Nov 152022

This is intended as a basic guide to how IP networking works at the basic level; traditionally such guides are for “dummies” but a lack of knowledge doesn’t make someone dumb but ignorant and being ignorant of one small esoteric part of computing is no crime. On the other hand, fixing that ignorance can help solve certain networking issues or at the very least make those domestic router settings make some sort of sense.

What is IP?

Whether we are talking about IPv4 ( or IPv6 (2001:db8:1:1::1/64), these are both at a superficial level both “Internet Protocols”. Networks require some kind of physical networking layer underneath the IP layer – most commonly Ethernet for wired connections and WiFi for wireless connections, but it can run on many other networks – FDDI (historical), Fiber Channel, or InfiniBand. IP works above that level.

What made IP “special” for the time was the word internet; we think of this today as a world-wide network (“The Internet”) but back in the 1970s, the internet part of IP was about connecting multiple networks together with a gateway. Whilst network gateways existed before IP (and indeed after), they translated one network protocol into another and not infrequently were application specific (i.e. perhaps only allowed email through) whereas IP was build from the ground up to allow network traffic to traverse multiple network gateways.

There’s a whole lot of detail we could get into about the “protocol” bit of IP, but an an early stage all we need to know is that the packet of data contains an IP header which amongst other things specifies the source address, destination address, and a hint of what’s inside.

IP Addresses

An IP address (whether a source address or a destination address) is either a 32-bit integer (for IPv4) or a 128-bit integer (for IPv6). Which is the technical way of saying they’re just numbers; although we’re used to seeing (and using) a standardised representation of that number. Some tools will convert the representation of the address or will use the actual number :-

» ping 3221226082   
PING 3221226082 ( 56(84) bytes of data.

So the usual representation of an IPv4 address is a “dotted quad” – four numbers between 0-255 which when converted to binary and concatenated make up the real network address.

On the other hand, IPv6 is somewhat longer and uses groups of four hexadecimal digits separated with colons (“:”) as in:


Although it is usual to compress that with two simple rules – firstly a number of sequences of all zeros can be replaced once with “::” :-


Secondly, leading zeros within each ‘group’ can be dropped :-


Even shortened, IPv6 addresses are somewhat more complex than IPv4 addresses, but that’s why we have the DNS; in fact those used to using IPv4 addresses without the DNS should bear in mind that IPv4 addresses are also too complex for normal people to get right (and are subject to typos).


Whether you are assigned a public IPv6 address (2001:db8:cafe/48) or pick a private address from RFC1918 (10/8) you have a “choice” – you can either use the entire network range for one huge network, or you can sub-divide it into smaller subnets. Most home users will go with the first option but for most organisations of a reasonable size, the later is not just preferred but essential.

Whether you further divide a network into subnets or not, your computer still needs to know whether to send packets directly to the destination or whether to route those packets via a gateway or a router. This is done with a netmask that defines the network part of the address (and the host part of the address). If the network address of the destination matches the network address of the source, then the packets can be sent directly. Otherwise they’re sent via the gateway.

Source address192.0.2.98Yes
Destination 1192.0.2.73Yes
Destination 2172.16.1.13No

IPv6 addresses work in the same way except the addresses are longer.

Although netmasks are historically given as dotted quads making them look a bit like IPv4 addresses, it is becoming increasingly common to use a more compact method which is less error prone. The netmask is instead specified as the number of bits that the netmask covers – rather than As for IPv6, the same applies although “/64” is very often assumed – the default size for an IPv6 network is very much more strongly encouraged than for an IPv4 network (although it isn’t compulsory).

The Gateway Or The Router

Gateway or router? Well both – from the perspective of an ordinary host it’s a gateway to other networks; from the perspective of the gateway itself, it is a router connected to multiple networks (domestically often just two) and forwards packets on behalf of other computers.

In essence there is very little difference between a router and an ordinary machine except that the ordinary machine isn’t configured to forward packets, and it is usually configured with just a default gateway (sometimes called a gateway of last resort). Well and the route for the network it is connected to.

Both contain a routing table (or more than one) in the operating system kernel which basically consists of a set of network addresses and destinations (where to forward the packets to). In the case of your usual domestic router that usually consists of a route to your home network, a route to the ISP’s network, and a default route pointing at the ISP’s router.

When a machine wants to send (or forward) a packet to a destination, it picks the closest match in the routing table, and uses that as a intermediate destination to forward the packet to. Your machine operates this way; as does the core Internet routers (although they have slightly larger routing tables).

