Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

greetings from 1995

by the stormy present Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 11:38:45 AM EST

The Internets have abandoned me.


This is going to be a nearly link-free diary because, well, it's hard enough for me to get online to post it, let alone surf around for links.  I could be working on it for two days if I waited for that.

So anyway.  Perhaps you read somewhere about the two undersea fiber-optic cables in the Mediterranean that were cut on Wednesday morning.  (Or perhaps not; I'm not sure how much this has made news in other parts of the world.  After all, it's just a bunch of brown people speaking funny languages who've been knocked offline....)

Anyway, it took out the Internet in all of Egypt (including mine, and I have three or four different ways to get online) for an entire day.  At first, everyone assumed it was just a local problem -- the ADSL connection at my apartment is always sketchy.  But then we started hearing from other people... it's down at the office too, and then at my friend's office across town, and then at another friend's home in a different area... and then I learned it was down in the Gulf, and then realized some other people in India and Pakistan were offline too... holy crap, this is big.

We were suddenly flung back to the Stone Age:  communicating by fax and telephone (except the phone networks were having problems too) and gradually realizing that we might be doing this for a while.  One friend said he actually had to send documents by telex.  I didn't think anybody had telex anymore.  Crikey.

Well, the Internet's back now, but it's creaking along at slower-than-dialup speeds, with frequent interruptions.  It's maddening.  I feel like I'm back in 1995, only all the sites are much higher-bandwidth than they were back then, with flashy graphics and bells and whistles.  It's driving me insane.

One friend is actually using dialup instead of DSL because he swears it's faster and more reliable right now.  I don't even have a freaking dialup modem for this computer to give it a try.

I can't do the simplest things.  I try to send an e-mail, it gets hung up halfway through.  Yesterday, I was trying to help out a friend who was trying to finish an important application before the deadline but couldn't download and print the .pdf application form in her usual Internet cafe because they were completely offline.  From my office, it took -- no joke -- two hours to open the flippin' 500 MB document.  The connection kept going down about halfway in, and then freezing everything up and we'd have to start over.

All of this is making me realize how completely and totally dependent I am on the Internets.  I didn't even know how to contact any of the other frontpagers offline to tell them I couldn't get to the site!  And I think folks in the telcoms industry around here are having a hard think about how vulnerable their infrastructure is.

Nobody knows what happened to those cables in the Mediterranean.  Apparently they suspect a ship's dragging anchor cut them, but other people have talked about the weather.  It's been raining like crazy here (also highly unusual) and even more up along the coast. At the very least, the weather is apparently interfering with efforts to get this shit fixed, since they (allegedly) couldn't get a repair ship to the site right away because of the weather.

This, I thought was strange.  It's only 8 km off the coast of Alexandria.  How hard could it be?

But wait... it seems that Telcom Egypt will be involved in the repairs somehow.  My god, we're doomed.

Oh, and then there's this:  Another cable was cut this morning between UAE and Oman.  It's owned by the same company as one of the broken Mediterranean cables.  It's part of a "self-healing loop" in the Gulf, so theoretically shouldn't affect traffic on the Arabian Peninsula that much, but still... I can hear the conspiracy theorists going nuts already.

Oh, this is going to be fun.

Display:
I might go practice my smoke signals now.  Anybody know Morse Code?

This came at a really inconvenient time -- my 7-year-old niece has been in the hospital with some mysterious ailment, and the Internet is the main way I communicate with my family, so I've been going a little crazy for lack of Skype. :-(

Fortunately, I heard this morning that she's recovering nicely and has been released from the hospital.  She should be back in school on Monday.  (Fingers crossed.)

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 11:44:11 AM EST
Heard about it first on Wednesday afternoon. and thought you'd be chewing your fingers off waiting for downloads. ;-)

In fact it has been a TV news item here today so you're not completely forgotten.

as for the conspiracy theory, these cables get cut all the time. (If egyptian telecom are anything Like BT, I've had major site fibre optic cables cut by a BT crew and used as a pull-through for new phone lines they were installing!)

I've also had a complete site failure when the site we linked too to provide our internet connection had builders put a JCB bucket through the site cables and black out half of Wales educational network for three days.  and that was a relatively small cable. Fixing these things are somewhat tricky, especially under a depth of water.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 12:07:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it was big news here as well, and this is a serious situation; not because a bunch of brown people speaking funny languages have been knocked off-line, mind you, but because the main high-capacity link to India is down.

