They Still Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To

Long-time readers will recall that slightly less than a year ago I finally replaced my venerable old Netgear RT314 router with a newer Netgear WGR614 v7 router.

Ever since then, I’ve been battling with an intermittent problem – the worst kind to debug. At seemingly random intervals, the router would reset itself – dropping my LAN connection (and of course any wireless connections) for a few seconds until it finished rebooting.

For a while, I thought it was my Internet connection dropping (and the router was just resetting to reconnect). There wasn’t much I could do about intermittent Internet connection problems (short of going with a different ISP)… but something didn’t seem right.

I wondered why the router would be resetting when the Internet connection was dropped. It seemed a little… unusual.

Since it was an intermittent problem, it was terribly difficult to diagnose. (When you can’t make a problem reoccur, it’s really hard to debug.) But eventually I realized it wasn’t the Internet – it was the router itself. (Coincidentally, it just reset while I was writing this post!)

I had heard horror stories from people that they had to reset their routers frequently, after a certain number of packets had been sent. But that didn’t seem to be the case here – sometimes, it would reset twice in a short period of time (less than an hour), and I knew I wasn’t sending that much data (I monitor my network usage).

It wasn’t terribly catastrophic in the grand scheme of things – it did, after all, work normally after a few seconds of disconnection. But it WAS annoying – and worse, it seemed to be interrupting my on-line backups with Mozy. Although Mozy can recover from Internet connection problems, when the router resets it literally powers off the LAN ports for a moment – causing Windows to react as if the network cable has been unplugged (and producing a message to that effect). This would wreak havoc with any long-term network connection, as you would imagine!

So finally I decided I had sufficient evidence to go to Netgear’s tech support with the problem. After the usual run-around from tech support (upgrade your firmware, reset all your settings back to the default, lather, rinse, repeat, etc.), they told me it must be a hardware problem.

So, now I’m facing returning my router – not a pleasant thought, as the usual routine is to return the defective device (at your own cost) and then wait a week or more while a replacement in shipped. In the meantime, you have nothing.

Although I could always fall back on my venerable old RT314, I now have a Nintendo Wii, which connects wirelessly, not to mention Amanda who works from home at times with her (obviously) wireless-connecting laptop. So no wireless in the house for a week or more was no good.

Fortunately, Netgear does offer a pre-ship option, where they’ll ship you the new unit first, and then you can return the broken one. You pay for it (for the shipping both ways), but it’s not too bad. And it prevents me from having to be without a (wireless) router for a week or more.

So that’s where we are today – the new router is on its way, and when it gets here I’ll return the one I have now. Then, we’ll see if this was just a fluke (a.k.a. bad quality control) or whether the overall quality of Netgear products has decreased from when I bought my old RT314.

I guess we’ll see…

Internet connection icon courtesy of the Crystal Icon Set.

UPDATE: The Saga Continues yet again…

Follow-Up on “Comcastic Support”

In a follow up to this post on my experience with Comcast Support, I have… good news!

I wrote in to Comcast this morning via their website because I was having some Internet trouble – it was being a bit flakey. I wrote to them telling them about my previous experience – which admittedly was probably due to the transition from my old cable provider, Patriot Media, to Comcast (which bought out Patriot Media).

This afternoon I got a call from a very nice lady at Comcast to follow up on my problem. I consider same-day callbacks to be much better than 3 days later!

Basically, she apologized for the problem and explained what was going on – what I had already guessed; namely that they are switching stuff around and that’s never perfect.

I asked about some sort of system to let customers know in advance when work like this will be performed – which apparently they have (it’s email based, which is less than ideal, but at least it’s something). Unfortunately they couldn’t use it in this case, because of the circumstances. (You try acquiring a company and all of its customers and then integrating them with your own systems and see how smoothly it goes.)

In short, I feel less ill-disposed towards Comcast than I did this morning – my flakey Internet even cleared up shortly after I called (apparently they were having issues in my area and were already working on it). Another case where some sort of “status” would have come in handy (maybe Comcast should have a blog or a twitter account?).

Is this a case of a company that’s actually changed its ways and has really committed itself to customer service? We’ll see… here’s hoping.

Comcastic “Support?”

Earlier this week, on Monday, I had some Internet trouble.

My ISP, Patriot Media, was recently bought out by that cable company everyone loves to hate, Comcast. On Monday, my Internet stopped working, and so I set about trying to figure out what went wrong.

I saw right away that it seemed as though my local (as in neighborhood) network had finally been switched over to Comcast’s network – the IP had changed to a totally different class A network, and as a further clue, the host name now said “comcast” instead of “patriotmedia.” OK – so why can’t I connect to anything?

I was getting the new IP address via DHCP, so I knew I was at least connected to Comcast – but I could not ping the DHCP, DNS, or Gateway IP addresses I was given. Very strange! So the problem must’ve been on their end.

Ugh. That means I have to call Comcast tech support and probably go through all my troubleshooting all over again.

Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. Even though I’d already done the whole “connect your computer directly to the cable modem” thing, they made me do it again. And again. I mean, I know why they make you do this, and I know that they’re probably told to ignore callers who say “I’m a tech person, I know what I’m doing” (which I did say, in not so few words), but still…

Anyway, they eventually said they’d have to escalate it (duh!) and would it be OK for a tech to call me back on this number? I said sure, made sure they had the phone number right (they did), and hung up.

Several hours later, with no Internet, I was going through withdrawal. Remember, I live on the Internet!

So I called back to get a status report – and they started making me go through the troubleshooting steps again! So I firmly asked for a status report, and they said, basically, “they’re working on it.”

To keep myself amused, I was periodically checking my ‘net connection, resetting my router and cable modem to see if I had connectivity. Finally, after 6 hours, the Internet came back to life and I was able to get back online.

Fast forward to today, and I get a call out of the blue. It was Comcast… calling to see if my Internet was working now.

For those who can’t count, that’s 3 days later they finally called to check in on me.

I guess you could say that this is what “Comcastic” really means – leave your customers hanging for 3 days before following up on something that you fixed 3 days earlier. If they keep using that word in their advertising, well… to quote a great movie, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

UPDATE: I have a follow-up post regarding this issue – and it’s good news!