A True History of the Internet

yes its true, all of it - the internet doesn't really exist, so it must be.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

the net is a very gendered engenderment

so thinking back, its hard to remember any women associated with the creation of the internet - lots of "fathers of x" and so forth

yet in the 70s and early 80s, computer science was nearly 50/50 gender balance (in jobs I had an university courses and departments)

so why did this happen?

and how would the net be different if it had been designed/discovered/invented by women?

answers on a woven tapestry embroidered with holerith string band music

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Towards an Aesthetic for Conspiracy Theories

So we need to lay down some terms for these conspiracy theories, that enable people to get them right (lets say we want to start a few bogus ones and see how they run, for example:-)

Rule 1. Lack of evidence proves that there is a cover up.
This is an essential rule of the conspiracy theorist - its part and parcel of the next rule:

Rule 2. A conspiracy theorist should strive to make their story unfalsifiable.
Falsifiable theories are for Popperians seeking objective knowledge, not for the hunter for objectionable ideas.

Rule 3. Ideally, a conspiracy theory should have great (in the sense of broad) explanatory power or applicability - it ought, at one fell swoop, to encompass several problematical domains (missing aircraft, beleaguered news readers, confused celebs). Conspiracy theories make the inexplicably complicated, suddenly comprehensible to a complete dolt.

Rule 4. Any decent conspiracy theory resonates with some fundamental cultural meme, especially one that engenders fear, uncertainty and doublets. Hence myths from eldritch times, alien technology, hidden rules of numbers and the odd way some people look at you when you talk about this in the context of UKIP's chances at ruling Scotland, are essential.

Rule 5. There is a cover up, which means that there are coverer uppers. There is some group (Illuminati, Opus Dei, the French, the Arms/Drugs/Car manufacturers, UKIP) who know something, and are not telling us.

Rule 6. A good conspiracy theory exploits the principle of maximum astonishment (see also Rule 3). On the other hand, a conspiracy theory might sound occasionally plausible for a moment - for example, the fact that mice, cats, dogs and horses are just different stages in the growth of the same creature, or that the names of passengers on flight MH370 were the same as the travellers on the Marie Celeste, or that 3D printers contain secret scanners to make sure you don't ever copy people, especially not members of UKIP.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Search Me

In the UK, we had/have a deplorable police practice called "stop and search"

now this was ostenisbly so people suspected of carrying {drugs, knives, guns, islamic-extremism, irishness} cold be caught - unlike the US, this was targetted - of course, the net effect was to alienate various groups (especially the last 2) even more.

ironically, one of the things about the british police people like is that you could ask them staff - "ask a bobby" was a common piece of advice - the {time, location, help, etc}...and generally, they would be helpful (still are sometimes) - also, them not carrying guns makes them a bit more accessible:)

So now, if you search the internet via some engine {Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc}, what you look for will no doubt be part of the encroaching polis-state's total information awareness - as someone said at the IETF, when flying to Vancouver recently, he'd set off from another airport very early, and was about to send his partner an {e=mail, SMS, checkin} saying "this airport is SO dead", and then thought "do i really really want the NSA to put their interpretation on that".....

how weird to live in this world.

so the {NSA, GCHQ, Disney, etc} collect all our utterances.....but you can't go ask them for anything.

note that despite this, 9/11, 7/7, and poor Rigby's murder occurred. all that money spent by the surveilance state, but they can't reveal what they know in case the bad guys know that they know who the bad guys are and where they live.

come on, its our money, and we know you know where everyone lives, so how about you use it t round up the usual suspects for once before they commit some outrage, eh? just once. to prove you didn't spend it all on drink and drugs

Dave Eggars puts it in to context with a nice article discussing the swings of history and the story of Bernstein and the Front....for me, what we need is an extremist liberal take over of government which locks up and persecutes all the surveillance people for a couple of years, to give them a taste of what they are going to enable, but to point out that if it was an extremist right wing takeover, it would never end.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

terms and conditions, part II

1. We were wondering why there's no service that explains all online services' Terms&Conditions in Plain English once and for all (using a common set of terms:)

e.g. you own everything you put here on google's blogger service; or you own nothing you put here on google's blogger service. When you die, it is all deleted; or when you die, it is all in the public domain; etc etc

2. We were also wondering why there is no service that explains to you your privacy settings in one simple infographic, once and for all

e.g. using a simple visualisation of which people  who you don't know from Adam can see something you post or tag or blog, when a friend of a friend responds, reposts/ tags etc  - i.e. a simple venn diagrammy type thing with your ego net extending at least to friend of friend, then with pictures of people further away in the you-centric infosphere, and so on.

Of course, one answer to these two questions is that there isn't really an honest way to make money from such a service - or at least, not in a way that would a) induce trust and b) not cause all the existing service providers to set their best lawyers on you...

So I'm thinking this is an excellent project for cloud legal people at QMUL - we can get law students each year to do a project translating T&C for for the lay person, and explaining about property and privacy for the great public users of the unwashed Interweb....

3. Single sign on - hmmmm - how do we do this with really fast revocation? I quite like the two-gadget approach (you need a fitbit like device that talks to your smart phone - without both, AND you, then all bets are off....

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Role of Religion in Revolutionary Network Architectures

I'm looking forward to the forthcoming IAB workshop on Internet Technology Adoption and Transition for lots of reasons (catch up with many people, navel gaze about important topic, maybe even find out what works and what doesn't)!)

However, I'm looking through all the papers that will be presented and am worried that we are missing a very big factor in technology's success or failure, and that is faith.

