In bad. Wij zijn in onze huidige douchecultuur gewend om minstens eenmaal per dag onder de douche te gaan en elke dag schoon ondergoed aan te trekken. Vroeger was dat anders. Eenmaal per week werd er water gekookt aanvankelijk op het fornuis later op een “Duveltje”, dit was een klein kacheltje waarop een grote wasketel paste. De grote teil werd klaar gezet en het water werd in die teil gedaan. Daar kon ieder achter elkaar in. Als het water te vuil was kwam er nieuw of als het te koud was dan werd er wat heet water bij gedaan. Pas in 1954 toen hun huis werd verbouwd kreeg de familie een douche.


Gisteren ontsproot een interessante discussie over douchecultuur in de Lage Landen. Het is namelijk zo dat we over het algemeen bij ons eigenlijk niet veel baden, laat staan douchen. Het gaat immers niet op dat de meerderheid dagelijks een douche neemt. Maar hoe komt dat? En maakt dat ons vieze mensen?

Eerst en vooral moet je volgens mij de dingen in historisch perspectief zetten. De douchecultuur maakt de laatste jaren een belangrijke ontwikkeling door. Het gemiddeld watergebruik is immers ontzettend gestegen de afgelopen tien jaar. Mensen hebben nu meer luxe dan vroeger. Ze willen maximaal conformt, en ze hebben ook meer koopkracht en mogelijkheden. We vinden hygiëne belangrijker dan in de zestiger jaren, overspoeld door onzorgzame hippies. 

Toch blijft water duur. Gebruik kost veel, omdat het uit de grond gepompt moet worden. Maar denk ook aan de milieubelasting. En vooral in Nederland de invloed van het Protestantisme dat een zuinige en sobere moraal predikt en zich afzet tegen het machtsmisbruik en de rijkdom van de Rooms-Katholieke kerk. Die invloed is er in beperkte mate nog steeds. Al voorgaande punten hebben een invloed op ons watergebruik en de douchecultuur. 

Wat me vooral opvalt in dit artikel is dat niet-westerse allochtonen twee keer zovaak douchen als autochtonen en ook nog eens langer. En dat het watergebruik voor douchen en baden thuis in de laagste welstandsklasse 57% hoger is dan in de hoogste welstandsklasse.

Vaker douchen wijst op meer hygiëne. Het is zo dat ze in het Verre Oosten vaker douchen. Daar is wel een douchecultuur.  Is het dan niet ironisch dat wij vaak neerkijken op Oosterse culturen? Dat wij het vooroordeel hebben dat zij minder hygiënisch zijn? Het heeft allemaal te maken met klimaat en hoe je lichaam daar op reageert. Je gaat namelijk meer zweten in een tropisch klimaat dan in een gematigd klimaat. En op het platte land wassen mensen zich ook meer in de rivieren. Daar moet het water niet uit de grond gepompt worden.

Soms is een beetje perspectief nodig.

On fixing DNS

Audrey Watters wrote an excellent piece about what WikiLeaks has taught us about the open Internet. In my opinion, she’s 100% right about the DNS issue. The thing is that EveryDNS did not boot WikiLeaks due to political pressure, in contrary to Amazon and Paypal. Because of the DDOS attacks, the service provider had to retain WikiLeaks in order to deliver service levels for its other customers. So the domain name service is really a weak link in the open Internet.

Just like in my previous post, she talks about the development of an alternative P2P DNS, lead by Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde. According to Sunde, the core of the DNS problem is not ICANN. It’s that governments and companies can control ICANN (i.e. it’s centralised). So the solution would be a domain name service that would be a decentralized and distributed.

But what is DNS exactly? How does it exactly operate? Let’s be more specific.

As per the Dutch wikipedia, it is a system and protocol, situated at the application layer. Basically, a database containing all domain names and IP addresses. It is the DNS server that matches these data. However, it does not translate because there is no logic between domain names and IP addresses. Computers can then be accessed by both hostname and IP address.

It is important to note that the DNS system is an hierarchical-, distributed- and redundant database, which is maintainable and resistant to growth.

