Packet Rat: The Rat finds there's no escape from broadband

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

After a day cutting loose at the WiFi Planet conference this month, the Rat was feeling just a bit too connected.

Thanks to all the free bandwidth, every time he went into a technical session, his notebook PC would squawk with the arrival of yet another urgent e-mail or instant message.

'I'd have been less busy back at the office,' sighed the whiskered one as he lunched with fellow attendees in the WiFi-saturated Inner Harbor of Baltimore. 'At least there, I could have left my computer on the desk and gotten a half-hour of quiet by claiming my pager batteries were dead.'

Overexposure seems to be everyone's problem these days. Even in Shanghai, on the other side of the planet, a few well-chosen words from Sun Microsystems Inc. chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz sent techies into a tizzy about Sun's plans to open-source Solaris.

'Over our dead lawyers' bodies,' SCO Group Inc. cried in response to rumors that Sun would use the Gnu General Public License for its open-source operating system. And the Slashdotters, at, picked up on the comments of a Sun technical evangelist about open-sourcing Java, too. They predicted the evangelist's head will be served up on a platter.

At home, the Rat's enhanced connectivity was beginning to drive his wife to distraction. Every time the family sat down for some televised diversion, an urgent message would scroll across the bottom of the screen, courtesy of the cyberrodent's TiVo hacks. And then the notebook would be pulled out, WiFi would be blazing away, and the Rat would disappear into his office to sort out the latest techno-political crisis.

'That's it,' Mrs. Rat muttered one night when her husband and children all went online after dinner. She instant-messaged each of them: 'We are going into connectivity rehab for a weekend.' Then she booked a campground in the great, unwired North.

'Pack the tent and sleeping bags,' she barked as she flipped the burrow's master circuit breaker. 'We're going back to the 1980s for a couple of days.'

'Cool,' said the eldest ratling. 'I've got these acoustic couplers I bought at a yard sale that I've been dying to try out.' His mother's withering glare let him know that Web surfing that weekend would be unsafe at any speed.

Two days later, the Rat family rolled into a Korporate Kampground franchise, far from the Washington Netplex. At least, they thought so until they saw the WiFi sign at the registration window.

Just then, the Rat's cell phone played the 'Mexican Hat Dance' to announce the arrival of an instant message from his boss. 'Please check our Exhibit 300 documents for errors immediately,' read the screen of his phone.

After pitching the tent, the Rat family gathered in their camp chairs, humming tunes as they tapped away on their wireless devices of choice.
Mrs. Rat added a new search criterion for the next campsite. 'Find one with good bathrooms and no broadband,' she told her handheld computer.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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