A Quick Fix

Today’s post is a bit later than usual because I was forced to deal with a technological crisis. See, we’ve got computer equipment scattered all over the house. In particular, the computers we use every day are upstairs, but the network storage boxes–the ones that hold the backups of our entire digital lives–are downstairs.

To be clear, the absolutely critical stuff (yes, including my writing) is also backed up offsite, because you can’t have too many current backups. But the key word there is “current”. If anything were to happen to the computer with all of my email, I’d need to restore it from one of those machines downstairs.

In typical geekly fashion, we’ve connected the upstairs and downstairs parts of the network by running a cable down the underside of the staircase. However, rather than running separate cables for each device–even by our rather casual decorating standards, that would be excessive–we use a network switch so the downstairs computers can share the single cable.

(For those of you who don’t know what a switch is, think of it as the network equivalent of a powerstrip. It lets you connect multiple devices to a single plug.)

The beauty of a switch is that, unlike so much else in the world of networks, it requires no management. Plug it in and forget about it.

Of course, when something goes wrong with it, there’s likely to be a mad scramble to fix the problem.

Guess what dropped dead in the middle of the night last night?

I have no complaints. The downstairs switch was a consumer grade model. It’s made of flimsy plastic and just plain feels cheap, but it ran continuously for just shy of nine years (except for power outages, which are unfortunately frequent around here) without ever causing a problem.

There’s a metaphor there about the overlooked points of stability in one’s life–the opposite of the squeaky wheels. Take it as given; that’s not really why I’m writing about it.

If the new switch–same manufacturer, but a model marketed to small businesses–lasts half as long, it’ll have been money well spent. This one’s got a metal shell and feels solid. Not that that means anything. It’s not the case that matters, it’s the guts inside that are important. Time will tell if the inside lives up to the outside.

Yeah, yeah, another metaphor about skin-deep beauty. Feh.

I could grumble a few words about single points of failure, but really, how much reliability do I actually need? I mean, the backup drives down there are single points of failure themselves. Redundant network connections would be useless if the drive itself failed. And keeping multiple devices for all of the gadgets down there would be excessive. Almost nobody needs two Blu-Ray players, two TVs, or even two game machines in a single room, and I’m not one of the minority.

No, the real point of all those words is to point out that, in these troubled times, isn’t it nice to know that there are still some problems that can be solved quickly and easily, simply by throwing money at them?

6 thoughts on “A Quick Fix

  1. Are you saying that something happened to the switch and cable other than their becoming cat toys? That something other than cats caused damage to something in your house?

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    • Hah! There were a couple of short outages earlier in the week that I chalked up to a feline walking on the wires. I spent some time last night checking for tooth marks and didn’t find any, so I was figuring to do serious debugging over the weekend. So it goes.

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  2. Remembering an old scene from The Simpsons where an old man shows Bart a die-cast toy and explains that it was made from a space-age material called “MEH-tull”. The kid’s mystified.

    In my family, we judge quality by weight. If it’s made of metal versus plastic, it’s better. My house is half the size of my mom and stepfather’s McMansion, but it’s slate-roofed and brick and probably weighs at twice as much, square-foot for square-foot. It’s better. 😛

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    • You must have some interesting childhood memories of balloons if quality is a matter of weight…

      Don’t forget the most important criterion, though: it’s yours! That makes it 28.6% better by definition.

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