Nov 112011

What is the state with IPv6 in the most common desktop operating systems (apart from smart phones)? In short: very good! IPv6 has been part of the O/S stack implementations since many years, and they keep on improving as experience of running IPv6 in production grows. The desktop will not give you a problem with integrating IPv6 in your network, even if it’s only for labs while learning on an IPv6 Friday!

Microsoft Windows 7 will not work as expected if you disable IPv6!

Microsoft WindowsMicrosoft was early on the IPv6 train and have implemented IPv6 since many years. Windows 7 has a solid IPv6 foundation and it’s easy to enable and work with IPv6 in Windows. Microsoft has been working with the IETF from the early days of IPv6 and is very active in promoting IPv6. The support is there by default and, well, just works. In Windows 7, Microsoft has decided to use the randomized addresses by default (unless there’s DHCPv6 configured in the network), something that I fully agree with. Microsoft has also had a bit of fun using the benefits of a global IPv6 address space when creating the DirectAccess service. In fact, if you disable IPv6 the Windows system will not work as expected!

“It is unfortunate that some organizations disable IPv6 on their computers running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008, where it is installed and enabled by default. Many disable IPv6-based on the assumption that they are not running any applications or services that use it. Others might disable it because of a misperception that having both IPv4 and IPv6 enabled effectively doubles their DNS and Web traffic. This is not true.

From Microsoft’s perspective, IPv6 is a mandatory part of the Windows operating system and it is enabled and included in standard Windows service and application testing during the operating system development process. Because Windows was designed specifically with IPv6 present, Microsoft does not perform any testing to determine the effects of disabling IPv6. If IPv6 is disabled on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, or later versions, some components will not function. Moreover, applications that you might not think are using IPv6—such as Remote Assistance, HomeGroup, DirectAccess, and Windows Mail—could be.” (The Cable Guy, Microsoft Technet, link below)

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Linux: IPv6 part of the core for many years

TUX the penguin - The symbol for LinuxLinux, like many Unix-like systems (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, OS/X, iOS) has supported IPv6 for many years. The problem is that the user interfaces for IPv6 are not as developed as those for IPv4. In Ubuntu, you can not enable IPv6 privacy addresses (the random addresses) in the user interface. Many applications seems to forget IPv6, even though it is supported. The pressure to understand and implement IPv6 in all parts of Linux has not been there, there’s no organization that has put pressure on it. The distributions, Centos, Fedora, RedHat, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and the others, have a lot of work to do here. Make sure that IPv6 support is documented in package descriptions. Make sure that it’s covered in ALL configuration user interfaces. The world needs an IPv6 Linux project that puts pressure on applications and user interface developers. It’s all there, but too many options are on kernel level only.
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Apple Mac OS/X Lion: More improvements in IPv6 support

Apple has IPv6 support in iPad, iPhone, OS/X and both Airport and TimeCapsule devices. For every release, the IPv6 support improves. Like in Linux and Windows, the idea is to enable it by default and don’t make a big splash about it. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find any IPv6 information about OS/X Lion on Apple’s website. Maybe a bit more splashing would help. The support for temporary (random) IP addresses exist in the base operating system, but doesn’t show up in the configuration user interface. Safari now has improved support for dual stack browsing (made in time for the IPv6 world day 2011). Basically, IPv6 with Apple just works. Like Microsoft, Apple has been using IPv6 for special applications. The back-to-my-mac service is based on IPv6, much like Microsoft Direct Access.
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General overviews of IPv6 support in Operating Systems:

That’s it for today. In summary, the desktop operating systems we use have IPv6 support. They are  just waiting for you to connect them. More about that another Friday. Just follow the links and start learning more!