Today is my last day in my almost-year-long stint as a System Administrator at TechTarget. Monday, I start a new contract-to-perm position as a Linux Engineer with Cox Media Group Digital & Strategy. I can’t say a whole lot about the new job, other than it will hopefully be a great change for me, and they make heavy use of Django. If you want to get a bit of an idea of what they’re about, here’s a document on their departmental ethos. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more useful information here, and post more often, in the future. I’m really psyched about the new gig.
First off, I’ve moved this blog from a server in my basement to Linode virtual hosting, in preparation for my move from New Jersey to an apartment in Georgia. This will mark the first time since 2001 (when I was 14) that I didn’t have at least a publicly-accessible Linux server in my home. It also means that, as sad as it is, the rack will probably all be either going in Ebay or to scrap (after a good Guttmann wipe, of course).
I’m a bit sad to give up hosting DNS myself and having my beautiful per-zone, per-domain, hourly DNS statistics, but that was my first move, and Linode’s web-based DNS manager is much nicer than my collection of PHP scripts, MySQL backend, and rndc reload wrapper (and I no longer need BIND split-horizon since the hosting is remote). Mail was next, and I’ve got one web server moved and the other on the way. The biggest disappointment is losing my testbed for all the fun stuff I can’t do (or doesn’t make sense) with a virtualized hosting provider – Puppet, real ISC DHCP, BIND9, Cisco CatOS and IOS devices, Bacula, running my own edge router, etc. There’s at least a handful of current production Rutgers services and tools that got their start here as projects in my spare time. But I’m sure I’ll make up somehow, and I’m planning on putting aside some money for a massive new desktop to run a slew of VMs.
On a second note, the one thing holding back my move to Georgia is, well, my lack of a job there. I’m really just starting to look around, and am very much hoping to find something comparable to my current position at Rutgers – a group supporting diverse services, doing mainly architecture and implementation of new services, a good dose of automation and custom tool development, and hopefully also some work with performance and availability monitoring (think Nagios and Cacti), logging, etc. And, of course, something that’s network-focused, whether wireless or wired. Maintaining some data center space/physical infrastructure and occasionally working with my hands is fun too. So, if you know anyone who’s hiring a Linux/open source dude in the general vicinity of Athens, GA (including Atlanta and the surrounding area), please give me a heads-up, or pass them along to resume.jasonantman.com.
Net Neutrality is a big issue these days, and one that’s exploded out of the geek circles into mainstream media. I’ll admit that it seems like there are endless variations on exactly what people consider Net Neutrality to be (or what it should be). The general goal of Net Neutrality is to ensure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide (relatively) unfiltered access to the Internet to their customers. Specifically, that if a given customer pays for a level of service – i.e. 10 Mbps downstream speed and 2.5 Mbps upstream speed – they receive that speed no matter what they are accessing. The goal of Net Neutrality is to require ISPs to treat their connections as a “common carrier”, much like telephone companies or freight trucks. Within reason (excepting explosives and other hazardous materials), UPS will ship a package for a given rate based only on what it weighs and how far it’s going (since the Internet is run by many companies, and data passes from one to another, the distance portion of this analogy is constant). They don’t charge more based on what’s in the box, and they don’t ship come boxes faster than others based simply on who sent it or what’s inside.
Likewise, over the past century, many laws have been created that regulate the telephone industry. While there was a time when customers had to rent their telephones from the phone company, long-standing legislation states that a customer can hook any properly functioning device into the phone network, and a customer can say whatever they want over the phone and receive the same call quality, at the same rate.
To try and summarize, the goal of Net Neutrality is to ensure that you, the customer of an ISP (whether cable, FiOS, DSL, etc.), is entitled to certain rights. Generally (the exact interpretation of this concept varies) this includes:
- The ability to connect any device you want to your Internet connection – any computer, game console, or other device, running any operating system or other software.
- Your ability to connect to any service (web site, protocol, etc.) that you want without it being intentionally degraded or slowed down, even if it’s a service viewed to be a competitor of your ISP.
- Your ability to transfer data to and from any other user of the Internet, regardless of who they are.
What could happen if Net Neutrality isn’t enforced?
