Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Wireless and Wifi in 2015 - not what I dreamed of
I will go into the battle with the FCC I'm in in more detail later. Click here for some details
As it was, I had a chance to return to the USA (from my university gig in Sweden) for a 10 day whirlwind trip up and down the East Coast. I took notes on how wireless technologies worked throughout.
Neither supposedly international sim card for my cell phone worked anywhere in the US I went.
My ubuntu phone doesn't do tethering without hacking on it, anyway, and I refused to join the app store.
After wandering around a while in La Guardia airport I found good enough wifi signal to get online long enough to figure out where I was going.
My hotel in NYC had good wifi, with hotspot. The AES conference did, ultimately have a place I could sit down, finish writing my talk, and upload it via wifi. It was up against a wall, I had to sit on the floor.
The bookshop I had a meeting in had a nasty password that the owner had to read to me 3 times before I got it right.
I sat in Penn Station, in NYC, with a few open APs within range, and was unable to get an IP address.
I got off the train in Princeton Junction to find 4 open APs there, from Xfinity, etc - which all demanded a login with one of their TV services, with no means to plug in a credit card if you didn't have an account already, which I don't, neither residing in the US (currently) or an owner of a TV
(for 3 decades).
So, I got in a cab and said "Take me to your WiFi!".
The cabbie took me to Barnes and Nobel where after navigating past the web only hotspot interception screen, I happily swapped the email I needed to get picked up by the person I was visiting. I also browsed a few books, but decided it was saner for me to just get stuff for my kindle, except that all 3 of my tablets had broken this year, and I'd left my main kindle in a hotel in slovenia - where I hope someone else is getting an education from it. I see no signs of any pages being turned though...
My lady friend had working wifi, but had to look up the password on a sticky note, stuck in a drawer,to share it. All her kids spent more time on their tablets than talking to me....
The wifi on the train to DC only worked for the last 30 minutes of the trip. I watched my cell phone register with LTE provider after another, with still no actual connectivity.
I stayed at the capitol holiday inn in Washington DC, where the local DNS server failed late in the evening. IT was called, but it was still down by the time I had to leave at 10. Thank god for 18.104.22.168!
The air and space museum had working wifi with the ubiquitous hotspot interception screen, making me agree to whatever terms and conditions were required to get on the internet from within this museum of technology.
The exhibits were old, and tired, and almost exactly the same as I remembered from my last visit a decade before.
I went to the FCC, while someone shared the guest password, I was too busy talking to be able to get online. I wondered if I could just share my data via a usb stick, but didn't have one that I didn't trust to not have malware on it, and I sure wasn't going to take one of theirs - so I decided to wait til i got back to the air and space museum to send my followup email.
I sat by spaceship one to do that, wondering if spaceship two would ever fly.
Returned to philly. Fell asleep on the train. Got woken up so suddenly at 30th street station as to forget to grab my laptop on the way out.
Went onto Malvern. ESR's CeroWrt box was still awesome (hundreds of days of uptime), but cloudflare had found ways to break the dnssec in that release, and thus I couldn't get to any IETF sites. Disabled dnssec... thought about restarting cerowrt in the face of all that adversity... went back to sleep.
Went to Philly the next day.
Outside the comcast HQ there were protestors protesting, begging to be hooked up to the Internet in their rural locations. The entire square outside the building was roped off in the drizzle and security guards located well outside deeply quizzed me as to my business therein. Inside, screens showed animated fish all across the back wall, with still no wifi to access, and only a very few "approved guests" to admire them. I got to my meeting there and they told me the one truly open AP had a hidden SSID, and what it was, but it did 10-20KB/sec at best, and timed out long before I could get my email.
I had a chance to look over Comcast's hardware and test design for their upcoming "buffercontrol" bufferbloat trial. Buffercontrol - shown to be fairly ineffective 3+ years and one DOCSIS 3.1 standard ago.
Under trial, finally, on the one modem they could make it work on.
I could say more depressing things about it... but I need the business, and I like getting actual field data for stuff we only proved in simulation. Perhaps this coming year we'll get a box in the field that does what CeroWrt did 3.5 years back and nearly every third party firmware already does.
Went afterwards to Atlantic City. Wifi in the casino worked in the coffee shop, but not the bar. My brother's apple based wifi was awesome - because - he said - his Internet service got tons better when he dumped the POS cable modem he was supplied by comcast for an Arris - but he was still paying rent on the one he wasn't using because they wouldn't accept the fact he wasn't using it. He'd run wires for everything he could, throughout the house, also.
He showed me some of the cool RF plotting code he'd written but asked me not to tell people about it because he only had time and budget to support users only in his workgroup.
I got on the next plane to florida, where at least my mom's wifi worked, but there were 5 others sharing the channel, evidently, from 6PM onwards, watching netflix in HD. ssh was nearly unusable from anywhere but a few feet away from the AP. Mosh worked ok.
The wifi in RSW, 30th street station, and PHL actually did work reasonably well.
Amtrak found my laptop in Penn Station and sent it to 30th street station after a couple futile phone and productive email exchanges. I picked it up between the flight from Florida and the next flight to London with about an hour to spare.
Having just a phone for half the trip made me realize just how crippling and damaging to the mind must be to everybody else using the internet, typing on their thumbs. Maybe other people's minds work better at much less than the 120WPM I type at.
All the airplanes home had no connectivity, and while I was offline for nearly 24 hours, the FCC put
out a press release claiming they were not trying to ban openwrt and dd-wrt, and laid out new guidelines that still appear to do so - all but in name - protecting 50 weather radars at the expense of billions of wifi users.
I still need to read the details. The devil's in the footnotes.
I got back to the university having forgotten my eduroam password. I plugged in a wire, but had to clear the mac address of my new laptop with IT.
Did a 2 hour discussion on VUC about where to go next, trying not to despair. I got encouraged to do more politics and less technology, for some reason. I think I'd rather do the technology. There's enough people in politics.
And I sat here until 4AM in my new apt in Sweden, writing up this wireless report... of 15 APs within listening distance, 5 with strong signals, all are locked down with WPA, with not one open one within range.
