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Tubes Hardcover – May 7 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (May 7 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554689791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554689798
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 440 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #123,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MR ALEXANDER M BOZIKOVIC on Dec 25 2012
Format: Hardcover

Most days, I spend all day and much of the evening lost in the internet. Lost, that is, figuratively. We think and talk in physical terms about the net, the web, the online world – and this metaphorical place often feels like it’s where I live.

But what does that mean? What is the world of the internet? For my friend the journalist Andrew Blum – architecture critic, Wired contributor, student of geography, and contrarian – that question was an invitation to explore the physical world of the net. The results became his book Tubes.

He drank with divers on the Portuguese coast, spelunked Lower Manhattan with Con Edison engineers, schmoozed with many network technicians in many dark rooms full of wire cages. (In Toronto, the Toronto Internet Exchange is here on Front Street West. For now!)

What he learns is that the whole network is a) literally a network of wires, fiberoptics, and tubes; and b) remarkably ad hoc. Right from the start the Internet has been improvised, expanded and renegotiated; an early important hub was in a parking garage in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Even today there are meetings both personal and physical where different commercial networks plug in to each other. Some of these are New York, London and Frankfurt – because of the presence of fiberoptic cables, legacy phone companies or just because, in Frankfurt’s case, the guys in charge thought it was a reasonable place to meet.

Now some of the crucial points are data centres, located where moderate climate and access to fiberoptic cable meet. Look up Google’s new data centre and then Google The Dalles, Oregon; it’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find globally important infrastructure. Google was very secretive about it, until recently.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tubes is a terrific book about the "real" internet. It dispels the fantasy of the "cloud" and brings the internet down to earth. If you love geography, telecommunications, and history, this will be a great addition to your bookshelf (wherever it's stored)!

Blum writes beautifully and this is as much fun to read as anything else you might choose. If you like Bill Bryson, you'll love this!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 141 reviews
108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
The Real Deal, from the Real Guys May 29 2012
By Daniel Golding - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I sit, writing this review, in my darkened office in an Internet data center, in Ashburn, VA, the hub described in Tubes. I build these things for a living, and, when my time on this planet is up, I'll be able to say, with some great satisfaction, that I was part of the small army that built the "plumbing" of the Internet - data centers, fiber, DWDM terminals, regen sites, routers, switches. The guts, not the pretty developer work.

From that point of view, I must strongly endorse Tubes by Andrew Blum. I first met Andrew at a meeting of core Internet architects - his intellectual curiosity was striking. He sat in our meetings, went to our bars, listened to our bad stories. Andrew is an excellent writer who talked to the real guys (and girls) who built the Internet. Not an early research network, or an NSF/DOD project, or some web page or search engine - the REAL Internet.

If you want to know how it really fits together, how the Internet really works, read this book. If you are an aspiring network engineer - you must read this book, to really learn something about what you claim to know. If you are a layman - this book will give you an appreciation of the real Internet - behind the glitzy Flash, the addictive MMOs, the electronic storefronts, the content delivery networks - the Tubes. Now, I have to go back and feed the beast. Read the book - this is what Where Wizards Stay Up Late should have been and was not.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Mostly will appeal to the alpha geeks... June 6 2012
By 35-year Technology Consumer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
..."The Internet" (as most of us have come to understand its popular rise in our consciousness over a generation) has been described with many metaphors: clouds, tubes, webs (as well as Arthur C. Clark's broad category of magic for any sufficiently advanced technology).

"Tubes" doesn't really create new ground in sustaining or refuting any of these concepts. Instead, it captures the physicality behind the magic that delivers all those digital pieces to us through and examination of how the physical layer of the Internet grew.

After a squirrel-induced outage at at his Brooklyn home, Andrew Blum set out to expand the trace of wires behind his furniture, and see where all that data came from. The result of his findings are here, and he presents us with insider looks at the following:
-The physical parts of the network that grew by chance in its early days
-The physical parts of the network that grew by design as it matured
-The physical parts of the network where data moves and where data rests.

The results: detailed descriptions of the large centers where the connections of large backbone providers intersect and move data, tours of some of the places where undersea cables emerge from the depths to tie continents together digitally, and visits to the one of the factory analogs of the Information Age: the data centers that some increasingly trust more than they trust their own local storage options.

I've had my own experiences visiting facilities like these, and it's quite an accomplishment to get a book-length treatment of them. How much can you write about servers, switches, hubs, routers and cable runs? As it turns out, a lot, and Blum does so in an engaging and accessible way.

This book may not appeal to the general reader, but it will appeal to those who appreciate the kind of infrastructure we often take for granted. If you appreciate modern roads, modern sewage systems, clean drinking water delivered to your tap and a reliable supply of electricity --and have more than a passing interest in how any of these things became available to us-- then you will probably enjoy this book. When it comes to computers, computing and understanding the connectivity made possible by the Internet, most homes have their alpha geek...and that's who will most enjoy this book.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, But Definitely For Techies May 5 2012
By Reader from Washington, DC - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
After a squirrel living in his backyard chewed through wiring connecting his computer to the internet, journalist Andrew Blum became curious -- where, he asked himself, do all the computers, cables and routers 'live' that physically power the internet? And who runs the companies that maintain them?

This question was covered years ago in a series of fascinating Wired magazine articles written by novelist Bruce Sterling, so I was eager to read Blum's account. Blum traveled from one city to another, looking at inconspicuous office buildings filled with equipment, talking to executives about underwater ocean cables that are thousands of miles long, and tries to give the reader a series of mental pictures of how the internet actually 'works.'

The book is interesting, but his efforts to draw word pictures of complex equipment, how the internet functions, and the engineers who maintain it are somewhat rambling and disorderly, and he assumes a level of knowledge on the reader's part of things like internet IP addresses.

If I weren't a bit of a techie, I would have given up after the first 10 pages. This type of subject cries out for tight vignettes and colorful prose.

I think techies like myself will like it, but the average reader will be bewildered or bored.You do need to be a bit of a geek to understand the book.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, even if it's pretty complex May 14 2012
By DDC - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Tubes is a interesting book about a subject most people (me included) never consider: what exactly is beyond the screen in front of us? In answering this question, the author takes you all over the virtual and physical world. It is written as a journey of discovery: both on the subject and, to a lesser extent, of the author's personal feelings.

As other reviewers have noted, this book presents some complex IT concepts. They are well explained, but it's easy to get lost here and there. Even when you get lost, it doesn't detract of the overall story and learning experience. For the most part, everything is well explained and you don't need any specific background before reading this book.

The author has a nice writing style and the prose flows well. I don't think the author achieved the kind of casual brilliance of Malcolm Gladwell (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) or Michael Lewis (The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine), but this isn't a criticism. To the contrary, the fact I compared them speaks volumes about the author's writing and I thought he was pretty close to them at times.

This book is perfect for people interested in: engineering/IT, modern history, and urban archeology. I have included urban archeology because the book really delves into all the places you've never heard about or walked by and never thought about; for me, this was the best part of the Tubes. I recommend this book.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Incredibly Boring Dec 7 2012
By Andrew Moriarty - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I made a valiant attempt to finish this book, but couldn't do it. After wading through pages and pages of unfocused discussion of the so called 'journey' I finally gave up. The book is neither technically detailed, intellectually stimulating, or an entertaining story. Rather it is a collection of disconnected musing.
If you want a technical discussion, this is not it. If you want a story of the people involved, this is not it. If you want a history of how things evolved, this is not it. I'm sorry I bought it.

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