metrics

Metrics Reloaded

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If you haven’t noticed already, https://metrics.torproject.org/ has a new look. The underlying data, graphing engine, and graphs remain the same.

The goal for this project was to make Tor metrics easier to use and more useful. Our process involved usability inspections, feature brainstorming, rough wireframes, and iterative prototypes. This page documents our process in detail.

We restructured, redesigned, and added content to:

  • Alleviate pain points in using the interface for better workflow and navigation.
  • Aggregate resources for journalists, developers, relay operators, and researchers.
  • Increase compatibility with phones and tablets through responsive design.

It’s truly a place where you can learn interesting facts about the Tor network! We’re especially excited about the news page, which lists various world events with measured anomalies. We hope that the operation, development, and research pages help our many valued Tor community members to find the resources they need. Feel free to email metrics-team@lists.torproject.org with suggestions.

This work was sponsored by Mozilla's Open Source Support. The objectives were to 1) determine the usability of Tor Metrics and 2) address the most pressing usability issues identified (milestone 6.1 and 6.2 of this contract).

Tor's Innovative Metrics Program Receives Award from Mozilla

Good news for data enthusiasts who trust numbers more than words: The Tor Project has just received an award from Mozilla's Open Source Support program to improve Tor metrics over the next 12 months.

While some analytics programs collect data in ways that violate the privacy of users, Tor's metrics program seeks to keep users safe as we collect and analyze data. We use the data to develop ways to allow more people to access the free Internet via Tor, and we make all data available to the world, so that Tor users, developers, journalists, and funders can see and understand the ways that people use Tor worldwide.

Mozilla's mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Mozilla Open Source Support (MOSS) is an awards program specifically focused on supporting the Open Source and Free Software movement. Their Mission Partners track is open to any open source/free software project undertaking an activity which significantly furthers Mozilla's mission.

Over the coming year, our main goals for this project will be:

1. To make CollecTor (our primary data collection service) more resilient to single-point failures, by enabling multiple CollecTor instances to gather data independently and exchange it in an automated fashion. Doing this will reduce the number of gaps in our data, and make it less likely that an error at one server will make the data invalid.

2. To create an easy-to-use observation kit containing DescripTor (our library for parsing and analyzing Tor servers' descriptions of themselves) together with user-friendly tutorials for evaluating Tor network data. This will make it easier for programmers to write tools that examine historical and current data about the servers that make up the Tor network.

3. To set up more instances of the network status service Onionoo to improve its availability, and work on the most pressing usability issues of the Atlas network status service;

4. To further reduce the amount of sensitive usage data (such as bandwidth totals and connections-per-country) stored on Tor relays and reported to the Tor directory authorities. While we believe that this data is safe the way we handle it today, we believe that improved cryptographic and statistical techniques would allow us to store and share even less data.

5. To improve the accuracy of performance measurements by developing better methods and tools to analyze and simulate average user behavior;

6. To make the Tor Metrics website more usable, so that users, developers, and researchers can more easily find, compare, and interpret information about Tor's usage and performance.

We're excited about this news for a great many reasons.

First, it is one more important step in diversifying Tor's funding.

Second, while the project focuses on improving six important aspects of Tor metrics, it also aims at more general improvements to make Tor metrics software more stable, scalable, maintainable, and usable. These improvements are typically harder to "sell" in funding proposals because their results are less visible to funders. It's reassuring that Mozilla understands that these improvements are important, too.

Third, this award is the first one awarded to Tor's young metrics team, only established 12 months ago in June, 2015. It's an appreciation of the initial work done by the metrics team and a very good basis for the upcoming 12 months.

Writing the award proposal was a successful cooperation of a number of Tor people: it would simply not have happened without Isabela, who made contact with Mozilla people; it would not have been readable without Cass's remarkable ability to translate from tech to English; it would not have contained as many good reasons for getting accepted without iwakeh's invaluable input; and it would not have been accepted without Shari's efforts in asking a leading security expert to write an endorsement of our award request. Finally, this blog post would certainly not have been as readable without Kate's and Nick's editorial capabilities. And now let's go write some code.

