Ethernet papercuts


You know those class of problems that are just irritating enough to be noticed, but not enough for you to warrant spending time fixing? Canonical classed them papercut problems, which I liked.

Exhibit A: I’ve been using the same USB-A to Ethernet dongle on MacBook Pros for a number of years. I say number, because any year would technically be a number, and I can’t remember. But it’s been a while.

The problems started earlier this year when network shares and SSH connections would drop, but Mosh consoles and VPNs wouldn’t. The longer timeouts on the latter, and Mosh’s very design, were sufficient to maintain their connections even when something failed, but other network-dependent services couldn’t handle these phantom dropouts. I just laughed it off as another flaky macOS Catalina issue, and didn’t look into it further.

Keen-eyed readers may have spotted what my problem was right in the second paragraph. I realised last month the USB-A to USB-C cable I was using to connect the Ethernet dongle to the Mac wasn’t especially tight. It never looked like it was being unplugged, but it was electrically disconnecting just enough to leak Ethernet packets all over the table. The issue I’d been living with since February was a flaky USB connection.

So I checked the budget, allocated a couple of coffees away from the drinks envelope, and bought a new USB-C to Ethernet dongle. And who’d have thunk it, no more disconnections! It’s glorious!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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