Not being a resident (yet), I can't order DSL service, and even if I could it would need a year long contract for me to get. Even if I got one, it would have bufferbloat. I'd go to the office if I could remember the passcode, or back to sleep if I wasn't so jetlagged. The local coffee shop opened at 9. I got here by 12 to have 30+ emails I had to read in my mailbox. I had to download a youtube downloader to download last nights video.
While offline last night I spent some time editing video and listening to music instead of talking to facebook friends that were still awake somewhere in the world. Not a bad thing actually....
We are in an age where Bob Frankston's (and mine) dream of ubiquitous wireless connectivity was eminently possible, and yet, due to poorly implemented technology, fear, greed, stupidity, and regulation, it feels in many ways worse than the wireless world I left behind in 2006, when I left the USA for the first time.
Back then I could just lean up against a building and make a skype call.
How far we'e come! <sarcasm>We used to use networks to share files, now we're down to usb sticks.</sarcasm>
Saving wifi! Fixing Bufferbloat! Fighting the vendors and the FCC!
I have been working on fixing bufferbloat now, for 5 years. After we came up with the utterly spectacular solution for it, back in may 2012, we only had the "minor" problem of a few billion devices to upgrade to solve, which is taking far longer than I imagined to do, even on CPE.
Bufferbloat remains an epidemic across the Internet, even at GigE!
After fq_codel was developed, we wrestled with how to go about incorporating a similar algorithm into wifi, and about this time last year, pretty much fully worked out all the theory for it, but it became engineering problem of a scope our small team cannot handle at any reasonable scale - and, worse, our biggest problem became getting enough access into almost-universally locked down wifi and dsl firmware to apply the fixes, and the FCC's rulings last year, and upcoming this year, have made it almost impossible to even start!
So Vint Cerf and I - and whole bunch of other people you'll find in wikipedia - have drafted a letter
to the FCC explaining how they can make for better/faster/safer home routers if they write better regulations, substituting sane, well understood software engineering practices for handling wifi and binary blobs than what exists today.
In part, the letter is fueled by our anger at VW cheating on emissions tests, but it is also driven by our fears of continued network insecurity, and our frustration at the speed at which bufferbloat fixes are rolling out to the real world - if we only had access to some more wifi and dsl firmware, we could be done, in weeks! It's only 1300 lines of code!
So... please consider signing our letter to the FCC
before the deadline of 2PM EST, today.
The network you save may be your own.
Virgin Media - Fixing the epidemic of bufferbloat with a little more truth
After I made very big stink about this here, on g+, and slashdot and multiple mailing lists, I received a private email this morning from Virgin Media telling me my access to their community forums had been restored. I hope that one piece of fallout from creating this controversy about the terribly slow ISP industry progress towards recognising and fixing their bufferbloat
, that now a constructive dialog can now ensue. As in the past, and in the future, I will attempt to do my best to help Virgin (and the rest of the cable and dsp and fiber ISPs, and the makers of their chipsets, and CPE) provide better information about how to fix their bufferbloat
to their customers... and continue to help get the fixes more widely distributed - and into more firmware... after I wake up! - yesterday was a very stressful day for me. Thank you all for amplifying my concerns and to whoever found the right person at Virgin to address my issue - THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
Btw, this song, You gotta be loud
from the wonderful musical, Matilda, ran through my head all day, yesterday. It simply drips with irony and sarcasm in the context of the play. It is very, very British, and I have a lot of empathy for the travails of the main character. If you haven't seen the play, you should. I went to see it each of the last 3 times I was in London.
But! to preserve all the information I put out here originally remains important! So the original post, remains below:
To whom it may concern at Virgin Media:
My IP address is apparently now banned from accessing your site at all
, for "advertising", on this thread
about bufferbloat... and my post, was deleted. For the record, that url was:
Believe me, I understand the degree to which advertising pollutes the internet. And certainly, given the brevity of my post, you could assume that I was just some random guy, selling snake oil. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Admittedly, it was a short message, it was kind of late, and I was in a hurry, being that I have so many other networks to help fix. To clarify matters: I am the co-founder of the bufferbloat project
, and I like to think, a world-wide acknowledged expert on the topic on this thread.
In particular, I worked pretty hard on part of the cable industry's DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which was ratified years ago, and has a specific section on it regarding technologies that can help fix *half* your bufferbloat problem
I admit to some frustration as to how long it is taking DOCSIS 3.1 to roll out.
The cablelabs study that led up to the PIE AQM component in the 3.1 standard - in which I participated and am cited in, is here
I happen to prefer the fq_codel based solution as that works better on most traffic
, but am perfectly happy to see PIE get deployed.
If you continue to exist in denial of what your own R&D department for your own industry is saying, ghu help you! After giving this 23 minute talk at uknof, the premier conference for network operators in the UK over two years ago
!!, I met with 6+ technical members of Virgin Media's staff, who all agreed they had a problem, understood what it was, and they all grokked the various means to fix it. Judging from the enthusiasm in the room, I figured you'd be rolling out fixes by now, but I was wrong.
A rather human readable explanation of what has gone into the pending 3.1 standard is in the IETF DOCSIS-PIE internet draft here
Sadly, just DOCSIS-pie rolling out on the modems is not enough - you have to somehow, yourselves, fix the dramatic overbuffering on the CMTS side, as shown here in tests done on comcast's cablemodems in the USA
with typical results in the 240-800 millisecond range.
These downlink problems have been discussed thoroughly on the bufferbloat.net bloat and the ietf aqm mailing lists, and rather than point at direct links I would encourage more people to join the discussions there, and browse the archives.
As I have seen no visible progress on the CMTS front yet... and no acknowlegment or visible understanding that you get it yet...
The best way to fix bufferbloat for your long-suffering customers for the past 3 years
, is to help them - and your customer service departments - recognize the latency and bad performance bufferbloat causes when it occurs and propose sane ways to fix it with stuff available off the shelf which includes the free firmware upgrades for thousands of home routers distributed by openwrt
, or nearly any Linux derived product available downstream from those manufacturers that have bothered to keep up with the times.
I have no financial interest in free firmware
. I'm just trying to fix bufferbloat on a billion+ devices and nearly every network in the world as fast as humanly possible. Furthermore, me and a whole bunch of Internet luminaries gave the theory
and code away for free
also, in the hope that by doing so that might more quickly get the megacorps of the world to adopt them and make the quality of experience of internet access for billions of users of the world vastly better.
