iRead, iLearn, iWrite. Hence, iBlog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: An Overview 02

Read the earlier parts: Part 1

Introduction

Optimization of resources is of prime importance while deciding on the expenditure for a certain task. This gains added significance when it comes to Defense spending for acquiring or developing Weapon Systems that would meet a country’s combat requirements. These spending often run in to billions of dollars and face stiff opposition from many quarters.

In face of such a scenario, it is often prudent to pool in resources and expertise of nations together to develop a common Defense systems that can meet the respective Country’s requirements. Such common Defense Systems would enable interoperable co-operative participation in joint combat missions that further bolsters the Defense efforts of a country. The prime example of such a co-operative combat venture being NATO. Instead of re-inventing the wheel all over again, much more progress and cost-effectiveness can be achieved by learning from the gains made by partner countries and pooling it with your own knowledge to achieve your objectives.

An excellent example of such a collaborative effort has been the conceptualizing and execution of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

 

Background

In one of the largest collaborative efforts of its kind, the JSF program has been the result of the collective endeavor of 11 countries – U.S.A, U.K, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Israel, Singapore and The Netherlands. The aim of this program is to develop the next generation of multi-role strike aircraft for the future, with optimization for ground attack missions.

The program was approved for execution in November 1996. This started a 5-year competition between Lockheed-Martin and Boeing to design the most capable and affordable aircraft. Lockheed-Martin teamed up with British Aerospace and Northrop Grumman for this project. Finally on October 26 2001, the Pentagon announced that Lockheed-Martin had won the largest military contract ever to develop and build the next generation of multi-role strike aircraft. The total cost of this program is estimated to be around USD150 - 180 billion. It is estimated that around 3000 such aircraft will have to be manufactured to fulfil the requirements of the Armed Forces of the respective partner countries. These aircraft are expected to remain in service till as long as 2060 or longer. In order to fulfil its obligations Lockheed-Martin has teamed up with companies like BAE, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, General Electrical, Rolls-Royce and a large number of other contractors from the partner countries. The aircraft that is being developed as part of the JSF program has been christened F-35 Lightning II. It is estimated that the first F-35 would be inducted into Service by 2012 - 2013. It is widely presumed that the F-35 would be the last manned Fighter/ Ground Attack aircraft designed for the USAF.

 

Design Parameters

The F-35 is primarily being designed as a multi-role strike aircraft with optimization for ground attack duties. Ground attack duties essentially involves launching attacks on the enemy’s land assets like refineries, factories, rail lines etc., once dedicated air-superiority aircrafts like the F-22 Raptor [currently the most advanced stealth fighter in the world] have eliminated enemy aircrafts from the skies. Having said this, the air-to-air capabilities of the F-35 will be second only to that of the F-22 and far superior to any other legacy aircrafts or proposed ‘5th Generation’ Combat aircraft from Europe, Russia or China.

Stealth would be one of the most defining features of the F-35. The stealth capabilities of the F-35 would far superior to that of any existing aircraft currently available in the United State Air Force’s [USAF] inventory. This would enable the USAF to have an almost all-stealth aircraft inventory by 2025. This would greatly minimize the threats faced by a pilot during operations in heavily defended areas.

The objectives that the F-35 JSF seeks to achieve are ambitious: to be a single-pilot, survivable, first-day-of-the-war combat fighter with a precision, all-weather strike capability that uses a wide variety of air-to-surface and air-to-air weapons- and that defends itself in a dogfight. The F-35 program emphasizes low unit-flyaway cost and radically reduced life-cycle costs, while meeting a wide range of operational requirements. The stretch in combat radius means that the pilot can operate with reduced dependence on air refueling and can have significantly greater time on station for close air support or combat air patrol missions.

Three variants of the F-35 are being developed.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

 F-35A

This variant is a normal conventional take-off and landing [CTOL] variant of the aircraft. It is expected to replace legacy aircrafts like the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt and complement the F-22.

F-35B

This variant of the aircraft is going to be equipped with the ability to take-off over a short distance and land vertically. This concept is known as Short Take-off Vertical Landing [STOVL]. It is expected to replace existing aircrafts like the F/A-18 Hornet and the STOVL aircraft AV-8B Harrier. In fact, it would be the first supersonic aircraft in the world to be capable of STOVL.

F-35C

This aircraft variant is going to be developed keeping in mind that it will have to be able to take-off and land from a Naval Aircraft Carrier. It is expected to complement the F/A-18 E/F currently being operated by the U.S. Navy [USN].

Key design goals that need to be attained by the development of the F-35 JSF are as follows:

Survivability:

To reduce radio frequency/infrared signature and provide on-board countermeasures to survive in the future battlefield-leveraging off F-22 air superiority mission support.

Lethality:

To integrate on- and off-board sensors to enhance delivery of current and future precision weapons.

Supportability:

To reduce logistics footprint and increase the rate of sortie to provide more combat power earlier in the battlefield

Affordability:

To focus on reducing cost of developing, procuring and owning JSF and providing adequate force structure.

 

Features

The F-35 is going to be equipped with a wide array of features and technology that would greatly aid the pilot in his missions and give him the edge over the enemy in the battlefield theatre.

Few of the technologies, being developed as part of the JSF program are going to see the light of the day for the first time in the F-35.