If one wants to implement the DNS protocol, one has to comply to a number of  Request for Comments. Obviously, it requires a lot of work to implement the 100+ RFCs. Let alone the drafts, which I even haven’t discussed.

Roughly, DNS exists of 3 parts: the stub resolver, the caching/recusing resolver and the authoritative nameserver.

Here’s how the protocol would work.

Once you enter a website, the web browser does a data lookup to the stub resolver. The stub resolver then composes a DNS package and sends this to the recursor. The recursor will query the DNS rootserver. In turn, this rootserver will refer to other servers, until an answer is given by one of the authorative servers. In case the name does not exist, or the server does nor react, the lookup will be impossible.

When looking up the domain, one starts from the highest level — called the root. Subsequently, the system searches much more specifically. Theoretically speaking, when one looks up, the DNS rootserver will refer to the nameservers for org.  In turn, the org server will refer to the nameservers for, which will finally find the answer in the case of .

So now Peter Sunde from The Pirate Bay, has formed a group to work on a DNS system that would not utilize a centralized root but would instead take advantage of peer-to-peer technology. The interesting thing is that they are going to build on existing technology, namely based upon BitTorrent.

The wiki for Sundes proposed free, decentralized, and open DNS system discusses the still in-progress protocol. It is clearly stated that it is BitTorrent based, which again is pronounced on the goals page.

“By creating a .p2p TLD that is distributed and that does not rely on ICANN to issue domains, or any ISP’s DNS service to resolve the domains, and by having this application mimic force-encrypted bittorrent traffic, there will be a way to start combating DNS level based censoring like the new US proposals as well as those systems in use in countries around the world including China and Iran amongst others.”

Indeed, there will be a way to start combating the censoring. But is that enough? No. Comments on a blog pointed out that if authorities cannot grab your domain name, they will grab the IP address. As a commenter noted, “they will claim the right to send a SWAT team to seize a server through asset forfeiture, or even assassinate the distributor or author of the offending information by executive order”.  The P2P based alternative will only make it more difficult to stop the flow of information, since the cost of secrecy is increased. A P2P system should be proof-of-work , such as BitCoin and HashCash for instance. These can possibly prevent DDOS attacks, since these systems require a lot of work — processing time by a computer — from the service requester (the attacker) to prove that “work was done”.

A big challenge for a P2P alternative would not only be in terms of delivering speed and performance, but also widespread adoption. Consider this idea from the respective Distributed Replublic blogpost:

“Imagine a Firefox or Chrome plugin that could turn every willing browser into both a client and server for this service (a node within such a network). Sufficient adoption (if installed by default on these browsers) could go a long way to preventing corruption or control of something so vital. Perhaps it could exist alongside the existing DNS hierarchy, to “seed” it before it acquires the necessary critical mass.”

Another interesting P2P DNS goal:

“To be able to implement with ease and re-use existing torrent libraries and code, make the network layer look and feel as much like bittorrent as possible.”

That makes me really wonder of the motives of Peter Sundes and the likes. They seem to be a bit dubious. The thing is, BitTorrent is only established within the private spheres, not in the enterprise world. With the surroundings of colleteral damage from the Internet Censorship bill and WikiLeaks, it is the perfect opportunity for them to shifting Internet architecture and replacing the hierarchical DNS by BitTorrent technology. For Sunde, it would be the chance to capitalize on that, by making BitTorrent an Internet standard.

So fixing DNS is not enough. This idea is also implied by Clay Shirky, who characterizes the Internet as a corporate sphere that tolerates public speech. Very wisely, Doc searls  elaborates on that and talks about the submissive relationship between clients and servers:

“You don’t own domain names. You rent them. You do this through a domain name registrar. Most of these are commercial entities. These sit in a domain name space that is hierarchical in nature and structure.

The Web and the DNS are also organized on the client-server model. In addition to putting site owners at the mercy of greater powers in the hierarchy, this puts users — you and me — at the mercy of the site owners. […]  Such is the law of the Web’s jungle: a system in which site owners control the rules of engagement, and provide the means as well. This is why you have to carry around a janitor’s keyring of separate logins and passwords for every different site and service with which you do business. […]  Whatever status you experience is what’s granted by site owners. You are the client. Your position is submissive. The dominant party is in charge, and there are a billion-plus of those.”

