Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Blog As Punching Bag

I spent the day trying to get a wireless router to work. The whole frickin' day. It's not working now, and I'm taking it as a triumph that the device is not scattered in a billion plastic shards on the tile floor. If I drank, I'd be drunk now.

It's almost unfathomable to me that this should be so difficult. I mean, here is a computer with the ability to talk to equipment wirelessly via some radio protocol evidently worked out to the finest detail; and here's one of those pieces of equipment designed for this purpose. One turns the router on, the computer recognizes it and will talk to it, and that should be the end, no? If only. Two pages download before all data transfer stops. The signal still seems to be there, but everything stops cooperating. Reset, try again. Another two pages or so, freeze. Nothing and no amount of time will get things started again except a depowering reset of the router. 10 hours and about 50 different attempts have not brought us beyond this point.

I was on the phone around noon to some guy in India for over an hour. He was remarkably patient and seemed to be doing things that were focused and purposeful, even if they were things the very need for which required some mental gymnastics on my part to acknowledge--we were dealing with obscure settings on sub-pages to sub-pages of which I had not remotely dreamt. And everything worked for a good 90 seconds after I hung up the phone. Then, two hours later, another half hour on the phone with my computer guru buddy, at the end of which we determined that it almost had to be a defect in the machinery. So a trip back to the store for an exchange, and an hour later we were facing the same dilemma with a different router (or, specifically, a different example of the same router).

Is it a Mac-vs-PC thing? Shouldn't be, since the local Mac store was selling this exact same unit (at twice the price). Is it a flaw with my Powerbook? No, because the exchange student's PC encounters the same problem. There is a CD of software that comes with the device, but it only runs on a PC. But that's apparently because I can simply talk to the unit directly with my Mac to make my adjustments. After supper, another call to India, and this time they forwarded me to "another level of tech support" who walked me through a router firmware update via Gabi's PC. And we were back in business. For another 90 seconds.

Now, I'm sure as hell not the most tech-savvy person you'll run across. And I'm not, by today's standards, someone who can lay claim to any special computer talents. Indeed, I think part of the reason I love my Mac is because, in an ideal world, I think we ought not to need to know shit to make the machine do what you want it to. But in the overall scheme of things, I always feel like I ought to be able to figure these things out, or at least with just a bit of help. Here it seems that even a couple experts on the subject matter can't help me get across the river. Maybe it's like medicine: you can get things like basic sanitation into the skulls of most people, but the details of biology on which medical science relies is simply beyond most of us. Specialization. What's left to do? Since I can't get someone to point me toward some errant setting one one of the router's pages of software, I guess I'll try a different brand of router.

I'm not soliciting for advice (though I'm happy to hear suggestions just the same), and this isn't even an entertaining story. Nor will the eventual solution be satisfying to anyone but me. But I had to get it all off my chest.

So there.


Dzesika said...

Ah, routers.

That dance competition? Last weekend? We tried to use a wireless router to get all the display screens to talk to each other. I tried to get the damn thing set up, some tech-savvy friend of a friend spent two hours doing the same, we finally got a tenuous connection, set up all the machines in their correct places (e.g. under ceiling panels, behind doors etc) ... and, of course, lost the network connection. Our eleventeen thousand pounds' worth of computers and screens? Dark all day (except for the ones that were showing test content, and HOISTED UP TWENTY FEET ABOVE THE GROUND ABOVE THE DANCERS, and we could not turn them off).

What? Public relations nightmare? You really think so? Aargh.

Esbee said...

I stopped comprehending at the word "router". But I enjoyed the first nine words very much. =)

The Retropolitan said...

I think everyone has the same problems with routers. They inspire so much violence, don't they?

wunelle said...

Still no relief this morning (as though it should have healed itself overnight). I'm off to the store to replace with something different. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Joshua said...

My finacee is tech support for the local ISP, and she tells these stories every day. As it turns out, some routers just don't get along with some systems, and they don't need to have a great reason for it, either. I think the best bet is what you already stated: go get a different brand. In this case, as it is with most things, brand loyalty is more important than saving a few bucks. If the last brand you had served you well, then go with the upgrade of that brand.