Some of the most defining features and technologies that would be incorporated in the F-35 are as follows:

Low Observability:

In other words, stealth. The stealth capabilities of the F-35 would be far superior to any existing aircraft in the USAF’s present inventory. It could be termed as one of the single most defining feature of the F-35. A look at the aircraft makes it clear that fundamental shaping principles of a stealthy design has been adhered to. An integrated airframe design, advanced materials and an axisymmetric nozzle maximize the F-35's stealth features. The leading and trailing edges of the wing and tail have identical sweep angles (a design technique called planform alignment). The fuselage and canopy have sloping sides. The canopy seam and bay doors are saw-toothed. The vertical tails are canted. The engine face is deeply hidden by a serpentine inlet duct. The inlet itself has no boundary layer diverter channel, the space between the duct and the fuselage, to reflect radar energy. And, of course, weapons can be carried internally. This greatly reduces the F-35’s radar signature. Reports suggest that the radar signature of the F-35 is same as that of a Honeybee. In other words, both the F-35 and the Honeybee would appear to be of the same size on enemy’s radar screen.

Multi-Mission Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar:

The radar being developed for the F-35 will enable the pilot to effectively engage air and ground targets at long range, while also providing outstanding situational awareness for enhanced survivability. It is the most advanced radar system to be developed till now. In fact, so critical is the technology that U.S., who is developing this technology, is refusing to reveal the source codes even to U.K, its closes ally.

Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System [DAS]:

 F-3 Joint Strike Fighter (J.S.F)

This system will provide pilots with a unique protective sphere around the aircraft for enhanced situational awareness, missile warning, aircraft warning, day/night pilot vision, and fire control capability. Designated the AN/AAQ-37, and comprising six electro-optical sensors, the full Electro-Optical DAS will enhance the F-35's survivability and operational effectiveness by warning the pilot of incoming aircraft and missile threats, providing day/night vision and supporting the navigation function of the F-35's forward-looking infrared sensor.

Electro-Optical Targeting System [EOTS]:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (J.S.F)

The EOTS is an affordable, high-performance, lightweight, multi-functional system for precision air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting. The low-drag, stealthy EOTS is integrated into the Joint Strike Fighter's fuselage with a durable sapphire window and is linked to the aircraft's integrated central computer through a high-speed fiber-optic interface.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (J.S.F)

The EOTS uses a 3rd generation FLIR that provides superior target detection and identification at greatly increased standoff ranges. EOTS also provides high-resolution imagery, automatic tracking, infrared-search-and-track, laser designation and range-finding, and laser spot tracking. Sharing a Sniper legacy, it provides high reliability and efficient two-level maintenance.

Helmet Mounted Display System:

20081027jointstrikefighter06 Unlike the cockpit design of current-generation fighter aircraft, the F-35’s does not include a head-up display. Rather, the information normally visible on such a display is instead projected on the pilot’s helmet visor. Vision Systems International (VSI) is developing the most advanced and capable Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) for the F-35.

Utilizing extensive design experience gained on successful production Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD), the F-35 HMDS will replace the traditional Head-Up-Display (HUD) while offering true sensor fusion.

Interoperability:

The F-35 will have the most robust communications suite of any fighter aircraft built to date. The F-35 will be the first fighter to possess a satellite communications capability that integrates beyond line of sight communications throughout the spectrum of missions it is tasked to perform. The F-35 will contain the most modern tactical datalinks which will provide the sharing of data among its flight members as well as other airborne, surface and ground-based platforms required to perform assigned missions.

Diverterless Supersonic Inlet:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (J.S.F) The Diverterless Supersonic Inlet [DSI] used in the F-35 is the result of an ingenious approach to inlet design that has produced remarkable results in the inlet condition of air to its engine.

A combat aircraft, though may be capable of flying at speeds in the region of Mach 3 [MiG-25], can take in air only at sub-sonic speeds [Jet engines are not designed to sustain the shockwave associated with supersonic airflow]. Hence the supersonic air, at the inlet, must be slowed down to sub-sonic levels before being let in the engine. It must also maintain an accepted quality of airflow over a wide range of speeds, altitudes, and maneuvering conditions while accommodating the full range of engine airflow from idle to afterburning power.

It must also deal with the development of Boundary Layer at the inlet, which could disrupt the airflow to the engine, resulting in stalling. Legacy aircrafts use a complex system of mechanical arrangements, controlled by software, to slow down the speed of inlet air and divert the boundary layer away from the inlet. This leads to the increased weight and cost of the aircraft.

DSI is a remarkably ingenious design concept that makes use of a ‘bump’ surface which along with a forward swept-aft closing Cowl succeeds in diverting most of the boundary layer air away from the engine inlet. DSI contains no moving parts and hence a lot less complex than existing systems, without compromising on performance. Its relative simplicity also makes its more cost-effective to manufacture. The DSI bump functions as a compression surface and creates a pressure distribution that prevents the majority of the boundary layer air from entering the inlet at speeds up to Mach 2. The diverter-less inlet eliminates all moving parts.

Read the remaining part: Part 3, Part 4

Godspeed


Installing and running Windows Live Writer on Windows Server 2003 - use the *.msi file

Having been a Post2Blog user for some time now, and not necessarily unhappy with it, but also hearing a lot about Windows Live Writer, I decided to give it a try. However when I ran the setup file, I got a message which said that my OS is not supported. Sheesh!!!! a divorce even before the honeymoon - naaah!!!. Decided to do something to make it work.

