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5. Machine Names and IP Addresses

So every interface on every node has an IP address. It was realized quite quickly that humans are pretty bad at remembering numbers, so it was decided (just like phone numbers) to have a directory of names. But since we're using computers anyway, it's nicer to have the computer look up the names for us automatically.

Hence we have the Domain Name System (DNS). There are nodes with well known IP addresses which programs can ask to look up names, and return IP addresses. Almost all programs you will use are capable of doing this, which is why you can put `' into Netscape, instead of `'.

Of course, you need the IP address of at least one of these `name servers': usually these are kept in the `/etc/resolv.conf' file.

Since DNS queries and responses are fairly small (1 packet each), the TCP protocol is not usually used: it provides automatic retransmission, ordering and general reliability, but at a cost of sending extra packets through the network. Instead we use the very simple `User Datagram Protocol', which doesn't offer any of the fancy TCP features we don't need.

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