Crossed Wires

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-06-27 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Some personal news, to take your mind off the News™: After much consternation, my flaky in-home internet is finally on a more even keel. The whole experience served as a reminder that sometimes, just sometimes, you gotta let a professional deal with things. Here's what happened.

For months on end, my internet connection had been stop-and-start, with my modem cycling and many sites lagging or slow to respond. Two weeks ago, the modem went entirely kaputt and I ran out on a Sunday morning to replace it. I figured it was all just the modem, since I'd switched from the rental job provided by the cable company to a hand-me-down from a friend. Hardware ages out, and its time had come.

The new modem worked, but wasn't noticeably better. Many things still lagged. The signal quality page on the modem itself indicated major issues. Fed up, I called for a tech to come out and look at everything.

The first thing they diagnosed was that, yes, the wire to the curb was in bad shape. In fact, it wasn't even the right kind of wire — it was conventional black coax, not the orange weatherproofed variety. How the heck did that happen? I asked. And then, before the question was even all the way out of my mouth, I remembered when I first moved here, they'd only just put the cable lines in, some of which were still exposed over the lawn, and someone (I think one of the dudes who maintains the back forty for the homeowners' association) ran over it with their mower and cut it clean. The techs then probably replaced it in a hurry with whatever was lying around.

Next thing checked: the T junction inside the house, another common point of failure. Sure enough, that too had gone bad, and it was duly replaced. After the tech verified signal on all the ports in the house, I ran some speed tests of my own and saw massive improvements across the board. We shook hands and parted ways.

Now, here's the thing. For months I had been convinced this was all a by-product of me not doing a better job of managing everything on the router side. Firmware upgrades; Bufferbloat patches; you name it. None of it worked, or only worked in the most provisional way. I suspect a big part of my resistance to calling for a cable guy was a) my own arrogance at assuming it was something I could solve (because it was also my fault), and b) my unwillingness to wait for hours in a phone queue for help. a) was something I had to overcome on my own; b) was quickly dispelled by my encounter with the magic known as callback technology.

Smart people with a do-it-yourselfer streak are, I find, prone to situations like this. They encounter a problem, and they think they know enough about it to fix it, even when a few minutes of close inspection would show the problem isn't really theirs to be responsible for. I am just wise enough to know not to do this with, say, my health, or my car — two things where I will happily default to a doctor or an auto mechanic. But teh interwebz is allegedly My Thing, so I ought to be the one to know how to unsnarl all of it. Right? Clearly not always. Sometimes you just gotta give up and sit on the phone and wait for someone.

Tags: technology