Let me first say that most of the following is pure speculation. These are things that could happen, but most have not yet actually been done. Some have. The ISP industry seems to say that Net Neutrality is “a solution without a problem”, but my personal view is that those are generally good things. Preventing a problem from occurring is generally better than fixing it after it’s a problem. So here are a few scenarios of what could happen if Net Neutrality isn’t properly legislated and enforced:
- Companies like Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, and other major ISPs also offer TV services (Optimum, FiOS TV, etc.) that include Video On Demand (VoD) as a separate paid service. Websites like Hulu and Netflix offer the same service, for free or a much cheaper rate. Without Net Neutrality, your ISP could intentionally slow down or block sites like Hulu or Netflix to force you to buy their more expensive service. Comcast has already tried to do something like this, asking Netflix’s ISP for a substantial fee to allow Comcast customers to access Netfix (that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but gets the point). If this happens, it’s most likely that Netfix will have to increase their fees substantially. Net Neutrality legislation would require ISPs like Comcast to treat all Internet traffic the same, whether it’s from Netflix, Facebook, or my humble little blog.
- A few ISPs (mainly Comcast) have already tried all-out blocking Peer to Peer (p2p) file sharing traffic such as bitTorrent, Kazaa, etc. While they cite copyright infringement as the reason, there are many people who use p2p file sharing to distribute legal files, such as the Linux operating system and other free software. Blocking all p2p traffic because some people use it for illegal purposes is based on a presumption of guilt, no different from outlawing steak knives because some people stab other people with them.
- Throughout the history of the Internet, some of the most popular and innovative technologies, including Google, Facebook, etc. have started out as small projects run by a few geeks and programmers. If ISPs were allowed to charge content providers (i.e. websites) to be viewed by the ISPs customers, it would limit innovation and new technologies to only the big businesses with enough money to pay these artificial tolls.
- Most ISPs also offer a phone service. It would be trivial for them to flat-out prevent their customers from using Vonage, Skype, iChat, etc. and force you to subscribe to their service. It’s also possible for them to do this in a covert way – when Comcast blocked bitTorrent users, they did it in a way so clever that it took weeks for experts to figure out.
- Without a mandate that any suitable device can connect to the network, your ISP could partner with, for example, Dell and Microsoft, and say that you could only get Internet access on a Dell computer running the latest version of Windows (yes, this is a bit of a stretch, but possible in an unregulated ISP market).
The important fact to note here is that most people in the US don’t have much choice in terms of broadband ISPs – generally the only “choice” is between the cable and phone companies, who provide more or less the same service. With such limited choice, Internet users are effectively held hostage by the policies of a handful of companies that control Internet access.
A short note on the History of the Internet
Contrary to the ISPs “solution without a problem” view, I think this is a solution that should have been implemented long ago. The network that evolved into what we now know as the Internet, in the US, was first developed in the 1970s. The project, ARPAnet, was developed by the US government for research purposes, and funded by taxpayer money. It wasn’t opened to commercial use until the early 1990s, when it was privatized. While the development into what is now the Internet could never have been foreseen at that time, Net Neutrality rules should have been built in from the start when the project was handed over from the federal government to the private sector. Regardless, it must be remembered that the Internet is a technology that was originally developed with taxpayer funds, for the country as a whole.
What the FCC’s doing
Well, in short, not much. It appears that the Net Neutrality rules delivered by the FCC earlier this week are, more than anything, a compromise effort to make the issue just “go away”. The ISPs feel that the rules aren’t needed (and argue that the FCC doesn’t have the power to make them), and most Net Neutrality proponents feel that the rules pay only lip service to the goals of Net Neutrality. The main failings already apparent in the rules are:
- Two of three major parts of the rules ignore wireless ISPs (cellular carriers). With the explosion of smartphones, it seems that wireless is not only the new frontier of the Internet, but the way that more and more people get Internet access. If Net Neutrality is legislated, it should be about the Internet – regardless of how a customer is connected to the network.
- There is a provision for ISPs to be able to block or slow down traffic as is “reasonable” to operate their network, but there are no guidelines on what “reasonable” means, and it seems that the burden of proof would be on the customer to fight their ISP in court and show that something was unreasonable.
Up until very recently, ISPs generally didn’t engage in the kind of conduct that Net Neutrality rules would prohibit. The Internet as we know it today is a product of a world with unwritten Net Neutrality rules. Amazing sites and services like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and many others started as experiments by a few dedicated people with little to no budget. The fact that you can easily view web pages created by anyone – like my blog – would be ended if website publishers had to pay ISPs to be allowed through. The choice that you have in using your ISP’s TV or phone service, or something like Netflix or Vonage, is central to the Internet as we know it, but is under attack. I know that many people look at this as a “problem for the geeks”. We take the Internet for granted. Over the next few days, every time you visit a web site or use an Internet-based service, ask yourself: Would I be happy if I had to pay for this? Would this even exist if the people who designed it had to pay from day one? Make no mistake, if websites have to pay every ISP in the country to be viewed, the days of wonderful free services sustained by advertising revenue only will be long gone.
