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Network-Monitoring Data Put to Music 165

Posted by Zonk
from the way-more-entertaining-than-graphs-and-charts dept.
StrongGlad writes "Building on the idea that people are naturally attuned to sound, the Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning has created software that translates network and server activity into music. And, their IT department operators can interpret the music to detect problems in the system." Talk about finding the beauty in Spam. From the article: "Last Friday, IT department operators began listening to what sounds like classical music but is actually a precise audio model of system metrics. They are trained to recognize instruments, chords, tempo and other musical elements of music as a translation of e-mail activity from 15 servers over three subnets. Every aspect of the music correlates to information. Probes detect server activity and send about 20 summaries a second to the iSIC sound engine. The data is aggregated and transformed into an audio format."
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Network-Monitoring Data Put to Music

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  • He's a loser Marge, dump him! :sings: I travelled the world and the seven seas, I am watching you through a camera!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Incredibly frelling dumb. More in one way like Smithers than SMITHERS himself. What kind of person calls a SYN packet meaning F# and an echo a middle C. Just because you can make notes doesn't mean that it's music...
       
      If you get a zebra to jump on a keyboard and play notes, how is that music?
       
      Much training can cause interpretation of anything. There are people who can understand speech from a frelling frequency diagram. The nerve.
  • Been done before? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Narcissus (310552) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:27AM (#14676792) Homepage
    I swear I remember reading about something like this years ago but for the life of me, I haven't been able to find it mentioned anywhere.

    Although it wasn't email / spam related, the system I'm thinking of used jungle sounds (birds, rivers etc.) but had things like lion roars when the firewall detected a hack attempt.

    Am I just dreaming this, or can someone give me any more information?
  • Very cool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raven42rac (448205) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:28AM (#14676800)
    It sounds kind of hokey, but it probably works very well, certainly better than looking at a bunch of hex. This probably depends on what you're using to monitor your traffic. After all, the best morse code transcribers do 250 wpm.
    • Yes, I've seen it, the human brain is amazing.
    • I think the point of converting logs to music is the human ear is better at picking up patterns than a pair of eyes. If you hear a melody in the beginning of the day, and hear that same melody at the end of the day you will recognize it. A melody could be 200 lines of sequential log. I doubt someone could visually remember 200 lines of log.

      I think this is an excellent idea.
      • When your brain is processing all this audio stimuli the majority of it will end up be treated as white noise if you're doing any work because your brain will concentrate on other things, reading, walking, talking, etc.. You would have to sit their with your eyes closed focusing on your hearing trying to detect pattern after pattern. Do you really think anyone can do this? This is why we write/use tools to automate these types of things. I think it would be really fun research to work on but absolutely z
  • by BeardsmoreA (951706) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:31AM (#14676821) Homepage
    Just what does a slashdotting sound like?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:32AM (#14676837)
    It wasn't bad enough that my cube-mate eats cereal by the handful from the box with his mouth open, or that there are 6 cell phones and 5 desk phones in a five foot radius of where I try to concentrate on difficult computational problems.

    Now there is an entire orchestra of uncomposed dissonance playing at all times that I'm responsible for listening to.

    Grand.

    Just Grand.
    • You need an MP3 player and a good set of ear-covering headphones, brother. I could not survive without one. I sit directly across from tech support personnel and they have no idea how loud they are. Chopin or Rachmaninov doesn't distract me from my work but it does muffle out the surrounding junk noise.
    • They could be using SMELLS to communicate aggregated information.

      Ah the 'Net is full-o-beans today!
    • It wasn't bad enough that my cube-mate eats cereal by the handful from the box with his mouth open

      If those actions could talk, they'd be fightin' words.
  • ./ to music (Score:4, Funny)

    by BennyB2k4 (799512) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:33AM (#14676839)
    I'm imagining cannons firing and drums crashing as their site gets slashdotted.
  • by Noryungi (70322) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:33AM (#14676840) Homepage Journal
    ... but, frankly, can't anybody think of something better?

