Sunday, September 18, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Connectivity

Internet cafe, Vakhtangisi, Georgia (Caucasus). March 2012.

Upon arrival at the home of my D.C. hostess, Suzanne, I didn't expect to have a connectivity issue, but I did. For surprising reasons.

But first, some backstory

In Antigua, Guatemala, in April, I had some internet connectivity issues at the beginning of my stay, but they got ironed out after the first week.  My airbnb hostess had two internet hubs, one inside the main house and the other "out" on the guest-bedroom wing. The connection next to me was both weak and frustratingly intermittent. When I attempted to log in to the in-house wifi, I just couldn't get in.

My experience in troubleshooting technological problems is that, most of the time, the cause is something stupid. It's not that the user is stupid; it's that the cause of the problem is simple. 

The challenge in troubleshooting is that there are so many possible causes of a problem, and it can take patience, perseverance, creative thinking, and dumb luck to identify and fix the issue.

An example, also from Antigua: One day, my remote mouse stopped working. The mouse operated with two AA batteries in its body and a usb plugged in to my laptop. I did due diligence on likely causes. I changed the batteries, although the usual sign of impending battery death hadn't occurred, and it was sooner than usual for the batteries to need replenishment. Nope. I unplugged and replugged the usb into the same port. Unplugged and replugged the usb into different ports. Nope. Checked the installation of my mouse driver; uninstalled the driver and re-installed it. Checked the settings for the mouse and keypad. Researched possible causes on the internet. Tried solutions that had worked for others. Still no go. Dammit. And then I thought for a bit. Were there any changes to my laptop that occurred prior to my mouse's demise? Well, yes, but it made no sense there'd be a connection. But I'd tried everything else. The night before my mouse went into a coma, Cortana, the "helpful" Windows 10 "assistant," had got on my last nerve with her busybody self and I'd shut her down.

I turned Cortana back on and my mouse suddenly resurrected. Well, fuck me. Is that stupid or what?

So getting back to connectivity issues in my Antigua airbnb. I'd done all of the troubleshooting on my end that I could think of or find in my research, wanting to rule out my own laptop as the offender. All to no avail. My airbnb hostess kindly contacted her service provider and, lo and behold, the provider's technician discovered that the speed was lower than what she was paying for, and he ramped up the speed and maybe changed out the router. This was great, and solved some of the problem for me.

But it still wasn't quite fast enough or reliable enough to do my online work, so I tackled again my inability to access the wifi in my hostess' living room. I made sure I had written down the password correctly, as dictated to me by my hostess. Yes. After more troubleshooting that availed nothing, I asked if I could take a look at my hostess' router, which had on it the pass code she used. I wanted to confirm that the password I had was the same. Voilá! My hostess had inadvertently mistaken two digits of the pass code. Problem solved and I was able to conduct my online work in my hostess' living room.

Internet club, Kostava Street, Rustavi, Georgia (Caucasus). September 2011.

Back to D.C.

So. I arrived at Suzanne's place, assuming no issue with her internet connectivity. I'm in a big metropolis. In the US of A. In the nation's capital, for goodness sake!


Chapter 1: No wifi?

That's when I learned that Suzanne has no wifi at all. Well, maybe she did, but she had no idea how to tap into it with her modem. She did not have a stand-alone router, that's for sure.

And really, it made sense. For Suzanne. She's got a small space. She lives alone. She works long hours most days of the week, so she isn't even in her place for much time in the evenings. She doesn't use her laptop that often (more on this later), so she's just always wired her laptop directly into her modem.

When I understood the situation, I thought: "I can roll with this - no problem!"

Chapter 2: One port?

Got out my direct-wire cable to plug it into the second wired port on Suzanne's modem. Oh, hmmm. There's only the one port.

No problem! Suzanne rarely used her laptop, so I'll just use the sole port, right? Oh, hmmm. I need the password to Suzanne's connection to connect my laptop into her service.

Electronics bag.

Chapter 3: Password? What password?

No problem! Suzanne can give me her password. Oh, hmmm. Suzanne tried her damnedest to find that password, but to no avail.

Chapter 4: Granny Laptop

No problem! Suzanne graciously offered to let me use her laptop to do my online work (which requires the speed and application space for VOIP).  Oh, hmmmm. Suzanne's laptop is geriatric in its slowness, burdened with goodness-knows-what CPU-sucking bloatware, and using, if I'm remembering correctly, Windows Vista.

Chapter 5: Last resort: Customer service

Oof. Now it looked like I was going to have to take the dreaded step of calling the computer "help" desk of Suzanne's provider. Goal: Get Suzanne's password or get her wifi enabled so I could go back to those earlier plans. Well, damn. The experience wasn't as horrific as I had feared, based on past traumas, and in fact, eventually I discovered that Suzanne's modem was so old as to be considered stegosaurial. It was not wifi-enabled, for one. And it only had that one port, for another. And, if I remember correctly, it didn't support the current internet speeds available to Suzanne.

No problem! Suzanne could switch out her ancient modem for a spankin' new one at no cost to her! Wifi possible! More than one hard-wire port! Faster internet! Woohoo! Oh, hmm. We've got to go pick it up.

Chapter 6: The urban hinterland

No problem! Suzanne has a car and we'll just whip on over to the provider's nearest bricks-and-mortar store. We're in a bustling metropolis! There'll be one really close! Maybe I can just walk over there! Hahahahahaha!

No, no, no. The closest store is a pretty fur piece away, and it's Saturday morning, with everyone running their errands, and there is road construction. But eventually, mission accomplished and we've got the new modem/router. In a very fashionable bag with handles, no less.

Chapter 7: The cable

Problem solved! Errrr, wait. Suzanne's laptop. Didn't work with the new cable provided by the provider. We needed to go out into that congested snarl of Saturday shoppers to a Best Buy and find .... giggle, giggle to my pre-teen sense of so-called sexual humor .... a "backwards compliant" cable.

[Wait while I laugh some more at this new-to-me term. I even asked the sales guy: "What is it you're calling this again? Backwards what? And it means what again?" To myself, I'm thinking, no, it  has nothing to do with 50 Shades of Gray.]

And who knew that not all cables out on the market at the same time have the same capacity to funnel data through at the same speeds!

There was one more cable-related situation, subsequently fixed, but really, I have a life to lead.

Chapter 8: Happy ending

Suzanne now had wifi, which even if she doesn't give a whit, her future guests might. And she can connect her phone to same if she wants, as can her future guests. Suzanne has faster speeds - a little - that can push through the morass of her heavily-laden, elderly laptop's bloatware and old-fashioned operating system.

And I had a connection!

Chapter 9: The moral

Sweat, perseverance, creativity, and profanities will out.


Cez of eTramping said...

Oh man, what an ordeal! But internet makes the world go round these days.

Mzuri said...

Thank you for stopping by! The internet sure does - and it's the reason I can live, within reason, where I want in the world!