Decluttering My Computer Network

A few days ago, Amy and I came up to our  house in Keystone. We haven’t been here for about two months; we’ll be here through the end of the first week of January.

The first few hours were predictable. We “turned” everything on. We unpacked the car. We got settled in.

And I got frustrated. The Internet was slow. The Sonos wasn’t working correctly. Everything was trying to update itself. It was like a giant machine was trying to boot up, but was stuck in an initialization loop.

I wandered around the house tweaking things. One by one I got things working. As I reset things, I kept thinking to myself “I wonder why we need that.”

We bought this house in 2006. The network infrastructure is a cumulative build since then – a NetGear router connected to the cable modem, Cisco WiFi access points on each floor, default Sonos configuration, a Cisco phone that isn’t used anymore acting as a wired network repeater, USB hubs with one device connected, power extension cords, cables, and a bunch of other crap. The last time I was up here I installed an Apple Airport Extreme (which needed an update) but I left everything in place.

I decided to rip it all out yesterday and replace it with the Apple Airport Extreme. The result is a giant box of crap.

For an hour or so I continued to be frustrated. Things were better, but still choppy. I’d set all the computers up to use Google’s public DNS server (the magic and but the network performance was still choppy – fast, then slow, then fast, then slow. At some point I realized I hadn’t set the Airport Extreme to use Google’s public DNS and it was defaulting everything to Comcast.

I made the switch. Boom – everything was fast again. As expected. Pandora played all day long without dropping. Video and audio calls were fine again.

As I looked at the giant box of crap this morning, I thought about the idea of decluttering. We have all this gunk in our lives that just slow us down. Just like my network. As the year comes to an end, I’m going to keep decluttering, the physical and the virtual.

  • Ted Serbinski

    Brad, excellent advice. I too am decluttering through simplification of too many web apps. Going from many apps with lots of data everywhere to Evernote — one app to rule ’em all!

    Speaking of DNS, give this a whirl if you have 5 min: might find you even faster DNS source than Google :-)

    • bfeld

      Yup – it wouldn’t surprise me to find situations where UltraDNS is faster. I’m just happy enough at this point to not be in Comcast DNS hell.

    • Andrew Bertolina

      This DNS utility is useful – I just used it and it said the fastest was Google’s public DNS server.

  • Brian Borton

    Brad, thanks for the post. Glad to hear that you were able to identify the bottleneck in your network! On a separate note, I was wondering if you could write a post on your perspective of microsatellites (e.g. Planet Labs / Skybox Imaging). It seems like a bold endeavor to democratize access to geospatial imagery. Basically, the trend towards miniaturization of electronic componentry/MEMS, coupled with ever cheaper launch technologies (e.g. SpaceX) is lowering the cost of producing and deploying small satellites. It will be interesting to watch these businesses evolve and refine their business/revenue models (and combat privacy advocates!), and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the sector.

    • bfeld

      I don’t think I have a deep enough knowledge base to have useful views here.

      • Brian Borton

        Okay, no problem. I respect that you hold to your areas of competency. Thanks for the reply.

        • drew crouch

          Brian – I’m a lurker here but could give you some perspective on the entrepreneurialization of geospatial intelligence if you’d like to connect.

          • Brian Borton

            Sounds great Drew. I’m always up for learning. Just add me on LinkedIn and we can go from there –

  • bfeld

    For those of you looking to simplify and declutter, a reader emailed me this link –

  • Troy Lerner

    Check out what a Colorado boy done good in the big city did with his Purge Project.

  • Jess Bachman

    Also a good opportunity to declutter your pantries and closets. Its the time of year where others can really use that stuff, especially in colder climates.

    • bfeld

      Yup – spend some time on a call today throwing out tons of stuff in my office.

  • Chad Kruse

    It’s amazing how resetting our physical world resets our emotional world. I sold most of everything I owned a year ago and it was hands down the freest I’ve felt in my adult life.

    I’m curious to see when/if you reset your virtual world if the same outcome occurs.

  • Andrew

    I think you’re doing it wrong having that much technology in your mountain house. Go outside!

    • bfeld

      Well said, although I do hide out and work up here a lot when I need to get away from people.

  • Raj Bala

    I’ve made the observation that we fill our lives and dwellings up to their total usable capacity because collecting stuff gives us some sort of deep psychological satisfaction. But we don’t consume everything in this usable capacity — we only consume that which is in arms reach. So clothes in the back of the closet underneath another pile of clothes and food in the back of a cabinet rarely see the light of day because it’s not visible and in arms reach. So I too am trying to declutter, but also trying to prevent cluter in the first place.