    (I can imagine the dialog right now: wait, is the oboe a sign something is wrong, or is it the violin? Err...)

    After a couple of weeks installing and configuring net-snmp, cacti and nagios, I seriously think music is NOT the way to go. Real-time graphics are a lot more informative and easier to understand. Music is fun, sure, but way too complex to understand.

    Besides, I don't really like music entirely made by computers. And I am a Kraftwerk fan. Go figure.
    • by CharonX (522492) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:57AM (#14677031) Journal
      I think you misunderstood the purpose of this project.
      They don't want to replace all those graphic displays with music, but they intend to use sound in addition to graphics.
      If you rely purely on a graphics display you would have to hire someone who has to babysit the monitor, in case something odd starts to happen. He can't really work if he has to stop every 5 minutes and check the monitor (and there are probably "false feeling of safty" effects to be countered too, after all, checking the monitor for X weeks and nothing big popping up might make the person(s) realax too much)
      With the music you don't have to check at the monitor all the time, you notice when the music changes (and can go check) but as long as it remains the same you can get some real work done.
    • by bfree (113420) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @11:17AM (#14677225)
      Real-time graphics require you to sit there watching them constantly. If this audio was not too distracting (and I suspect no matter what you would learn to tune out the normal operational sounds) you could actually hae people working on something while monitoring the network, rather then simply employing people to act like a desk security guard wathing the screens. Of course is anything sounds funny it time to have a look. I wonder if they have done any work with time-compression on this audio generation technique, so people could produce a X minute audio clip every Y minutes, could be handy to listen to a 5 minute track every day to get a quick outline of how a day went.
      • No real time graphics does not require us to sit and look at the screen constantly. For example here at work we have an alarms screen. When something goes out of tolerance we get an alarm, an audible alarm. For example some devices have a klaxon, that will get your attention. Then you look at the alarms screen to see what is going on. Much simpler way of using sound than having a constant tune playing.

        Besides, problems in controls often are that when something goes south there is too much information for yo


  • to specific patterns of network activity, then I would love to hear the Barry White-like sounds that the system would produce by monitoring all the pr0n coming through my Exchange server at work.......

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:35AM (#14676857)
    http://www.usenix.org/publications/library/proceed ings/lisa2000/gilfix/gilfix_html/ [usenix.org]

    Peep (The Network Auralizer): Monitoring Your Network With Sound
    Michael Gilfix & Prof. Alva Couch - Tufts University
    Abstract

    "Activities in complex networks are often both too important to ignore and too tedious to watch. We created a network monitoring system, Peep, that replaces visual monitoring with a sonic `ecology' of natural sounds, where each kind of sound represents a specific kind of network event. This system combines network state information from multiple data sources, by mixing audio signals into a single audio stream in real time. Using Peep, one can easily detect common network problems such as high load, excessive traffic, and email spam, by comparing sounds being played with those of a normally functioning network. This allows the system administrator to concentrate on more important things while monitoring the network via peripheral hearing."

    "This work was supported in part by a USENIX student software project grant. "....
  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by faloi (738831) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:38AM (#14676881)
    The server farm is playing Taps again. It's going to be a LONG weekend.
  • It would make a much better story though if suddenly the same trained people start recognizing what's wrong with this whole world simply by listening to most popular chart hits :) Seriously though, while the approach itself sounds like fun, it will never prove itself more useful than the textual data we all rely on as there will be no easy way for you to quickly find the necessary piece of information in the audio stream... Fast forward, anyone?! ;) I don't think so :) It's still much easier to Ctrl+F thin
    • recognizing what's wrong with this whole world simply by listening to most popular chart hits :)

      Well, since it's generally agreed that the music studios stopped listening to their customers decades ago, all that would tell you what is wrong with a bunch of their executives. And we already know what is wrong with them.
      • It's generally agreed upon by people who hate pop music. Unfortunately, by definition, it is the most popular music out there. Now that may be the result of it being almost force fed on people while they are determining their likes and dislikes, but the end result is that more people liked the Backstreet Boys than Magnetic Field -- even if it just means they've never heard of Magnetic Field.

