Hire Tom
Mostly Mozart


Posted October 7, 2001

Good afternoon, you're listening to CJLY 93.5fm in Nelson, Kootenay Coop Radio. Coming to you live every Sunday and on tape every Tuesday, this is Mostly Mozart, sponsored by Comfort and Joy, a unique children's store. My name is Tom Clegg.

Before I begin, or at least before I go any further, I'd like to apologize for last week's episode. I unwittingly did a show about infinity at a time when the word infinity was actually being used by politicians. Of course, the way they're using the word has nothing to do with the concept of infinity, so my show was really political. But if you thought I was paying attention to the politicians, you can rest assured that I was not.

To make up for any potential misunderstanding, today I'm going to talk about some stuff that definitely has nothing to do with politics. Except perhaps that it was invented by someone's department of defence, and that it's all about cheap illusions.

And since I can't think of anything that satisfies both of those criteria, I'll just have to have two topics. Two is one of my favourite numbers, so that will do just fine.

According to the listenerometer in the studio, nobody is actually listening yet, so I'll start with a music break before I tell you what those topics are.


You're listening to Mostly Mozart on Kootenay Coop Radio. You can tell because for some reason they don't carry Mostly Mozart on BKS, or whatever that other radio station is called. Comfort and Joy is happy to sponsor Mostly Mozart.

The second thing I'd like to talk about today is called the Internet. You've probably had just about enough of hearing about the internet, so it might be a good idea to turn your radio off for this part. Unless you want to hear about some of the technical aspects, which are a total mystery to most of the lusers who like to talk about the internet on the radio.

I don't call them lusers to be offensive, by the way; that's a technical term. It's just the word "users" with an "L" in front. It indicates that they haven't completed their 5 year initiation period so they don't really know what's going on. They're not stupid, they're just ignorant.

But not me -- I'm not ignorant, I'm just stupid. But I can tell you what I know.

The internet is just a big computer network. It started out as an experiment in fault-tolerant computer networks: the US department of defense wanted to connect a bunch of computers in various locations in such a way that there was no central office.

The most obvious way to make a network is to connect all of the computers to one central machine which directs traffic between all the rest. That's how Plus system bank machines work: there's one computer in Detroit that handles all transactions for all Plus System bank machines in North America. A bank machine sends a request to that central computer, and it contacts the appropriate bank and does a transaction on behalf of the bank machine.

The problem, especially for military purposes, is that the central machine becomes the enemy's primary target. If somebody bombs that machine, or even breaks into it and crashes it, then none of the other machines can communicate with each other.

The most obvious solution is to run a wire between every pair of computers. If California wants to contact Florida, it sends data over the Florida wire. If it wants to contact Washington, it sends data over the Washington wire. The problem with that is that it requires an unacceptable amount of wire. Connecting 100 computers requires 5000 wires, one of which will probably break every day. If the Florida wire is broken, you can't contact Florida.

The internet-style solution is a compromise between those two solutions. If California still has a wire to Florida and a wire to Washington, and Florida and Washington each have a wire to Vermont, then California doesn't need a direct line to Vermont. To contact Vermont, it can send a message to Florida, with instructions to send it on to Vermont.

If the Florida-to-Vermont wire breaks, then that won't work. But it will still work to send the message to Washington, with instructions to send it on to Vermont from there.

The way to build a resilient computer network is to give each location the ability to forward messages on behalf of other locations, and also to keep track of which wire is the best way to get to any given destination. The best choice of wire is likely to change from day to day, as wires are broken and repaired, so the computers have to adjust accordingly.

These days, those decisions are made by dedicated machines called routers, which do nothing but keep track of the best way to get to any given location, and forward messages accordingly.

There's a related problem with email, or at least there once was. Let's say California tries to send an email message to Vermont, but Vermont doesn't understand it because their email programs don't use exactly the same language. But California knows that there's an email program running in Washington that understands both languages, so it can send the message to Washington using California's chosen language, and Washington will send it on to Vermont using Vermont's chosen language. Problem solved. This is called relaying, and it used to be very popular.

Until someone realized that Washington's relaying service could be exploited for profit. Let's say you had a list of 100 000 email addresses and you wanted to send out a message about your cheap refill kits for inkjet cartridges. And let's say you didn't want to waste your own computer's time trying to deliver 100 000 messages and keeping track of which ones worked and which ones should be tried again later. Better yet, let's say this is the second time you've done this, and last time you did it, everyone just blacklisted your computer because they never wanted to know about your refill kits in the first place. Now there are two reasons why you can't send your message from your own computer.

But you know about this computer in Washington which will accept your message and your list of email addresses and do all the work for you. The people who decided not to receive mail from your computer won't even know it's coming from you, because it's not: it's coming from some perfectly respectable computer in Washington.

So much for relaying. Whoever runs the computer in Washington will get 10 000 messages in his mailbox next week, explaining that the address doesn't exist any more, and that it was unable to contact the original sender about the problem. He'll probably change his mail software so it doesn't relay any more. He probably won't bother suing you for using his computer resources -- after all, he was offering a relaying service -- and you'll have to find some other computer to relay for you. But you got your message out this time, and you probably got a few orders as a result. Best of all, you didn't have to use your own internet connection to do it, and you didn't have to recieve any of those messages about addresses that don't work any more.

And that is how mass marketing works on the internet. The only other ingredient for successful spamming is to claim in your message that "This message is not spam. If you received this message in error, please send an email to the following address, so I will know that this email address reaches a real person, so I can use it again in my next free marketing campaign."

So there's a little lesson in free enterprise on the internet.

Next up, the first thing I wanted to talk about today: a little lesson in solid carbon dioxide. -- I mean dry ice. Oh darn, I ruined it. OK, nothing is up next. Just a bunch of music by some guy who won't get any royalties because he died two hundred years ago.

First I should remind you that you're listening to Kootenay Coop Radio, CJLY 93.5 FM in Nelson and that Mostly Mozart is sponsored by Comfort and Joy, a unique children's store. And I should remind myself, lest I forget, that my name is Tom Clegg and that you are in the audience.


That is all the Mostly Mozart you're going to get today; I hope you enjoyed myself and that you will come back next week for more. Or perhaps less. I'm not going to commit either way. Up next is either Alternative Radio or the Ecocentric. I'm not going to commit either way. Depends on which day of the week it is, and for technological reasons I am unable to know which day of the week it is.