Idea for a new TV series - ‘When Ethernet cables go bad’ - A fascinating 60 minute documentary into the wide range of issues people have with wireless networks. The program would also include some ‘C’ list celebrities and a phone/text in competition to win something.
I have had a wireless network in my house for at least four years. Perusing the annals of this blog reveals that while I have experienced various, sporadic issues over this period, by and large, the wireless network has been pretty reliable with three PC’s, a laptop and an iTouch device using it without problems.
Most issues could be resolved simply by rebooting the router and cable modem or very occasionally traced to a broader problem with network connectivity from my ISP, Virgin Media.
Recently, my 7x24 Internet monitoring service known as my son came down into the lounge to watch TV. This normally means one thing - the Interweb is down and Call of Duty is missing one of their Lieutenants. And so it proved.
On this occasion, rebooting the router and modem didn’t resolve the problem and plugging a laptop into the cable modem proved that the lack of connectivity wasn’t due to Virgin Media.
A hard reset to the factory defaults and running an open network worked. For a while. Then the router dropped again. Installing the Linksys firmware to replace the open source and freedom loving Tomato software worked. Briefly. Then it broke again. Stubbornly the router reported ‘Could not renew lease.’. No matter how many times, or how hard, I hit the ‘Renew Lease’ button.
This state of affairs simply could not continue so after investigating a little on the Interweb, I reached the reluctant conclusion that my 5 year old Linksys wireless router was, in technical terms, broken.
Curiously, for me, I spontaneously decided to buy another Linksys router to replace it. A like for like replacement. Subconsciously, despite the unit failing, I still viewed Linksys as reliable and found myself strangely reluctant to try another make and model.
I quickly shopped around and purchased a Linksys WRT54GL and, to my surprise, found it slightly cheaper at ebuyer.com than my usual preference for online purchases - Amazon. The router arrived the next day and I was able to quickly configure the network again as the family gathered expectantly inquiring ‘Can I play Call of Duty yet ?’, ‘When can I check my email ?’ and ‘Listen - I need to get on Facebook now.’
Everything ran smoothly and everyone was deliriously happy. For 8 days until Norman Junior III came down into the lounge to watch TV again. After a period of 8 full days without watching any TV or speaking to us.
‘Is it down again ?’ ‘Yeah - I rebooted both boxes and my PC can see the router but the router can’t access the Internet.’
Back upstairs to stare at the Administration screens and the worryingly familiar ‘Can not renew IP address’ message. This time, I installed the Tomato firmware which worked briefly. I then reverted to the Linksys firmware as I prepared to raise the problem with Linksys technical support. But I didn’t need to as, after resetting to the factory defaults and reconfiguring, it worked. Internet access was restored. Everyone was happy and didn’t thank me. For a couple of days.
This loss of connectivity was now a complete mystery and now starting to get very irritating. Brand new router. Sporadically failing. My son and I stared at the blue box with the flashing lights and the contents of the new router box looking for the sentence on ‘Troubleshooting’.
Norman Junior broke a rather stony and tense silence: ‘What’s that blue cable ?’ ‘Oh - it’s just an Ethernet cable that came with the router.’ ‘Maybe that would work better as it’s brand new.’ ‘It won’t be that. These problems are not caused by an Ethernet cable. They either work or they don’t.’
‘What’s the harm in trying it though ? We haven’t got any other ideas, have we ?’ So I exhaled loudly, sighed, threw in a couple of expletives and switched the original grey Ethernet cable supplied all those years ago by Virgin Media with a shiny, new, slightly shorter blue Ethernet cable.
And lo and behold, the blue Ethernet cable worked. Access to the wireless was restored. The bloody Internet worked. Perfectly. For 3 weeks, 4 days and 17 hours and counting. Rock solid.
He’s a bloody genius, my son.
And the elephant in the room - the original ‘failed’ Linksys WRT54G router sitting up on top of the wardrobe, taunting me, calling to me, nagging away at me like a dripping tap. The temptation to switch back to the original router and try it with the blue Ethernet cable is one I have been able to resist. So far.