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The Next 42 RIPE Atlas Probes at Hackerspaces

Vesna Manojlovic — 28 Dec 2016
Contributors: Emile Aben
In this article, we give one example of the possible communities that are now easier to build around RIPE Atlas probes. With the tagging of similar probes, existing communities can use additional tools for creating and analysing RIPE Atlas measurements, such as "IXP Country Jedi", to create their own interpretation of the available data. We are hoping this is going to be an inspiration to the reader, and an invitation to play with the results and improve on the code.

 

"Hackerspaces are community-operated physical places, where people share their interest in 
tinkering with technology, meet and work on their projects, and learn from each other."

-- Definition from hackerspaces.org 

Places to Be 

As I already wrote, in an article about "Hackerspaces tours during RIPE Meetings", there is a big overlap between the hacker community and the network operator community. Since I am involved in both, we made a fun project of creating a sub-community: "RIPE Atlas probes at hackerspaces" (a project page on the Technologia Incognita wiki), and a project description on the Hackerspaces.org portal. I went to many hacker conferences to talk about it, such as CCC, BalcCon and OHM2013. 

One of the community guys, Nico, made a feature that enables each hackerspace to add "RIPE Atlas probe" to the description of their equipment. And, once that was done, this map was generated to show the locations of all the spaces that have a probe. As you can see from the map, the distribution of probes is heavily biased towards Europe, but there are some outliers, such as Calgary & Perth. 

Currently, there are 58 59 hackerspace probes, but that's not completely accurate because it takes effort to track and mark them all. Also, of course, there are more ways than one to keep track of these two categories: probes & hackerspaces ;-) 

Map of RIPE Atlas probes on hackerspaces.org

Tagging the Probes

some hackerspaces with probesOn the RIPE Atlas side, a bunch of RIPE Atlas ambassadors and I distributed probes that were destined for these places where we were hanging out: a natural combination, since many of the ambassadors are passionate about technology and contributing their work for the good of the community and the Internet. There is a list of conferences, maintained by RIPE NCC, where you can find out at which conference can you meet some of us next. 

In the early days, people used the description of their probe to place the name of their hackerspace. You can see some of these on the right. 

Once the "tagging" of the probes was possible within the RIPE Atlas system, some people started adding a tag "hackerspace" to their probe, so the RIPE NCC developers made this tag visible to everyone. 

There are several ways that you can get involved with this:

  • If you are hosting a probe at the hackerspace, go to your probe page on RIPE Atlas and add a "tag" to it 
  • If you are creating your own custom-made measurements, you can select probes with a specific tag to be a starting point for your measurement, for example with the "--include-tag hackerspace" option in the Command Line Interface Tools
  • ...or if you only want to see how many probes are tagged with any of the tags, there is a script that Emile Aben wrote (spoiler: 33 active ones, and 42 in total!) 
  • If you are a RIPE Atlas ambassador, please visit your local hackerspace and ask them to host the probe, and then repeat all the previous steps :)
  • If you only want to see all the probes with a certain tag, you can do it with this API call: 
https://atlas.ripe.net/api/v2/probes/?tags=hackerspace 

Hackerspaces-Jedi

As an extension to "IXP-Country Jedi", my colleague Emile added functionality to visualise connectivity between probes with a certain tag. In this case, we use it to look at all probes tagged "hackerspace". Improved visualisation has been developed through the work of Petros Gigis, a research assistant at ICS-FORTH in Greece.  

For the people who have larger concerns about privacy than the average Internet user, this tool can reveal:

  • Where your traffic is flowing (rather than actual traffic, the tool shows traceroutes, which are just an example of possible flow)
  • How you reach other hackerspaces from your local network
  • Which providers and which countries are being traversed 

This is how things look in December 2016: 

Geopaths between hackerspaces probes

What this tool does is:

  • Takes all the relevant probes (usually per country, this time: global hackerspaces tagged probes)
  • Makes a traceroute measurement between each pair (a mesh)
  • Geolocates all the hops & shows them on the maps (one for IPv4, one for IPv6)
  • Creates a matrix-visualisation where you can show a traceroute between each pair, and all the hops 
  • Creates an "AS Graph" visualisation 


Interactive tool for exploring traceroute pairs

The meaning of the colours: 

  • Blue (in this case): ams-ix,decix,linx
  • Red: we detected one or multiple countries on the path ,
  • Orange: no countries detected

AS Graph 

Of course, it is possible to improve on this code, and we invite you to play with it and add other features and fixes. For example, the tool could:

  • Show the "name"/description of the probe
  • Show the name of the ASN 
  • Make colours more useful
  • For asgraph: show were probes actually are in this graph, and on hovering over a probe, only highlight the path to all the other probes (hover over shows actual traceroute data). The sky is the limit to what you can do here!
  • Display the values for just one selected hackerspace (one row & one column from the matrix) 
  • Improve on the OpenIPMaps (geolocation of the infrastructure) 

42? 42!

Since the number of probes in hackerspaces is difficult to determine exactly (it's between 20 and 70), I have chosen, both as a title and as a goal, to install the next 42 probes at hackerspaces within the next year. Let's do it together! 

  • Tag the existing probes!
  • Get new probes!
  • Build new communities! Agree on the choice of tag, tag your probes, and make use of this additional set of tools.

 

Photos of RIPE Atlas probes at hackerspaces and hacker camps 

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