Technically Speaking Part II

This is the conclusion of the saga I started back last month with my TP-Link router…

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m no newbie when it comes to computers, computer systems and the like.  I remember (vividly) a time when connecting to a computer network took way more than just flipping a switch.  Plug-and-play just didn’t exist in the 1980s.  Hell, personal computers were in their infancy at the time I was in high school. A TRaSh-80 was something you got at a Radio Shack.  Needless to say, I thought I was equal to the task of figuring this out.  Apparently, nothing could be further from the truth.

After having worked on different solutions, for many days I was rewarded with failure after failure.  Giving up after the fifth or sixth go-round of shutting off the new router, then the modem, then powering one on and then the other (and vice-versa) I posted a cry for help on the router manufacturer’s help forum.  There ensued a spirited conversation with a couple of tech-heads, but the solution remained elusive.  Although in the end, at least one hit on the right idea, even if it was sort of backwards when he suggested it.

I ordered a replacement from Amazon, thinking the router I had was defective.  Amazon was very obliging and sent me one in a couple of days.  Being wary of failure, I put off trying it out for about three weeks.  I’m an ace procrastinator when I have the opportunity.  I definitely put that to good use, even though I should not have.  This week I’ve been on vacation and many opportunities to work on this presented themselves.  But like some other things I’ve been meaning to do, it was put off time and again.

Until yesterday morning.  It just so happened that my wife had a dentist appointment in the afternoon, and I’d successfully discovered a manual for the fiber modem that I have.  Of course it’s not so easy as you’d think since it’s written in Portuguese.  Still, it had pictures, so with my basic understanding of a bit of Italian and Spanish, I pieced together how to disconnect the fiber line from the modem, having hit upon the idea it might be keeping power to the modem even after having disconnected the power cord.  After a little pulling and squeezing, I was finally able to remove the cable without breaking it.  The manual for the modem said to wait at least five minutes for the modem to ‘forget’ the MAC address of the old router.  Just to be sure, I waited eight minutes.  Put everything back together, powered things up and crossed my fingers.  Green light!  Success!  I fixed…oh damn.  It went back to Orange.  And stayed there.  Checking the web browser, setting up the router for the umpteenth time, I determined it still wasn’t connecting to the internet.

The time had come.  Cracked open the new router, saved the packing material and put the other one into the new box for shipping back to Amazon.  Connected it to the modem, turned it on and….bupkus.  It didn’t connect.  Again.  But even with this failure I discovered it wasn’t the router, it was something else.  Apparently at my ISP there was a breakdown in communication.  So I called their helpline and talked to one of the customer service reps.  I was all prepared to explain everything that I did when she mentioned that she needed to open an IT support ticket.  For what purpose I inquired.  So one of their techs could erase the MAC address of the old router from their system, thereby allowing the new router to communicate with them.  I asked how long it was going to take.  Just a few minutes she replied, but they had to call me back.  So I was going to be offline for awhile.  Unless I wished to reconnect the old router while I waited.  Thinking that was going to be more trouble than it was worth, I told my wife we were going to be offline for the time being, if she needed to connect to the ‘Net I could create a hot-spot on my phone and she could connect to that.  She said she was ‘good’ she could wait.

Less than 30 minutes later the phone rang.  George was on the line, ready to help.  I explained in basic detail what the problem was, even admitting that I’d dismantled the modem I had been provided four years ago, having been extra careful not to damage it.  I even lamented over the fact that the fiber modems they provide for their customers are nearly impossible to troubleshoot, as they don’t have easily accessible operating manuals.  Unless you’re ok reading Portuguese.  He apparently was unaware of it, but as I had apparently reassembled the modem correctly, he was able to see that it was online, but the router wasn’t powered up as he wasn’t seeing it operating from his end.  I have to be honest, when he said that it was a little creepy, that even though he was a good 12-15 miles away, he was able to see whether or not the modem was connected on my end, and the router wasn’t transmitting.  When you think about it of course it makes sense, they’d have to be able to see the hardware from their end in order to be able to better troubleshoot.

George asked for the MAC address of the old router.  I read it off to him, he confirmed that was the one that was listed in his system.  He asked for the new router’s address.  I provided that as well, he swapped out the addresses in his terminal and asked me to reconnect the router to the modem and power it up.  Voila!  The light turned green and stayed that way.  I went to the web browser, set up the router through it and it connected to the Internet as if it had been doing it all the while.  Damn.  I thanked George, he asked if there was anything else he could help with.  I said no, getting the router connected was my concern and that was now accomplished.  He wished me a good day, said if there was any further issues to give them a call and terminated the connection.

All for the want of a horseshoe nail.  Or a phone call.

My only lament is I sent back to Amazon a perfectly good router that wasn’t broken.  And that I spent a month troubleshooting and procrastinating when that phone call could have easily been made.  Damn it.