Some routers (probably a minority) are rather more complex of course. If you have heard of routing software such as BGP, OSPF, or IS-IS, then you have heard of software that distributes routing information. The larger Internet uses BGP to distribute routing information to add to routing tables around the world.

The description of routing so far has been rather hierarchical – your computer forwards to a default gateway, and it in turn forwards to your ISP’s default gateway. Which is a bit unfortunate as Internet routing doesn’t really work this way – there are alternate routes so if one router goes “bang” traffic can still reach the destination.

Dover Castle Gateway
Sep 262022

So the queen is dead, and Twitter went berserk with all sorts of tweets. Some of the anti-colonialism ones were a little tasteless …

“Chief monarch”? Have we got additional monarchs scurrying around? Not that I’ve ever heard of.

Even if the queen was responsible for the crimes of the British Empire, wishing she would die in excruciating pain is tasteless in the extreme. After all, we didn’t torture Hitler’s henchpersons to death – they got a quick hanging.

And blaming the queen for all the evils of the British Empire shows a remarkable lack of knowledge about how power in Britain works. After all real power has been delegated to parliament, and has been since Charles II (in 1660 so it’s been a while).

Sure some earlier monarchs were involved in the slave trade and were directly responsible for the establishment of certain colonies. But the last monarch with that kind of power was Charles I who was demoted with an ax.

Blame the governments of the time, or the relevant person in charge of the atrocities.

The Republicans

Now I’m no die-hard monarchist – I certainly lean in the direction of republicanism, although I’m of the opinion that there are bigger political problems to solve first. And I don’t have a problem with republicans campaigning honestly and with legitimate issues.

Although expecting change on a monarch change is a bit unrealistic – the next in line becomes the new monarch immediately upon the death of the old one. Whilst parliament determines the rules of succession; once in place as law, the succession takes place automatically. All the ceremonies that take place are merely confirmation.

No the ones I’m irritated with are those who exaggerate the power of the monarchy to make their point. Almost all of the power of a monarch is wielded by parliament itself (with the exception of the King’s Consent which needs to go). These are either ignorant or are being dishonest.

The fact is that the undemocratic nature of our current electoral system is a far bigger problem that which puppet we stick a crown on.

Jul 232022

I was following one of those Twitter threads posting their favourite command-line tools (specifically for infosec), and added my own entry – the incomparable tshark. Later it occurred to me that the best command-line tool isn’t really a tool at all as it is built into the shell – the pipe. Many of the command-line tools just wouldn’t be quite the same without it.

For those who aren’t familiar with the command-line, the pipe (“|”) takes the output of one command and feeds it as input to another command. And you can string such pipelines together to add to each other (which can lead to inefficiencies).

For example :-

» ls | wc -l

This takes the usual command for listing files and sends the output into the “word count” command to produce a count of the number of files in the current directory. To be more precise, it produces a count of the number of files that ls thinks is in the directory. You can get different results with different variations :-

» echo * | wc -w
» ls -a | wc -l

If you had a log file containing DHCP requests you could :-

» grep DHCPDISCOVER | head
2022-06-30T23:59:05+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 (esp32-D04CCC) via
2022-07-01T01:30:04+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 (esp32-D04CCC) via
2022-07-01T02:53:33+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from DF:69:AF:DC:79:3E via eth0
2022-07-01T02:53:33+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from DF:69:AF:DC:79:3E via
2022-07-01T02:53:39+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from a8:a6:48:92:9d:36 via eth0
2022-07-01T03:01:03+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 (esp32-D04CCC) via
2022-07-01T04:32:02+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 (esp32-D04CCC) via
2022-07-01T04:56:53+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 91:06:27:15:EF:DC via
2022-07-01T06:03:01+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 (esp32-D04CCC) via
2022-07-01T07:34:00+00:00 <> 2001:db8:bad:cafe::b/d-FCB dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 (esp32-D04CCC) via

List out the first few DHCP DISCOVER requests (the astute may notice that I’ve done some obfuscating). We can then pick out a field using awk to list just the MAC addresses :-

» grep DHCPDISCOVER | awk '{print $7}' | head

We can then remove the “head” command and add a sort and uniq command to produce a full list of all MAC addresses that have performed a DHCP DISCOVER :-

» grep DHCPDISCOVER | awk '{print $7}' | sort | uniq -c
      4 DF:69:AF:DC:79:3E
      3 89:C1:67:B8:9D:6F
      6 F3:55:1E:06:D4:49
      4 F3:55:1E:06:D4:48
     12 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B3
     92 91:06:27:15:EF:DC
     46 85:2C:B4:B3:70:7E
    333 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4
      2 40:5B:D8:FF:FA:29
     72 FD:D4:00:41:29:BE
      5 36:1E:07:2D:AD:76
     41 44:FD:6E:05:82:21
     81 CC:78:14:BB:E4:3D