Fixing bufferbloat was a 50 year old network research problem, now solved, with great joy, several different ways, thoroughly, by some of the best minds in the business, and the answers are now so simple as to fit into a few hundred lines of code, easy to configure for end-users and easily embeddable in your own devices and networks if only you would get on the stick about it.
We have provided the code, are in the standardization process, and have provided free tools to diagnose and fix your epidemic bufferbloat accurately on every kind of device you and your customers have.
Here are two actual examples
of fixing bufferbloat on cablemodems
without needing to upgrade the modem or CMTS.
And the *free* tool designed not only to accurately measure bufferbloat, but one that you can setup internally to test your networks and devices for it privately and quietly without publicity - and then fix them! is here:
So, now, a rant:
Now, if me pointing a customer of yours that might have correctly identified the root cause of his own problems, at the solutions both available now, and pending, on your own forum, is considered "advertising", then there really is an orwellian mixup between the definition of that word, and the truth, on your side of the water.
Please, unblock my "dtaht" account and unblock my IP, and allow in better information about how customers of yours can solve the incredibly serious, and incredibly epidemic problem of bufferbloat...
... A problem that is now easy to solve with cheap gear now all over the market so that all your customers suffering can fix it for themselves if they so choose.
And: I would like a public apology for blocking me, and a clear statement from Virgin, as to how, when, and where, they will begin to roll out their own fixes to bufferbloat across their subscriber base. And perhaps, you could publish some guidelines - like what accurate up/download settings to use - to help your customers fix your problems for themselves.
49... and trying to find my navel
Wow. My posts here have declined to nearly nothing - in fact, this is my first post in a year. There's a lot of reasons for that.
1) Social media has changed. In g+ it is too easy to write something bigger than twitter but shorter than a blog. So I now do the g+ thing. I didn't care for twitter, I didn't like joining the flood of tiny little messages on important topics, now I can do stuff that's more bite-sized...
2) My day-to-day communications in life are mostly talks, email and irc these days. I spent the rest of my writing time coding or writing documentation or correcting stuff on other websites. I haven't done a lick of creative writing in ages... aside from giving about 10 public talks in the last 10 months. Writing and giving talks takes a heck of a lot out of me! No matter how natural I might look on youtube, I lose a week under the bed working out what I was going to say. And every time I've tried to write something bigger than that, I've frozen up with terrible, crippling, writers block.
3) I started a different blog only to tire of remembering formating rules of markdown vs textile vs html vs blog-tool-of-the-day. I keep hoping that something better than ikiwiki will show up without much luck... and keep meaning to resume my efforts with ikiwiki only to run out of steam quickly.
4) I don't have a lot to say - sure there's lots of important issues I care about - but while everybody else is off busily "caring" about them (if being noisy on blogs actually made a difference) - I've had a laser like focus on actually *fixing* a problem I care about deeply.
I wouldn't mind if I wrote stuff down more, but I don't feel like sharing much more of myself with the universe than I already do.
And probably my biggest problem has been:
5) A whole bunch of people important to me died last year, and - in particular - after my dad went to the great fishing reef in the sky
, I locked down, emotionally, to an extent I've only barely begun to discover, and just took an iron grip on work, and work only, to keep going.
Only in the last few months have I begun to open up and heal a bit, and take in bits of life, and I'm grateful very much to those that have reached out to help.
So, I sit, today, 49 years old, wondering how the heck did I get here? Professionally, I'm really happy with what I've helped accomplish in fixing bufferbloat. Pretty unhappy about the pay scale, but all around, I see signs of adoption and I foresee a much snappier internet in a few years for nearly everyone... But personally... about the only thing I've been feeling semi-positive about is that 14 days ago I smoked what I hope would be my last cigarette, and that even my cravings for the gum are going down. BUT: I have not been fun to deal with for the last month. And the main reason why I felt I could quit and lose the braincells is that the ietf has stepped up with a WG tackling the problem
that I've lost so much sleep on. I'm not as needed anymore; the real experts can step up now.
Today started especially badly, but I don't feel like writing that down right now. Trying to remember the previous year...
I totally missed posting last year, and the year before. I have no idea what my state of mind was on those days. I'm mad at myself for letting any form of journal lapse.
So today, in addition to that rather bad morning, I was feeling like I was making no personal progress, that I'm just as stuck now with my life as I was 10 years ago... so I went and looked up what I'd written 10 years ago today
Wow. Reading that cheered me up tons. The space program is so massively back on track... it's freaking wonderful. I'm missing out on being a part of it, but that's ok, so many others care and are doing something about it, and maybe if I can assure myself the internet is in good hands again, I can re-join....
It still doesn't help my "life", per se'... but seeing mankind make it into space was my childhood dream and earliest professional goal, and it's happening! it's happening!
Moving forward a year
... well, I solved the exercise problem then, I need to get around to solving it again. Outside my yurt now sits the same bike I had then, and unfortunately a MUCH taller mountain. I can't make it anywhere on the thing without gasping for air and walking uphill for what seems like miles.
I spent a few more minutes in my navel looking over that stuff leaping forward to today...
I still don't really have an action plan. Maybe I'll write more after I get better focus on my navel...
1) I need to write more stuff down, but I no longer feel much urge to tell the universe off (as I did for a decade), I just want good backups for whatever's on my mind...
2) I need a viable business model for what I'm doing, or to find a way to reduce it to a background process and do something else. Today, I lean towards doing something else that would let me have a life back again. I have no idea what that is. Maybe tomorrow I'll return to seeking a business model. It turns out that I really enjoy "fixing the internet". It's not a bad job description...
In looking over that sea of blogs from 2003 to 2009 or so, for most of that time I felt I was washed up, and irrelevant, with skills nobody needed anymore. I don't feel that way at all now! (and I'm so glad I took that timeout to change my life and life in nicaragua, surf, play music, and learn spanish)
I do wish I wasn't pushing 50. Everything hurts, from my knees to my hands, to my back, especially. I look forward to being uploaded, or to some form of regeneration. The rest of my life - outside of work - would be more feasible. Most people can golf when they retire, I can't manage 3 holes without calling for a massage therapist.
