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Mobile Network Types

At the moment I am rather busy with my coursework, but I still have some time to make a quick post.

This is just a small post to tell you about a quick reference I put together in 5 minutes. It tells you what the different types of mobile network are (like HPSA and EDGE) and how fast they should be.

Link: Mobile Network Types

I have also been looking at Windows 10 in a virtual machine, so I will have a (long!) post coming out soon all about my thoughts and suggestions.

Jabber & XMPP: A Lost Protocol

Welcome to a special tutorial post here at starbeamrainbowlabs.com. In this post, we will be exploring an instant messaging protocol known as XMPP.

The XMPP logo

Today, you will probably use something like Skype, Gmail, or possibly FaceTime to stay in touch with your friends and family. If you were to rewind to roughly the year 2000, however, you would find that none of the above existed yet. Instead, there was something called XMPP. Originally called Jabber, XMPP is an open decentralised communications protocol (that Gmail's instant messaging service uses behind the scenes!) that allows you to stay in touch with people over the internet.

Identifying Users

There are several programs and apps that have XMPP support built in, but first let's take a look how it works. As I mentioned above, XMPP is decentralised. This means that there is no central point at which you can get an account - in fact you can create your very XMPP server right now! I will go into the details of that in a future post. Having multiple servers also raises the question of identification. How do you identify all these XMPP users at hundreds, possibly thousands of server across the globe?

Several account at 2 different servers

Thankfully, the answer is really quite simple: We use something called a Jabber ID (JID), which looks rather like an email address, for example: bob@bobsrockets.com. Just like an email address, the user name comes before the @ sign, and the server name comes after the @ sign.

Connecting People

Now that we know how you identify an XMPP user, we can look at how users connect and talk to each other, even if they have accounts at different servers. Connecting users is accomplished by 2 types of connections: client to server (c2s) and server to server (s2s) connections, which are usually carried out on ports 5222 and 5269 respectively. The client to server connections connect a user to their server that they registered with originally, and the server to server connections connect the user's server to the server that hosts the account to the other user that they want to talk to. In this way an XMPP user may start a conversation with any other XMPP user at any other server!

A visualisation of the example below

Here's an example. Bob is the owner of a company called Bob's Rockets and has the XMPP account bob@bobsrockets.com. He wants to talk to Bill, who owns the prestigious company Bill's Boosters who has the JID bill@billsboosters.com. Bob will log into his XMPP account at bobsrockets.com over port 5222 (unless he is behind a firewall, but we will cover that later). Bill will log into his account at billsboosters.com over the same port. When Bob starts a chat with Bill, the server at bobsrockets.com will automagically establish a new server to server connection with billsboosters.com in order to exchange messages.

Note: When starting a conversation with another user that you haven't talked to before, XMPP requires that both parties give permission to talk to one another. Depending on your client, you may see a box or notification appear somewhere, which you have to accept.

Get your own!

Now that we have taken a look at how it works, you probably want your own account. Getting one is simple: Just go to a site like jabber.org and sign up. If you stick around for the second post in this series though I will be showing you how to set up your very own XMPP server (with encryption).

As for a program or app you can use on your computer and / or your phone, I recommend Pidgin for computers and Xabber for Android phones.

Next time, I will be showing you how to set up your own XMPP server using Prosody. I will also be showing you a few of the add-ons you can plug in to add support for things like multi-user chatrooms (optionally with passwords), file transfer proxies, firewall-busting BOSH proxies, and more!

IP version tester

You may have heard already - we have run out of IPv4 addresses. An IPv4 address is 32 bits long and looks like this: 37.187.192.179. If you count up all the possible combinations (considering each section may be between 0 and 255), missing out the addresses reserved for special purposes, you get about 3,706,452,992 addresses.

The new system that the world is currently moving to (very slowly mind you) is called IPv6 and is 128 bits long. They look like this: 2001:41d0:52:a00::68e. This gives us a virtually unlimited supply of addresses so we should never run out.

The problem is that the world is moving far too slowly over to it and you can never be sure if you have IPv6 connectivity or not. I built a quick IP version tester to solve this problem. I know there are others out there, but I wanted to build one myself :)

You can find it here: Ip Version Tester.

TraceRoutePlus

Hello!

Today I have for you a traceroute tool that I have built. I made it mainly for educational purposes, since I wanted to test the code behind it ready for something slightly more complicated.

Here is an example:

C:\>tracerouteplus github.com
Traceroute Plus
---------------
By Starbeamrainbowlabs <https://starbeamrainbowlabs.com>

=== github.com ===
 1: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 1ms
 2: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 33ms
 3: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 36ms
 4: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 54ms
 5: 4.69.149.18     119ms
 6: 4.53.116.102    115ms
 7: 192.30.252.207  118ms
 8: 192.30.252.130   118ms
=== github.com end ===

You can download the latest version of the tool here: TraceRoutePlus.exe

The code is up on github, and pull requests are welcome :)

Protecting your Privacy Online: Reviewing which Advertisers Track your Interests

This is a different kind of post about privacy on the web.

The youronlinechoices.com website

Protecting your privacy whilst browsing online is important. Most if not all advertisers will track you and the websites you visit to try and work out what you are interested in - The amount of information that advertising networks can accumulate is astonishing! I currently have an AdBlocker installed with a tracking prevention list enabled, but that isn't always enough to stop all the advertising networks from tracking you all the time.

Recently I have come across a website called youronlinechoices.com - a website for people in the EU that allows you to review and control which out of 96(!) advertising networks are currently tracking you and your interests. I found that about two dozen advertisers were tracking me and was able to stop them.

The Internet needs adverts in order for it to stay free for all (disable your adblocker on the sites you want to support), but one also needs to prevent ones personal information from falling into the wrong hands.

Art by Mythdael