5/23/2011

Occam's Razor Example

Occam's Razor has many different meanings to many different people. One by Bertrand Russell is just one Occam's Razor example. Russell stated, "Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities." That is confusing as hell to me. Occam's Razor seems to be used to explain or not explain a variety of pressing issues. Atheists, for example, like to use Occam's Razor as reason enough to prove there is no God because it is an unnecessary hypothesis. Whatever. One definition that seems to find favor with most scientists is this one; "When you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better." That is pretty close to the one I favor. The Occam's Razor definition I like best is, "The simplest answer is most often correct." With that in mind, the reason for my blog entry today.

I do a little computer maintenance on the side now that I am retired. I like to think there is not a computer problem or Home Networking problem I can't fix. Well, I was wrong. The one that gave me fits was right here at home. My cable signal would intermittently drop for no apparent reason. This has been going on for about six months, off and on. Of course, my first suspect was the cable modem. I swapped out that cable modem, put in one from Comcast. I got the same result. I also had to swamp back the old cable modem for the one from Comcast since it was now apparent the cable modem was not at fault. Comcast was not happy about that. But, they were not unhappy enough to send out a tech to check the cable box. So, knowing that the signal is also going to my router and then to my computer, I decided to put in an old, but reliable router from a few years back. I didn't think this was the problem. Sure enough, that wasn't the problem. My next train of thought was the network adapter on my computer. But, that would not explain the loss of signal to the computers wirelessly connected on the LAN. I started talking to various people on various internet forums. They all had suggestions for me to try, from the connection being bad at the cable box outside, to possibly a rodent in the attic chewing into the cable.

I had tried everything I and several others could think of to do. I was at the point that either Comcast send a tech to check that cable box or I was going to go to satellite and just go to the much hated DSL for my internet connection. But, then one night, about a month ago, I was watching the History Channel when the narrator mentioned a Franciscan friar and philosopher, by the name of William of Ockham. Of course, he is credited with Occam's Razor. That made me think (dangerous though that be) about my situation. What was the simplest solution to my cable internet connection problem? Well, how about the splitter? I've never known of those things to go bad. But, I went and got a new one (about $10.00) anyway. That actually seemed to work for about a week. But, then the cable modem would start resetting itself as the signal was dropped. I was completely frustrated now. As I was reaching for the cell phone to blast Comcast, it was as if William of Ockham spoke to me from the grave. The simplest solution has not yet been attempted. That would be the coaxial cable leading to and from the splitter. I was about to dismiss this idea when I thought, "What have I got to lose?" Well, as it turned out I lost less than $5.00 for about 4 feet of new coaxial cable from the splitter to the cable modem, 1.5 feet of new coaxial cable from the wall to the splitter. I went and replaced the old coaxial cable.

That was 3 weeks ago. The problem is solved now. The signal has not dropped one time since I put in new coaxial cable to and from the splitter. Occam's Razor, at least in this instance, was 100% correct. To the late (very late) Franciscan friar William of Ockham, I thank you sir. You were correct. But, I bet you never thought your bit of philosophy would be the fix for a broadband connection in the 21st century.




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