10 years of collecting Tor directory data

Today is the 10th anniversary of collecting Tor directory data!

As the 2004 Tor design paper says, "As of mid-May 2004, the Tor network consists of 32 nodes (24 in the US, 8 in Europe), and more are joining each week as the code matures."

In fact, we still have the original relay lists from back then. The first archived Tor directory dates back to May 15, 2004. It starts with the following lines which are almost human-readable:

signed-directory
published 2004-05-15 07:30:57
recommended-software 0.0.6.1,0.0.7pre1-cvs
running-routers moria1 moria2 tor26 incognito jap dizum
  cassandra metacolo poblano ned TheoryOrg Tonga
  peertech hopey tequila triphop moria4 anize rot52
  randomtrash


As of today, May 15, 2014, there are about 4,600 relays in the Tor network and another 3,300 bridges. In these 10 years, we have collected a total of 212 GiB of bz2-compressed tarballs containing Tor directory data. That's more than 600 GiB of uncompressed data. And of course, the full archive is publicly available for download.

Here's a small selection of what people do with this fine archive:

If people want to use the Tor directory archive for their research or for building new applications, or want to help out with the projects listed above, don't hesitate to contact us!

Happy 10th birthday, Tor directory archive!

Shadow v1.6.1 released, adds multi-threading support

Rob just tagged Shadow v1.6.1, and added a link on the download page. This is really more like a pre-1.7.0 release, but he wanted to get out some exciting new support for running multi-threaded simulations earlier!

This release includes:

  • Support for running multi-threaded simulations! (use the “-w” flag to specify the number of worker threads)
  • A few bugfixes

In preliminary testing, the biggest improvements have been seen when using between 4 and 8 worker threads. Happy simulating!

March 2012 Progress Report

Our progress report for March 2012 is now available. Highlights include lots and lots of metrics work, bridge infrastructure work, new tor alpha release, support queue stats, and some press and speaking slots.

Available as a pdf with full color graphs, https://archive.torproject.org/monthly-report-archive/2012-March-Monthly...

or as a plain text file for portability and readability, https://archive.torproject.org/monthly-report-archive/2012-March-Monthly...

January 2012 Progress Report

Our progress report for January 2012 is available now. Highlights include two Tails releases, a summary of support calls for the past six months with actual user stories, a trip to Egypt for the 'Change your world' summit, updated metrics codebase, discussion of a new voting method, and lots of translation updates.

Available as a pdf with full color graphs, https://archive.torproject.org/monthly-report-archive/2012-January-Month...

or as a plain text file for portability and readability, https://archive.torproject.org/monthly-report-archive/2012-January-Month...

January 2011 Progress Report

New releases

Design, develop, and implement enhancements that make Tor a better
tool for users in censored countries.

Architecture and technical design docs for Tor enhancements
related to blocking-resistance.

Hide Tor's network signature.

Grow the Tor network and user base. Outreach.

Bridge relay and bridge authority work.

  • Karsten did some work to publish sanitized bridge pool assignments. We're
    going to publish the information which distribution pool a bridge is assigned
    to. The distribution pool defines whether we're giving out bridges via HTTP,
    via email, or not at all (reserved pool). The plan is to remove all sensitive
    information from bridge pool assignments before making them available on
    https://metrics.torproject.org/data.html. The discussion was started on
    the or-dev list
    at http://archives.seul.org/or/dev/Jan-2011/msg00033.html.

Scalability, load balancing, directory overhead, efficiency.

