Part one of this post painted a somewhat bleak picture of the state of Internet measurement as a science. The dreariness will continue later this month in part two. And yet there seems to be quite a lot of measuring the Internet going on. It can’t all be that bad, can it?
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.
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?
Shamelessly inspired by Alexander Calder, who I followed from Atlanta to Pittsburgh to Zürich, and inexpertly crafted from stuff I found at Migros, I present my first attempt at a mobile.
(And for those of you who have not yet heard, yes, this commission has a customer: we’re expecting a daughter in a few weeks. We won’t be boring the Internet at large with piles of baby pictures, though.)
I recently gave a full-day course on flow measurement at the University of Zürich’s IfI summer school. The course itself was more or less a stack of my current research interests stapled together; one product was a nice summary version of a tutorial on the IPFIX protocol (on which I’ve worked on and off for the past nine years), together with an iPython notebook on the subject.
Slides are here, and the notebook is here.
Well, it’s official. I’ll be joining the Internet Architecture Board for a two-year term starting at IETF 89 in March. Among other things, the IAB provides architectural oversight of IETF protocols, which are surprisingly coherent given the nearly perfectly bottom-up nature of the process that produces them. I look forward to the challenge in meta-cat-herding.
One can debate the usefulness of the traffic-traffic metaphor in network engineering. On the one hand, speed limits make a nice illustration of fairness in the network neutrality debate. On the other hand, motorway congestion and the effect of queueing in network congestion control look nothing like each other, at least until we develop motorways that change their length during rush hour, and we decide we’re okay with cars that take too long to get to their destinations being crushed and disposed of en route.
I’ve been reading Tom Standage’s “Writing on the Wall” of late, which I can heartily recommend. It’s less subtle than “The Victorian Internet”, which counts among my favorite books of all time, but that was written before Twitter, and Twitter’s made us all less subtle, I think. What strikes me about his new book is not his thesis — that the “social media revolution” is nothing really new, just the application of new technology to our apparently instinctive love of gossip — but how well it illustrates that much of the present public policy debate over new media technology is very, very old.
The QoF TCP-performance-aware IPFIX flow meter I’ve been working on, on and off, for about a year, now seems to produce halfway plausible results and hardly crashes at all anymore, which means it’s time to follow the path of real artists immemorial and ship it already: see here, or if you’re really serious about it, just track master on github.
So I complain about a lull in the news about the more-or-less complete compromise of the Internet by the National Security Agency et al, and then this goes and happens.
One of my old standard interview questions for people applying for jobs with some responsibility for information security was “are you paranoid”? When the lighting was good, and my eyes bugged out just right, this could be a little scary. It’s time to retire this question, I think, because the answer would seem to be “no, I am clearly not paranoid enough”, unless the applicant shows up to the interview in a tin-foil hat.