On a different subject, and because you are the only person I know who rides, I am thinking about getting a motorcycle if and when I move to Portland (soon, so very soon). What is a good starter bike to learn on? I have ridden cross bikes on dirt tracks, so I have the smallest familiarity with them.

wunelle said...

Joshua--This is exactly what I decided sounded best, and my computer-savvy friend agreed. So now I'm working with a new Belkin router (instead of the Linksys one that didn't like me apparently) and so far, so good.

So you're headed to Portland! This is supposed to be very cool. Was this discussed on your blog and I missed the post? I've flown into SEA a few times, and the DC-8 occasionally sees Portland, but I've not thus far. But I do love the Pacific Northwest & would be happy to move out there (and live on a sailboat!).

As for the bike, there are so many good options. I think any Japanese middleweight will serve you well. (I love BMW's 650, but you pay a premium for what is no more functional than any 3-year-old Honda.) A modern 600-650cc will have plenty of power for one or two, and will EASILY keep up with freeway traffic (and outrun it), yet they're light enough not to be too intimidating.

The Suzuki SV-650 is very nice, as is a Yamaha FZ-6 or a Honda 599. These are sport-oriented standards (if you want a cruiser, I'm less sure what to recommend). I'd aim to avoid an out-and-out sportbike. Not only are they more expensive, but they cost more to insure and they are uncomfortable to ride very far. But the sport aspect has brought so much good functionality to bikes, especially in brakes and suspension.

Send any questions on this, as I'm all about helping with research!

Joshua said...

No, I have not discussed moving on the blog yet, mostly because I don;t want to jinx it. It is still contingent on Carly liking what she sees when we go to visit (of that, I am pretty sure) and then having the guts to say "yes, Josh, let's move." (that is less certain).

I will check out the bikes you listed, and thank you for the advice. I was looking at far less powerful bikes, because I was unsure what I could handle right off, but with your recommendation, I think I will look in that range. What sort of problems do I run into when I buy a few years old? I can fix most things on a car, but a bike might as well be an aircraft for my knowledge of it.

Joshua said...

Oh yeah, had you said it was Linksys, I probably would have told you that sooner. We had nothing but problems with our linksys wireless, so we moved everything to belkin as well. Glad to hear it is working.

wunelle said...

It definitely takes some guts to pull up stakes and go, but that seems a great place to take your chances.

As for the bike, I think a 600 is small enough to be manageable weight-wise, tho you'd of course need to be respectful of its power. But I think a responsible adult can approach that with a bit of caution and do fine. Understand that they can bite and you'll naturally do the right thing, I suspect.

I would never worry about a used Honda / Yamaha / Suzuki if it has been well-maintained; they last forever. They tend to be easier to work on than a car since everything is exposed or relatively easy to get at. And bikes are relatively simple creatures compared to a car. An older used BMW is also a great bet. Even the bigger bikes are not high-powered (the 2-cylinder boxer ones that are BMW's trademark), they're amazingly simple and easy to work on, and they're robust and last forever.

Myself, I would in your situation avoid a Harley or older Buell (for reliability reasons, plus Harleys are expensive), and British and Italian makes can be more maintenance-intensive. Stick to Japanese, methinks.

CrustyCaptain said...

Router problems? We also had router problems with linksys. After spending 5 hours on the phone with India, I discovered that I needed to download the lastest update for the router software. The tech guy confirmed this and told me to call back if I have any more problems. I also came across an interesting piece of information that was written in tiny little letters - like those disclaimers about smoking beening bad for your health on cigarette packages. It seems that in many cases your software firewall - norton and macafee especially - can interfere with the built in firewall of the router - the way in which a router works. So that more often than not, you must disable the software firewall. I have F-Secure and have not had a problem with the firewalls fighting each other. Just so you know if you run into future problems. The way in which routers work are really cool - but that is for another post...