Our Internet connection died at work this morning. I checked, and it turned out that our router was just fine, but it couldn’t get a DSL connection. Andy and I headed over to the comm room and poked around. Turns out that the phone line to our DSL modem had been pulled halfway out of the phone board.* We managed to reseat the wire and restart the DSL modem, and our connection was back.

Late this afternoon, Courtney noticed that he’d lost connectivity to google chat. We all confirmed that we had, too. Then we checked and found that several other sites were inaccessible. We initially thought the connection was down again, but it turns out that we still had live SSH connections to remote machines, and sites we’d been connected to for a while were still up. It looked like a DNS issue. So we grabbed the DNS addresses from our router and tried to ping them. I saw 25-33% packet loss. Ben got 75% loss. We managed to ping to other IP addresses without a hitch. We knew it was the DNS servers. Not much we could do about it, since the DNS is handled by Bellsouth. We could have set our own, but by then it was pretty late, and not really worth it.

When I got home, I checked my connectivity, and found that I couln’t get anywhere. I checked my DNS servers and sure enough, I have the same Bellsouth servers that we have at work.

What to do? SSH to a remote machine via its IP address (remembering the remote machine’s IP is the hardest part). Do a dig on the webserver at work and get its IP. After that, connect to the server via its IP address and go to the private wiki. Now log in and grab the university DNS addresses (which were thoughtfully added to the wiki long ago). Then set up a static DNS on your local machine, using the university DNS servers. Isn’t it obvious?

Seriously, after I did that, I thought about it for a second and realized that most people would have no idea how to do most of this (nor would they probably have access to the necessary resources). It’s really wierd that this stuff is almost second nature now. Who knew that such random geek knowledge would have tangible benefits?

I only hope that my exhaustive Futurama knowledge will one day prove as useful.

* A Bellsouth technician was in the building today for another company. I actually think he probably pulled the wire out on accident while he was poking around, but that’s not really relevant to the story.

Update: Turns out that the university DNS servers are having a bunch of problems, too. I assume they probably get their information from the Bellsouth servers, too. In any event, I managed to find a list of public DNS servers cached by Google, so I’m riding Cisco’s public DNS servers now. Woooooo!