evolved complexity in networks
Tuesday, July 1 2003
Gretchen and I went to the Hurley Mountain Inn this evening for another of our expedient dinners of cheese pizza and vindication fries. We sat at a table with one of Gretchen's clients, a guy from just down the street named Toni. Also at our table was a small group of Toni's tennis buddies. They're all at least in their fifties. One of them is a gentleman I call "the Indexer guy," because he has the job of putting together indicies for books. He was telling me about the complicated internet setup he has back at his house. He has a cable modem for his wife and an extra phone line for the dialup access he uses on his computer. I don't know how much he pays each month for all that crap, but he'd certainly be a lot happier replacing that phone line and one of his providers with a simple router. I'm finding this sort of evolved complexity1 common in the networks of most of the new people I meet. Everybody seems to have more than one computer these days, and knowledge that one needs only one internet provider per household isn't widespread. (Hell, one only really needs one internet provider per cluster of houses.) When people get a second computer, many of them also get another phone line and start paying a second ISP bill. I took the opportunity to clue-in those at my table, and then of course I passed out my business cards.
Among other things, I'm something of a router evangelist. When coupled with wireless technology, consumer routers have the reach necessary for people to build their own alternatives to data carrier utilities and monopolies. I'd like to see communities build their own local networks and inter-community connections and completely bypass the increasingly-anti-libertarian internet. Some day there may even be WiFi cellphones that rely entirely on densely-packed WiFi cells in urban and suburban areas. Though they'd have a number of physical limitations, calls on such devices could be made for something very close to free.
The Indexer guy was sort of dubious about the new complexity of getting a router and new network cards for his computers. He said he'd talked to Time Warner asking if they had any ideas for consolidating his internet access, and they had told him it's not a good idea. Isn't that amazing? Sure, it's not a good idea - for them. They want to keep the bandwidth needs of their subscribers as low as possible. It's not in their interest to advise their subscribers to install routers - particularly when ethernet lines from these routers could so easily be run to adjacent homes and compete with their service.
1I use this term because the complexity comes to resemble the layers of the mammalian brain. In systems that evolve (as opposed to those that are designed or radically redesigned), there's almost always a certain amount of redundancy between simpler parts that served various functions adequately in more primitive times and recent complex additions that have taken over the bulk of these functions. Another good example of this is the Windows operating system, which (unlike the designed Macintosh system) does not boot directly into the full spectacle of itself without recapitulating the earlier text-based stages in its evolution.
fun destinations on the information super highway
Biblical Femininity - this woman has six kids but Jesus weeps since she only homeschools five of them. I could be wrong about this, but I get the impression she's never worn trousers. Even normal women's underpants might be just a little too masculine for her.
yo I B cool and you B whatEva. FahrEEl - this gentleman busts rhymes about shoplifting, smoking pot, and being investigated by the FBI for conspiring with the ultimate hybrid of terrorist kingpings. But watch out for that virus!
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