Yes, India, where more and more of the back office work for bankers, insurers, software companies, you name it, is being processed. So now, this is not funny anymore: we're talking real money here.

by Bernard on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 05:58:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, forgot to mention this little detail:  A friend pointed out that the BBC is asking people in the Middle East to share their stories of Internetlessness... via an online forum.  Heh.

(Uh, no link, sorry.  That BBC site is really high-bandwidth, I'm not going there.)

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 11:53:55 AM EST
Moon of Alabama - Cable Cut

2 out of 3 cables running through Suez and which carry all the net data for the ME and India Pakistan are not functioning and may be down for days' possibly weeks. There is now no redundancy on that cable which would make the job of tracing data which has up until now been injected into the net somewhat surreptitiously, a lot easier. Say for example a video of this week's exploding hummers, accompanied by the latest anthemic islamic pop song, may now be easier to trace or at least it may be possible to uncover enough about the route to block out future data injections.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 12:30:49 PM EST
I remember in the late 90's most of the state of Minnesota was off the internet for a few days when a homeless guy started a fire under a bridge near downtown and burned the relevant cables in the process. That's all it took. Backbone links aren't particularly redundant as you just discovered.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 01:18:01 PM EST
Also in the late 90's a coworker of mine got into an argument on IRC and decided to ping flood his adversary's IP address. He was very successful, he managed to cut off a whole European country..

(He did not work at our workplace for long)

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 08:14:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My cable internet connection in Paris has been very slow yesterday and today. Could this be related?

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:16:01 PM EST
Well, it shouldn't be, but that depends on where alternative routes are going. If it happens that there is (say) a connection somewhere near you that is taking extra load as a result, it could.

How's your connection to local site, like your provider's site?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:18:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
have a look on yout suppliers site, see if they're showing any problems.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:26:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't use my provider's site but yahoo's been very slow too.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:27:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if you go to their site there's probably a  link to tell you if they have any network problems, and when they expect to have them sorted out.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:32:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
C'mon! We're talking about Numéricable here; they don't have any such page on their site...

Their poor customer service has actually made the headlines several times last year.

by Bernard on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 05:41:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.internetpulse.net/

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 06:38:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Third undersea Internet cable cut in Mideast - CNN.com
The ships were expected to reach the site of the break on Tuesday with repairs completed by February 12, according to a press release from FLAG Telecom, which owns one of the cables.


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:18:33 PM EST
That's just taking the piss.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:21:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hopefully that will mean more backup links being put in place.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Three different incidents? Maybe sabotage? (Remember that word before the T-word was "introduced"?)

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 06:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought the internet was designed by the military to be able to survive large scale disruption due to nuclear war etc.  Is there really so little redundancy in the system?

PS  Was there life before the internet?  My kids want to know.  I remember we used to talk to people off-line and play with analogue cards etc.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:55:59 PM EST
I'm sure DARPA retains its redundancy, but do you expect Cisco to lay two backbones if they can get away with one?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 02:59:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cisco is not the one laying fiber for the backbones, but they're selling the BFR's (big f'ing routers) to connect the segments.

Actually, they would be quite happy if the telcos were adding more redundancy to their networks: this would be even more business to them.

by Bernard on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 05:47:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Internet you're talking about is the DARPA network circa 1985, linking the US military sites in the known universe (the 48 contiguous states, plus Alaska and maybe Hawaii & Guam). This one was implemented on landlines and has plenty of redundancy.

This is till true today for the Internet connections within the same landmass. The trouble, as we all noted, is for the links between the different continents: these are few and far between, except maybe for North America - Western Europe.

Oh yes, the military have their own satellites for overseas communication; they don't depend on underseas cable mishaps, thank you very much.

by Bernard on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 06:08:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The trouble, as we all noted, is for the links between the different continents: these are few and far between, except maybe for North America - Western Europe.

And a disturbing number of the trans-atlantic cables seem to come to shore at the same place. The maps not clear where it is, but I bet it'd take somebody with malign intent no time to find out.