Aside from that... well, hell. It's been a while since I looked inside myself and there's some ugly in there that's going to take some time to sort out. But it's looking like clear skies for the Perseids tonight, I've got my guitar packed up, and I'm heading somewhere quiet and dark to commune with them again in a few minutes.
Wheels down on mars!
After all these years I can hardly stand to sit through the last stages of a landing - everything has already happened, all you can wait for is news of success... or await the silence and questions that followed for months on all the unsuccessful missions, like the mars polar lander, and Beagle2...
This time tho, the cheers rang out, in mission control, with the 600+ people in the theaters here tonight, and no doubt on web streams and television rooms throughout the globe, after the mission controller cried out:
"We are safe on mars!
... We continue to recieve telemetry from mars. We're safe."
I've had this song running through my head all night.
"We've got wheels down on mars!"
Tracking the landing of Curiosity, from Seattle
Shortly after arriving in Seattle, I discovered Ray Ramadorai had mailed me a link to the live mars curiosity landing event being put on at the museum of flight tonight...
My cousin Aaron and I took one look at each other, unloaded the dogs, and boogied over there.
The theater was full when we arrived. The overflow theater had overflowed, too. And the air conditioning had failed. The audience sat rapt as the engineers and scientists explained each subsystem, each design, each instrument...
As I write, the main entrance to the theater is now full, and they've just added a second monitor for the rest of the crowd that keeps flowing in, and in, and in.
I remember in the time from one presentation to the next, Curiosity moved 8,000 km closer to Mars, 28k away, about 20 minutes ago, as best as I can remember... maybe it was during the 7 minutes of terror?
The time continues to fly by. Landing in less than 70 minutes! There's people here with their babies, guys with their girlfriends, girls with their guyfriends, NASA employees, members of alt.space, Aerojet, Planetary Resources, MPL, name it, and they all sit with eyes aglow in anticipation and hope...
##curiosity is an irc chat channel on freenode dedicated to the event.
And they are about to switch over to the NASA tv feed, on the big screen, in high def.
Chris Lewicki is up now, describing the comms systems.
spotting NEOs from around venus's orbit
I gotta say that seeing all the excitement around NEO exploration *finally* is rather wonderful.
The B612 foundation is planning on Charting the NEOs from near Venus's orbit
, which is a good place for energy, and maybe a few interesting rocks on reachable orbits...
Asteroids as lunar orbit resources
For nearly 9 years, I've had one of my early attempts at a coherent argument for leveraging near earth asteroids in the space program
sitting on the right hand side of this blog. I've been meaning to revise that piece for years too (nearby rocks are moving fast and are useful to hit, but not land on), but haven't got around to it.
A few weeks back I learned of a NASA study that costed out how to do a major sample and return mission
to lunar orbit. It's cheaper than a moon landing. By a lot.
And today I learned about Planetary Resources
, which with some billionaire backers is aiming to take on asteroid mining on some scale
, according to the WSJ.
For the last 4 years I've been watching the successes
of Spacex, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigalow, Xcor, Scaled Composites and others, thinking that they needed payloads, and places worth going to.
Of late, I've been too busy helping fix the internet
to pay much attention. I was in Florida for the (scrubbed) 3rd launch of the Falcon 9, and was hoping to be there for the upcoming one, but that's about it.
I'd still, despite admiring those successes, basically given up.
Years ago I'd suggested that Google throw 30m into an Xprize for asteroid exploration. I didn't expect something as big as what Planetary Resources might turn out be. I look forward to more detail Tuesday.
Back in the early 90s I tried writing a SF book about the economics and human interactions of what realistic near earth asteroid living would be like, the spectre and the glory of travelling between Jupiter and Venus every four years. I'd hosted one civilisation on the asteroid "Toutatis", in particular. I had fun building the place out with lap pool around the waist, installing plumbing (if you know anything about Toutatis's rotation, this is actually an interesting problem) and observatory, and the stuff that would keep settlers alive and happy for long periods of time, and how cultures would exchange people (much like the American Indians) and knowledge (Usenet!)
I projected 20-30 years of robotic exploration and then a severely modified humanity, to make it out - legs amputated at birth like the dangerous appendages they are - etc. I never finished writing the book, though. Vinge beat me to it with the Usenet hook, dang it.
But: along the way, I proved (to myself at least) that using the NEOs as waystones was the lowest cost/highest payoff starting point for expanding out into the solar system, which has led to countless debates with Mars Society members. I'd steer people at Lewis's "Mining the sky
", at Buzz Aldrin's Cycler
concept, and at the mass requirements for O'Neil colonies.
I've kept sort of a low level interest in the subject ever since. I always use examples of spacecraft failures in my talks about reliable embedded software design. It's always a good hook with grad students. I keep up on launches, subscribe to several enthusiast lists, read what little literature emerges and sometimes even make it to a conference.
I was a little non-plussed by the recent NASA study for landing people on an asteroid. First up, in my mind, was always robotic exploration and extraction. Still: the costs on that looked pretty good, and I knew mars was more expensive...
If bugged about space stuff, I try to explain that the solar system looks nothing like what Asimov depicted in "Marooned off Vesta". Exploring the rest of it is far more akin to the age of sailing ships that took years to get anywhere, rather than 1g spacecraft that bop from place to place in days, as all the early SF writers mislead us. The economics of sail apply. Except that space is *bent*, in weird ways. The archipelagos move, and the shortest time between two points is never a straight line, and there are keyholes and other interesting gravitational phenomena, and you don't need rockets to get around an asteroid (springs and tethers suffice), etc, etc.
Another big problem has been that most people's impressions of the solar system were formed by the Apollo program and those aforementioned writers - in stories that predate the discovery of thousands of Near Earth Objects in interesting orbits.
Over the years I tried dozens of ways to get the points across, trying to educate people about resonance orbits with Jupiter
, proposing a grand tour of the NEOs
, and talking about replicating Deep Impact on a grand scale, and various other serious bits like that.
