Fixing A Whole

Not my actual download speed

Sorry I’ve been missing a while. Finally, broadband access has reached the country retreat (a.k.a. my mother’s house), and the last couple of days I’ve been setting us up a network.

It’s all gone pretty well. There were problems of course – these things always assume you’re starting with fresh and shiny computers instead of ones that have lived real lives – but in fairly quick succession they’ve all been solved. The Internet speed itself is not that great at about 1.75 Mbits per second; I’d frequently get faster download using 3G. But 3G was frustratingly intermittent, dropping out several times a day – sometimes several times an hour. This connection may not be blistering but it’s consistent, and that’s better. What’s better still, we now have a lovely all-wireless network that can shunt files around and back them up like nobody’s business. I may even take a break from criticising Eircom, the national-yet-privatised phone infrastructure company, for the first time since the year 2000. It’s all very satisfying.

Apart, that is, from one minor glitch. No actually it’s not even minor. It’s beyond trivial. There’s just one place on the network I can’t connect to from my laptop. It’s not something I actually need to connect to¹. But the thing is, I should be able to connect to it.

Do you understand what that means to a geek? The network is not complete. This incompleteness is intolerable.

This is not all obsessive-compulsive disorder. The reasonable worry is that an apparently inconsequential fault on the surface of a complex system indicates a fundamental one below. Unexplained problems ought, where possible, to be tracked down.

Which is where the OCD really comes into its own… Almost always this is a slow, iterative process of experimentation. “What will happen if I try this? Nothing. OK, so what happens if I try this… Nothing. OK, so what happens if I try the third of these two hundred and seventy-eight possibilities?” Curiousity draws you in, but an almost robotic repetitiveness gets you out.

Most of the way out, at least. A day later I’ve figured out what the problem is and I know how to fix it. Actually implementing the solution though, that’s not interesting at all.

So hi, how’ve you been?


  1. If you must know, it’s the root of one – though only one – of my USB external drives.