Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Internet Connectivity Problems

I’ve not been publishing much recently because I’ve been unexpectedly blown off the air. Tuesday at 2 minutes after midnight local time (Monday afternoon in NYC), when I was trying to publish Scientia Pro Publica, my internet connection crashed and I nearly lost the entire document (!), apparently due to a router malfunction. Rebooting multiple times did nothing to correct the situation, so it is assumed that the router is “dead.” Never mind that it is brand-new (two months old?).


Of course, the Germans being the models of technological inefficiency, have decided they cannot fix this issue nor issue a new router until after they subject my spouse to a phone call where they assess the problem (never mind that they have promised to call for two days, but have not, and our repeated phone calls to them end up in yet another so-called “promise” to return the call the next day). Waiting for this telephone conversation is required before they tell us what we already know: the router is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced. Like, duh.

Even though I live 13 floors above the T-Mobile store, the store employees refuse to issue a new router to me. Instead, the T-Mobile main office insists on mailing a new router — a process that will take approximately one week, according to my estimates. Unfortunately, I have no clue as to how many days it will take before the command to mail the new router trickles down the hierarchy and someone actually puts it into the mail (perhaps another week? We are at the beginning of a religious holiday here, so anything is likely).

To say that I view this as an unmitigated disaster is a colossal understatement. My entire life is online, and has been so since the early 1990s, when I opened up my first email account and began writing essays for my (rather large) website. To avert an impending crisis, my spouse invited me to tag along to work with him, setting up camp in a corner of his office and using his wireless connection. It feels improper, somehow, to do this, and I’ve offered to hide out in the campus cafeteria or the library, but he is fine with having me sitting across the table from him, typing (sometimes banging, grr!) away on my laptop.

My time on-campus reminds me that I desperately miss the academic life — the one place I’ve ever felt I belonged. But alas, being a misfit is the story of my life.

In the meanwhile, the wifi bills arrive, and are paid as if the service is actually available for use. Germans, being the model of efficient billing, refuse to refund the cost of service that was unavailable due to malfunctions of their own crappy equipment.

Comments

  1. #1 joshua
    February 17, 2010

    Grrlscientist,

    Is it the router that that’s dead, or your Cable/DSL modem?

    The modem is what the service line plugs directly into. Routers are used distal to the modem, to share the connection around your house.

    If it’s the router, then any router will replace the broken one, and you can pick one up on eBay for twenty bucks. (Here in the US anyway.)

    Best,
    -j

  2. #2 "GrrlScientist"
    February 17, 2010

    hrm. it might be the modem. but we’ve only got one “box” that is plugged into the wall, so maybe the router and modem are one piece??

  3. #3 joshua
    February 17, 2010

    That’s possible, if it’s providing wireless access for the other computers in your house.

    But more likely it’s just the modem, and you’re running an ethernet cable from it into your computer.

    Check to see if it has a reset button. This is usually a tiny inset button, or hole, suitable for a pin or tiny screwdriver. Push in a pin, and hold it there for about twenty seconds. The lights on the front of the unit should flash off, and then on again. Then, unplug the unit, and plug it back in.

    If that doesn’t work, then completely shut down your computer and then start it back up again.

    Do you have ADSL internet (though the phone line), or cable internet?

    For future reference, Macs are a lot easier than windows to debug in situations like this.

    I tend to doubt that it’s broken. Those things don’t usually break. If you have to, then wait on hold on the phone and get someone on the line who can help you with the steps I outlined.

    best,
    -joshua

  4. #4 "GrrlScientist"
    February 17, 2010

    the “box” has an antenna, i don’t plug anything into it.

    i did the “reset” button (it’s a little thing on the back) and restarted by unplugging the box, (several times) and that didn’t work either. :(

  5. #5 joshua
    February 17, 2010

    What is plugged into the box? A cable or phone line, right?

    I’m starting to suspect the problem is Windows. Did you reboot the computer?

    Do you have another computer, like a laptop or iPhone, or anything with wifi? Can it connect to the network?

    -j

  6. #6 Rick Pikul
    February 18, 2010

    @Joshua:

    I don’t know about where you are, but around here it is the norm for the cable/DSL modem to be combined with a router as a single device.

    In fact, you have to go out of your way if you want a modem that does not include a router.

  7. #7 travc
    February 18, 2010

    Sadly, DSL modems do die. They are made to be cheap, not durable. I’ve had some problems with overheating as well.

    The service provider probably also has to ‘activate’ the modem… really they register a hardware identifier on the modem with the big-ass modem on their end it connects with. They may allow you to use your own modem, but a lot of companies force you to use their hardware (my suspicion is that T-mobile isn’t the most accommodating provider in this regard).

    Normally the lowest end ‘business’ plan will get you many orders of magnitude better customer support than even the priciest ‘consumer’ plan. You may want to look at the pricing, since it may actually be worth it.

  8. #8 joshua
    February 18, 2010

    @Rick,

    I’m in the US, so I guess that explains my confusion.

    A combined unit would seem to have more that can go wrong…

    She’s in the same building as the T-Mobile store. It’s a shame she can’t just get a password for their wireless network.

  9. #9 Ben Breuer
    February 19, 2010

    Yeah, “German efficiency” is a bit of a myth. (Though I’m glad it’s not just me who’s chronically inefficient and German.) Also, Telekom is notorious for being quite bureaucratic. It took us once about six weeks to get the internet running in our flat. I don’t have experience with any other providers here, but you might just check out 1&1, or others. Depending on what you need (web, phone, TV, …) there may be cheaper, and customer-friendlier, providers out there.

    I just hope that the negatives of living here are somewhat balanced by some positives. *looks out* Can’t be the weather today, though.

  10. #10 "GrrlScientist"
    February 19, 2010

    the T-Mobile people said the line is fine (after they figured out that calling the modem was the wrong thing to do; they should instead call one of us on our iPhones, which they also issued to us, sigh). they sent a new router/modem, so we shall see if it works. the pricing of the plan is .. not the cheapest plan available, but i forgot what it is (mostly, because it is in german and my understanding of the details is sketchy at best).

    still tagging along with spouse to his office, ho-hum.

    if T-Mobile situation was my only complaint about german efficiency, then i wouldn’t have much to complain about. however, i’ve been increasingly astonished at the astonishing inefficiency of germans and germany ever since i arrived three months ago. i could provide a list (and probably will, after i get my f#$@$!! wifi back!) that will amaze you. it’s almost like living in indonesia, except my command of the indonesian language is far better than my knowledge of german, and the birds are more interesting in indonesia than in germany.

  11. #11 joshua
    February 19, 2010

    Germans are bound to seem less efficient since it’s a European/quasi-socialist country. The state is always far less efficient than the free market, although there are good reasons for socialism as well.

    Grrlscientist, can your iPhones connect to your wifi router? Or are all of your computers and devices unable to connect?

  12. #12 Bob O'H
    February 20, 2010

    Germans are bound to seem less efficient since it’s a European/quasi-socialist countryy. The state is always far less efficient than the free market, although there are good reasons for socialism as well.

    t-Mobile isn’t part of the government. Neither are the contractors who work for Ikea.

    I do miss Finland (also a “socialist” country), where stuff like this was done efficiently.