Tag Archives: Ethernet

Turn It Off, Turn It On Again

Having spent the best part of a day trying to do something very basic, and yet failing, here’s another public service announcement for anyone having problems connecting their router, wireless or otherwise, to a cable modem:

  • If you have a cable Internet connection, but only through one computer, and nothing seems to correct the problem, you probably need to unplug the ethernet cable from your computer and turn off your cable modem.
  • Turn it off. Leave it off for a minute, and then turn it back on again. Reconnect the cable.
  • Chances are it will now connect. If it doesn’t, either you didn’t leave it turned off long enough, or something more sinister is afoot. But it worked for me.

Now, I know this is stupid of me not to think of, but in my defence I was out of sorts:

  • the modem was new, the setup was new, and I didn’t have a lot of faith in my Netgear WiFi Travel Router, mainly because I hadn’t used it for cable modem-ing. Nowhere in all the set-up palaver did it mention turning off your cable modem.
  • So I dashed off to buy a Linksys WRT54GC something or other. The installation CD wouldn’t run on my laptop, so I downloaded their impressive sounding troubleshooting software, EasyLink Home Networking Tools (note to self: anything with ‘easy’ in the name isn’t).
  • None of the EasyLink products worked for me, so I was reduced to copying the contents of the installation CD (which for some odd reason, worked fine on a Mac) to a USB drive and running the router set up from there. This is far more information than you’re interested in getting, but I’m trying to show that I wasn’t completely useless. This didn’t work either, by the way. The Linksys software just sits there like a useless lemon telling you that it’s not connecting. (Another note to self: The term ” wizard” for installation and troubleshooting software is vastly overused. Of course, they don’t take into account turnips like me, but they pretend they do. I don’t know which is worse.)
  • I have a Mac sitting around looking pretty, so I thought I’d give Mr Jobs a chance. He was no better. Couldn’t connect, but neither did he offer the sort of sage, grounded advice I’d expected: “Turn stuff off and turn them on again.” I guess, once again, Mac dudes are too smart for that kind of trash talk.
  • Finally I called up the guys who installed the modem, got bounced through a voice menu, until a sweet, albeit automated, voice said “If you’re having problems installing a router to your cable modem, switch off the modem first. Then reconnect. Have a nice day.” And hung up.
  • Now one final point: the modem in question doesn’t actually have an off/on switch. Or a reset switch. And nowhere in the manual could I find the words: “From time to time you may feel the need to switch the modem off and on again, to see whether that helps. Good idea. It might. We don’t know why exactly. If we did, we’d have mentioned it, and put an on/off switch in. But we felt that by putting one in that might have implied our products were not as cool as we like to think they are, so we haven’t put one in. Please don’t throw this manual or the modem across the room in frustration at hours of wasted productivity because this fact was not mentioned, as that voids warranty.” So I switched off the modem, counting to 20 in Thai, just because I can, and turned it on again.

So the little sweet-sounding lady was right. It all worked like a dream after that. So the moral of the story is: Don’t assume anything on the part of the products you’re testing. Just because your cable modem — or any other appliance — doesn’t actually have an on/off or reset switch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to turn it off. In fact turn everything off once or twice. Who knows, everything might work better that way.

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How To Build A Good Airport

I just want to sing the praises of Singapore’s Changi airport. I was upset to see a year or so back that they had discontinued free Wi-Fi —  now you have to pay, although many GSM operators have roaming agreements that give you a free access code to one of the airport’s Wi-Fi operators — but to me far more important is the availability of decent working desks with working power outlets and Ethernet cable slots.

Changi has recently upgraded these facilities but has yet to update its airport maps, so I was aggrieved to find that in my usual spot the number of tables had shrunk, and each was occupied with folk who looked like they were camping there for the summer. There was no one at the information desk but I did spot a feedback terminal, so fired off my complaint, saying folk like me try to transit via Changi because it’s a great place to get work done without having to shell out extra money, and that if I am in Singapore for any reason I try to get to the airport early knowing I can work there. (Offhand I can’t think of another airport that offers desks for people to sit at outside a business centre or business class lounge.)  I signed off with the usual threats about losing customers like me if they scaled back these facilities etc etc. (It had been a long day and I was facing blog withdrawal. )

Of course, immediately after doing that I stumbled upon a cluster of other desks — most of them unoccupied — so I felt slightly bad about it, but assumed no one would read my complaint anyway. So imagine my surprise when I heard back this morning from the Civilian Aviation Authority of Singapore:

We apologize for the inconvenience you have encountered while using the Laptop Access corners. We wish to clarify that we do have other Laptop Access corners located behind Giordano shop and Nexus Lounge at Terminal 1(21 workstations), near the GST Refund Counter at Terminal 2 (8 workstations), behind Sports Bar (16 workstations) and the iConnect at Level 3, Terminal 2 (15 workstations).

