How does the Internet work?

Now there’s a question. Once upon a time it was a little easier to answer. You connected your computer with a piece of wire to a socket in the wall and beyond the wall was ?? So perhaps it’s not always been easy to answer that question. It’s not magic, it’s not fluffy, it’s actually really complicated technology which works in a relatively simple way to make things relatively easy for us to use it.

Let’s start with a few videos:

How does the internet work? – This BBC Bitesize page (for children is a really good starting point to help you understand how the internet works) and introduces the terminology you will need to understand the other videos.

How the Internet Works in 5 Minutes – the internet is not a fuzzy cloud. The internet is a wire, actually buried in the ground. Computers connected directly to the internet are called “Servers,” while the computers you and I use are “clients,” because they are not connected directly to the internet, but through an Internet Service Provider. Routers shuttle packets of information across the internet, and transmit e-mail, pictures, and web pages.

How Does the Internet Actually Work? – this discusses how internet traffic can be labelled to ensure that packets of data can arrive at their destination with the minimum amount of disruption. It discusses the role of government in all of this and provides a technical background (from Cisco’s point of view) as to what Net Neutrality should be. For an impartial point of view, you should probably look at the policy documents from the Internet Society and Electronic Frontier Federation.

You might also be interested in seeing a Google Data Centre, in particular the pieces on security and cooling are interesting.

Finally, Andrew Blum (in a TED Global talk) philosophically examines What is the Internet, really? A journey that started for him when he found out a squirrel had chewed through a cable led to him exploring trans-ocean cables and the very physical nature of the internet – a wire!

Munzee, munzee, so good to me

If you want to wow your grandchildren with your knowledge and expertise in using your smartphone, this may be the app for you!

It uses QR codes, those strange square maze-like images that you’re increasingly finding on packaging, books and even television advertising to provide the basis of a treasure-hunt game. Click on the Munzee logo above to get started.

The idea is that you search for “munzees” in your local area, shown on this map thus  

 

 

There’s a Munzee somewhere here – Devonport, Auckland, NZ

… and when you find them, you record that find on your smartphone by scanning the QR code that is on a lamp post, or even under a bench.

If you then want to get really adventurous you can start “hiding” your own munzees and adding to the fun of others.

Anyway, just a bit of fun that I thought I’d share with you to illustrate how QR Codes can be used.

Scan this one and it’ll take you straight to Wikipedia.

What’s app doc?

Another U3A Computer Group meeting, another terrible experience with flaky WiFi, much more flaky than any experience any of us might have experienced anywhere else; a second attempt to discuss Facebook – failed because of the aforementioned WiFi problems; a reasonable attempt to get members registered into our Google+ Community and a discussion of WhatsApp – which is what this post is really about.

WhatsApp is a multi-media Messaging Application, owned now by Facebook (with potentially all that might involve), which allows the sharing of videos, photographs, as well as enabling voice and video calls, document sharing and straight-forward text messaging between mobile devices on WiFi. That’s about it in a nut-shell – if I’ve missed anything out, go to the link above and find out more for yourself. However the purpose of this short post is just to point you to another couple of links.

Members mentioned that there wasn’t a WhatsApp App for the iPad (or other tablets), well here’s a link to how you might be able to run WhatsApp on an iPad as long as you have a Smartphone, and here’s another one from MacWorld which explains the same workaround. Neither of these are truly satisfying, but at least it allows you to use the app from your iPad. If all you want is Chat, there is an App that you could install on an iPad, but I have no experience of using it.

If you want to install WhatsApp on your Windows or Mac device, there appears to be an App to allow you to do it, but again I can’t give you any advice on how good it is. This blogpost from WhatsApp explains where they are with the desktop version(s) of the App.

And that’s about it. I don’t use WhatsApp. Perhaps I should, but other tools I use such as Facetime and iMessage in my Apple ecosystem do the trick well for me, and I do still like Google Hangouts.