Decentralizing the Internet So Big Brother Can’t Find You
measl at mfn.org
Fri Feb 18 01:36:56 PST 2011
Note: Reply made on a free form stream-of-consciousness basis.
On Fri, 18 Feb 2011, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> If you're talking mesh, one of the basic requirements is to get
> rid of central address allocation authority and establish
> a local-knowledge based routing.
Thats not as easy as it sounds, especially in hyperdense cities - although
I will also admit that this is more a 70% administrative issue than an
It's unlikely that anyone in their right minds is going to just open up
their networks to both unlimited and unmonitored connections, but even if
they do, they are going to demand some allocation control and
accountability. Not that it's necessary for any technical reason, but
because it's required for the people who both pay the network bills and
receive FBI "letters" / subpoenas: even the smallest networks have some
kind of "security department", even if it's the same guy who does
everything else there. This is where the idea truly breaks down. I
wouldn't allow an open wifi connection when I know that any illicit
activities are going to come back to haunt *me* when the FBI does their
next "predator sweep". No municipality is going to allow geocoded/derived
addressing for the exact same reason: they want to be able to point the
finger when the time comes. They also want to know if your node is acting
up, where they can go /phone to make you fix it.
Mesh networks are a political disaster *before* anyactual engineering time
goes in. But if you are lucky enough to get past the politics (hard.
really hard.), then you start down the actual engineering pipe: traffic
planning and engineering is at best difficult, at worst impossible,
without centralized control. So do we just assume that the warts know not
to exceed bandwidth(x), and plan for max(y) warts per square
mile/kilometer? Do we assume that all these warts are going to be using
passive connections for ftp? this road leads back to political questions
by the way.
The residential carriers will go postal if 100k home connections are
suddenly offering services and draining back through the cable/dsl drains,
against their AUP/ToS. If you choose to create layer 2 drain solutions you
are back to tight and centralized allocation control.
> If you get that far, the human operator mistakes are removed from the
> > I was with a group that tried to work out a mesh implementation across a
> > relatively small (~15sq miles) area, and it never came to fruition,
> > despite several years of work on the problems presented.
> Do you have a pointer to description of your project, and what went
This was a municipal project, so I can't point you anywhere: sorry. As
for what went wrong: everything. Everyone who touches the mesh has
questions/issues of the nature I alluded to above. Muni IT demands to be
able to track back every ip to a known user, meaning any kind of
geolocation solution is gone right off the bat. By the way, the reasoning
here wasn't what I was expecting: they were more concerned with virus
control and quarantine (which implies a separate layer 2 sandbox for
infected connections, or connections carrying infected traffic where such
can be accurately and reliably determined - which is about 50% of the
time). The muni wanted a known IP for each user, with certain wifi
hotspots exempted to local rfc1913 networks using DHCP. We had
interesting times with these hotspots too! Not having enough IPs on a
public wifi segment causes weird behaviour that the basic call desk cant
troubleshoot, and that they don't recognize as being broken - so these
spots get reputations as being "unreliable". Significant automation was
assembled just to keep track of required resources vs actual available
resources, with traps going out when automation sees something we dont.
The traffic engineering issues are perverse. Meditate on them for a
little while, and consider all of the ways you can slice your own throat.
Is a steady rise in users a trend, or did the bookings for conventions
just have a good year? Are you meeting peak demand, or are you
oversubscribing on your backbone? *Is* there a backbone? Lots of
questions at layers 1 and 2! In fact, layer 2 is where you're going to
spend a *lot* of your time, unlike the operation of a more traditional IP
network, where you spend the vast majority of your time at layer 3.
Segregation is a necessary ingredient, as well as scanning-on-allocation
to check for blatantly rooted connections. This gets tricky as hell.
We were asked to plan for each muni supporting drains for the connections
made within their geographic areas: oops! Looks like I want geo-derived
addresses again! Except that these same munis have the additional
condition of only wanting to allocate for their own taxpayers: oops! Back
to centralized control and allocation... Round and round you go...
Everyone here knows IP well, and can add a hundred things that I've not
touched on. Every time you add a condition, you increase complexity, and
these increases are *not* linear!
> I can tell you one thing: Eben Moglen is not a stupid man, and he's
I never alleged that he was stupid. I know he's no moron. But he's also
not thinking this through, he's looking to build the device before he
knows his application. Thats fine for general purpose machinery with lots
of cycles and storage to spare, but a wart is likely to be max'd out at
ultra-small storage and cpu limits: virtually every wart-driven device
was designed to act as a simple bridge or router, which requires
surprisingly little computing power: An old 386 is massive overkill for
acting as a router on lines up to about 3mbps - while these warts may have
more *cycles* available than an old throwaway box, they are going to have
[at best] a few hundred megabytes of flash storage: not a lot of room
there for anything meaningful.
> surrounded with technically capable people. If he can raise the money
> for 10-100 k wall wart units you can assume people will do useful
> things with them.
I can assume people will do *something* with them, but *useful* things,
no, I cannot just assume that - that will be something I'll have to see to
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