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The Internet

IP Replaces Avian Carriers 87

m0rningstar writes: "In the spirit of the IP over Avian Carriers RFC, India is considering replacing a carrier pigeon network with e-mail according to this story at the BBC."
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IP Replaces Avian Carriers

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  • All of the out of work pigeons can go to work at Google [] now, making Google even better and faster. So much for that new-fangled Tahoma search engine.
  • Heh. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Order ( 469817 )
    this is so weird, it might actually NOT be an April Fools' joke...

    • It's no joke, buddy... the article is from March 26. It just took until today for somebody to find it.
    • The Joke will be on them once they're deluged with spam.

      BTW Go see Monsoon Wedding! Great film, I want the soundtrack to that one on surround :]

    • Re:Heh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      this is so weird, it might actually NOT be an April Fools' joke...

      I'm thinking this one was put up today as a sort of "Meta-Fool". It's an April Fools joke precisely because there will be lots of "It's just a stupid joke" posts on this thread, when the story is actually true. Very clever, good social engineering (knowing the geek penchant for scepticism and knowitallitis).

      Maybe I'm giving the eds too much credit, tho'.

  • The RFC's (Score:4, Informative)

    by little_fluffy_clouds ( 441841 ) on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:16AM (#3265175)

    If you haven't already read them (where HAVE you been?):

    A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers []

    IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service []

  • Not a joke! (Score:5, Informative)

    by nick255 ( 139962 ) on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:18AM (#3265177)
    The amazing thing is this *isn't* an April's fool joke!

    Here's an older story [] about the same thing.
    • Indeed...the date on the article is March 26. Although, maybe that just makes it that much better of an April Fools' Joke. Kind of like putting salt in someone's coffee a few weeks from now, and yelling April Fools!
  • H1-Bs (Score:2, Funny)

    by counsell ( 4057 )
    Please God, don't let this turn into another one of those inane Slashdot debates about low paid Indian IT workers "flooding" the US jobs market.

    You know the sort of thing: "I'm not racist, but how are we supposed to compete? Some of them are prepared to work for chickenfeed."
    • by gnovos ( 447128 ) <`ten.deppihc' `ta' `sovong'> on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:25AM (#3265193) Homepage Journal
      American pigeons all across the United States are staging "sit ins" to protest the new influx of cheap Indian labor. Most protests are centered around notable statues and monuments and also high atop government buildings, but there are also reports of millions of birds sitting atop vital telephone wires and strategiecally placed electrical towers, threatening silently the power they hold over our nation's digital infrastructure...
    • I've been looking over the relevant legislation, and I cannot find a single paragraph which disqualifies unemployed carrier pigeons from receiving H1-Bs.

      So we geeks could be facing some stiff competition from the Indian-avian community. Time to bone up on those coding skills, folks. And remind your boss that they type by the hunt-and-peck method.
  • Excellent! (Score:4, Funny)

    by gnovos ( 447128 ) <`ten.deppihc' `ta' `sovong'> on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:19AM (#3265180) Homepage Journal
    Now I can go "dumpster diving" once they throw out all the birds and pick up some spare parts. I've been looking for a new pigeon-hole router for months (My last one was destroyed when I mistook "CAT5" for "5 cats").
  • tech? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by memfree ( 227515 )
    Please don't tell me this story is meant to show the powers of the information age. Given that most the world's communications ceased being pigeon-based (for those that ever were), I don't think it's a particular triumph to take over this niche. I'd also bet that the price of maintaing the birds is significantly less than was the cost to get and maintain email.

    redundant pigeons will be given to the state's wildlife

    And what would they do with them? How would they keep them from _not_ returning?

    Perhaps they'll take the stance my father encountered as a psych. grad student. When finshed experimenting, they just threw their test pigeons out the window. Being accustomed to life in a cage, the liberated pigeons hung out on the windows of the psych. lab trying to get back in.

    • How would they keep them from _not_ returning?

