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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Andrew Blum

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Title:Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
Authors:Andrew Blum
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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (2012)

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  1. 00
    The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford (Grant_Floyd)
    Grant_Floyd: Read in context of Snowden revelations to understand simple structure of internet connections in key locations that would be tapped by NSA, following on to read Shadow Factory by James Bamford: central mountain location of data centres, internet exchange near Washington, transatlantic cable, Palo Alto IX, Dutch and German differing approaches but both open vs data centre approach, lack of different cables down the coast of Africa, and some history about the original message exchange server… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This is a solid book with good journalism about a piece of our information infrastructure that is vital, but poorly understood and frequently ignored. Andrew Blum sets out with a project: follow the cable out of his house back to the physical structure of the Internet. What follows is a interesting and personable exploration of global networking. Blum avoids technical talk, I didn't have to use much of what I learned getting an ancient Network+ certification to follow him. {Tech: He briefly mentions TCP and IP and also the physical, network, and transport layers, but not in the context of the OSI model.} While Blum is no engineer, I think he make wise choices about how to frame his book. His story of following the tubes from his house to find the Internet is interesting. He identifies hidden parts of our global network structure and sheds some light on an industry that is usually obscure. Sure, we all heard about Global Crossing when they went bankrupt, but Blum explains how the undersea fiber business works in lay persons terms that is illuminating.

I really enjoyed listening to Blum read Tubes. Many author-read books on Audible make me wish they'd have sprung for voice talent, but Blum does a good job here. I enjoyed the content and subject matter. I enjoyed his perspective, humor, and insight. Over all, this was very well done.

So, if you have ever been curious about how fiber networks are structured or want to know how the internet gets to your house, read this. If you want to more about the OSI network model, router protocols, or packet switching, look elsewhere. If fiber networks and physical infrastructure bore you, avoid at all costs. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
I was really annoyed by incessant "gee-whiz, the internet has a physical structure, who knew" commentary that is the majority of this book. Do people really think the internet comes to you via magical unicorns? Our internet service was interrupted when someone ran into a connection box in our neighborhood. My front yard was dug up by our service provider upgrading our cables. This book is slim on content, if you are really interested in the topic. ( )
  theageofsilt | Feb 7, 2014 |
You know when you finish a long novel and think, this could have been a short novella? Well, Tubes could have been a 100-page non-fiction novella (is there a name for that? pamphlet, in the old sense?) I really wanted to learn about the physical existence of the components of the internet(s). And I did. But not much else here. Perhaps I knew more about the internet than I had thought, which clearly is no fault of Blum's.

Ultimately, what was most interesting to me was the internet gossip. How Google was mean, and Facebook as open, but Google guarded privacy much more than Facebook, and who runs the exchanges, and who is connected to whom, etc. In the end, I don't think I needed to read Tubes to learn all that, not to mention that most of it was already old news, even for me.

Unlike others, I did not find Blum's tendency to quote literary works annoying. And I liked learning about the haphazard way the internet developed and the way it followed the grooves and paths etches on Earth's surface by natural forces as well as historical events.

What was lacking, I thought, was a real worldview. Yes, it fucking matters where the fiber runs through and where the data centers are. Proximity and fiber means cheap, good connectivity. Some parts of the world were and are still dark; and the cost of access is steep for the local income level. Blum touches on this briefly, but never with the awareness of the imbalance in the world. He emphasizes, over and over, how the most active and heavy internet traffic is between London and New York... Hmmm...

I recommend this book for those who are not familiar with bits, fiber optics, routers, and who really do not understand what "the cloud" is. If you have a pretty good sense of these things, you can probably skip reading Tubes. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
I was first alerted to this book when a short illustrative photo-essay was published in Wired, showing some of the facilities that the author had visited. Having embarked upon the information superhighway when geography still seemed like a relevant factor to the home user - UK game servers were always significantly faster than American ones - I was interested in a physical history of the internet.

The author is mainly a writer on architecture, rather than technology, which was of great value to this book. It meant he was able to succinctly capture the physical essence of a building or place in evocative language. He was also very effective at maintaining the reader's interest in his quest to track down something which is actually of minor concern on a day to day basis and, as he says in the book, the physical reality of 'the internet' is rather non-descript and generic; it is the dream of all the information that flows through it that makes the hundreds of thousands of boxes and lights, and millions of metres of cables exciting.

