Saturday, September 27, 2008

Our internet "Crisis": To be or not to be (on-line)

Our Wildblue Satellite broadband internet service has gone on the fritz. For the past few days, we've had to use dial-up, but even that hasn't been working reliably. We are supposed to get 10 hours a month of free dial up service from Wildblue, but it only works sporadically. I spent a long time on the phone with customer support, but they could not help. They said there was nothing wrong on their end, with the satellite or the dial-up.

We have a repairman scheduled to come out on Monday for the satellite problem, so hopefully we get the broadband access back then. I crawled under the house to see if rats had chewed through a cable or something. Every thing looked fine, so I would guess it's a problem with the modem or the dish.

As for the dial-up problem, I decided to sign up again with our former dial-up ISP service, ISP.COM, to see if we have the same problem as with Wildblue's dial-up. Happily, we don't. seems reliably consistent, so the dial-up problem with the Wildblue service must be something on their end.

Not having internet access for the past couple of days has been a real eye opener.

I remember in the early days of the internet, I used it quite a lot. But sometimes I got sick of it, and I would just take a break from it for one, two or three days. It was no big deal, I had plenty of other stuff to do; my life didn't revolve around the computer.

Nowadays, it's not so easy to just stop using the internet. I have gotten tired of it, but whenever I have resolved to not use it for a few days, it seems impossible. I've come to depend on it for so many things. For example:

The weather. Living on a farm, I really need to know what the weather is going to be like, so I can plan my work day. My choice is to wait for a generalized weather broadcast that will probably be inaccurate anyway, or go on-line and look at the satellite maps myself, and see what's coming. I can also get a personalized weather forecast for our exact location, from our local TV station's website.

On-line banking. Bills are due, it's too late to use snail mail. Gotta go on-line and do it!

Major purchases. Our 15 year old washing machine broke down this week. Time to buy a new one. First thing I would do nowadays it go on line and find the new one I want. The place we want to buy it from is 40 miles away. Why not call them up, buy it over the phone? They deliver. It's easy to do when you know what you want already, and the internet makes that easier.

News. I've come to realize, that I get most of my news and information on-line, from trusted sources. I never sit down and watch network news anymore. Sometimes I have it on the TV while I wash dishes or feed the dogs, and I half listen to it, just to stay in touch with the current crap the MSM is pushing. But I don't rely on it, because it is such crap.

The past few days, I've had to rely on it. It's been a very disheartening experience. I'd forgotten what it's like, to depend so much on the MSM for information. I fear it's what the majority of Americans do, and it explains a lot about why things are the way they are. It seems that most people are not well informed, and feed on the junk-food sound-bites of the MSM.

For instance, I keep hearing about how John McCain picked Sarah Palin, a "totally unknown person that nobody ever hear of", according to the MSM. Well I heard of her last year, quite a bit too, as her name was being bandied about as a possible veep pick. That's because I read about things on-line that pertain to the GOP, because it interests me.

But the MSM doesn't share my interests. When they talk about the GOP, it's usually about some "scandal", real or imagined. It's not hard to see why someone who relies on the MSM for their news would agree with the MSM's assessment that "nobody ever heard of Sara Palin".

I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets their news and information from the internet. But I think I've assumed that a lot of other people do too, when in fact, they don't. Chances are that the people who watch garbage TV also look at garbage internet when they are on-line.

And amongst those who do get their news and information on-line, many (if not most?) are left leaning, and get their "talking points" and such from their preferred sources.

The MSM also has their on-line presence, so they still dominate the public discourse and choose the topics. At least on-line you can pick and choose somewhat, even amongst their offerings. But with radio and TV, you get what you get. It's awful to think that that is what the majority of Americans do, but it probably is. I guess I should be thankful that we still have choices. Before the internet, I used to rely on magazine subscriptions for news I was interested in. The internet is easier. May it continue.

Then there is blogging too. I didn't used to blog, but now I do, and it becomes addictive. I can take a break from blogging, buy even when I do, it's tempting to just look in and check on comments, and the site meter, etc. It's wonderful to be able to express you opinions on an open medium like the internet, and connect with like minded people, and share information and learn things. Chas' Compilation is primarily about sharing whatever it is I'm reading and learning about. When others chime in with their own two cents about what they know on a topic, it's often interesting and fun.

All things considered, taking a complete break from the internet isn't nearly as easy as it used to be. I've come to depend on it to quickly find the information that I want. It's been like having the computer from Star Trek at my fingertips; the ultimate encyclopedia. The education that I always wanted from college but could never find.

Even so, the Web Withdrawal of the past few days has had some good effects. I've remembered how much I enjoy books; I have a stack of them I want to read, and I'm promising myself not to neglect them. I've got a few hobbies and subjects that I would like to pursue, that the internet can help me with, but that also involve things off-line that I like to do; I'm resolved to do them.

The internet is a great tool; Google and WikiHow etc, are great helpers, but the internet is no substitute for living. Yet it can enhance it. It's all a question of balance.

I may be blogging less while we are restricted to dial-up. But even after we have broadband back, I may not blog quite so much; I may be more particular about what I blog about. I have rediscovered how much I enjoy being away from the computer, and I think being away from it more also makes me appreciate it more. So there.

We'll see how long this lasts, when the broadband comes back. ;-)

Related Links:

A Different World Indeed...

Childhood, Past and Present

I'm still stuck with 24K dial-up - aargh!

10 Days without windows... The Machine Stops

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