First tried to run the setup file in compatibility mode - no luck, same message. Then turned to Google. No surprises here - Google had the perfect solution to my problem. The first result it produced  - Andrew Tokeley's blog had my answer. What on Earth would I have done had it not been for our dear, (not-so)old Google. Turns out that the program itself is perfectly compatible with my OS, but for some unfathomable reason, the developers have chosen not to make the installation file compatible. Wokay! so you want me to install program using its msi file - no problemo. Windows Live Writer has not officially released its program as a msi file. But the post had a link to the msi version. Using it I was able to install the program. If you have access to a computer that has a compatible OS installed, then just run the installation on that computer and copy the .msi file from its Temp directory. You can then use this file to install WLW on your Windows Server 2003-based terminal

20080429livewriter01 As the msi was of a slightly older build, I was hoping that it would get updated to the latest build in some time as I had Automatic Updates enabled for my computer. However even after almost around 10 hours of Internet usage the arrival of the updates was nowhere on the horizon. So then again began my search for the solution. I first tried to find offline download files for the update though the official links. No such luck (if I had, then I probably wouldn't be writing this anyway). Then again came Google to my rescue - the very first page20080429livewriter02 had my answer. Downloading the relevant cab file, I extracted and ran the msp file from it. Once done, the program was now been updated to the latest build, which is what I am using to post this blog (also one of the reasons why I am making this post - just to see how things will work out with this). Thus this is my first post that I am making here using my newly installed Windows Live Writer program updated to the latest build.

Related Links

Original page containing the link to the MSI file - German
Its translated counterpart - courtesy Google Translate Beta
Page containing link to the updates for Windows Live Writer

&author_id=214E38D6-CC5D-4A28-9115-00591447624F&page=0&top=0.5&bottom=0.5&left=1.5&right=1.0>PDF version


Monday, April 28, 2008

Update : Jaxtr stops free viewing of SMS

This post is expected to appear at 0215 IST - 3 hours after I had uploaded it


Hmmmm!!!!! This evening I messaged a friend using Jaxtr. However, instead of receiving a reply on expected lines, she sent back a message asking ’msg kya hai’ which translated in English means ’What is the message?’. Now this struck me as odd since it was quite evident that she had received an SMS but yet she was asking me what the message was. Sending an SMS on my own phone revealed the answer - SMS messages sent using Jaxtr will no longer arrive directly in your inbox, ie, no more free viewing of SMS sent using Jaxtr.


Instead it will send you a link asking you to log on to the Internet - either through WAP or GPRS (url is m.jaxtr.com) or a normal desktop Internet connection. Once on the page you enter a email id after which you get to read the SMS and reply back if need be. Earlier Jaxtr sent you the SMS directly to your cellphone’s inbox and if you wished to reply back, only then would you have to log on to the Internet and follow the procedure mentioned above. So this spells the end of free SMS sending and, with that, any interest Indians would have in this service, in its current state. This step has been taken by them essentially to generate more revenue, as the page that opens up contains URL to other similar but non-competing services. As they have already admitted to the possibility of introducing premium services in the future, probably a premium user would be allowed to send SMSes directly to the cellphone.


Anyway, in India, making use of this service just to send SMSes doesn’t quite make much sense (neither economic nor practical). Sending an SMS costs me Rs. 0.4 INR (around $0.01 USD) and it would have a much lower chance of not reaching the recipient (31st Dec/1st Jan being the exception). But it is quite interesting to be able to send data across services that essentially use different protocols and technologies for operation - primary reason why people here send it anyway, reliability notwithstanding.


If you still wish to send SMS through the Internet, then here in India two services that appear to work fairly well are - Yahoo! mail and Indyarocks. You need to register though before being able to send ou those messages.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thinkdigit.com Hacked !!!! (Digit's site hacked, but hacker causes no harm)

Thinkdigit.com


It is a development that is sure to have far reaching ramifications on the credibility of the organisations concerned. It was recently revealed that an unauthorized individual had succeeded in gaining access to the administrator control panel of the Thinkdigit.com site. The site in question is the online face of the Digit magazine, a popular and quite easily the highest selling Technology-oriented magazine in India. The ownership of the magazine had recently taken over by 9dot9 Media, a relatively new media group headed by Dr. Pramath Raj Sinha.


His achievement was helped by shoddy implementation of code on the recently revamped website. According to him, the poor coding skills exhibited by the site’s designers left it vulnerable to such exploits as SQL injection, XSS attack, Full Path Disclosure among others. Using one of these (or some other - he has not revealed his technique) methods he was able to break into the site. Proof of the achievement - screenshots posted on his site showing the various db entries that could have been taken only if you had admin access to it.


If you are yet to fathom the enormity of his achievement - after gaining access to the site’s Administrator control panel he could have run absolute riots with the site’s setup. Some examples - he could have re-directed the site to some other unmentionably illegal site, he could have deleted the all the site’s databases including that of its hyper-active forum or gathered the personal informations of all the forum members, among others. Instead, in following the ways of the highest principles of the purest of hacker ethics, he promptly reported the matter to the site’s Webmaster. He received a reply from them thanking him for bringing the vulnerabilities to light. Incidentally, he himself is a regular and respected member of the aforementioned forum. A Biology professor and a polite and well-spoken member, who at no point has ever indulged in flames and fanboyisms - an activity many forum member there participate with absolute glee and enthusiasm.


The task of re-designing the site had been entrusted upon Indus Net Technologies who claim,



"Indus Net Technologies is a premier Internet Consulting company offering diverse tailor made solutions to help organizations around the world gain an edge over competitors. We adhere to highest international standards and deliver visually appealing and technically perfect websites that exceeds your expectation......"


Well in face of this recent egg that has landed on their faces, they might want to re-think their future course of action and take a long hard look their company’s actual expertise (or lack of it).


