October 11, 2006

I liked the last paragraph of Carla Schroder’s “Run Zeroconf for Linux in a Snap

Zeroconf is a lightweight, fairly simple set of cross-platform protocols that can work on any system- Linux, Unix, Macintosh or Windows. But currently Windows is the odd one out, as Microsoft is showing little inclination to play with the rest of us, and are more interested in its own service discovery protocol, uPNP. But it works great on Apple devices and services, so someday this could be a good tool for easily integrating Macintosh hosts with your Linux machines, and leaving the unsociable Windows hosts to mutter amongst themselves in a damp corner.

For obvious reasons, that reminded me of Ms. Mac OS X

But it was an earlier paragraph that gave me pause:

Gnarly old network admins who are accustomed to keeping a tight grip on their realms tend to be resistant to the whole idea – why, it’s as free-for-all as ad-hoc wireless networking or NetBIOS, with users running rampant and sharing everything and no one is in charge. The security implications are obvious; Zeroconf is not suitable for sites that need tight controls, or to use over untrusted networks. But it’s great for home and small business users, small groups inside the enterprise, and get-togethers like business meetings and trade shows. Some consumer devices like Tivo already use it, as well as a whole world of Apple printers and network devices.

Well, sheesh: I’m certainly gnarly and grumpy and set in my ways. Y’all just wait until I’m old enough to need a cane: I’ll be banging that thing on the floor and complaining about the young’uns every chance I get. In my day, we wire-wrapped our first computers and we hand coded in machine language. Harrumph and so there, you dern whippersnapper!

But.. I’m not against zeroconf.

Oh, I know people who still are. I have customers who won’t use DHCP. Personally, I think that boat sailed long ago, and it’s just automatic with me now. If you need to control a few machines, assign ip’s to specific MAC addresses, heck even assign every MAC address if you must, but use DHCP.

Sure, I always want the ability to do this stuff manually, just like I want the ability to set the timing on my car distributor manually. What’s that, sonny? My car doesn’t have a distributor any more? Well, then what am I supposed to do with this old timing light?

Actually, I just tossed that timing light out a couple of years ago. I wasn’t really hanging on to it, it just hadn’t been in my way enough to get thrown away. Or maybe I had the idea in the back of my mind that someday I might get bit by the antique car bug and need it again. That’s what we’re heading for with computers: you aren’t going to need to manually config anything and you won’t be able to anyway, at least not the way we do it now. In theory, I can still set the timing on my car, though I need access to the car’s computer to do so. The computers of the not so distant future will likely have their configuration details equally inaccessible to all but the most determined.

But we’re still a bit off from that. Carla’s article has quite a lot of dark humor in it: the title is “Run Zeroconf for Linux in a Snap”, but the steps she outlines for that “Snap” are far from it. And there are still the security and control issues to be dealt with: even the small businesses that Carla says zeroconf is so perfect for sometimes have “control” issues.

Do you suppose anyone would mind if I bought a cane just so I could thump it now and then?

*Originally published at

Add to | Digg | Yahoo! My Web | Furl

Bookmark WebProNews:

A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services