Jed points me to an article discussing a
spaceship kit. Apparently, a company in Washington is planning to sell
parts and instructions which would allow hobbyists to construct a spaceship
which could go 200 km up and reach speeds of Mach 4. The parts themselves
already have safety accreditation from the FAA, although the assembled whole
will undoubtedly undergo some regulatory scrutiny. Apparently, people already
build helicopters and submarines from kits, but I can't imagine feeling safe
in a home-made spaceship. I guess I lack the adventurous spirit (not to
mention half a million dollars).
tells of the coming of XNS, the eXtensible Name Service. Like the DNS
(Domain Name Service), XNS is a way to associate objects with their names.
DNS links names to computers; XNS links names to people and companies, or
more specifically their agents.
The agents are the core of the system, and they should provide a number
of services to their owners once more XNS infrastructure is in place. They
work by storing information for you, such as contact information, privacy
preferences, and contact lists. They release this information only to
trusted parties (where you decide who is trusted) with specific limitations
on its use (which you also determine). Possible uses include:
- Providing a single contact address that never changes. If someone knows
your XNS address, they can always get the most current contact
information you're willing to share. (Imagine not having to update your
mailing list subscriptions when you change e-mail addresses.)
- Eliminating spam. A whitepaper
describes how your XNS agent can keep a list of pre-approved addresses
and require everyone else to agree not to send spam before their mail
can reach you.
- Unifying web site logins. Rather than use a username/password
combo at every web site, use your XNS address and have your agent verify
- Avoiding order forms. Rather than type your mailing address and credit
card information, let your agent provide the information.
This is a fairly complex system, as can be guessed from the amount of
information provided by XNSORG, a non-profit
organization set up to manage the XNS system. For now, most of the
functionality is still theoretical. The system only became available on
Monday, and there are few XNS-savvy web sites out there. To help avoid the
chicken-and-egg problem, the registrars
are offering one free XML address to the first million applicants.
The addresses themselves follow an amazingly simple format. Learning from
DNS (where everyone seems to want an address in the .com top-level domain,
despite the presence of hundreds of alternatives), XNS has three top-level
namespaces, each identified by a single-character prefix. The rest of the name
can be up to 64 Unicode characters. For example, my address is
=Dave Menendez. The prefix "=" puts it in the personal names
domain (the other domains are "@" for businesses and "+" for generic terms).
Only letters and digits are significant and comparison is case-insensitive, so
one could also write
=DAVE: men, end, ez and it would work out the same.
The total number of possible names is larger than the estimated number of
subatomic particles in the universe, so we're unlikely to run out any time
It remains to be seen whether this name will actually do me any good,
but since it's free for life I figure there's no downside. (Plus, I'm
thrilled I got in early enough that my name wasn't taken. Take that, you
other Dave Menendezs!)