Well one thing is for sure - the reputations of both companies is bound to take a major hit. Things may be even worse for Digit. There is a deluge of Technology-oriented magazines in India - T3, PC World, PC Quest, IC-Chip etc, all engaged in a cut-throat battle to reign supreme over the tech-fanatic Indian reader. Digit will have to go into some serious damage control mode to ensure that its advertisers aren’t turned off by this latest news and more importantly, its readers continue to remain loyal to it and not switch allegiance to a different publication.


As of now EPL (Arsenal notwithstanding) and the Champions League (semifinals notwithstanding) is all but forgotten for me. This development is faaaaaaar more interesting and gripping and I will be following with eager enthusiasm.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jaxtr : A VOIP-based social networking community


Jaxtr

The ever-growing list of Social Networking communities sees yet another aspirant - Jaxtr. However, what may help it stand out from the crowd, is the fact that has also employed a VOIP-based form of communication rather than just plain text. It also allows one to send free SMS-es to any cellphones/landlines in over 155 countries, India included. The community, which was in Beta testing, finally came out with a stable release this February 25th.


Signing up is simple - fill up a few info and you can start sending out SMS-es right away, even before your registered email id is verified. However one thing that I found extremely odd was that while registering, you need to enter the password only once.


Send SMSOnce signed up you can immediately start sending out SMS to people’s handsets. Just select the country where you wish to send the SMS - the country code will automatically append to your number once country is selected and then type in the Cellphone number (if the recipient’s landline accepts SMS-es then you need to add the STD code also). Then type in the message (65 character limit) and click send. Here in India the SMS-es service appears to be reaching the recipient. I had sent messages to Cellphones who either have Airtel or Idea as their service provider - the 2 largest Networks in India, and all of them successfully reached their destination across the country. Every message that reaches the recipient on their cellphones will contain a URL in it. The recipient can go online and enter the URL where he/she can reply back to the sender. This reply will be forwarded to the member’s e-mail inbox. The SMS feature appears to be working fine in India. One can also send text messages to a fellow Jaxtr member (100 character limit) from his/her profile page. The message is also routed to the recipient member’s email inbox.


Voice communications in Jaxtr is done in two ways - voicemails or phone calls (needs the recipient member to have a verified phone number). Voicemails can be made even if the member has not entered any verified phone number. A member can also have voicemails forwarded to their cellphone or landline. Before you can start receiving this, you must get the phone verified, which was again a simple process. At a later date you may also choose to remove the phone from the account thus preventing any further forwardings. In order to make voice calls or send a voicemail to a Jaxtr member, one can go either to the member’s profile page or use the user’s Jaxtr widget (explained later). Clicking on the link marked, Call me will open a small window, where you enter your number along with the country of your residence. Once entered it will try to generate a Local number to which you can call and talk to the Jaxtr member. This especially useful if the Jaxtr member you are trying to call is residing abroad. Thus you can call the person and just be charged for local calls instead of the actual International call rates. You need not be a Jaxtr member to make voice calls, but the recipient must. At present the list of countries for which it can generate local numbers is limited and India is not included. An Indian, when tries to call up a Jaxtr member, is allotted a +1 code US number to make the call to.


They have setup a Social Networking community around this service. It is called Cafe Jaxtr. One can 20080424jaxtr06choose to be listed on its member page or opt out of it. You can enter your interests and likings (things that you would like to talk about) in your profile page. Clicking on your listed interest in your profile page will take you to a page showing you the other members who have listed the same interest in their profile. You could select one of them and call them up to have conversation about your common interest (a good conversation starter). Alternatively you could click on the flag of your country (attached automatically when you list your country in the profile page) and find fellow members who have claimed similar Nationality or could click on flags of other countries to view the members. The latter could be useful if you are learning a new language. You could call up a person from that county and practise your language skills with a native. However, there are a few issues that needs to be sorted out. Though a person may be added as a friend it need not always be shown in my profile page.


For example, I had created 2 profiles for this - guyjaxtr and guyjaxtr007.


My guyjaxtr friend’s list.


guyjaxtr friends list


It also lists me in my friend’s list. I am my own friend :D.


However my profile page does not list guyjaxtr007 as a contact


guyjaxtr profile page


I also apear to be a visitor to my own page.


However things appear to be working well in my guyjaxtr007 account


guyjaxtr007 friends list


guyjaxtr007 profile page


Also removing someone from a friend’s list seems to be a little tricky (outright impossible as I am beginning to conclude). However you can filter calls from anybody you wish not to receive them. In my opinion a member must be asked if he or she would like to add another member in her or his list and once accepted, each others profiles must become automatically visible in the other’s profile page.These quirks, though not alarming, need to be dealt with if it wants to emerge as a noteworthy social networking community. However to its credit, the stable version is only in version 1.0 currently.


Jaxtr WidgetOne can also include a flash-based widget on ones site/blog/other social networking community (the one shown here is a dummy). It can be customized according to ones liking. Using this widget, anybody can contact you either through text messages, or voicemail or even call you if you allow. The procedure is same as above. You can also send the person a text message which will be directed to his/her mail inbox. However unlike text messaging him from his profile page where you will have to login to text message him and also have a limit of 100 character, from the widget no logging in is required and one has a character limit of 180. Yet another thing that I found quirky was the fact that even if you do do not verify a phone for your account the Call me free! button will appear nevertheless. Without a verified phone two-way voice communication is impossible. IMO this button should not be present or disabled when there is no verified phone in the member’s account. This discrepancy, especially in text messaging IMO should be done away with as the messages are getting routed to the email inbox in both cases.


