June 6th 2012: IPv6 goes live

When Vint Cerf and his friends at DARPA concocted a system that allowed for 4.3 billion IP addresses, it was never conceived that everyone’s computer would be able to access the internet — before the age when your telephone, fridge and air conditioning unit would too. The IPv4 system officially ran out of addresses last year, but fortunately the moment was prepared for: June 8th 2011 was “World IPv6 Day” where a host of sites including Google, Bing and Facebook quietly tried out the new system for 24 hours to make sure it wouldn’t cause the internet to explode. June 6th this year will see the final activation of the new network provision that has a capacity of around 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 unique addresses, which we figure will keep us going until Black Friday, at least.


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The FCC started talking about its intention to allow for 911 texting (and even photos and videos) last year, and now Chairman Julius Genachowski is out with a detailed plan for a “next generation” 911 service. The standout feature of it is just that — the ability to send a text, photo or video in the event of an emergency — but that also brings with it a complete overhaul of the backend of the service, and a switch to an IP-based architecture from the current circuit-switched system. That, the FCC says, should provide more flexibility and resiliency, and the agency has a number of other improvements in mind as well, including increased accessibility for people with disabilities, and new measures to improve the accuracy of location gathering (including new rules for wireless carriers). Of course, it all still is just a plan at the moment, but the FCC says it will consider a move to accelerate adoption of the plan next month.


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Kudos to the IEEE for rushing this new ‘super WiFi’ standard through so very speedily for the sake of rural communities with poor web access. Designated IEEE 802.22, it promises to bring speeds of up to 22Mbps to devices as far as 100km away from the nearest transmitter. How’s that possible? Well, the standard carefully exploits swathes of unused white space within transmission bands that were originally reserved (and jealously guarded) for analogue TV. These frequencies currently contain nothing but hiss and occasional communications from dead people, but one day they could and should be filled with the hopes, aspirations and Facebook updates of country folk who are very much alive. Full PR inside.


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Some hackers use software and hardware to express themselves creatively—either solving entirely novel technical challenges or finding new ways to skin the same old cats. Others are motivated by money, power, politics, or pure mischief. They steal identities, deface Web sites, and break into supposedly secure and certainly sensitive databases.

IEEE Spectrum has written dozens of stories about both—the Steampunkers and Arduino do-it-yourselfers, on the one hand, the Anonymous and Lulzsec ne’er-do-wells on the other. Inspired by New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, they took 25 of the biggest and best stories and assessed them along two dimensions: innovation and impact.


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Jealous of Comcast customers with their 105Mbps cable hook ups or those lucky residents of the Kansas cities relishing in Google’s 1Gbps service? Well add Londonites to the list of people that drive you to indulging in one of the seven deadly sins. Virgin Media has finally started testing its DOCSIS2-powered 1.5Gbps network in the heart of merry ol’ England. Right now it’s being enjoyed by a group of test sites around Old Street that also get a 150Mbps upload connection. Virgin claims it’s the fastest broadband in the world, which may be true if you’re not counting lab experiments. The really good news is that it’s based on the same tech already delivering 100Mbps to residents across the country so, if the trial goes well, it should be trivial to deliver these mind numbing speeds to the rest of its customers. Full PR inside.


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The Autistic Hacker

A few months after the World Trade Center attacks, a strange message appeared on a U.S. Army computer: “Your security system is crap,” it read. “I am Solo. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.”

Solo scanned thousands of U.S. government machines and discovered glaring security flaws in many of them. Between February 2001 and March 2002, Solo broke into almost a hundred PCs within the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and the Department of Defense. He surfed around for months, copying files and passwords. At one point he brought down the U.S. Army’s entire Washington, D.C., network, taking about 2000 computers out of service for three days. U.S. attorney Paul McNulty called his campaign “the biggest military computer hack of all time.”


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If you’ve stayed with friends who live in European cities, you’ve probably had an experience like this: You hop onto their WiFi or wired internet connection and realize it’s really fast. Way faster than the one that you have at home. It might even make your own DSL or cable connection feel as sluggish as dialup.

You ask them how much they pay for broadband.
“Oh, forty Euros.” That’s about $56.
“A week?” you ask.
“No,” they might say. “Per month. And that includes phone and TV.”

It’s really that bad. The nation that invented the internet ranks 16th in the world when it comes to the speed and cost of our broadband connections. That’s according to a study released last year by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society on behalf of the FCC.

Engadget did a full coverage on this matter. Video and full report inside.


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Followed by a numerous news count of hacker break-ins (link 1, link 2 and link 3), it looks as though hackers are inflaming a cyber war against major corporations and institutions. This time the International Monetary Fund, United States Senate and Central Intelligence Agency servers got hacked. Full coverage of these stories inside.


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Described as a “test flight” of IPv6, today marks the biggest concerted effort by some of the web’s marquee players to turn us all on to the newer, fancier web addressing system. Internet Protocol version 4 has been the template by which we’ve addressed everything connected to the web so far, but that stuff is now nearing exhaustion, so the future demands a longer, more complex nomenclature to tell our smartphones, tablets, printers, and other webOS devices apart. For end users, June 8th won’t really feel too different from June 7th — this will be a change that occurs mostly behind the scenes and there’s an IPv4 fallback option if you can’t connect in the modern way — but Google does warn that a very limited subset of users may experience connectivity issues as a result. Hit the links below to see how well prepared for the future you are.


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