        The music executives are very good at listening to their customers. They listen to their wallets. Americans, in my opi
  • Classical/Baroque music styles have a tendency to put me to sleep. They don't bore me, it's just one of the few things in this world that is peaceful enough to make me nod off.

    That said, when a problem is found, does it start playing Hyden? ;)

    .
    .

    .
    .
    .
    .

    .
    .

    (Suprise Symphony, if you don't get the joke.)
  • Audio clips (Score:5, Informative)

    by sco08y (615665) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:38AM (#14676891)
    I figured you'd all want to hear what it sounds like:

    Listen page [soundtomind.com]
  • by Alystair (617164) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:39AM (#14676899)
    How come no one else here is reminded by the system made by the Gordon Way in the book by Douglas Adams, "Dirk Gently's holistic Detective Agency"? There was an application he helped create called Anthem which turned financial results and various other pieces of company data into jingles and music.
  • What kind of overhead do these monitors incur? 20 times a second for *every* server on a network? This sounds like it's a neat use, but is it practical... And what about the human brain's ability to become desensitized to input over time?

  • Something like this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by db32 (862117) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:41AM (#14676915) Journal
    I have seen something about a similar project that used graphical patterns and colors/intensity/patterns indicated potential problems. I think this would probably be alot nicer since it doesn't leave you staring at a monitor all day (yes I know most of us do this anyways). With networks getting larger and more complex things happening on them, projects like this are definetly an interesting avenue for monitoring. I know people that can read tcpdump screens at a truely disturbing rate, but being able to sit and "watch" all the logs of everything in their multitude of formats and indicators is going to be a huge leap forward in detection and prevention. Most intrusions aren't caught until well after the fact, if at all. Having something like this that could potentially alert admin and security folks of trouble on the network, malicious or not, would be awesome.
  • Been done before... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Linker3000 (626634) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:43AM (#14676934) Journal
    Safety systems in some installations handling radioactive materials broadcast a background sequence of notes/clicks (*not* anything like a geiger counter) through loudspeakers in critical areas - the 'melody' is designed to be unobtrusive under normal conditions (your mind 'tunes it out'), but the notes change under alarm conditions or when certain monitored values start moving and even minute variations in the sound are immediately obvious to those in earshot. This has been in use for tens of years. ..and some of us just have to stare at a Nagios Web page or wait for an email that triggers a 'beep' sound.

  • When your servers start playing Rob Zombie? I can hear the support calls already!
  • It's the tiniest violin playing DoS attack concerto no. 3

    In all reality, I'd love to do a Brian Eno-ish sort of "found art" album with music like this. http://www.fruityloops.com/ [fruityloops.com] has a pretty cool function that turns pictures into ambient music, I'd love to hear server traffic in a similar manner.
  • I've been wanting to do this same thing with one of these Ambient Orbs [ambientdevices.com].

    They have a pretty complete spectrum range and can also pulse at varying speeds. I figured it could be cool (and useful) having color represent server health and pulsing equal load. The only problem is you have to transmit your info to ambient, who then transmits it to your orb 15-20 minutes later; I would prefer a more immediate local solution that didn't involve me transmitting somewhat sensitive information.

    I know I know, I can make
  • They are trained to recognize instruments, chords, tempo and other musical elements of music as a translation of e-mail activity from 15 servers over three subnets. Every aspect of the music correlates to information.

    Bob, why is our network so slow?

    I'm not sure Frank, but it may have something to do with the terrible cacophony of sounds eminating from the server room.
  • Tried this (Score:5, Funny)

    by anticypher (48312) <anticypher@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday February 09, 2006 @10:59AM (#14677045) Homepage
    My network sounded like a couple of trains crashing into each other, in the middle of a field of empty rusting bathtubs, with a cold, harsh, north wind blowing at hurricane force. And that was on a good day :-)

    the AC
  • by DeveloperAdvantage (923539) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @11:04AM (#14677096) Homepage
    Demarco and Lister's Peopleware book has a good section on the importance of a quiet workspace. In a study they quote (this one from Cornell in the 1960s), researchers split a group of computer science students into two groups, the first group listened to music through headphones and the second group was in a silent room. Each group was given the same programming problem, which consisted of a series of mathematical operations, to implement from a specification. The speed and accuracy of the programming was about the same in each group, but, the assignment itself was a trick question - the end result was that the output number was the same as in the input. And, of those that realized this, the overwhelming majority came from the quiet room.