Yet another oddity is how you can search for friends if you do not have their profile link. Through your friend searchJaxtr account you log into your corresponding email inbox account (a substantial list present there) and download your contact details for cross checking. Not only are people uncomfortable with the method of logging in, I also think it is ineffective. People (like me) have compartmentalized tasks and identities by setting different accounts for different tasks (though all consolidated into one account with POP3). So it need not be necessary that the email id I give my friends for contact would be the same I had used for signing up here. A more conventional search for the person’s name would be more appropriate and appealing.


Having said this, I found their approach to social networking quite refreshing. Their voice and text communication feature is in place. They must now find ways to use this to make their social networking interactions more vibrant and engaging. Otherwise, it will turn into just another a service for sending out free SMS-es and making cheap calls (wherever applicable) - something it is now, in India at least (on the SMS front). As an Indian the only useful feature I found was sending out free, ad-free SMS-es. However other services too offer this feature in India and some with the option to send out bulk SMS-es, something Jaxtr lacks.


Though generation of a local number to make voice calls affects the revenue of the host Telecom company, it shouldn’t be as much of a thorn as Skype is. This is because, unlike Skype that allows free direct pc-to-pc voice chat, any voice-based communication conducted through Jaxtr will have to be performed with an existing landline or cellphone, thereby adding to the telecom company’s revenue earnings. However making international calls at local call rates will hurt them.


Jaxtr is backed by pedigree though. One of its investors is Konstantin Guericke, who had earlier founded the social networking site for professionals - Linkedin.


Jaxtr Inc. is a Californian startup by two individuals - Phillip Mobin and Touraj Parang.


Expecting further versions of this community to have more refined features and services.


Monday, April 21, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: An Overview 01

Abstract

Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] program is a joint, multinational acquisition program for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and eight cooperative international partners. Expected to be the largest military aircraft procurement ever, the stealth, supersonic F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) will replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied defense forces worldwide. The program’s hallmark is affordability achieved through a high degree of aircraft commonality among three variants: conventional takeoff/landing (CTOL), carrier variant (CV) and short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. Innovative concepts and advanced technologies will significantly reduce weapon system life-cycle costs while meeting the strike weapon system requirements of military customers.

The paper would attempt to explain some of the key features of the aircraft and innovative technologies and concepts being applied to develop, what is arguably the most advanced combat aircraft ever.

Read the remaining parts: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Godspeed

Sunday, April 20, 2008

DNS Bajaj : Graphical representation of domain records delegation


20080420dnsbajaj00

DNS Bajaj (pronounced DNS by Eye) is an online service that generates a graphical representation of the propagation of Domain records of your site through the Name servers handling your DNS. As the name suggests, it allows you to view the delegation of your domain through the Name servers in a graphical manner and helps pinpoint any errors that may have occurred in setting up your DNS.


Type in the domain name you wish to check. A little while later, the service will produce an automatically generated image for you to analyse or just plain gawk at. The image shows you the servers that handle your query for accessing a particular site - right from the Root Nameserver to the Name servers handling your sites DNS. We will take a better look at the service by analyzing the result of a domain - mechworld.co.cc. (please note that though one need not put the "."to the right of cc, it is in fact assumed present and called the root domain and any query always passes through its servers)


This is the image result generated for the domain.


(click on the picture to view a larger sized image)
www.mechworld.co.cc


The query for mechworld.co.cc will start from the fastest accessible Root-server. In this case it turned out to be d.root-servers.net. The Root-server looks up its record database and finds the Name server handling queries for cc. domains. a5.nstld.com was found to be the fastest and easily accessible name servers handling cc. queries. The process is followed again, where this server looks through its records to locate the Nameserver handling co.cc. queries - ns1.co.cc and ns2.co.cc. Your query is forwarded accordingly. Once it reaches the co.cc. Nameservers, it would look through its records to see which DNS Nameservers you have entered to handle queries for your site - mechworld.co.cc.


In this case 5 Name servers have been used - ns1.us.editdns.net, ns2.us.editdns.net, ns3.us.editdns.net, ns1.eu.editdns.net and ns2.eu.editdns.net. It is shown accordingly in the graph depicted in the first rectangle.


The second rectangle, showing all my 5 Nameservers in it represents the communication of domain records that takes place between the servers. Since there are 5 Name Servers, in normal working condition all the 5 Namservers must communicate the records with the other 4. As a result, it is should be depicted by 4 arrows emerging from the diagram of each Name server and 4 terminating in it. However, as the circled arrow indicates, each of these Nameservers will have an arrow that emerges and terminates in itself. Thus there will be 5 arrows emerging from it and 5 terminating in it. Any Nameserver having this self-emerging and terminating arrow indicates that this Nameserver is authoritative of your domain name. For any Nameserver to be considered Authoritative, it must be entered in the Domain registrar’s control panel (explained later).


How can you put DNS Bajaj to some good use?


Take a look at this result image.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)

www.online.co.cc


Recently I was trying to create a Primary-slave Nameserver setup for my blog. Before implementing it here I tried it out on a dummy blog that I created for testing. I had made EveryDNS as my primary domain and EditDNS as the secondary/slave domain. However even after a fairly long time after I had setup this thing, I found that the domain records were not being updated in EditDNS. So I ran this service for my domain name and sure enough it confirmed this error in delegation of records. None of the Secondary Nameservers - ns1.us.editdns.net and ns2.us.editdns.net, that I had entered in the co.cc control panel had my domain records. They were appropriately marked in red colored rhombus. But what actually enabled me to pinpoint the problem was the Nameserver ns4.everydns.net also being marked in red. This is of significance as the server in question also handles axfr queries (ns4.everydns.net = axfr.everydns.net = 64.158.219.3). This was confirmed when I tried to ping this server and was unsuccessful in it. I reported the matter and this was later confirmed by EveryDNS. Though I later ran a combination of ping and nslookup commands (dig, if you wish) to confirm this, using DNS Bajaj, IMHO, is a far more convenient and faster option for carrying out your initial diagnosis. You may even download and install the DNS Bajaj script on your own computer.


