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VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Vint Cerf at Jozihub, full live blog of the fireside chat

Father of the internet, creator of the TCP/IP protocol and Google evangelist Vint Cerf was down at Jozihub today for ‘a fireside chat’. Here’s our live blog of the event, full video above.


Hello folks, it’s twenty past two on Friday 6th August, and we’re down at Jozihub to hear the father of the internet, inventor of TCP/IP and Google evangelist Vint Cerf speak.

The video feed is (hopefully) embedded above, and I’ll be posting regular updates from here on too. The latest update will be directly beneath this line, refresh for updates (sorry).

15:30 And with that, Mr Cerf is off – on his way to next appointment.

15:27 htxt.africa’s question is raised: The Guardian wants to go back to face to face meetings for journalists and abandon electronic communications. How does this make you feel? “This is a really serious issue and it needs a serious response. We have a responsibility to allow people to protect their privacy. We’re going to 2048bit keys for our encryption… we want hardware to support the security too.” Digitally signed BIOSes are also a  good thing.

“I want everyone to use two-factor authentication, and we have an obligation to teac people how to use this technology… In a strange way, this is a galvanising time to help [raise these issues].

15:22 “It’s wonderful to see Vint again, we first met in 1973 at a NATO conference in Brighton.”

15:20 “There was a small group of people who participated in that activity in joburg, who saw 40 years into the future in that demo.”

15:18 There’s a guy in the audience who worked with Cerf to build South Africa’s first Arpanet node in 1974.

15:14 On the problems of sending a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri and communicating with it. “I need an interplanetary backbone to build a synthetic aperture receiver” and he’s lost us. But it’s awesome. really.

15:09 On problems with long distance wireless and communicating with Mars via TCP/IP: “One of the big problems you’ve got is planetary rotation, and we haven’t figured out how to top that.” Basically, TCP/IP stops working over long range, but new protocols have been used to communicate with satellites, International Space Station and the solar orbiting probe. “We have a nascent interplanetary backbone… if it becomes standardised every new spaceships will become a node.”

15:07 Also, however, network neutrality should be based on type of servic,e rather than premium payments. So if one type of traffic needs to be low latency, everyone using the network for that service should get the same latency.

15:05 On to net neutrality – “From my point of view, it had to do with anti-competitive business practices. If you control access to the internet [ISP] you cannot interfere with people who are using your bandwidth for a service you also provide… It doesn’t say that every packet has to be treated the same.” This is a really interesting distinction, which will likely disappoint some cmpaigners.

15:02 “I’d like to see a sea change in the way we regulate spectrum” – Cerf moves on to initiatives like TV White Spaces (that Google invests in) to make more efficient use of spectrum. If governments want to make money from spectrum don’t licence large chunks, allocate small chunks and tax the businesses who use it successfully – radical new business model.

14:59 There’s plenty of spectrum for wireless techs: “We’re still operating with a 1916 radio mindset. We didn’t understand how crappy our receivers were back then, we didn’t realise how much noise was polluting the channel… It’s long been superceded [but we still licence chunks of the spectrum to people who don’t use them much]”.

14:57 Persistence and patience is important, but if you don’t have infinite pockets you need someone to back you… we need more stories of businesses that have failed but the entrepreneurs went on to success. Cerf likens business writing to novelists – how many people have gone through multiple rejections before creating a best-seller (Gone With the Wind, JK Rowling, The Beatles).

14:55 Experience is important, if your business fails, investors shouldn’t necessarily be put off your next venture.

14:53 An anecdote about a big meeting of Californian tech heads in the 90s, Tony Blair asked “How do we turn London into Silicon Valley?” Apparently embarrassment ensued until Steve Jobs volunteered an idea about not punishing businesses for failure.

14:50 On technology entrepreneurs: “The basic engine of technology transfer is people going from a research environment into a business.” Sweden spends 4.4% of its GDP on R&D, as a result a lot of small businesses formed – bit not many grew. Question is why did so few large businesses form: “When we bore into this, it turns out there’s a problem. In Sweden, if you’re the CEO of a company, you’re personally liable for its debt”. That makes many businesses risk averse.

14:45 “We are our own worst enemy when it comes to privacy” – Cerf gives an example of getting caught in the background of a tourist picture, which gives away your location to anyone who sees you in it. “I’m optimistic that we will evolve social conventions for dealing with this, as we have for behaving in public, for example… some people break them, but they’re often jerks.”

14:44 Now highlighting the distinction between commercial data collection and government intelligence. “We need to differentiate between the two… Commercial information is not a threat. Companies need to take steps to let the user know what information is being accumulated and what is being used for commercial purposes.”

Highlights Google’s data dashboard and transparency reports.

14:43 On security and encryption: “Will you please use two-factor authentication”.

14:40 Cerf says IPv4 was always supposed to be a prototype: “In 1996 we realised we wree going to run out of address space. The experiment got out into the pulic space before we had the production version – IPv6 – up and running.” All African operators should switch to IPv6 as soon as possible.

14:38 “In January 1983 we turned on the internet, and it’s been running ever since” – a brief background of the ARPANET and bringing together all of the existing technologies from radio, satellite and ethernet.

14:33 We’re off on time. Mr Cerf apologises for being in a rush as he’s speaking again tonight. Starts off with history of Arpanet and email. “We were all a bunch of geeks – lots of scifi apparently.

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