Packet Gnomes

Packet Gnomes

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The other morning I got the following question from a reader:

     I have created a client-server application in C# using asynchronous socket methods [... blah blah blah, a long description of a scenario in which the socket misses packets under certain conditions]

My reply was that I believe networks are run by tiny "packet gnomes" who move the packets around on your behalf. Wireless networks are run by "packet fairies", who can fly. When I have to debug a network problem usually I either leave cookies out for the gnomes, or I call in a friend who has less magical/more scientific beliefs about networks.

Readers: if you have a question about something I actually know about -- design and implementation of programming language tools, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, sailing small craft, piano repair, and so on -- I'm happy to consider it. But there is really very little point asking me about anything else, since odds are good that I am far less clueful on the subject than you already are.

  • Re: day sailing:  My family sailed albacores when I was a kid.  Not too heavy, but heavy enough to be fairly stable in chop. Long enough to stow a picnic basket. Pretty easy to sail.

  • Interviewing job-seeking candidates is probably the most impactful thing that I do at Microsoft as far

  • @Massif: The problem with pigeons wasn't unionization. It's just that we need them all at Google:

    That page was posted back in 2002, when we didn't have nearly many queries to get through each day. Imagine how many pigeons we need nowadays! We can't afford to waste them on wireless networking, no matter what RFCs 1149 and 2549 might say about the matter.


  • A systems administrator at a company I used to work for insisted that we should install server room bunnies - he insisted that they were able to detect network problems and application bugs long before any monitoring tool could pick up on them.

    Unfortunately, as he actually did implement a few of his other ideas, he was rather quickly out of a job..

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