This is the blog’s setup of Nameservers and delegation of domain records.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)

www.shubhspace.co.cc


Since the domain registrar - co.cc, allows account holders to enter only 5 Nameservers, the ones listed outside the second rectangle coud not be entered in the control panel and hence are not considered authoritative. At various points, I had entered the Nameservers currently outside in the domain registrar’s control panel and on each occasion they were depicted as Authoritative for the domain. However a Nameserver could be entered in the registrar’s control panel and still not be Authoritative. It all depends upon the way the Nameservers have been set up by its Administrators. The service can also show you all the subdomains associated with the domain name. However, this is a feature you can all but forget. No self-respecting Admin of a Nameserver will ever entertain zonetransfer requests from any Tom, Dick or Harry (ie, you).


The code for this service has been written by Bjorn Isaksson,which he has termed as a proof of concept. DNS Bajaj is a pearl script that uses Net::DNS module to query the domain’s Nameservers for the delegation and then forwards the result to Graphviz, developed by AT&T to generate the image.


The graphical representation of delegation of domain records of some popular sites


(click on the images to view a larger sized image)



<>
</><>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</> <>
</>

www.google.com


www.google.com


www.microsoft.com


www.af.mil


www.af.mil


www.yahoo.com


www.thinkdigit.com


www.infosys.com


www.sun.com


www.apple.com


www.apple.com


Please note that though this service depicts the delegation of your domain records, any query requesting your site need not always access the Nameservers handling your domain. The Internet is peppered with DNS servers that hold cache of your domain records. One of those may intercept your query and forward it to the requested hosting server, thereby saving time. To follow the actual path followed when you query a site, use tracert.


If you have any queries, suggestions or criticisms about this post, feel free to drop in a comment. I will definitely try to address the issue to the best of my ability.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Google Email Uploader : Transfer/copy/import all your emails to your Google Apps email account

Scenario: You have created your email account with Google Apps and are satisfied with its performance. You now intend to migrate completely to your Google Apps account and wish to close your old email account in due course. However you have a lot of contacts in your Address book and important read/unread email correspondences in the inbox of your old account that you have also labeled and you do not wish to delete. Well now you can easily transfer all your old emails, contacts and labels from that account to your new Google Apps account.


Introducing - Google Email Uploader


"The Google Email Uploader is a open source desktop utility for Microsoft Windows. It uploads email and contacts from desktop email programs (like Microsoft Outlook®) into your Google Apps mailbox. It preserves information such as sent dates and sender/recipient data, as well as the folder structure used by email programs."


Before you can upload your emails to your new inbox, you will need to have the mails to be physically present on your Hard disk. It means that you will have to transfer all the old mails from your old account using POP3. IMAP won’t work with Google Email Uploader. If not using any email client already, I would suggest that you use Thunderbird. It is a free, open source email client that I personally find to be a very convenient tool to use for my e-mails and RSS subscriptions.


Once al your old emails have been transferred to your inbox, run the uploader program.


You shall be greeted with a screen that asks you to click on the Next button. (Can Google make things any more simpler)


20080411uploader01


On the next screen you will be asked to login to your target Google Apps account. I had created an account example@shubhspace.co.cc and so login accordingly.


20080411uploader02


Once your login has been validated, you will be taken to the screen that shows you the list of inboxes that is present in your email client (Thunderbird in my case).


20080411uploader03


Select the inbox that you wish to upload to your Google Apps account. Clicking on the inbox to be uploaded will automatically select the POP3 server that will be queried. Once this is done, clicking on the Next button will take you to another screen where you will again have to take a few decisions (Using these innocuous softwares, Google is training the future crop of Management executive). If you have already read the mails then you may want to select the Archive everything option.


20080411uploader04


Clicking on upload will commence the upload process and you shall be shown the progress of the upload.


20080411uploader05


Once the upload process is over it shall inform you of the same. You are informed that the mails will take 48 hours to appear in your new inbox, which I found to be an overly safe guideline. Anyway, you may wait for 48 hours before logging into your Google Apps inbox.


20080411uploader06


On logging in your inbox that will look something like this.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)
20080411uploader07_tn


All your mails from the old inbox have been transferred to your new Google Apps mail inbox with the Imported/Inbox label attached to each. If you had contacts in your old inbox and labeled your mails, they too will be shown here.


There you go, all your mails, contacts and labels have now been transferred to your new Google Apps email account with just a few mouse clicks. Any doubts, queries, criticisms could be put in the comment below and I shall try to address them to the best of my ability.


Note:
If you are a user of a Yahoo! India email account (@yahoo.co.in) or a Gmail user, then you can use the POP3 feature for free. However, other Yahoo! account holders (@yahoo.com) will either have to pay to use this service or may use a freeware tool called YPOPs! to access your Yahoo! mails from any email client. Hotmail users too have to pay in order to make use of the POP3 feature. A service called IzyMail does exist that allows you to do the same with multiple email account provider, but it is a paid service. Though they say Free registration, I am not sure what it means when you have to pay to use their service. I haven’t had the need to use it yet.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Creating your own, unique email id - Microsoft's Live Domain

Please click here if you wish to create you own, unique e-mail id using Google Apps.

