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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)


Posted on May 19, 2011 at 5:59 PM

I love “Would you rather...?” type questions. Ask any of my friends. We’ll be out and about and something will pop into my head like, “Would you rather run the entire length of a shopping mall, naked, carrying nothing but two buckets full of sloshing diarrhea OR draw a dartboard on your back and let two drunk guys play an entire game of Cricket?”

Now, had you asked me a couple of years ago, “Would you rather live without, TV or computer?” it would have been an easy choice. With or without buckets of sloshing diarrhea. I would have grunted like a caveman, scratched myself inappropriately and then said, “Blarg! Computer for working! TV for fun-ing! Me take TV! Blarg!” (You can see that I’ve come a long way in these past couple of years. I’m giving all credit to year’s worth of couth-building as a child.)

But today, the computer has become that indispensible part of our lives. It is business, it is pleasure, it is entertainer, it is friend, it is confidante, and it is lover. But the truth is, it isn’t really computer that is all of these things. It’s the Internet.

The Internet has become indispensible in our lives and we never really think about it not being there. (Thanks, Senator Lieberman and your sponsored Internet Kill Switch Bill! What’s next? Puppy and fluffy bunny hunting season?) That is, we don’t think about it not being there, until we can’t get on it. And that is what makes a router (Dad: It’s rhymes with “powder” not “scooter" or "Roto-rooter") one of the most indispensible components in your system.

Now, many people lump tech knowledge all into one giant bucket. “Oh, you know about TVs. Great. I have a computer question for you...” Or, “Oh, you work on a computer for your writing and stuff. I have a network question for you…” But the answer is, no. I don't really know the computers. I'm some-kind-of competent at USING them, but getting them to work nice all the time? Not so much. Because these are  all definitely different specialties. Can I connect your computer? Probably. Can I set up your network? Maybe. Will I start cursing, and crying and immediately quit at even the slightest *hint* of a problem? Probably.

Computers can be heinous, hateful things. (And lest you Mac boys start chiming in, “Oh, not us! We’re so perfect! Sucks to be you living in a PC world! We just run boot camp and parallels and...” SHUT UP! And take a little look-see at this link no-virus-having fan boi! A little something about a Mac virus. Just shows how much PC's are ahead of the curve. I already dealt with this little bug!) And when a good old fashioned control-alt-delete and power cycle doesn’t fix the problem, well, I’ve pretty much exhausted my troubleshooting resources.

So the other day I’m working on the computer. I have just about totally finished editing a blog post and I go to submit it, and…nothing. Spinning wheel of non-connection. I refresh, nothing. Try opening a new tab. Nothing. About this time the streaming Rhapsody music on my Meridian stops streaming. The Net. She’s down. She’s down hard. And it was literally one second working, next second stopping. “Damn!” says I. “There goes all of the edits I just spent all that time working on!” So I had back to our back bedroom and check the modem. The normal lights aren’t on, and since I love blaming Time Warner for the majority of life’s ills, I assume that the modem is out. I reboot. I wait for it to come up. And…nothing. Fine. I trudge back to the back bedroom again, this time rebooting the router (rhymes with chowder). Wait for all the little flashies to come back. Go back. Nothing. Reboot my wireless access point even though the signal is reading loud and proud. Still nothing. Head back again, this time rebooting BOTH the modem and router (rhymes with louder) wait and then try again. Still nothing! Blarg!!!

So I hard connect to the router with a cable, and nothing. And I’m unable to “ping” any of my network components. (A handy trick for seeing if you have network communication between your computer and another device on the network. Open MS-Dos – usually by typing CMD in the Start Window “Run” bar. Typing “ipconfig” will tell you your computer’s IP address on the network. Typing “ping 192.168.X.XXX” will try and communicate with another device. There, now you now every bit as much about network troubleshooting as I do! Send $5 and the address for your diploma.) This is leading me to believe that my router (rhymes with trout-er) is dead. She’s been a good old gal, but I guess her time has finally come. Perhaps it just took too much out of the old gal to serve up all of those coupon-ing and frugal mommy and click-to-save websites. She’d really pictured a different life for herself. A life where she streamed videos and hard-hitting documentaries. But, sooner or later, we all end up settling.

