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Ulfelder unplugged, Part 1

Jul 28, 20044 mins

* Author sets out to install a wireless network, finds self shivering in his underwear

My home network is burbling away happily, thanks in part to your suggestions. 

A couple of months ago, I confessed that I had leased a second cable modem for my house because I was too timid to set up a home network ( I also vowed to remedy the situation and sought your help in doing so.

Along the way, I hit some speed bumps, had a few fears confirmed, committed at least one cardinal sin – and thanked my lucky stars I know a good tech-support guy.

First, thanks for the letters. I received almost two dozen. Some included product recommendations, some detailed installation instructions, some simple encouragement along the lines of, “If I can do it, anyone can.”

Linksys was the overwhelming favorite among those who recommended a brand. So I did some price research on that company’s wireless routers and USB adapters, then trundled off to Best Buy.

There, I hit my first speed bump. Best Buy was fresh out of the router I wanted. The store did, however, have plenty of D-Link products with the specs I was looking for: 802.11g/2.4 GHz wireless routers (D-Link model DI-524) and matching USB adapters (DWL-G120).

Hmm, go with the D-Link equipment, about which no readers or friends had waxed enthusiastic? Or insist on Linksys, the brand everybody recommended?

Understand, it was the onset of the Fourth of July weekend, I had both kids in tow and the next closest Best Buy (which had the Linksys router in stock) was 25 minutes away. Furthermore, with rebates factored in, the D-Link gear cost $99.98, beating Best Buy’s Linksys prices by exactly $50.

For me, fifty bucks and a quick escape from the minivan make for a powerful argument. So I went with D-Link.

On to the install. I resisted the male urge to simply hook up cables in spots that looked approximately correct. Instead, I saved the packaging, made sure I had all the right equipment, read the manuals and behaved like a responsible consumer.

Then I hit my next speed bump – my modem wouldn’t work. When the Setup Wizard instructed me to launch a Web browser, I got nada. Checked my connections, ran through the Wizard again. Nada.

Then I hit another; I couldn’t get through to D-Link tech support.

Granted, I was installing the router at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, July 5. (Yup – you were up at the lake or getting ready for the town parade, and I was in my skivvies under the desk checking Ethernet cables.)

I knew it was 4:30 am at D-Link’s Fountain Valley, Calif., offices. But the manual said D-Link offers 24-7 support. So I dialed, and was promptly dumped into a phone-system runaround that not only did not take me to support, but didn’t provide any way for me to leave a message.

It’s hard to ding a company for not offering support at 4:30 a.m. on a holiday. On the other hand, “24-7” is understood to mean “around the clock, no matter what,” am I right? And small businesspeople like us frequently do administrative and equipment-related tasks at odd hours so that we can produce revenue during “regular” hours, do we not?

My next call was to Charter Communications, my cable broadband provider. Now Charter’s stated policy is that the company does not support home networking. And the Level One support tech who immediately picked up the phone politely explained Charter would rather not be in the business of supporting router vendors’ products when numbskulls like me get into trouble.

Nevertheless, she agreed to bump me up to Level Two support, where a kind young gent spent nearly an hour walking me through various remedies. He believed the modem was failing to “clear” and was thus behaving as if it were still connected directly to my PC, rather than to a router intermediary.

Yet, we failed to fix the problem. Which sets up this week’s cliffhanger: There I shiver in my skivvies beneath my desk at the end of a holiday weekend, with the usual mound of work facing me the following day. Can I get this network set up?

Next time, I’ll explain the cause of the hang up and how I solved it. I’ll confess my cardinal sin, and promise to be dressed by then, too.