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Preparing OS X for World IPv6 Day on June 8

World IPv6 Day is tomorrow, June 8, and major companies will be doing a 24-hour test run of the IPv6 protocol. Here is how to prepare OS X for this test.

As the Internet developed there was debate over the network communications protocol to use, but ultimately the fourth revision of IP (IPv4) was implemented for communication between computers and networks. When the Internet was small the 32-bit addressing of IPv4 that limits it to just over 4 billion addresses was perfectly adequate, but recently the last sets of IPv4 addresses have been issued, meaning the size of the IPv4 Internet has reached its maximum.

To overcome this limitation, the Internet Engineering Task Force has been developing a 128-bit addressing system called IPv6 that allows for trillions upon trillions of additional unique addresses (340 undecillion, to be exact). Unfortunately, the addressing between these protocols is vastly different and not directly compatible, and networking companies have been reluctant to implement IPv6 while there was still room for IPv4. Nevertheless, the symbolic limit of IPv4 has come and the pressure is high for companies to start implementing IPv6 if they have not already done so.

On June 8, several major Web sites and networks, including Akamai, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo (see the full list here), will be offering their services over IPv6 in a 24-hour test run of the newer protocol, to test the protocol in wider loads than have been tried before, and to help motivate other companies and organizations to push past their reluctance and adopt the standard.

What this means is that if you are using various Internet services tomorrow and are experiencing loss of connectivity or slowdowns, then be aware that this is likely because of problems with the IPv6 protocol. Some of the problems you may encounter during these tests include:

  1. Internet servers not responding
  2. intermittent connectivity after delays
  3. unresponsive browsers if you use a built-in search field
  4. slow loading and pauses in downloads, as well as incomplete downloads; and
  5. slow or incomplete actions for Internet-related activities that aren't Web browsing, such as syncing and e-mail.

To help prevent these problems from happening, you can make sure your system is configured to use IPv6 if your ISP supports it.

TCP/IP system preferences
The IPv6 configuration can be seen here if your router and ISP offer IPv6 options. If not then the fields will be blank, as is the case with this computer.
  1. Update your router
    Go to your router's configuration (usually a Web-based configuration option) to see if you have IPv6 enabled and configured. Consult your router's manual or manufacturer to see about the specific configurations for your router. You may need to purchase a new router if yours cannot handle IPv6, or install updated firmware that will implement IPv6 connectivity.

  2. Enable IPv6 in OS X
    Go to the Network settings in OS X and select your active network port (Wi-Fi or Ethernet). Click Advanced and then go to the TCP/IP tab. In this tab you should see configuration options for both IPv4 and IPv6. Make sure IPv6 is set to be configured automatically. If your router and ISP support IPv6, then you should see an IPv6 configuration in the TCP/IP field.

    During World IPv6 Day, you can try forcing connectivity via IPv6 by disabling IPv4 in this preferences pane (though this will limit your Internet experience to only those sites that support IPv6), but only do so if you see an active configuration show up when IPv6 is enabled.

  3. Test your IPv6 connectivity
    Once your IPv6 configuration is set up, test it by going to the IPv6 test site. This will tell you whether or not your configuration is active and working properly, both for IPv4 and IPv6 addressing.

  4. Contact your ISP
    If you expect to have an IPv6 configuration, or are wondering if you should, then check with your ISP. While you can configure your home network and devices to use IPv6, if your ISP does not provide any IPv6 connection options then you will still not be able to access the Internet with it. Therefore, if after testing your connection you are not able to get connected with IPv6, the next step would be to contact your ISP to see if enabling IPv6 is possible.

Ultimately the changeover happening tomorrow is just a 24-hour test for various networking companies, but it is also an opportunity for you to test your IPv6 configuration options. If you are unable to participate then any problems should be rectified by June 9, so do not worry if you are experiencing connection problems during the 24 hours of World IPv6 Day.

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