Don’t Try This at Home

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Don’t Try This at Home

One of the nice things about owning a technology company is that everyone automatically thinks that you’re a computer expert.

On the flip side, one of the bad things about owning a technology company is that everyone automatically thinks you’re a computer expert.

Especially your family.

This past Saturday, I awoke to the chorus of my children gathered around my bedside. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” they called. In my half-awake state, I thought that they were cheering my praises like they used to do when they were younger. They used to jump and cheer when I got home from work. Like all daddys, it just warms your heart to see your kids look up to you with that adoring glow in their eyes.

Yeah… this wasn’t one of those times.

“Daddy, when are you going to fix the Wi-Fi? Our Internet doesn’t work.”

It’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. My first thought is why in the world would they need to be on the Internet this early in the morning. Does the Internet even work this early on the weekend?

So, like many other dads faced with the same situation, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Yeah… bad decision.

“Honey, didn’t you promise the girls that you would fix the Wi-Fi today?”

Huh? The wife? What is she doing awake? When it comes to burying herself in the pillows and fake sleeping when the kids come calling early in the morning, she would win the world championships. The denial of anything-related-to-the-morning is one of her hidden talents. (Excepting brunch, but that’s a different article.)

Long story short, yes, our Wi-Fi has been running stupid slow. I tried to blame it on our Internet provider, but when I called support, the help desk dude wouldn’t take my word for it. We dutifully went through the standard checklist. Is it plugged in? Yes. Is it turned on? Yes. Please reboot. Okay.

(In all honestly, I don’t begrudge him for going through the stupid stuff. When you work in remote support, you have to go through the fundamentals. It’s amazing how often checking the stupid stuff will lead you to a quick fix. And if you don’t run through the checklist, the call will inevitably end with the user asking something like, “Should this cord be plugged in?”)

So toward the end of the call, the help desk dude gave me one more test to verify that the problem was on provider’s side. He asked that I plug the computer directly into the modem.

Well, duh? I kind of do this everyday. When searching for a problem, the secret is to systematically eliminate potential causes. In other words, you have to figure out what it isn’t. By plugging the computer directly into modem, I remove the $700 of high-performance, home-networking gear from the equation and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our Internet service stinks.

So one month later, at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, with a laptop and ethernet cable in one hand and a mega-cup of coffee in the other, I head down to the basement to obtain the evidence needed to convince help desk dude that we have a problem. I plug the laptop into the modem, browse to speedtest.net, hit test, and…

Well, how about that. It worked perfectly. It looks like help desk dude was right after all.

After two more mega-cups of coffee and a couple hours of troubleshooting, I was able to isolate and resolve the problem. Apparently, my brand-name, business-class wireless access point has a firmware/hardware issue that throttles download bandwidth to an unacceptably low rate when configured for 802.11n. No fix is available, but you can work around the issue by upgrading hardware or setting the wireless to 802.11g.

Needless to say, I configured the access point to wireless-g. After a quick bite to eat, I was ready for a nap. I walked to the living room and lay down on the couch. My daughters were both there, heads buried inside their Kindles. I wasn’t even sure they noticed me walk in the room. But before I drifted off, both of them came over and offered just a little be of hero praise.

“Thank you, Daddy! We love you!”

Until next time…

@gregory_a_baker

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