So Searls does not propose to fix the technology behind the Internet: DNS or the client-server model. However, he wants us to work on new models that don’t put us in submissive roles.

That’s and entire different discussion.

This is what David Siegler calls the Open Web movement.

So putting the user in a less submissive position can be realized in many ways, but here are the two extremes: re-architecturing Internet architecture or by completely opening up the Web. Still, the Net and the Web remain two different ends.

The solution will probably be somewhere in between: extending DNS so that it could work alongside the existing DNS hierarchy and opening up the Web as much as possible.

Towards the shift of Internet Architecture

“That’s what we’re delivering. Prepaid cards for Internet access. Complet avec number shortages and business travelers prowling the bagel joints of Rue St Urbain looking for a shopkeeper whose cash drawer has a few seven-day cards kicking around.

“And you come in here, and you ask me, you ask the ruling Bell, what advice do we have for your metro-wide free info-hippie wireless dumpster-diver anarcho-network? Honestly—I don’t have a fucking clue. We don’t have a fucking clue. We’re a telephone company. We don’t know how to give away free communications—we don’t even know how to charge for it.” — Cory Doctorow, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Citizens, telephony dinosaurs like Alcatel-Lucent and The Man have different interests with respect to Internet access. That’s what I think Cory Doctorow tries to stress in the Someone Comes To Town Someone Leaves Town novel too — definitely a recommended read.

The above basic, simple-as-it-is idea has been on my mind lately, in the wake of the cablegates controversy. In a previous post I’ve talked about WikiLeaks impact on the freedom of expression on the Net — for a great analysis, read Henry Story’s great analysis on other WikiLeaks issues.

My premise for this post: WikiLeaks not only re-architectures society, it also catalyzes the shift of Internet architecture.

Recently there have been a number of cases that threat Net Neutrality, such as the Google and Verizon proposal. It suggests that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone-based connections. This is plain wrong, because in Africa a huge number of people have access to the Internet solely via mobile phones. Moreover, as Jeff Sayre elaborates, it would allow an altogether new fee to be charged for wireless throughput. This means that content providers–bloggers, ecommerce sites, social networks, you name it–will all be assessed wireless transmission fees. The higher the fee paid, the faster their data will be allowed to travel. As such, if this deal would get closed, it would discriminate against content providers and certain users. In order to safeguard the future of the Net, it should be as accessible in wired as wireless (e.g. WiFi, mobile) circumstances.

I am a Net Neutrality partisan because I believe it is for the best.

Here’s why.

Today, what we see is that WikiLeaks dissidents attempt to make computer resources unavailable through DDOS attacks. Ironically, as for the cablegates this does not make sense since the cables themselves are being distributed as a torrent. This means that the sensitive materials are in a P2P space and virtually impossible to stop from being distributed. Even if the WikiLeaks “promotional pages” are removed, the DDOS attacks make no sense as Ethan Zuckerman notes on his blog.

“It’s worth mentioning that Wikileaks is using peer to peer networks to distribute the actual cables. DDoS may be effective in removing their web presence, but it’s going to have a much harder time removing the sensitive material from the internet. The DDoS attacks are actually a useful reminder that we still don’t have a good way to serve web sites on a purely peer to peer architecture.”

So in order to save the Web, we need a P2P architecture. And guess what, very recently Tim Berners-Lee picked this up in the W3C Technical Architecture Group:

“I brought up my desire to extend HTTP to allow it to gracefully switch to p2p under stress at the last TAG afce-face meeting.”

Extending HTTP to work with P2P might be a solution for DDOS attacks initiated by totalitarian governments, terrorist groups and individuals, but the DNS system, which translates IPs to domain names, and maintains top-level domains will still be controlled by ICANN, a non-profit institution.

This means that authorities still can take websites offline.

Luckily, Peter Sunde, Pirate Bay Spokesperson, is working on creating a decentralised domain name service for the Web.

