The Cost of Not Restarting

Before I retired, each Saturday morning I used to enjoy a lie-in. Not the sort of luxuriously slow start you might wish for, but as I normally rose at 0435 to go to work, nearly two hours of additional sleep was a big bonus.

So it was at 0630 that I had dressed and negotiated the vague, shadowy figure of our cat, who remains hell-bent on making us fall downstairs. I sat in front of my iMac, only to discover that the Internet was gone. The right lights still shone on my Linksys modem-router, but no matter where I pointed Safari, I got a near-instant error, that Safari can’t open the page […] because the server is not responding.

I had intended to make an alias to Network Utility ever since upgrading to Mavericks, and now I had to. Quite why Apple decided to hide this away in favour of its impoverished and secretive Network Diagnostics I do not know. Inevitably the latter swore blind that my Internet connection was fine.

Pinging my modem-router, its fixed IP address ending in .253, showed that it was there and would swap pings with my Mac. Why not HTTP? Just in case some hardware gremlin had hit the switch between the modem-router and iMac, I hooked up back-to-back and checked each cable was securely home. Safari remained as unhelpful as before, not even prepared to connect me to the modem-router’s configuration page.

I restarted the Linksys by cycling its power switch, but nothing changed.

The reason that my Saturday lie-in was less generous than I might have wished was that the day was devoted to family matters. We first took daughter and grandchildren ‘shoppings’ to fill two sets of freezers, fridges, and kitchen cupboards, although sometimes it seemed more like four of each. We are the only shoppers I have seen who regularly fill two trollies to capacity.

After that we brought them back for snacks before departing for a family lunch. Time was tight if we were to hit the supermarket before everyone else woke up, and that day we had a prefatory trip to claim yet another undelivered Amazon parcel. We had to leave the house soon after seven, and I was still fiddling with cables and diagnostics.

I left the broken Internet to ensure that my wife had abandoned our bed and her book, oblivious to the hair-tearing that I had been engaged in downstairs. As we slipped past the cat, still poised in ambush on the stairs, I resolved to replace the modem-router.

My grandson, then 9 years and already a technojunkie, loved shopping in Maplin for the replacement, and we headed back, the car crammed with family, food, and a NETGEAR D6200. In the brief intermission between ‘shoppings’ and lunch I raced to install and configure the new router, checking carefully that it was securely locked down.

The strange thing was that my new modem-router did not seem to want to play until I had restarted my iMac. It then dawned on me that the one trick that I had not tried earlier that morning was to try another device on the network, or to restart the iMac. I had switched between wired Ethernet and WiFi, but the Linksys had been deaf to both.

It now looked as if the fault was not in the network, modem-router, or Internet connection – merely that something had crashed part of Mavericks’ networking stack, sufficient to sever HTPP but not simple pings. At least my new NETGEAR unit brought significantly faster transfer speeds; but not restarting had probably cost me around £130.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 30 issue 02, 2014.