We are much more dependent on technology that we were during the years when we were farming in Canada.
In the seventies, a calculator and a typewriter were about the limits of our technology. In 1982, I got an Apple II+, and life hasn’t been the same since.
I will be the first to admit that some technology has gotten really complex. We have a mixed wireless and wired network at our home along the Southern Outer Banks. We came home from a trip last Saturday evening. Our wireless network wasn’t working. Most times it just takes a simple restart to fix that. This time it was much more complex.
First I tried directly wiring a single computer to the cable modem. It did not take long to determine that the cable modem was thankfully fine. I have recurring nightmares of being stuck in cable modem support hell.
Next I knew my Apple airport was configured to not work as a DHCP server. I remembered that even my uber-geek son had challenges in getting the Airport to stop distributing IP addresses so I pulled up a spare Airport and let it become the wireless point and the DHCP server. That way I managed to get a wireless network going and get four of our six computers up and running.
Unfortunately that left two computers, my old Mac Dual G5, My Dell Linux box, and our two printers off the network.
My guess was that the Netgear router/switch had lost its configuration somehow. I tried to communicate with the router via the standard browser method with a single computer hooked to it. I had no luck so I pulled out an identical router/switch that my son had given me when he switched to powerline ethernet. I downloaded the manual and started configuring the switch. We have given the printers manual IP addresses so I had to find those. Surprisingly I found the easiest place to get that info was my Linux box.
I did have one hitch. One I configured the switch to match the subnet of the printers, I could not establish communication with the switch. My son reminded me that I needed to reboot my computer. I then added my OpenDNS server information and powered all the computers, Airport, and printers down. Then I hooked all the wires into the newly configured switch. I switched to the old Airport and brought it back up. Then I booted all the computers and turned on the printers.
A quick test showed that the printers were working and the Airport network was functional. I had to go change the network wireless settings on one of our Windows 7 laptops, but other than that everything worked. I still have to see if the old router can be fixed, and if it can, I will add it to my other spare parts like the other switch my son left me just in case I needed a few more ports.
While all that sounds relatively simple to the geeks among us, it took be about 24 hours of working on it whenever I had some extra time. Fortunately we had the adhoc wireless network that gave us everything we needed except printers.
This all works for me, but it occurs to be that I have the advantage of lots of spare gear that I have inherited from my son. I have also lived in the world of technology for the last twenty-eight years, and I have a son who understand whatever I don’t. Most people might have some challenges with this, but it likely that most people don’t need all the gear that I have to keep all my Internet projects running.
The one thing that I am really happy about is that I have removed servers from the equation. I can still remember trying to get DHCP services set up using one of my Mac OS X boxes that I also used as a server. I have given up on running a server at home. It is just too much trouble when there are great services like DropBox around. DropBox gives me online storage that automatically syncs across all my computers.
Maybe I will eventually get new gear that lets me have a less complex network, but when you are working with computers as old as seven years old, it sometimes helps to have some old gear around.
I think part of the great appeal of smartphones like my Droid is that they just work. If we can have more powerful smartphone-like devices including printers that just work, we might get around much the complexity of a homegrown network.
Technology is too interwoven in our lives to disappear. We just have to hope that we can stay on top of it, and that even more power technology will get easier and easier. After all I think my Droid is a much more powerful computer than my original Apple II.
We have made lots of progress with technology, I do not think the progress will stop. I expect it will accelerate.