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January 6, 2008

Nor are we out of it
Posted by Patrick at 10:06 PM * 47 comments

If you were expecting email from us, reponse to your IMs, engagement with your online scheme, or anything else that depends on net connectivity, sorry about that. We are in connectivity hell, thank you Time Warner Cable, and for all I know we’ll be here for weeks to come.

Comments on Nor are we out of it:
#1 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Time Warner Cable as handbasket!

#3 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:19 AM:

I hope you're holding out all right; if you're used to instant access, not having it feels like...well, I hope I'll never be able to confirm this, but it feels like what I'd imagine mild aphasia would feel.

There's also a trapped feeling to it, reminiscent of the effects of the weapon in Jody Scott's Passing for Human that (horrors) traps a god in a single, mortal, body.

A couple of times over the past few years, I attended to medical parental emergencies away from home without a laptop in tow; both times, after about a week of non-access, I got on the web and suddenly felt like my physical extent was expanding away from my body, a feeling I had only achieved before with chemical assistance (and that only once). I was certainly primed for the effect by sleep deprivation and stress, but still it was a scary indication of how used I've got to the sensation of pseudo-alocality associated with surfing.

#4 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:27 AM:

Not sure if you're having the same problem as before, but you may be having DNS trouble. For the uninitiated: the Domain Name Server tells your PC (and hence your browser) what IP is associated with any given name. If it doesn't know, or isn't talking, then your browser won't be able to find those sites.

in a command window, you can type


[substitute the name of the site that's not working] and see if you get an answer. If it says "not found" anywhere in there, you may have a problem.

ipconfig /all

Will let you see the ip address(es) of your dns server(s). If there's nothing listed for DNS, that's also potentially a problem. You should be able to call your provider, in that case, and tell them you are having a DNS problem, and skip all the IE hooey.

#5 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:55 AM:

And to think, most of us lived comfortably for decades without any net.access at all.

Makes one shudder to recall, doesn't it? :}


#6 ::: Sean O'Hara ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:08 AM:

Maybe you should switch to the #1 ISP in the nation -- Linksys.

#7 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:50 AM:

Michael Turyn @ 3

The description of the desolation of being bound in a finite, mortal body that always gets me is from Vernor Vinge's "True Names", as Mr. Slippery voluntarily shuts down the access that allowed him to use more than half of the entire worldnet to become a being capable of waging war among gods. In some ways losing high-speed access now is worse though; because you can remember precisely what you did when you had the access, you just can't do it anymore. Expand the human mind with the computation ability of software agents and highbandwidth sensory connections and you can do things whose very nature you might no be able to remember or understand without them.

#8 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:57 AM:

Patrick, Mary Dell has a good point: if you determine that the DNS server(s) that Time-Warner provides are hosed, you can find others that aren't too many hops away from you, or drop back to using numeric IP addresses in your URLs. This will be a pain, but would at least let you get reasonable access to vital addresses.

Another possible solution to bad DNS mojo is to use one of the proxy solutions in the "Surviving IT Lockout" sidelights. Get to the proxy URL with an IP address, and let the proxy's favorite DNS server find your other addresses.

#9 ::: Sebastian ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:05 AM:

Further to Mary Dell @ 4: If you are having nameserver problems, try overriding your nameservers with the (conveniently easy to remember) 4.2.2.x nameservers:,,,,,

They should work from any ISP -- assuming, that is, that you can send and receive UDP packets at all.

#10 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:10 AM:

In #5, Meredith writes:

And to think, most of us lived comfortably for decades without any net.access at all.

In my case, I wasn't that comfortable.

As soon as I heard about the Net, I became jealous of those who had access.

#11 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:16 AM:

In #3 Michael Turyn writes insigthfully:

I hope you're holding out all right; if you're used to instant access, not having it feels like...well, I hope I'll never be able to confirm this, but it feels like what I'd imagine mild aphasia would feel.

There's also a trapped feeling to it, reminiscent of the effects of the weapon in Jody Scott's Passing for Human that (horrors) traps a god in a single, mortal, body.

A milder form of this is the twitch I get, in a restaurant or tavern, when the sudden urge to know something comes over me and Google is nowhere within reach.

On the other hand, I have a pal who googles at the table, wirelessly, and it seems vaguely impolite.

#12 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:20 AM:

I'm in similar connectivity hell on the west coast. Today is the first reasonably connected day all week.

Now, if only I could get rid of that little facial tic I've developed as a result . . .