Sometimes I seriously tried to be unserious, in trying to find bridges from everyday experience, to space. I went looking just now for the serious stuff I'd written about Deep Impact and instead stumbled across me channeling Howard Cosell during Deep Impact here
, and here
. Ah, I'd wrapped it around "The Thrilla in the Chilla"
, indeed. In retrospect I'm pretty sure that I missed both core audiences with those pieces...
I threw a party every four years on Feb 29th, called Asteroid Appreciation Day
. Asteroid appreciation day
, this year, I moved to 12/12/12 or so (still haven't planned it out)...
I wrote songs about the Challenger
and the KT event. The KT event one, "Living in the 00ze", well, I have a much better version of it than this
, but haven't bothered to lay it down.
As for the other one... I've played "Rhysling and me - Falling Free and Flying High" more times and in more venues than I can remember - most recently twice a week for over 3 years, live, in front of unknowing tourists, while I was in Nica. I've recorded it with flautista
, and in the studio
, and a couple other ways, and even wrote a script
for the video.
That song got me invited to the Heinlein centennial! Spider Robinson didn't sit in, but what evan and I did went over well - recorded at the Heinlein Centennial
. (Evan's song Home
went over well too, and I just discovered I still have this enormous archive of all the filksongs
played that friday night that I should edit down. Justin Kare, Margaret Middleton...). I also got a chance to meet a bunch of people that I'd only corresponded with, and a few I'd admired from afar.
Not a lot of people know the story of the first sax in space
that I reference in the song.
I haven't had much urge to play that song since the last shuttle landed. I'd like to write something happier.
I even tried writing a children's book once, in verse, figuring that having lost this generation, I'd try the next.
"Son, your mommy and daddy are both unemployed, and you want to live on an asteroid?" (I still think it was a wonderful story - the kid flits off to dactl and has to be pulled back via tether by his dad - I got a chance to try and explain tethers with a Tom Lehrer/G&S reference - try finding rhymes for centrifugal! )
Every couple of years, I publish links to Lance Benner's work on NEO asteroid rendezvous and intercepts
pages. It's my way of keeping up with the rate of discovery.
I was critical of the Dawn Mission on two different occasions because they were focused on big bodies, not small, and of New Horizons, for the length of the mission and the data rate
While I look on with admiration at Dawn's early mission photos... not having spacecraft, in the space program, with a reasonable cycle time from design to construction to launch to data, from redesign to *mass construction* to launch to more and more data, to enough raw materials for a sustainable ecosystem, frustrates me.
I worry a bit about Apohele
NEOs, they are both nearby, frequently, and hard to see. Since discovery, 10 have been confirmed
. Apoheles also strike me as an opportunity. I don't know if anyone's calculated intercept or rendezvous orbits for them yet.
My main machine is named cruithne. Backup laptop, ida. My Kindle? dactl.
So like, I dig asteroids. And rockets. And space.
Please note if the above seems excessive - I've just written up what little I'd managed to accomplish in 30+ years of trying, not hard enough, in my spare time. I have no idea if anything I've ever said, did, wrote or sung about space ever succeeded in convincing anybody about anything.
But I'm really happy with the direction the space program is finally going.
All I ever needed was a rocket ship
, and the stars to steer her by.
Labels: alt.space, asteroids, space
SOPA is bad news
I haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to American politics of late. At least one variant of SOPA, as proposed, will mess with DNSSEC.
I believe - wholeheartedly - that DNSSEC has the ability to improve the security of the Internet for everyone. It's a critical component of my cerowrt project, comcast just rolled it out nationwide, many other providers are also doing so, and that has taken tens of thousands of people, over 10 years of effort to accomplish.
I have also been working for years to make DNSSEC just work, only to look up now, to see clueless politicians in the pay of a a few lobbyists playing with technologies they don't understand.
I've been busy this year, on another front
- trying - and succeeding!! - making the Internet, actually better, for everyone.
It really bugs me to see all the time, energy, and money, that can go into screwing up the internet, especially vs all the time, energy, and money that goes into making it better.
I don't have a comprehensive grip on what sopa does, but here's one reference
that seems good. Doc Searls also ranted well
Seeing wikipedia go dark today
, was a terrible, terrible thing. I'd like to keep the light of knowledge, burning bright, throughout the world, for everyone, all the time.
Departing France for England, then 'home'.
So, I looked up, and realized that it was time to leave Paris.
I'm sad to be packing up and leaving, and mad at myself on a few particulars, but on the whole, it's been a wonderful experience to have spent time in one of the still beating hearts of civilization.
As a tourist I got to see the Eiffel tower, and tour the entire Louvre - (it wasn't the Mona Lisa that grabbed me, it was the painting on the opposite side of the room that really blew my mind - and the statuary - oh, my!)
I ate dinner at nearly every restaurant between my apartment and my graciously donated office at LINCs
lab, and a few other places. I got turned onto some wonderful places with friends that I will never find again. The wine, was wonderful... I had a couple dates, too, but romance escaped me - and I was working my brain dry... I spent 99.9 % of my time obsessively trying to beat the bloat.
I met some people I'd only corresponded with for years, helped a couple students, gave a couple talks, did a ton of research, and my life revolved around work, primarily. Darn it. Again.
There was so much more I could have done - in particular I'm sad I missed seeing both the catacombs and Monet's gardens, but I hope to be back one day, and those will be tops on my list. I wish also - although I fell in love with Duc Lombards and the two other big jazz clubs in Halles - that I'd actually got to *all* the jazz clubs, and seen some plays and concerts, but it was very hard to navigate alone...
I didn't manage to learn that much French. I will have to study the language far more fully before I choose to return. I did learn lua, though.
I'm off to London now for a week (I'm giving a talk at UKnof21
), and I hope to spend time there, seeing things and people that I've always wanted to see, in that country. Then... Back to Florida to see my folks, and after that...
I have NO idea. Usually I write up a summary of the last year, and make some new years resolutions, and review the old, and I guess I'll start doing some of that, while trying to ingest as much of Europe as I can, in my time remaining here.
I wish I'd got to Amsterdam, Spain, and Italy on this trip, too.
Ahh, well. The work was good.
