I'm stuck in the DSL doldrums. This summer, my seven roommates and I hit on the brilliant idea of installing DSL, or digital subscriber line, in our off-campus house. DSL is a type of Internet connection that quadruples download times and eliminates the problem of tying up your phone line when you're online. Right about now, I'd like to tie up the geek who invented it. Here's a quick chronology of our descent into DSL hell. September 1. Certain of our own invincibility, we decided to buy the service for one person's computer and network it to everyone else's PCs. I vaguely wondered if it might be illegal, but it's the Internet and everything's still up in the air, right? Survivors of DSL installations assured me it would be easy: "Oh yeah, you just purchase all this expensive, non-returnable hardware, rewire the whole house, then hook the eight-port hub thing into the other thingy, configure the flux capacitor, rearrange all the furniture, drill a hole in the wall..." "Super!" I thought, oblivious to the sarcasm. October 2. DSL arrived with an instruction manual that went something like: Step 1: Quit now. "Ha ha, oh, that's precious," we chuckled in our naivete. Step 2: Configure the ports, assign IP address, install Ethernet in client machines. That sobered us up. Next came the firewall and the gateway, labels I'm sure were plagiarized from chapter titles in the Harry Potter books, which is appropriate, since only a 7-year-old has the imagination necessary to dream up the ethereal entities that have become our tormentors. October 7. No Internet connection yet. In fact, the only thing that has happened online is that the DSL company charged exorbitant sums to our credit cards. October 10. The special DSL modem is having blinking spasms, though I'm not using the computer. It might be looking up baseball scores for all I know. October 14. The social tensions in my house are as thoroughly tangled as the wires in the hallway. The computer whiz among us has sacrificed days to the project, and the rest of us have worn out our pointer fingers clicking through layers of dialog boxes that often read, "You have made a fatal error." Our unsympathetic computers refuse to accept blame for the failed network, so we hurl accusations at each other, wondering where we went wrong. Everyone's had it up to their i-Macs with this disastrous endeavor that cost money and time and -- worse still -- frayed our friendships. Technological progress is supposed to be the opposite of barbarism, yet Lord of the Flies is playing out in our living room. Where has all this progress gotten the average PC user? We're forced to spend hours with Microsoft tutorials, sift through pages of spam and endure jibes from our holier-than-thou computers. The need for high-tech skills has accentuated class differences. Technology has replaced old mundane tasks with new mundane tasks. The promise of the Internet was freedom. Freedom to communicate to every corner of the world, free time, free information, free speech. And all this for the betterment of society, which is fine if your idea of better society is ticked-off poor people living in a jungle of Ethernet cables. Even as I cower before these portents of doom, the bottom line is, I want my super-fast Internet access goshdarnit! And no way am I relinquishing my chance to own a cell phone, Palm Pilot or e-book. We can't overthrow the system. We love it, we hate it and we're gonna have to live with it. Meanwhile, my computer is still splayed out all over the rug like an Ebola victim, innards everywhere, little wires quivering pathetically. October 15. We called this guy who knew a guy who knew this purported sultan of DSL who said he could solve all our problems. We sweetened up the deal with offers to make him home-cooked polenta and various baked goods. We believe he will be our messiah, but only time will tell. What I've learned is that everything comes with a price, and cyber-indulgences may not be worth the sacrifice of simpler pleasures -- like household harmony. October 17. Time to turn off my computer and go make amends with my roommates.Comments powered by Disqus
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