We can sort the result into reverse numerical order :-

» grep DHCPDISCOVER | awk '{print $7}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -r -n
    333 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4
     92 91:06:27:15:EF:DC
     81 CC:78:14:BB:E4:3D
     72 FD:D4:00:41:29:BE
     46 85:2C:B4:B3:70:7E
     41 44:FD:6E:05:82:21
     12 4D:6D:4F:55:59:B3
      6 F3:55:1E:06:D4:49
      5 36:1E:07:2D:AD:76
      4 F3:55:1E:06:D4:48
      4 DF:69:AF:DC:79:3E
      3 89:C1:67:B8:9D:6F
      2 40:5B:D8:FF:FA:29 

And if you have access to the relevant script, you can produce terminal graphics (just to keep innumerate managers happy) :-

» grep DHCPDISCOVER | awk '{print $7}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -r -n | awk '{print $2, $1}' | tbar --replace 1 --max 350
4D:6D:4F:55:59:B4 ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■
91:06:27:15:EF:DC ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■
CC:78:14:BB:E4:3D ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■
FD:D4:00:41:29:BE ■■■■■■■■■■■■
85:2C:B4:B3:70:7E ■■■■■■■
44:FD:6E:05:82:21 ■■■■■■■
4D:6D:4F:55:59:B3 ■■
F3:55:1E:06:D4:49 ■

The pipe isn’t so much a tool itself as a mechanism to combine tools into producing interesting results.

It’s Round
Jul 232022

A certain bunch of … let’s call them idiots to be relatively polite … have been spewing forth idiocy in the online comments of various places labelling the heatwave warnings as “scare-mongering”. Mentioning the summer of 1976 and saying we all coped.

The heatwave of 1976 although it went on for longer, didn’t get as hot (36C was nearly reached). That’s 4C below this year’s heatwave peak. And people died during that heatwave too – there was a 20% increase in “excess deaths”.

So no we didn’t cope in the 1976 heatwave; at least not those of us who died.

A lot of criticism was aimed at the Met Office for the heat warnings, and mainstream media channels for repeating the warnings so endlessly. “Oh! We see such temperatures every year on holiday” the numb-brained drawl. No, you don’t; at least not often.

And when you do, it’s when you’re sleeping in air-conditioned hotel rooms beside a pool, with plenty of shade around. You aren’t stuck in offices with no air-conditioning, even hotter work-places (such as kitchens), or outside in the sun (nailing tiles to a roof). You’re not sleeping in a bedroom with the choice of leaving the windows shut (and building up heat), or opening them to let hot air (and noise) in.

When experts issue warnings, it is wise to pay attention to them. Whilst I understand an instinctive distrust of authority (I share it), subject specialists should be trusted – not blindly but (for example) when the Met Office issues heat warnings, it isn’t just one expert thinking it. If you want to question an expert, get as much education as they’ve had.

In short :-

  1. That heatwave was dangerously high and justified the number of warnings issued.
  2. It isn’t natural and was made more severe by climate change.
  3. Being that guy who claims that we’re all snowflakes for being concerned about it just shows that you’re an idiot.
Two Posts in the Sea
Jul 132022

Not all shell aliases of course, but some. I’ve just seen a youtube video that suggested creating a shell alias to run rmtrash when rm is invoked :-

alias rm='rmtrash'

Seems sensible enough doesn’t it? This is in fact the classic example of how dangerous shell aliases can be, although the classic example was to turn on “-i” :-

alias rm='rm -i'

The problem is that you get used to “rm” being safe – either it asks before it removes files (“-i”) or it safely preserves what is deleted in the Trash folder. But what happens when the alias doesn’t get created? Perhaps you have a broken .zshrc and Zsh stops interpreting before the alias is declared. Or you’ve logged on to a remote server that doesn’t have your .zshrc installed as yet?

All of a sudden you are running the unadulterated rm command – deleting files without being asked, or preserving them in the Trash folder. See the danger now?

It is better not to replace standard commands but create a new ‘command’ :-

alias del="rmtrash"

Perhaps you regard this as being excessively risk averse – fair enough. But just don’t say you weren’t warned – and I’ve encountered missing aliases every year over the last 30-odd years I’ve been using Linux and Unix.

The Bare Family