The secret’s out

Geek Stuff

IT support flowchart

As someone who works in IT and considers himself fairly knowledgeable, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called on to help with a “little” computer problem.  Friends, family and complete strangers want and expect an immediate, successful fix for whatever they’ve done or our trying to do to their computer.  Just last night, while trying to enjoy an after-work beverage, the owner of our local watering hole asked me to determine why the bar’s internet connection was going up and down.  I proceeded to hunt through a maze of cables and a collection of cheap little switches that would take a Sherpa guide and a sharp machete to untangle.  My answer that it was time for him to clean things up and get a “business class” networking system installed was, of course, ignored.

My mother was especially good at calling me, almost in tears, because “something” was on her screen that shouldn’t be or that she couldn’t get “something” to happen.

At the risk of losing my wizard status, this flowchart neatly outlines the complicated process all us techies go through when we try to give you a hand.  From the folks at XKCD.

(click the picture to see it bigger)


Geek Stuff

I don’t often get too “geeky”.  Although I have been in the IT business for over 20 years, I try not to slip into propeller head mode.  Sometimes, however, you just have to vent.

Every couple of years I have to replace the router on the home network.  Why?


image There are a couple of ways to connect to the internet from home.  The most basic is “dial-up”.  As it sounds, it’s just a phone connection that allows you to dial a specific number and connect through a ISP (Internet Service Provider) server.  Very slow and I left that behind years ago.

Cable companies started providing “Broadband” service and it was good.  Piggybacking on the basic cable signal, broadband opened new worlds of speed and reliability.  I was hooked!

Starting off with a direct connection from the cable modem to the PC, everything was great until I started to need to connect multiple machines at the same time.  Along comes the router.  Descriptive name – it takes the single connection from the cable company and routes or splits it to more than one computer. Relatively cheap and simple to set up (well, they weren’t cheap or easy in the beginning but now they are).  It’s the “cheap” that is the problem.  They’re not very reliable and are prone to screw up or “brick” as they say.  Yes, they essentially turn into a brick on your desk.  Useless, unfixable and ready for the trash.

On Thursday I purchased my 4th router.  Another $100.  Setup – simple – in 5 minutes and off we go!  Well……we sort of got going.  Access a website once, no problem.  Try it again, no luck.  My Vista laptop would connect on a hit or miss basis and the only way to correct it was to reset the router which would give you a whole 10 minutes of surfing before it would get stupid again. Hmmmmm.  My work laptop wasn’t having the same problem.  After scratching my head for a while I figured out that I had a DNS problem.  The work machine had no problem because I use a VPN tunnel.  VPN – Virtual Private Network.  It creates a secure “tunnel” though the net to allow me to connect to our private systems.  AND it uses different DNS connections.

DNS – Domain Name Server.  Specific servers out on the ‘Net that resolve IP addresses.  When you go to my site, the request has to be translated into .  DNS is a wonderful thing and it makes the internet a much friendlier place.  So what was my problem?

The new router is a Linksys WRT160Nv2.  Very sleek and modern.  It came loaded with firmware 2.0.2 build 11.  Completely up-to-date and completely pooched.  Searching a few forums I find that everyone is having problems with this version.  Solution?  “Downgrade” to an earlier version (2.0.2 build 8).  Pretty simple to install and everything now works just fine.


So Linksys, owned by networking giant Cisco Systems, is selling a product that they know has a serious flaw in its software and has done nothing to correct it!  If it wasn’t for the dedicated nerds who inhabit networking forums I would be throwing a brand new piece of hardware against a wall.  And spending more money.  Or spending hours talking to a call centre in India.  Thank you anonymous geeks.  Have a Jolt Cola and bag of Cheetos on me!