Announcement: November 9th, 2001
Hello again fellow members,
Over the years I, along with many others in the organization, have been on the receiving end of countless questions and concerns regarding the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP. This protocol allows network nodes, such as your computer, to be configured dynamically via a remote server. Seeing as this is still the subject of so many rumours and just plain FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), I felt that it was necessary to clarify the facts surrounding DHCP and cut through all the bull. Below is a comprehensive listing of the most relevant myths and their factual counterparts, with respect to this important topic. I urge you to read through all of them, especially in light of Rogers's recent actions involving DHCP "enforcement".
The main reason why Rogers is taking these actions, is a purely precautionary one. It's no secret that Excite@Home's situation is being decided within bankruptcy court and things are looking grim. It's also no secret that Rogers has earmarked $60 million for a contingency plan to take total control over their internet service, should @Home disintegrate. If this happens, Rogers will need to renumerate and reallocate the IP addresses of every single one of their subscribers. As there are between 400000-500000 of them, the only simple way of handling this task is through DHCP.
Now, @Home may disintegrate, or they may not. Personally, I believe it is highly unlikely that they'll survive and have been saying this for quite some time. The bottom line is that in order to ensure a smooth and seamless transition- or as close as you can get to it, given the circumstances- for Rogers@Home subscribers, should this happen, everyone needs to be configured via DHCP. If you want to remain configured statically, that's your choice. Please carefully examine all the information contained below before you make this decision, though. Weigh the risks and rewards of running a static configuration over a dynamic one. Unfortunately, the risks of being statically-configured far outweigh the associated rewards at this moment in time. This is the opinion of the RBUA's senior membership. All we can do is ask you to make an informed decision. Hopefully the following information will help you to do so.
President and Technical Director,
Residential Broadband Users' Association
- Running a static configuration will ensure that my IP address never changes.
- If I run DHCP I will lose my IP as soon as my lease is up (usually only a few hours or few days long).
- If I am configured via DHCP I will not be able to run a server.
- Running DHCP is a dumb idea because the servers are so flaky and unreliable right now.
- DHCP causes IP address conflicts.
- I have no way of running DHCP, since it's not supported by my operating system.
- If I configure my machine with DHCP, Rogers will have a stranglehold over my connection. Besides, Rogers can't *force* me to use DHCP, can they?
- With respect to the likelihood of your IP address changing, it makes absolutely no difference whether you are configured statically or dynamically (via DHCP). If Rogers decides to renumerate addresses in your neighbourhood, your IP will change regardless of how your machine is configured. Static or DHCP, it doesn't matter. You, as a subscriber, can no nothing to better your chances of keeping the same IP forever.
- Since Rogers binds IP addresses to customer accounts, even if your DHCP lease runs out you will not lose your IP. DHCP does not work like dialup (via an authentication process called RADIUS), or ADSL (through PPP over Ethernet and RADIUS), where your IP is completely dynamic and changes every time your computer is rebooted. The bottom line is that unless a renumeration takes place, your IP will not change. You can theoretically have your computer powered off for weeks, go online and still have the same IP with this setup. Some subscribers, myself included, have retained the same IP addresses for more than two consecutive years. "Dynamic" IP's they are not!
- DHCP will not, in any way, hinder your ability to run a server. Just keep in mind that Rogers doesn't trust us subscribers to run our own servers. This is actually quite understandable, given the amount of carnage I've borne witness to, caused by misconfigured servers. Some that I've come across were, unfortunately, just downright abusive, run by a few of our well-meaning, but clueless compatriots. Please allow me to stress that unless you know exactly what you're doing, don't attempt to run a server on your connection. Revisiting an old issue, if you do want to run a server, you must take a number of precautions before and while running the server:
- First off, make sure that it doesn't contain security holes that are wide enough for a truck to be driven through. Look up all the latest exploits for your server and plug them up with the latest patch(es). This is especially important if you are running some of Microsoft's server software, such as their web server, IIS.
- Second, take the time to configure it correctly. If you don't know even how to configure it, don't run it first and ask questions later. Learn what you need to know before you place the server online. Also, it's generally a good idea to restrict access to your server, so only people you know can gain access to it. For instance, if you run an SMTP (outgoing mail) server and some stranger ends up spamming 10000 messages through you, Rogers will take you down and we wouldn't be able to help you.
- Third, be very mindful of how much bandwidth is used by your server, and at what times during the day and night it is most active. Rogers has stated to us at several points in the past that only "casual" servers are allowed on the R@H service. This is defined as servers that are "low" bandwidth, particularly during peak hours (~4:30 PM to ~1:30 AM EST). Servers must be private (i.e. not advertised on websites, search engines, etc.) and secured against outside intrusion, as detailed in the last two points. Although Rogers has never clearly stated the definition of "low" bandwidth, just being careful about this will ensure that you don't cause any problems and that you don't run into any of them, either. Constant and saturated server activity, though, especially during peak hours, is bound to draw some red flags.
- Lastly, if you don't understand all of this terminology, or don't know how to perform the above precautionary measures, then I strongly recommend against running any servers at this time. Seriously. You're liable to do more harm- both to your own connection and those of others- than good.
- The DHCP servers are now very stable, so server unreliability is no longer a viable excuse to avoid a dynamic configuration. At one time, however, this was not the case. Throughout the last half of 2000 and first part of 2001, the servers were in a most disastrous state. Many subscribers configured their machines statically because they had no choice. Only those who kept their computers powered on 24/7 were unaffected by this problem, for the aforementioned reason of IP addresses being bound to subscriber accounts. Now that the DHCP servers are stable and very reliable, running a dynamic configuration shouldn't cause any problems at all.
- DHCP was designed specifically to get rid of administration hassles and implementation difficulties. It certainly will not cause IP conflicts. On the contrary, it prevents them from occurring in the first place. If Rogers did all their IP renumerations statically, would anyone care to guess how long it would take to reallocate 75000 addresses? Let's just say that it wouldn't be worth the wait. This is one reason why configuring your computer via DHCP will make things infinitely easier for Rogers, which should end up filtering through to us subscribers. God knows we've seen our fair share of statically-induced IP conflicts over the past year or two. They aren't much fun for any of the parties involved.
- DHCP is supported by basically every operating system under the sun right now. While it is true that some old Macs, such as the 7200 series, won't accept a hostname (and hence won't obtain an IP address under R@H's current implementation of DHCP), basically every OS that I know of contains a DHCP client. Future DHCP implementations by way of Rogers will not make use of a hostname (i.e. that cr000000-x number), as that is strictly an @Home convention. This will ensure that the service works with even those old Macs.
- With respect to the idea of relinquishing control of your connection to Rogers by running a dynamic configuration, that is something you shouldn't be losing any sleep over. Why? Because Rogers already has complete control over your connection. Sorry, but that's the way it's always been. That's reality for you. If they want to change your IP, there isn't anything you can do to stop it. They can change it at any time. That certainly doesn't mean they will change your IP at any time, but it's within their power. Can Rogers force you to use DHCP? No, they cannot. They're always aware of who's configured statically and who's configured via DHCP, but they have no way of imposing this on the subscriber base. The problem is that if Rogers ever decides to renumerate your IP block, you will lose total connectivity the instant the renumeration occurs. The only way you'll be able to regain connectivity is to obtain your new IP via DHCP. That's why Rogers always lets statically-configured subscribers know if their IP addresses are about to change. However, even if they didn't and you lost connectivity as a result, you wouldn't be able to blame Rogers for your loss of service. We wouldn't be able to help you out, either. If your computer is configured statically, it is being done at your own risk. This must be well understood if you're running a static configuration.