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Technical Community Networking in the Middle East

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in two consecutive but separate gatherings in the Middle East targeting the technical community of this region. The first was the second meeting of the Middle East Network Operators Group (MENOG), hosted by Q-tel and held in Doha, Qatar on 19-21 Nov. The other meeting was a technical training for ccTLD managers organized by ISOC and NSRC and hosted by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh College of Business in Amman, Jordan on 26-29 Nov. Although the audience of both events was different, the aim was to get the techies of this region together so they could exchange views, share knowledge, and learn from experts as well as from each other’s experiences. Ultimately, the aim is to see networks of expertise in the Middle East actively engaged in discussions and participating in work taking place at various international fora.


MENOG is a newly born group created in 2006 as the idea was discussed in one of the RIPE NCC regional meetings in the Middle East and got support by many participants then. I must say that the credit in establishing MENOG should go to RIPE NCC which through its regional meetings in the Middle East has initiated a platform for discussing Internet related themes, and MENOG was a product of such a platform. Special thanks should also go to folks like Fahad Al-Shirawi, Gaurab Raj Upadhaya, Paul Rendek and Philip Smith who have been exerting tremendous effort to have this initiative take off and fly. The second MENOG meeting (MENOG 2) was primarily focusing on Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). The former is a topic of interest for many operators and ISPs in the region though the actual setting up of IXPs is yet in its infancy. IPv6 on the other hand seems to be the topic of the year particularly in the world of Internet numbers, as there have been many discussions within the Internet community about the exhaustion of the unallocated pool of IPv4 addresses which is expected to happen within the next 2-4 years. Participants at MENOG 2 got the chance to hear from experts around the world who participated physically and remotely to share their experiences in IPv6.

The ccTLD training in Amman was one in a series of similar programs that ISOC has been organizing together with NSRC, and aiming specifically at ccTLD managers to learn about latest technologies and tools that help make their registry operations more stable and secure. The training was run over 4 days, and attended by 15 participants representing 8 ccTLDs (.ae, .eg, .jo. .lb, .ly, .sa, .sd, .tn), and provided presentations as well as hands-on exercises on various topics ranging from FreeBSD and DNS fundamentals, to DNSSEC and Cryptography. You may check the link http://ws.edu.isoc.org/workshops/2007/cctld-amman/ for more details on the program agenda and materials delivered during the training. Special thanks should go to the instructors Hervey Allen and Phil Regnauld who provided the major bulk of the training; Mirjam Kuehne who handled all administrative and logistical issues; Bilal Kisswani who facilitated all resources possible to make the training successful; and last but not least to Steve Huter who conducted the work from behind the scenes.

Collaboration within the Internet technical community has achieved enormous successes over the past three decades and is yet to deliver much more. I look forward to seeing members of the Middle East community more actively participating in discussion groups and technical forums, and more heavily involved in work being developed at the various fora.

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    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."