#13 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:06 AM:

Oh, geez, I hope you guys can get online again soon. It's like losing a body part to not have the access one is used to. (Parenthetically, I am entirely thrilled that I am not the only one who feels this way. Sometimes I feel like there must be something wrong with me to miss being able to hop online, the times when my access goes down. Confirming this is the fact that I actually get more real-world projects done when I can't go online...hmmm....)

#14 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:14 AM:

meredith @ #5:
And to think, most of us lived comfortably for decades without any net.access at all.

Speak for yourself. :) I was on the net well before my life finished its second decade.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:16 AM:


Having spent a month offline at home, online only at the office, I have tremendous sympathy.

In times of strife, we must take refuge in poetryversification. Therefore:

I have unplugged
the tubes
that connected
your computer

and which
you were probably
for your online life

Forgive me
I am Time Warner
so corporate
and so cold

#16 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:17 AM:

Do I remember that the first law of computing is that computers don't work?

#17 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:37 AM:

#10 Bill
I was annoyed that I was in the military and had no ARPAnet access, while noxious high school kids in California and other places had it and were on the newsgroups that I couldn't get at.... it majorly annoyed me.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:41 AM:

Will Time-Warner declaim:

'O, Patrick! Leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul'


#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:19 AM:

Well, they might make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Abi @ 15... I am Time Warner... and used to be called AOHell Time Warner.

#21 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:45 AM:

meredith@5: Well, I've had some sort of worldwide network access since 1981, but I do seem to vaguely remember not hearing news about friends far away sometimes for *several days*! It was kinda sad.

#22 ::: Sara ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:01 PM:

Thanks for the update. I was starting to wonder if I were the victim of a really bizarre internet hoax, because surely if that were actually e-mail from Teresa, she'd have responded to my response....

I'll continue to file it under "I might not have hallucinated the whole thing. Maybe."

#23 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:35 PM:

I'm just amused that Moran gave us the symptoms of "datastarve" {pauses for a quick wiki-ing} nearly 20 years ago, and now I'm/we're living it. (Furthermore, I have it on good authority that my father not only is NOT living it, but does not exactly understand why anyone would need to check their email more often than every month or two.)

Dave "dialup was good enough fer Jesus" DeLaney

#24 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:19 PM:

I signed up for Earthlink and it took them 5 seconds to switch me over from Time Warner. It might be worthwhile to call Earthlink and have them switch you. It's all done remotely.

#25 ::: Donald Delny ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Sebastian, 9,

What is known about those nameservers? (,,,,, ) I keep seeing places where people recommend them, but who runs them?

#26 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:18 PM:

Sweet Jesus, I'd be camping outside the nearest WiFi access point by now.

#27 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:29 PM:

David DeLaney @ 23: Moran gave us the symptoms of "datastarve"... nearly 20 years ago, and now I'm/we're living it.

E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops", 1909, features someone anxious about data withdrawal when going off-line for a few minutes from a network bearing resemblance to Twitter, YouTube, and the blogosphere in general.

#28 ::: tom brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:13 PM:


The First Law of Computer Science (as I learned it when studying for my CS degree) is The probability of computer failure increases as a project deadline nears, reaching 1 on the day the project is due.

#29 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:53 PM:

tom brandt #28:

Back when I was doing the same, we learned it as a more specific rule, substituting "your class account running out of funny money" for simple computer failure. Out in the Real World, actual computer failure was almost a relief.

I probably shouldn't mention the corollary having to do with printers that I derived in (non-CS) grad school.

#30 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:57 PM:

meredith @ 5 - No, I spent decade or so waiting for it to be invented, then another decade or so getting connected, then waiting a decade for broadband to be generally accessible.

And for most of that time I felt like a sighted man in the kingdom of the blind. I have a vivid memory when as a young child I drew a picture of my house of the future, and I put a computer in the basement that would connect to all the other computers. And my parents really couldn't understand why. Not that my explanation that computers can do anything, and they're really cool, and why wouldn't you want one in your basement, really made sense back then (early 70's).

#31 ::: tom brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:00 PM:


I do remember students begging professors for more money in their class accounts at the end of the term. At UMich we could even have our own personal accounts funded with our own (real) money. This came in very handy sometimes.

#32 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:05 PM:

I would not sign up for Earthlink! (One individual user's experience....)

