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1.2 / 2002
LUSerNet (pronounced Loser Net, roughly standing for Lancaster University Student Network) is a free peer-to-peer package for use on local area networks, developed between the end of 2001 and late 2002 by a Lancaster University first year Computer Science student known as 'bramp'. Following the sudden and massive popularity of the program, the University's network system was brought to near collapse, and forced the network administrators to completely redevelop the network to cope with the program, earning the program cult status. It is now being used in other universities than Lancaster, and has even spread to America.
bramp developed LUSerNet as a solution to the lack of peer-to-peer systems available to students at Lancaster, England. Primarily the project was born out of boredom, and bramp and a fellow student put together the first version with the intention of only their immediate friends using it. The program allowed users to search through the content of other user's PCs and download the files over the local area network, in much the same way a normal peer-to-peer system works. The program was simplistic and unobtrusive, and offered a simple and easy way to share files.
The knowledge of LUSerNet spread quickly through the University, and within months vast proportions of the 10,000 strong student population were using it. Buoyed on by this success, bramp developed further versions of the software, adding new functionality and making the program more secure. Unfortunately for the network administrators at Lancaster University, working under the name ISS, the thousands of students downloading terabytes of data completely stalled the network. ISS reacted quickly, but found it was unable to halt the flow of the data without crippling the network's usability themselves.
Going back in time when Resnet was first completely wired (Summer 2001) the decision was made to wire every room on campus 3 years earlier than planned rather than to make all installed lines live. As a result the network used somewhat second hand 3Com FMS 10baseT hubs with up to 144 users per stack. Due to increasing demands of network applications a shared 10Mb segment for 144 users was no longer acceptable for use however the problems of such infrastructure were massively increased by LUSerNet.
The increased uptake of the Resnet, falling price for a switch port and massive staff cost of a daily walk to 40 comms rooms to make new requests live made this model no longer viable. As a result a complete equipment replacement of Resnet occurred over two summers (2002 and 2003). During in 2002 all hubs were removed and switches installed. the uptake of Resnet was far higher than expected during 2002 and as a result all ports were connected and remotely managed in 2003. Every year since further improvements have been made to the performance, reliability and security. Future developments will almost certainly be 802.1x for user authentication and provision of multicast services.
The motivation for splitting up the network was not to limit the use of LUSerNet, as is frequently stated, but to reduce the damage to student machines of virus infections. This has been an unquestionable success with outbreaks limited to a few users rather than tens or hundreds of users. For LUSerNet this has been problematic because of its searching mechanism relying on broadcast rather than unicast and peer lists which many other p2p applications rely on.
For the record, ISS could have stopped LUSerNet working at any point at the network layer however chose not to for various undisclosed reasons.
The program has earned cult status at Lancaster University, and is still widely used, despite its now limited effectiveness. Both ISS and the Lancaster University Student Union have released statements regarding its use, encouraging users against it. In one of the final versions, bramp made the program operational on all LAN types, not just Lancaster, so the program has spread beyond the University. References that LUSerNet has been used at other Universities have appeared.