Quiet. Too quiet.

September 28, 2000

Space: DIY

Jed points me to an article discussing a personal 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). #

Universal Addressing

A TidBITS article 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:

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 =davemenendez or =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 soon.

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!) #