Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When the internet goes down

Live by the internet, die by the internet. Well, maybe that’s too dramatic a paraphrase of “live by the sword, die by the sword.” Still, when the internet goes down—as it does from extreme weather, service interruptions, or other unexplained reasons—life comes to a deadly standstill.

At least I have 4G, so my iPhone works even when I can’t. I see emails coming in, but can’t fully address the requests if they require desktop work. Sure, I can camp out with my laptop at a coffee shop, but that's often more trouble than it's worth.

I’ve learned to deal with the forced mini-vacations, but now there’s another level of anxiety to internet outages. My mother resides in a senior-living community, and my brother and I keep testing new internet-based services to keep an eye on things. 
  • One service, Nest Cam, allows a real-time look-see with streaming video.
  • Another, Alzcom, is a remotely managed calendar with interactive reminders that display on a tablet in her kitchen. This free and awesome technology answers the perennial question for people with memory issues: “What’s on my calendar today?”

  • We’ve also tried Alexa to help answer a broader range of questions, such as “What’s today’s date?” and “What time is it?” and “What’s the weather?” But Alexa isn’t always perfect, as this SNL skit so aptly demonstrates: Amazon Echo Silver.
When everything works, it’s a wonderful thing. But March nor'easters have knocked out my mom’s internet, and it will be a while before we can get it up and running again. In the meantime, there’s no streaming video, Alzcom reminders are stuck on the last date of service, and Alexa speaks unbidden to complain about being disconnected.

The suggested course of action, offered by everyone from the cable company to Nest to Alexa, is to go online and search their help pages for a fix. See the problem? Without internet, it’s kind of hard to get on the internet. While I do have access through my iPhone, navigation is both cumbersome and useless for trying to resolve a remote issue in my mom’s apartment. 

After the current nor’easter clears, I will go visit and shift into troubleshooting mode. And I will pester the service provider until everything is fixed.

The irony is that as much as I have come to rely on the internet for any and all services, I need it now more than ever for my mom, who doesn’t own a smartphone or computer. And she doesn’t have to. All these tech-heavy and interconnected services are transparent to her—that is, they are when the internet is up and running.  

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