Coffee heat rising

Why a “connected” home is a bad idea

appleairportthingieSo yesterday afternoon I came home from a three-hour meeting (+ two hours of commute time) to find the wireless connection was down. Apparently the power was out for about an hour and a half.

The fix for this is to shut everything down on both the laptop and the desktop (quite a time-suck, since I always have a bunch of files open at once — the joys of multitasking!), disconnect the modem and the router, wait for a few minutes, replug the modem and router, and reboot the computers.

This worked last night…for about ten minutes. The wireless network came up for about ten minutes and then disappeared again. Several attempts had the same result.

Finally, I had to go to bed. So I left the modem and router disconnected overnight and rebooted again this morning. Same story.

When I got up this morning, the Nest thermostat informed me that it couldn’t find the wireless connnection.

Fortunately, it will drive the AC without being “connected” to the Internet. But…uhmmmm…. What if it didn’t?

Yeah. What if it didn’t? What if the refrigerator and the stove and the freezer and the lights and the locks on the doors and the watering system and the car and for godsake maybe even the toilet were connected to the Internet? The way, say, Google would like them to be?

What would happen if your modem went down then? You not only wouldn’t be able to publish and advertise your books on the Internet, you wouldn’t be able to effing LIVE.

Connecting your entire life to the Internet not only means you dispense with privacy, it means you dispense with the basic ability to survive autonomously. Or more or less autonomously — obviously you depend to a large degree on the power grid and the transportation system to go about your daily life. But…do we really need another system to have to depend on? Another system that leaves us in deep sh!t every time it goes down?

When the power goes down, you have a few headaches, but — assuming you don’t depend on it to operate a life-sustaining tool like a breathing aid — the hassles are inconvenient but minor. When the wireless goes down, you can’t do business at all.

To get online to all the sites I have to operate, I need a collection of passwords that is FIFTEEN SINGLE-SPACED PAGES LONG. To get into Amazon to post the next Racy Book we’re about to put online, I need an Excel workbook that contains ELEVEN SPREADSHEETS, one of which winds out like toilet paper. These things need to be open and on the terminal where I’m working in order for me to navigate the tasks I have to do. I also need access to folders that contain not only each book’s contents in PDF, .mobi, ePub, and Wyrd formats, but its cover image in Powerpoint, a high-resolution TIFF file sized for Amazon, a high-res JPEG sized for Smashwords, a low-res JPEG sized for Bowker, and a low-res JPEG sized for thumbnails. Just now there are eight books actively in play.

To move from one computer to another — as I had to do overnight — I have to transfer TWENTY-ONE GIGABYTES of data!

Fortunately, just a week or so ago I bought a large flash drive, since I wanted to back that data up not only to a thumb drive that could be disconnected and kept safely out of reach of hackers but also to the big desktop, which is connected to Time Machine, which not only backs up but encrypts your data as you type.

The desktop iMac, a fantastic piece of equipment, is hardwired to the Internet. However…

Yesh. However. The problem is, I can’t work at it for any length of time because the back and hip pain flare up (with a fuckin’ VENGEANCE) every time I sit in a desk chair for longer than ten or fifteen minutes. Just writing this blog post is gonna freaking cripple me.

Consider: I’ve been putting in twelve and fourteen-hour days, seven days a week! If I can’t get back online with the laptop, I’m essentially out of business.

Now transfer that thought to “no wireless connection” to operate the air-conditioning and the heat and the refrigerator and the stove and the freezer and the lights and the locks on the doors and the watering system and the car and for godsake maybe even the toilet.

To be fair, Google proposes to use the Nest thermostat as a kind of hub that will allow a “smart” home’s devices to keep talking to each other even if the wireless is down. But…has anyone noticed what Google DID to the Nest device after it purchased the company? The Nest on my wall was originally fairly simple to operate — certainly not as easy as an old Honeywell round bump on the wall, but once you figured it out, not a freaking nightmare. Shortly after Google took over, they force-fed new software into the thing, and it’s now screaming incomprehensible. I can no longer program it — that’s way, way beyond my skills and patience. It’s all I can do to turn it on and off and change the temperature setting.

Why would anyone want to depend on a complicated nightmare of a gadget that requires a degree in computer engineering to operate?

The last thing on this earth we need is to have to be “connected” to go about our daily lives. It’s risky enough that our business lives depend on this technology.

8 thoughts on “Why a “connected” home is a bad idea”

  1. It sounds like your desktop is connected to a UPS battery backup that lasted long enough that although the power was out, the desktop didn’t turn off? Otherwise you would not have needed to close all your files 🙂 Why don’t you get the same thing for your modem/router? Or plug the modem and router into the battery backup? I’m assuming the laptop was running on battery power.

    You shouldn’t need to reboot the computers when you reboot the modem and router – the computers already know there is no internet available and are looking for it – when the router comes back, the laptop should connect back to the wireless automatically. And if it doesn’t you should have an option to manually tell the laptop to disconnect/reconnect from the network, which will get it going again, if the router is working.

