jeudi 5 avril 2012


Earlier this week, I drove down to my parents' house to secretly set up a wi-fi network for them.

The short version: it's never as easy as you think it's going to be.

The (really) long version:

My parents were away on vacation, and during the trip, my dad surprised my mom with a laptop. Apparently she was always saying she wished she could check her email/Facebook while lying in bed or on the couch, instead of in their home office. Which you definitely need a laptop for... But then again, you also need wi-fi.

So anyway, knowing them, they would have probably paid to have someone set up the network for them instead of just waiting for me to come over and do it for free. ("Oh, Kim, you're always so busy, we didn't want to bother you...") I figured I'd just drive down while they were away, plug everything in, and drive back home. Easy as pie. Should be in and out in half an hour. Right? Wrong.

First of all, I couldn't find their modem. I thought, ok, maybe they just have an internal modem--so I hooked up the router directly to the computer. I was hopeful during the setup, but then at the very last step, it said "setup failed." Darn it! Would have been too easy! I backtracked through the installation wizard and thought that maybe they had a PPPoE connection. That would mean I would need their Internet username and password. Uh oh. My parents aren't organized enough to keep that kind of information in a well-located binder. Maybe I could convince their ISP to give it to me? Hmm. Worth a shot...

So I called their ISP, only to be told that they were "experiencing higher than normal call volumes." Of course. I stayed on the line for half an hour before someone answered and told me that, because of the Privacy Act, they couldn't give me any information about the account. Argh! But can't you see I'm calling from their phone line? And I can give you their birthdates, middle names, whatever! Nope, he wasn't budging. All he told me was that he didn't think it was PPPoE connection; just using the "dynamic IP" option for the router should work. Great.

By this time I was completely frozen. It was probably only about 2 or 3 degrees in my parents' house, and even if I had kept my jacket on this whole time, my hands were completely numb. I needed to find a solution--fast. I actually contemplated just unplugging the router and leaving it there for them to install themselves. But then I started imagining trying to coach my dad on how to plug it in, what to say to the ISP... no, I didn't want him to have to deal with that.

So I swallowed my pride and called my favourite IT guru. He told me that hooking up the router the way I did should be fine, as long as I was able to reset the modem. Shoot. But I can't find the modem! I think they have rural satellite Internet... could that mean that their modem is outside somewhere? But that doesn't make sense! So after getting me to comb the house from top to bottom ("did you look there? what about there?"), my friend suggested a somewhat drastic measure: if I could just cut off the power, then no matter where the modem was, it would be reset.

What the heck. Last resort, I might as well try it. So down I go to the breaker panel in the basement. I grab the master breaker and use all my strength to push it over to "off". Ok, that worked. Now I'm plunged into total darkness, with my hand still on the master breaker. Now to turn it back on... oh, crap. I'm pushing against it with all my strength and it's just not budging. I can't get it back into the "on" position. I awkwardly scramble up onto the chest freezer that's pushed up against the panel, keeping one hand on the breaker, above my head. If I lose it, I'll never find it again in the dark. Why didn't I grab a flashlight first?! With both hands, I push with all my strength. Phew! Done! The power comes back on.

That's when my heart starts thudding in my chest as I realize what kind of trouble I would have been in if I wouldn't have been able to turn it back on. I imagine my parents coming home to rotting food in the fridge and freezer... Man, that was a close call.

So back upstairs I go to the computer. Please work, please work. Oops, I forgot to turn the computer off before turning the power off. It takes about 15 minutes for it to boot back up because it "wasn't shut down properly." I'm hoping I didn't fry the motherboard... that would be just my luck. It's late now and I just want to go home.

Finally, I launch the router installation wizard again. I wait impatiently for the last step...

And it WORKS!!!

I immediately email my friend to triumphantly let him know that his trick worked. Phew!

I scribble the password onto a piece of paper and leave it out for my parents to find (with instructions on how to connect to a wi-fi network, just in case).

Done and done. I hope they liked their surprise.

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