Technically speaking

I like to think of myself as being technically proficient.  But after this past week, I’m not so certain.

I bought a new router to replace/upgrade the one we’ve been using for the past eight years.  After doing a bit of research, I settled on one from a company called TP-Link.  I have 2 of their WiFi extenders and they’ve been working well, so I thought I’d bite the bullet and get a router as well, to complete the set.  The price point seemed right, and the features on the router seemed to be in line with what I needed to be accomplishing in terms of my home network.  It also had the ability to be controlled by an app, which would be useful if I was away from home and needed to reboot the router remotely or change settings if I happened to be on vacation.  If vacations are still going to be possible in the future.

I bought it from Amazon since we have Prime, and it arrived in a couple of days.  It seemed pretty straightforward when I opened the box, it came with its own Ethernet cable, a power supply, and a really small instruction booklet.  As with many items nowadays, the instructions were more visual than textual, with limited information as to how to set up the unit.  Having had more than one router in my day, I disconnected the D-Link from my fiber modem, connected the Archer A8 (the new one) and turned everything on.

And nothing happened.

Well, to be clear, it turned on, and I got green lights indicating that it saw it was powered on, connected to the modem, but the indicator that said it was connected to the Internet was an off-putting orange.  And thus began my tumble down the router rabbit hole.


Fix-it Man

Over the last five days, I’ve been having some trouble at work with a certain piece of equipment that’s integral for getting my job done more smoothly.  When I came into work on Thursday, I discovered there was a problem with this particular piece of equipment that had started the day before, and it wasn’t going to be an easy fix.  After trying a certain number of things that had worked before, it was still not working correctly.  Our only recourse at this point was to use it for what it could do, but it was unable to successfully tag the products with a price.  That had to be finished at another manual machine, thereby doubling the amount of time in order to put items on the shelf for sale.  I contacted the assistant manager and informed him of the issue, and he said he would make a call for service.

The main issue is, our location is very remote, and the likelihood of a quick service call was also going to be unlikely.  We were aware of this when the piece of equipment was brought to us, and the person that was sent along informed us that service was going to be spotty.  Too, getting supplies for this equipment is problematic, given the distance it has to be delivered from.  Generally there’s only one other of this type of equipment nearby, so shipments have to be doubled and delivered to one central point and our store has to pick it up from there.  Naturally, since we have to drive there, there’s no compensation for gas to get it, so someone ends up getting shafted on that.  It can’t be helped, just the way it is.

At any rate, for the last six days, we’ve been doing this convoluted way of pricing product.  It’s been getting very annoying, and yesterday our assistant store manager called the service place again, as when he checked with us to see if we’d heard anything from them, the simple answer was ‘no, we hadn’t.’  A few hours after he called, we received a call from their technician, asking what the problem was.  Fortunately, I was able to be in on the call and was able to give him in detail what it was supposed to be doing, and what it was actually doing.  Of course, being that my frustration level was about at the nth degree, I gave him probably more information than he needed.  Though, as I expected, his reply wasn’t very comforting.  Issues where he is necessitated that he couldn’t promise a quick fix, or even a service call anytime soon.  So basically he was telling me we were SOL (Shit Out of Luck) for the forseeable future, and we were essentially on our own.  Could be weeks before there was a solution.

Today, I finally got fed up and did a little investigating on my own when I had a free moment.  I remembered what I was told on Thursday morning, about when it started to misbehave.  Using that as a starting point, I went over the part of the machine that wasn’t working correctly and started to see if there was anything unusual there, anything that completely stood out as being incorrect, or out-of-place.  I was just about to give up when I saw it.  There was a rubber roller underneath where the tags are dispensed and it had several blank tags rolled around it, and one of them was slightly sticking up, exposing its glued backing.  That had to be the problem.  I only state this because it had happened on the other side of the machine, where there’s another tag dispenser, and removing the rolled up tags had remedied the situation.  Only it’s in a very inaccessible location, so it took me about ten minutes with a very sharp boning knife to cut the tags free enough to unwind them from the roller.

Once that was done, I re-threaded the tag roll, and re-set the machine.  Crossed my fingers and sent a few packages through.  Success!  It worked.  Wanting to be sure, I did a few more packages and then went through like it had been doing it accurately all its life.  Boom!  I was stoked.  I informed my manager what I had done, showed him what the problem was, though I cautioned him that the machine still needs a tune-up since there are other issues that need to be addressed.  So cancelling the service call would be a bad idea.  But for the time being it’s working the way it was last week before the tags got caught up and it started misbehaving.

So this, and the successful repair of the roto-tiller.  Two for two.  I’m pretty pumped about this.  I can’t fix everything, but I did pretty well in this instance.