Opposition

I had a good experience teaching last week. These are rare jewels in the usual torment of teaching at Holy Rosary so, I suppose, out of fairness I should describe it to you.

I was talking about using proxy servers as part of a network firewall. Proxy servers are computers that stand between, say, your web server and your browser. To your browser they look like the server itself, your browser gets **all** its pages from the proxy server — no matter what site you are trying to browse. To the server they work like someone browsing: downloading pages and making requests. We have one here at HRC and it is used to store local copies of pages and images being downloaded so it can serve them faster when other people visit the same sites, and it is also used to control who can visit what sites and what time, and what sort of things they can download.

I asked why anyone would want to use such a thing. One student answered (already a good day for me) and said it would be faster. I explained that in order to use the proxy your browser makes its connection indirectly via the proxy server not directly to the web server and wouldnt it be faster to go direct?
“I have a question”, the student said.
“Good”, I replied, indicating she should share it.
“But…”, she started. I laughed:
“Questions don’t start with ‘But'”
“OK”, she said, “I’m going to oppose you!”

Imagine how happy that made me. I think I must have started to glow!
“GOOD!” I said.
She explained very well why it would be faster for users to get their pages from the proxy rather than going all the way to the server for them.
I asked the other students if they had heard (my oponent was sitting at the front). They had not. I moved to the back of the class and asked her to stand and tell me again why it would be faster to use a proxy. she did and then I got the others to take sides with either me or the student based on our explanations.

I got some siding with me and some with her. Then I told them we were both __technically__ correct but that the student was right, proxies are often used to improve overall performance though, for an individual user making the first download from a particular site it would be __slightly__ slower to go via a proxy.

Things like this don’t happen every day at HRC. When I told Sister P. she said:
“Something like that can give you ennergy to teach for another three hours”, and she’s right.

Maybe I can bottle it. Hopefully it will help that I have put it up on this blog.

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