The other side of the story is that from the telecoms. Hans Vanderstraeten, director of strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, reinforces what others in the industry have been articulating: that the Internet should be layered. He believes that the Internet will be growing significantly, and that this will clog the network. As a result, net neutrality will be impossible in the long run. So that’s why Alcatel-Lucent plans to be giving priority to services that are actually demanded by the consumer, such as YouTube.

For me the above is just a mere disguise of the dollar bill motive or driven by profits.

And I think P2P is the path to follow as to empower citizens on the Interwebs.

But the cablegates are getting governments, businesses and citizens to hop on the Net Neutrality wagon and we all are very curious of the outcome of this debate — that’s something to be optimistic about.

Nonetheless, a Net Neutrality proponent and activist as I might be, Berners-Lee and Sundes proposals give me mixed feelings. First of all, the proposal of a P2P architecture for both HTTP and DNS respectively: isn’t that a bit late? Isn’t that like stating “back to the ice age, when you’re in the middle of industrial age”? Secondly, I’m cynical in a sense that I think it’s already too late. The Commercialization of The Internet needs counterbalance, but I’m just wondering if Peter Sunde and the likes will be able to coordinate such dencentralized initiatives. I’m afraid that the Web will become only more fragmented and that, in the end, we have multiple public and private Webs.

WikiLeaks and the re-architecturing of society

While others have been writing about Julian Assange’s ability to control media, I am more concerned about WikiLeaks impact on the future of the Web. Pundits like Jeff Jarvis have articulated some brilliant insights on new media business models and such, but the Internet in terms of media seems to be too well-trodden nowadays. I always tend to think about the Web more radically, just like Sean Parker:

“re-architecting society. It’s technology, not business or government, that’s the real driving force behind large-scale societal shifts.”

So what about WikiLeaks and the Web? Let’s start with Jonathan Zittrain‘s book “The Future of the Internet and how to stop it“.  In his book he eloquently explains how the promise of the Internet might not be realized any longer. Due to its “generativity”, the Internet permits anyone, anywhere to build on it. But in order to preserve the Net’s glorious promise, we should stick to its most important principle: Net Neutrality. It is a hot topic nowadays. Scientific American‘s latest issue dedicates an entire article to the concept, written by Tim Berners-Lee, one of the Web’s fathers. One of the principles Tim touches is universality. James Hendler uses the AAA-slogan in his Semantic Web book to refer to the same — Anyone can say Anything about Anything. There shouldn’t be any hardware or software constraints to access the Web. But more importantly, people must be able to put anything on the Web — they must be able to “build” on it.

Think about the vast implications of universality.

The foundation of democracy is directly linked to freedom of speech and the concept itself is at the heart of the Web. Somehow that makes our society’s technology a democracy, and just like democracy itself the Web needs to be protected.

Not long ago, after Google had defied from China because Chinese hackers hacked into US internal networks, of amongst others Google, to find dissidents e-mail addresses, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Web freedom should become a formal plank in American foreign policy. For the first time, the United States formally articulate that the Internet’s nature should be “protected”.

“On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.”

In regards to the cablegates controversy, it again was Hillary Clinton again that reacted after WikiLeaks gave people around the world an unprecedented insight into the US Government’s foreign activities.

The catch then is if Clinton goes after the whistleblowers or the free flow of information.

The Net itself, characterized by its open social structures and architecture is all but to blame here. It is a platform that allows people to spread information more easily. But the future of the Internet, and moreover the Web, is at risk if governments chase WikiLeaks, because it underpins one of the principles of the Web.

The Web is, just like a nuclear bomb, a technology. However, once nuclear bombs have advanced, scientists realized that when such bombs explode, radio active materials such as isotopes are released. While numerous bombs were produced during cold war, these weapons of mass destruction were never used for war directly. An inherent danger of mutually assured destruction is looming.

So the question is how the Web will evolve.