As somebody pointed out, this has been way too expensive for it to be allowed to recurr. There will be redundancy and alternate routes in the next 10 years. I bet russia does one overland and gets everyone else to pay for it.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 08:29:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From 2003

Cable failure hits UK Internet traffic - ZDNet UK

As TAT-14 is a dual, bi-directional ring of cable, a single serious fault should not be enough to break it, as traffic would still be able to flow between the countries on the ring. Unfortunately, a part of the cable near the US coast had already suffered a technical fault earlier this month, which meant there was no built-in redundancy to cope with Tuesday's failure. According to BT, the US-side fault should be fixed by the end of this week, which will bring the cable network online again.

Tuesday's failure affected BT's voice calls, rather than its data services, but it is understood that a number of Internet service providers experienced faults.

Vanessa Evans, of LINX, the London Internet Exchange, which carries nearly all UK Internet traffic and over half of Europe's Internet traffic, said she saw a drop in traffic of around two gigabits per second. At its peak, LINX sees 32 gigabits of data every second. She added that the Internet was not broken, as traffic was rerouted through other networks.

And for historical plans of international connections (Unfortunately rather uk/us centric)see Here

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 08:43:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when a line crossing the taiwan straits was cut by some ship or something. it appears the system is far less redundant than we are lead to believe.
by wu ming on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 02:28:44 AM EST
I feel like I'm back in 1995, only all the sites are much higher-bandwidth than they were back then, with flashy graphics and bells and whistles.

Ah, the joys of bitmap and Javascript... Sometimes I wish that the people who code things were forced to work with machines at least five years old instead of state-of-the-art. Might prevent them from making bloatware. Or it might not...

My sympathies with your internet withdrawals in any case.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 02:35:35 AM EST
Khaleej Times Online - Ships did not cause Internet cable damage

CAIRO - Damage to undersea Internet cables in the Mediterranean that hit business across the Middle East and South Asia was not caused by ships, Egypt's communications ministry said on Sunday, ruling out earlier reports.

The transport ministry added that footage recorded by onshore video cameras of the location of the cables showed no maritime traffic in the area when the cables were damaged.

`The ministry's maritime transport committee reviewed footage covering the period of 12 hours before and 12 hours after the cables were cut and no ships sailed the area,' a statement said.

`The area is also marked on maps as a no-go zone and it is therefore ruled out that the damage to the cables was caused by ships,' the statement added.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 06:27:09 PM EST
Stand Strong has an interesting diary up on DK about this.

I don't know much about that stuff anymore so I leave it to the internet mavens 'round here to analyze.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 06:36:21 PM EST
Well unfortunately I think it's probably rubbish, the idea that it's been done to cut off Iran.  I can easily get to the website of at least a couple of Iranian universities.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 07:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you do a bit of research you will see that not only does Iran not have any Internet service, neither does Florida, Africa, and Columbia.

http://www.internettrafficreport.com/

Of course that is silly - so obviously that is not what is being shown.

The problem is that Internettrafficreport does not explain what they display in a clear manner allowing all kinds of speculations.

Q: What is the Global Index?
A:  The Global Index is the overall average of the response rating from all servers queried in the Internet Traffic report. Higher Index means faster Internet.

http://www.internettrafficreport.com/faq.htm

So router1.iust.ac.ir is off the net. Fortunetly not all of Iran goes through router1 - not even enough of the traffic to make a noticeable difference in loading pages from Iranian newspapers.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 07:32:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I was sat here thinking that the idea that Iran might be entirely connected to the outside world through a single undersea cable was mad. (although if they have everything running through a single filter it's possible, but completely insane)

I know that these figures can be somewhat misleading, a Connection I was responsible for had a graphical reporting tool that was showing that my site was down for about a year and a half, till we could persuade our suppliers that we were no longer connected through a microwave link, but instead running through a fibre connection.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 07:46:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Renesys Blog

Let me repeat, Iran is not disconnected from the Internet!

We have gotten a few queries about why we did not highlight Iran in our review of the network outages that resulted from the cable breaks. (See here, here and here.) Like most countries in the region, the outages in Iran were very significant, but for the most part they did not exceed 20% of their total number of networks. Now 20% is a significant loss, but in the context of an event where countries lost almost all of their connectivity, such a loss did not place Iran into the top 10 of impacted countries. So we focused most of our attention where the losses where the highest.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 08:12:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]