I thought I’d regale you with a tale of three hours spent sorting out a client’s home network.

One of the techs was sick this week, so I inherited this callout. I have been to this client before, and his printing has been an issue before – more on that later on.

Never think “This is going to be simple”

The premise of the callout was simple enough – the client has moved house recently, and I needed to take a broadband router and install it and get his PC on the Internet.

Getting there I was presented with a different proposition altogether. He was excited to see me, and took me to the office where he waved his hand in the direction of his desk. On it where four printers (one of them was a multifunction joppie) and a desktop PC resided under it, screen on the desk.

Also on the desk was his laptop, and on a chair was a dark blue plastic bag with a buffalo WIFI router, some network cabling, an ADSL router and two edimax Ethernet over Power units.

I smelled an ambush…

“That printer you set up…”

My client rattled of his requests, get the network working, both upstairs and downstairs – via lanning the Edimax Ethernet over Power units.

Finally he said this: “Oh, and I STILL can’t print to that printer you guys set up last time…” *sigh* “…if you can’t fix it I’ll have to make another plan…”

Bear in mind that he recently moved into that house, and “last time” was over six months ago, and that he had connected the printers and his desktop himself.

A little voice inside my head screamed “It’s a TRAP!”

Getting Started, and the dog.

Once he left to take his son for a haircut I started working. I gave the PC/Printer setup a cursory glance, four printers connected via USB, and one connected to the Buffalo router on the desk with an Ethernet cable. Should be simple enough, I thought.

I decided to get the network working first, and incorporate the ADSL router into it and then tackle the printers…

Then the dog showed up. A Boxer, or mastiff of some sort. Butt ugly, and with jowls that dripped saliva. She (I think) pitter pattered into the office, and stood staring at me with an inquisitive raise of the eyebrows. Feeling pretty good since I had the internet working I grinned at it and said “Hi there!”

This seemed to be a signal to her that I wanted to PLAY! A few moments later, after repeated exclamations of “down… NOW… down DOWN DOOWN…” I had a keyboard slobbered to high heaven, wet fingers and wet slobber on my pants.

Now, everytime I ducked under a table the bitch tried to nibble my ears, or poke her head in with me to see what I was doing. She was as cute as hell, but I really did not appreciate the wet kisses. Or the doggy breath.

Ze Netvork…

Once I had fended off the amorous attentions of the dog, who now stood tail waggingly eager on the other side of the desk, I decided to tackle setting up the network. I was in luck! I did not need the second wifi router (and hence the edimax thingybob) since the signal was strong enough upstairs in the house.

I did need to get all the ADSL and WIFI routed on the same subnet mask though, but that was simple enough.

zen… ZE PREENTERS!

This is where the wheels came off my morning. Let me run this down for you:

  1. The “printer” that I saw was connected via network cable? It was a fax machine. It did not possess a Ethernet port, instead the network RJ45 was carefully placed flat on the table, and the fax machine was firmly placed on top of that. Yes.
  2. I then set about sharing the USB printers attached to the desktop computer. Sharing and print testing done, I realized the PC had no LAN connection. The connection that was displayed in the taskbar was a 3G connection. I could not see a modem, so I simply disconnected it. Worries for later. I set about getting the network connection to work – it was disabled. And had a weird static IP, to wit: 174.234.45.135, the gateway was the same. DHCP it was for that one.
  3. Back to the laptop – did not see the shared printers. Remembering the weird IP on the PC I checked the ip configuration on the laptop, same IP Address. Exact. Same. IP. Right, so I set that one to DHCP as well and tried accessing the printers. No joy. Browsing for the printers in the “Add Printer Wizard” did not show them…
  4. Right, adding the IP brought up the printers… but I was asked for a password. Password protected sharing. I went back to the desktop, and switched that off. The client did not know the password either. Nice. Now I could connect to the PC, see the printers, and… they would not respond. “The printer you selected has either been disconnected from the…” *sigh*
  5. NORTON! I discovered that one of his two Norton installs did not have the LAN in it’s trusted range. Why two Norton installs? Well the one was ANTIVIRUS, and the other INTERNET SECURITY my good man! AVG also made an appearance – for the moment I left them as they were and just made sure the network traffic could pass to the laptop. That done I could *finally* get the printers to work…

The case of the phantom 3g modem…

Final headache – the 3G connection auto connected again. I grabbed my cellphone and dived under the desk, fending off my new girlfriend in the process. I few whet kisses later I found what I was looking for. An internal PCMCIA card, with a PCMCIA 3g modem stuck in there.

Unceremoniously I yanked it out and put it on the box.

I decided to give the PC a final check, and here another 3g connection popped up and connected!

Things had long ago taken a turn for the surreal, but this was one too much. Climbing over the desk and under it was fruitless. I rebooted the PC, thinking that it thought that the modem was still there. Again the 3g connection appeared and connected! It showed data transferred and everything.

I spotted a flashlight on a shelf and launched into a search with determination. The dog thought I was playing some retarded game and started barking hysterically. Every time I followed a cable with my fingers it tried to squeeze in the space with me, excitedly whining and slobbering all over my ears and neck. I swear this was turning into the most twisted make-out session imaginable.

Eventually I physically shoved the dog out from under the table and pinned it down with my thighs – desperately trying to peek inside the PC case to see if there was an internal 3g modem of some kind in there. That stunt bought me a swift bite on the inner thigh.

By this time I was sure there was no USB dongle modem piece of devil hardware hidden anywhere, so an internal it HAD to be. Yet there was nothing. Rubbing the wet spot on my leg where that infernal dog bit me I sat in a chair and stared at the screen.

And then it hit me.

It was a broadband connection NAMED “MTN 3G” that was connecting via the router!

Ho. Ly. >expletive<.

Summary

Today I rediscovered why I hate doing call-outs. Why I prefer working with servers, and enjoy sitting in a cold noisy IDC all by myself, or maybe one other tech to help with something.

I have no qualms about the client getting some things wrong. Heck I have grown to expect it. Today was a special case however. It is as if the universe was conspiring against me to ruin my morning.

Three hours of wrestling with dogs, printers and phantom modems is enough to make a grown man weep…

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