Collecting RFCs

For over a decade, I have been acquiring RFCs.

Requests for Comment (RFCs) are the standards of the Internet. They began in the spring of 1969, when the ARPANET was under construction. RFC 1 (“Host Software” by Steve Crocker) is dated 04/07/1969.

For over a decade, I have been acquiring RFCs. I own several boxes and file drawers full of them. For the most part, they are one-sided xeroxes or laser prints. The former were copied from friends' copies; the latter, sucked from the IETF's web site and printed out.

This is actually quite unsatisfactory, largely because I tend to drop pages on the floor or shuffle them about and eventually end up with hundreds and hundreds of loose sheets that require many hours of resorting and replacing in folders.

Thus, when I heard about a plan to put a number of the RFCs relevant to IPv6 into paper-bound volumes, I was quite excited. I've now seen nearly a half dozen of the books, and I'm still excited. However, I have a problem with the series, so I'll come clean on things before going any further.

I wrote forewords to two of the volumes, and wrote both the introduction and made the selection where a third is concerned. So I am not exactly pure as the driven snow where the books are concerned. But in my defense, I must point out that I did these reprehensible things because of the perceived value of the collections.

The series is edited by Pete Loshin, and he deserves lots of gratitude for executing the project. The books are published by Morgan Kaufmann. Individual details follow.

The first volume I saw was the Big Book of IPsec RFCs (ISBN 0-12-455839-9). IPsec is the Internet Protocol Security Architecture; the book is made up of 23 RFCs which relate to it. In fact, if you are interested in Internet security or security in VPNs (virtual private networks), this book will be indispensable: it is the ultimate reference on the subject. The RFCs contained are:

  • 1320. MD4 Message-Digest Algorithm

  • 1321. MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm

  • 1828. IP Authentication using Keyed MD5

  • 1829. ESP DES-CBC Transform

  • 2040. RC5, RC5-CBC, RC5-CBC-Pad and RC5-CTS Algorithms

  • 2085. HMAC-MD5 IP Authentication with Replay Prevention

  • 2104. HMAC

  • 2144. CAST-128 Encryption Algorithm

  • 2202. Test Cases for HMAC

  • 2268. Description of RC2(r) Encryption Algorithm

  • 2401. Security Architecture for the Internet Protocol

  • 2402. IP Authentication Header

and a dozen more (2403-2412, 2451 and 2631).

Loshin might have written a bit more himself, rather than just compiling the material. But the material is there. And there is an extremely dense index, which means implementors will easily locate what they need.

The second volume, the Big Book of World Wide Web RFCs (ISBN 0-12-455841-0), contains 19 RFCs ranging from 1630 (which defines URLs) to 2718 (which defines new URL schemes). They literally cover everything that has been standardized for the Web.

Volumes three, Big Book of Internet Host Standards (ISBN 0-12-455844-5), and four, Big Book of Internet File Transfer RFCs (ISBN 0-12-455845-3), are the two for which I wrote the forewords. The former contains 11 RFCs (ranging from Jon Postel's 768, “UDP”, to 1127, “A Perspective on the Host Requirements RFCs”, Bob Braden's succinct and insightful “informational” document), but not:

A host is a host from coast to coast<\n> and no one will talk to a host that's closeUnless the host (that isn't close)is busy, hung or dead.

FTP is one of the two “original” protocols. The first mail programs were “saddlebags” on FTP. The latter book contains 21 RFCs, running the gamut from 906 (“Bootstrap Loading using TFTP”) to 2640 (“Internationalization of the FTP”).

The volume I did is Big Book of IPv6 Addressing RFCs (ISBN 0-12-616770-2).

Future volumes will concern LDAP, BGP and Terminal Emulation RFCs. It looks like a fine series to me. But, as I said, I'm prejudiced.

email: peter@usenix.org

Peter H. Salus , the author of A Quarter Century of UNIX and Casting the Net, is an LJ contributing editor. He can be reached at peter@usenix.org.

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