06 02 2009

Fri, 06 Feb 2009

Chelonia Mobile -- or -- IPv6 for the people

A couple of weeks ago, I helped my mom, who lives in Paris, to setup her new ADSL connection. Nothing unusual there, most of you reading this have to live with the occasional burden of being the first line of PC support for your family and friend. Those who won't take "... but I don't work with PCs!" for an answer.

I'd decided to migrate her away from her current TV/Internet cable provider which had been getting more expensive with nothing of value to offer for the price hike. We're talking 60 EUR / month (ca. 450 DKK, for the Euro-challenged), which by French Internet market standards is pretty expensive. For this, she was getting 40-or-so channels, IP telephony, and 4/1 Mbps Internet (100/4 Mbps if we renewed the contract, which we didn't).

So I made her subscribe to Free, the second largest DSL provider in France (after France Telecom/Orange, the legacy national operator).

I guided my mom through the installation over the phone, since I live in Copenhagen; and while my mom is no technical guru (she still calls me when she receives popups from Software Update on the Mac, asking me if it's safe to say "Accept"), we got things up and running in under a couple of hours.

Free likes to do things differently. Take for instance the way they price their access. With Free, you don't pay more if you want a higher speed service. Free provisions your DSL at the highest speed the loop will allow, which in the case of the copper at my mom's place, is 18 Mbit/s down and 1 Mbit/s up. Not too bad. Had the DSLAM been closer, it would have been 24 Mbit/s.

And of course she gets IP telephony. Flatrate to all landlines in Europe, and North America.

Then you get the 150 channels in the base package. There's 300 to choose from, and you can pick individual channels. Want CNN ? That's 0,7 EUR / month on top (5 DKK).

And it's much cheaper... 30 EUR / month (225 DKK).

Like I mentioned earlier, Free likes to do things differently. Both the founder (Xavier Niel) and technical director (Rani Assaf) have a reputation for being mavericks. For example, Free was one, if not the first ISP to develop in-house combination DSL modem and set-top-box/video recorder, the Freebox. This gave them a huge advantage over the competition when it came to providing extra services, a long time before anyone else.

Features like VideoLan client (VLC) support, allowing you to watch any of the subscribed channels, or a pre-recorded program, from any computer in the home. Or do the reverse: the VLC client in the set-top-box will let you watch films stored on your computer, provided you can serve them over HTTP. Or SIP service so you can use your VoIP line from anywhere in the world. Did I mention the fact that the set-top-box is HD, has a built-in hard disk recorder, and communicates with the DSL modem using PLC ? If for some reason that doesn't work, no problem they'll just switch to WiFi.

I almost forgot the reason I was writing this in the first place.


You know, the protocol that according to various Danish ISPs, "... only Vista implements ...", or "... hasn't been deployed yet ..."

Did I mention that Free doesn't like to do things like anyone else ?

Actually, Free isn't the only French ISP to deploy IPv6. In fact, Nerim was the first to offer native IPv6, already in March 2003, mostly targeted to their semi-professional customers.

But the way it happened in Free's case, was that Rani Assaf got tired of the loud handful of geeks on the Free support newgroups inquiring as to when IPv6 would be available. As a response, he wrote in the same support forum:

- Find 10.000 people who are interested by this gadget, and we'll do it for 1 EUR / month

- Find 100.000 people, and we'll do it for free.

They got 24.000 signatures (they do have 3.5 million subscribers...), and they ended up delivering IPv6 at no additional cost. Some will argue it's not native IPv6 (they tunnel IPv6 back to their core using a variation of 6to4 called 6to4rd, where it's pure IPv6 once again), but hey, ping6 tells me it works.

Since then, other businesses are catching up, and competition is fierce.

OVH, a large hosting company established in France and a few other European countries, offers colocated servers to rent (the Kimsufi) from basic virtual server with 9 GB of space at 40 DKK / month, to dedicated machines for 150 DKK / month. And this includes unlimited bandwidth... and native IPv6. Free has an equivalent, albeit at a slightly higher price.

In the case of my mom's DSL, it was very easy to enable IPv6. By default the Freebox functions as a bridge (probably not a wise choice security wise), but it took only a couple of clicks on the Free's user portal to change the operation mode to router, enabling DHCP, firewall and NAT services on the Freebox, as well as IP6 router advertisement.

All that was left was to enable IPv6 autoconfiguration on my mom's Mac, and once that was done, IPv6 was active.

So what does my mom get out of all this ? Well, she doesn't know or care what IPv6 is. She's 66, and she's a painter. In her most recent mail, she was waiting for one of her friends to pass by and show her how to record stuff on the Freebox. Just before that she'd called me to make sure it was still all right to say OK to the Software Update dialog.

But without knowing it, she's already using IPv6. Nameservers, a few websites, Google if you setup your caching nameservers correctly.

And I know that if I told her to point her browser to www.kame.net the turtle on the screen would move...

(thank you Itojun)


posted at: 00:59 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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