Thursday, April 26, 2007

Skype: Internet Connection Optional?

Sometime around 6PM yesterday the internet went out here at UofL. I really needed to be studying for my EAC final, but I really wanted to get on the internet. I am simply lost without it. After confirming it was, in fact, not working with some of my dormmates, I called the IT help desk. They said they were having problems with the connection and it should be back up later.

I then just happen to look at Skype and noticed Nick’s status message, “Argh, Skype and the university pages are the only things that work online.” I was actually having more trouble than other getting on the internet because I was using an external DNS server, Open DNS. After switching to the default DNS server Skype was able to "connect" and I started talking about the crazy situation using Skype. Yes, Skype was working!

At first, I thought the DNS server was down, but after some investigation it appeared that the local DNS server was working properly and most things were still cached locally. I also double checked to make sure it was not the DNS server by pinging an IP address that I know works (my home) that was not on the network. Getting back to the main point of this article, the magical properties of Skype, I was able to IM Cassie who is definitely NOT on the UofL network. I was also able to confirm the fact it works using another one of my accounts. Additionally, Nick confirmed that the Skype Call Test was working. However, we both were not able to complete a call to a land line or cell phone. I was able to complete a file transfer between my computer and and Cassie's computer.

So, to put it simply, I was somehow connected to the Skype network without having an actual internet connection. Obviously, Skype is P2P and the best answer that I have found is that someone on the GIANT UofL network was connected to the network, running Skype, and connected to an external internet connection. I am note sure how exactly I was on Skype without being on the internet.Now, skeptics might be saying, “the internet must really have not been down.” Well, updates were available through the help line in the form of a recorded message. The first update indicated that the fiber optic line that connected the network was severed. First estimates put uptime to be around 11PM and the next update pushed it back to 12PM at the earliest.

Sometime in the middle of the night the internet came back up and everything is working. I am still not exactly sure how Skype managed to stay online during the outage. I did learn that it was not possible to log into Skype if you were not connected before the outage. I was lucky, I was already logged in partially (but not connected) before the outage. I am glad I am back online, especially since I only have one final left and it is next week.

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