Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Infobahn

Did you know that several of the superhighways that make up the American Interstate system were built paralell to existing US Routes, in the same way many of those original routes were built paralell to rivers?

I first used the phrase "The internet is truly the boulevard of modern communciation" in a talk I gave to a small gathering of Muslim students in 2005. When I included my quote in a recent post, I began to think how it holds even more meaning five years later.
"Infobahn" was coined as an analogy with the German word Autobahn for "highway" - according to WikiPedia, then-Senator Al Gore Jr.introduced it at a 1978 meeting of computer industry folk, in homage to his father , Senator Albert Gore Sr.
We have come to rely on the digital infrastructure. But what would happen if that infrastructure collapsed? Communication would be severely disrupted. Here are just a few things that would stop functioning without the internet.

ATMs and banks are interconnected in a system which includes Department and Grocery Stores, Gas Stations, law enforcement (including road and traffic control), broadcast stations, schools, corporations... add your Doctor's office, hospitals and government service channels as well as satellite, cable TV and the cellular telephone network.

If the internet goes down:
» Merchants would be able to accept cash, but they'd have to keep it in their pockets because the electronic cash registers would not be responsive.

» Police and emergency responders would probably still be able to keep in touch: the ones that haven't abandoned two-ray radios for cellphones.

» If computers remain functional, some radio and TV stations could continue operation, but any equipment relying on internet services would be lost. (This is one of the reasons I am against 'cloud computing' for individual users. If I am offline I can still use my computer and all of its functions, even certain ones that normally require an internet connection.)
THIS HAPPENED TO ME BACK IN 2006!
I knew something was wrong when I saw the screen a mish-mash of hash... nothing but black text: html code, on a white background. What had happened?

If this had happened 5 or 6 years ago, I would have totally freaked out! I was adding a post to the blog around 9.30pm, when for reasons unknown, something happened to the template. The blog was gone, replaced by a screen of nothing but the blogger navbar and solid lime-green below! Yow! What would you do if that happened to you?

I googled my blog, went to the "cache" where Google keeps a copy, clicked to reveal "source," and rebuilt the template line by line, using that sourcepage as a guide. Now it wasn't the actual template, but close enough. I copied it into wordpad, and re-selected the template I had previously chosen. From there it was mostly "fill in the blanks." Not everything is exactly back where it was, but in some ways it is now "better."

So, where a year ago I would have been horrified, this time it was just a simple case of "oh crap!" And I carried on...
Is it ever too late to create back-up systems? Not really. Everything that we've gotten used to doing via computer has been done manually in the past. But if there are no manual back-ups of records...

Are you still on MySpace? Open a Facebook account. Are you trying to network through Facebook? Open a Linked In account. On twitter? Open a FriendFeed account. Are you blogging? Open up a "back-up" blog via a different blog services provider. Don't "cross-post" - upload original material (you don't need to update as frequently as your "main" blog, but keep the service up, running and open - just in case "something" happens!

Get the idea? Establish your web presence across multiple services. That way YOU will be less likely to panic or break down when one of those services goes down!

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