500,000 hits

This blog has passed half a million hits.

When I started it, I thought one or two, or perhaps as many as five people might be interested in odd facts about the ancient world.  It turns out there are slightly more of us than I thought.

Thanks for reading!

Moderation temporarily turned on for comments

Spammers are currently assaulting my blog with a lot of comment spam.  I've deleted it all (I hope).  I'm sorry to say I must turn on comment moderation until these cretins go away.

I've noticed a significant surge in the last few months of comment spammers who are clearly real people rather than bots.  They write something that looks relevant to the post, in the hope that I won't notice them, and then include a link to their crappy, virus-ridden sink hole of a web site.  Since they're real people, none of the usual anti-spam systems block them.

I really, really, don't want to turn moderation on, because I know many people don't like it.  But alas I must; the only alternative is to turn off comments entirely.  Please bear with me and we'll see what happens.

Change of comment policy

After a comment by Carrie on twitter and the resulting feedback I'm going to change the comment policy on the blog.

Word verification is now off. This is an attempt to improve the reader experience, because it seems captcha is annoying people a lot.

I have not turned moderation on. This is an experiment to see if I get hit with spam. If I do, moderation will have to go on because I really don't want the spam.

Please let me know what you think works best!

RFC1149: AVIANnet lives!

You probably need to be a techo type to appreciate it, but I can't resist passing on this story.

The internet protocols, which are the technical rules by which the internet runs, are all desribed in a series of documents called Request For Comments, or RFC for short. The reason for the odd name is at the very beginning of the internet one of the guys working on it put together a set of notes on how the protocols they were designing worked, and issued the notes as a request for comment. No one ever got around to issuing a final version. To this day that very first document is marked as RFC 1, and every documented that followed has been labeled RFC followed by a serial number.

For example, the HTTP protocol you are using to read this is defined in RFC 2068. It's all very technical and ultra boring language.

It wasn't long before people starting issuing joke RFCs, almost all of them issued on 1st April. The first was RFC 527 ARPAwocky. The internet was originally known as ARPAnet and ARPAwocky was a parody of Jabberwocky.

Another good one was RFC 968 Twas The Night Before Startup, written by Vincent Cerf himself.

But my all time favourite is RFC 1149 A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers. Let me quote the opening sections of RFC 1149:
Avian carriers can provide high delay, low throughput, and low
altitude service. The connection topology is limited to a single
point-to-point path for each carrier, used with standard carriers,
but many carriers can be used without significant interference with
each other, outside of early spring. This is because of the 3D ether
space available to the carriers, in contrast to the 1D ether used by
IEEE802.3. The carriers have an intrinsic collision avoidance
system, which increases availability. Unlike some network
technologies, such as packet radio, communication is not limited to
line-of-sight distance. Connection oriented service is available in
some cities, usually based upon a central hub topology.

The IP datagram is printed, on a small scroll of paper, in
hexadecimal, with each octet separated by whitestuff and blackstuff.
The scroll of paper is wrapped around one leg of the avian carrier.
A band of duct tape is used to secure the datagram's edges. The
bandwidth is limited to the leg length. The MTU is variable, and
paradoxically, generally increases with increased carrier age. A
typical MTU is 256 milligrams. Some datagram padding may be needed.

Upon receipt, the duct tape is removed and the paper copy of the
datagram is optically scanned into a electronically transmittable
That's right, RFC 1149 specifies how to run the internet over carrier pigeons.

Very funny, you might think, and go back to your normal lives. But not the Linux User's Group in Bergen in Norway. In 2001, these people, with seriously too much time on their hands, implemented RFC 1149, pigeons and all. It worked.

End of story, right?

Not quite. Recently people in South Africa have been complaining their broadband infrastructure is too slow. One company decided to prove the point. They raced the country's broadband network against a carrier pigeon with a 4GB memory stick taped to its leg.

The pigeon won.

How to put links in your comments

Did you know you can put links in your comments? If you want to provide a link to something when you write a comment, you need to put the link inside an anchor tag. What works on a web page will also work in the comment box. Like this:

<a href="http://mylink">my interesting link</a>

Blogger will recognise the anchor tag and turn it into a proper looking link when it posts the comment. So for example you might write:

Stephanie blogs on writing a novel about the amazing Hatshepsut at <a href="http://hatshepsutnovel.blogspot.com/">her interesting blog</a>.

(I picked Stephanie's blog at random from my followers. I hope you don't mind Stephanie.)

Which, when it appears after you post the comment will look like this:

Stephanie blogs on writing a novel about the amazing Hatshepsut at her interesting blog.