Revelations in Web Starvation

Yes­ter­day, I fin­ished mov­ing out of the sit­u­a­tion I’d been liv­ing in for ~6 weeks in the base­ment of a south­east Port­land home near the west­ern base of Mt. Tabor. You’d see it just across from the flat Wash­ing­ton Mall-ish grass rec­tan­gle that pro­vides dar­ing sub­ur­ban explor­ers their most worth­while reward for reach­ing the top. It resem­bles one of many local res­i­den­tial tem­plates which I was com­plete­ly unequipped to under­stand when I arrived in the area last year. You’ll nev­er observe any of its inhab­i­tants out­side doing any of the things peo­ple do when they are unaware of — or uncon­cerned with being observed. Walk­ing by an after­noon front yard “fam­i­ly gath­er­ing” (young white par­ents and their one or two chil­dren) is a prospect of haste. Intro­duc­ing new move­ment to the vicin­i­ty after the sun has gone down stirs a dis­rup­tion from deep with­in its ener­gy. Every­one in this town is afraid. I say it’s an unnat­ur­al way to live, but I’m just a fuck­ing bump­kin.

As you may or may not have observed, the vast major­i­ty of my work­ing being lives on the World Wide Web, which requires, fun­da­men­tal­ly…. An inter­net con­nec­tion. In most any oth­er present-day first world cir­cum­stance, these are infi­nite­ly avail­able, but I dis­cov­ered – after the mov­ing process was entire­ly com­plet­ed, of course – that my ten­ants did actu­al­ly have an in-house con­nec­tion of their own. They explained to me that their neigh­bor – an “IT pro­fes­sion­al” for IBM – had offered to let them use his WiFi net­work, and they’d found the arrange­ment suf­fi­cient. How­ev­er, because IBM is The archa­ic mar­que of dig­i­tal fas­cism (dis­clo­sure: they are also my sworn blood ene­my,) it wasn’t alto­geth­er a sur­prise when they told me that his offer did not extend to “guests.”

I con­sid­ered that a defined peri­od of WiFi fast­ing at home could make for an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment — per­haps even a need­ed men­tal reset — and I couldn’t rea­son­ably afford to acquire my own ded­i­cat­ed 4G hotspot, any­way. The real­i­ty became a relent­less para­noid bat­tle for any trick­le of access — some­times for a dozen bytes per sec­ond; for just the most basic dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions like SMS and email — which led to more super­sti­tious hypothe­ses about pre­car­i­ous anten­na ori­en­ta­tion, progress bar hal­lu­ci­na­tions, out-of-con­trol frus­tra­tion, and hope­less fix­a­tion with refresh com­mands than I remem­ber from 2nd gen­er­a­tion cell net­works in the Mid­west, 10 years ago, or even domes­tic dial-up, and tru­ly revealed the extent to which I’d tak­en con­nec­tiv­i­ty for grant­ed.

My obser­va­tions of my own behav­ior through­out this drought are worth more than their mild amuse­ment: even this pet­ty dis­par­i­ty (I was nev­er more than two or three yards from near­ly-whole sig­nal at the top of the out­side stairs) re-sen­si­tized my per­spec­tive to the abstract con­cept of net­work unre­li­a­bil­i­ty which I’d been entire­ly spared since pre­pu­bes­cence. Though 4 bil­lion human beings now reg­u­lar­ly inter­act with the World Wide Web, their con­nec­tions span a math­e­mat­i­cal­ly gar­gan­tu­an spec­trum of speed and reli­a­bil­i­ty. In urban­iz­ing myself as an adult, I have uncon­scious­ly latched on to the enti­tled ide­al that inter­net access is a pub­lic ser­vice and accept­ed dra­mat­i­cal­ly-increas­ing depen­dence on ser­vices that engorge greater and greater vol­umes of band­width with­out any expla­na­tion but their lack of incen­tives for effi­cien­cy. I reflect on my rela­tion­ship with tech­nol­o­gy every day, yet I still became an obliv­i­ous data glut­ton in mind-bog­gling­ly lit­tle time.

The cur­rent state of con­nec­tiv­i­ty in the Unit­ed States, alone is quite alarm­ing under 5-year-absent exam­i­na­tion. Mobile car­ri­ers are still merg­ing and the com­part­men­tal­iza­tion of all ISP cus­tomers between pri­or­i­ti­za­tion tiers con­tin­ues to be test­ed, less encum­bered by reg­u­la­to­ry safe­guards than ever. I don’t know my pol­i­tics on this issue, nor do I have any spe­cif­ic solu­tions, but I’d point to the work of the Nation­al Dig­i­tal Inclu­sion Alliance, and express only that I hope the pace of the technology’s progress is greater than the growth of its mer­chants’ imag­i­na­tions and the scope of their greed so that the sheer vol­ume of plen­ty over­comes even the short­est-sight­ed, and human­i­ty as a whole con­tin­ues toward a more just dis­tri­b­u­tion of con­nec­tiv­i­ty. What I am in a posi­tion to share are the rev­e­la­tions about our cur­rent infra­struc­ture, soft­ware ser­vices, and hard­ware devices I could only have dis­cov­ered from such an expe­ri­ence.


