Working from home still tenuous sometimes


Yesterday Clara and I were having no end of trouble setting up and using our respective video conferencing sessions, web demos, and company chat. It was enough that I gave up trying to video in, and had to succumb to these newfangled things called phones to dial a string of numbers and only get audio out of it. It was weird, and very low quality.

We got this email about an hour into our adventures:

There is a service disruption in your area
Performance issues and packet loss affecting some services

Disruption started Affected service: $username

Window Start Thu 20 Aug 2020 11:05AM AEST
Window End No ETA

I’m relieved when a telco at home, or an upstream at work, reports problems like this. It means they’ve been acknowledged, and presumably a NOC somewhere is investigating the cause and are fixing. Ambiguity is the most frustrating part of IT, especially when it comes to networks.

(This is one of the few ways I can empathise with doctors and car mechanics. They must constantly get asked by family and friends for advise on specific problems with insufficient information. Why does my car make this BBZZT sound? Why do I have this specific pain?)

I can tell immediately when our FTTB connection fails, because it feels as though everyone in our apartment building instinctively reaches for their phones to tether. Hundreds of people across dozens of floors drags the whole network down to crawl; which I suppose is tempting to do when we’re all stuck in our carpeted homes.

We’re not in higher stage lock-down here, so Clara and I donned our masks and headed to a coffee shop in the local shopping centre to tether off another cell tower instead! Call it forced exercise.

Still though, the experience reminded me that despite our Malcolm Turnbull’d Internet in Australia, network infrastructure is one of the precious few things keeping us and the economy going at this stage. These implausibly tiny little wires strung through the ground into our buildings have replaced direct human interaction. You could say they’re the ultimate masks.

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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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