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108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal, from the Real Guys
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...
Published on May 29, 2012 by Daniel Golding

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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But Definitely For Techies
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...
Published on May 5, 2012 by Reader from Washington, DC


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108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal, from the Real Guys, May 29, 2012
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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.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly will appeal to the alpha geeks..., June 6, 2012
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..."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.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But Definitely For Techies, May 5, 2012
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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.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, even if it's pretty complex, May 14, 2012
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DDC (Connecticut) - See all my reviews
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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.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly Boring, December 7, 2012
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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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much padding, August 25, 2012
By 
bmbower (Praha, Czech Republic) - See all my reviews
This should have been a ten or even twenty thousand word article in Harper's, the New Yorker, or even Wired or National Geographic. As a book, it is sixty percent padding. It is repetitious and spends far too much time in the author's head, as he attempts to create high expectations for payouts that end up being large rooms with servers.

The result is rambling bore. The author is lazy when using similes to describe aspects of the Internet, many just enough off to be annoying, such as describing the act of connecting networks "as dancers around a maypole." For some, the author admits they are not quite right - which begs the question: why didn't he spend a bit more time finding ones that work? He also over relies on asking questions and engaging in superficial philosophizing about what it all means, making grand statements about the limitations of language, such as "I realized that the words we use to describe 'telecommunications' don't do justice to their current relevance to our lives." Well, neither do words describing "air" and "water." He is constantly telling us how mysterious it all is, as the travelogues and exchanges themselves don't quite do the trick. And there are no diagrams, maps, or pictures to help illustrate the connections (probably because it would have obviated the need for 40-50 thousand words).

There are gems buried in all the rubble. The description of how networks exist within networks was interesting, as was the introduction to peering and the issue of speed as a matter of professional pride. I wanted the scene where they splice open an undersea cable to make repairs to go on for a few more pages. And the energy consumption data on data centers and how data center locations are chosen are engaging. But these do not redeem the book. It simply tries to do too much with too little.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A meandering travelogue, scattered pockets of information, May 29, 2012
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For a writer with significant experience in the tech space, Blum comes across as too poetic and distracted in this book set with a very promising premise - the search for the "physical" Internet (though "center of the Internet" seems an ironically poor choice for the title). The first person narrative account, almost set as a travelogue takes away some of the sheen of the range of discussions Blum condenses in this book - the history/evolution of the Internet, the network hubs and the industry that makes a living mapping these patterns, infrastructure challenges of under-sea cables, potential security issues and a plethora of other topics. Blum also struggles with identifying his key audience groups results in patchy narratives - often he glosses over discussions of a "switch" in 1-2 sentences and then takes pages to repeatedly point out that an email keeps bouncing from one city to another before being "delivered". As such, a technophile will still be able to glean some valuable information on the infrastructure that makes Internet viable - but will have to muddle through tangential narratives. Nevertheless, an informative (yet laborious) read, though one really wishes Blum brought the narrative style that is typically associated with the magazines he has contributed to in the past - Wired, Pop Science.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Picture (Map) would be worth a 1000 words here, July 7, 2012
By 
L. S. Evensen (CA United States) - See all my reviews
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In theory, tracing the physical structures that make up the Internet seems like it could be interesting, but the author should either talk more about protocol (he gets into this a little bit talking about peering) and the various agencies that make it possible for IP addresses and packets to be recognized and routed around the world, or provide some graphical information such as one can actually see on the TeleGeography website. He doesn't even have an index entry for DNS which is a fairly significant part of what makes the Internet 'work' for the average citizen.
The asides about various characters he meets don't really add to the topic, and it seemed clear that many people he travelled to meet in various server rooms in the US and Europe were puzzled as to what he was looking for. In fact I think the author himself realized that simply staring at masses of CAT-5 cables does not tell one about the quiddity/'what it is'ness of the Internet.
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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars For a very select audience only, if any, June 19, 2012
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I hesitate to call any book "boring", as what interests each of us varies greatly. I purchased this book (Kindle edition) because I am in fact interested learning about the physical aspects and history of the Internet. Even with that interest, however, this book managed to bore me with page after page of minutia I can't imagine anyone being interested in. Written descriptions of buildings, rooms, routers, switches, computers, and bundles of wires...over and over and over, but at such an elementary level there's very little meat technically. Literally 50% of the writing in this book could have been replaced with a hundred or so pictures. Names of people and dates, but so many that there's no room for character development that would make these people interesting.

That being said, it is a very thorough book in documenting the names, locations, and physical descriptions of the buildings, hardware, and people that have been involved in the evolution of the Internet. It's quite impressive in that regard, and I'm glad someone has documented this for historical purposes. It's just that it's as exciting as reading the phone book in narrative form.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, January 31, 2013
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R. V. Byrd "Bob" (Upper Arlington, Ohio) - See all my reviews
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I looked forward to reading this book. I was expecting to learn something about the structure and functioning of the interned. Instead I got a disjointed, almost incoherent treat to the authors travels to obscure sites. There was very little description of what the sites did or how they fit into the overall structure. I tried to finish the book but just couldn't stomach any more rambling.
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Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (Paperback - May 28, 2013)
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