The instructions give in this post are best followed using Internet Explorer.

The first one was an outcome of a necessity. However, since creating my own customized, e-mail id using Google Apps, I wanted to take a look at other similar services on offer. One such service is Windows Live Admin Center (will be referred to as Live Domains in the remaining portion of this post) on offer by Microsoft (MS). It was formerly called Windows Live Custom Domains. Just like Google, it offers you the use of all of its services under your own domain name.
In order to create your own, unique, customized email id, you will be making use of 3 services


A Domain Name


When you register with a web-based e-mail service provider, your mail id would read something like example@gmail.com, example@hotmail.com or example@yahoo.com. In these ids, you may replace the example with any alphanumeric characters of your choice, subject to its availability. However, there is almost no provision to change the characters that appear to the right of the ’@’ symbol. This is because, it is the domain name of the service provider who is providing you with the e-mail service. In order to have full control over your choice of e-mail id, you must have your very own domain name. You could choose to purchase a domain name with TLDs like .com, .org, .net etc. For this tutorial we will be using all Free services, meaning, no money requires to be shelled out ;).


Before signing up with a free domain name provider, please ensure that they allow for the use of DNS service and are not just a url re-direction provider. Two free domain registrars that allow for the use of DNS facility are co.cc and uni.cc. Of these we shall be making use of a co.cc domain name. There are quite a few reasons for doing so - co.cc has explicitly stated its support to the use of its issued domain names for use in Live domains, it also allows you to enter the names of upto 5 Nameservers and an example.co.cc domain name is a nicer sounding address ;).


Click here to visit co.cc’s website. On the front page you shall be greeted with a box where you can check the availability of a given domain name. Type in the domain name in the box and click on the button labeled Check.


20080331uniquemail01


If the domain name is available and available for free, then you shall be greeted with this message in the next page.


20080331uniquemail02


Click on the button labeled Continue to registration. You would then be taken to this page.


20080331uniquemail03


If you already have an account then all you need to do is filled in the required info to login and then setup your account. If, however, you have not already registered then, click on the link labeled Create an account now. The next page will ask you to furnish a lot of details. My advice to you would be to only enter a valid, existing e-mail id and fudge all the other information. Once you have successfully registered, enter your account. Click on the link titled My account on the front page. There you shall see your registered Domain name marked in Red.


20080331uniquemail04


Click on the Edit button. You shall be taken to a page that will have listed two options - Option 1 and Option 2. Selecting Option 1 shall open the Manage Name Server option by default. Click on the link titled [+ Add More Name Servers] twice, creating a total of 5 empty boxes. In those boxes enter the following informations - ns1.us.editdns.net, ns2.us.editdns.net, ns3.us.editdns.net, ns1.eu.editdns.net and ns2.eu.editdns.net. The reason for entering those information shall be explained later.


(click on the image to see a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail05_tn

Once this is done, click on the box labeled Setup domain. You will next be taken to a page where the Name servers you had entered here will be listed out.


20080331uniquemail06


Your work in your co.cc account’s control panel is over. You may now safely log out.


A DNS Nameserver service - [Part 1]


A DNS server links your domain name to your corresponding host to which data is being sent. One such popular, free DNS service provider is EditDNS. Registering for an account in EditDNS is a complete no-brainer. I shall leave it to you to figure it out. Once registered, log in. On logging in you will be greeted with a page that will ask you to put up its banner on your site. Leave that aside for a while and click on the link titled Control Center. First time you enter the Control Center, you will observe that the page is divided into two parts. On the right side of the page you will see a box labeled Domain Name. Type in the address of your domain name and click on the Add button.


20080331uniquemail07


On clicking the button, you shall be taken to a page informing you of the successful addition of the domain name. Scroll down the page to the section titled Additional Services. Click on the link labeled [EU+US].


20080331uniquemail08


By clicking on it, you enable the option of using their Nameservers located in both the United States and Europe. It is a good practise to have your Name servers located in Geographically different locations. Accordingly, on clicking the link you shall be taken to a page where you will be asked to enter the following entries of Nameservers in your domain registrar’s control panel - ns1.us.editdns.net, ns2.us.editdns.net, ns3.us.editdns.net, ns1.eu.editdns.net and ns2.eu.editdns.net. This is something we had already entered earlier. Scroll down that page and you shall see your domain records.


(click on the image to see a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail09_tn

Delete the dummy A-records present in the list. Your work in the EditDNS control panel is over for the time-being. You may log out.


Windows Live Admin Center - [Part 1]


It is a service offered by Microsoft, where you can associate your domain name with the products and services offered by it. Some of them are mail (Hotmail), blog (Space), map (Maps) etc. Thus, you would be sending emails using the same technology and interface as that of hotmail, but instead of an example@hotmail.com address, people recieving and sending mail will be encountering an example@domainname.com-kinda address. It also enables collaborative efforts between users of these services of one domain name.


Click here to get started. The first page will ask you to enter the domain name with which you wish to use the service. Select the Set up Windows Live Hotmail for my domain option there.


20080331uniquemail10


Assuming that you do not have a Live ID, you will have to create one. On the next page you shall be asked to furnish a lot o details. My suggestion, provide a genuine e-mail id and fudge all the other details (alternate e-mail id need not be provided, but it is safer if you do). One done, you will be asked to reviews the entered data.


