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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Decluttering My Computer Network

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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 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) 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.

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