Monday, June 19, 2006

Vista Beta II, VistaTorrent, & Avalanche

Tried to stay out of the Vista Beta II download brouhaha since I had downloaded my copy as part of the official beta a long while before the public floodgates were opened, but the news, over the weekend, that Chris Pirillo’s (IMO) helpful website was deactivated prompted this.

Say what you will about the legalities of the issue, but Pirillo was trying to ease the woes of many potential upgraders.

Believe me, the initial download experience, or lack of thereof was a terribly dampening one for the newbie Vista™ testers. This I know from experience with earlier builds and the attendant horrendous download speeds.

Moreover, that takes a spark away from those who would like to give it a whirl despite all the negativity surrounding the Vista™ builds by media types trying to make a name for themselves by knocking an otherwise improved product.

Right after the last Vista™ Lab in May, I felt that whatever provisioning arrangements and services being planned for the public Vista™ Preview Program would fall horribly short of forecast, and I secretly hoped that Microsoft would use this opportunity as a tested for Avalanche, their Torrent-like distribution service under development by Microsoft Research. If not as the primary download mechanism, then as an adjunct to the general download.

I mean, even the Office 2007 Beta II download of a few days before was a serious drag on my happiness quotient – let’s not even start about the slow DSL speeds at Unimatrix Zero-1, formerly known as La Casa John, which I have since rectified by subscribing to Comcast Cable.

If as reports were in June of 2005, for which there was a thread in The Hive, that speeds were up for 4GB downloads at the time, surely the fine-tuning of the algorithms involved should be producing much better results now; in the very least better that what a lot of people were seeing.

Please don’t comment that there was an option to send for a DVD, OK?

I know that, OK?

However, the fact that you could get the download simultaneously, introduced the immediacy concept to potential testers, making the mail-order option a 'pleasure-delayed' final option.

The sensible thing to have done was to have opened the Beta II process a while before the download release to mail-order fulfillment, with initial deliveries timed to the download announcement/release. As previously done in the past with, I believe, a beta of Office or Windows. That would have alleviated the pain tremendously.

Or, make plans to utilize Avalanche.

Sadly, no one at Microsoft either saw the problem - which I don't think, as there are too many smart people employed there, thought of the Avalanche solution, or if they did, did not make enough of an effort to take the case to management that this was a superb opportunity for field-testing both Avalanche, and fine-tuning the delivery mechanism for future builds.

I know of no Vista beta tester that would not like to participate.

Alas, Avalanche, as a delivery option for Vista Beta II was not to be.

Back to

Shortly after the public release of Vista Beta II, and in response to (the beta) public outcry, Pirillo, with a partner, started which aimed to ease the frustration of the potential testers. To assuage Microsoft’s fears of hacked, cracked, or malware-infested code, the site offered the following (from their site):

The only official tracker for this torrent is found here at We're providing an MD5 hash to verify the file after download to make sure you're getting the real thing. If the torrent URL is anything other than the one from, don't download or install the file! We're staking our reputations on providing a clean ISO torrent here. There is no registration required to download this torrent.

By all indications, downloaders loved the freebie service, as observed by the number of compliments in the blogosphere.

But, all good things must come to an end and a boilerplate cease-and-desist letter was sent to VistaTorrent to deactivate downloads. Which was done immediately.


While Microsoft is totally right in issuing the C&D to protect its intellectual property, I cannot help but be upset that a product with a great upside (Vista) missed the chance to utilize another potential great product (Avalanche) to bring a very good download experience to a lot of potential beta testers.

A missed opportunity indeed.
Copyright © 2006, John Obeto II for®

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