Tag Archives: Internet


What the Internet is (and what it is not)

This is what the Internet is:

The internet is the wider network that allows computer networks around the world run by companies, governments, universities and other organisations to talk to one another. The result is a mass of cables, computers, data centres, routers, servers, repeaters, satellites and wifi towers that allows digital information to travel around the world.

The Internet is a network of networks. Much of what people believe the Internet is actually runs on top of it: the Web, social media, email, gopher, what have you.People often say “I liked the Internet when..”. They are talking about the platforms they use on the Internet. Things popular on the Internet now — hello Facebook! — will be a relic in the future.  Technologies running on the Internet come and often go,  but the Internet itself is relatively constant and changes slowly.

The quote highlighted above is from this article: What is the internet? 13 key questions answered | Technology | The Guardian. It’s a good introduction to the Internet at a basic level.


Finding your way with maps (via @austinkleon)

Austin Kleon has a great piece here on the importance of maps, and not as a means of getting around: Finding your way with maps

I love maps too. Especially hand drawn maps. And ancient maps.

I worry that our phones may be ruining hand drawn maps. When I used to take my son to hockey, I would draw my own maps to get to various obscure rinks. Later, I found out about Waze and it was so superior I stopped drawing my own maps. It’s too bad: it would be fun for my son years from now to have those old maps (which I never kept).

This is a map too.

It’s not really about how to get around. It’s a map showing the relationship between things. In this case, the organizations and their computers that made up the Internet in 1969. It does something old maps do: they show us the two dimensions of space and the one dimension of time.

Read Kleon’s piece. You’ll want to go look at maps afterwards, and you’ll be glad.

I create a super simple set of tools to secure your Ubuntu server

And you can get it here: blm849/supersimplehardening: A super simple way to harden your server.

I create a lot of Ubuntu test servers, and I find that as soon as I create a Ubuntu server on a cloud environment, it gets immediately attacked by automated software. This is obviously a concern. A bigger concern is that when I went  searching for recommendations on how to harden such a server, I found  a wide variety of recommendations! It can be hard to know what to do. Still, I needed something. As a result, I created this package of scripts. The scripts do a number of things:

  • prevent direct root login to your server via ssh. This was one of the things I saw consistently happen and once someone cracks the root access on your machine, it’s game over.
  • stop some basic security holes, like IP spoofing
  • download some useful software, like logwatch, ufw and others
  • upgrade all software on the server

This is just a very very limited number of things to prevent attacks. But it is better than nothing.

If you install Apache, PHP, MySQL or other software on your machine, there are even more attacks that will be launched against it. I recommend you get a firewall up and running and at least run logwatch on a regular basis to look for potential attacks being launched against you.

Finally, if it is important for you to secure your server, don’t stop with my scripts. Go out and consult with IT security specialists right away.

Good luck!

Want to send a fax without a fax machine? Now you can!

How? By using: Free Fax • Free Internet Faxing. I haven’t used it, but you can send free faxes to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, apparently.

If you are dealing with organizations that refuse email as a valid way to receive information and insist on a fax, this could save your day.


The timeline of the World Wide Web

If you are going to talk about the Web or the Internet, it pays to know the history of it. The people at Pew put together the key dates and events of the World Wide Web here: Web History Timeline | Pew Research Center. Of course the history of the Internet is even older.

A very useful thing to consult whenever you read some think piece on “The Internet used to be X or Y”.

That story during the Paris attacks recently about a man named Zouheir, a Muslim, who saved thousands of lives? It’s mostly false.

As Snopes.com says:

An uplifting social media rumor about the purportedly heroic actions of a security guard named Zouheir during the Paris attacks was largely inaccurate.

For the details, see Zouheir: The MUSLIM Who Saved Thousands of Lives? : snopes.com.

More and more, whenever I see something viral, I check Snopes.com.

Why aren’t we becoming more productive with all this new technology?

Vox raises that question here: All this digital technology isn’t making us more productive – Vox, and it implies that because people are slacking off on the Internet. I think that is incorrect, and here’s why.

The chart that Vox piece has shows big producitivity gains from 1998-2003 and smaller gains after that.

From 1998-2003 was the peak adoption of the Internet by companies. In the early 1990s, companies started to adopt email. In the later 1990s companies started adopting the Web. To me it is not surprising that companies would become more productive and they shifted away from snail mail and faxes to email. And then companies shifted further and started offering services over the Web, I imagine they became much more productive.

Slacking off on the Internet has been a problem since the Web came along. I know, because I used to monitor web server traffic.  I don’t think that is the issue.

I think it is more likely that companies grabbed the big productivity gains from the Internet at the beginning, and then those gains slowed down after.

So what about smartphones? Have they made people more productive? I think they have, but I also think that the gains in being able to access information remotely may have been overtaken by the sheer amount of information to deal with. Being able to deal with email remotely makes you productive. Having to deal with way more email than you ever had to in the 1990s because now everyone has it makes you unproductive.

Furthermore, many of the features on smartphones are aimed at personal use, not professional use. I think smartphones make us more productive personally,  but less so professionall.y