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From: "Judy Florian" <>
Subject: [FreeHelp] Active vs. Passive FTP - an analogy
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 21:27:13 -0400

This won't be a perfect analogy but might help with understanding
passive vs active. Everything in parentheses or quote maks is the
analogy to ftp'ing and to the settings on ftp programs.

Analogy: Up through the 1960s-70s, Postal Workers hand-sorted every
piece of mail. That was the "active protocol" of the industry at that
time. It was time-consuming ("time-outs"), some mail did not always
go through on *some* days (as though "refused" but not really), there
were more "errors", but on their best days, workers moved thousands of
pieces of "info" through the system ("uploading") to the customers (to
the "web" in my analogy). "Errors" were almost-always caught by the
worker because they eye-balled every item that came through the mail
postal system.

With zip codes and machinery sorting (through "ports"), which "tells"
other machinery which mail routing to use ("ports"), sorting time is
less (less time for "comparing"), mail moves faster (few "time-outs"),
more paper mail ("files") gets "handled" because a machine is
completely deciding which ways to route the envelopes ("passive"
settings for the worker, in our case, "webmasters"), fewer errors
occur because the sorting machines rely on their own internal settings
("passive" for the worker), and in the end postal workers grab
pre-sorted mail laying in cases to go on their trucks. Most all of
the "delivery service" ("uploading") has become "passive" (for the
worker... i.e. here the webmaster). The only active part now is
loading the truck and getting to the house or "address" (starting the
ftp and telling it an address where you want your files to go). All
the rest of the steps were made "passive" for the worker who's still
involved in the process.

To take the analogy one step further, damaged /torn paper mail,
missing a zip code, or other problems makes the machinery not be able
to "read" the zip code or it can't go through the machinery (produces
an "error" which a human must then "inspect" (look at manually) and
figure out what is wrong. Often a problem stops the machinery for
hours at the post office. (The "ftp" is halted by an "error code".
The webmaster must "inspect" file names, file types, look up the error
code, fix the problem, restart the ftp--the "machinery".) The process
(using machines to decide) is still passively set, but a worker must
intervene for specific problems and restart the process--restart the
machine ( i.e. the ftp.)

"Passive" settings on ftp means you're letting computers process,
compare, and decide how to send ("route") data. Your files will go
through easier, and you'll have fewer problems.

Having "active settings" is like assigning a new Postal Employee to
the machinery and expecting her to know--with limited information and
little help--how to still sort the mail, how to make the machine do
its job, why the machinery suddenly stops, what to do to fix it, and
restarting the machinery while holding one's breath & praying it'll do
it's thing okay this time.

Hope my (imperfect) analogy helps.

> > Is that Active/Passive discussion applicable here too? I agree with one
> > party most of us never get down into the details of Active vs Passive FTP.

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