Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Router this.

In my family, I'm known as the Router Maven. I've set up more routers and wireless networks than I can count over the past 6 or 7 years, mostly for my kids when they've moved into their apartments or at my office. I didn't ask for this job. It came to me by default. Whenever this had to be done, I'd turn around to see if there were any other volunteers brave enough to make the attempt and I'd find myself standing alone in the room, the blinking modem and a shrink-wrapped box my only companions. So I would set to work. And over the years, I've become the go-to person when those installed routers stopped routing. The text messages that read, "my router died" are my worst nightmare.

For a piece of equipment that is so ubiquitous today, you would think that one company would package the thing with instructions that are easy to follow and written in English. What's that you say? They are written in English?? You could have fooled me. It's English only if you understand techno-gibberish.  Even the "Quick Start" instructions are anything but simple. Oh, yes, the yellow cable goes from modem to router. And even though it's a "wireless" router, to set it up, you have to be tethered into the modem with a cable. So that wire goes into the first connection...then power everything up in some arcane sequence that if you don't follow exactly will lead to the destruction of life on Earth as we know it, and then and only then, do you get to insert the "Start Up Disk." This is where the fun starts. What the heck is the difference between PPoE and DNS and DHCP. Or is that DHL? Or UPS? And what is an 811.g? N, G, Broad or Dual band? I don't think we're talking music here.  Do I want my channels on automatic, or should I guess which one my wireless X-Box playing neighbor is not on at any given time and choose one myself? Do I want my lease to renew automatically? Do I want WPS, WPA (I thought that was a depression-era work program) WEP 1, 2 or maybe even 3? Is a 45 character password acceptable? And even reproducible? And speaking of those 45 characters, don't forget to copy them down correctly (case sensitive too) before you click continue because if you don't... You. Are. Screwed.

Deep breath here.

Once the signal is up and running, and you can cut the umbilical cord to the modem and are floating free in the ether, you now have to get your computer to find the signal, and enter that 45 character password. I wonder how many times I've successfully done that on the first attempt.  If I had to guess, the answer would be, well, none. But eventually, and after numerous attempts to enter those  digits and letters, I've finally done it correctly (0 and O look a lot alike when scribbled on a post-it note) and, like magic, the network icon appears.

So now, the networks I've created stretch all the way from Central Pennsylvania to Manhattan, with a stop in Central Jersey (and my trusty Apple Airport Extreme-small plug there).  But the fun never ends. After about six months of blissful peace, those aforementioned text messages start rolling in. I have no idea why anyone would think it's possible to troubleshoot via text message, so invariably, I pick up the phone and call whichever one of my kids needs help. And honestly, while I can usually figure out how to get a router re-connected (at the same time, praying it's the cable company's issue) the pain of doing so is akin to the proverbial bamboo shoots under the fingernails. You get the idea. I'm successful about 95% of the time, despite the fact that the software for these routers is long gone ( works great in a pinch).  I've never had to call a router manufacturer to speak to a customer service rep who would undoubtedly have trouble understanding a word I say from his or her perch 6000 miles away. I consider myself lucky.

So there it is; my one latent technical talent that my friends have no idea I possess.  While I have yet to meet more than one or two routers that have totally defeated me, in the end, a few back-ups are available. One is a paper clip and the tiny reset button. The other is my credit card and Best Buy.


  1. Thank you for holding my hand as I set up my AirPort Express. Too bad you didn't stop me from sitting on that install disk. Otherwise, it was a flawless experience...

  2. Could you tell me why I can't figure out how to set up a password for my wireless because I've tried about everything and I'm sure the entire neighborhood is piggybacking me. :-P

  3. If there is anyway for you to get into your security settings on your router (try typing in your browser bar or (this number depends on what router you have DLink for the former, Netgear for the latter, I believe) or use the software that came with your router. Once you get into your router settings (you may have to enter user name: admin and password: password, if those were not set at start up. Click through until you get to your security settings. Then choose which level you want and get the password. Is your head spinning yet?

    You can google your router's manual and find the correct info for your model there. It's easier to do it on initial set-up, but not impossible after the fact.

  4. Or just put the paper clip in the little hole and start all over again.

  5. I'll try again. I just hate it sooooo much.