I started out the day with my friend complaining how crippled and helpless he felt because he was unable to access his Gmail account. As unusual as this is, it comes as another sharp reminder. He said he spent the first 1.5 hours of his day waiting for Gmail to return to service and I sympathized with him.
I got to work and found another friend cribbing that the Gtalk feature in her Gmail window was acting up. All of us in the room spent the next 10 minutes talking about the issues Gmail seemed to be having since the wee hours of this day. I was glad to note that at least Gmail was now working.
I was reading some lecture notes about computer networks and found a mention of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. I caught myself thinking whether that was the reason the Google servers were down; also wondered how powerful/critical the attack was and when and how Google might recover from it. A few hours later my friend left, still annoyed at the fact that she couldn't talk to her husband over Gmail, as is her norm.
I read an article that quoted an expert who categorized intelligence into two types - fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is having knowledge of how to go about things, while crystallized intelligence is knowledge of the specific details. Interesting, I thought ... I guess I'd say I have fluid intelligence since I usually figure out the broad approach to take to solve any problem that I'm tackling and turn to Google for the 'crystallization'.
Come evening, I called up a company I am interviewing with and was trying to schedule an online timed test. The lady at the other end asked me to send her an email and told me she would respond immediately and administer the test. I sent her the mail and prayed that Gmail wouldn't let me down and would deliver it immediately. I spent the next half hour hitting the refresh button on my mail client, waiting for her response. Nothing! I logged into Gmail - thanking my stars that it let me do so. No mails there either. I checked the Spam folder and the Trash folder. Nothing still!
I called up the company again and asked them if they'd received my email. Thankfully they had and it turned out to be only a confusion about the start time of the test. I gave them a specific time within the next half hour and took what I felt was a truly deserved break. I met a friend for coffee during my short break and once again we were discussing the troubles we had been having with Google so far in the day. I returned quickly hoping mightily that the test had been delivered to my Gmail inbox. Was glad to note it was!
I was expected to work on the test and email my answers to the company within the next hour. I completed the test in less than 40 min and yet again prayed that Gmail be back to normal since I had to email my answers or the whole effort would have gone a waste. It worked - Go Gmail!
I come home and am Stumble-ing as a way of relaxation and Stumble hits me with an article describing why Google servers were down today. The article termed it something like the digital equivalent of a power blackout. True indeed! I find it just as obstructive of all my activities as a power shutdown. Power failures are quite common in my hometown, Bangalore. But I know how to deal with them and we have a UPS there to give us upto 2 hours of backup power. But how do I deal with a Gmail failure? Especially since I depend on it solely? Redundancy is a good way to have a failback system, they taught me in EMC. Maybe I should create an email account with another service provider and get Gmail to forward all incoming mails to that as well. Even then, only mails received will be forwarded. What's the guarantee that they will be received at all - if the servers are down? I'm still trying to think of a reliable fail-back system.
In effect I've spent most of my waking hours today realizing just how dependent I am on Google. To top it all, I consider my dream job to be at Google and fantasize about all the great things that I would work on, the power (ie technology) that would lie at my disposable and how I could make an impact on millions of people I'll never meet but who will thank me for making some part of their lives easier. Wouldn't it be nice to turn this preoccupation into an occupation as well! Should I start working at Google, I wonder, could it get worse(!!??) than that?
Google, you fill me with both anxiety and admiration - I don't know how much of each, but in my mind they coexist for sure! Go Google! :D