      That's the idea - they want the pigeons to get lost. :)
    • redundant pigeons will be given to the state's wildlife

      And what would they do with them? How would they keep them from _not_ returning?

      Perhaps the pigeons will be given to the wildlife as a food supplement :-)
  • e-mail cons (Score:2, Funny)

    by fabiolrs ( 536338 )
    Hope they dont implement the system using Windows! Just imagine in the middle of an emergency:

    "OUTLOOK.EXE has caused and ilegal operation on 0e:03aabf"

    They may use pigeons as backups when this occur... :))

    Another pro of a pigeon: B_Gates will not have a clue of what your sending! :))

    Sorry, couldnt resist it!! :))
  • Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Steev ( 5372 ) <steve@stevedi n n . c om> on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:27AM (#3265205) Homepage
    April fools people. Go back to sleep. I'm amazed at the lameness of some of the jokes that happen on April 1st. A local radio station [] tried to convince people that there was an easter parade going 7 o'clock in the a torrential downpour. I absolutely could not believe that some people would fall for it.

    Maybe I'm just jaded and cynical, but give me something not only original, but believable.
    • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jodrell ( 191685 )
      Note the date of the article on the Beeb's site:
      Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 12:06 GMT

      I read this article a few days ago. It's no joke. The BBC doesn't have a sense of humour :-)
    • Re:Wow. (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Russ Nelson ( 33911 )
      Knowing Canada, you'd celebrate April 1st on a different day than the US, just like you think 7/4 is "American Cultural Aggression" day, and the second Monday in October is Thanksgiving.

    • Err... The article is dated from the 26 of March, which isn't exactly the best day for April fools jokes...
      And it even makes sense, actually...
    • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by damiangerous ( 218679 ) <> on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:38AM (#3265231)
      I'm amazed at the lameness of some of the jokes that happen on April 1st.
      Except it's not a joke. Here's an old story [] from February of two years ago. But good job on the insulting airs of cynicism from someone so afraid they might look the tiniest bit silly by falling for a joke that feel the need to preemptively insult others. You've fallen for the best joke of all, sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
    • by Steev ( 5372 )
      Ok, so the pigeon thing is not a joke...But the main point of my comment stands: Most April fools jokes are just plain dumb. If you're going to do something, make it something good.
  • Back in '99 (Score:2, Funny)

    by SuperCal ( 549671 )
    Back in 99 as a contingincy for the y2k bug my company had me work out a system for keeping the company comunications running should anything happen to the internet. We set up generators to keep the computers running (We had them y2k certified) with generators and I hired several temps to hang around on new years eve, If the internet would have black, they would have imediatly began reading IP packets from terminal screen and transcribing (in hex) to little pieces of paper that were attached to pigions which would then fly to our other locations, the same process would have been in full swing. The IP information was then reentered into the system. Ping times where hella long in tests, but comunications were still active...
    • PING ( 56 octets data
      64 octets from icmp_seq=0 ttl=255 time=0.3 w
      64 octets from icmp_seq=1 ttl=255 time=0.2 w
      64 octets from icmp_seq=2 ttl=255 time=0.2 w
      64 octets from icmp_seq=3 ttl=255 time=0.1 w
      64 octets from icmp_seq=4 ttl=255 time=0.4 w
      *loud sound of an ansgt employee with a blunt object and the back of my head*
      --- ping statistics ---
      5 packets transmitted, 4 packets received, 22% packet loss
      round-trip min/avg/max = 0.2/0.3/0.4 w(weeks)
  • They use carrier pigeons for when phones, power and radio are down, for example during hurricans.

    How exactly do they propose that email is going to help in this situation? If they have no phones, power or radio, how are they connecting to the Internet?
    • Well, that's the whole point. IP-over-carrier-pigeon, remember?

    • Man, I guess those guys only want to surf the net and search for some porn. I believe they cant justify it that way so they tried this. Hope they are going to continue using the pigeons!!! :)))
    • They use carrier pigeons for when phones, power and radio are down, for example during hurricans.

