Rise of the machines: The concept of mass technological revolt

Ever had your electronic world come crashing down around you? You may have been hit by MTR

Ever have one of those days where everything just seems to fall apart? Not in a domino fashion, but completely different technological breakdowns that just happen to coincide with other breakdowns? I'm certain I'm not the only one to experience this particular phenomenon.

Case in point: The other day, I was dealing with a particularly quixotic network problem, intermittent random packet loss across across a VPN as noted by myriad Nagios warnings that would hit suddenly and inexplicably. Testing the fiber circuit itself revealed no problems, but intratunnel traffic was showing 50 percent packet loss. Was it the tunnel endpoint having problems? The internal switching? The fiber circuit itself? As soon as I'd dig in to test one particular subsystem, the problem would cease and all would be well, maybe for 10 minutes, maybe for 10 hours. Yeah, one of those.

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That alone is a real PITA, but for the day I spent fixing it, I was accosted by all manner of other technological failures. My phone suddenly refused to make calls and would drop calls where it hadn't done so before. I was working from a remote site, and my Internet connection that had been rock-solid for many moons suddenly went flaky. I had a wireless access point spontaneously bite the dust, gone for good. The coup de grâce was when the coffee machine quit -- seriously. I was either amazingly unlucky, there was an electromagnetic pulse released overhead (but I saw no mushroom clouds), or I was being subjected to a phenomenon I call mass technological revolt (MTR).

Inside the insidious MTR malady
In essence, MTR involves an initial technological problem (in this case, the intermittent network instability) that then somehow creates a localized technological war zone. Any number of pieces of technology maybe succumb to MTR during an event, generally in arcane and obtuse ways. In layman's terms, it's as if there was a rabble-rouser that convinced other devices to say, "Hey, screw this guy," and start breaking down. Like a mob, once this idea starts to spread, it catches like wildfire (as in last week's British riots). Before you know it, your coffeemaker flips you off and throws a heating element.

Interestingly, the initial and successive problems need not be physically local to the affected person, but they must be in his or her immediate purview. An example of this might be a server outage handled by an IP KVM switch that suddenly blows a power supply and thus eliminates all remote management capabilities to that downed server.

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