Tech Ed tames torrent leechers

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Tech Ed tames torrent leechers

Port tracking identifies greedy users at MS conference.

Network administrators at Microsoft's Tech Ed conference have proven that rickrolling leechers is an effective enforcement tool against the use of BitTorrent on public WiFi networks.

Last year, Microsoft adopted a tough-love approach to attendees at its developer fest, disconnecting users who ran wild with BitTorrent downloads.

While the same systems are in place for this year's event, the 2,700-odd attendees appear to have got the message and the event's organisers have not had to disconnect anyone yet.

To ensure network performance doesn't degrade, Microsoft actively monitors the network and removes users who are hogging excessive bandwidth.

"The thing with torrenting is it will affect your network peers," said Microsoft Australia infrastructure evangelist Jorke Odolphi, who oversaw the network rollout for Tech Ed, which is running on the Gold Coast for the second consecutive year. "We will take those people off the network."

"Last year, we had a lot of it. People would go 'I don't seem to be able to get onto the wireless' and we'd check their MAC address and see what they were doing." Odolphi said. However, so far at the 2010 event, there has been no need to remove users.

"It's all around good network behaviour. If you're going to affect other people, that's an issue. We monitor the number of ports people are using," Odolphi said. "One of the things that BitTorrent manifests is heavy port usage."

Technology events are notorious for Wi-Fi failures limiting access and ruining presentations, but Internet access is now an expected feature.

"My worst case is just losing the Internet," Odolphi said. "One thing we've learnt at tech conferences is you don't really have to feed delegates, you don't have to give them booze and you don't even have to water them, but if you don't give them Internet, you never hear the end of it. Making sure the wireless is rock solid is really important.

"Equipment-wise, it's almost exactly the same as last year, though we've got a little more overhead," Odolphi said. "Last year, we had a lot of issues in the initial commissioning. Coming into it this year, it was really easy."

The conference utilises a 500 Mbps connection from Telstra for delegate access, with an addition 100 Mbps backup link for use by presenters and as additional capacity during periods of network strain. The system utilises 60 network switches and 55 access points.

The other major change this year is that the entire Tech Ed network is running on IPv6. Odolphi said that hadn't presented too many major challenges, though many applications still malfunction if they're not presented with an IPv4 address.

"A lot of the applications don't have the support for IPv6 yet," he said.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to Queensland as a guest of Microsoft.

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