An incredible stream of co-incidences passing me by
For the past couple days, while waiting for code to compile, I've been playing an old song of mine, "Living in the ooze", revising the lyrics, coming up with a bridge (finally! 6 years without a bridge!) that I think might work. This morning I even went out to get batteries for my recorder. I didn't get them because I don't know how to pronounce 'batteries' in French, and staggered back, defeated, to my apartment in Paris.
I've told the story behind the song
in multiple posts over the past 6 years, and we're coming up on asteroid appreciation day feb 29th, next year, and I don't have a plan or place for the party... and in part those stories are always about impossible co-incidences and weird stuff happening at all the same time...
I have NOT been paying attention to space stuff AT ALL for the last 9 months, being deeply immersed in bufferbloat. I even stopped reading the Arocket mailing list. I spent the weekend completely immersed in a set of algorithms that finally, finally might reduce latency over wireless to sane values once again, only to end up with one bug per line of code and multiple kernels that wouldn't boot. Never left the house all weekend. Still haven't made it to the louvre. Or anywhere else in paris but the LINCs
lab. I'm insanely frustrated with this project.This morning at 12:40 AM I was ready to chuck it all and get on the next plane to anywhere that didn't have computers... but was stuck on thinking where on earth that might be, so I did a few other things about my stuck-ed-ness..
I haven't been reading the news, either, as news.google.com insists on coming up in French no matter what I do. I'm still stuck on the six different ways to pronounce 'e', in my French-english dictionary.
So, later this morning, in an impossible co-incidence, I meet someone who just spent the summer in Nicaragua, who points me at her huffpost article
, and I send a link back to one of my adventures in australia
which happened to be the last thing I'd written about this particular song... and happens to be about some weird coincidences in spite of my agnostic-ism...
And then... I notice... at the top of HER post...
Quarter mile wide asteroid to miss earth Tuesday
Nerts. It's going to miss Texas. It almost hits the moon though! That would have been spectacular! And the article has quotes from Lance Benner who I've exchanged multiple emails with over the years, and I still point actively at the data he collects on plausible rendezvous trajectories
Perhaps the universe is telling me something. About what, I don't know. Perhaps some sort of sacrifice to it is needed. Perhaps it - or something in it - needs attention.
Either I get back to recording this song or go back to work, or go for a rendezvous.
OK, I've googled for how to pronounce batteries. And I wonder what can rhyme with UV55?
PS: Boycott the Hôtel Ibis Sainte Catherine, Bruxelles
12 suggestions for startups
I'd written this months ago and meant to post it then. Having been through 14 startups now (of which 3 I started, 1 (none that I started) that worked out ok), I figure I have sufficient background to give advice... especially to myself. I tend to forget one or another of these points much to my own detriment, in the heat of creating a startup.
I keep forgetting to apply points 10 & 11 below to my own work. At present, I'm merely applying startup-like methods, some of which are working, some not, to a major R&D project
. The number of points missing on the strategy are sometimes glaring - I merely want to fix a problem (bufferbloat) so well that it never bothers anybody again. As for profit motive, I have none - merely cutting my own annoyance level regarding the behavior of wireless networks back to "mellow", almost suffices.
12 suggestions for startups
1) Retain control. Most successful startups go through three rounds of
If done wrong, by the last round the founder(s) generally reduced to a tiny minority shareholding and have lost control of the company... and are usually forced out by the 4th round or IPO.
If done right, the founders retain 80% or more of the stock in the 3rd round.
I note that 9/10th of startups are not successful, and that a large percentage of the ones that 'make it' did so without benefiting the principals or employees to any real extent, only the VCs.
2) Paul graham is good. I'm a big fan. The ycombinator model appears to be working, but as to how much it meets goal 1, above, I currently have no insight.3
) Have a pitch, and a plan, pitch it often, *listen* to the responses and objections, and revise after every meeting. Don't be deterred by failure. Make sure your goals are shared with the people working with you, as well.
4) Selling something is great.
Selling something you can actually make and sell at a profit is vastly to be preferred.
5) Get to plausible promise before seeking any money at all. If you can't do a startup's initial development on what you already have, you can't afford to take risks of this size, and should stay gainfully employed at something else.
Once you start chasing money, chase it hard, chase it continously, get it in the bank, and spend it appropriately. While there is such a thing as 'too much money' while in growth mode, it's a nice problem to have.
6) Decide on your exit strategy early. "go public, "stay private", "make money for 5 years", "lose money for 5 years".
Cynically I note that you don't have to share your exit strategy with your employees or your investors.
It does help in planning and in motivating your people if you know what your exit strategy is - there are very different motivators for 'GOING IPO IN 2 YEARS' vs 'Make money, reliably, starting in 2 years', or 'provide a valuable service', or 'solve a global problem', and it changes the kind of people you get.
7) Incorporate early. Twice. The first company loses money, the second is in reserve. Both are handy to have around. Shell companies in particular establish credit that exists independent of your own income, over time.
It is best to have had a company around for 3
+ years before starting to really use it.
If it were legal, given todays legal and tax environment, I'd incorporate kids at birth. As it is, at the moment I'd recommend incorporating 'em as soon as legal in Delaware rather than overseas. It really complicates you life unnecessarily. (that said, doing business with other businesses outside of the US is mildly easier, and shipping your kids overseas will give them a bigger picture than they can get in the US of world needs)
8) Get a good lawyer. Also, get a good accountant. Take the advice of both particularly as regards to points 5 and 6, not me! Two lawyers and two accountants are an even better idea. Bad lawyers and bad accountants have sunk more than a few startups.
Have a clear goal, corporate rules, etc, laid out, in a mission statement, etc.
I have no opinions regarding sub-s or LLCs. A few years back LLCs were all the rage. Talk to two lawyers and one accountant about it.
Regardless, you're going to lose money for a while. It's good to make that tax-deductable any way you can. Cash-flow will always be a problem, whether it's early days of no income or while facing unexpected growth.
9) Contract to hire. Never hire until you have to. The costs both of hiring someone and of firing them far outweigh the extra costs of paying contractors of various worthiness. Getting business insurance is a problem, getting health insurance is also a problem.
Limit your fixed commitments rigorously.
Contract yourself if you want. I use MBO partners for this - they get me a pair of 401ks, 1m in business insurance and take care of a ton of details that I don't want to, in exchange for 5% off the top of my billings (in the US) - where most agencies take 40%.