So, I decided to connect directly to the modem and finish posting my story. So I connect directly to the modem and...still nothing? WTF? Did my modem and router (rhymes with the guy lays the grout, he’s the grout-er) go out in some strange murder-suicide pact? Grrrr! So I just decide that we all need to take a break from each other, and I unplug everything, grab myself a drink, and settle in for an Internet-less even and some pouting.

So, the next day I swing into my store and pick up and new Linksys/Cisco model. She’s all sleek and flat like some kind of 60’s spaceship. She has wireless N and a USB jack to connect network storage. If a $150 router (rhymes with that’s Thomas, he’s the doubter) could be sexy, friends, this is it. So I get home, go through all the hoopty-do of installing and configuring it and...ta-da! Back on the Internets!

Except, not all is well in Internet-topia. I STILL can’t ping all my gear. And this means that I can’t control my Sooloos, I can’t talk to my Lutron lighting, I can’t check my Kaleidescape, I can’t operate the Marantz. All those sitting on the couch, please, anything to keep me from getting up and walking the interminable 10-feet to my rack so I can be as lazy as possible things I like to do. So now I start resetting my switches. Still no go. Then I start resetting all the gear. One by one they start popping back up on line. 192.168.1.Sooloos, .Kaleidescape, .Marantz. But no Lutron. Where’s the Lutron?

So I start investigating and it turns out that the Lutron is holding on to an old IP address from the previous router (rhymes I need someone to look over that ridge, who’ll be my scouter) like it’s going out of style. So I finally log into it and digitally move it back into the new .1 neighborhood (so much more classy than that old .78 neighborhood we had been Internetting in) where it causes me a whole additional set of drama. (Probably more to come later...)

So, all seems to be mostly closer to fine. Then Crestron comes to my house on Monday for a new install. I’m on my laptop. Lauryn is on the iPad. Sooloos is on the Rhapsody. And Crestron is communicating with their processor. And all of a sudden…CRASH! Network dead again. What the?! I do the reboots. I do the power cycles. I do the pings. A second router dead? Arrrrrgh!!! And I just said you were sexy, Linksys/Cisco E3000! This is how you repay a compliment?

Without a network, the Crestron people – who have driven like over 6 hours to be at my house to set this thing up – are unable to do their Crestron stuff. So I manage to dig up this old-school, wireless G router (rhymes with sounds good, play it LOUDER!) and connect and the network comes back on. A straight up, non-encrypted, out of the box, Linksys IP with admin, admin as the log in. We all get back to working. (Lauryn stoically returns to watching Disney previews.)

So that night, I decide I am going to encrypt that network so there are no WiFi shenanigans. (I previously had someone jump on my network, change the SSID, add encryption, and then add a password to the router. Thanks, friend! That’s the quickest way to make sure you NEVER get back on free WiFis!) So I log-in and I’m changing it. Network encryption, check! Change the router login password, che… The settings keep bouncing in and out. I’ll type the password, and then I’ll get kicked off. I’ll log back in and then get kicked off. Weird. Whatever. I try reinstalling the sex-E3000 and now it is mysteriously working again. (Now do you see why I hate computers?)

So yesterday I’m leaving for work and my neighbor stops me. “Hey, were you doing something on the computer last night?”

“Probably. Why?”

“Well, we were on the Internet then we suddenly got kicked off. Then when we tried to log back in, it said the network was gone and that it was encrypted. And when we looked for our network, all that came up was something called ‘Sciacca Net.’”

“Did you have a Linksys that wasn’t configured?”

“Yeah. We just took it out of the box and plugged it in.”

A-ha! Two routers (rhymes with I’m so proud, I’m prouders), separated by a driveway, sharing a default IP address and clearly not living together peacefully. Kind of like if Charlie Sheen moved in next door. Moved in and hi-jacked your WiFi, kicked you off your network and then encrypted it and totally Bogarted you from the Internets.

“Uh. Sorry.”

Categories: May 2011, Computers, Electronics

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