Monday, November 3, 2008

My Weekend

My friend Evan just summed me up in three sentences.  In person, not in his blog.  I just felt like giving him a link.  Go SEO.

Anywho, this is what he had to say about me, and it's all true.  My wife will attest.
  1. I wear every single emotion on my sleeve.
  2. I never know when I'm depressed.
  3. Finances stress me out more than anything else.
#2 up there is certainly the oddest, but it's absolutely true.  The biggest clue for me is that I get tired all the time but I never actually get any sleep, but since I routinely get bizarre bouts of insomnia, even this will usually go on for a week or so before I realize that I haven't smiled in days and that people keep asking me what's wrong.  After I figure out that I'm depressed I'll start trying to figure out why.  That's right, I get bummed, often for a reason, and I have to mull over what that reason might be--and this too can take a couple of days for me to get sorted.  Evan has figured out that if you get a couple of beers in my and start asking me about life in general, then I can usually hone in on it.  So...

So I had a crappy weekend fighting computers and my ISP.  Actually, the "crappy" started last Monday, when I had to drop a pile of money on my car that wasn't in the budget.  So finances have been a little tight until payday (which is today, thankfully) and with rent looming and what-not, I've been a little less-than-cheery.  It hasn't been debilitating, but it certainly has been stressful.  Then on Tuesday we upgraded our DSL, but things didn't seem to be going any faster all week, so Saturday morning I cycled the router (which flushed out the cache) and found myself being re-directed to a screen telling me that my modem needs to be provisioned.  Some ISP's call that a "walled garden" state--I don't know if AT&T uses that terminology, though.  This does not instill a great deal of confidence in AT&T for me--that they could wall up my modem but that it would still work for five or six days because no one had bothered to tell my router that it wasn't supposed to work.

Anyway, I called up AT&T and talked to some guy (whose English is quite good, I don't mind saying) who helped me get up and running, but it involved re-hooking things up at the modem and bypassing our router (we're a wi-fi household) and giving out lots of personal information that I wasn't too keen on sharing and that, furthermore, they should already have on file somewhere.  At last it was up and going, so I hooked the router back up and...

Nothing.  We could connect to the network, but the router and the modem didn't seem to be talking to each other.  But at that point I had to drop everything and go spend 3-1/2 hours at work (leaving Abby internet-less until I got back).  Finally, around dinnertime, I got home and began troubleshooting again.  The usual stuff wasn't working--power cycles, etc.  The computers acknowledged the router.  The router acknowledged the modem, but the modem wasn't registering that there was any activity.

I needed to get into the router's gateway to mess with the settings that way, but I couldn't remember the login.  I tried everything.  I actually found out what it was supposed to be, but that didn't work, so I broke down and called up D-Link's technical support at $32.99/half-hour.  Which did not help my stress-level, I assure you.  Within the half-hour this-may-or-may-not-work-but-we're-charging-you-anyway "consultation", we worked through the problem and got the router and modem talking to each other again.  For ten minutes or so on any given machine.  This was goddamned perplexing: we had our Roku box and like three computers all using the wi-fi, and each one would get kicked off after ten minutes, but the others would all work just fine.

So I dug back into router settings and bridged it to the modem using the PPPoE login and password I'd set up with AT&T earlier.  That's right, in order to upgrade my service from slow DSL to faster DSL, I had to create an e-mail address I'll never remember, let alone use, and another password.  This took care of the signal drops, but it creates the new problem: any time the router gets turned off (and re-booting the modem and router is trouble-shooting 101, so it happens not infrequently) or even if the power goes out, the router has to be re-bridged.  It will keep the login information, but you have to tell it that there's internet out there--go find it!

And Jesus, but isn't the appeal of broadband that you can just plug into it and it's on?  It doesn't need to be more secure for the same reason that you don't password protect wired routers--the cable is the security.  Throw a key on your wi-fi, sure, but why on earth do I need a password to use a service that can only be accessed by plugging a specific modem into a specific wall-socket?

On Sunday we swapped out Abby's old PC with a new one, having moved all of her vital files to an online dropbox so we could retrieve them later (it was just south of a Gig, too much to burn to a single CD, too much to put on our measly little flash drive, too much for an e-mail, but well under the 2G dropbox limit).  So we set up the new computer with a fresh build of Windows XP (which I had purchased new) and plugged it into the router.

Nothing.

Dammit.

I futzed around with it and figured out that the drivers for the ethernet card weren't installed.  Okay, that's a hassle to fix, but not insurmountable: open up computer to get part number, find driver online on other computer, burn to a disk and transfer over (inserting pronouns and indefinite articles when needed).  Solved.  Then Abby started installing the software she wanted on it--iTunes, Gimp, Firefox, AVG, OOo, etc when Windows gives us an authentication notice.  It believes that our copy of Windows (which was purchased new, mind you) may be counterfeited.  We dig a little further and find out that the authentication key that came with our software if valid, just not for our location.

This is outrageous.  I've used computers with hacked or cracked copies of Windows in the past and never had a problem, but when I buy a legitimate stand-alone copy, it turns into freaking nag-ware--not because our copy is invalid, but because it's not valid enough!

So I've got to deal with that.  Microsoft wants me to pay $150 for a new version of XP (actually, they'd probably much rather I pay $300 for Vista, but that ain't happening--I refuse to pay that much for broken software).  And to top all that off, the other computer that Abby uses is my 3-year-old iBook G4, and it's starting to get some bizarre disk-space drain in the System partition.  I'm probably going to have to re-format the entire computer to fix it, which means moving around and backing up the 16-odd gigs of crap I've got stored there.  Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ!

I had a plan for the weekend: sleep in, play some StarCraft, watch a movie or two, maybe do some writing, get Abby's new computer hooked up.  So much for plans.  But today's payday, so that stressor will be abated, and even though it nags, the new computer at least works.  Other problems will get solved and in the end, this will have been nothing but an entertaining blog post.  And then there's the election tomorrow: in which Obama will bulldoze the GOP and I'll finally have a president I support (yeah, I was raised conservative, so I was no fan of Clinton--but I was liberalized by college just enough to be a Gore supporter in 2000; then the next 8 years happened).  So that's a freaking first.

And I may become an uncle sometime today.  So things will get better.  They always do.

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