Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bonjour (zeroconf) fun at an airport hotspot

I attended a great session on Bonjour at the WWDC presented by my hero Stuart Cheshire. The dream of zeroconf is that you can simply plug a device in to your laptop, with no other network infrastructure (such as DHCP servers, or DNS), and simply browse for it and start using it.

Stuart demonstrated a shared disk product from LaCie that did just that. Plugged it in and it came up as a file share, a web page for admin, and even a streaming music server in iTunes. Great stuff.

Another great technology is wide area zeroconf where you can grab a Bonjour control panel and add extra, non local, domains to it that will be searched as well. This multicast DNS stuff works on a local subnet, but I was wondering if it would also work within a hotspot at an airport... it does, I'm on a T-Mobile hotspot at Seattle airport and above is the visible shares I can see via the bonjour browser in Interarchy.

Clearly there's a potential security problem here and Mac users should be aware that their name and machine is visible. I had a look at the web pages that showed up and they were just the Apache welcome page in both cases.


Alastair said...

Coincidentally I am reading Cheshire's O'Reilly book on Zeroconf. This stuff is so cool, and it's just a travesty that it isn't more widely used.

Peter Marks said...

I've just bought the book myself, looks good.

One of the great things Stuart says/quotes is that a specification is finished when there is nothing more that can be taken out, rather than nothing more that can be put in.

Makes perfect sense. Many specs would benefit from this approach.

While in Seattle, I've been trawling BestBuy, CompUSA, Fry's and Circuit City looking for devices with Zeroconf. No one seems to stock that great LaCie drive he demonstrated. There are some devices with UPnP, but I'm not interested Stuart cleared up any confusion about what was best.

I notice that our HP LaserJet has Zeroconf, but I didn't notice until I browsed.