      I think that they'd face a huge packet loss rate if they are using pigeons in a hurricane.

      Actually, avian IP transmission schemes face some of the same limitations as token ring networks. You can only have a limited number of packets "on the fly" at any particular time. Each avian carrier is similar to a token. If it fails to reach its destination, the bandwidth of the entire network drops. Unless there is a pool (or "coop") of backup carriers, you would have to wait a considerable period for a new carrier to be created (or "hatched" as it is sometimes called by those running these types of networks).

      Using this type of network in hurricane conditions virtually guarantees that you're going to lose all of your packet carriers. This will bring down your network completely, until the next brooding season.

  • One of the reasons the authorities in India use carrier pigeons for messaging is that when they need reliable communications the most (for example, during earthquakes, flooding, cyclones or any of the other natural disasters that part of the world is afflicted with), modern communications technology just can't hold up. In those situations, carrier pigeons are much more reliable.

    I can't help thinking this is just change for change's sake, and that at some time in the future they'll regret it.
  • Maybe they could replace the current system with email over IP over pigeons -- that way the pigeons wouldn't be out of work and would remain well fed!

    Sometimes I could swear Hotmail works that way anyway, of course...
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:40AM (#3265235) Homepage Journal
    Those pigeons must be exhausted after carrying volumes of such important missives as:

    Hot New Stock!!

    Online Pharmacy - Viagra, Xenical & More - Lowest Prices

    Free Porn Resource(ADV:ADLT)

    Attention Home Owners Rates Below 3% Fixed


    Direct E-Mail Advertising 1229acfl2-025ACwk3769DWXE0-5l26


    2904 Register to win your Dream Vacation 2536343

  • Pigeons are amazing creatures, and deserve a far better reputation among humans than they have. More pigeons were awarded the Dickin Medal [] during the WW II era [] than all other species combined. Yes, we have a pigeon overpopulation problem in most cities, but people should remember what amazing creatures they are.
    • Yes, we have a pigeon overpopulation problem in most cities, but people should remember what amazing creatures they are.

      It's not the pigeon overpopulation so much as the overpopulaton of litterbugs and other people who feed them. The do keep the bums busy though, eh?

      "Tuppence for a window wash, guv?

    • Rats with wings.

      Of course, some people consider rats an unappreciated species too. :/
    • Pigeons also live longer than modems (the record is 18 years, and I've had two pigeons that passed age 14). They're pretty cool birds, actually. Smart as birds go, easy to maintain, tough, resilient, and if all else fails, good eatin'. :)

      Plus culls are worth 3 bucks apiece to dog trainers. Try getting that much for your crappy old WinModem! :)

  • I would be interested in developing a Snort module for IP over AC. It could use packet coloring to distinguish between legit and non-legit 'packets'. Maybe some sophisticated fingerprinting techniques using header and payload info...
  • by dnorman ( 135330 ) on Monday April 01, 2002 @09:47AM (#3265249) Homepage
    That's a whole different type of dropped packet.
  • From the story it is clear that it isn't IP replacing Avian carriers as it is VHF radios replacing avian carriers. The major use of these pigeons was during times of natural disaster when power and communications links are down and using computers during that would be highly unlikely.


  • For people living in the U.S., it is easy to forget that most places in the world to not have a developed infrastructure.
    • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday April 01, 2002 @10:24AM (#3265343)
      For people living in the U.S., it is easy to forget that most places in the world to not have a developed infrastructure.

      Funnily enough, I talking to someone about exactly the same thing earlier today when I was queueing to use the electric telephone at the Post and Telegraph Office, here in Spain. I was talking to an Australian who had spent the last four months on a sailship, poor man, on his way back to England to see his dying mother, who has the pox. I consoled him by telling him the rumours I'd heard about the United States of America - about rocket ships, robots, and flying cars, a place where children play happily in the streets without fear of nefarious wrongdoers, a place of happy and content people governed by the just and true. We both looked forward to a day when we could afford the passage to that great nation, a true paradise on earth.