    Most "technical" work uses the left side of the brain, I suppose leaving the right side of the brain free to listen to music to monitor the system. But, every so often, even in what is considered "technical" work, a person needs to be creative, and it would be unfortunate if at that point in time your right side of the brain is off monitoring the system.

    Of course, if multitasking is so important, audio content is really the only content which has the potential for effective multitasking.
    • For me this is different. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm both creative and intelligent. I find that if I don't have some sort of distraction to "siphon off" some of my creativity I can't focus. It's like I've got to dangle something shiny in front of my right lobes so that 100% of the left and 50% of the right can work on a the problem at hand. Many things can serve as a distraction, including music, tv in the background, or physical/mental fatigue. (I tend to do my best programming at midnight after
  • It might sound weird (yes, pun intended), but I've been wanting to put Pi, Phi, e, and other irrational numbers through different interpreters, including audio-generation.

    My basic idea is to run calculations of of these values in base2 and then see what it "looks" like or hear what it "sounds" like when the stream of bits is interpretted in different ways.

    I like the idea of a never ending song or story that never repeats. I fully expect gibberish and static when interpreting the bitstream, but I'd still li
  • Port scan (Score:2, Funny)

    by drZool (896605)
    Will a port scan sound like playing the scale?
  • Ow, synthesized orchestral music is not the most pleasant thing to listen to, even when it is real classical music. However, i have just the idea they need. Why not use a real orchestra?

    Just make the network monitors output sheetmusic on little screens for all the musicians.
    This will lead to a few seconds delay in the music, but nothing beats the real thing you know!
  • How long will it take for IT departments to request budget increases to purchase the hardware/software needed to play this music? I like listening to music at work, and now this gives a justified business reason to do so.
  • Solaris has had this same type of function for almost ten years. snoop [-d device] -a would divert network traffic to /dev/audio. The more noise you heard, the more network traffic was going off that particular interface. I remember playing with this with an old SPARCstation 10 in the mid-1990s.

    No, it wasn't as complex as what this one does with chords and so forth, but the idea of using audio to listen to network traffic is nothing particularly new.

    Now, if it could be customized so that specific s
    • I wonder if a DoS attack would sound as bad as Marlin Mason.
      And if the system if really good how will porno sound like... "ah ah uuuuuhhuhuuhuhu... ah ah ah uhhhhhhh"... or not? lol
  • However (Score:2, Funny)

    by Toreo asesino (951231)
    I wonder what delightful number would be produced should something like the Blaster virus be unleashed on the network?

    A death metal remix of Mozart perhaps?

    Yet another reason to not run Windows Servers folks - think of your poor ears!
  • Hey guys... (Score:3, Funny)

    by raddan (519638) on Thursday February 09, 2006 @11:28AM (#14677344)
    ...what does it mean when Wagner comes on?
  • I'm a huge music freak, I listen to all kinds of stuff all through my workday nonstop. And listening to those samples...geez. If they could make that software into a truly effective network monitor (for instance, add an instrument for Snort rules going off), I could so spend my day just listening. It's actually quite nice, relaxing music.
  • ...while watching The Dark Crystal your head will explode!!

    Chris
  • I recall something like this from the mind of the late, great Douglas Adams. One of the protagonists in one of the two Dirk Gently books wrote a program that lets people hear information as music - I think it was spreadsheet data or something like that. The premise was that good data sounded "good."

