IPv4 exhaustion unrelated to ICANN’s new TLD rule

A huge error is in many articles discussing ICANN nascent TLD rules. Here’s a quote from PC Magazine, which should know better:

The additional domains will also probably accelerate the shift to IPv6, an expanded IP addressing scheme that will provide roughly 3.4×10E38 IP addresses, or ten billion billion billion times more than those provided by IPv4, the current scheme. (source)

In fact, there is no direct relationship between IP addresses–abstract numbers–and domain names–the human-friendly, text-based names.

IP is the addressing system of the internet. Every internet-enabled device talks from its own unique IP address to the unique IP address of another machine. It’s just like when you send a postal letter, you sent it “from” your house’s own unique address, the return address on the letter, to the unique address of the recipient.

When you type a web site name in a web browser, such as www.smu.edu, the browser looks up the web site’s IP address. The browser then “talks” to that IP address.

It’s similar to correlating a person to his cell phone number. If I want to call John Smith, I can’t dial “John Smith” in my phone. I have to look up and dial his phone number instead. During the call, I know I’m talking to John Smith, but the phone is simply communicating with an abstract phone number.

IPv4 is the current IP addressing scheme. The is, under the most dire predictions, all available IPv4 addresses will be used up in a few years. In that event, no new devices can use the internet.

An analogy: Suppose a road is very long, and road’s houses have three digit addresses: 001 to 999. With that scheme, only 999 houses can be on the road. If the address changes to 6 digits, the road could allow 999,999 houses because addresses range from 000,001 to 999,999.

IPv6 addresses are like adding those additional digits. In fact, it has so many digits that each person could have fifty octillion (50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) IP addresses before that system becomes exhausted.

(Truth be told, the predictions of IPv4’s collapse are grossly exaggerated. Simple workarounds are already available that could allow IPv4 to work fine for a long time. And because of the way it assigns IP addresses, IPv6 in fact cannot deliver nearly the number of addresses advertised; as is the case with IPv4, but for different reasons, there will be significant numbers of unusable addresses. But it is true that IPv6 really does have several orders of magnitude more addresses than IPv4, and IPv6 also has several convincing technological advantages that justify its use.)

Back to the point of this article: the IP systems’s current address space crunch is a technical artifact of the IP system. It has no relationship whatsoever to the domain name system. Domain names are merely pointers to certain IP addresses. Nothing more, nothing less.

ICANN finally does something right

Today the ICANN voted to relax rules governing top-level domains (TLDs). TLDs are the last part of a server address and commonly end with .com, .net, .org, .biz, .edu, .gov, et al.

Currently, ICANN arbitrarily and capriciously regulates creation of new TLDs. For a great example, the .xxx TLD was debated, authorized, then arbitrarily rejected.

ICANN’s newest decision loosens things up. An institution wanting its own TLD will “merely” need to pony up several tens of thousands of dollars and prove competence to manage its own TLD. For example, if I had enough spare change and a good IT organization, I might buy the .cambre TLD and start selling .cambre domain names. (Think of the prestige of owning www.aren.cambre. Totally awesome!)

This will have several effects:

  • The value and prestige of longstanding TLDs like .com and .net will evaporate. This means holders of valuable .com- and .net-based domain names, such as creditcards.com with its $2.75 million sale, will lose their value.
  • “Suspect” TLDs, like .biz and .info (rationale) will no longer be automatically suspect. Because the number of TLDs will explode, spam and abuse detection systems will no longer be able to use such simple blacklists.
  • The new TLDs will add value but will not be the gold rush of .com and .net-based domain names. Sure, some TLDs will fetch money (like .creditcard), but owners of trademarks are guaranteed their own TLD. For example, if American Express doesn’t want to buy the .creditcard TLD from an investor who scooped it up earlier, it can just buy its own .amex or .americanexpress TLD.
  • Boneheads will register TLDs expecting to get rich selling domain names, but they will be flummoxed by people registering synonymous TLDs and diluting value.
  • Educause‘s arbitrary and capricious management of its own .edu TLD–where, for example, only accredited higher educational institutions can get a .edu domain and only one per university, making it impossible to recover from uninformed .edu domain name choices made before people realized the significance of the web–will increasingly be a nonissue. .edu’s value will diminish along with .com and .net, and someday educational institutions could completely bypass Educause and register their own TLD. For example, SMU could have its own .smu TLD, giving it www.smu instead of www.smu.edu or access.smu instead of access.smu.edu.
  • Most importantly, ICANN’s arbitrary and capricious management of TLD authorization goes away.

I am excited by the ICANN’s decision. Finally, the ICANN injected sense into the domain name system.

Apple likes and annoyances

I’m writing this post on the Mac. I’ve come to like and dislike things about the Mac.

To sum it up, I do not understand the fascination with Apple. It seems to be driven by a misguided response to Microsoft Windows Vista. I really feel Vista is overall a superior OS.