  • We released an updated version of Tor
    Weather, https://weather.torproject.org. Tor Weather is a web application used
    to allow tor relay operators to sign up for notices when their relay is offline,
    drops below a threshold of bandwidth served, and receive notifications when a
    new version of tor is released. This version of the web application was written
    by the Wesleyan University Humantarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS)
    team working on Tor for their summer project, http://hfoss.wesleyan.edu/.
  • Karsten started improving metrics-db performance, so that it can scale to
    five years of data with 10K relays and 5K bridges. This included a few tricks
    to avoid parsing the same data twice. Also changed the database schema to use
    SQL arrays to store bandwidth histories, which is apparently a less used part of
    PostgreSQL, because he found a confirmed bug in PostgreSQL 8.2 (released
    2006-12-05).
  • Karsten found two major, if not blocking, bugs in Torouter when run on the
    suggested Buffalo hardware. The Excito hardware does not have these problems.
    The bug numbers are 2334,
    https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/2334, and 2376,
    https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/2376.
  • Karsten found and fixed a problematic bridge sanitizer bug that made us
    keep original IP addresses in reject lines. Updated metrics-db and sanitized
    all bridge descriptors since May 2008 once again. The latter kept two of our
    computers busy for 2.5 weeks.
  • Karsten started with exporting bridge pool assignments and restarted
    discussion about preserving hashed IP addresses in bridge descriptors.
  • Karsten upgraded Torperfs to output information about which circuits they
    used for measuring download times. Made data available on metrics website.
    Added new graphs combining all Torperf sources and showing the fraction of
    timeouts and failures. Started Torperfs with custom entry guard selection
    strategies.
  • Karsten talked to Björn Scheuermann and Florian Tschorsch about
    performance improvements in Tor. Working on a patch with them to be included in
    Tor 0.2.3.x.
  • Karsten improved graphs on metrics-web by adding more countries and by
    allowing users to customize the graph image resolution.

More reliable download mechanism.

  • Sebastian and Erinn started to tackle Thandy and Hudson work. They solved
    the Hudson issue on Windows and made a good deal of progress on getting Thandy
    set up, understanding the different roles and responsibilities of each in the
    Thandy system. Installing files by copying into the right place works, but the
    packaging db that would be required for TBB is not yet working.

Translations

  • Updated translations for the following languages: af ak am arn ast be bg bn
    bn_IN csb cy dz eo eu fil fur ga gl gun ha he hi ht hu is it km kn kw lb ln lo
    lt lv mg mi mk ml mn mr ms mt nah nap ne nn nso oc pa pap pms ps sco son sw ta
    te tg th ti tk uk ur ve wa zh_HK zu.

Measuring Tunisian Tor Usage

I've been following the crackdown on Internet freedom in Tunisia over the past few weeks. I run an unpublished tor bridge for some Tunisian activists. It's been used fairly well for the past 18 months, however it has not seen traffic for a week. Tor usage from Tunisia has never been very high, but for those who need it, it's been a lifesaver; or so I've been told. An example of what's going on in the country: Slim Amamou arrested, Global Voices' coverage of Tunisia, Global Voices Advocacy: Tunisia, and Tunisia's bitter cyberwar.

Out of interest, I wondered how Tor usage in Tunisia has fared over 2010. I wonder if Facebook, Twitter, and other social network services are seeing an increase of users logging into Tunisian social networks from Tor.

It appears we're having an impact in Tunisia. More help is needed.

This is graph of Tor clients directly connecting to the rest of the network:

This is a graph of Tor clients connecting through bridges to the rest of the network:

October 2010 Progress Report

New Releases read more »

Tor Metrics - Google Summer of Code 2010

Although it has been a while since GSoC ended, I want to give a quick run-down of my project and how everything went over the summer. The plan was to migrate the Tor metrics portal from the file based system to a database driven one. This allows us to have a more dynamic website and a better interface to derive our statistics and visuals from. I spent most of my time designing the database schema (which had to be carefully optimized due to the amount of data we have), and the remainder of the time working on things such as dynamic graphs and migrating the website to Java Server Pages. Thankfully, I finished almost everything I had planned to do, and it seems as though my work this summer is being put to good use! A significant amount of my metrics code has been merged, which is certainly a good feeling. read more »

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