Networking

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Uncommon mode failure

Getting online: Fifth time lucky

Compiled at my hotel in Newbury, UK, and dispatched to silicon.com via wi-fi from my home three weeks later

So there I was on a weekend stopover in a hotel. It is a Friday morning and I have a clutch of urgent emails I need to send. So I log onto the hotel LAN to find I can receive email but I cannot send. Hmm, time for my second strike capability - a 3G dongle.

Unfortunately the application and driver crash on first attempt. I reboot my machine but to no avail. OK, Newbury town centre is a short hop away. I get into the car, and 10 minutes later I'm in a coffee shop in the high street. I access the local wi-fi service and attempt to log on. No joy! There is obviously some network or server fault that has me locked into an endless loop of log on and drop out!

So I'm off to a second coffee shop. No luck - the same problem rears its head. My analysis: I am being confounded by a common mode network failure very ably complemented by an uncommon mode failure!

To be precise: a common network/server/ISP failure has taken out a clutch of wi-fi services in the town over the same period my hotel service is having difficulty. Also I have had some software mangle.

What are the chances all of these could happen at the same time? Very slim! But they have, and could again in future.

Not to be beaten I drive back to my hotel and download a new version of the app, reload and - bingo - I'm online again via the 3G network at around 5Mbps. This only took about 10 minutes. My important emails are sent out straight away and I'm able to clear all my backed up work.

The moral of this experience is: You can never have enough alternatives! I have to admit that until this day I was confident that I had enough of everything but now I'm not so sure. I think I'll get another 3G dongle from a second supplier, for starters.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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