Mac likes:

  • Better apparent hardware quality than PC. The essential chips and wires are the same. It’s the packaging and fit and finish that’s better. But it’s not night and day. For example, Lenovo’s laptops aren’t “pretty,” but they are well designed.
  • Pretty. Except perhaps for Sony, PCs just don’t look great. But then again, I don’t, either. So this is a weak plus.
  • Very fast boot and shut down. Start up is less than a minute, shut down is just seconds. I guess that Apple must be able to massively optimize its code since, unlike Vista, it doesn’t need to run on varied hardware configurations.
  • One version of OS X. Microsoft screwed up with its confusing flavors of Vista. Apple was right to include everything in one version at one price. The only valid counterpoints I can think of are support and enterprise reluctance to install everything. But tools already exist to address both problems.
  • Freeware enthusiasm. Those developing freeware for the Mac see more enthusiastic about developing well-running, easy to use applications than comparable efforts for the PC or especially Linux.
Mac dislikes:
  • Safari is surprisingly buggy, insecure, and is prone to UI glitches, incompatibilities, and stalls for no apparent reason.
  • The kernel panic I induced without trying.
  • Sometimes crashes when awakening from sleep. When this happens, the laptop stops responding, and the “on” light doesn’t even light. The only way I can get it back on is to hold down the power button for 5 seconds (like a hard power off when it’s on) then power it back on. This sometimes happens to Vista, too.
  • No second mouse button. Come on, how long have PCs had 2 button mice? Control-click? Whatever.
  • Touchpad is too big. I keep sliding other fingers on it because it’s so huge. Somehow I change Safari’s font size when a finger slips. (And searching on Safari gestures still hasn’t explained why that happens.)
  • Menu bar stuck to top of screen. Windows does it better: menu bars are attached to the application window. Actions that require lots of menu use really get annoying on OS X.
  • No concept of multiple instances of an application. OS X has strictly one copy of an application open, and if it has multiple windows, they all share the same menu bar. That means you cannot Command-Tab between windows of the same application; you have to switch to Command-`. Binding task switching to application affinity sure seems arbitrary. It’s like the old days where you had to open an application before opening the document.
  • Because of prior problem, too easy to close out all windows/documents of one application. Command-Q and hitting the wrong button does it.
  • The knowledge that I am indirectly supporting an unusually smug, proprietary, sue-happy corporation. In my opinion, Apple to computing is like Prius to automobiles: the social statement seems to take undue weight, bordering on arrogance. But what is this social statement for?
    • Despite their use of BSD, Apple is highly proprietary.
    • Even though it’s compatible with clone hardware, Apple makes it quite difficult and illegal to run OS X on non-Apple hardware.
    • Apple sues bloggers.
    • Apple is a profit-loving company just like Microsoft.
    • Apple sells its stuff at well above market prices.
  • Apple menu, application menu, File menu on every application. Windows does it better with a master Start menu and the application-specific menus neatly attached to the application.
  • Errors often get buried with no indication. Only on some errors do I see the bouncing icon on the dock. Many errors go unnoticed if the “erroring” application isn’t in the foreground.
  • Poor busy notifications. The cursor only occasionally indicates that the computer is “working.” The application’s icon in the dock only bounces for a smallish portion of its load time. There’s no hard drive light, and Safari has no “working” indicator like all other browsers.
  • The dock. Pretty but poorly executed. The “running” indicator is hard to see. Windows again got it right:
    • Start menu contains both “pinned” items, most frequently used applications, and all the rest of your applications are just a click away.
    • Running applications are clearly visible in the Taskbar.
There was a time that I thought I may be interested in an Apple. But now that I have one, I think it’s going to be a toy more than a workhorse.
Why am I still on this Apple? My Lenovo X60 developed a hardware problem. I received it back from Solectron today (contract repair company), and it developed a serious “power on” problem, and the tablet functionality stopped working. I should get my Lenovo back on Thursday. I cannot wait!

So much for “it just works”

I was issued an Apple MacBook Pro at work today. We are about to deploy some Apple servers, and apparently server administration works better if done from a Mac OS X client.

Construction, aesthetics, fit and finish, and design seem more refined than typical PC laptops.

However, after I installed an AirPort update, I ran Safari and then installed iTunes. Safari crashed HARD. I couldn’t even force quit it. Because of that, I couldn’t even restart the computer. It just refused to close out the OS.

So I had to power the thing off by holding down the power button for 5 seconds.

Powering back on, I get this nasty error:

Yeah, that’s right, kernel panic! As in, “you’re gonna reinstall from scratch.”

One hour later I’m back up–after reinstalling from scratch! With some help, I learned how to hold down Option to force the equivalent of pressing F8 in Windows. I erased the old image and installed a whole new OS.

For all of Windows’s faults, Vista has never left me this stranded!

Industrial Boulevard poll = Dallas City Council looks like dummies

Dallas City Council members have traded entertaining barbs over a recent poll about renaming Industrial Boulevard. The winning choice was Cesar Chavez.

The problem is the poll is complete bunk. In no way could it accurately represent the voice of Dallas citizens.

The poll allowed people to vote over fax, email, and phone. How do you ensure that voters only vote once, and how do you ensure that voters are actual Dallas citizens? You can’t!

The Dallas Morning News says that city staff attempted to “weed out vote-stacking” by eliminating “more than one vote … from the same computer” Also, “a three-vote maximum was allowed per phone…” (link)

First, there is no way to accurately enforce one vote per computer on this poll. Since the site did not let users log in (and reference some kind of credential), there are only two ways to ensure uniqueness:

  • One vote per IP address. I doubt they chose that; it would effectively block most users of ISPs that proxy users behind few IP addresses, such as AOL.
  • Set a cookie. The cookie can easily be discarded. As soon as that is done, the vote server would have no idea it was the same old browser!

Second, there is nothing preventing someone from calling, faxing, and computer voting (several times). It’s impossible to accurately cross-reference computer votes to phone calls!

Third, without some kind of pervasive, city-issued ID system, it is utterly impossible to validate that votes came from Dallas residents. Without advanced techniques well beyond the scope of this survey, it is utterly impossible to link computers to specific cities. And even if phone numbers were validated, how do you know the person on the other end of the line isn’t a commuter from the ‘burbs?

City council: please stop. You’re making yourself look like idiots.

With way it was conducted, this poll is only good for entertainment value. Nothing else!