Archive for the 'Internet' Category

17
Jul
09

Feynman lectures for the rest of us

It seems a few people are coming across my blog whilst searching for the Linux-playable versions of the Feynman lectures. Well that’s a shame because they won’t find any here. Or will they!? Bill Gates put a bunch of Feynman lectures online. Of course they require Silverlight in order to play properly. And no they don’t work with Moonlight, either. But that’s okay, because they’re on Youtube. And if you want the more technical videos, you can watch them here. Enjoy the lectures.

16
Jul
09

The sublime and the enormous

When you connect to an internet site, many things happen. First, your request is sent to a domain name system service, which translate the friendly-looking http://www.sex.com into the much more computer-friendly 76.74.255.123, which is the address of the server you’re looking for. The server gets your request and sends a bunch of information back. All of this data is broken up into tiny packets which all take different routes through the mystical tubes, and are reassembled at the other end–your end. And, after just a couple of seconds of waiting, you’re looking at porn. Magic, huh? The thing is, though, we are running out of addresses. We can get about four billion addresses out of the current system, known as IPv4. The system intended to replace it, known as IPv6, however, puts paid to all that. It has, give or take, 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible addresses. How to visualise a number that large? Well, I gave it a go, using a trick first used in John Gribbin’s In Search Of Schrödinger’s Cat.

Continue reading ‘The sublime and the enormous’

05
Jul
09

The Pirate Bay. And now something completely different

I’ve seen an awful lot of folk throwing all of their toys out of the pram in light of the news that the Pirate Bay is to be sold to some shady company who wish to monetise it. Botnets have been summoned to take down the Pirate Bay’s homepage, and many people appear to have shredded their teeshirts in protest. All this meant that the news of a new bittorrent tracker passed by with rather muted coverage in the press; in fact I would add a link to that muted reception, but I can’t find any.

The service is called OpenBittorrent and as a simple tracker, it is not bound to any particular torrent index site, which effectively adds an extra layer of abstraction and decentralisation for filesharing networks. Will they eventually get shut down, too? It seems unlikely, for now. As the project’s homepage explains:

Just to make it clear so people sending DMCA takedown notices understand:

  • We do not have any content.
  • We are not a bittorrent site, we are just a tracker, we can not see what content is behind an info_hash.
  • We don’t have any torrent files.
  • We can’t give you any IP addresses in any other way than normal tracker usage – the software don’t support it.
  • We can’t verify any claims when we have no data other than the info_hash.
  • We can’t block info_hash keys from being registered with the tracker.
  • We don’t have any logs or ways to trace previous connections, there is just not enough disk and IO resources in the world for that (at least not at our operational budget).
  • And most importantly, we have no time.

Seems like a good idea. So how about the Pirate Bay? What do they have to do with any of this?

ryan@lappy:~$ host openbittorrent.com 
openbittorrent.com has address 212.63.222.20
openbittorrent.com mail is handled by 10 ap.tfr.org.
ryan@lappy:~$ host 212.63.222.20
20.222.63.212.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer tfr.org.
ryan@lappy:~$ whois tfr.org
...
Registrant Name:Fredrik Neij
...

If this isn’t cause for a huge, shit-eating grin, I don’t know what is. This has made my day. Great stuff.

Code:
host openbittorrent.com 
openbittorrent.com has address 212.63.222.20
openbittorrent.com mail is handled by 10 ap.tfr.org.
host 212.63.222.20
20.222.63.212.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer tfr.org.
host tfr.org
...
Registrant Name:Fredrik Neij
...

__________________

03
Jul
09

Gimping the internet, one step at a time.

So, HTML5 editor Ian Hickson has written the following,

The current situation is as follows:

Apple refuses to implement Ogg Theora in Quicktime by default (as used by Safari), citing lack of hardware support and an uncertain patent landscape.

Google has implemented H.264 and Ogg Theora in Chrome, but cannot provide the H.264 codec license to third-party distributors of Chromium, and have indicated a belief that Ogg Theora’s quality-per-bit is not yet suitable for the volume handled by YouTube.

Opera refuses to implement H.264, citing the obscene cost of the relevant patent licenses.

Mozilla refuses to implement H.264, as they would not be able to obtain a license that covers their downstream distributors.

Microsoft has not commented on their intent to support <video> at all.

HTML5, for those at the back, is intended to be the thing that makes the internet not suck. The intention was to create a <video/> tag, that people could put into their web sites, which would display a video regardless of the browser used, regardless of the device used, regardless of anything. As it stands at the moment, most video content online is served up with Flash. There are also attempts at making a <canvass/> tag, which would allow people to do all of those arty things people also use Flash for. And thanks to the belligerence of the big vendors, we’re now one step further away from achieving that.

So why are they doing this? It’s pretty simple, really: Apple and Microsoft won’t support a codec that makes the web bearable for non-Apple and non-Windows users. Microsoft invented Silverlight specifically for that purpose. They want their browsers to look better than anybody else’s. Meanwhile the free browser makers dare not support anything that means they might have to pay royalties to somebody down the line. What can we learn from all of this? Business is more important than people, durr.




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