What Kind of Bureaucracy Are You Dealing With?

800px-Oryctolagus_cuniculus_Tasmania_2
wait, what? © JJ Harrison, CC-BY-SA 3.0

In German, there’s a word for an organization which takes its mission very seriously but is adorably incompetent at it: “Kaninchenzüchterverein” (lit. “rabbit-breeding club”). There’s another word for an organization which is bad at what it does because nobody cares: “Saftladen” (lit. “juice shop”).

If you can’t decide what kind of amateur hour you’re dealing with, though, and suspect an undercurrent of moral reprehensibility to boot, may I suggest just crossing the two, arriving at “Kaninchenentsaftungsanlage” (lit. “bunny-juicing facility”).

On Repeatable Internet Measurement: Part Two

The issues identified in of part one of this post led to yet another search for solutions to the problem of making (especially passive) measurement repeatable. Of course, this has been done before, but I took as an initial principle that the social aspects of the problem must be solved socially, and worked from there. What emerged was a set of requirements and an architecture for a computing environment and set of associated administrative processes which allows analysis of network traffic data while minimizing risk to the privacy of the network’s end users as well as ensuring spatial and temporal repeatability of the experiment. For lack of a better name I decided to call an instance of a collection of data using this architecture an analysis vault.

The key principle behind this architecture is if data can be open, it should be; if not, then everything else must be. Continue reading On Repeatable Internet Measurement: Part Two

A Tiny Rant on Mail

Mail is broken.

This is nothing new. RFC 822, after all, wasn’t the beginning of Internet e-mail, merely an attempt to fix it, which admittedly worked reasonably well for a while. But even with all the brokenness of mail, I wasn’t expecting to dig into my Postfix logs today to find that USENIX couldn’t send me mail because the firm they’ve outsourced to was too lazy to create IN PTR records for their nodes in the cloud.

More annoying than the fact that the IN PTR records aren’t there, though, is that best practice (i.e., fighting spam) dictates that they should be. Considering adding “think about fixing messaging” to the list of Futile Things To Do in 2015.

Weihnachtsstollen (nach Memphiser Art)

In the back of the pantry at the house I grew up in in Memphis, there was always a stack of little plastic tubs of dried candied “fruits” of various colors (I say “colors” because the flavor was invariably “sugar”). My mother was never much of a baker, except at Christmas, when the baking would take two forms: fruitcake and stollen, both of which were filled with candied fruit. I’d try Mom’s fruitcake, the main ingredient of which seemed to be brandy, about once every five years to see if I was finally old enough to enjoy it. I never quite made it.

Stollen, on the other hand, was the main course of most breakfasts around Christmas. This was a bit odd in Memphis, doubly so because we didn’t have any particularly German ancestors; Mom just saw the recipe in a magazine sometime in the late 70s or early 80s and decided to make a tradition out of it. So I was thrilled when I moved to Switzerland and found out you could buy stollen in the grocery store at Christmastime. Almost as thrilled as I was disappointed when I found out that “real” Stollen is basically a marzipan delivery system.

Continue reading Weihnachtsstollen (nach Memphiser Art)

On Repeatable Internet Measurement: Part One

I spent quite a lot of time in 2014 thinking about the following problem: if I hand you a paper that claims something about the Internet, based on data I cannot show you because I am bound by a nondisclosure agreement due to corporate confidentiality or user privacy issues, generated by code which is ostensibly available under an open-source license but which is neither intended to run outside my environment, nor tested to ensure it will produce correct results in all cases, nor maintained to ensure it is compatible with newer versions of the compiler, interpreter, or libraries it requires, what reason have I given you to believe what I say? Continue reading On Repeatable Internet Measurement: Part One

Changing Up

Another December, another month inside hiding from the fog, and it’s time for another blog facelift. I’m intending to post a bit more frequently on more technical topics, from the mundane (the standard vi v. emacs fare of many a coder’s blog) to the philosophical (what is the Internet, really?) to the unrelated (as I still at least have a series on kayaking in Switzerland I’d like to see finished someday).

Stay tuned for something (in)completely different.