Present Location: Projects >> The Xicada Network

The Xicada Network

xicada logo,
initially designed by Libby RosenmannThe community network project was started in the fall of 2002, and ended in October of 2006.  Its initial goals included:

The encrypted links were implemented using OpenVPNExternal Content tunneling software, GNU ZebraExternal Content routing daemons, and a collection of FreeBSDExternal Content, LinuxExternal Content, OpenBSDExternal Content, and even CiscoExternal Content routers.  At one point, there were several IPSec+GRE links, but these dwindled in favor of OpenVPN, which incurred much less overhead.

The last nodes online were owned by Brenden ConteExternal Content, Matt WronkaExternal Content, Derek KonigsbergExternal Content, and me.  Geographic locations included North Brunswick, NJ, Orlando, FL, Troy, NY, Charlotte, NC, Sarasota, FL, Tampa, FL, and Parsippany, NJ.

Previous nodes were maintained by Rahul DharExternal Content, Jameel AkariExternal Content, Larry LansingExternal Content, and Fred SmithExternal Content.

Support from RPIExternal Content came from Professor KalyanaramanExternal Content and others in the ECSE Networks LabExternal Content.  The experimental bananas protocol, a project of Professor Kalyanaraman, was slated for testing Xicada network.  Past members of Xicada were working with the Division of the Chief Information OfficerExternal Content at RPI to potentially place wireless antennas and yagis on buildings throughout campus to improve lacenty and avoid certain firewall issues.  This was indefinitely stalled, due to lac kof nodes at RPI.

One of the main obstacles was organization of a common DNS system throughout the network.  This was been solved through a web-based DNS zone administration system I developed.  It allowed members of the Xicada community to publish all their zones and nameserver IPs.  Individual nameservers then routinely (once a day) pulled the DNS data and reload their configuration files.

When I ran djbdnsExternal Content(tinydns+dnscache) on my network, and tried to implement forwarders with Fred, (who was also using djbdns) we ran into a bug in dnscache.  When a zone and nameserver IP are entered in the forwarders directory, dnscache sends all zone-specific queries to the server IP address via a recursive DNS query.  This is unsatisfactory, since on Xicada it's preferred for only the caching nameservers to exchange queries, not authoritative servers (excluding BIND, which is both).  We found that queries sent between dnscache services were dropped, since dnscache only responds to recursive queries.  I ran across this pageExternal Content describing a similar situation.  A patch was available to have different servers and caches directories, for non-recursive and recursive queries, respectively.  However, this patch conflicted with FefeExternal Content"s IPv6 patch, which I was currently using.  I merged these two patches for version 1.05 of djbdns, and they are available here.

You might find these links helpful:

Just as a side note, before I used OpenVPN for my nodes (home and at RPI), I used a neat program called CIPEExternal Content.  CIPE, or Crypto IP Encapsulation, is only available under Linux and Win32 platforms, which limits it.  Of course, since it was my first experiment with tunnelling, I liked it.  It can't be used directly between Xicada nodes because of the diversity of platforms and certain generic tunneling driver multicast issues.  I actually made a small presentation on CIPE at SIG LinuxExternal Content.  PowerPoint slides are here and pdf's here.  I also found a funny network diagram I made back before I was connected to Xicada.  Take a look here.

The last Xicada topology existed as two autonomous systems: 65003 and 65011.  Brenden Conte administrated AS65011, and I took care of 65003, which included my netblocks, along with everybody else who didn't want to run BGP.

Previous network assignments are listed below.

Owner Network Name IP Blocks AS
Mark Kamichoff Prolixium 10.3/16, 172.16.3/24 AS65003
Derek Konigsberg Logicprobe 10.4/16, 172.16.4/24 AS65003
Matt Wronka n/a 10.8/16, 172.16.8/24 AS65003
Brenden Conte Forgotten Realm 10.11/16, 172.16.11/24 AS65011

Overall, latency could have been worse, considering that most of the inter-network connections formed a poorly constructed tree graph:

[chronos:22:33]% traceroute -q1
traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 40 byte packets
 1 (  1.552 ms
 2 (  2.018 ms
 3 (  30.431 ms
 4 (  71.959 ms
 5 (  73.384 ms
[chronos:22:33]% traceroute -q1
traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 40 byte packets
 1 (  1.704 ms
 2 (  1.325 ms
 3 (  34.144 ms
 4 (  44.519 ms
 5 (  44.927 ms

Brenden Conte ran the Phynd search engine on the Xicada network.  It used to run at RPI, too, and attracted some newsExternal Content.