different locations at any given time, and autonomously replacing corrupted copies. In an idealized model [cite report], where data loss depends only on storage medium failure, expected lifetimes of the data scale exponentially with the number of copies (reaching expected lifetimes on the order of millions of years for 3-4 copies). The lifetime of such information is therefore no longer limited by the underlying (physical) storage medium, but by the (social) network surrounding, maintaining and nurturing it. Additionally, a suitable algorithm should be able to autonomously balance requirements and capacity between individual users -- the system capacity (storage space and bandwidth) and requirements should grow synchronously.
While several software projects are based on the same idea etoy.CORPORATION didn’t find an existing solution that solves the problem of data backup in a social network. Some of etoy’s advantages are the strictly non-commercial and open approach and the cultural context in which the application is released.
MISSION ETERNITY and its ANGEL APPLICATION are designed to form a hybrid art work that is digitally distributed and will benefit from the emotional participation of its community members: some ANGELS are willing to contribute hard disk space and invite their friends simply to be part of another exciting etoy.MISSION (i.e. etoy.SHAREHOLDERS and TOYWAR activists or people who could not be part of earlier actions and like to experience art of a new breed). Others are interested in the content - the digital portraits of dead PILOTS (friends and family or in the case of a famous person public interest motivates ANGELS to install the program on their computer). At the same time the ANGEL-APPLICATION is a playful but rather crazy software research project with the potential to generate strong impact. This attracts researchers and developers who are keen to testing code and theories within a committed community that can deal with failures, discussions and delays as a logical result of experiments on the edge. Commercial markets don’t offer the same level of goodwill.
For etoy, and hopefully for a broad audience, MISSION ETERNITY and its sculptural output channels and digital PILOT portraits are exciting art that involves thousands of people worldwide and deals with essential topics: loss, decay and death, networked storage and conservation of digital data, archeology, identity in virtual worlds and our link to future civilizations. Thanks to the ANGEL APPLICATION, the work is not just a metaphor. It is a system that runs on one hundred alpha test computers now and on thousands of devices in 6 months. More than 500 ANGELS subscribed and committed themselves to share at least 50 mega byte of their storage capacity to the MISSION.
2 etoy.AGENTS and 3 external developers have been working on the implementation of the application since 2006. Currently several advisors and beta testers help to increase the reliability and usability of the code.
The strong link between people sharing storage capacity is at least as important as the working back end. The style as well as the «story behind» the system can help maintaining and improving the social glue among M∞ ANGELS.