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