What The Hell Is IPv6?

IPv4 exhaustion
The Red Line Shows Remaining Available Internet Addresses

So did you enjoy World IPv6 Day?

All right, there’s a fairly large chance that you have no freaking idea what I’m talking about. To put it as briefly as possible, the Internet is running out of addresses. The old system (IPv4) could only handle four billion of them. And as every computer, phone, tablet and other device connected to the Internet needs one, we were going to break the four billion mark sometime very soon. So, much like when your local telephone system adds an extra digit to its numbers to make room for new subscribers, the Internet is making its addresses longer. The new system is called IPv6.

We do not talk about IPv5.

But adding one digit to a phone number lets you create only ten times as many. The switch to IPv6 is more expansive than that. Seriously more. It will allow for 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times as many Internet addresses as now. This is what mathematicians call a “silly number”.

As an end-user you’re not going to notice any difference. The process started years ago, and will take more years to complete. Yesterday’s “World IPv6 Day” was more or less a publicity stunt organised by some of the Net’s bigger names, Google and Facebook among them, to alert the industry to the necessity of upgrading. IPv6 was tested on a bigger scale than ever before and, well if you’re reading this then I guess nothing broke too badly.

So, a good thing then. We needed more addresses for the Internet to keep on expanding. But… this many? It will mean we could all have a few trillion to call our own. My toes can have a Skype account each. You could Internet-enable every leaf on every tree. It’s hard to imagine how you could ever use that many.

And there may be a downside to that. More anon!

Parenting In Time Of Facebook

An exchange between a friend and her son who is ten or so:

Aillil B fuck back in school tomorow and to make it worse i ate a bad pizza and now ive got stomach pains 🙁

Cecile B heu…no swearing please

Aillil B mom i will delete you as a freind if you keep saying that sort of thing

Clash of the Titanic Brains

Quiz CartoonWas in a table quiz the other night. Four from Galway¹ up against the finest of the Dublin media. A great turnout, we had quiz teams hanging from the rafters, all in support of a service for troubled teenagers called Reach Out and the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless people. But I wasn’t there for human kindness and Christian charity (dammit), I was there to be cleverer than other people!

So much for that. Came third.

But we wuz robbed – Definitely we should have had one more point in the first round. Though I suppose in fairness we made up for that when we traded an answer with some people from the Irish Times on the next table. Under house rules that meant we really should have paid €50 and left naked.

The questions didn’t suit us I guess. But, compiled by media celebrities, they were an interesting sample of questions that media celebrities compile. News priorities in catechismic form. A round of TV, a round of pop, a round of film, a round of sport², a special round for celebrity bollocks too trivial even for the other rounds.

No round on literature, or any cultural form less popular than cinema. Nothing on science. Not even the sort of science that actually gets on the news, like… well, medicine. No technology. Knowing who won the first X-Factor would stand you in much better stead than knowing, say, how TV actually works. But that’s how TV actually works. And the rest of the mainstream media³ these days.

I reject any inference that I’m a sore loser.

  1. Well one of us was only from near Galway. OK, Spain.
  2. Bizarrely, it was entirely on rugby. Compiled by George Hook
  3. Interestingly, there was only one question on the new media. (Unless you count the one on who wrote the screen of The Social Network. And no, I don’t think you do.) Who founded Storyful? And I got it wrong… I thought it was Gavin Sheridan, but I was confusing it with his own thestory.ie. It was of course Mark Little.

Tiananmen II?

It says "Thank You, Facebook"

Well it looks like my worst fears didn’t materialize. Things seem… hopeful in Egypt, though I’m almost superstitiously scared of using that word. Hope is after all a game we play with ourselves, almost a form of masochism. Is it crazy of me to see Tahrir Square as Tiananmen 2 – This Time, The Good Guys Win? Even to find, in that crushing of protesters beneath a government truck, a weird reversal of the “Tank Man” incident?

Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.

But our future is being created now, in the streets of Cairo, Suez and Alexandria. There’s a choice to be made between the explosive pressures of repression and the release of revolution, and that choice is not ours. About the best we can do is cheer from the sidelines.

But that is not nothing. I’m remembering the role that the Internet has played in this uprising and other struggles like it. One telling event: China has blocked web searches for “Egypt”. Meanwhile our governments move ever closer to a policed, regulated Internet just like they have in these fantastic countries. What can we do about this? Resist, through every legal means.

Today I came across one simple way that everyone can adopt.

Do you get paranoid about the way Google, Microsoft and other search providers record all your searches, creating a frighteningly accurate portrait of your inner life? Well I bet you do now. And not just the terms you used but the sites you chose to visit from the search results, all tied to your computer’s Internet (IP) address – or if you have say a Google account, directly to your name. It’s creepy that it can be used to target advertising at you. What’s worse though is that if some authority like the US Department of Justice happens to want to know about you, Google et al. are quite happy to hand it over. It’s their government after all. Not such a worry for you and me – perhaps. Somewhat more of a concern to a political dissident under a regime that the US might be backing.

What can you do? You can use something like Startingpage. Essentially, this does a Google search for you. It gives you the same results, but as far as Google can tell it was Startingpage that requested them, not you.

Even better though, you can then go to the websites in the results using an “anonymizing proxy”, which hides your address not just from Google but also the site you visit. And if you want to be über-paranoid you can do it all over a secure Internet connection (https), the same as you’d use when making a credit card transaction, so even a third party eavesdropping on your connection can’t tell where you’re going.

There are other similar services available, but I was impressed by how easy Startingpage is. You simply select it as your search engine, the same way as you’d choose between Google, Bing or Yahoo. It works with all the best-known browsers (except the Windows version of Safari for some reason, but who uses that?), and you can search from the address bar in Firefox with it too. It seems to be just as fast as Google, though there is a slight delay if you use the encrypted version. I’m using it for all searching now, and I can strongly recommend it. Such a service is of enormous value to criminals, perverts, terrorists and anyone else who wants to remain free.