Tubes

Tubes

A Journey to the Center of the Internet

Book - 2012
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We are all connected now, but connected to WHAT, exactly? Journalist Andrew Blum takes readers on a fascinating journey to find out.
Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins Canada, 2012
Edition: 1st Canadian ed
ISBN: 9781554689798
Characteristics: 294 p. ; 24 cm

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r
ranXerox
Jan 11, 2016

A guy wanders around looking at data centres. How this hasn't gotten made into a Micheal Bay film is anyone's guess. My guess?
Sleep inducing boredom.
As in "Oh please, merciful heavens, let it end..."
I gave it 1 1/2 stars because it does (apparently) end.

t
thomd
Aug 17, 2013

A travelogue of the physical connections (and data centers) that make up today's internet, along with a bit of history on how it came to be. The evocative writing is quite good, some rambling less so - all tolled this is a decent book. It helps that halfway through I listened to Jason Taylor talk all about the data center that I would read about in the last chapter. Some pictures, maps or illustrations might have helped. (Aug 7-17)

s
StarGladiator
Apr 29, 2013

I thought this was one of the most poorly written books on technology, be it of the Internet or anything else. No background on the people he writes about; he makes a number of them sound highly unqualified. Just all around sub mediocre in tone. Believed his historical backgrounder on the Internet left much to be desired. Left out JCR Licklider, and other important and crucial people. Important note: On the book flap the synopsis compares this author to Tracy Kidder, who is actually an outstanding author and really knows how to write. As Voltaire said, "Comparisons are odious," and this was the most odious comparison I've ever seen. Negative rating.

r
rhlarkin
Aug 23, 2012

A little light on the pre-fiber, copper decades when Ma Bell dominated the 'net, but as the author warms up to his task, he gives a basic, but good account of telecommunication's historic geographic decisions, physical presence and impact, producing a profile of an "information economy" that's not all that different from the railroad and heavy manufacturing industries which proceeded it. A local note, Seattle readers should check out the http://museumofcommunications.org/ in Georgetown for a close up look at telecom's guts.

j
jbetzzall
Aug 21, 2012

A fascinating exploration of the physical nature of the Internet. Other authors have already documented some elements of the phenomenon but Blum travels the world to actually see the black boxes, cables and wires that carry and store the organized electrons. Some surprises include the relative openness and secretiveness of certain data-dependent corporations, which belie their public reputations, and the information poverty of some of the rural communities that host the giant data centers.
This is not a complete account of the physical impact of the Internet (energy use, etc.) but it does "physicalize" our consciousness of all those magical-seeming processes.

AnneDromeda Aug 20, 2012

Andrew Blum’s mission to discover the physical structure of the internet started the most innocuous way possible. Having lost internet access in his home a couple years ago, he followed the technician around while he did his work. It turned out a squirrel had chewed the cable.<br />

This set off a number of questions for Blum. The internet, after all, seems so ethereal. There used to be heavy, beige desktop PCs wired to screaming modems to occasionally remind us of the physicality of the medium. Now most of us connect wirelessly everywhere we go on devices so small and so constantly with us, they’re practically appendages. The internet is everywhere. The internet is nowhere. The internet is us. At least, until squirrels happen. Then, suddenly, we’re plopped back into being ingloriously disconnected meatbags suffering phantom buzz, pining for our twitter feed.<br />

Or maybe that’s just me.<br />

I don’t think so, though, and judging by this book, neither would Andrew Blum. The more he chases the physical internet to its prime locations, the more he discovers these locations mean something important – like who gets access, how, and how quickly. Net neutrality, it turns out, isn’t just a question of policy and regulation. So much of how the internet works is determined at the physical level. Length and quality of cable, proximity to the major connection points, and even simple industry social networking determine the paths information takes on its way through the tubes. He makes some surprising discoveries along the way, too – one social networking giant was extremely open and happy to show him around their data centre. Conversely, a behemoth of search takes its data centres off its own maps and self-identifies on-land as Voldemort Industries – ostensibly to frighten off curious Muggles? I’m not even kidding. Written in plain, often humorous language, *Tubes* is highly recommended to any readers interested in issues of net neutrality and media theory, or even anyone with a simple interest in why the internet works how it does.<br />

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AnneDromeda Aug 20, 2012

Andrew Blum’s mission to discover the physical structure of the internet started the most innocuous way possible. Having lost internet access in his home a couple years ago, he followed the technician around while he did his work. It turned out a squirrel had chewed the cable.<br />

This set off a number of questions for Blum. The internet, after all, seems so ethereal. There used to be heavy, beige desktop PCs wired to screaming modems to occasionally remind us of the physicality of the medium. Now most of us connect wirelessly everywhere we go on devices so small and so constantly with us, they’re practically appendages. The internet is everywhere. The internet is nowhere. The internet is us. At least, until squirrels happen. Then, suddenly, we’re plopped back into being ingloriously disconnected meatbags suffering phantom buzz, pining for our twitter feed.<br />

Or maybe that’s just me.<br />

I don’t think so, though, and judging by this book, neither would Andrew Blum. The more he chases the physical internet to its prime locations, the more he discovers these locations mean something important – like who gets access, how, and how quickly. Net neutrality, it turns out, isn’t just a question of policy and regulation. So much of how the internet works is determined at the physical level. Length and quality of cable, proximity to the major connection points, and even simple industry social networking determine the paths information takes on its way through the tubes. He makes some surprising discoveries along the way, too – one social networking giant was extremely open and happy to show him around their data centre. Conversely, a behemoth of search takes its data centres off its own maps and self-identifies on-land as Voldemort Industries – ostensibly to frighten off curious Muggles? I’m not even kidding. Written in plain, often humorous language, *Tubes* is highly recommended to any readers interested in issues of net neutrality and media theory, or even anyone with a simple interest in why the internet works how it does.<br />

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