Connectivity Problems Update, Updated

Submitted by C B Wright on

This has got to be Karma of some kind. I spend 11 years mocking corporate tech support and what happens? I fall victim to a variation of one of the CLASSIC "stupid user" scenarios...

As you may know, and as has been reflected by the very sporadic updates to this site over the last few weeks, I have been having difficulty getting my cable modem to stay online. For a long period of time it was up for 5 minutes, down for 5 minutes, up for 5 minutes, down for 5 minutes, interrupted by periods of hours (or, in one instance, DAYS) of not being connected at all. A call to my cable company's tech support line was encouraging, because the tech I talked to was able to detect strange power fluctuations from the cable modem, and she scheduled a guy to come over and take a look.

So on Tuesday the guy showed up, and had a look, and said he would try to replace the cable modem to see if that made any difference. And as he bent over to disconnect it, he said "... oh. Sir? I think I see the problem."

The cable modem, as it happens, is connected to a Linksys Wireless router, so that all our computers can access the net without all that pesky cabling. That wasn't a problem. The problem was that the Linksys Wireless router and the Cable Modem use power adapters with different voltages, and I HAD PLUGGED THE WRONG ADAPTERS INTO THE WRONG DEVICES.

"This," said the guy, "might account for those power fluctuations."

He switched the cables around, and I haven't had any connectivity problems since.

Boy, do I feel stupid.


Comments are active for 30 days after publication. If you wish to comment after 30 days please use the Forums.

At least you had the two of

At least you had the two of them plugged in.

When I was working as a network admin for my old high school, we delivered new computers to every classroom at the beginning of the school year (before classes started). On the last ones we delivered, we plugged them in and everything, but the earlier ones we left unplugged (Summer in Florida = electrical storms). One teacher called us up saying she spent a full 15 minutes trying to turn her computer on, and it wasn't working. She checked the back of the CPU and the back of the monitor, and everything was plugged in there.

I asked her if she checked the wall outlet and waited while she looked under her desk.

5 seconds later: "Oh... damn" *click*


The tech guy told me a similar story about one of his previous visits.

He also, I have to say, was extremely polite and tactful when he learned the actual problem was that I was an idiot.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

As a phone guy I get all

As a phone guy I get all sorts of good users. My favorite story comes from the time our Support Center moved to their new area. These are the people that help the rest of the company with email passwords, locked accounts, etc. Everything was moved to the new location but one fax wasn't working.

I was called to check the line. It checked fine, both incoming and outgoing. There was no fax machine to be found, however, which might account for the machine not answering. I updated the notes and closed the ticket.

Not long after I was called again. The fax machine was installed but still not receiving. "Could you check the line again?"

One of the managers was there. I plugged in my test set and dialed out and answered a call placed from another set. "There's still no problem with the line," I said.

"But the fax still isn't working."

So, I look at the machine. Two things struck me immediately. First the little screen said "no toner". Second, it was set to "manual receive." When I pointed this out she said, "oh, we're not technical."

I was not so filled with love for my fellow man at that point.

i feel your pain

A couple months ago, after we had just cleaned out my brother's old room (he moved out, but didn't take half his stuff with him, and my mother and i had to filter through all of it), which happens to be the room the phone line is hooked up in, we lost our internet. We checked the phone line, it was all hooked up, but no lights on the modem were on. So, we figured the modem got unplugged somehow. We traced the cord as best we could (there are a LOT of skinny black wires behind the computer desk!) and it appeared to be plugged in. I called tech support, but i am not extremely familiar with Indian accents, so that didn't go far. So, we figured it was some fatal glitch in the modem, went online (from my grandfather's computer), and bought a new one. When it arrived, I unpacked it, and got everything set to switch it over, traced the power line on the old modem to a totally different plug, and found out it was not plugged in afterall. After plugging it in, it worked fine. I packed up the new modem, and sent it back.
All we can figure is that we knocked the plug out when we set folded carboard boxes next to where it was plugged in. One would think we would notice knocking out a giant, heavy plug, though.

Really, I don't think that

Really, I don't think that you should feel bad. I would say that that problem was bad design of the hardware - they should have different size plugs so you don't have to worry about it. It sounds lazy, but there are really too many different kinds of electrical power adapters for devices; they should either create a system that only has one type of adapter or make sure that all the other kinds are foolproof.

p.s. Keep up the awesome comic! Thanks!

Wall Warts and other annoyances...

I work for a telco/ISP that provides DSL modems for their customers. We also take back the defective ones - and I'm pretty specific on asking for the power supply with it.

I've got a nice collection of Linksys, D-Link and assorted cordless phone power supplies building up.

Generic labeling sucks.

Situations such as this are

Situations such as this are why I cannot go off about "stupid users". None of us are perfect and it's not productive to assume the user - or we - can be. We all make mistakes and in the world of higher technology a small mistake can cause a big problem. As some of the comments here indicate the problem is sometimes physically or temporally separate from the symptoms.

The key thing is you learned that your gear behaves in this fashion when the power is incorrect. This is handy for others who have never troubleshot this before. You also learned that your gear is tolerant of incorrect power (no release of magic smoke). That's also handy to know in case one of your power adapters should die; you can substitute a near match and hobble along in an emergency. And finally, you got what many of us need on occasion: a reminder that a second set of eyes on a problem can spot a tree that we have lost in the forest :)

It could have been worse

One client I know had devices where one was AC, and the other was DC.

Swapping the plugs led to a major malfunction.

This was not good.

No smoke, just no blinking lights.

Not as bad as...

...the time I tested 2 computers on my test bench, then moved one to the other room and its network connection died. Moved it back, it worked. Ran another network cable to the other room, it didn't work. Ran an AC extension cord to the other room from the test bench - it worked! Bad network card.

My wife blew up a CD player and a dancing Santa Claus by doing what you did...but we did prove that the smoke detector was working.

Another classic case of idiocy...

I was installing Windows Server on my new, home-built server. Got up to the installation, and it gave an error. I found it helps to plug in the hard drive, and not just the CD drive!

Adds to my list of trouble shooting~

I thank you greatly for sharing this story.

I work for a computer repair, and most customers will call US first before calling their isp for issues for 2 major reasons.

1. We arnt outsourced to india, and they can come in and talk to me as the tech any time.

2. If there is a problem with the ISP, we can tell them exactly what to say to cut through red tape.

There was an instance last week of a person unable to get on the internet, and they were on their cell phone because their phone wasnt working.

A week later, no one figured it out (troubleshooting over phone is tedious at best)

After reading this comment, I went to the guys house.

Yup, wrong adaptors.

But dont worry, even techs fall under IUS (Idiotic User Syndrome)

I can tell you many times that I couldnt a computers video working, only to realize 10 miniutes later their video card requires a power hookup :/

That is why they pay us. Yet

That is why they pay us. Yet another example of why most users dislike techsupport staff.