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Serviceman's Log

Modem rage, like road rage, is an ugly sight. So how does a normally urbane, cheerful, mild-mannered individual completely lose it over such a simple piece of technology? All too easily, as it turns out.

by the Serviceman

Items Covered This Month

• Modem rage

• How reliable are ECUs in cars?

• An embarrassing antenna installation

• Birds of a feather

• Not the best design

I have a friend who I’ve known for over 30 years now. He is kind to his dog, loves his wife and kids, is considerate to his neighbours and is not at all the type to get involved in road rage.

But modem rage . . . well that’s an entirely different matter.

It all started some six months ago when he decided to subscribe to an ADSL2+ service via a well-known ISP. The transaction went smoothly and the modem was delivered to his home the very next day. All he had to do to achieve internet nirvana was plug it in and go through the step-by-step setting-up procedure.

Well, he did that but it stubbornly refused to work, despite his repeated and increasingly vocal attempts to coax it to do so. Eventually, after a couple of hours of futile effort, he was forced to admit defeat and seek help from the ISP’s tech-support line.

The tech-support guy was very helpful and patiently went through the modem’s settings with him. He got him to change a couple of the settings and then, all of a sudden, it started working. Hallelujah! Oh joy unrestrained.

Unfortunately, my friend’s joy was to be short-lived because it stopped working again a short time later. Feeling somewhat exasperated at this, he spent another hour or so on it and then rang me to see if I could help. We went through his modem settings once more but as far as I was concerned, everything was correct.

I then asked him whether the ADSL LED on the front of the modem was lit. After all, there’s no way it would work if it wasn’t acquiring the ADSL line correctly. His response to this was a bit vague but I got the impression that sometimes the ADSL LED was on while at other times it was flashing.

I wasn’t familiar with his particular modem but the flashing ADSL LED didn’t sound right to me, so I advised him to try changing the tele­phone cable. If the cable he was using had an intermittent connection, then that would account for his problems.

I left him to it while he did the swap and he rang back a few minutes later to say that my diagnosis was spot on. Swapping the cable had indeed fixed the problem but then, to his considerable frustration, it stopped working again while we were talking.

His next step was to call his ISP again, to see if they could offer further advice. They eventually transferred him to the modem’s manufacturer in the US and a very helpful technician again went through all the modem’s settings with him once more. They changed a couple of minor settings and lo and behold, it suddenly started working again.

Well, it worked until just after the phone call ended. It then packed it in yet again and my friend, by now feeling thoroughly hot under the collar (well, frothing at the mouth, actually), rang his ISP. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation. As far as he was concerned, the modem was faulty and he wanted a replacement yesterday and he told them so in no uncertain terms.

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