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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the…

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (2012-05-29) (2012)

by Andrew Blum (Author)

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4301438,577 (3.38)9
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)
Title:Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (2012-05-29)
Authors:Andrew Blum (Author)
Info:Ecco (no date)
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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (2012)

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    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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A digerati travelogue, from an author who seems as much sociologist as infrastructure geek. Worth the read, even if you think you know the topic. ( )
  jamesb | May 20, 2019 |
The author's internet connection is interrupted when a squirrely gnaws through the wires leading into his house. This Proustian moment leads him to realize that the internet actually has a physical side to it and not just a virtual side. He sets out to investigate all of the physical aspects from cabling to data centers.

Even for people who know a lot about data centers can gain from this book because it really shows how everything is connected together. ( )
  M_Clark | Feb 28, 2016 |
Phenomenally interesting book about the physical infrastructure of the cloud. Transcontinental fiber-optic cables. Data centers. Internet exchanges. All the good stuff that makes the internet possible. ( )
  willszal | Jan 3, 2016 |
This was very exciting, in an armchair tech sort of way. The author goes out and visits various physical places where "the internet" happens, like major switching hubs, content storage, and the points where submarine communications cables COME OUT OF THE OCEAN LIKE A KRAKEN. As you can probably tell, the last one was a special geeky thrill for me, because that is still something that boggles my mind, and now I want to go on a field trip to Porthcurno (the whole thing sounds delightfully mundane, not only the cable part, like you would go, and people would ask what you did, and you would say "I looked at a cable and then did nothing for a week. Nothing!" And not in a relaxing, spa nothing way, but literally nothing.). At any rate, the author then describes all of these places in a fairly accessible way with geeky enthusiasm.

I did find it a little odd that he kept framing his descriptions with this theme that "the typical internet user never thinks about WHERE this stuff is happening," which I could believe is true, but rather don't think it's an accurate description that the typical internet user who bothers to read this book never thinks about it. I think about it all the time, and so do a lot of people I know. ( )
  delphica | Jun 9, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (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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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
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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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014104909X, 0670918989

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