I love computers. I love wireless networks. I love Internet connections.
I love them all. I really do. Well, most of the time, like when they’re working productively, seamlessly, and—most of all—perfectly.
There are times, however, when I do not love them, when I actively hate them, like when they have a meltdown at the most inconvenient times. After business hours. On a weekend. On a national holiday—like the 4th of July. This 4th of July to be specific.
While everyone else on our lake was sunbathing, swimming, boating, fishing, and picnicking in celebration of the 240th anniversary of American Independence, I was on the phone with 24/7 tech support. Our wireless home network was down and we couldn’t connect to the Internet.
Our network began behaving erratically right before the holiday weekend. MG began to gripe on Friday that he couldn’t retrieve his email from our Internet provider. Then he began to whine that his iPad wasn’t connected to our Wi-Fi network. The final meltdown came when he couldn’t use his iPhone to check on the starting time for Sunday’s Detroit Tigers game. No Internet connection to be had, and he kept getting a pop up screen demanding authorization.
It fell to me to fix the problem. I’m in charge of our computers and the cooking. Macho Guy is in charge of our cars and killing the creepy crawlies.
I didn’t recognize the IP address of the device demanding a user name and password for authorization. I tried the ubiquitous duo of admin and admin. Nope. So I took a few wild guesses. Nuh-Uh. On to Plan B.
Our ISP recently replaced the previous modem we had that went to hardware heaven. It didn’t seem possible that the new one would fail so soon. I sent MG down to my office where the modem is located—he doubled for my legs going up and down stairs—to power down / power up the modem. No joy. MG begged me to call tech support. On to Plan C–C for Call tech support.
MG and I went through the now tedious power down/power up of the modem with the support tech, even though we already did it. When we still couldn’t access our home network, she had us try to connect to the modem’s default Wi-Fi network.
ME: [yelling down the staircase] She wants us to find the modem’s network ID and password.
MG: [yelling up the staircase] Where? I don’t see anything.
ME: Turn the modem upside down and read them off the label.
MG: I can’t find them. There’s just a bunch of letters and numbers there.
ME: [to the support tech] He says he can’t find the network name or password.
TECH: Have him look for the SSID. That is the network name.
ME: [yelling down the staircase again] Find the SSID.
MG: It’s [Network name redacted for security concerns].
ME: [to the support tech] He found it. I recognize it from the list of Wi-Fi networks in my area.
TECH: Select the network and enter the password.
ME: [yelling down the staircase yet again] I need the password.
MG: I can’t find it! You’ll have to come down here and do it yourself.
I took hold of my trusty cane. With the phone in my other hand, I descended the stairs as slowly as yeast rises: down on a step with the bad leg first, then the good leg. Once I reached my office I had a look at the underside of the modem.
ME: There it is—the WPA key. That’s the network password.
MG: [eyes narrowed] You didn’t tell me to look for WPA! You said password!
ME: [shrugging] Same thing.
MG: [grinding his teeth] How was I supposed to know that?
ME: Oh, well…let’s get on with this. The tech wants us to connect a computer directly to the modem with a cable. Then we have to select the network and enter the password.
Well, folks, I wish I could say that this attempt worked but I would be leading you astray. It failed. Twice.
ME: [to the support tech] We received error messages: “incorrect password” both times we tried it and we entered the password correctly. I’d like to try something else. We have an Apple Time Capsule connected to the modem. I’m going to disconnect it to see if that makes a difference.
ME: [to MG] You’ll have to crawl under my desk to unplug it.
MG: [ducking under my desk] You have a dozen cables down here. How am I supposed to know which one it is?
ME: It’s the only white cord.
MG: Got it. [He yanked on the cord sending the time capsule and the phone flying off the file cabinet on which they were setting.]
ME: [under my breath] Nice going.
MG: [retrieving the two items from behind the file cabinet] That’s it. I’m done. [With that he left my office.]
Disconnecting the Time Capsule made no difference. The tech told me there was nothing more that she could do at that point but she would continue to investigate and would call me back later. She never did, of course, and I knew she wouldn’t.
I soldiered on by myself for a while and discovered that the authorization error message came from the signal repeater located upstairs in the living room. I found the user guide for the device. I discovered its user name and password and accessed its settings screen. One problem solved.
It was then that I realized something that had escaped my attention earlier. I hollered for MG.
MG: Now what?
ME: I have an idea of what’s causing all the trouble. It struck me that the Time Capsule’s light was clear. It should have been either green if it’s connected or yellow if it isn’t. Then I noticed that the printer is off. We were using it before we lost the network and never turned it off.
MG: Are you sure?
ME: [I pressed the printer’s power button several times to demonstrate. It didn’t turn it on.] See?
MG: [crawling back under my desk] Which one is the printer cable?
ME: The one with the power brick in its cable.
MG: [testing the connections] Everything on this strip is plugged in solid. Nothing’s loose.
ME: [a light bulb suddenly flashing on in my mind] The power strip is plugged into the UPS. Check to see if the UPS is working. Its plug is loose and sometimes pulls out from the wall socket part way.
MG: [pushing the plug back into the socket tightly] It just came on. All the lights are flashing.
ME: The printer and Time Capsule are still off. The UPS may have failed. Try disconnecting the power strip from the UPS.
MG: Done. [He plugged the power strip into the wall socket.]
ME: The printer and the Time Capsule just turned on! That was it. The UPS was the problem. We need a new one.
MG: [grabbing his iPhone and then showing it to me] You solved it. I have Wi-Fi again.
For the first time all weekend, I saw MG smile. I put that smile there. Eat your heart out, you tech support quitter. I did it without you.
It took a while, but we finally got to relax and enjoy what was left of the holiday—an evening cookout with our neighbors followed by a neighborhood fireworks display. The fireworks were spectacular.