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Retroshare: a new/old replacement for torrent and DC++

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Avatar for Geri
Written by   86
1 month ago

Platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Discord are dangerous. These platforms violate freedom of speech, they are a threat to the national security. Facebook were banning users and asking for their ID cards since the last decade, meanwhile they ban democratic organizations and interfering with the world politics. Reddit banned various groups in the previous months, because they didn't agreed with their political line. In a misandrist harassment campaign, feminist administrators of Discord are secretly banning MGTOW and men rights activists from Discord since days. In the past days, hundreds of human rights activists was suspended from Discord. I decided to try alternative platforms at first, but all of them was centralized. Till i found Retroshare, a decentralized chat platform with integrated file exchanging.

What is Retroshare

Retroshare looks like the love child of DC++, TOR and Discord. Its a software allowing encrypted p2p communication. There are no servers on Retroshare, people connect with each other directly. The software allows private chats, file exchanging, public chats, forums, and boards to be created. The software works on Windows, Linux, and other operating systems as well, however, only the Linux and Windows version offers all the features. The appearance of the program reminds me of the good old MSN, DC++ and Discord as well.

How Retroshare works

There are no central servers, the data is always tunneled from users to users directly. Once you add a partner, you can see the friends of your partner as well. You can message them, and upload/download files not only from your partners, but the friends of your partner as well. This means that if you have 10 person in your circles, and each of your friend also have 10 persons, you can access a total 90 person in overall.

Screenshot: my Retroshare profile

Retroshare and privacy

Retroshare can work on the internet (by propagating your IP address), and/on local area network, and/or on the TOR network. For privacy reasons, the Retroshare allows you to create a profile with built-in TOR compatibility. These type of profiles called hidden nodes. When a hidden node is made, only people with hidden nodes themself can connect to the person. This is what most of the people use, because file sharing of copyrighted material is illegal in most of the countries.

Creating your Retroshare profile

Your Retroshare profile will be stored on your computer. In the case of Linux, this will be your /home/username/.retroshare directory. The directory will be encrypted by the password you chose. As there are no central servers in retroshare, every setup, certification and routing information will be stored in your profile. Under Windows, this is probably under C:\Documents and settings\Username\Retroshare. Backup this profile after you shut down your Retroshare software, to avoid data loss.

First steps

When creating your profile, you can choose to create a normal or a hidden profile. Normal profile will expose your IP address, the hidden profile (with automatic tor setup) will create a node thats only accessibe from the other hidden profile users through the TOR network. For now, create the hidden node with a tor based setup, and then you can add your friends.

Adding friends

To add friends, you need their certificates to be added, or you should send your certifications to them. Once you add them, your attempt will be displayed in the Activity panel, but you can also add each other simultanously as well. The certificate contains your public keys, your IP address (which can change later on, thats not a problem) and/or your tor onion hidden service handler. The system needs a few minutes to exchange the profile informations and avatars.

Checking around

Once you have added a few people, typically public certificates around the internet, and your friends, you can chat with them, and you also can chat with the friends of them. This means you have access to hundreds of people after adding a few people, if they also have active profiles with people.

Downloading files

Retroshare functions similarly to DC++, however there are no central hubs. Your system downloads the file lists from your friends, but there is a dedicated search panel, which allows you to be searched in the files of every contacts friends. Why this is good? Lets say, someone is a big fan of karate movies. He has 10 karate movies and books shared. However, he will likely have a few friends who are also big fan of karate movies, so he will have friends, who also sharing a few karate movies and karate books. Then when you search for a karate content, you will get dozens of movies and books in the topic due to this technology. The technology for accessing the data of the friends contacts, called Turtlehop technology.

Legal and illegal activities

Retroshare is now considered a darknet itself, and the authorities are desperately trying to monitor it. The system has a few 10000 users so far. After using it for a few days, i haven't experienced any heavyweight mafia behaviors, or any sort of content about active violence, no mysterious hitmans or drug traders can be seen. People on Retroshare were very friendly so far, and they are happy to see newcomers. Most people are there to chat, and to experience the freedom of a decentralized world. Some of them are there to share files.

Bugs in Retroshare

Retroshare is full of bugs. I started to report them on their Github page, after i have discovered a few more or less serious bugs and vulnerabilities. Some of them was already patched, some of them are being worked on it. One of the most irritating bugs are manifesting in a form of crashes, when someone adds your certificate. To avoid this, i recommend to stop the program after succesfully adding a friend, making a backup from your profile, then restarting the program.

Setting up your Retroshare

If you plan to download and upload files with Retroshare, you can set the bandwidth limitations in the program. You can also set the bandwidth limitations independently for each profile. This is very important, because people who share files, will except you to share files, and set bandwidth limitations properly, otherwise they will block you. If you dont share anything, then you will not need this.

Upload speed limitation

In this example, i will show you two typical internet connection speeds, to help you to set your bandwith limitations properly. Different type of internet connections need different kind of setup.

If you have an internet with 30 MBit/sec download and 3 MBit/sec upload speeds, then that means the maximal download capacity is 3.8 MByte/sec and the maximal upload capacity is 384 kbyte/sec. Of course maxing this out would result your internet to became unusable and unstable. Therefore, if you have such an internet, you should set your download speed limit in Retroshare to 1024 kbyte/sec, and your upload speed limit to 128 kbyte/sec respectively. I recommend to limit the numbers of concurent downloads and concurent uploads to 4, which should give a good overall experience for you, and all of your peers.

If you have an internet with 100 MBit/sec download speed and 20 MBit upload speeds, then i recommend you to set your download speed limit in Retroshare to 4098 KByte/sec, and your upload speed to 1024 MByte/sec.

Even faster internet

Its important to note that TOR nodes aren't too fast, which means that you will not be able to get more than 2-3 MByte/sec through tor. This speed should be however totally enough for personal file exchanges, non-4k movies, music, and other type of personal content. If you have slower internet connection than 1 MByte/sec, then you might give your full bandwidth for the program, but if someone from your home wants to browse the internet, slowdowns will occur.

Retroshare ends centralization

With Retroshare, the age of screeching blue haired liberals are over. No free-riders, no socially awkward people, no centralization, no censorship. The platform is basically unblockable, the messages can not be censored, or blocked. The new era of communication is here.

Test Retroshare and add me

If you would like to test Retroshare, you can post your ID here, and i will add you. Please note that i will only add hidden nodes (tor based notes), and i will not add clean-net nodes. You can download Retroshare for Windows and for Linux here. The Windows version has the built-in TOR application, the Linux version requires it to be added manually with apt-get install tor before running the program.

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