Opera’s con­nec­tiv­i­ty error mas­cot is the cutest brows­er char­ac­ter. Chal­lenge Me.

I remem­ber stand­ing on top of a John Deere combine’s 15ft-high roof in order to suc­cess­ful­ly make a tele­phone call 10 years ago — one of thou­sands of behav­iors which were more abrupt­ly and uni­ver­sal­ly required for a few years and sub­se­quent­ly more abrupt­ly for­got­ten than any oth­er such unit­ed tick in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. This blip of shared tech­no­log­i­cal adver­si­ty also led to an unfath­omably vast col­lec­tive mythol­o­gy sur­round­ing incred­i­bly tedious manip­u­la­tion of our archa­ic hand­sets in vary­ing degrees of des­per­a­tion for just one bar.

My Sprint plan includes unlim­it­ed 4G LTE data for my iPhone 8 Plus with a 10GB teth­er­ing lim­it — which per­formed so admirably in the lone­ly role of my thin teth­er to the rest of the world that I am oblig­at­ed to actu­al­ly use the phrase like a champ, but the gen­er­al qual­i­ty of its mobile data con­nec­tion was dra­mat­i­cal­ly fucked by the stu­dio apartment’s depth. From the space’s geo­met­ric cen­ter at stom­ach-lev­el, the hand­set indi­cates “1x,” mean­ing CDMA 1x, which is tech­ni­cal­ly a data con­nec­tion, but cer­tain­ly not in any usable sense for the net­work appli­ca­tions of 2018. The native Twit­ter app, Apple Mail, Snapchat, Insta­gram & Face­book, Safari, Opera Mini, Fire­fox, Chrome, and all oth­ers I test­ed in this con­di­tion would sim­ply time­out – giv­ing up after a minute or two of repeat­ed attempts before declin­ing to con­tin­ue, each in their own minor vari­a­tions. An inter­est­ing anec­dote: in a per­ti­nent reflec­tion our human bal­loon­ing expec­ta­tions for con­nec­tiv­i­ty at all times, the lan­guage of our cre­ations across both iOS and desk­top appli­ca­tions has recent­ly become notice­ably less account­able and more accusato­ry. Instead of say­ing “____ can’t con­nect to the inter­net,” many of the browsers will declare an absolute: three is no inter­net con­nec­tion, or just straight up blame the user: “you are not con­nect­ed to the inter­net.” (Empha­sis mine.) No apolo­gies… No regrets.

Dude, no wifi? Where the fuck are U?

Direct­ly above my head’s place on the bed, the phone could be propped on the sill of the East-fac­ing win­dow on a clear-skied day, enabling it to scrounge up and loose­ly estab­lish enough con­tact to receive calls and text mes­sages, claim­ing 1–4 3G “bars,” and a sin­gle in 4G at night, though one over­cast North­west­ern week basi­cal­ly did it in com­plete­ly. If we were actu­al­ly doing some­thing to notice­ably increase our old Nokia box­es’ band­width bids on those ear­ly net­works by turn­ing them every which way to find “bet­ter recep­tion,” it’s com­plete­ly futile on cur­rent devices. (I’m fair­ly sure I remem­ber a net­work pro­fes­sion­al explain­ing this to me when LTE was first gain­ing trac­tion.) It was imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent that ori­en­ta­tion had no effect, but the handset’s bear­ing cer­tain­ly did… Most sen­si­tive­ly so. I real­ized quite ear­ly on that I should endeav­or not to spend too much time stand­ing in dif­fer­ent posi­tions through­out the space attempt­ing to will on a brows­er loader bar above a sto­ry I’ve prob­a­bly read already. Intstead, I com­mit­ted to the very first posi­tion that indi­cat­ed any cor­re­la­tion what­so­ev­er with a bet­ter con­nec­tion: atop the bis­cuit tin on the met­al rack near­est the out­side door.

It’s been three months, but I’m still using my tired old Hewlett-Packard 6930p back­up machine, so I was very skep­ti­cal about the odds we’d be suc­cess­ful­ly reli­ably pair­ing its ancient net­work adapter – now worth just $9.99 – with that of A Cel­lu­lar Phone 10 years its junior with­out strug­gling sig­nif­i­cant­ly with range or reli­a­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that it can­not run a sin­gle one of its vast library of pro­pri­etary dri­vers on Lin­ux. You’d at least assume they’d need to be prac­ti­cal­ly touch­ing each oth­er to main­tain a smooth mar­riage, yet the only com­pro­mise I had to make on the local end was to bring them near to each oth­er as they paired. After­wards, I could return the phone to its tin and work on the lap­top from the kitchen table, 12–15 feet away. (Curi­ous­ly enough, the 6930p itself shipped with hotspot capa­bil­i­ty by way of the SIM card slot behind the unit’s main bat­tery.)

