Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NetBeans Platform autoupdate via BitTorrent

Something I'm pursing nowadays is having my platform applications as decentralized as possible.

And the fist pet peewee I had is that fact that the Update Centers are such, big, centralized, monolithic blocks.

I always assumed that I would need to hack the AutoUpdate module from the NetBeans Platform quite hard in order to get what I wanted all along: BitTorrent downloads for new or updated modules.

So, the first thing we have to notice is that the AutoUpdate Catalog (see DTD) provides for each module in the Update Center a location called distribution. The distribution may be a relative path to the catalog location. That is usually something like ./com-example-mymodule.nbm or it can be a totally new URL.

Now we have a first step towards splitting traffic: we can put the actual NBM file on another URL altogether. Or, if we have the AutoUpdate Catalog location sit behind a servlet we could even try a bit of balancing and return a different distribution link depending on how loaded are the servers. That's a plus...

Ok, that's something but it isn't BitTorrent, you still download the whole file from a single place.

It's alive !

But what the Platform does offer is the possibility to register in the Lookup your own URLStreamHandlerFactory . So, I can register a new handler for the torent:// protocol and the AutoUpdate module will just use my stream handler.

And thus, a few hours later I have a working AutoUpdate infrastructure via BitTorrent. My StramHandler downloads behind the scenes with BitTorrent using Snark and provides a nice InputStream to the AutoUpdate module. It's still not polished but already useable. Install the module from this update center: http://emilianbold.ro/modules-updates.xml or just grab the NBM.

Something else: the destination of the module is no longer pointing now to the NBM, but to a torrent file actually which has the NBM file.

The steps are: place the torrent file on http://example.com/module1.torrent.nbm, edit the catalog to have destination="torrent://example.com/module1.torrent.nbm" and you're good to go. Behind the scenes I'll actually download the http file and then download the torrent.
<!DOCTYPE module_updates PUBLIC "-//NetBeans//DTD Autoupdate Catalog 2.3//EN"
<module_updates timestamp="35/26/18/21/01/2008">

<module codenamebase="org.yourorghere.emptymodule"
... >

A small remark: note the .nbm extension. It's something the AutoUpdate module needs otherwise it won't be able to install the file as NBM (could be a bug, I'll report it at some point).

The module still needs some extensive testing and different BitTorrent libraries (I'm using Snark, but I would like to have the Azureus core as a different provider in the Lookup maybe) but it does show it is possible.

Using the same technique one could write multiple backend/"protocols" for the AutoUpdate. Drop me a message if you want to know more or want to help me (source code will be online soon).

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