Unfortunately we still have soldiers in a war, fighting the enemy on the front line. There are still weapons, although there are laws that restrict citizen weapon usage. But let’s not mistake these kind of restrictions for what the governments might go after when they impose restrictions on the Net. When earlier this week Amazon decided to pull the plug on WikiLeaks, I was afraid that the end of the Internet as we know it, had already happened. Luckily, as per Amazon, the WikiLeaks ban was not initiated by government inquiries. WikiLeaks simply did not conform to terms of service. But when governments really start chasing WikiLeaks by banning them from the Net, they mislead the public by fighting the medium, not the cause. The result is the breaching of a human right called freedom of speech.

And the cause is that society is evolving. Old structures are no longer in place.

If US diplomats are really engaging in espionage to the United States, this means international covenants are not respected. In the first place, the public administration should fight those who leak confidential, classified or secret information. As for WikiLeaks, I think that they are leveling the diplomacy playfield by making leaders more accountable for what they sad and what they do. The Internet gives us the ability to spread this type of information and the Web scales.

There definitely is a need to know. No way it is about transparency or the need to share. We are simply too concerned as humans and we should act accordingly when our untrustworthy leaders are failing us. Therefore, WikiLeaks role of making people aware of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identify of sources anonymous, and revealing of suppressed and censored injustices, is crucial.

Let it however be clear that we do need activists that fight for the good, but we need to be clear about their intentions, and moreover about WikiLeaks intentions. Who is behind this organization and can it actually function in a decentralized way? Who controls it? Which techniques are used to verify integrity? A lot of questions to be answered.

Another danger is that Wikileaks’ libertarian anarchy might bring Adam Smiths’ invisible hand out of balance in the free market economy. Finally, WikiLeaks should not replace the government but should cooperate with the public and the private.

To end with, let’s talk about the glorious promise of the Net. For all those who take the Internet for granted: imagine what would happen if the government starts imposing new control structures. Sadly, this is already happening outside the US as articulated, again, in Clinton’s speech:

“In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. One member of this group, Bassem Samir, who is thankfully no longer in prison, is with us today.”

Berners-Lee has been quoted multiple times saying that “the goal of the Web is to serve humanity”. I couldn’t agree more, and I even want to take it to the next level stating that it is critical to human survival. Clinton adds in her speech that “the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, [but] it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and the human welfare of the world’s population”. Again, I couldn’t agree more. However, what does “human welfare” and serving humanity really mean? This is a matter of right and wrong.

Let’s not pretend that the Internet is not doing any harm to people. Factually the Internet is turning markets upside down, destroying relationships and endangering people’s lives. But on the other hand, it is creating so much value. It is the most powerful information source, brings people back together and helps them to establish new relationships. It even facilitates drug discovery to combat Alzheimer’s disease.

So the real question in regards to the WikiLeaks controversy is how, and which measures and techniques the governments are going to apply to fight these “dissidents” and how WikiLeaks will be operating.

I truly believe that we haven’t seen anything yet. Everyday I meet people that don’t seem to understand how disruptive the Web really is. And as for WikiLeaks, it is part of our society. Let’s just hope that it contributes to a better world.

Scoren met een simpel ovengerecht

Gisteren goed gescoord met een keukenexperiment op aanraden van een collega. Zo doe je dat:

Men neme ingrediënten voor 4 personen

– twee stronken Broccoli
– drie blikjes Champignon Ragout
– vier kipfilets
– paneermeel
– peper en keukenzout
– boter


Was en snij de broccoli in fijne stukjes. Kook de broccoli tot deze goed gaar is. Vervolgens versnij je de kipfilets. Bak vervolgens de stukjes kip in een pan. Je kan een combinatie van olijfolie en bakboter nuttigen. Dit geeft het geheel een  authentieke, doch kruidige smaak. Gebruik voldoende peper en zout om de kip op smaak te brengen. Dan warm je de blikjes ragout op. Parallel smeer je een ovenschaal in met boter. Vanaf dan kan het dresseren beginnen, en ondertussen voorverwam je de oven een tiental minuten. Verdeel eerst de kipstukjes, vervolgens de ragout — de kip vermengt zich vanzelf wel met de championsaus. Tenslotte strooi je de broccoli erover en een laagje paneermeel en een klontje boter om het licht krokant te eten. Ongeveer 30 minuten op 200 graden in de oven en klaar is kees!

Simpel en lekker!