Quan­ti­fy­ing the speed of a mobile data con­nec­tion as you would a ded­i­cat­ed WiFi net­work is incon­gru­ent because the for­mer trades in a much less con­sis­tent pack­et stream. That’s the extent of my knowl­edge, but it’s easy to visu­al­ize: a sig­nal that can trav­el a mile or two in big glob­ules bound to be inter­cept­ed in splash­es upon the device’s lit­tle anten­nae, ver­sus your home network’s local, even­ly dis­trib­uted sauna of irra­di­at­ed mist. It’s much less def­i­nite, to say the least, and I can’t actu­al­ly com­pre­hend the sort of voodoo that’s required in order to expand and main­tain the net­works as they are, nor would I ever wish to bur­den myself with such knowl­edge ever again, which prob­a­bly makes these words noth­ing more than a hasty account of none but anoth­er aver­age, exces­sive­ly net­work-priv­i­leged moth­er­fuck­er. How­ev­er, if I’m some­how gain­ing on some­thing in my recent Y2K, holy shit how did the time fly by so fast quarter(?)-life cri­sis bull­shit, some worth­while answers might be found.

It’s not just that it’d be enter­tain­ing to trav­el the Bible belt snatch­ing up the flick­ers of pecu­liar rur­al Ame­ri­ans’ most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-vul­ner­a­ble moments in an attempt to dis­cov­er some kind of telecom/Nextel/U.S. Cel­lu­lar pro­to-folk­lore (though I am 100% fuck­ing seri­ous about such a com­pi­la­tion, and rel­e­vant par­ties should Hit Me Up,) — it’s an absolute­ly essen­tial require­ment for us to keep our col­lec­tive heads and retain any abil­i­ty to bal­ance our sov­er­eign per­spec­tives. I have thought about tech­nol­o­gy and our greater rela­tion­ship with it every day, yet a sin­gle month spent just six feet from a sol­id inter­net con­nec­tion ren­dered me at times com­plete­ly and far too obliv­i­ous­ly inef­fec­tive.

The heroes of this Tedious Tale are Opera’s web brows­er and Telegram, espe­cial­ly. As I men­tioned last week on End User’s rec­ol­lec­tion of the ordeal, their band­width fru­gal­i­ty wouldn’t be rad­i­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive had the rest of us Online Folk not become so utter­ly waste­ful. The former’s “Opera Tur­bo” fea­ture is a fair­ly-recent and piti­ful­ly-under­hyped inno­va­tion which routes user traf­fic through Opera’s own CDN and choice meth­ods of com­pres­sion to con­serve capped data and bridge poor con­nec­tions as the infor­ma­tion is divert­ed toward the range of their penul­ti­mate snip­ping, skim­ming, and trim­ming. The result? My total band­width con­sump­tion plum­met­ed dra­mat­i­cal­ly, along with the qual­i­ty in con­nec­tion that was required for web pages to actu­al­ly dis­play. So mirac­u­lous and dra­mat­ic was its con­tri­bu­tion that I end­ed the month with a whole 3 giga­bytes to spare of my 10GB hotspot cap. In the process of writ­ing the above two para­graphs direct­ly to Word­Press’ new Guten­berg block edi­tor via Fire­fox, this machine has already burned away 899.2MB after no more than 90 min­utes spent in a con­di­tion some might even call idle, though it’s tech­ni­cal­ly a beta release, and I am in the midst of an acute reac­tionary desire to feast on the web.

The most impres­sive play­er by far, though, was the red-blood­ed VoIP and IM ser­vice Telegram, which I and my friend found to be sig­nif­i­cant­ly more reli­able than SMS mes­sages, even, which would send tele­com engi­neers to skulk away their crip­pling shame in dark places for no less than twen­ty years, in a more  ide­al cul­ture. How­ev­er, our real­i­ty is one of such abun­dance that com­par­ing between thou­sands or mil­lions of bytes per sec­ond has descend­ed into the deep­est chasms of irrel­e­vance. More like­ly than not, you’ll nev­er again live with­out an excep­tion­al near­by con­nec­tion for any notice­able stretch of time — not for the rest of your whole dang Online Life. Espe­cial­ly since you’ve found your­self here — this web­site is a hun­dred times or more heav­ier than it actu­al­ly needs to be, not because its cre­ator is a brain­dead cyberid­iot, but because vir­tu­al­ly every com­po­nent of web devel­op­ment cul­ture some­how man­aged to end up in a griz­zly divorce with vir­tu­al­ly every com­mand­ment from its foun­da­tion­al lit­er­a­ture of Best Prac­tices. Thanks in part to an intrigu­ing online project by LOW TECH MAGAZINE, such an accu­sa­tion no longer comes exclu­sive­ly from a place of aes­thet­ic, tech­ni­cal, or socioe­co­nom­ic judge­ment, but one of envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

