Thursday, October 30, 2008

When is helpful tech support not useful tech support

I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with a very pleasant and helpful seeming fellow at Verizon, in who knows where, trying to find out why our home internet service has been intermittent. He led me through all manner of technical stuff on both our home desktop computer and then on my company laptop.

The end result was that he tried to give me to a paid service or connect me with the manufacturers of the computers to try to figure out why he was seeing internet coming to our wireless modem, and our home computer was seeing the wireless modem, but neither of the computers was seeing the internet. I declined those two options because the two computers are from different manufacturers and they run different versions of windows. Also, I told him it's hard to see how our computers can be at fault if both of them see the internet intermittently and we have not made any changes to their settings. In fact, I can't make changes to the settings of the company laptop, so its literally impossible for me to have screwed it up.

After I got off the phone with the pleasant support guy, I cut power to the wireless modem and then powered it up again, figuring that maybe that would knock some sense into its little brain. This was, by the way, something the tech support guy did not suggest that I do. Well, here I am on the internet again with the laptop. Go figure. I haven't tried yet with the home computer because I also cut its power and it takes forever for that desktop to reboot. I'll try that tonight. And then, assuming everything works, I'm going to have to call Verizon again because as part of his procedure the fellow changed our account password since I couldn't remember the original one. Who can remember such passwords over a gap of years? Who even knows that the little modem with its five green eyes requires a password?

If you are having internet connectivity problems you may want to try cutting off power to the modem and then giving it back its power as a first step.

I'm skeptical that this is a final fix because we've had some odd internet on and off issues for a couple of weeks. In the meantime I left the very helpful and patient Verizon fellow with the word that I'm not going to be paying their bill if the problem continues, so we'll see what, if anything Verizon does.

Update: I didn't mention above that, after remaining polite with the seemingly helpful human who failed to help, I also spent a couple of minute cursing the little modem, and Verizon, and the internet, and the gods of technology, before I cut off the power. If you have ccasion to try this you may need to say to the modem, "Take this you faithless little bastard, starve in the dark for a while," just before you cut off its power. And then, after its confused little green eyes have finished with their blinking once you have restored the power, it may be necessary to say to it, "The next time I'll cut you off for a few hours or I may just rip you out of there and throw you on a fire to see how you like that."

Update 2: Tonight at 6:00 the DSL was working. At about 8:00 it was no longer working. I had other stuff to do on this computer so I let it alone. A little while ago I checked and it still wasn't working; so I unplugged the modem and sure enough the DSL was working again after I plugged it back in. Does this mean I have to unplug the thing ever few hours? I think it means that I call Verizon's billing office tomorrow and tell them to cut off the DSL service. Hopefully that will cause them to put me in touch with someone who will authorize a new modem, which is clearly what's needed. Of course they may play it tough, in which case modern technology may retreat from this little piece of Collegeville.

Update 3: 84 82 45 82 54 84 87 59 86 :<(

Update 4 on 11/8: I got in touch with a different technical services human in wherever they are after I called billing. This tech services person spoke with a bit more of an accent than the first one above. I'm failing to resist the urge to believe that he was hired more for his technical competence than for his English language skills. He fairly quickly went into a mode of replacing the "firmware" in my internet connection gizmo after telling me that it's an older model whose "firmware" sometimes gets corrupted. Since then no problems. Someday I have to do a post about the tradeoffs inherent in recruiting and hiring, a subject about which I'm pretty knowledgeable.


Lisa said...

Sully, as a veteran of help desks from way back, the very first thing you try is to "reboot". I still tell people that I work with to reboot before they even call our own help desk.

My own internet problems ended up having to do with our actual cable. The guy came out today and my connection is snappin' hot now. But believe me, every time I drop off, I trudge up the stairs and unplug that unholy bastard for a full twenty seconds and then plug it back in. That's usually enough to get me back online.

The threats, of course, can't hurt.

Sully said...

The Verizon support fellow asked a couple of times whether I had rebooted the computers, but he never asked whether I had unplugged the modem. Of course I should have realized that myself because a smart fellow told me how to fix my misbehaving cell phone just a few weeks ago - "take out the battery for 30 seconds, and in the future always shut the phone down at least once a week or so."

This internet problem is also suspicious in that it seems to be happening only sporadically during the day, but it's been happening consistently late at night. Last night the service cut out at about midnight.

When I'm not wearing wearing my tinfoil hat to block the rays I suspect that Verizon doesn't want to sell $35/month DSL anymore and its messing with us so we'll upgrade to FIOS.

Lisa said...

Sully, as I was reading the symptoms of your problem, I came to the same conclusion you did.

Try lining your north-facing windows with curtains made of strung together pop tops off of soda cans. That might help.