My only complaint was that some of the chapters jumped around a little bit, without it being clear why one episode was being left apparently incomplete. This was a minor quibble. I would definitely be interested in reading more of Mr Blum's books, and more books by 'physical' writers about the the manifestation of intangible things like the internet. ( )
  cyclismotron | Aug 27, 2013 |
Many nonfiction books deal with fascinating topics and the information is enough to drive the story. Truly excellent books ,like this one, feature good writing. Blum tells a technical story with a narrative rich with humanity, personality and life while he explores the often stark inanimate word of the physical infrastructure of the internet. ( )
  yeremenko | Aug 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
[This] quixotic and winning book is an attempt to comprehend the physical realities of the Internet, to describe how this seemingly intangible thing is actually constructed.
 
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Epigraph
It is not down in any map; true places never are.- Herman Melville
Somehow I knew that the notional space behind all of the computer screens would be one single universe.- William Gibson
Dedication
For Davina and Phoebe
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(Prologue) On a bitterly cold day a few winters ago, the Internet stopped working.
On the January day I arrived in Milwaukee, it was so cold that the streets themselves had blanched white.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061994936, Hardcover)

When your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives—and the broader scheme of human culture—can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first Atlantic voyage. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now.

In Tubes, journalist Andrew Blum goes inside the Internet's physical infrastructure and flips on the lights, revealing an utterly fresh look at the online world we think we know. It is a shockingly tactile realm of unmarked compounds, populated by a special caste of engineer who pieces together our networks by hand; where glass fibers pulse with light and creaky telegraph buildings, tortuously rewired, become communication hubs once again. From the room in Los Angeles where the Internet first flickered to life to the caverns beneath Manhattan where new fiber-optic cable is buried; from the coast of Portugal, where a ten-thousand-mile undersea cable just two thumbs wide connects Europe and Africa, to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have built monumental data centers—Blum chronicles the dramatic story of the Internet's development, explains how it all works, and takes the first-ever in-depth look inside its hidden monuments.

This is a book about real places on the map: their sounds and smells, their storied pasts, their physical details, and the people who live there. For all the talk of the "placelessness" of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical spaces as the railroad or telephone. You can map it and touch it, and you can visit it. Is the Internet in fact "a series of tubes" as Ted Stevens, the late senator from Alaska, once famously described it? How can we know the Internet's possibilities if we don't know its parts?

Like Tracy Kidder's classic The Soul of a New Machine or Tom Vanderbilt's recent bestseller Traffic, Tubes combines on-the-ground reporting and lucid explanation into an engaging, mind-bending narrative to help us understand the physical world that underlies our digital lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:27 -0400)

When your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives--and the broader scheme of human culture--can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first Atlantic voyage. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now. In Tubes, journalist Andrew Blum goes inside the Internet's physical infrastructure and flips on the lights, revealing an utterly fresh look at the online world we think we know. It is a shockingly tactile realm of unmarked compounds, populated by a special caste of engineer who pieces together our networks by hand; where glass fibers pulse with light and creaky telegraph buildings, tortuously rewired, become communication hubs once again. From the room in Los Angeles where the Internet first flickered to life to the caverns beneath Manhattan where new fiber-optic cable is buried; from the coast of Portugal, where a ten-thousand-mile undersea cable just two thumbs wide connects Europe and Africa, to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have built monumental data centers--Blum chronicles the dramatic story of the Internet's development, explains how it all works, and takes the first-ever in-depth look inside its hidden monuments. This is a book about real places on the map: their sounds and smells, their storied pasts, their physical details, and the people who live there. For all the talk of the "placelessness" of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical spaces as the railroad or telephone. You can map it and touch it, and you can visit it. Is the Internet in fact "a series of tubes" as Ted Stevens, the late senator from Alaska, once famously described it? How can we know the Internet's possibilities if we don't know its parts? Like Tracy Kidder's classic The Soul of a New Machine or Tom Vanderbilt's recent bestseller Traffic, Tubes combines on-the-ground reporting and lucid explanation into an engaging, mind-bending narrative to help us understand the physical world that underlies our digital lives.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014104909X, 0670918989

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