Focus is a Virtue

25 January 2021 |

The modern world craves our attention—but only in short bursts. To give your attention to any one thing for too long is failing, it seems, because you might miss out on something else of interest. We have entered the long tail of the attention economy, grounded in finding every smaller slices of time in which the user’s attention can be captured and used.

God Objects Considered Harmful

18 January 2021 | Comments Off on God Objects Considered Harmful

Every software developer has run into “god objects”—some data structure or database that every process must access no matter what it is doing. Creating god objects in software is considered an anti-pattern—something you should not do. Perhaps the most apt description of the god object I’ve seen recently is you ask for a banana, and you get the gorilla as well.

Technologies that Didn’t: ARCnet

12 January 2021 | Comments Off on Technologies that Didn’t: ARCnet

In the late 1980’s, I worked at a small value added reseller (VAR) around New York City. While we deployed a lot of thinnet (RG58 coax based Ethernet for those who don’t know what thinnet is), we also had multiple customers who used ARCnet.

Back in the early days of personal computers like the Amiga 500, the 8086 based XT (running at 4.77MHz), and the 8088 based AT, all networks were effectively wide area, used to connect PDP-11’s and similar gear between college campuses and research institutions. ARCnet was developed in 1976, and became popular in the early 1980’s, because it was, at that point, the only available local area networking solution for personal computers.

The OSI Model: STOP IT!

4 January 2021 | Comments Off on The OSI Model: STOP IT!

The OSI model is perhaps the best-known—and perhaps the most-loved—model in the networking world. It’s taught in every basic networking course, and just about every blog (other than this one) has some article explaining the model someplace or another (for instance, here is one of the better examples).

On Important Things

21 December 2020 |

I tend to be a very private person; I rarely discuss my “real life” with anyone except a few close friends. I thought it appropriate, though, in this season—both the season of the year and this season in my life—to post something a little more personal. One thing people often remark about my personality is that I seem to be disturbed by very little in life. No matter what curve ball life might throw my way, I take the hit and turn it around, regain my sense of humor, and press forward into the fray more quickly than many expect.

Pulling Back the Curtains

14 December 2020 | Comments Off on Pulling Back the Curtains

One of the major sources of complexity in modern systems is the simple failure to pull back the curtains. From a recent blog post over at the ACM—

The Wizard of Oz was a charlatan. You’d be surprised, too, how many programmers don’t understand what’s going on behind the curtain either. Some years ago, I was talking with the CTO of a company, and he asked me to explain what happens when you type a URL into your browser and hit enter. Do you actually know what happens? Think about it for a moment.

Current Work in BGP Security

7 December 2020 |

I’ve been chasing BGP security since before the publication of the soBGP drafts, way back in the early 2000’s (that’s almost 20 years for those who are math challenged). The most recent news largely centers on the RPKI, which is used to ensure the AS originating an advertisements is authorized to do so (or rather “owns” the resource or prefix). If you are not “up” on what the RPKI does, or how it works, you might find this old blog post useful—its actually the tenth post in a ten post series on the topic of BGP security.

The EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN THAT Keyword (RFC1925, Rule 4)

1 December 2020 |

The world of information technology is filled, often to overflowing, with those who “know better.” For instance, I was recently reading an introduction to networking in a very popular orchestration system that began with the declaration that routing was hard, and therefore this system avoided routing. The document then went on to describe a system of moving packets around using multiple levels of Network Address Translation (NAT) and centrally configured policy-based routing (or filter-based forwarding) that was clearly simpler than the distributed protocols used to run large-scale networks. I thought, for a moment, of writing the author and pointing out the system in question had merely reinvented routing in a rather inefficient and probably broken way, but I relented.

Innovation Myths

30 November 2020 | Comments Off on Innovation Myths

Innovation has gained a sort-of mystical aura in our world. Move fast and break stuff. We recognize and lionize innovators in just about every way possible. The result is a general attitude of innovate or die—if you cannot innovate, then you will not progress in your career or life. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and bust some of the innovation myths created by this near idolization of innovation.

You can’t innovate where you are. Reality: innovation is not tied to a particular place and time. “But I work for an enterprise that only uses vendor gear… Maybe if I worked for a vendor, or was deeply involved in open source…” Innovation isn’t just about building new products! You can innovate by designing a simpler network that meets business needs, or by working with your vendor on testing a potential new product. Ninety percent of innovation is just paying attention to problems, along with a sense of what is “too complex,” or where things might be easier.

The Senior Trap

23 November 2020 | Comments Off on The Senior Trap

How do you become a “senior engineer?” It’s a question I’m asked quite often, actually, and one that deserves a better answer than the one I usually give. Charity recently answered the question in a round-a-bout way in a post discussing the “trap of the premature senior.” She’s responding to an email from someone who is considering leaving a job where they have worked themselves into a senior role. Her advice?

Quit!