Nothing said so far in the thread specifically points to DNS server failure as a connectivity culprit, but there's a pretty simple test for this. If, for instance, you enter and the web browser says the website can't be found, then enter instead. If the Google site magically appears, you know that you have a problem with DNS servers. Similarly, you can substitute the IP address for the name of any known site (say ==> )

As Patrick obviously already knows, Traceroute is your friend. A more likely explanation for failed connectivity is that there's a pipe broken somewhere between Time Warner and other carriers or that something's wrong in their internal server farm or their physical house-to-house cable connections. Traceroute might, at least, show where the break in connectivity occurs. Does Time Warner manage all the traffic in Brooklyn and Manhattan? If not, you might get external validation by taking a laptop to a wireless coffeehouse connected through someone else and trying to traceroute into your home IP. (This might be an interesting exercise, anyway. But it's one that you would think Time Warner's own staff would already have performed.)

#33 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:18 PM:

From his description earlier, it sounds like the problem is well downstream. How far is important though. And there are usually a number of hops moving up and out of the ISP/connectivity provider's network.
Where does traceroute give up? Given the extent of the blackout, it sounds like it's within TW's net.

#34 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:21 PM:

Donald @25:

Those public nameservers (the last time I could check) belong to Verizon or Level3 (tier 1). If the latter, they could possibly date back to BBN. More likely would be GTE Internet, which Verizon bought some time back -- the domain for these servers is

#35 ::: paxed ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:24 PM:

re-ponse, noun: Action performed when you notice the letter monster has eaten one of your letters.

#36 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:44 PM:

I believe the DNS servers in 4.2.2.* do indeed date back to operation by BBN, the original ARPA assignees of the 4.* class A network and AS 1.

During the late '90s BBN was bought by GTE and merged with GTE Internet, after which Bell Atlantic merged with (but actually bought up) GTE to become Verizon, after which GTE Internet was spun off as Genuity, which then went bankrupt and was bought by Level 3. (My ISP was a connectivity and bandwidth customer of both GTE and BBN during various portions of these travails, which is why I remember.) Curiously, Level 3 has not yet gone bankrupt or been bought by anyone.

Despite these ordeals, some cadre of the original BBN folks seem to have maintained a few of their traditional public services. Thus I believe every one of the above theories about those DNS servers happens to be correct, and then some. (UUNet had some similar public DNS servers at one time, but I think they're long gone, along with AS 4.)

#37 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:31 PM:

Online World Held Together by Postage Stamps!

#38 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:42 PM:

It still sounds to me like a local cable problem in the Time Warner system. I have Time Warner/Road Runner for my internet service and while I had some slow loads Saturday/Sunday, today load times seem to back to normal.

BTW, Time Warner is the cable TV provider for most of NYC, so they also provide broadband for a good chuck of the city also. When I signed up for cable internet I had the choice of AOL, Earthlink or Road Runner as my "provider". I chose Road Runner because at that time it didn't carry an extra charge beyond the broadband service itself.

#39 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:13 PM:

Came home around 9 tonight, everything down. Power-cycled everything, connection roared back, crossing our fingers but so far so good.

It's not a DNS problem. It's also not our crapola Linksys wireless router, although its intermittent failure compounds the complication of diagnosing the TWC problem.

Anyway, the intertubes flow right now, so mmmmmmmm.

#40 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:07 PM:

You have outlined precisely why I switched from Time-Warner cable to DSL some 5 years ago. Besides, TWC *blocked* some web sites for no reason at all. I proved that to their tech with my dialup, which I kept back then because TWC was so unreliable.

#41 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 09:19 PM:

A LOLcat for you if it happens again.

#42 ::: Summer Storms sees probable spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:14 PM:

Wet clean-up on aisles 42 & 43, please.

#43 ::: Xopher thinks the mods may have missed one ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:13 PM:

You got 43, but missed 42.

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:33 PM:

I got sidetracked. Done now.

#45 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Between the spam and the occasional random act of necromancy, some days are rather like a B-grade horror flick, aren't they?

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:50 PM:

Summer Storms @47:

I've just finished Charlie Stross' The Atrocity Archives, so I'm already in that mode. I saw an orphaned glove on my windowsill and immediately thought of a Hand of Glory...

#47 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 07:01 PM:

Speaking of The Atrocity Archives, I just decided the other day that it was finally time for me to read it, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but MY LIBRARY SYSTEM DOESN'T HAVE IT. Hmph.

Don't they know that when I buy a book I never read it because I have to read the books I have out from the library first?

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