My computers are increasingly sort of Internet terminals

December 16, 2013

My home Internet was out for all of Sunday, which gave me a rare and not exactly welcome opportunity to reflect on just how much of what I do with my computers involves the Internet. It's not quite as simple as my machine being just an Internet terminal, because there is a decent amount of things that I still do locally (to put it one way, I haven't clouded up to any significant degree). But in practice I interact with the Internet all the time, through Twitter and web browsing and email and syndication feeds and other things. Without the Internet it's not so much that there isn't anything to do on the computer but that there aren't any diversions any more (although this is being a bit too forcefully cynical).

Of course the Internet is a lot more than diversions; it's a source of data, information, and so on. And it's the destination of things like my photos, which makes processing them feel a bit pointless when the Internet is down.

(Not to mention Wandering Thoughts itself, since it's hard to write entries for it when I can't access it.)

Even at work, periodic Internet outages drive home how much of my routine work reaches out to touch the Internet, usually in the form of web searches and on-web resources. These days it's even difficult to install machines without Internet access (which has some corollaries and some drawbacks for systems for which you can't build local package repositories). Even if it's a bit silly, loss of Internet access at work often leaves me frustrated and wondering what to do.

(Some people might be tempted to criticize this Internet dependency. I think that it's silly; we depend on the Internet because it almost always works and not depending on it is a huge amount of work. It's not just a local repository of your operating system's packages, it's mirrors of source repositories, copies of their on-web documentation, and so on and so forth. Not all of these are designed to be easily mirrored, either. And some things you simply can't mirror, such as all of the places a web search will turn up when you're looking to solve some problem.)

PS: I don't really have a point here. This is a meditation.

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I find that if I want to get some serious amount of coding done, I need to take my laptop with a non-functioning wifi to a coffee shop. There, I find no internet distractions, no people that talk to me about whatever bug-of-the-day happens to be, etc.

Written on 16 December 2013.
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Last modified: Mon Dec 16 11:53:22 2013
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