Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When the Cloud Fogs Up

There is a problem with living in the cloud and relying on the internet.  The internet has to be functional.  A few nights I experienced this reality in full measure.
I was having trouble retrieving email earlier.  I was on my iPad.  The first thing I did was turn it off and turn it back on.  It still was not working.  The indicator showed I was connected to the internet but I was now getting messages saying the server was not responsive.  I proceeded to do the next best thing,  I went and rebooted my modem and wireless router by unplugging them and plugging them in again.  That did not work either.  So I did it again and again to no avail.  i then knew something bigger was up.
I decided not to futz with it any longer.  It reminded me of last year or two years when there was a similar issue.  It turned out that time that Comcast, my service provider, had a massive system wide internet failure and did not let anyone know.  When I found out, I was more than a little perturbed.  So, this time I decided to call them and see if this was a repeat of that event.
I picked up the house phone and got nothing.  It was dead.  Since, the phone which is voice over internet, I assumed in all the plugging and unplugging of wires, i had compromised the phone by not quite plugging everything back the way it was.  I made sure everything was secure and tried the phone again.  This time I got a busy signal.  Odd.  I tried again and got a dial tone.  I dialed the Comcast toll free number and went through the menu and waited... and waited.  It took ten minutes to get an agent.  I could hear the young man without any issues but he kept saying that he could not hear me and that I was breaking up.  We lost the connection probably due to my pushing random buttons on the phone handset in the belief that I had some chance of improving the connection quality by doing so..
Judy's cell phone then rang.  It was the agent, thankfully.  Once I established that he could hear me, I asked him if there was a system wide outage.  He said not that he was aware of.  He told me he was running diagnostic tests on my modem and saw no issues.  He instructed me to reboot the modem again this time taking out the backup battery to get a real reboot.  I had not done that.  I was in the process of trying to get the battery out when he stopped me.  He said he was just notified that enough people were calling in that made it a wider problem than just my house.  He said that a node/router/whatever of theirs  had failed and crews were being dispatched and that  he had to say it might take 24-48 hours to fix.  Oh my.
I had work to do that required access to the internet.   I had a new client and some pressing deadlines i.e. the next morning.  The files I had to work on were waiting for me in my email account.  This, of course, required the internet and I could not access them.  So, I was dead in the water in this regard.  I could have done other business development and personal work but these files were also in the cloud in either google docs or Evernote.  These applications are wonderful because they are accessible from any computer, pad, or phone..  Any computer, pad, or phone connected to the internet that is.
I could have used my phone.  That is not dependent on my home network.  The phone is good enough for texting, taking photos, checking quick facts and information on the internet, checking email, and perhaps responding to the emails if the response does not have to be too detailed.  Oh yeah... you can actually make calls on these phones as well.  I could have probably worked on the file but given the screen virtual keyboard size, I would have been more frustrated than productive.  And I was already pretty frustrated.
Wait a minute.  My iPad was 3g.  It had cellular capability.  I would just use that and be back in business.  Silly me.  Why hadn't I thought of that earlier.  Sometimes, I really act twice my age.  So, I switched on the cellular and it was slow.  Not just slow, but s-l-o-w...  It was molasses in the dead of winter slow.  Clearly, everyone in my neighborhood and town was already doing what I had just thought of.  The cellular bandwidth was fully utilized.  So, this option did not really work.  The files I needed simply were taking forever (and that is a long time) to download.  So, my brilliant, albeit late in coming idea,  was not so brilliant after all.
I was cut off from the world.  I was in desolation.  I was exiled.
Well not really.  Thankfully, we still had electricity.  I could read a book if I wanted to.  Luckily, I still had hardcopy books in my home.  Whew.  Even better, the cable TV still functioning.  The Comcast agent had said that the television network was separate from the internet.  Whew... what a relief.  I could watch The Green Lantern or The Blind Side for the umpteenth time.  I could still check on the weather every eight minutes on The Weather Channel.  I would have to suffer without the hour by hour forecast that the internet version provides.  It was horrible but somehow I survived.
I decided instead to work on a new file.  I could use my laptop and Microsoft Word.  Oh my, how retro.  I could use my iPad and their word processor, Pages.  The iPad option was less retro but essentially the same same.  So, that is what I did.  It was not what I was planning to do.  It was not what I needed to be doing.  But, I was doing... something.
The internet was not down as long as the Comcast  representative had said it might.  It was down about three hours.  I was engrossed in my make work writing that I never even realized it had come back on-line.  It felt like 1989.
Through perseverance, determination, and resolve, I somehow and miraculously survived this ordeal.  The human capacity to endure never ceases to amaze me.

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