The word "cyberspace" has become a rather prosaic metaphor for all things internet, but it was originally rather more fantastical, being the phrase first conjured by science fiction author William Gibson to describe the networked virtual reality in which the hackers of his Neuromancer/Burning Chrome fiction operated. In Gibson's space the network architecture was given a Tron-like reality, and hackers and corporations fought for control of information in this electronic realm, or something. The reality of network apps and hacking is rather less interesting, all IP numbers and crappy-looking hacking apps. Or it has been until now. The Centre For Advanced Internet Architectures at Swinburne University, Australia has been using Quake III to visual network architecture. A first step towards actually being able to fight hackers (or our cowled corporate overlords) in Cyberspace?
Well, maybe. Swinburne's networking researchers, with a bit of help from CISCO, have come up with the L3DGEWorld 2.2 engine, which uses the Open Source version of Quake III to represent the happenings within network architectures. The system allows admins to look at the network architecture as if it were a visible architecture, and pick up stats and behaviours from the interface. Actually using lightning guns to fry the connections of intruding miscreants is still a long way off, but it demonstrates that William Gibson's fantasy is far from unobtainable.
This video shows an admin interacting with network nodes by shooting at them:
This video shows the state of Swinburne's super-computer cluster, which has a serious application as it allows an admin to monitor the condition of the entire cluster immediate and effect changes.