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Re: UNIX and ease of use

On Tue, Mar 03, 1998 at 04:01:25AM -0000, bruce@va.debian.org wrote:

> If you want to deal with the problems of dynamic IP, including talkd
> and outgoing SMTP, I think you can handle it really well in a day or
> two. Please take a look at the Dynamic DNS project at www.ml.org . We
> should package one of the client programs that they have, so that a user
> can easily enroll in Dynamic DNS and can have the IP-UP script of PPP
> automaticaly update Monolith's domain server.
> I am using dynamic DNS on perens.debian.org, a laptop with a radio modem.
> It works _excellently_.

There are some problems with dyn.ml.org:

 - It's non-trivial for a user to get set up with this.  At least, they have
   to go to a web page and fill in some forms.
   Idea: We could work out some kind of agreement to get an
   auto-registration script for new Debian users.  These people look rather
   approachable, especially if we write the software for them.
 - dyn.ml.org is a flat name space.  It's not hierarchical.  If too many
   users start trying to get these addresses, the entire structure will
   collapse.  Their approach not a good technical solution to the problem.
 - It's not using the actual RFC-compliant dynamic DNS "standard."  Whether
   this is a problem or not depends on your point of view.  I looked at the
   "real" standard and was a bit disgusted.

 - It doesn't solve all the problems.  The bugs are in the applications_,
   not the lack of a domain name.  Almost all ISP's provide you with a
   proper (though varying and not-so-pretty) domain name anyway -- it's just
   that programs like talk/talkd are too stupid (sorry) to use them.  It is
   _not_ correct to rely on gethostname() to tell you the FQDN of your host
   on the network, because you might be on two networks at once (ie. talking
   to computers inside a firewall and on the internet, so you have a
   different domain name in both cases).
I agree that we should package one of their clients, though.  We should
package everything, so there :)  I will do this if no one else volunteers. 
Please, someone, volunteer!

Also, I don't actually have a problem with outgoing SMTP.  It might help
users if smailconfig had an option specifically for this, but smail seems to
work fine for me in "smarthost" mode.  Is there a problem with SMTP?

Hmm, I guess the anti-forwarding features in most servers nowadays could
make it frustrating for people who use a variety of ISP's, if combined with
smail's smarthost feature.

Here is some of the worst broken behaviour that I've found:

 - talk/talkd try to use gethostname() -- or something -- to explain their
   addresses to each other.  It's unhelpful.  I think the main problem is
   that the protocol was designed badly, though.
 - if I'm not online and I'm running named (to serve names on my LAN, or as
   a cache) internet DNS lookups take _forever_ to time out.  This seriously
   confuses netscape.  Both netscape (horribly) and BIND (somewhat) are
   broken.  Starting/stopping named when the PPP link goes up/down works
   around the problem, but we can't kill named if we're serving names for a
I can't think of any more at the moment, sorry.  (What?  Avery can't think
of more things to complain about?  This must be a first!)

I would volunteer to fix these, but my time is massively constricted at the
moment.  I'd especially like to see a solution to the BIND problem.  I may
be fiddling with BIND internals at work sometime soon so it might
conceivably get done... don't hold your breath.

Have fun,


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