Mirror Mirror on the Fall : The Story of Hit Hi FiT Hai

The year is 2035. All NRIs have been ‘Trumped’ out of the United States of Trump. It’s terrible! Pakistan is yet to defeat India in the ICC World Cup – match fixing allegations persist. Latest on the stand-up comedy scene, is the sexagenarian Rahul Baba, last seen reading from his phone during a set. Closer to home, mess food is still repulsive. KGPians, however, are (s)toked about the release of Star Wars: Episode XII, all set to hit cinema screens this Friday, but a trip to Calcutta beckons. Why, you ask? Because, ‘DC’ does not exist. It’s a myth! There are no free downloads. No new movies. No more binge watching. Or, to put it cornily, ‘Hit Hi FiT Hai’ neither has hits, nor is fit.

 

Sounds scary, right? We, at The Scholars’ Avenue, have reason to believe that this dystopian future might very well be a reality. How? Well, let us walk you through a series of events which unearthed enough evidence for us to believe so. While we’re at it, why don’t we acquaint you with the intricacies of this extremely well scripted hub of ours?

 

Chapter 1 – The Surreptitious Encounter with the ‘Admins’

 

Circa February 2016.

22° 19′ 10″ North, 87° 18′ 35″ East

 

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It could have been, but that’s Kharagpur for you. On a humid and starry night, we decided to meet with the admins. Taking a leaf out of Laura Poitras’ days of tracking Snowden (read preserve anonymity), all previous conversations had been conducted via email. The shroud of darkness and cigarette smoke at Veggie’s was deemed safe enough to serve as the rendezvous point. We arrived early, the air palpable with tension, and waited at the corner table, second guessing ourselves at every instant: Would the legends arrive? But then, there they were – KuZon, WayneRooney and sick_my_duck. They offered us tea, which we politely refused. Silence. A bead of sweat trickled down the spine. Tea arrived soon after, and the interview commenced, progressing at a brisk pace, interrupted only by periodic sips. Somewhere in between, WayneRooney bought a pack of chips which we would have politely accepted, but the legends seem to have read our minds and didn’t offer us any.

 

The admins, while speaking glowingly of the past, sounded concerned about the present. Their primary concern was the lack of ‘mirroring’ and ‘files sharing’: terms any KGPian worth his salt should be aware of. The lack of ‘tempo’ (another term) in the life force of the freshers was cited as a reason. “May the Tempo be with them”, said KuZon, which led us to ask, “Why do you guys work anonymously as DC++ admins, without any recognition for all the hard work you’re doing?” KuZon replied, “we worked on something in KGP which we felt the most interested in.”

 

A few hours in, and a bundle of notes later, we decided to call it a day. We shook hands, realizing all along that we might never see them again, in this catacomb called Kharagpur. “When will the article be out?” asked sick_my_duck. “In a week,” was the reply (it’s been three weeks since). As we parted, I was struck by the notion that one might confuse them for average KGPians, but deep down I knew that nothing could be further from the truth. And so we watched the trio, walk down past the Gymkhana, suggesting a PAN-Loop origin for the admins (or was that a sly move to throw us off their tracks?), our misty eyes following their silhouettes, till they vanished into the darkness of the night.

 

Chapter 2 – Unearthing the Hub Layout

 

Circa and location unknown.

 

It might be amusing for many of the users to learn that our beloved ‘Hit Hi FiT Hai’ hub is merely a CPU and a hard disk, which keeps running day in and day out. The system runs an Apache server and the PtokaX application, and stores metadata about the contents of the hub. It provides a “connectivity layer” and a message board for the users willing to share “legal”, “non-objectionable” content. Located at a secure location in one of the admins’ rooms, the faceless computer serves the software and scripts, which enable KGPians to share hours of entertainment and bountiful resources, including objectionable content.

 

DC++ is the most popular distribution software, which allows you to connect with peers through the hub, share and download files, and participate in chat rooms. Other clients for Windows include ApexDC++, StrongDC++ and AirDC++. Linux users resort to LinuxDC++, while Mac owners might use clients like Shakespeer. PtokaX, a server application for Direct Connect Peer-To-Peer sharing network, installed on the central computer, is at the root of HHFH. The high speed connectivity required for sharing is provided by the Ethernet connected local area network of IIT Kharagpur, which reaches our rooms through the ubiquitous “LAN ports”, although in certain cases, connectivity via WiFi is also allowed (like access through temp accounts).

 

Even before the advent of DC++, IIT Kharagpur students utilized LAN for peer-to-peer sharing via Shareaza. However, around 2004, DC++ started gaining traction among users, despite a minimum 5 GB share rule, due to its extensive features and user-friendliness. The new hub had admins with special rights and responsibilities who mostly chose to remain anonymous, a tradition which continues till date. Gradually, HHFH was shaped with an established hierarchy, better PtokaX scripting for hub maintenance and strict minimum share size to encourage sharing.

 

Who are these admins? They are special users who are responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the hub, a task involving the maintenance of the hub hardware and software, moderating user behavior, and restricting access to deceitful/irresponsible users. The various levels of personnel involved with HHFH are Master, God, Operator, VIP, Registered user and Gymkhana user. Masters, Gods, Operators and VIPs all fall under the loose usage of the term ‘admin’ and exercise the full spectrum of control. The lesser Moderators are granted partial rights of (moderating) forums and shared content, and adding new content to the hub (a much cherished task, one might suspect). The registered users and Gymkhana users do not particularly carry out any maintenance tasks, but all of them are expected to share and mirror as much content as possible, in the spirit of the hub. Gymkhana users (basically unregistered users) are not allowed to participate in the main chat, until they register their nick and upgrade to registered user status.