10) Recognize your own faults. If you are a detail person, get someone that can stay focused on the big picture. If you are a big picture person, get people that do details. If you can do both, do both, but on separate days. REMEMBER to do both, regularly.
(Being a detail person myself, I have to reset with long
weekends periodically to review the mis-fired plans and replan. I've had to do a lot more of that this year, than I'd like)
In all cases, having a good and well enabled AA/secretary working for the CEO primarily is tremendously useful. Get stuff WRITTEN DOWN. (I use transcribr.com
Also having a good shared scheduling system is helpful. I could go on for pages
11) Set goals, and plan, rigorously, and both conservatively and optimistically. Revise your plan monthly. Software developers are notorious for over-estimating what can be done in a month, and underestimating what can be done in 2 years. Marketing guys are notorious for missing trends until they've already happened, and selling visions of things that can't be built by any software developer on the planet and promising them 'tomorrow'.
12) If you are risk-adverse, don't do a startup. By all means, DO! form a company to fund your own interests, and lose money with it profligately, it makes the IRS mad, and that's worth it in itself.
The seed capital to accomplish the starting procedures above is about $15k. Yearly, maintaining the corporations depends on your locality, but runs less than $1k each, accountant < $1k, lawyer less than $3k, and if you can't find a way to lose 3x that much money pre-tax on a regular basis to make up for it, see multiple points above.
Steve Jobs, RIP.
I am going to miss Steve Jobs. I'd admired/hated/loved/wanted to be like/unlike him for much of my adult life, and now that he's gone, I can't think of anyone else in the industry that could have stirred up such emotions and thoughts in me. He spoke well, here at Stanford
RIP, Steve. I intend to stay both hungry and foolish, for as long as I can, thanks to your inspiration.
Welcoming my father to the blogosphere
Ron Taht, my dad, is finally, blogging
! My mom and I have been encouraging him for years to stop wasting his time with letters to the editor, which would - whenever published - always get published, truncated, with salient points removed.
A few months back I showed him how to use blogspot and finally - after a few false starts, he started generating some good stuff, at lengths more suitable to what he has to say.
I'd delighted to see him finally getting his full say - and while my dad and I don't see eye to eye on many things, he instilled in me a great love of debate, that I didn't exactly appreciate when I was younger, while I seeking moral guidance rather than debate. Back then, he'd always pick the opposite side of whatever I was thinking about, no matter what he actually thought, just to sharpen my wits (and leave me confused about, well, just about everything)
Now, after finishing his career as a prosecutor, lawyer, and judge, he speaks with conviction, about what he really thinks, and *I'm* the one that automatically picks the opposing side when discussing anything with him!
I'm very glad he's finally writing his stuff down, and speaking his true thoughts from his heart and mind.
He has tons of entertaining stories that I'd like him to blog about, too - fishing tales, golf stories, multiple episodes in court both tragic and funny, hysterical funny scenes from housing sales, and scary stuff from his prosecutor days...
But, as he's not much of a typist (as yet), he's primary writing about the issues that concern him now, deeply, about the current problems and future of America... and I find myself agreeing with him far more often than I'd like (or am willing to admit, while debating with him)
I hope for a big welcome from the blogosphere it's newest 75 year old member at ronsravings.blogspot.com
, my dad, Ron Täht. Comments and criticism of what he's writing about will be deeply appreciated.
Any other musicians at linuxcon in Vancouver?
I was wondering if the old band could get together for the 20th anniversary... I've got the management behind borrowing the hyatt bar and the piano....
Labels: linuxcon vancouver
Me, 46, Cerowrt - RC5
Usually I write a long, contemplative blog post on my b-day, but I simply haven't had time to gaze into my navel all that much.
I AM however, hoping that the RC5 candidate
proves out to be a good one, and begins to address the mistakes I made a decade ago
, and mistakes everyone has been making since the 802.11n deployment.
I spent the last week with the incredibly helpful folk at ISC
getting a lab
put together to test this release of CeroWrt, and it's looking really good... but I did make the go/no go decision on a RC at 2:38 AM this morning, which worries me - but hopefully there will be few problems.
I'm hoping actually, for a dramatic difference in wireless network behavior for those giving the RC5 a test - certainly in testing I saw some of the cleanest TCP/IP streams I've seen all year.
I also look forward to people exploring all the new ideas inside of Cerowrt - DNSSEC, mesh networking, a local web server, etc, etc.
There are still a ton of bugs
left to fix, but no priority ones, and that... is good enough to take a day off on, and enjoy wandering a park or two in california, and play some guitar. I'm off to Vancouver for a pair of conferences next - and I hope to stage a reunion from the band we played in, in Nicaragua - with the flautista, Angel, as well. Got a few new songs in my stack now, notably 'Please come to boston'.
So while blogging has been light, if I'm lucky, things will slow down enough for me to talk about what we've been up to for the last 8 months, and where we're going. Where I'm going next, after Canada... is Paris
The greatest gift I've ever got for a birthday! - was the help of hundreds of people
, all helping to fix, and finish the internet.
I'm in awe and delight. Thank you all, above!
Despite all that sentiment... First up this morning, on my list, is laundry.
Battling the bloat
So, I've been so busy for the past few months as to have let multiple things slide. I've been all over the US - florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, NJ, Boston, California, Georgia, and now, I am back in NJ, living out of a suitcase with increasingly irrelevant clothing for the weather.
I hope to jaunt to Europe next, after my billings catch up with me. Then back to Nicaragua.
On the minus side:
My main email went down for a month. I hardly noticed.
I completely forgot an important anniversary... for over a week. The lady involved is not speaking to me.
My laptop crashed 5 days after I'd used the USB stick I use for backups for something else.
I haven't checked my voicemail in a month, at least.
I got no exercise.
On the plus side:
Eric Raymond now has IPv6. So does Evan Hunt. Two down, several billion to go.
The latest and greatest bind9 - with dnssec support - is now available for openwrt in the Cerowrt
git repository, for testing, as part of ISCWRT
. DNSSEC is a mere 3 configuration commands away!
