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February 27, 2008

What the heck is IPv6?

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

In Monday’s blog I explained how the world is desperately running out of oil. Uh, I mean carbon dioxide. Um, food? No. Oh, that’s right, it was IP Addresses. Add that to your list of things to panic over.

Well, realistically, there’s no need to panic over a dearth of IP addresses. Where it seems like the world is always tragically on the brink of some depletion disaster, the dawning IP address crisis is being dealt with. The solution is to upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6.

IPv4, if you recall from Monday’s blog, is the Internet Protocol version 4. If you’re clever at word games, you can guess that IPv6 is the Internet Protocol version 6.

IPv6 expands the number of IP addresses into the zillions. Specifically, under IPv6, there will be available 2128 IP addresses. That’s a huge number and I really don’t want to type it for you. But to put it in perspective, IPv6 allows for around 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 IP addresses per person alive on the planet today. All 6,500,000,000 of us, plus or minus.

(50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is Fifty Jillion.)

The IPv6 standard expands the total number of IP addresses by changing the IP address format. If you recall from your notes, IPv4 uses the dotted-quad notation. The 123.0.10.255 thing you’d seen in literature and probably sung songs about while you were at computer camp last summer. With IPv6, however, an IP address looks like this:

fe80:0000:0000:0000:020a:95ef:fad5:5e54

Holy smokes! Yes, it’s longer. It has to be. Plus it’s written using base-16 notation (hexadecimal), so you’ll find letters A through F in there in addition to the standard human numbers 0 through 9.

The IP address can be abbreviated by squishing out the zeros:

fe80::020a:95ef:fad5:5e54

The :: thing means “there’s nothing between us but the proper number of zeros.” That’s one way to keep humans from going batty, but you’ll probably never have to type in a monster IPv6 address; the computer will do the work for you. (Or so it says in the brochure.)

IPv6 is slowly being adopted as IPv4 is being faded out. As a human, you won’t notice any differences. As long as you keep your computer’s operating system updated, then you’ll be okay. In fact, if there are any problems, it will be for the software developers to hammer out. We’ll all just sit back and laugh.

IPv5 Update. Yes, there was an IPv5. It was created in 1979. It was experimental. It’s now living in the Florida panhandle subsiding off the generosity of the Salvation Army.

Politics. Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC.

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