Desperately seeking broadband
Web Informant #189, 18 February 2000
One of the issues with broadband cable Internet access is how difficult it can be for the ordinary human to connect. Here is a report from a friend of mine in his quest for getting high-speed Internet service in his home here on Long Island.
The promise of cable's lightning speed on the net hooked me. And once I saw the TV ad of a child linking a cable coax to a cable modem and PC, I knew I had to have it. However, my actual experience with getting Cablevision's Optimum Online Internet service was anything but child's play.
Now I'm fairly adept when it comes to my PC. I can e-mail file attachments, make simple adjustments in my system files, and regularly install and uninstall programs and hardware. We even had a cable drop in the room where our PC is located, so I didn't have to mess with any home wiring issues.
It started out smoothly enough. I went to the cable service center, signed up, paid for the modem and some software. I also needed an Ethernet card and since I have an older PC with Windows 95, the Cablevision sales person recommended I use an ISA card. "Older systems work better with ISA," he told me. Great.
The only trouble was they didn't have any ISA Ethernet cards. So I left with my modem and went elsewhere for my card.
At the local Staples, they were also out of ISA cards. A young salesman convinced me to try the PCI card. Bad move. When I got home and got the card installed, Windows didn't detect the card. So I thought maybe if I install the Cablevision software it will find my card. Nope. Midway through the install, I got a message saying the system needed a file from "Windows 95 Disk 19." WHAT? Oh well. Time to call Strom in for help.
He suggested I move the card to another PCI slot. His diagnosis: "Sometimes on older PC's, one slot is better than the other." On the Web site from the card maker, I had seen a posting about that. And granted my machine was old - three years and a 200 MHz HP. So I opened the case, carefully moved the card and rebooted. Nada. My temperature was starting to rise, and I was beginning to wonder about that kid in the TV ad. I called the cable support line and waited on hold for 15 minutes. They told me I needed to use THEIR card and gave me a list of other cable service center locations in my area - with the next closest being 45 minutes away. Back to Strom.
He had an old ISA card lying around and he offered to install and configure it if I brought the PC over. "Now I'll get this thing going," I told myself.
He plugged the card in, went into DOS and entered various codes and addresses manually. I just was a spectator, and hoped he wasn't going to scramble my machine completely. We reboot and the system profile says the card is fully functional. And we easily hook up my PC to his office network and browse around the Internet at warp speeds. YES!! I raced home, plugged in the PC, connected it to the cable modem and
no display lights on the modem. Hmmm. A call to cable tech support confirms that my brand new modem is dead right out of the box and I would have to go back to exchange it. My blood was beginning to boil.
Back to the cable service center, stand on line, get the swap done, and come home with renewed hope for success. By now I have paid for a few days of service that I couldn't use, but I wasn't about to fight that little battle with them. At this point, I just wanted to get everything working.
I reinstall the modem, boot up and we have plenty of blinking lights
praise the tech gods. Click on Internet Explorer and a message appears telling me "server not found". NOW WHAT?? I didn't want to call tech support again and wait on hold, but what options did I have? I finally got through and retold my tale of woe. By now my patience was wafer thin
I knew I needed this guy's help, but I just wanted to reach into the phone and tear his head off! We went through the whole nine yards
TCP/IP settings, etc. Of course, he told me my machine was configured properly, but I knew that already. We even swapped Ethernet cables with a spare I had just in case.
Finally, he says, "It makes no sense, the card your friend gave you was installed correctly. The only thing I can think is that since you didn't use the card we provided, it's not compatible." HE didn't make any sense, given that it was working and we went online with it at Strom's office! By now my blood WAS boiling
after all, THEY set me up for this debacle, it had spanned over a weekend and a couple of nights fussing after work, and now they were telling me to go back to square one? A call to the cable center gave me hope
they had just gotten a new supply of ISA cards. My savior hardware was in!! The next day I got one, plugged it in, and installed the software. There was the message again
"Can't find file off floppy, insert Windows 95 Disc19." Not knowing what to do, I skipped the file and continued the install
the card didn't work. I had no alternative but to call cable tech support (again!). I felt like we were on a first name basis at this point. I retold my story and was wishing I had stayed with my painfully slow but reliable dial-up service.
Tech support asked if I installed the operating system myself or if it came with the PC. "Factory install", I told him. He said, "It appears it was done without these files which are necessary for the card to work. On a newer PC, the system would find them. You'll have to add them from your original Window 95 CD-ROM". Thank goodness I'm a packrat because inside the PC box in the attic were the software disks. I uninstalled the software (yet again) and reinstalled with the CD-ROM loaded. BINGO! The card was fully functional and Web sites were loading in the blink of an eye! Was all this worth it? No doubt. But as for the ease of installation, all bets are off.
Not everyone knows someone like Strom they can call for computer counseling. And the more projects like this I have, the more I wonder if I'll wear out my welcome with him. [Not to worry.] I'm thinking about a home network next.
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Web Informant copyright 2000 by David Strom, Inc., reprinted by permission
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