[tor-mirrors] Usefullness of providing TOR mirrors?

Niklas Edmundsson nikke at acc.umu.se
Tue Oct 16 07:19:08 UTC 2018


I'm one of the mirror admins for ftp.acc.umu.se.

It's nice that the tor mirroring effort is seeing some attention from 
the project, but I'm still curious on what the plan/purpose/goal with 
the mirroring effort is from an end-user perspective.

Bear in mind that I'm mostly accustomed to "regular" open source 
projects and not fully updated on all the issues with a 
privacy-oriented project such as TOR.

However, I see issues with the usefulness of providing a TOR mirror. 
One of the prime motivations for us to provide a mirror is the benefit 
for users in our local region, and this is especially true for other 
mirrors in bandwidth-starved regions. If there is more bandwidth 
consumption by mirroring a project than there are downloads it's kind 
of hard to motivate a mirror in the first place.

>From what I have gathered it's today almost impossible for an end user 
to find and use a mirror...

1) https://www.torproject.org/ -> Download brings you to 
https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en which seems 
hard-coded to download from dist.torproject.org ... No mirror usage 

2) There is no list of alternative/mirror download locations. I can 
google my way to 
https://www.torproject.org/getinvolved/mirrors.html.en but that's not 
updated with the latest mirrors nor sorted in a user-friendly manner 
(you want the list by country/region).

3) The TOR project itself doesn't seem to have much interest in 
actually using its mirrors. For example 
https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/27586 discards using 
mirrorbits with "not needed at the moment", when the exact opposite is 
true. We mirror admins WANT the traffic, and the TOR project NEEDS 
something to enable that together with automatically 
monitoring/disabling broken mirrors for a useful end-user experience.

4) And finally, if all above is catered for, there is the question on 
how to do download mirror redirect/selection in a clear yet useful 
manner for the end user. Should the user always be presented with a 
list of mirrors to choose from? Should that be generated on the server 
side or in-browser from a list of current mirrors (ie. json output 
from mirrorbits or similar)? We are heading into privacy concerns 
here, but it needs to be addressed in a better way than just assuming 
that the three magic hosts serving dist.torproject.org is the best 
choice for a particular end-user...

  Niklas Edmundsson, Admin @ {acc,hpc2n}.umu.se      |     nikke at acc.umu.se
  Beam me up, there's no intelligent life here!

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