Transmission Control

The TCP/IP Model
is a practical way of dividing up bits of your networking setup
into five different levels of abstraction, so that getting from “a box
that sucks electrons out of your wall” to “im in ur intertubes, mailin ur lolcats” is marginally less of a big stupid mess. Got a problem with your lolcat-mailings on the intertubes? Here’s what you need to know about your network problems,
from the ground up. And, as a public service, the background music you
should be listening to while you deal with it.

  1. The Physical Layer.

    The wires going from your computer into your wall socket. Relevant questions
    include: is there electricity in my house? Is my computer plugged in? Is
    turned on? How about my network cable? If the answer to all of these is yes, go to layer two! If it is not, congratulations, You Are Here. Solve these problems.

    Music: Firewater – Dark Days Indeed

  2. The Data Layer.

    This is basically your network cable. If you live in the future, it’s your wireless connection, and if you live in the bronze age it’s your telephone cable, your wizened and bespectacled little man hunched over his telegraph key, the string between your two tin cans or your smoke signal or something, Christ, I don’t know, I’m not some rusted-out freaking relic over here, ok? Relevant questions continue to be “is it plugged in”, but now involve the small blinky lights on the box rather than the hundred-watt bulb in the ceiling. Are your tiny lights
    blinky? Does your modem screech? Is your employee tapping away fiercely? If yes, proceed. If not, you’ve got a hardware problem. Try replacing the cable, but I don’t know what you’re going to do about morse code guy.

    Music: Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon – Plastic Jesus

  3. The Network Layer.

    In dimly remembered frontier days long past, when big- and little-endians were made to drink at separate fountains and the love affair between gallium and arsenic was still flush with the passions of spring, this third layer was a fractured and difficult land, of many schools of thought and much protracted, fiery debate. Nowadays, it pretty much means “I have an IP address”. If so, proceed!

    Music: Tom Waits – Telephone Call From Istanbul (live)

  4. The Transport Layer.

    I’m pretty much spent from coming up with that protracted metaphor up
    in layer three, so try and imagine the same sort of thing here except
    with a lot less people caring that much about it. In place of debates
    of the form “Ali In His Prime Vs. Tyson?” or “Gretzky or Howe?”,
    imagine instead “A Young Mike Tyson Vs. A Slightly Overcooked Steak”,
    or perhaps the subtler “Gretzky Vs. Hoye?” Can you ping Google? If so,
    move ahead one square.

    Music: The Blue Man Group – White Rabbit

  5. The Application Layer.

    This is the place where things that you actually want to get done on the
    interwebs get their doing. Email, Firefox, BitTorrent, you name it –
    if you’re driving a truck through your series of tubes, this is where it
    happens. If you’re here, and everything works, you didn’t have a problem
    in the first place. But since you’ve walked past all the rest of it,
    this must be where your problem lies, and good luck to you.

    Music: The Epoxies, “Everything Looks Beautiful On Video”.

Good night, internet, and good luck.

3 Comments

  1. memeboy
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Very good assemblage of the “needs to know” – this could have been one of those f-ing content-free flow charts that boingboing (or was that the entire internet?) was posting a while ago, but instead you rightly put your shoulder to the wheel and generated a sensically poetic post. This is why we fight, I mean read.

    I on the other hand cannot write words good and so I give you my crappy graphic:

    http://crappygraphs.com/user_graphs/?id=104

  2. Posted August 29, 2007 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I think you forgot to talk about session and presentation, but those are more OSI layers. If you were exclusively discussing TCP/IP, well, only two of those layers really apply.

  3. Mike Hoye
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    The OSI stuff is a good teaching tool, but it doesn’t really reflect the stuff that your typical desktop user is working with – the Joe User, the Session, Presentation and Application layers are all part of the OS and the browser.