|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Anyway ... a few weeks ago young Master Early moved out. He moved all his personal files to his laptop and insisted that we use his PC - a recent model, with Windows XP and a fast processor, unlike the one I've been banging on for a decade or so. Buying a new PC with an unused one in the house would be a complete waste of money, he said. I agreed, saying that I could use that PC and get Mrs Early her promised laptop. Mrs Early, used to my foot-dragging over technological change and increasingly critical of the kind of web access achievable with the PC we used - Windows 95, a low-number IE and dial-up - insisted that this wouldn't do. I had to get a new PC. OK, I said, but let's get broadband first. At least with that I'll be able to shop online for a new PC without the damn thing crashing whenever anyone phones.
So I phoned up for Demon Broadband, and a few days later the disk arrived, and a Speedtouch modem and a couple of ADSL filters. Several foot-dragging days later, I psyched myself up to install it on Master Early's PC. The set-up disk was very clear: do not connect your USB modem until the modem drivers are installed. Fine, I thought: I had hardly got the hardware out of the box, let alone hooked up. So I installed the drivers, and was prompted to plug in the USB modem.
Looking at the cables and filters and the modem, I belatedly figured out that the phone line from the PC wouldn't fit into the ADSL socket. I picked up the phone to consult my tech-savvy friend Tony. No dial tone.
What an inconvenient time for the phone to go dead, I said to myself, or words to that effect. Then I suspected this might be more than a coincidence. I tried fitting an ADSL filter between the phone socket and the phone. No dial tone. I logged the fault with BT and was told it would take a couple of days to fix. Meanwhile I could divert incoming calls to my mobile. Down the pub with Charlie, Feorag and Tony, I told my tale of woe and was told that a cheap adaptor was all I needed for the plugging things together problem. I drew a circuit diagram and Tony pointed out where the ADSL filters should go. I put them in, but to no avail. I took them off again.
At the weekend a BT engineer finally checked out the line problem. At this time I was in Dublin for P-Con. My mobile rang at an admirably early hour. The engineer said the problem seemed to be inside the house. Could he have access? Afraid not, I said. Nobody in but Zhukhov, the Early Dog. Perhaps, said the engineer, some piece of equipment is connected wrongly to the line? Ah, I said. I'll check that. Master Early was due to drop by later that day. I got him to disconnect his PC from the extension, put the ADSL filters on the phone and the extension, and voila - dial tone!
Everybody was so relieved to get the phone back, and more importantly get dial-up back, that they clean forgot to remind me that we were supposed to have broadband. But in due course they did. Tony kindly came around, figured out where I'd put an ADSL filter on the wrong side of a splitter. And, after much more faffing about, I got access to Demon Broadband on Master Early's PC.
So I checked out Dell, and checked out PC World, and decided there wasn't much in it and we could go to PC World today, so Mrs Early and I drove to Corstorphine and bought a shiny new Packard Bell with Windows Vista. I took the Speedtouch modem off Master Early's computer, intending to instal it on my new one. Dropping by that evening, Master Early plugged the line back in for the dial-up, tried to connect, and got the message: No Dial Tone. How odd, I said. I picked up the phone. No dial tone. When we disconnected his phone line from the splitter in front of the ADSL filter, we got dial tone back. The phone extension, on the same splitter, worked fine.
Oh well. It was getting late.
Bright and early the following morning, I installed the Speedtouch modem in my shiny new computer. The little green LEDS on the modem glowed happily. I tried to connect. No joy. I rang the Demon helpline, to be told that, oh yes, the Speedtouch modem doesn't work with Vista. There'll be a patch for the drivers available for download in April. I decided I might as well by a wireless router and be done with it.
Mrs Early was at work, with the car. I got the bus to Barnton, trekked over the hill to Corstorphine, and explained the problem to the tech guy at PC World. Oh yes, he said. That's all the fault of the manufacturers, Microsoft has given them months and months of notice. I refrained from saying that I could have done some notice when I bought the PC yesterday. He then told me that only the very latest wireless router (ninety quid) worked with Vista. I was about to bite the bullet when a sales guy helpfully pointed out that I could install the router on the PC running XP, and stick the dongle on my new PC, and get online that way. Great, I said, buying the cheapest router I could see (Philips, fifty quid).
Back over the hill I trekked, hopped on the next bus home, and set to work installing the Philips. Hit a brick wall on configuring ISP details: a drop-down selection that didn't drop. Phone the Philips helpline. After being talked through the install and hitting the same brick wall, I mentioned why I was doing this in the first place, and was told that the router could be installed on a PC running Vista, no problem. I tried this, and the problem went away, and all the lights came on, but the thing wouldn't connect to the Demon server. I rang Philips again, and was told to get DNS details from my ISP.
And the following day, yesterday, I did just that. But I didn't ring the Demon helpline. I got the numbers off the right bit of help documentation, put them in myself and felt very smug when I got online on my shiny new computer, and even more smug when I installed the dongle on Master Early's PC, and got online with that.
All that remained then was to configure my email, which only took a couple of hours and two calls to the helpline.
The only outstanding issue is the dial-up line to Master Early's computer. It still makes the line go dead. It's connected to the correct socket of an ADSL filter. It's not really necessary - his email client pickes up his mail over broadband just fine - but I'm still curious about it.