The Port Mafias

by phoxis

The main internet cable connection comes from outside, most probably directly from the central university servers and into the hostel office. The rooms doesn’t have wall LAN cable outlets. Therefore long wires has to be pulled from the office, through both the floors of the three sections of the hostel, and then into the other hubs, from where students run wires to their rooms. Around 466 people stay in this hostel, and the hub distribution is not that good in this hostel, therefore students have to run long wires to reach the nearest hub. Finding the nearest hub is not a problem, but finding a hub with free ports is. Congestion, more students than ports. Easiest solution, buy a hub, but no one is interested to spend money on a hub. Who moved into the hostel early in the semester, got all the ports empty and got one. Who came late has to suffer. This gives rise to the port Mafias. (Suspense music playing in the background.)

We had two hubs. We pulled one connection from the main office of the previous hostel and then pulled our connections from those hubs. The remaining hubs were free to use for others for a one-time fee to share the cost of the hub. Before leaving the previous hostel, we gave one of the hubs to the freshers to install it in the hostel, and the other one is not working. Therefore we had to rely on the hubs which  is supplied by the hostel (in which we are staying now). Luckily our room is just beside the hub in the first floor.

Some of the people who did not get a port, suffering for long, without internet, quietly executes their work at night, when no one is awake (except the CS people, who are famous/infamous to be awake for long). They randomly remove a LAN cable from the hub and insert theirs. The effect is felt the next day. “Who the hell opened my cable!”. Someone shouted from the other wing. Immediately we turned up the laptop lid (if already not open) and ping-ed the proxy servers and each others to check if we were okay.
Although not everyone executes the work at night. Mostly the internet thirsty people come in a pair or three people together. One gets up on the chair, extends his height as much as possibly by standing on his toe and peeks into the hub to check if any port is free or not, while the other(s)  guard(s) him (at least it looks like that). Not to mention they will remove someone’s cable if there are no empty ports. Some of the cable’s connectors’ clip are broken therefore the slightest movement gets them loose. When this work is in execution in broad daylight, the person on the other side will stop to look what’s going on. Then some doors will start opening with their inhabitants getting out while putting on the shirt/jacket and stop by the corridor to see what’s going on the other side of the section and sometimes asking what’s going on and “Don’t remove our cable” sometimes the port number is mentioned, some times not. Sometimes a few will come walking in this side to check out what’s going on. “What’s up man, please don’t remove the cable, everyday some one fiddles with the connections and we loose internet.”. Reply comes like this. “Just reconnecting my one man, someone opened our cable and connected theirs, why would we open your cable? We don’t have any problems with you or anyone!”. This is the standard conversation. The students living near the hub (we), sometimes come out to inspect, standing in front of them as if we had the supreme power and authority, and sometimes we just keep pinging until the the ping fails (destination server becomes unreachable), which indicates maybe the cable was pulled out. Time to jump out with that baseball bat Mafia style. (Not in reality though.)

If any cable is accidentally or intentionally removed and the owner of it was online at that time, the reaction is almost immediate. “WHAT THE *u**!! Who removed the cable!!” or something similar comes out through one of the closed doors.  The door slams open and the owners comes out and charges towards the hub and, “What the *u** man! Why the heck you are touching the hub!!”, something like this (when translated). For a moment it seems that one of them will draw a Tommy gun and spray empty the 100 rounds drum on them, and puff the cigar. Although the heat comes down as soon as they reach the hub.

If someone succeeded to remove someone’s cable and insert theirs, the next day  the victim will remove someone others cable, and thus a chain goes on until the hub is thoroughly checked by a bunch of people for valid connections. No one has a port number, and at this moment it is impossible to see without disrupting others connection, simply because of the amount of the cable going in, and also some connectors have broken clip.

There are some people who think connecting more than one connection from the main hub will increase their internet speed (by some magical force) which brings the network to a grinding halt (for some technical limitations). Even after trying to make them understand why multiple connections from the central server to the same hub won’t work, they deny to remove the connections. The warden has to interfere; only one connection per hub.

Once the network of the ground floor of the first segment was only working. Running cables from outside vertically from the ground floor to the first floor is not allowed. It has to be run though the ceiling or the walls of the stairs. Hostel authority is doing nothing for long. Therefore solution is, camouflage. White wire, white wall paint, run the wires directly from ground floor to first floor and then run them through the corners down into the hub. It was not so easy, the cable can’t be run on the wall, as it would be seen, instead it was run through the ceiling after bringing down it from the first floor to the ground floor directly form outside. For two, three days, it was not noticed. Next day this connection (which came into the next room) was cut. Further investigation reviled, the technician guy spotted it and cut it, suspecting it a redundant connection into hub in our wing. The cut wire looked like a martyr after three days of proud service under cover. Don’t worry, the cable will be fit for service after we add another connector.

In the previous hostel we had only to keep an eye on the main cable which runs to our local hub, but now each of us has one connection, so we all have to keep an eye on the hub. It seems like a Mafia war going in the hostel for the ports. These days such activities have gone down, possibly because of the exams, but you never know, when your cable gets removed. 😀