According to its homepage, Packet Garden is ‘an experimental artwork that seeks to provide an alternative and accessible approach to visualising daily internet use’ and I would agree, this is a good description.
This open-source software which is available in Windows, Linux and OS X flavors, can capture data concerning your daily BitTorrent, eMule, LimeWire, Soulseek, HTTP, FTP and IRC transfers and use them to ‘grow’ a 3D digital ‘garden’ you can explore. Indeed, any type of internet traffic can be used to develop your creation, including online gaming and email.
Packet Garden does this by remembering the servers you visit, their location and the sort of data you are accessing and converting it into a 3D landscape. Your uploads create hills on the landscape while downloads carve valleys, their respective heights and depths governed by the amounts of data you send or receive. Where they appear on your map is down to the geographic location of the servers you visit.
To brighten up the world, PacketGarden (PG) is able to grow virtual plants, relating to the protocols it detects being used on your network. Visiting a website will result in the growth of an ‘HTTP Plant’ while sharing via BitTorrent or eMule will cause some ‘P2P Plants’ to appear. PG can only detect protocols based on their developer-assigned ports so if you use non-standard ports, some tweaking of the configuration is needed. The good news is that even if you don’t configure the exact ports, the software is still able to generate landscapes albeit in a less creative way.
Each time you generate a unique world based on your day’s internet activities, it’s saved so that over time you can see how your worlds develop as your bandwidth usage habits change. Users worried about privacy have nothing to fear as the software is free from both adware and spyware and your personal information is kept on your own machine and is never available to others.
Why not install it and post pictures of your world in the comments? First prize to the person who grows the most beautiful BitTorrent plant!