Instead of con­tin­u­ing upon anoth­er rant about the hor­rors of this place where Matt and Bill left us to die, though, I’ve got to return to the essen­tial, human­i­tar­i­an work of archiv­ing the entire­ty of The Com­put­er Chron­i­cles, but I must leave you with a strange lit­tle piece of the truth we’ve just dis­cov­ered togeth­er: keep­ing a Tum­blr account is too envi­ron­men­tal­ly destruc­tive to be veg­an.

Meet End User

It’s about time I start­ed talk­ing to myself about tech­nol­o­gy in my parked car again. My audio equip­ment is still in stor­age, but I’m fresh out of folks who want to lis­ten to my rants about The Open Web, so I guess I’ll be giv­ing you a call every once in a while. Until yes­ter­day, End User was a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty for a pod­cast title.

Do be sure to vis­it Anchor’s Tech­nol­o­gy fea­tured sec­tion to find (sortof) sim­i­lar pod­casts by hosts who have real diplo­mas, but you cer­tain­ly don’t need one to call in any­time.

 Log­ic Mag­a­zine is required read­ing — start with “Dis­rup­tion: A Man­i­festo.”

Aretha Franklin Built Our Whole World

I was try­ing to fig­ure out why The Queen’s death hit me so hard today — I was embar­rass­ing­ly upset for much longer than I would’ve expect­ed, but the answer for me is like­ly the same as it is for you: she made up so much more of the beau­ti­ful rays of Amer­i­can exis­tence which now seem so impos­si­bly far away. Let me just sim­ply say that she gave so much of the music which I have depend­ed upon most thus far, even as wide of a span it is.

The truth is, she spanned far beyond me; far wider than any­one else has done. I spent a good few hours comb­ing misty-eyed through the mas­sive list of Aretha sam­ples which have con­script­ed that par­tic­u­lar form of affec­tion which only sam­plers can express in such a huge cut of the best Amer­i­cans have done in the past cen­tu­ry: from Out­kast to fuck­ing Drum & Bass.

Think­ing of you, Detroit.

Fresh Air’s Aretha Franklin trib­ute.

Cleaning Old Photos for the Health of both Hard Disk and Soul


I’ve writ­ten exten­sive­ly about my obses­sion with per­ma­nence and archiv­ing because it’s become rapid­ly more rel­e­vant as our stor­age and con­nec­tiv­i­ty have sky­rock­et.  I can’t remem­ber the last time I know­ing­ly erased a pho­to with a back­up some­where else. Thanks to Google Docs, Snapchat, iCloud, etc., the vast major­i­ty of you are now amass­ing sim­i­lar col­lec­tions whether or not you’ve intend­ed to.

Google Assitant's

The infi­nite mem­o­ry allowed by 2018 exis­tence has great poten­tial to hit my attach­ment issues pret­ty dang hard in their prover­bial gut along with any­one of sim­i­lar dys­func­tion. It’s real­ly dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a giv­en user net­ting any emo­tion­al ben­e­fit from any of these func­tions which group by prox­im­i­ty but have no abil­i­ty to be sen­si­tive about it when nec­es­sary. The only folks I know who’ve actu­al­ly played around with collaging/slideshow fea­tures in Google or Apple pho­tos are those like myself who gain noth­ing but a cheap laugh.

I get to pat myself on the back tonight, though because I delet­ed over 6,000 images and 6–8 years worth of text mes­sages from my iPhone 8 Plus. Of course, they’re all backed up on Google Pho­tos, but I’ve at least turned over a super­fi­cial leaf and my hand­set noti­cia­bly less encum­bered.

I also man­aged to get a few Drycast episodes up on Anchor, which has become some­thing else entire­ly from what it was last year, but it gives me a rea­son to have a bit of DJ-escque fun and revis­it our best con­tent. I’m glad they’ve upped their bitrate, but they removed the abil­i­ty to resume voice record­ing on their iOS app, which makes abso­lut­ley 0 sense to me. I took the time to make the above video because 1) the speech-to-text func­tion is bet­ter-designed than any­thing else in the ser­vice and 2) I want­ed to see if iMovie for iOS had final­ly been reworked and made usable (it hasn’t.)

In short: pleast teach me how to move on dig­i­tal­ly and help me under­stand how soft­ware end­ed up this way.

Show Big Dick Sexy