So now we wait for a visit from another engineer who specializes in wiring and who will, so we understand, check the cabling from the demarc to the pole and then to whence it comes - presumably all the way back to the DSL access module. What we wonder about is the maintainability of this technology. If Ethernet were this complex, unreliable and hard to diagnose, local area networking would still be in the dark ages of ProNet and Token Ring.If you have followed our travails with our DSL connection, we have an update for you: We asked for a technician to come and check out the DSL line, and last week an SBC DSL engineer, Todd 370, showed up.But before we fill you in on what he found, we must digress to share a few tips about how to deal with SBC DSL support. To get to knowledgeable support people in double-quick time, hit "#" in answer to every question in the SBC interactive voice response (IVR) system. This annoys the IVR system and it will give up quite quickly and route you straight to first-level support.SBC's first-level support is utterly useless unless you are a complete newbie with nothing more complicated than a basic PC hanging off the DSL modem, so you should immediately demand second-level support. Do not get wimpy here - insist on being transferred.The first-level tech will ask you for information that won't be passed on to the second level, and so far we have found no way to avoid this step. Even so, this strategy will reduce the time it takes to get to second-level support to around eight minutes.Anyway, back to Todd 370. He turned up, took a look with his DSL test gear and concluded that something was degrading the signal on our side of the demarc. Our DSL setup was delivered with three or four Z-filters (in-line high-frequency filters) to filter out the DSL carrier, and so we installed them on each phone on that circuit.Apparently there is voodoo involved, because this really was at least part of our problem. Todd 370 installed (for the princely sum of $35) an industrial grade Z-filter next to the demarc and tightened all of the connections (apparently, slightly loose terminal screws can cause serious problems), and when he retested the connection, its performance was significantly better. So far, so good.(But how is a consumer supposed to know any of this? There are no instructions we can find on the SBC site regarding the placement of Z-filters, and you know the telephone support techs are clueless on the topic.)Then we went inside and ran some Pingplotter traces and found errors were still appearing. On the first hop the latency was periodically jumping from 10 millisec to 1.5 seconds or more, and the jitter was increasing from 0.4 millisec to around 400 millisec! Todd 370 suggested the problem might be the DSL modem so we installed a new one, but nope, the errors were still there.So now we wait for a visit from another engineer who specializes in wiring and who will, so we understand, check the cabling from the demarc to the pole and then to whence it comes - presumably all the way back to the DSL access module.What we wonder about is the maintainability of this technology. If Ethernet were this complex, unreliable and hard to diagnose, local area networking would still be in the dark ages of ProNet and Token Ring.We're supposed to be wiring the country, creating a broadband-connected culture to gain the benefits of an always-on, always-connected, high-speed communications infrastructure, but it appears we're still in the sacrificing-a-chicken before-we-turn-it-on stage.More after the cabling wizard puts in an appearance.As we don't have a lot more space, we'll conclude this column with a request for your favorite tools and utilities. We just had to rebuild a PC that had creeping Winrot, and we found ourselves reinstalling certain tools that we knew we couldn't live without.For example, Process Explorer from Sysinternals, a serious replacement for the Windows Task Manager, and Irfanview, an amazing file viewer and player that can understand and display a remarkable number of formats. And how would we get anything done without Vim for editing files, and the command-line wget\u00a0or the GUI-based Filezilla to get files?So, what's in your tool chest? Inventories to email@example.com. And do drop by Gibbsblog to discuss your DSL issues.