I haven’t posted in a while. At the end of last year I changed my job and joined Amazon in their Driver Experience team. We also moved to Austin. After we moved to Austin, we got an apartment with a smart lock. Our old apartment in Columbus had a more traditional mechanical lock. This smart lock came with a companion app on the phone. It uses bluetooth (and potentially WiFi) to transmit the information. Apart from using the phone, I can set up a secure PIN and use the touchpad to lock and unlock the door. Other than the basic lock/unlock functionality, it comes with more bells and whistles where I can grant access to a guest, for a specific duration. Even though it has been working well for a couple of months now, I am not very comfortable with something using Wi-Fi, bluetooth and remote servers in the cloud protecting my family and property. Underlying software will have bugs. There are some servers needing to be patched and kept up to date, APIs breaking contracts, someone hacking into the system. Losing power/battery or any technical glitch on the hardware itself can lock us outside or inside of the apartment or worse the door doesn’t lock. The minor convenience of not having to carry with an extra key is not worth it. Unfortunately there is no option of using a more traditional lock. For common areas like swimming pool or play area in the apartment complex, this type of lock probably makes sense. But using it for an actual apartment makes little sense.
This is an interesting week for Facebook. I quit using Facebook about 8 years ago and never signed up for Instagram. I did not see any value in these services. And looking at the recent revelations by the whistleblower, I am glad that I am not on these platforms. But I (have to) use WhatsApp to stay connected with my family and friends. There is no alternative. There is strong social pressure in India that requires the use of WhatsApp. My parents use it. Our extended families are hooked to WhatsApp. All my friends are on WhatsApp. Even if I dislike Facebook’s business practices, WhatsApp is a necessary evil. When these systems went down, I was expecting minor inconvenience due to the unavailability of WhatsApp.
But Facebook’s downtime irritated me even so. What happened was mildly interesting. Vaidehi is due for her set of first Flu shots. She needs to take 2 shots, separated by 30 days. During her last wellness visit, her pediatrician indicated that the Flu vaccines would be available in the first week of October. Vaidehi’s regular visit is in the first week of November. I thought it would be a good idea to plan her first shot in early October so she could take the second shot at her regular wellness visit in November.
Her pediatrician’s office depends on Facebook to inform the vaccine schedule. It’s convenient to check their Facebook page to see if vaccines are available and what are the visit times. The alternative is to call the office and stay on hold for 15-20 minutes. As the pandemic has caused nationwide shortages in healthcare, especially nursing care, these appointment slots fill up fast. Due to this, I wanted to get in front of the line to schedule the appointment as soon as it was available. But Facebook was down, and we couldn’t get the information in time.
Anyway, it was not a big deal. I was able to get an appointment by following up over the phone. But it kept me wondering about the situation we are in. A single company has so much control over how the information could be disseminated. The promise of the internet was to make it easy to exchange the information. But if a mistake in the DNS configuration for one company’s servers brings the internet to halt, something has gone very wrong.