In closing, I highly recommend reading an open letter on Net Neutrality by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, genius, and guy who helped change the world as we know it.
Some other interesting links:
Just a short update… I know I haven’t posted anything in quite a while, but I hope to get back into the habit of doing so… or even making daily posts like I had wanted.
- The truck that was totaled has been replaced with a newer, nicer one.
- I’ve spent most of the past month working on a large DHCP project at work, which I hope to write about in depth at some point.
- I bought the parts to make an Arduino-based OBD-II display, and I’m slowly making some progress on it (mostly delayed because the $12 “HD44780-compatible” LCD display I bought doesn’t work in 4-bit mode).
It’s been a while since I’ve posted any meaningful updates here. And it’s not for lack of work – actually, I have a page-long list of projects I’ve finished and things I’ve discovered that I want to share with… well… whoever finds me on Google. I’ve got some new code that needs attention – lots of tiny little make-life-easier scripts and some not-so-tiny stuff – as well as a few interesting things I’ve found, and some projects that deserve updates.
So, over the next week, I’m going to try and make it my purpose to start posting updates and shortening the list of things to mention. However, I’ve also decided to set aside a few minutes at the end of each day to post whatever I did/found that’s interesting, or add some updates on ongoing projects. Perhaps also have a weekly writing hour (probably on the weekend) to post larger updates.
It’s also worth note that, for the most part, I never started a blog in the hopes of having subscribers. I simply think of this as a place to post some useful things that I do or figure out, in the hopes that other people will stumble by and also find them useful.
So, what have I been up to lately? Let’s start with the past two days:
- Trying to get FreeRADIUS to authenticate with groupOfNames objects in OpenLDAP, the intended end result being centralized authentication for m0n0wall‘s captive portal.
- At work, designing a system to test the client-visible functionality of a large captive portal system (on the order of 700 AP’s and 50k users) – essentially, sitting on a client VLAN and checking DHCP, DNS, HTTP redirects, and the validity of the login page.
- Security auditing of everything at home, and trying to find a working Nessus web interface.
- Continuing on my move over to static IP – specifically starting to roll out HTTPS for some internal stuff.
- Trying to get Vyatta‘s VPN to work with a dynamically-IPed m0n0wall endpoint (in network-to-network).
- Some cabling upgrades at home and at the ambulance corps.
- Slowly but surely trying to make major changes and release a new version of PHP EMS Tools.
- Get Bacula working better.
- Load test this web server, and decide if it’s time for new hardware.
- Some new stuff for my truck.
- Get rid of MediaWiki as my homepage and replace it with a CMS.
- Continue my move to SubVersion and setup ViewVC for it.
- Rewrite my resume and start looking for jobs, as I’m finishing classes in July.
- Try to get some sleep and keep my sanity.
I happened to be working with some timestamps today and noticed that we’re starting to get into territory like
1234094400. So, being the geek that I am, I wondered when we’d finally hit
1234567890. The answer is 2009-02-13T18:31:30-05:00, which happens to be 18:31:30 on my birthday. Yay!
Unfortunately, my truck was stolen this past Friday while at work. I probably won’t be posting much in the neat future, as I’m going to be quite busy trying to get things back together (insurance, etc.) while also working and taking classes.
Well, it’s been a while since I posted. Things have been horribly busy in the school world, and I have some new projects I’m working on as well. Unfortunately, due to limited resources at the moment, I haven’t been able to give Zenoss a try. If I eventually find a nice 25-30U rack for the hardware running JasonAntman.com (in the basement of my suburban home, so headroom is limited to about six feet), I’ll probably move one or two machines from my apartment back there, reorganize things, and setup a Zenoss test (*if* I can get Xen to play well with some OS that has Zenoss RPMs, or give up and compile from source).
A few of my new projects:
- Some embedded Linux work
- Getting my new Deluo USB WAAS GPS working with my eeePC, and eventually add software for mapping wireless networks
- Mount an external 2.4GHz antenna on my truck, so I can hop on RUwireless without leaving the comfort of my home on wheels.
- Get a “N” wireless card and beta the wireless-N at Rutgers.
- Figure out development for PalmOS, and write a program to sync my Palm calendar with Google Calendar over-the-air.
- Do some work with a radio scanner and a system at home for recording and logging (maybe even MDC1200 decoding).
My pet peeve for the day – blogs and other websites that don’t list a date last updated. I’ve been looking around for alternatives to KPilot, and I have to look through all of the Google results, and figure out how old they are based on version numbers and which Palm devices are listed.
And, from Rutgers Telecommunications, this is what RUwireless looked like over spring break, and the Monday that everyone came back: