The (Computer) Gods Must Be Angry
When friends and family have problems with their computers, they frequently call me … and because I can usually solve their problems, some call me The Wizard. When I fix my son’s computer, he often tells me that he tried the same thing that worked for me. That may or not be true but it often appears that … if you’ll pardon the anthropomorphism … computers like me and are willing to do things that I ask when they confound others. Partly, it’s just that I am willing to do the research … mostly on line … and try solutions that require venturing into places like the control panel, administrative tools, command prompt and (gasp) the registry. I am good at recovering from missteps and dogged to the point of obsession. Being called The Wizard sounds a lot better than the Obsessive Computer Geek but there is truth in both nicknames. For the past week, though, I have been wandering through computer hell, with one problem after another afflicting my beloved desktop computer, each resisting my efforts at solutions and leading to other problems that I hadn’t noticed. The (Computer) Gods Must Be Angry with me. It started when I installed a device called a Verizon Network Extender in my office because the cellphone service from my carrier sucks at our house. Yes, sucks is a valid technical term when it comes to cell phone providers and seems to apply to all of them in one way or another. Verizon will tell you a network extender is essentially a mini-cell tower that communicates over an internet connection but what it really is is a $250 device you buy to get the service they are supposed to provide anyway. The device did indeed give me great signal strength. However, calls made over the extender were of the I-can-hear-only-every-other-word variety. After a little research, I discovered that it isn’t just a matter of plugging the extender into my router … a number of special settings of the router are needed. For example, it needs to be placed in the DMZ, outside the router’s firewall. OK, The Wizard can do that … and finally, I had decent call quality.
That night my wife, Muri, asked me if the internet was down. It wasn’t but it was impossibly slow. Now, after years of being a customer of Earthlink DSL, I am used to slow downs. I know all the little tricks to speed things up, more, in fact, than the Earthlink technicians that I end up talking to if I’m desperate enough to call. None of the little tricks worked. I read maybe four or five hundred articles (OK, OK, four or five dozen) on speeding up DSL and learned about something called router buffer-bloat that slows down DSL. I also found that my trustt old Belkin router was prone to said buffer-bloat, so I went to our local Fry’s Electronic and bought a brand new router whose buffer the internet said doesn’t bloat. The internet never lies, right? And, as a bonus, the router came with a built in DSL modem (just in case the problem was my old modem from Earthlink). After a couple hours of reading manuals, connecting various cables and hunting for settings in the new router, I was up and running with quick as a bunny internet. It lasted approximately thirty minutes, at which point my tortoise internet returned. Shit. OK. Reset everything … the bunny’s back. Thirty minutes later, the tortoise. In the process of trying various utilities, I managed to download a nasty little program called 360 Total Security that pretends to be a virus scanner (but is actually a pain in the ass). It took an hour to manually remove it. Still looking to speed things up, I decided to try my old Earthlink modem with the new router, bypassing its internal DSL modem. While the modem connected nicely to the internet, it refused to talk to my router until I switched the modem to Bridge Mode (requiring another hour on the Earthlink How-To website and reconnecting the cables several times). But finally, I had fast internet and so did my wife and my son. Yay.
Short-lived yay. When I reconnected my Seagate back-up hard drive (which I’d disconnected just to give me easier access to the back of my computer), it was not recognized by the PC. Four hours of trying solutions from a dozen different computer geek websites convinced me the drive was dead. Having no back-up of my office computer is not an option. Fortunately, I found two working drives on my computer hardware shelf, an ancient 750 GB Iomega drive making I’m-going-to crash-soon sounds and a several year old 4 TB network drive. The advantage, of course, of a network drive is that it can be accessed from anywhere in the house … or even remotely. The disadvantage is that they are a pain in the neck to get working, so I backed up my data to the simple drive as a temporary solution. With my data secure, I plugged the network drive into the router and, behold, most of my data was already backed up there. Wow. The only problem … I couldn’t access it. The drive asked for some long forgotten password. Fifty guesses, no luck. That’s OK, I figured, I’ll just reset the drive to factory settings and start over. Wrong. Now, instead of the drive asking for a password, my network wanted a password to connect to it. Damn. After 8 hours of online research and experimentation, I drove to Fry’s Electronics and bought a brand new 4 TB drive and installed it as a backup. Yes, Fry’s Electronics loves me. I should have been done … but Wizards and Obsessive Computer Geeks never know when to call it a freakin’ day. I spent six more hours getting the network drive working. Why? To paraphrase mountaineer Gregory Malley, Because it was there.
So let’s summarize. After roughly 30 hours of work, I have good cell phone coverage in my office, reasonable internet speed, a back-up of my computer and more data storage than I’ll ever need, half of which I can access from anywhere (something I could already do, by the way, using a cool little utility called Logmein). There hasn’t been an error message or a document not found or a ten minute pause to open a webpage in 24 hours. I’m thinking the (Computer) Gods are no longer angry. But I’ll bet you they’re laughing their asses off.