DC++

If you type in the hub address (10.109.49.49 presently) into your browser bypassing the proxy, a bunch of hub related content, hosted on the same central server as the PtokaX application, will be presented to you. The link contains pages with latest additions, reviews of movies, requests for new content and a forum, among other links. The ‘Latest’ link contains new content which has been indexed with the recent ones listed first. The forum (bh4at oNlIn3) hosts numerous discussion boards ranging from anime and movies to Linux and DC++. But sadly, these forums are rarely used by KGPians, in spite of being a one of a kind platform for interactions. Other lesser used features of the hub include the main chat and sub-rooms. The main chat, once the center of campus buzz, is now reduced to a handful of users. Sub-rooms (Quiz, Games, Anime and NSFW) are mostly inactive, although the anime sub-room has considerable activity and NSFW sub-room booms before and after examinations. The main chat can be accessed by registered users (and above). If you haven’t registered your nick yet, watch out for the Hubtopics to find out when registrations will open, and get yourself registered for increased access (registrations are usually open during weekends).

 

HHFH is one of the largest sharing hubs in the country, alongside the likes of hubs in IIT Bombay and BITS Pilani. What distinguishes it further, is better organization and extensive scripting. In fact, the HHFH hub is considered so good that the admins have been contacted by entities seeking help to set up their own versions, including the likes of NIT Rourkela, which incidentally is now in contention in terms of share size, despite KGP boasting a much higher population. Segue to that.

 

Chapter 3 – Of the People, By the People, For the People

 

Oh, why bother?

 

The hub, which once soared like an eagle, is now groveling in the dust (to put it cornily). It now faces a grave crisis, due to a lack of file sharing from the users. Even more crippling is the lack of a sense of ownership of the students towards HHFH, which they have come to take for granted. To render the hub most effective, each user needs to share new content, or at least mirror the files they download (by leaving their DC++ open). The maximum share size, which in its prime (not long ago) used to be around 327 TB, is now down by a mammoth 100 TB (terabyte for the uninitiated). Another noticeable aspect is the lack of activity on the online forums. The hub website flashes an ominous message, “Most users ever online was 12 on Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:57 am”. The last activity on the anime forum was on August 11, 2011, while the music forum has been inactive since 2014. Even the main chat is rarely used. “A lot of users don’t even know that they can register themselves on the forums and chat rooms”, sick_my_duck lamented, while constantly on the lookout to approve registration requests.

sfCtwiN

What could be the reason for HHFH’s decline? One major reason is the alleged lack of a ‘sense of responsibility’, in the current crop of students, towards the maintenance of the hub – a direct consequence of reduced interactions on the forums as well as main chat. KuZon, during a bout of nostalgia, spoke about how they used to frequent the chat rooms as freshers, to learn from the then DC++ admins. “The chat rooms used to be very active back then. It used to be our idea of social networking (Mark Zuckerberg just rolled over in his bed) – chatting with fellow KGPians, talking about the happenings on campus, discussing new ideas and even abusing a few people! Those were the days.” The chat provided the perfect platform for KGPians to express their opinions, shielded by a cloak of anonymity. Clearly, the students no longer share the enthusiasm which the current admins had when they were first years. The advent of Facebook and other social networking sites might have made the chat rooms less attractive. The interface of the DC main chat, which once had a charm of its own due to immense participation, now looks vain and pale, and can even be intimidating to new users. The students have resorted to viewing the hub much like a service they are entitled to, rather than the innovative endeavor of some enterprising KGPians which should be sustained. They do not honor the principle of peer-to-peer sharing and fail to realize that the ‘hub’ operates much like a democracy – of the people, by the people, for the people.

 

What if the current decline of the hub is not checked? Be it the overloaded ‘faccha’, or the laid-back ‘chaggi’, no one would have unlimited access to movies, TV series, academic resources and of course, the much appreciated ‘huha’ bhajans. No longer would students have a multitude of project reports at their disposal, to blatantly copy from, the esoteric KGPian content or the ‘midsem specials’ to discharge their frustrations. We might very well lose the sense of fraternity literally shared with fellow KGPians, in the form of DC++ content.

 

In short, IIT KGP would lose a part of its soul.

 

Though the aforementioned scenario might seem like an exaggeration, if we do not realize the gravity of the issue, it may well turn out to be the reality. The lax attitude of the junta, in general, has affected the hub like a cancerous growth, crippling its structure and sucking away its strength (read shares). However, it is in our hands to restore our hub to its former glories, ‘our’ being the operative word. Indeed, it was this desire of a few students to help out the institute with a peer-to-peer sharing platform which led to the setting up of Hit Hi FiT Hai. The same desire urges our admins to toil tirelessly for our sake – downloading the latest content and putting it up for all of us to devour – without expecting any recognition for their work. It is this desire that can resurrect our dear hub from its current nadir and put it back on its perch. Let us not take this hub for granted; let us instead contribute to our hub, in whatever way we can, to bring back the wonderful days of yore, because ‘Hit Hi FiT Hai’.

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