    Sounded (no pun intended) like a great idea at the time. I thought it was pretty original...
  • I can't find an online mention at the moment, but I remember reading about this technique used in medicine in Discover magazine about a decade ago. The idea was that the program would translate blood work and other medical data into well known melodies, offset by the difference between the patient's data and what was considered "normal". Doctors were able to more readily notice abnormalities that were out of range, and they were able to do so even when distracted or not able to pay full attention, I belie
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From TFA:
    'music has got nothing to do with work, dude, and I work.' It's kind of like saying I have a bunch of ballet dancers, and I'm going to bring them into your workplace.

    Almost everyone I know listens to music at work, so I'm not sure why he feels people don't "get it". The ballet dancers OTOH is an awsome idea. I could really use a dozen or so athletic women in skin tight clothing bouncing around in the server room. If something goes wrong, they can glissade their butts over and tell me about it.

    I'
  • The 1996 Sensorium project NET SOUND [sensorium.org] did this, won a 1997 Ars Electronica prize at Linz.

    The home web page text:

    The most significant aspect of the Internet

    Is its being alive

    Isn't it?

    What would it sound like if we listened to it?

    After creating the beta version in 1996, Net Sound members agreed they wanted to listen to a greater variety of Net sounds not only those of Ohno Research Lab. Anybody who wants to make sounds over the Net, please let us know--and increase our links via Net Sound "CENTRAL."

    Note: Ars

  • Reminds me of Information Society's bonus tracks which had data tracks in the form of sound which you had to hook up to a dumb termanal to get the text.

    Also reminds me of the ole days of aohell 4.0 when i use to hum along with the modem connections.

  • by stevied (169) *
    Anyone who's been sat next to a noisy server has probably been doing this for years. I found I became rapidly attuned to normal disk activity patterns, and could detect unusual goings on very quickly.

    I also used to be able to recognise the connect speed of analogue modems by listening the negotiation, but that was many moons ago..
  • SOunds like it's just noise to me...
    Realistically, with all of the talk of people listening to music all day damaging their hearing, wouldn't silence be golden? Maybe some sort of light beacon flashing red could do the exact same thing, or a projector with a few graphs on the wall?

    -M
  • ...I don't even hear the music anymore. Just blonde, brunette, redhead...

  • While this this sounds like a fine idea, people have been doing the same thing with modems, for, oh, 30-plus years. And then there's "ping -a"...
  • Miraculously, the RIAA piracy-snooping network sounds exactly like the MP3s it detects being pirated.
  • start calling up Car Talk [cartalk.com], trying to imitate the funny noise their network is making (a practice known as automatopoeia).
  • by caluml (551744)
    Probably not the same as this, but I made a patch for "ping", whereby it beeped, and the beep changed pitch depending on the RTT. I wanted to make it echo like Sonar, but I couldn't find out how to do it with /dev/console - I don't think you can change the volume with that.
    Anyway, I forgot I had it, and one day SSHd into my machine at work to test connectivity to somewhere. 15 minutes later I get a call: "Turn that fucking beeping off!".
  • by MECC (8478)
    Given an infinite number of packets, and the ability to represent them as tunes, all the songs ever written will be played.

    Now the RIAA can sue the networks themselves if they inadvertently play copywritten melodies.

    "Arrest those packets - they played 'Imagine'"
  • Why is it every time I think up something reasonably clever, someone else beats me to the punch?

    Oh, right. 'Cause I have to actually do it. Damn that procrastination...

    My thought wasn't to put network traffic to music, but to sniff packets and generate tones of various waveforms based on the contents of those packets. I figured it would be a handy tool to get an overview of what the network was doing and to detect problems by ear.
  • From the article: "The appearance of violins means we are getting locked by spam".

    Violins? Wouldn't it have been a better alert system to instead switch the music from, say, Vivaldi to, say, Apocalyptica [apocalyptica.com]?
  • # tcpdump -i eth0 -U -l -n -nn -q -s 1514 -t -w - >/dev/dsp

    Turn your speakers/headphones down before you start.

  • IT Mgr: "How's everything running?"
    Sysop: "Laaaaaa, li-li-li-laahh, LEEEEE, loooooo!"

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