Big Pic­ture Mode

Nathan Brown’s In­ter­net dies; this month’s col­umn is oddly punc­tual


My home In­ter­net’s been down all week, and boy does it hurt. It’s been a while, to be fair – we have the odd out­age here and there, but as I write this I’m on day three of five, and it’s been bru­tal. It’s been es­pe­cially tough on the kid, whose media con­sump­tion is al­most en­tirely pow­ered by re­mote servers, and you want to try ex­plain­ing that to a three-year-old. There’s an episode of Peppa Pig where there’s a power cut, and she goes round the house sug­gest­ing all kinds of things they could do while they wait for the lights to go back on; ev­ery­thing, of course, re­quires elec­tric­ity. The kid’s been a bit like that this week, reel­ing off a re­volv­ing carousel of his favourite TV shows. No, son, Fire­man Sam needs the in­ter­net. So does Paw Pa­trol and, yep, Peppa Sod­ding Pig, and all the rest of them too. (We do, I prom­ise, con­trol his TV time quite rigidly. It’s just all he ever bloody thinks about.)

Any­way, the out­age has been rough on the grown-ups, too, if only in the way it has showed us just how much band­width we get through with­out think­ing about it. We streamed a cer­tain prop­erty show – I shan’t say which as it’s too em­bar­rass­ing, em­bar­rass­ing, em­bar­rass­ing – while teth­ered to an iPhone, and it cost us a gi­ga­byte. We did it for Game Of Thrones, which was ob­vi­ously band­width well spent. But the other thing? I went through an eighth of my phone’s monthly data al­lowance watch­ing a re­ally wet cou­ple com­pletely bot­tle it on a great five-bed place in Dorset.

But in the mean­time, we’re stuck with the apoc­a­lyp­tic hor­ror of reg­u­larly sched­uled tele­vi­sion, our in-progress on-de­mand shows put forcibly on hold un­til the band­width flows anew. At least, you might think, I have videogames – but I’m scared to even turn the con­soles on. We take data for granted these days, and the bug­gers un­der the telly up­date them­selves while we sleep. I had a sneak pre­view of this on a transat­lantic trip last year, when I ponied up £15 for 150MB of in-flight WiFi and burned through it all in ten min­utes af­ter my phone saw my wire­less con­nec­tion as li­cence to hur­riedly up­date ev­ery app I have ever down­loaded.

Les­son learned, you’d think, and so did I. Need­ing a re­view build of a Steam game, I savvily down­loaded it at the of­fice, copied it to USB and brought it home, then put it in the ap­pro­pri­ate folder on my per­sonal rig. I started up Steam, and took great care to pause the down­load queue im­me­di­ately. Then I told it to ‘in­stall’ the game I needed to play, and sat there smugly as it de­tected the files and started it up within sec­onds. I sat back and picked up the con­troller; all was well un­til, ten min­utes later, my phone buzzed with a text from my mobile provider, say­ing I’d used my en­tire monthly data al­lowance. It seems Steam took me click­ing the In­stall but­ton on a sin­gle game as an in­struc­tion to un­pause all my down­loads, and quickly ate through the en­tire queue, wast­ing my pre­cious band­width up­dat­ing var­i­ous SteamVR games I’m quite sure I have never played. Think of all the sweet prop­erty pro­grammes I could have watched, dear reader, and weep for me.

So, af­ter that, ev­ery­thing can get stuffed. I still need to play that game, but I’m leav­ing Steam run­ning so it can’t try and pull an­other fast one, all In­ter­net con­nec­tions dis­abled, only briefly teth­er­ing PC to phone to send an email or sync with Google docs. I’m not turn­ing the PS4 on, be­cause if you think I’m giv­ing my phone’s lo­gin de­tails to a con­sole which kicks off down­loads at all hours whether it’s pow­ered on or off and fre­quently ap­pears to have a mind of its own, you are prop­erly kid­ding your­self. The Switch, sim­i­larly, is never re­ally asleep. And I’m not turn­ing the Xbox One on be­cause, firstly, it al­ways seems to need sev­eral gi­ga­bytes of up­dates and, se­condly, there’s noth­ing I want to play on it any­way; I’ve played more GameCube games in the last 12 months (hang on, there’s an idea). I’ve missed the Des­tiny 2 beta, and I sup­pose I might as well just delete Spla­toon 2, since ev­ery­one else will have lev­elled up too much by the time I can fi­nally get on. It’s just Scrab­ble, books and po­lite con­ver­sa­tion in the Brown house­hold now – un­til Thurs­day, any­way, when the en­gi­neer comes. Then, the gloves will come off. I’ll play Des­tiny non-stop; I’ll up­date ev­ery sin­gle game I have in­stalled, just in case this sorry mess hap­pens again. And then I’ll re­ally go nuts. There’s a show about young cou­ples house-hunt­ing in South London that I’ve had my eye on for weeks.

We take data for granted these days, and the bug­gers un­der the telly up­date them­selves while we sleep

Nathan Brown is Edge’s editor and look, if you’re in the mar­ket, you can’t be afraid of a lit­tle DIY for heaven’s sake

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