  • I can't help thinking that they will regret this move. The reason pigeons have been used for so long is because they are reliable. Even though pigeons aren't the swiftest or most secure means, I would rather place my bet on thousands of years of successful survival instinct than on any amount of technology.

    They should at least keep them for redundancy. $10k a year? Well worth it.

  • Good heavens they did not want to replace Email by Avian Carriers!

    Think about it!

  • ...Gun Toting Happy Campers..

    Oops!! there goes my urgent message to the District Collector of Orissa.. Oh well..
  • Being an Indian, I know the strikes we have and the reasons for it. I just hope the pigeon keepers recieve pension ;)

    The idea is great excluding the frequent disconnects , high call rates and an ISP that you can't trust. (I'm suffering from BSNL -- Bharath Sanchar Nigam Limited !)

  • pigeons still have a job []! Yay google! All those pigeon children won't have to starve!
  • They already implemented the e-mailing system, now they are going to replace their current INSTANT MESSAGING which today is done by smoke signs! :))
  • "It's the worst
    Slash-dot day,
    Of the year!"

  • This wouldn't have something to do with Sesame Street's Bert (recently revealed to be a Bin Laden ally in Bangladesh) and his fondness for pigeons, would it?

    Soon, there will be no paper clips or oatmeal left on the entire Indian subcontinent. The grip of Al-Qaeda is closing in on India, one muppet at a time..

  • Believe it or not! They're replacing a information system that needs to be highly reliable with... e-mail? Ye gods! I'll take the pidgeons, thanks!
  • Now more than ever we need to get rid of spam! Think about how many birds die each time someone uses an open relay to tell you about their special deal that isn't a pyramid scheme or that you should buy their penis enlarger? Truly horrifying!
  • Even in the world of high technology, one believes in the concept of a backup link. Sure, maybe you've got a full DS3 right into Qwest, but there's no guarantee it's always going to be up, either. The link could be severed physically, Qwest could get bombed - literally, or with packets... anything could happen. So maybe you have a T1 running into sprint or something - Sure, it wouldn't be your first choice, but maybe they gave you a great rate. And hell, you might even have a 128k frame relay to back THAT up, if you're serious, just to keep email going if everything else craters.

    Similarly; In this case, they have internet, and their radio system, but what's your last resort? It is currently pigeons, in their case, and it appears that it will next be a human courier. In case of insurgency, of course, this becomes seriously impractical. No one is going to shoot every bird, but they WILL be on the lookout for people.

    In addition, using modern technology (I understand that if the carrier pigeon program is rendering them bankrupt, they can't really afford modern technology, which is why they buy a bunch of our surplus electronics in India) allows a pigeon to carry quite a bit of data. An MMC card is small enough to attach to a pigeon; You could easily be sending 64MB packets. Very high latency, but pretty good bandwidth.

    Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of magtapes.

    Hmm, maybe it's time for a "P" protocol for UUCP. You could easily batch your data and attempt to send it via carrier pigeon (during the day, when there are less predators to worry about, as opposed to the "G" protocol, which was handiest at night, when long-distance rates were at their lowest.)

  • too many hawks attacking and stealing packets.
  • "...the service - employing some 800 birds - has become redundant..."

    Isn't that the whole point? What kind of wide area communications backup system is going to cost less than $10k/year? The system obviously isn't obsolete since it was used as recently as 1999. I don't know 'bout y'all but I _want_ some redundancy in my government emergency communications network.
  • Hi, how are you? I send you this pigeon in order to have your advice. See you later. Thanks.
  • ...but the swiss army dismissed their well-kept pigeons and the soldiers taking care of them just three years ago...

    If they would kick out their bicyclist corps sometime soon, you might actually call them an army sometine soon.

There is one way to find out if a man is honest -- ask him. If he says "Yes" you know he is crooked. -- Groucho Marx