M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, September 24, 2008  

Wi-fi, Why?

I used to steal wi-fi from the neighbors. Well, not really. Technically you can’t steal something from someone when they've told you to use it whenever you want, and given you their password and everything.

But it's even harder to steal wireless when they don't have it themselves any more.

We had been meaning to get wireless in our house anyway. The setup we were borrowing wasn't ideal, because we only had a signal in the end of our house closest to the neighbors', on the second or ground floors, and even then we only had one out of five bars. Obviously on a cell phone that means a staticky, uneven connection, but on the Internet, it just makes a lot of bloggers seem really incoherent.

Still, it wasn't really a priority until one night at the beginning of the month when I tried to get on the neighbor's wireless and it wasn't there any more. The laptop just wasn't picking up the signal, even when I held it up against the south wall. I meant to ask the neighbors about it, but with their daughter getting married that week they had other stuff to worry about than continuing to make it easy for their neighbor to steal their wireless connection.

Which is fine. We'd been wanting to get our own setup anyway, so now we had an excuse. On Tuesday, Trash called our cable/Internet/phone/life support provider and asked what we had to do to set it up. They gave us two choices: we could pay them to come out and do it for us, after which there would be an additional monthly fee. Or we could go get a wireless router and hook it up ourselves, which would require only a few differently connected Ethernet cables and a quick call to them to flip some switch or something. We went with the former. And you'd think, as old as we are, that we'd know enough to stop ourselves from saying out loud, "How hard can it be?"

So I went to Best Buy and, after displaying the depths of my technical ignorance to a sales associate, picked out a mid-priced router that looks like it was reverse-engineered from a UFO. Brought it home, followed the instructions. ran the CD. Nothing. Oh, right, I forgot to call the c/I/p/ls provider to have them twang their magic twanger.

After ten minutes on hold, the guy I reached had no idea what I was talking about. He suggested I call the router manufacturer's support line. This was not Comcastic. I would have put up more of a fuss about this if I hadn't seen the words "toll-free" and "24-hour" on the router box.

The good news is that the call to the help desk was the last call I had to make that night. The bad news is that by the time I got off the phone with a very nice lady somewhere in the subcontinent, it would have been too late to call back anyway, 24-hour line or no.

She walked me through several diagnostics. Or, more accurately, it seemed like the same diagnostic several times. Unplug the laptop from the router and plug it into the old modem. Reset the router. Unplug the router. Unplug the modem. Unplug the laptop from the old modem and plug it into the new router. Unplug the baby monitor and take the batteries out of all the TV remotes, cell phones, Wii controllers, and walkie-talkies. Rearrange the letter keys to spell rude words. Wrap the study in tinfoil and illuminate with a Tesla coil. Repeat, pausing in between every step to type in numbers and read different numbers back to her and change settings according to her instructions and then read some more numbers that may or may not have changed since the last time I looked at them. Each of these steps was fairly time-consuming, and only became more so. For example, when the call started, she was having me hold down the reset button for fifteen seconds. By the time we finished, she was having me hold it down for a week and a half.

At one point, she offered to WebEx into my computer so she could see what was on my screen. This would cost me ten bucks, but she assured me that it would allow us to resolve the problem ten times faster. By this point, ten times faster was sounding pretty damn good. If I hadn't gone for it, I'd probably still be on the phone with her. Plus she was totally charmed by the picture of M. Edium I have as my wallpaper, so we both got something out of it.

And Trash, who had offered to take care of it the next day while we were both working at home (and what an unproductive day for both of us that would have resulted in), kept picking up the other extension to see what was going on and coming down to visit me. Which was actually kind of nice. It's not like I could kill time by surfing the Internet during this process or anything.

Finally, the tech support lady pinpointed the problem. For some reason, by total coincidence, the new modem we got from our ISP like a year ago has exactly the same IP address as the router I got at Best Buy Tuesday night. I have no idea what the odds are of that, but I'm pretty sure the universe just blew the one chance I had at ever winning the lottery.

It was nearly midnight when the router was finally up and running and not having to be plugged into the laptop to talk to it. By this time, I was too tired to relish the sense of impending liberation: the ability to be online anywhere in the house or the yard or even the garage. The last step was to have the laptop detect nearby wireless networks. And when it did, the neighbor's was back.

I don't care. I'm posting this from the kitchen, and it's awesome.

posted by M. Giant 7:20 PM 7 comments


I'm not at all tech-savvy myself (in fact, I just tried to type this comment on a keyboard that isn't even hooked up to this laptop...took me a minute to figure that one out), but we just got wireless through Verizon DSL, and we had the exact same problem: the ISP on the new modem/router was same number as my old router, and nothing would connect. Different manufacturers and everything. Verizon couldn't figure out the problem, it goes without saying that I couldn't figure it out, and it took the tech guy from my office about an hour to get it and work around it. I now owe him a burger and a beer.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 25, 2008 at 6:26 AM  

I think you mean "we went with the latter."

By Blogger floretbroccoli, at September 25, 2008 at 7:06 AM  

Ha! I knew it! That nice woman you talked to just reads off instructions from a script. I blogged about this very same thing a few months ago and she had me do EXACTLY what she had you do...

By Blogger thesourapple, at September 25, 2008 at 7:38 AM  

Oh, I have so been there! As the adult who is primarily home during daylight and weekday hours, it has fallen to me to "handle things" (ha) the last three times something's gone wonky with our cable modem/wifi stuff. (Bear in mind that *my* computer is the decidedly un-wifi PC that never leaves its stand, and it is Hubby and Kiddo who actually have laptops, all portable and wifi-able...)

I've gone through the ninety gazillion steps (um, minus the Tesla coil, though - that must be just for the more recent generations of routers) with folks in my zip code and on the other side of the world, and the added bonus is that half the stuff is up on the second floor where the office/guest room is located, and the other half is down in the basement. (Something is the router, something else is the ethernet thingamabob, damned if I know what's what - it's all little boxes with blinky green lights and wires running out of them to me.) So, for some of the "diagnostics" that I have to do, I must, while getting increasingly breathless on the cordless phone, run up and down two flights of stairs - trying not to trip over the kid or the cat who are both quite interested in the goings on - and unplug various things, wait 90 seconds, then plug them back in and report on the number, location and frequency of blinky lights.

Good times. Oh yeah. Gotta love that modern technology!

By Blogger Heather, at September 25, 2008 at 10:27 AM  

Let my guess or

Those are standard network ranges for private networks, EVERYBODY uses those so the router/hub/gateway equipment companies should know this and don't give all their equipment the same damn address.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 26, 2008 at 7:05 AM  

You should totally play the IP numbers in the Lotto. You could be rich!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 26, 2008 at 12:53 PM  

I am assuming the IP address was

My heart sank when I started reading this. Oh, well, do we know your pain. However, two houses, four routers, and several-neighbors-in-similar-situations later, my husband is the acknowledged neighborhood expert in setting up wireless networks. He could probably help you for a small fee. Like a box of Christmas cookies.

By Blogger GhostGirl, at September 27, 2008 at 6:15 AM  

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