20080331uniquemail11


On confirming, you will then be taken to your domains account settings page. The fact that your page looks so jaundiced is because, the DNS records for your domain has not yet been set up. Note down the information pertaining to MX Record, Text Record and SRV record pertaining to your account.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail14_tn

So now with the record information we have been provided, we will have to go back to our Edit DNS account and update our Domain records. In order to use the services, we will initially have to add the following entries to our Domain records. The information pertaining to each are as follows.


1 MX record [required]


Host: mechworld.co.cc
MX server: 2043506188.pamx1.hotmail.com (You may be allotted a different server)
TTL: 3600 or 1 hour
Priority: 10 (or High priority)


1 Text record [recommended]


Host: mechworld.co.cc
Value: v=spf1 include:hotmail.com ~all
TTL: 3600 or 1 hour (if requested)


1 SRV record [not required for this post, but will be added nevertheless]


Host: _sipfederationtls._tcp.mechworld.co.cc
Value: 10 2 5061 federation.messenger.msn.com


A DNS Nameserver service - [Part 2]


Log back into your EditDNS account and enter your Control Center. Once there, click on the likn labeled Modify in front of your domain name. It will take you to the page where your domain records can be updated. The entries to your domain records have to be added through a section that looks lke this.


(click on the image to see a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail15_tn

Just enter the following info corresponding to each record entry in the titled boxes:


MX record


Record Name : mechworld.co.cc
Type : MX
AUX : 10
TTL : 3600 (you may also keep it unchanged)
IP/Host : 2043506188.pamx1.hotmail.com (Enter the one you have been allotted)
[Click the Add button]


Text record


Record Name : mechworld.co.cc
Type : TXT
TTL : 3600 (you may also keep it unchanged)
IP/Host : v=spf1 include:hotmail.com ~all
[Click the Add button]


SRV Record


Record Name : _sipfederationtls._tcp.mechworld.co.cc
Type : SRV
TTL : 10
IP/Host : 2 5061 federation.messenger.msn.com
[Click on the Add button]


CNAME Record


Record Name : mail (your choice of word)
Type : CNAME
IP/Host : go.domains.live.com
[Click on the Add button]


(Please note down Record name that you have used for the CNAME record. You will be needing it later)


Once these records have been added, your domain records should look something like this.


(click on the image to see a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail16_tn

I have blanked out the unrelated records. Your work in the EditDNS is over. You may log off. Wait for around 30 minutes before doing anything further.


Windows Live Admin Center - [Part 2]


Log back into your Live domains account. You shall be taken to a page where you will be shown the list of domains you have added. As we have added just one till now, click on the link for that domain name. You shall then be taken back to the earlier page where all the information regarding entries to be added in your Domain records. If you have not been taken to that page, then click on the link titled Domain settings. It may still be shown in Yellow. If so, click on the Refresh button. On doing this the page will look like this.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail17_tn

When you get to view this page, then click on the link titled, Custom addresses, just below the Domain settings link. The page that opens up will give you the option of associating your domain name with its services. since we are looking at our customized e-mail id, from the drop down menu select Hotmail and click Add.


20080331uniquemail18

It will open up a pop-up window, where you shall be asked to associate a name for the sub domain that you will be creating for accessing your mail account directly. You will have to use the same word for which you have created a CNAME record in EditDNS (I had asked you to note it down :)). I had entered mail in my EditDNS records. So I type it in accordingly.


20080331uniquemail19


Once this has been added, the next page would look something like this.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail20_tn

You are being instructed to add a CNAME record in your Domain setup. You have already done that. So your account has been pretty much setup. (Just verify the server to which the CNAME record should point to. If it is different from go.domains.live.com, then go back to EditDNS and delete the existing CNAME record and add the correct one.). Wait for around 15 minutes (a safe time frame). Go back to the Domain Settings page and click on the Refresh button. The page will now reflect the changes you have made to your Domain records.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail21_tn

When you are able to see this page, it would mean that Microsoft has successfully verified that you have added the correct domain records for using its services. With the service now successfully setup, it is time for you to start adding accounts and usernames who would be using your customized e-mail id. Click on the Member accounts link. On the page that will open up, click on the button labeled Add.


20080331uniquemail22


You will then have to furnish some details. My suggestion again. Except for the desired e-mail id, fudge all the other remaining info.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail23_tn

Once done, you shall be taken to the page listing out the number of accounts created and its identitites.


(click on the image to view a larger sized image)


20080331uniquemail24_tn

You can create a number of ids for different people who would be interested in using the customized ids and it would be reflected here. Now all that remains, is for you to access your newly created, freshly baked e-mail account and start sending out e-mails to the world announcing your arrival. Wait for around 24 hours for your domain records to propogate (a safe time frame). You can now access the login page by typing in the assigned url (mail.mechworld.co.cc, in my case). You shall be taken to the login page.


Login here


20080331uniquemail25


Fill in some MORE info


20080331uniquemail26_tn


Welcome to your new inbox with a customized e-mail id to boot (look top right)


20080331uniquemail27_tn

By following the above instructions, you will have a fully functional, unique, customized e-mail id. Explore the service to know more about its features and try out its services all being offered to you for free.


Note : I wanted to talk about Open memberships and accessing multiple accounts from a single account. However the length of this post and the ache in my fingertips, caused by incessant typing, has prompted my to postpone it for another post. They are small but useful features. But it should not stop you from using your e-mail account in its current form.


If you have any queries, feel free to add them in the comments. I would be glad to address them.