Monday, November 14, 2011

Nobody Knows Teh Intarweb Troubles I've Seen ...


Naturally my network setup picked Sunday afternoon to go berserk on me.

No Intarweb -- my Belkin F5D8236-4 v.3 router had a flashing light indicating that it couldn't talk to the modem correctly.

When I ran Ethernet directly to the modem from my Mac, no dice. But the lights on the modem indicated that the modem itself was copacetic with Teh Intarweb.

Conclusion: The modem's Ethernet port was finally done. This was not a surprise, as I'd had a few quick outages that had been "fixed" after unplugging/replugging/jiggiling cable before (I had also recently replaced the cable, so I knew it wasn't the cable itself).

So, off to Micro Center to buy a new modem. I selected the Zoom 5241, the cheapest model they had. I've used Zoom products for years and they've always delivered.

That was not my mistake. My mistake was in selecting an "open-box return" -- one that a customer had returned while it was still in warranty, that was priced $12 below new -- and buying late on a Sunday right before the store closed.

I've purchased a number of "open-box return" items, up to and including full computer systems, from Micro Center. They've always been good deals, no problems. The only difference between them and new is that there's a little less warranty time left.

But this time, I think what happened is, the people bought the modem, had a problem with it, assumed the problem was their incompetence or some obscure compatibility issue and not a bad modem, and returned it ... and Micro Center likewise assumed the item was just fine, and probably didn't have the facilities to rigorously test it in any case.

Took the Zoom home, plugged it in, let my ISP know the new MAC address, everything looked peachy ... except that the modem would theoretically connect to Teh Intarweb, then drop as soon as any attempt to start using the connection was made, or after a minute or so even if no data transfer was attempted.

After several re-sets, etc., the ISP (Charter) tech support gal, who had been wonderful, told me it might be my coax or something, and that they'd be glad to run out with a new modem and check everything out. But not, of course, on a Sunday evening.

So, I tested the coax theory by running different coax into the modem. No difference. And when I plugged the old modem back in, it appeared to have a sustained Intarweb connection, but of course still couldn't talk with the router.

Conclusion: Defective Zoom. I'm not complaining -- it happens, and if I wanted near-100% reliability I should have just gone new instead of "open-box return."

So, Micro Center is closed by now. Off to Wally World, where I picked up a Motorola Surfboard SB5101U.

Worked great. Called Charter with the new MAC, and bam, I was on Teh Intarweb ... but only direct from my Mac to the new modem via Ethernet. The router talked to the modem just fine, but couldn't work an Intarweb connection through it. No Xbox Live or Netflix for the family. Sucks to be them.

Anyway, good enough for the moment. I did what I could to catch up with work (Sunday is my Monday) and went to bed.

This morning I re-set the router to factory defaults and rebuilt the home network from scratch, and everything's working like a charm. My Mac and Liam's Windoze machine are connected by Ethernet, Daniel's laptop and Xbox and Liam's Wii by Wifi. Huzzah. All that's left is to return the Zoom to Micro Center for a refund and the original modem to Charter so they can stop charging me $3 a month to lease it.

You know, 15 years ago, this little evolution would probably have constituted the practical application exam for "Certified Network Engineer."

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