That’s good service in my view. Singapore really gets it right with Changi. It’s not too noisy, realising that travellers just want somewhere quiet they can shop, rest, and eat without noisy music and loud announcements. It’s got good facilities you don’t have to pay extra for, including quiet rooms with chaises longues, realising that transit and airport facilities should be built into the price of the ticket. And finally they realise that an airport reflects the country it’s in. It’s a gateway not just out but in, and through. If you make people feel they’re having a good experience they’ll leave impressed and come back. If you use an airport just to fleece people and make them feel harried, hustled and hassled, they’ll do their best not to pass through again.

Another Kind of Phone

Here’s another interesting phone-over-Internet approach that also works over existing telephone lines: the PhoneGnome.

This is how it works: A user connects the PhoneGnome via an ethernet cable to his of her home network, and to a PSTN wall jack using a standard telephone cable. When the PhoneGnome powers up, it automatically reports in to a server to let it know it’s online and what its PSTN phone number is. That’s the entire scope of the basic installation.

Once installed, when the user dials a telephone number, it checks with the server to see if that number belongs to a registered PhoneGnome user. If it does, the call is made directly via the IP network, bypassing all PSTN toll charges.

The PhoneGnome also works with non-PhoneGnome accounts like BroadVoice, VoicePulse Connect. In a nutshell, the service seems to straddle the best of old-style telephony and the best of the new — including the public SIP protocol.

I’m not clear whether the PhoneGnome works overseas; I see no reason why it couldn’t.

Getting Frustrated On The Road

The frustrations of tech travel. Some things are easy, some things you think are going to be easy are hard. Like in-room Internet. The last Hong Kong hotel I stayed in had free Internet, but you had to enter a fiddly name and password to get a connection, and even if the account said it was valid for 1000s of hours, it would usually expire after about 24 of them, and you had to troop down to the lobby to get some more.

The hotel I’m now staying in has a much easier setup — just plug and play, no accounts or anything — but you still need an ethernet cable. I usually carry one of these around, but as they took an hour to bring me my luggage I had to hunt around the room for a cable, eventually calling up the concierge.

And then there’s GPRS. Why don’t prepaid cards support GPRS? They support MMS, but the carrier I’m using in Hong Kong doesn’t support it unless you’re a postpaid customer. Why is this? It seems daft to me. Or am I missing something?

The Wi-Fi Revolution And Smart Homes

It always amazes me how many home Wi-Fi networks there are. I don’t do a lot of sniffing, but wherever I am I take a look and there they are, whether it’s a Jakarta towerblock or rural England. Wi-Fi, it seems, is as commonplace as any other kind of connection. And now market research company Park Associates seems to have confirmed it: More households, at least in the U.S., have set up wireless networks than cable, or Ethernet, ones:

This study, which surveyed consumers in Europe and North America on technology adoption and use, found 52% of U.S. households with a home network use Wi-Fi and 50% use Ethernet. By comparison, only 32% of Canadian households with a home network use Wi-Fi, 43% use Ethernet, and 26% were unsure which technology they were using.

No mention is made of European homes, but from what I can see, the rest of the world is not far behind. Interestingly, Park Associates credits the bundling of Wi-Fi kits by cable and telephone companies selling broadband service for the surge. Their hope: to bundle other ‘next-generation’ services using these networks, since they are supposedly easier to distribute via Wi-Fi than Ethernet. In short, the Wi-Fi explosion could bring the smart home a step closer to reality.

Wifi For The (Dialup) Masses

You’d think that dial-up Internet access is not the stuff of sexy business models. Not so.

Always On Wireless is about to launch the Always On WiFlyer, an 802.11b-based wireless hub that connects to a phone line and works with all the major dial-up ISPs. It is being touted as Wifi For The Masses, a term I thought we had coined in this blog for Wifi in the developing world. Still, it’s not copyright and the more the merrier.

Rudy Prince, CEO of Always On Wireless, is aiming at “both computer users who lack broadband in their homes and ‘road warriors’ who often find broadband connections unavailable when traveling. It eliminates the expense of hotel broadband connections, and is great for international travel where broadband is often more difficult to find.”

The device is smaller, according to Computer Technology’s TWICE, than a paperback book for easy travel and also has an Ethernet port, so it can turn any hotel room into an instant Wi-Fi hot spot. Cost: $150.

I actually think these ideas are great, and it’s good that people are thinking of dialup customers as well as broadband. Rudy’s right: There are a lot of folk out there who can only get dialup access all of the time, or some of the time. This would be a neat addition to their grab-bag, especially since it works with both broadband and dialup connections – especially if you’re stuck in a bad hotel room with poor access to phone sockets. I’ll take one.