Friday, March 16, 2007

electric demons

I've lived in a house with four other computer-owning, internet-surfing, morally bankrupt bitorrent types for close to two years now. We don't have a TV and so the internet is our primary source of news and entertainment (after the pub) we've grown rather dependent on it. A situation which unfortunately places us rather at the mercy of powers beyond our control.

The first of these is our ISP, Tiscali, whose only real contact with us is the occasional threatening letter we recieve for commiting the dreadful social faux-pas of actually taking advantage of their "unlimited downloads" tariff. Due to the Heath-Robinson, held-together-with-twine nature of broadband technology our line has always been unpredictable and considerably slower than it supposedly should be. Recently, however, it has been getting a whole world worse: it drops down to about 10kbs during peak times, rendering it completely unusable, and has a charming habit of completely cutting out for hours on end.

Complaining to Tiscali probably wouldn't make the situation a great deal better. As I understand it, the hardware and lines are generally the responsibility of BT and so Tiscali, in their capacity as profiteers who buy the bandwidth in big lumps and then flog it off at a markup, can't really do a great deal about our concerns about hardware (especially when our high usuage probably means that we aren't a profitable enterprise for them). We'll try anyway, but they'll probably just send us a form email about how it's not their problem, we can go swivel, etc.

The other thing our internet connection is at the mercy of is our very own electric maniac, our network router.

As far as I know computers are incapable of doing anything random; they cannot be creative or spiteful or obtuse of their own accord - HAL is still a fair way off. This knowledge makes the behaviour of our Routers (we've had more than one go crazy) even more inexplicable, because if they aren't motivated by a spiteful desire to confound us with random actions then they must have some supercomputer-level programs which allow them to accurately emulate this.

There's nothing like having a router which stubbornly refuses to accept the truth of its own existence, or the existence of a DSL line, or the existence of the computers around it. If it was just the wireless then it would make a little sense, but no, it's the wired connections as well, we've had routers which will actively deny any knowledge of the computer which is being used to adjust its settings.

The best bits are those occasions where, after giving up on the thing as dead in the wee small hours of the morning, you leave it doing the computer equivalent of wearing its pants on its head and shouting "I am Napoleon", only to wake up the next morning find it purring away happily as if nothing had happened.

I'm generally quite a calm man, it takes a great deal to make me angry - I've only been angry enough to bite the heads off puppies about twice in the last two years - but both of those occasions were caused by wireless routers. I think the antics of our old Belkin router in particular have probably done more to advance the moment of my inevitable fatbastard coronary than even the greasiest of pies.