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Fiber cut silences SETI@Home

By Funakoshi in News
Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 01:56:42 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

It seems that vandals pilfering copper cables knocked out the SETI at Home servers today (3/1/01). For those of you that aren't familiar with SETI@Home, it is a screensaver that analyzes data packets for radio signals of extraterrestrial origin. These packets are recorded by the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico. Its interesting to see how one slice of a cable can affect millions of people.

This is from the SETI temporary page.

Fiber cut silences SETI@Home, Lawrence Hall of Science

1 March 2001

At about 3:30 AM PST on 27 February an optical fiber cable connecting the U.C. Berkeley campus with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was cut, apparently by vandals trying to "salvage" copper from other nearby cables.

The broken fiber carries data and voice connections for LBNL and also for the Space Sciences Lab and the Lawrence Hall of Science. SSL is where the SETI@Home project is located, so the millions of participants helping to analyze data have been unable to contact the SETI@Home servers ever since.

This morning we (CNS) were told that the repairs would be finished sometime today. Unfortunately that's not the case. The carrier has finished pulling new cable, but now LBNL has to splice the new cable into their own fiber plant. This process will not be completed until late in the day Friday, 2 March.


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Fiber cut silences SETI@Home | 18 comments (13 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
SETI's a *little* more than that... (3.33 / 3) (#4)
by Speare on Thu Mar 01, 2001 at 10:24:08 PM EST

For those of you that aren't familiar with Seti, it is a screensaver that analyzes data packets for radio signals of extraterrestrial origin.

SETI is a tiny little bit more than just a screensaver. The SETI@home offers a screensaver process for the distributed clients, but that's really less than half of even SETI@home, nevermind all of the SETI Institute's purpose or projects.

And this news was actually from the wee hours of 27 February, two days ago, but your writeup above the fold says it's from 1 March.

[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
At least quote me right (none / 0) (#9)
by Funakoshi on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 10:18:32 AM EST

The actual quote said Seti@home which is the name for the screensaver part of the Seti project. I am aware that Seti project does a lot more but I was only talking about the screensaver.

[ Parent ]
editorial fix... (none / 0) (#12)
by Speare on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 11:08:24 AM EST

I just did a cut and paste from the original article. It appears that it has been fixed, likely by an editor, since then.

[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
[ Parent ]
What I want to know is... (4.75 / 4) (#6)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 12:32:30 AM EST

Why were people stealing buried copper cable? Is it valuable enough to dig up and sell, or were they just being dicks and doing it for fun?

*Very* valuable (4.50 / 4) (#8)
by flieghund on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 10:12:35 AM EST

Well, maybe not as valuable as gold, but still well worth the effort.

Quite a while back, I remember reading about how rural areas were having their old copper wiring replaced with fiber at a much faster rate than urban areas. The reason was because the value of the "salvaged" copper was enough to justify theives cutting down the cables and selling it as scrap -- scrap copper currently fetches in the vicinity of US$0.80/pound. And copper cabling is heavy. (OTOH, fiber-optical cables are very light and nearly worthless -- essentially very fine strands of glass. It's the fiber switching and boosting equipment that is valuable, but that is much easier to secure than cables.)

IIRC, the reason rural areas were the favorite targets is the inherent lack of civilization: on some roads, one car every hour is considered heavy traffic, and there are usually no buildings within sight. Contrast this with urban areas, where there are constantly people around -- and thus much harder to steal the copper wiring.

Of course, this was in the early '90s, way before the explosion of broadband. I imagine that most companies have shifted away from re-cabling rural areas (low ROI) to concentrate on urban centers where more profits are to be found. I'd also imagine that the theives have become more brazen in their heists...

Using a Macintosh is like picking your nose: everyone likes to do it, but no one will admit to it.
[ Parent ]
Ma Bell (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by jabber on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 10:34:49 AM EST

A former professor once told me that before their break-up, 90% of AT&T's assets/net-worth was hanging on telephone poles in the form of copper cable.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

They did it (4.00 / 3) (#7)
by driftingwalrus on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 02:44:12 AM EST

SETI is getting close to their secret. The government stole that cable, I tell you.

"I drank WHAT?!" -- Socrates
Fault tolerant Internet (4.33 / 3) (#11)
by jabber on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 10:43:24 AM EST

I think this is fascinating.. The Internet was designed to withstand nuclear war, but it can be picked apart by opportunistic hick vultures looking for scrap-metal. Very interesting.

The fact that this involves/affects SETI@Home is a minor point. The interesting thing is that a) People are willing to steal cabling for money, and b) not even IPv6 with strong encryption will protect you from a redneck with a backhoe.

Between Sterling and Gibson, I'd say we're getting close to the future.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Nuclear war? (none / 0) (#14)
by treat on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 04:16:07 PM EST

The Internet was designed to withstand nuclear war

I've heard this before many times, but I've never found out the origin of it, or what it's supposed to really even mean. Does anyone know?

There is no group that oversees this, there's no RFC or other document describing how to keep the net nuclear-hardened. Backbones do not take nuclear war into consideration when they add links or routers. They do not keep routers in nuclear-hardened bunkers, nor do they shield equipment and cabling against EMP.

[ Parent ]

Nuclear war -- The design of the net (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by DrEvil on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 04:26:52 PM EST

I believe it is thought that the internet can withstand a nuclear war is because it was designed so it would not have one single point of failure. If one node on the network was hit by a nuclear blast (or any other type of attack) the traffic would just route around it.

In this case it was just one node that was out of service due to this incident, not the entire internet. Which is exactly how it was designed, if all points relied on each other and this happend, the who net would have been unusable.

[ Parent ]
re: nuclear war (none / 0) (#16)
by kgeffert on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 04:58:46 PM EST

I've heard this before many times, but I've never found out the origin of it, or what it's supposed to really even mean. Does anyone know?
The original U.S. Govt. project to create a distributed computer/communications network for command and control is the reference you hear about. One of the main precepts of the project was for the network to survive major losses ( over 1/3 to 2/3's) of the network and have nodes still being able to communicate (the ones that were left intact anyway).

[ Parent ]
Copper cable? (none / 0) (#17)
by stewartj76 on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 05:09:35 PM EST

I've got a bunch of rolls of pennies around they can have if they are that hard-up for copper (I know they aren't really copper anymore). Anyway, how big are these cables? A different comment said something like $0.80 per pound - that's a lot of wire. Why don't they go break into RadioShack and steal wire from there or something more cost-effective than digging up buried cables?Is this like the urban legend of people stealing gold teeth from dead people? I get the feeling that it will turn out that someone broke the cables with a backhoe like in Washington a couple years ago.

Regardless, my computer has enjoyed being turned off for the last 2 days.

Sorry (1.50 / 2) (#18)
by Greener on Fri Mar 02, 2001 at 05:27:12 PM EST

All Your Cable Are Belong To Us

I won't let it happen again. I promise.

Fiber cut silences SETI@Home | 18 comments (13 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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