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the [ file ai ] blog

I Love My Beta Testers! (But I Hate Their Routers)

July 3rd, 2008

So two days ago I received an e-mail from one of my invaluable beta testers about an issue they were having transferring a 300MB HD Stock Footage video file to one of their customers: The transfer would stall about 2/3 of the way through, and it couldn’t be resumed.

I spent about half the day trying to track down the issue when I was finally able to re-create the problem by downloading the same file from them: It got more than half of the way through and then just stopped. Basically it looked like their computer got “lost” somehow, and was nowhere to be found.

The thing was, everything looked fine from their end: Their browser window was still open, and they still had Internet connectivity. And oh, the headache I was getting.

Suddenly, I figured out what had happened: Their router had suddenly decided to change their external port - right in the middle of the transfer!

Now, I didn’t know routers could do this. It just doesn’t make sense if you’re communicating with someone and then they suddenly change ports on you. How is the other party supposed to figure this out? Magic?

Well, the good news is that I believe I have made the changes to the applet that will handle this madness these types of situations, so if any of you have had any trouble before making or maintaining connections, give the latest version a try and let’s see how things work out. (Just be sure to let me know how it goes!)

Thanks! :D

[ file ai ] Plays Nice With Your Firewall & Router

June 27th, 2008

Many P2P (or “peer-to-peer”) applications require you to make changes to your firewall and/or router settings in order to be able to connect to and communicate with other people on the network. Sometimes you have to open ports in your firewall or forward ports with your router, and not everyone in the world feels entirely comfortable doing these things in the first place.

With fileai.com, you don’t have to worry about any of these issues: It just works. :)

Do you want to know why? Do you even really care? Well, if you do, the reason fileai.com doesn’t have to worry about firewalls or routers is that it is built on top of a custom-made, multi-tiered communication protocol specifically designed with that purpose in mind.

Firewalls are usually configured to block incoming connections while allowing you to make outgoing connections to mail servers, web servers, etc. Once a connection is established, however, it allows data to go back and forth along that connection until the connection is closed.

The secret to fileai.com is to have both the computers that are trying to connect to one another start to initiate the connection at the same time. Once that happens, the firewalls are tricked into thinking that a connection has already been established, and voila! you can communicate with each other to your heart’s content. :)

Servers Are For Suckers

June 18th, 2008

One of the big differences between fileai.com and other services is that you have to keep your web browser window open for the transfer to complete. The reason for this is simple: The files aren’t uploaded to a big central server somewhere to be downloaded later. Instead, they’re transferred directly, from one computer to the other. Why do we do this? Well, there are a number of reasons:

1. Cost

Files take up disk space, and disk space costs money. Most services will let you transfer files for free, but there are limits: The files can’t be too big, and there can’t be a lot of them. If you want to upload more then it’ll cost you.

fileai.com is absolutely, 100% free, with no limits on the size or number of files you want to transfer. This is because you don’t send the files to us, you send them to each other. We’re just there to connect you guys together. After that, we’re out of the loop completely.

2. Privacy

I don’t know about you, but would you want to upload your sensitive or private files to a server somewhere simply so that someone else can download them? How do you know that they have properly secured their server against unauthorized access? Or that they’re not looking at all of the files being uploaded to them, just for kicks? When you remove your files from their server, how do you know they’re really being deleted? These are questions that are difficult to answer, so the best solution is to never have to ask them in the first place.

When you use fileai.com to transfer your files, the files are never sent to us. The file names are never sent to us. We don’t know how many there are, how big they are, or anything like that. We don’t even keep logs of which computer connected to who. Why? Because we don’t need to. All we need to do is get people connected. Once that’s done, we move on to let you go about the business of sending your files to each other.

3. Speed

To transfer a file to someone, two things have to happen: You have to send it and they have to receive it. If you first have to upload the file to a server before they can start to download it, then they’re going to have to wait up to twice as long as it would take if you just sent it to them directly using fileai.com.

With fileai.com, they start to receive data as soon as you start to send it. If you are sending an extra-large file, both of you don’t have to wait around for it to finish uploading before they can start to download it. If you are sending thousands of files, you don’t have to wait for all of the files to be uploaded before starting to download the first one. fileai.com saves you the time and frustration of a slow upload by getting things done as soon as possible.

Send Files vs. Receive Files

June 18th, 2008

When you visit the front page of fileai.com, you are asked what you would like to do: Send Files or Receive Files. Most people understand the point of the Send Files button, but some are not completely sure why and when they would ever want to choose the “Receive Files” button instead. I find it’s best to explain this with an example:

Let’s say there are two people, Bob and Dave, who work together. Bob is currently at the office at his computer, 5 minutes before he is going to go home. Dave has already left the office and is in his car driving home. He’ll be home in half an hour.

Bob and Dave are talking on the phone when they realize that Bob needs to send Dave some large media files so that Dave can finish up the big presentation they have first thing in the morning. They’re too big to e-mail, so Bob goes to fileai.com, clicks Send Files, drags-and-drops the folder of media files, e-mails the link to Dave, and goes home. When Dave gets home he opens his e-mail, clicks the link, and downloads the media files to his computer.

Makes sense, right? Now here comes the twist: What if it was Dave who needed to send some files from his computer at home to Bob at work? If there was only the Send Files button, Bob would have to wait at work for Dave to get home so that Dave could create the transfer and send Bob the link. Now, Bob’s really hungry, and he’s got a headache. He doesn’t want to wait around for half an hour for Dave to get home. So what does he do? He clicks the Receive Files button instead. :)

When Bob clicks Receive Files he chooses the folder where he wants the files to be downloaded to, e-mails the transfer link to Dave, and goes home. When Dave gets home he opens his e-mail, clicks the link, and is able to drag-and-drop the files, sending them to Bob’s computer.

Crisis averted, and everyone gets to go home on time.

Make sense? :)