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© July 2006 Anthony Lawrence

I liked the last paragraph of Carla Schroder's "Run Zeroconf for Linux in a Snap"

Zeroconf is a lightweight, fairly simple set of cross-platform protocols that can work on any system- Linux, Unix, Macintosh or Windows. But currently Windows is the odd one out, as Microsoft is showing little inclination to play with the rest of us, and are more interested in its own service discovery protocol, uPNP. But it works great on Apple devices and services, so someday this could be a good tool for easily integrating Macintosh hosts with your Linux machines, and leaving the unsociable Windows hosts to mutter amongst themselves in a damp corner.

For obvious reasons, that reminded me of Ms. Mac OS X

But it was an earlier paragraph that gave me pause:

Gnarly old network admins who are accustomed to keeping a tight grip on their realms tend to be resistant to the whole idea - why, it's as free-for-all as ad-hoc wireless networking or NetBIOS, with users running rampant and sharing everything and no one is in charge. The security implications are obvious; Zeroconf is not suitable for sites that need tight controls, or to use over untrusted networks. But it's great for home and small business users, small groups inside the enterprise, and get-togethers like business meetings and trade shows. Some consumer devices like Tivo already use it, as well as a whole world of Apple printers and network devices.

Well, sheesh: I'm certainly gnarly and grumpy and set in my ways. Y'all just wait until I'm old enough to need a cane: I'll be banging that thing on the floor and complaining about the young'uns every chance I get. In my day, we wire-wrapped our first computers and we hand coded in machine language. Harrumph and so there, you dern whippersnapper!

But.. I'm not against zeroconf.

Oh, I know people who still are. I have customers who won't use DHCP. Personally, I think that boat sailed long ago, and it's just automatic with me now. If you need to control a few machines, assign ip's to specific MAC addresses, heck even assign every MAC address if you must, but use DHCP.

Sure, I always want the ability to do this stuff manually, just like I want the ability to set the timing on my car distributor manually. What's that, sonny? My car doesn't have a distributor any more? Well, then what am I supposed to do with this old timing light?

Actually, I just tossed that timing light out a couple of years ago. I wasn't really hanging on to it, it just hadn't been in my way enough to get thrown away. Or maybe I had the idea in the back of my mind that someday I might get bit by the antique car bug and need it again. That's what we're heading for with computers: you aren't going to need to manually config anything and you won't be able to anyway, at least not the way we do it now. In theory, I can still set the timing on my car, though I need access to the car's computer to do so. The computers of the not so distant future will likely have their configuration details equally inaccessible to all but the most determined.

But we're still a bit off from that. Carla's article has quite a lot of dark humor in it: the title is "Run Zeroconf for Linux in a Snap", but the steps she outlines for that "Snap" are far from it. And there are still the security and control issues to be dealt with: even the small businesses that Carla says zeroconf is so perfect for sometimes have "control" issues.

Do you suppose anyone would mind if I bought a cane just so I could thump it now and then?

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Thu Jul 6 15:06:52 2006: 2219   BigDumbDinosaur

Well, then what am I supposed to do with this old timing light?

I turned my ancient (c. 1966) Craftsman timing light into a deathray gun for the grandkids to play with. I took it appart, figured out where to stash 12 volts worth of batteries and made a simple pulse circuit using a 555 timer to simulate the ignition pulses. Works great and now I have a new problem. Each kid wants one. I need another old timing light!

Thu Jul 6 15:28:15 2006: 2220   TonyLawrence

I'm sorry I threw mine out. Maybe eBay?

Fri Jul 7 09:31:55 2006: 2222   drag

Heh. A nice coincident. I've been looking up zeroconfig stuff myself lately.

I like the idea. It's nice to be open and get back to the more computer to computer method of networking.

Personally I am going to setup a open wifi point just so people can connect into it easily. I'll get the zerconfig stuff working and stick some documentation, a couple operating systems, some old movies on there that have passed into the public domain (like "Night of the Living Dead"), some creative common licensed media and music, and other things like that.

Also probably allow some internet access. I maybe could setup port 80 to a port forwarded to internal website or something were I would have a sign up sheet with a disclamer and warning. "You've been logged and my GPS-enabled kismet knows were your at" or something like that. Then setup a proxy to allow them to do web stuff.

I figure something like that would be nice. To have something setup by somebody else so were you could stumble accross it and get some goodies and to snoop around.

I've setup my Debian laptop to use "Network Manager" and the "nm-applet" program (displays a control applet in my Gnome "Notification Area"). It works suprisingly well. Now I don't have to worry about the networking details.. I just wonder around and it picks up on wifi access points automaticly. If I plug a ethernet cord into my latpop then that shows up automaticly also. Keeps track of WEP stuff and whatnot. Along the same lines as 'Zeroconf' sort of stuff. It's very nice when stuff just works.

To take that next level and be able to share and detect networked resources transparently seems very nice. Still worry about the security issues though.


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