Catching up on my travels…Last week, flew to Houston on Monday and Tuesday, returned home late Tuesday night. Spent Wednesday in town mostly catching up on things I’d neglected. Thursday morning, EARLY (6:00 am) I departed Seattle for Anchorage and the Ted Stevens (ptui!!!) International Airport. I mean, we’ve got Bush, Stevens, Reagan…are there any airports named for Democrats? Oh, yeah, La Giardia (I meant that), and Kennedy. And I liked “Idlewild” a fuck of a lot better. And in Atlanta, they’ve sorta dual-named Hartsfield Airport for Maynard Jackson, but I think most people continue to call it “Hartsfield”, or the Cherokee word for “that place where thunderstorms made me miss my connection to Seattle and I never found a place to sleep away from the god damn recorded announcements”, and the “Jackson” thing won’t really take.
Anyway, I was on my way not to Anchorage, but to Adak Island, where I have a client that needed tending to. Adak used to be home to a Naval Air Station, with infrastructure out the gazoo and even a McDonald’s. (see my previous visit here). The military abandoned the island in 1995, and turned it over to the Aleut Corporation.
With the military went all the telecommunications service, though the infrastructure was still there. My client’s previous owner had established a reasonably fast (128k) internet connection using a satellite uplink, but it was prohibitively expensive, and they now have a 33k dialup connection.
My intention was to remove the remnants of the previous owner’s network domain and replace it with a more down-to-earth office network. Additionally, I intended to allow them to share their 33k of bandwidth using Windows’ Internet Connection Sharing. This “technology” is something that had a half-life of about a month in the 90s, and allows a home or small business network to share an internet connection that one of the PCs on the network has established, either through a broadband or a dial-up connection. It’s not something (as I found out) that you call a Seattle network consultant to get guidance on. They laugh like it’s a joke, and when they discern that you’re not laughing, they say, “Dude. Get a router and a DSL connection. We’ll help you with the Bluetooth wireless to their Palm devices if you can’t figure it out”.
Well, on Adak, Palm devices are reserved for more intimate connectivity, and “DSL” is more likely to mean “Dog Sled Larry” than “Digital Subscriber Line”. (No, I overreach - there’s nowhere to go there that necessitates a dogsled, and the rats far outstrip dogs for mammalian supremacy). So, I filled my carry-on with routers, switches, cables and cds and headed northwest to deliver a “solution” that would not only be a technical feat to accomplish, but also would be a crushing disappointment to the client when they saw what it REALLY meant to “share” a 33k connection.
After fiddling a bit (and sweating profusely), I realized that the basic secret of Internet Connection Sharing is that the internet-connecting PC serves as a poor man’s router, and assigns IP addresses back through the network to the other pcs that share the connection. In order to do this, the network must be transparent, that is, the device that connects the pcs must be a hub or switch, and not a router with pretensions of assigning its own IP addresses. In the end, the whole arrangement is pretty bullet-proof, and even admirable, despite the fact that it feels like a parlor game using Dixie cups and waxed string pulled taut.