Tag Archives: Linksys

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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‘Push Button to Connect’

One of the big holes in Wi-Fi setup has been security. In a lot of cases it’s not on by default and many folk have no idea how to set it up or even that their network is not secure.

Linksys reckon they have the answer with something called SecureEasySetup (SES) technology:

The SES technology enables users to create their wireless security protocols and set up their Wi-Fi networks by pushing just one button on the router and another on the wireless device being networked, the company said. The button enables the unit’s Wi-Fi Protected Access security and configures the network’s Service Set Identifier (SSID), eliminating the need for the user to manually create a passphrase to enable WPA protection.

Just push the button on each device and you’ve set up a secure connection between the two.

I like the idea of having a physical button, which removes the need for lots of fiddling about in design-challenged menus (most of the software that comes with routers seems to be have been designed by three year olds with premature acne.)

There is a downside to this, of course: It locks the user into buying both access point and Wi-Fi card from Linksys, otherwise it’s not going to work. And how would it work with more than one device? Could you add a non Linksys, SES-enabled device to a SES network?

But the button thing is good. People will like that. Could this kind of thing extend to other areas where technology runs up against usability? Could buttons make Bluetooth pairing easier, say? Press a button on each device simultaneously and hook them up?

Certainly the whole ‘button vs software’ thing has taken an interesting route. For a long time we thought it was better to have no buttons, or at least designers did. Macs have very few buttons, which looks great but isn’t always a good thing, especially if you can’t eject a bum CD, or the computer hangs. iPods are great examples of what to do with buttons, and later models cut down the number of buttons without cutting down the intuitiveness.

But elsewhere things have started reversing themselves. Laptops and external keyboards have toyed with the idea of dedicated buttons, but with mixed results. I’ve never really got excited about them. Some Logitech keyboards have lots of dedicated keys and even reassigned function keys (which are on by default, a rare example of Logitech silliness.) My ThinkPad has an ‘AccessIBM’ button and to be honest I’ve never figured out what it is. But the physical sound mute and volume buttons are necessary, because you may need to get at them quickly, especially if you’re in a meeting.

I certainly think there’s room, as we move more and more to wireless, for a standard button that creates a secure connection between two devices. It could even be protocol-agnostic: press it and the device does its best to connect securely to whatever other device is having its button pressed, so to speak, with whatever protocol it has at its disposal, whether it’s Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, InfraRed or whatever. Could that break the remaining logjams in user acceptance of these technologies?

Want Some Wi-Fi In Your Shopping Cart?

Amazing how Wi-Fi has come, in three or so years, from a very obscure and slightly geeky thing to something supermarkets sell, both in terms of devices and services.

Robert Jaques of VNUNet today reports that Linksys “will begin marketing a special line of wireless networking products for home users at selected Tesco superstores in the UK”. Linksys, the report says, is “the only consumer networking vendor in all three of the world’s top retailers, i.e. Tesco, Wal-Mart and Carrefour”.

A piece in this month’s Grocery Headquarters magazine, meanwhile (yes, I read it all the time) says “the supermarket industry is starting to use wi-fi cafes to drive incremental sales and customer loyalty one latte at a time”. Supermarkets in the U.S., the report says, are using their own wireless LANs to offer customers Wi-Fi. Wegmans Food Markets is already testing the technology in two Pennsylvania stores. Quality Food Centers (QFC), a division of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., offers shoppers wi-fi access in half a dozen stores in the state of Washington.

Soon Wi-Fi will just be something that everyone has, everyone expects, and nobody pays for. Just as it should be.

WiFi Whackiness

WiFi is all very well, but I’d argue it’s still too tricky for us ordinary mortals to figure out. I’ve just spent the best part of a day trying to get a LinkSys WRT54G Broadband Router installed in my home network, and it took my resident genius Akbar to figure out that the cable provider had hardwired our setup so we had to try to trick the router into taking on the old address.

At least, that’s what I think happened: All we got from the superfast installer wizard was ‘You’re not connected to the Internet’ as we idly surfed the Web waiting for the wizard to complete its pointless and fruitless checks. Anyway, it’s working now, and it’s great, but I think LinkSys (and everyone else, for that matter) could do a better job of preparing us for oddities we’re likely to encounter.