The papers to be presented break into 4 rough groups
1. Economics -
     e.g. how do markets and commons interact.?...
     how do various tricks bundling, regulation play out?

2. Process -
     what do patents do to things?
     how does the ietf capitalize (or not) on research?

3. Ecology
     does the hourglass emerge always?
     how is diversity helpful (or  hindering)?

4. Technology
   what makes a protocol tick well?
   what pieces of the current experimental world (ICN, bitcoin) will make it to      prime time?

All good, but all roads that have been trod several times before in the communities - in general, economics has not had a great track record in prediction, and bio-inspired stuff is fun, but again doesn't match the details.
It is always worth studying the process and use cases are well worth documenting of course, but what bugs me is that there are so many potential failures we havn't looked at, and what do they have in common?

For me, it is the lack of a fervour, and what is more, persistence in the face of strong adversarial reaction - when we started deploying IP (I am not talking about the mega-ARPA projects, I am talking about the "going into schools at weekends" and "laying out community nets in small towns" movements in the mid 1980s), we were conducting a missionary movement - I recall also giving courses on TCP/IP to hoards of commercial folks despite their seniors in their companies still buying all sorts of CCITT (now ITU) and ISO (now nowhere to be seen) products being pushed by big companies and government agencies (GOSIP - Government OSI Procurement, was the official religion).

We persisted on this for 20 years - we still do....but we are now the official religion.

so now what happens if you want to introduce new tech, you need to make it the underdog - IPv6, no good at all - DNSSec secure BGP? hopeless basket cases. You need something that
a) is really barking mad, but might just work
b) has the feel of overthrowing an older dogma
c) inspires faith, even when the evidence is thin....

but you also need to think long term - 20 years is too short - its generational.
And most of us in the game are from the previous generation, and we need to get out the way.....but of what?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

future of the net & its impact on birth and death of industries

Yesterday, I attended an interesting meeting between policy maker/implementors, and techie/geeky people to discuss this fine topic (again - previous meeting was blogged earlier here under the topic of collective intelligence

this time, we split into two groups first, and laid out our wares to each other as techies all in one room, and policies all in the other, and then came together.

1. Techie discussion was perhaps more far reaching - long term problems like the use of the Internet as a metaphor for organising other sectors (decentralisation, symmetry between clients and servers/peer progressive) for energy, government, education, crowd sourcing/funding, journalism etc etc...

Some v. interesting stuff on power-law distributions in networks, and how these impact the way power itself plays out across a web of organisations, and if we do adopt the internet metaphor for these other secotrs, what that would do to wealth (in all senses of the word).

2. Then the policy people summaries their topics, which were much more about immediate problems the net brtings in their space under the general headings of

Personal - Does the net impact our cognition?; why do some things succeed and some fail? does the net replace people & jobs?

Business -does the net replace businesses or just optimise them?

Government - who is going to lead on regulation and governance?; is the net just too big to control;?
specifics (who is going to pay for rural broadband? how should public broadcast be funded?)

There was sme discussion about transport area stuff (esp. under optimnisaing both the operations and the large decision making - e.g. HS2). There was some discussion about censorship and darknets.

The main conclusions the tech people draw on these discussions (and tried to lead the policy people towards) were largely optimisitic

Again, background reading
1. Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future"monetizing your personal data instead of being owned by the net
2. Cory Doctorow the war on general purpose computing and appliances
3. The Interconnectedness of Everything

Crucial background was on defending systems against bad guys. I'm not so optimistic about this aspect of the net

Thursday, November 07, 2013


More than  a decade ago I was involved in the Internet standards (being on the IAB) and we responded to the RIPA excessive intrusions in the US (and elsewhere) quite robustly - see for example with RFC1984 (so aptly numbered by the late, lamented Jon Postel - see IAB's statement on crypto)).

So then we thought that was that.

Some of us built some cool network monitoring technology (e.g. Endace) which was originally used (innocently) for long term understanding of the evolution of internet traffic characteristics (and led to fine conferences like PAM and IMC (this years conf)

So it became apparent that some agencies in funny big round buildings in the US and UK were buying lots of this kit (esp. when they insisted that companies that built and programmed it only have US citizen employees).

So these, and other worries about wiretap by good and bad agencies led many Cloud service providers (think social media, search, webmail, etc) to turn on HTTPS by default - after all  much of the Internet runs over unsecured physical infrastructure, and much of its use is now a big carrier of transactions of financial worth (home shopping, home banking, whole sale information business too), so loss of identity is no joke - we were aware of the threat - or so we thought

We complied with lawful intercept requests - why would we not? we aren't the bad guys - we want to be a contributer to a healthier, wealthier, greener, happier, safer world. THat's the kind of people we are in the Internet Staff. 

And so, now having stirred the IETF with one big swizzle stick, the NSA and their cronies are going to reap the whirlwind - BUT, this won't just be that they can't wiretap anymore (we did that mostly with HTTPS going on by default, although we can harden systems (like my institution has just done) against MITM attacks too, better - no, we are going to make the WHOLE net and CDN and Cloud go dark - you know why this is BAD, dear #nsa morons? because it means you wont even be able to catch genuine bad guys any more - if you'd cooperated with us instead of attacking us, we wouldn't have had to have done this.

Now they are not only doubly wasting our money, the unintended consequence of having to harden the net against these hardened criminal nut agencies, is that the bad guys will go dark along with the good, not by default - permanently, ubiquitously, eternally, with forward and backward secrecy.

Not even evidence will be gettable - even with warrants.

Well done, NSA and GCHQ. This happened under your watch, not ours.

well hard

Blog Archive

About Me

My Photo
misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home