A Buyer's Guide to Standards

This article talks about the two criteria a technology buyer can apply to determine if the 'open standard' they are intended to rely on is really open at all. Those criteria are – licensing and change control.

Licensing controls who gets to implement the standard and what price they have to pay to do it. Open standards are licensed under 'royalty free' terms which means that anyone can implement the standard any time they want without having to pay any money or ask anyone's permission. Closed standards are almost universally RAND or RAND-Z based.

Change control identifies who has the right to say what the standard is and change it as time goes on. Open standards are owned by open standards organizations which have reasonably open membership and voting procedures to approve standards that can not be hijacked by a small group of people/companies. Closed standards either haven't been submitted to any open standards organization, have been submitted under dubious circumstances or have been submitted to pseudo-open standards organizations created to provide the veneer of openness.

Of these two criteria licensing is the most critical. If you check nothing else, check the license because if it isn't royalty free it isn't open.

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I want to thank the folks at http://www.cs.kuleuven.ac.be/system/services/e-mail/spam.shtml for reminding me of a very old trick. In most mail systems if you send yourself mail of the form joe+hotmail.com@foo.bar it will be delivered to joe@foo.bar. This is great for signing up to e-mail lists (that you honestly want to get mail from) because you can trivially filter on the + and you can keep track of which e-mail list is sharing your name with whom. This is just a rehash of the old 'fake middle name' trick that was used to track snail mail mailing lists. It's the really obvious ideas that are the most useful. In my case I own my own domain so I can actually just use alternate e-mail address (e.g. spam@goland.org).

I also decided to get a mail filter to check for spam. I literally receive over 50 pieces of spam a day. That's what I get for having a 10 year old e-mail address. The winner was Mail Washer ($20 donation). It has a nice interface, automatically hooks into the major spam black lists, the heuristics seem to work well, the mail preview works great and it's free. The only downside is that it only supports POP. This is probably a show stopper for most folks but in my case it's fine. BTW honorable mentions go to Spam Detective,SpamEater Pro and PocoMail.


This web page is available via http://www.goland.geek. IANA's incompetence and bad faith has reached legendary status in the Internet community and we desperately need an alternative. I don't claim that OpenNic has the solution but we have to do something. I now point my PC's DNS resolution to http://www.opennic.unrated.net/personal.html. Yes, this has obvious privacy ramifications but I'm willing to live with it. Thanks to Simkin for hosting my .geek DNS record.

Limitations of IP Multicasting

For a long time there has been the distant promise that someday we would all just use IP multicasting for distributing content through the Internet. The idea that one could send a packet to one address and have it magically appear at multiple destinations was a compelling one. However IP Multicast has never taken off outside of Intranets. I believe that the fundamental reason for IP Multicast's failure to reach its promised potential is that IP Multicast does not scale very well. Specifically, each router on the distribution path of an IP Multicast must allocate memory to remember that multicast for the length of the multicast session. This means that as the number of multicast sessions that cross that router grow so will the amount of memory the router has to allocate. While the rate of increase of multicast sessions is exponential the rate of increase of memory required is linear.

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