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Networking Problems


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by an ODD-NUMBERED PACKET CLAPPING ITS HANDS. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

Computer problems are frequent and can be difficult to solve. Networking problems in particular can puzzle even seasoned people and sometimes seem to have arbitrary issues causing them. Packets are units of data transfer used in computer networking, and one measure of network performance is lag, the amount of time it takes for data to travel from one point to another (and perhaps back); saying a packet's transmission is 'laggy' means it is unacceptably slow.

Lag in packet transmission and other network performance measures can appear quite random. Just to start with, your ISP may be engaged in traffic shaping, which can do very weird things indeed to your packets (making the first megabyte of a transfer faster than any other, for example); now imagine that your ISP's ISP (usually known as an "Upstream Provider") is engaged in something similar, and you begin to see the scale of the problem. Because humans are wired to perceive patterns, they will find them even in random data, a fallacy that Cueball is (probably) suffering from here. He variously attributes the network behavior he sees to the packet number being even vs. odd, packet arrival time being before vs. after noon, and packet arrival day being today vs. yesterday (such a pattern would make sense if it were merely "every other packet" regardless of odd or evenness, but that still leaves the other "patterns" Cueball is seeing).

These non-existent patterns that Cueball is 'finding' are driving him mad, so much so that he says he believes in ghosts now. The statement of belief in ghosts may be a reference to the intermittent or fluctuating nature of the network issues being caused by mischievous spirits or malevolent poltergeists. Ghosts generally are not concerned with expressions of belief, but there are some religious traditions that include group clapping and chanting. Many works of fiction depict a future or alternate history where machines are worshiped as gods or spirits, such as the Adeptus Mechanicus of Warhammer 40,000. Some of this terminology can be found in present-day IT and other support personnel, including references to "daemons" and "black magic".

The title text continues Cueball's maniacal attempts at self-assurance, with him alluding to J.M. Barrie's play Peter Pan by saying that latency falls every time you "CLAP YOUR HANDS AND SAY YOU BELIEVE". In the play, Peter Pan says "If you believe in fairies, wave your handkerchiefs and clap your hands." A more mundane explanation of the network behavior Cueball is experiencing might be that it is random but he's seeing a pattern anyway, or that there is a loose connection or trace and the vibration of clapping and speaking in the vicinity of the equipment in question closes the connection.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

[Title: Types of Computer Problems]

[Subtitle: By how much debugging them makes your brain stop working]

[A number line reads "None", "Some", "A Lot", with an arrow continuing to the right.]

[A cloud labeled "Normal Problems" encompasses the region of "None" to "Some".]

[A cloud labeled "Networking Problems" in the region of "A Lot" and beyond.]

[Cueball is kneeling before a rack of servers. One of the server blades is extended and connected by a cable to a laptop sitting on a box, which Cueball is using. Behind Cueball, there is a wireless router sitting on a stool, which is connected by a cable to another wireless router sitting on the floor, which is connected to another laptop.]

Cueball: Before noon, odd-numbered packets were laggy, but after noon, even-numbered ones are! It's the opposite of yesterday!
Off-panel voice: Are you sure you're okay?
Cueball: I'm fine and I believe in ghosts now!

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