I gave a fairly well received talk at asilomar about the problems with the Net outside the USA.
I attended jim gettys' recent google tech talk
, and breathed the same air as Vint Cerf.
The debloat-testing kernel now has most of the features we were trying to test (SFB,etc) , and it has been updated to 2.6.39.
There is now an extensively debloated (but not perfectly by a long shot) version of
openwrt - which also contains the critical stuff from debloat-testing, so we can test
end to end connectivity in all sorts of ways.
That release is entering the final stages of testing, and is codenamed, Capetown
. It works on the netgear wndr3700v2, which is a wonderful piece of hardware.
And some routers using that are now up and running, capetown, South Africa, as part of the Bismark
project, which I'll be helping out at through mid-august.
The last 4 weeks of my life I worked at a level I have not worked at since my late 20s.
I'm beat. And I'm taking the weekend off. Hopefully someone else will enjoy this stuff and put it to good use in their research into battling the bufferbloat problem.
Operator overload & nuclear troubles at Fukushima 1
I'd actually written my last blog post on monday, thinking it was tuesday, and wednesday in Japan. Shows how much sleep I've been getting.
The quality of media coverage has improved significantly, but the scope of the cascading failures at the Fukushima nuclear plants has grown - with secondary damage from the explosions and over 500 aftershocks in Japan
The original links I pointed to in my first post
have been updated and revised, with MIT's department of nuclear energy doing a better job of filtering through the events involved
than any other media organization.
MIT has not addressed the questions raised about the Mark I containment facility that concern me the greatest. I daren't speculate.
Several other aspects of the news coverage and analysis bother me:
A) lack of understanding of the effects of all those aftershocks, and for that matter, coverage seems to be limited to talking about the first quake, even on wikipedia. It's obvious that these had effects, in part, making post-quake inspection difficult.
B) lack of understanding that these were some of the oldest and most obsolete plants in the world, not just Japan. I keep seeing calls for increased safety, or damning nuclear plants for their lack thereof, when these were generation II plants, kept running long beyond their initial design life, due, in part, to the difficulty in getting new plants built.
Generation III+ plants such as the AP1000 have, for example, entirely passive cooling systems, and have safety ratings 1000+ times better than the Gen II plants did. Furthermore they use their fuel more efficently with less waste. Nuclear energy is much more well understood now, nearly 50 years after these plants were designed.
C) The on-going storage of the fuel rods - due to being unable to find another place to store them - is likely the largest danger now, as it appears as though at least one storage pool was damaged in one of the quakes and explosions.
Everybody - on all sides of the nuclear debate - agrees that continued storage of the fuel rods at the facilities was dangerous - and most facilities were not designed with long term storage in mind.
Now, that after the fact, the "out of sight, out of mind" nature of the ongoing storage of fuel rods in ad-hoc facilities in the presence of such debate has been exposed - perhaps some rational decisions about what to do with the spent fuel will emerge.
I doubt the US will become rational on this point anytime soon. I suspect Japan will become so. I also think we'll see a surge of interest in solar power worldwide.
D) with less than 50 operators on duty, that translates out to 12 or less operators managing the 4 reactors in trouble - I imagine that some of the additional failures since monday were in part caused by exaustion and overload, and the inattention to other pre-emergencies due to these factors. It's unclear how many people are monitoring plants 5 & 6.
One of the big causes of both prior major nuclear accidents was operator overload. Too many things beeping, and buzzing and alarms going off, and too much complexity in the control systems.
Future plants - if they are ever built - should have a good offsite management and monitoring facility inconceivable to those in the pre-computer design era.
For all that, I do wonder that the world-wide reaction is overblown. I can't imagine, were I in charge - not sending in every available qualified volunteer and resource available.
For all the worry reported in the press, this (via wikipedia as of about 10AM Wed MDT), remains true
“To date, the radiation leaks beyond the plant's boundaries have not reached a level high enough to constitute any significant detriment to public health. However, there is still significant risk that a leak at levels high enough to affect public health may occur.”
E) There have been more than a few hair brained schemes floated to cool the reactor pools - for example, cooling the overheating fuel pools by dumping water via helicopter. Dumping water by helicopter cannot be done gently, and would release a great deal of radiation to the crews dropping it.
There is a huge amount of mis-information on the web regarding the deaths of the pilots that flew over Chernobyl, I've been unable to determine the truth of matters.
I find myself tearing up at the dedication of those working to stop an even worse nightmare not just at Fukushima, but throughout the country and the world. I wish I could help.
I also remain in awe and admiration at an high-tech engineering culture and country that could go through a disaster this size, and have under 20,000 dead.
Labels: Fukushima, japan quake, nuclear energy
bad wednesday for nukes in japan...
after my last blog entry, lots of bad, scary information came to light, 2 more reactors ended up with more problems than the first two.
Notably, the presence of spent fuel rods onsite and old flaws in the mark 1 containment system led to my greater concern, particularly after more hydrogen explosions damaged the surrounding area.
According to wikipedia, after a fire at reactor 4
, hourly radiation reached 100 000 μSv. That's a big number. A scary, bad, number. But not a (rapidly) deadly number. Reactor unit 3 reached 400,000 μSv. Why people are reporting micro (10^-6)rather than milla (10^-3) bothers me,
Years ago, I wrote about the dangers of running nuclear plants past their design life
. Now, with accident cascading into accident, the operators are tiring and making mistakes, and all seems grim in Japan to constrain meltdowns in several plants.
My heart goes out to those attempting repairs. Things may turn for the worse as it gets tougher to spend time at the site, safely.Update: Wednesday 8AM MDT
I'd written this blog entry on monday, actually, thinking it was tuesday in the US and wednesday in Japan. Shows how much sleep I've been getting.
Labels: japan quake, nuclear energy
Heroic civil engineering and disaster planning in Japan
Shortly after I'd written a piece on my other blog about the amazing successes of civil engineering in Japan to withstand the 8.9 earthquake
vs previous disasters, I got wind of another piece that was written by someone IN japan that goes into more and better detail overall
, and a third, that talks clearly to the nuclear issues
Universally - wikipedia and the bloggers have beat the conventional press hands down for accuracy on this nightmare. It's too bad that everything that hit print thus far is so off.