Comments on DNS hosting provided by domain registrars

Wes makes a comment about DNS registrars’ DNS:

Boy, if they run a domain registrar their DNS servers should have better uptime than what I could achieve.

This isn’t necessarily true–why?

Domain registrars make money from domain name registration, plain and simple. Registering a domain name basically consists of adding an entry to some text file somewhere, hosted on a server that most registrars have absolutely nothing to do with. Registrars do not necessarily have any experience running systems like DNS.

DNS offered by registrars is a value-added service, one that makes them no money. It’s offered because everyone else offers it, and it helps sell domain names.

OK, that’s a lie. Registrars hosting DNS can make money, through what is known as “domain parking.” Domain parking lets you buy a domain without having a website or hosting for it; you can buy a domain and the registrar keeps it for you, for free! It’s very nice of them isn’t it? Until you notice that “parked” domains have pages full of advertising, making money for the registrar. The tricky thing here is that with most registars, the nameservers for parked domains and those that answer customer-supplied DNS records are different. Registrars can spend more money on the parked domains’ nameservers, those which essentially make them money, than other DNS servers, which don’t.

Because registrars can and do often host the DNS for millions of domain names, that means their systems are that much more loaded and susceptible to DoS attacks. Because registrars don’t make any money hosting your DNS, they just have to keep their DNS service (barely) working, it doesn’t have to be good.

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Amazon A9's siteinfo.xml: almost a repeat of favicon.ico

Recently, I’ve received a few error 404s on a request for “siteinfo.xml.” siteinfo.xml is a file used by Amazon’s A9 search engine’s browser toolbar SiteInfo, and is automatically fetched for every website a user visits.

This sounds pretty similar to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer’s infamous favorites icons feature. For every site a user visited with Internet Explorer, the browser would automatically request a file called favicon.ico, to be displayed in the browser’s location bar and bookmarks. A lot of people were not happy–all of the sudden web servers would begin to get swamped for requests for this mysterious favicon.ico that did not exist. These requests polluted many web server logs, and were very annoying.

On some sites, especially dynamic ones, 404 errors are very expensive. Unfortunately this is true of most Drupal-powered sites, including mine. When using Drupal’s “pretty URLs” which uses Apache’s mod_rewrite to, well, make URLs pretty, all requests that the web server does not process (including errors) will go through Drupal. Going through Drupal means a long boot-strapping process to initialize Drupal and load all its modules, and at least one database request to find out a URL does not exist and to return an error 404. Too many requests for a non-existent file can basically become a DoS attack.

It seems Amazon’s A9 developers didn’t get the memo people don’t like tools that request files that don’t exist.

Granted, it’s not too bad: I don’t think this toolbar has much market penetration, so it’s not as if millions of people are killing my site. The siteinfo.xml specification page also mentions that the file is fetched through A9 and cached, so the file will not be requested for every user that visits, but only for the first one.

Kudos for Amazon’s programmers being a bit brighter than Microsoft’s, but eh, I can’t say how much more bright for designing a system that is a bit too similar to the favicon.ico debacle.

Lenovo to discontinue Linux support for Thinkpads

Lenovo, the company that bought IBM’s personal computer division, including the Thinkpad brand, has decided to no longer support Linux on their computer products.

I do not see how the customer benefits from this, because Lenovo is effectively offering its customers less choice. Supporting Linux tends to not cost anything up front and instead affects design decisions, decisions that lead to a better, more high-quality product. It is not as if much was spent on marketing Linux offerings, either.

This move is probably to appease Microsoft, who almost surely offers Lenovo discount Windows licenses for shunning Linux. This will improve Lenovo’s bottom line, but will not give the consumer any more quality, any more service or support, and probably no change in price.

Of course, not supporting Linux has never stopped people from trying to run it anyway. But, think of it as a sign of things to come. No longer having any inclination to support Linux means that in the future they can go with completely proprietary components. Proprietary components that won’t work in Linux, and are almost universally more unstable and buggy, on Windows and Linux, than their non-proprietary counterparts.

So, I’m calling this the beginning of the end of the ThinkPad’s legendary quality. Smart move Lenovo.

A UI for setting a script on hotplugged keyboards/mice?

Playing around with the Preferences panel in Ubuntu 6.06, I found an interesting set of options. In the Removable Drives and Media applet, in the Input Devices tab:

Yes, it is a fairly benign UI that lets you set a script/program to run when you connect (aka “hotplug”) a keyboard or mouse. Maybe I am incredibily dense but I cannot think of a program anyone would want to run when hotplugging a keyboard or a mouse…

I am sure it is a godsend for those who need it, but how many people really need it? Does it really need its own UI? From the desktop where “sensible defaults” means removal of useful, commonly used options, the same desktop where you need to go messing around with GConf to configure Nautilus to use a non-spatial interface–the presence of this kind of thing does not seem very consistent.

Yes, I am hating on GNOME. GNOME is very slick and polished in Ubuntu, but it still suffers the problems (that its developers deliberately mandate) that make most classic UNIX users (including me) leave it in droves.

The novelty is nice though, just like when I first used Apple’s OS X. But I’m sorry, regardless of how much you hype it, it doesn’t stop it from sucking (though sheep–er users of Apple’s products like to “think different”). I’m timing how long it takes me to give up and switch to the KDE desktop provided by Kubuntu.

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