    I sort of agree about the whole “internet of things” being scary – but at the same time, some of the things seem kind of neat. I would like to be able to lay in bed on a weekend and use my phone to tell the heat to kick in – rather than having to jump out of bed in the COLD – run downstairs to the thermostat and push the button – then run back upstairs to wait. It kind of ruins the whole “easing into the day” thing I’d like to do on a Sunday morning 🙂

    I’ve also thought about setting up little sensors around my hot water tank and washer – if they get wet, they start screaming – but they can also apparently be connected to the web, so they can let me know – even if I’m not within hearing distance – that I’m having a major water leak event.

    But I really have no interest in having my refrigerator being connected to the web.

    And I think the Nest’s biggest “benefit” – it’s “self learning” thing – is it’s biggest flaw. According to their site, Nest will “watch” for movement in the house and if it doesn’t see any, it assumes nobody is home and will lower the heat accordingly. Except, I live by myself, and I routinely spend the evening in the living room – where Nest wouldn’t SEE me – so I’d be considered a nonperson by my Nest and would not be allowed to have heat 🙂 Presumably you can override this behavior – but then you’ve turned off the main feature that differentiates it from my current programmable thermostat. Aside from the “turn the heat up from my bed” thing – which would still be awesome, dammit.

  2. That’s interesting about not having to shut down and reboot your computer to persuade it to reconnect with the wireless & the router. Cox and my son (the font of all technowisdom…certainly as good or better than the Cox techs) tell me to disconnect the modem, turn off the computer, reconnect the modem after a few minutes, and then turn the computer back on. And of course, that requires you to interrupt EVERYTHING you were working on. 😀

    That is exactly true about the Nest! Same thing happens here. I’ll be grinding away in the living room (uh oh…wait! I think that has the wrong connotation on the context of my new publishing enterprise) (but, dang it, a grind is what it is!) for two or three hours when I realize I’m sticking to the leather chair because I’m drenched in sweat. Get up to look at the thermostat, and it’s 85 degrees in the hall! Which, of course, is the coolest spot in the house, with no lights, windows or doors to leak heat into it. My son says you can override it. But a) what’s the point if you have the thing so it’ll do that, and b) voila! yet another damn learning curve.

    I for one am learning-curved out. I don’t WANT to go to graduate school to learn to turn on the air-conditioning and keep it on!

    Right this minute the laptop contraption seems to be connected — but I only reconnected the modem about three minutes ago. It seems to stay online about ten minutes and then dies.

    Why do I see a new modem in the near future? Like…this afternoon?

  3. We had a similar though not as sophisticated problem at my place. Lost power and then found that Wi-Fi wouldn’t work…Tried and tried….packed up the modem and went to Best Buy. Believe it or not they lack the ability to check if it is working properly. The “geek dude” asked how old it was…I told him it’s like 6 years old and because that’s like 42 …”in dog years”…he said that was PROBABLY it and that if that didn’t work “just” come back and buy a “router”. Geek Dude was right…modem…but I lost just about a day out of my life….Gotta be a better way!

    • The modem is practically new. Had the same advice from Cox: their tech told me a four-year-old modem was an antique. So traipsed to Best Buy and bought a new one, and less than Cox would have charged. It’s been working fine.

      My system has both a modem and a router. There’s so much junk and wire littering the desk behind the desktop, I have to pile it a box to keep it more or less in check.

  4. Forgot to share or ask…does your router feel warmer than usual? This was a big symptom evidently…It seems that when these modems get “a fever” that’s a sign their useful life is over….

  5. Interesting! Both pieces of equipment feel warm, but I’d guess no more so than usual.

    Probably it was a power surge. We get those every now and again. Remember I remarked in passing, sometime back, on having seen a couple of bright flashes and heard a weird humming/blasting noise. The power infrastructure around here is getting old — my house is 44 years old, and it’s newer than the houses just to the east, where the outage supposedly originated. In this little development, the power lines are underground, but everywhere else in the ‘hood, they’re strung from poles.

    Once I was sitting with an acquaintance in her backyard, when all of a sudden a great bolus of light and power came shooting across the power lines that went along her back property line. Since the yards up there in her part of town are not very big, we couldn’t even begin to get inside — or even move — before reached us. Fortunately nothing came of it — didn’t knock out the power in her house, even. But it was sure something to see!

    • We had a power surge here a few months ago – managed to kill a couple of my power strips – thankfully they seemed to have absorbed the blow and my electronics made it through.

      I’d suggest something like this – – for your modem and router and desktop – it will protect you from power surges and keep everything up through short power outages. The higher the wattage, the longer it will last, with things plugged into the battery backup outlets.

      If you don’t want the battery backup, at least get power strips that are surge protectors – not all power strips are surge protectors – and those that are, wear out – their protection gets “used up” as surges occur – the good ones have little green lights on them – when the green light goes off, the surge protection is gone.

      The protector above is the one I have – although my Cable dude recently came by and disconnected my cable wire from it – he said NOT to wire the cable through it for surge protection – it generates noise on the line, and they apparently claim they have their own surge protection – at least in my neighbourhood. I have Charter, not Cox.

      • Dangit, Spiffi…I dunno why WP decided to hide your post in the “to approve” category. Hope it goes thru…

        Yah, it looks like a good power surge can fry a power strip…but if the strip takes the heat (heh!) and protects the device, then I guess it’s served its purpose.

        Neighbor will says the problem was the power outage took out Cox’s local communications hub. M’hijito says that would explain why connectivity didn’t come back online until this morning.

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