Monday, January 30, 2012

"Now a word from our sponsor"

"Hi, I'm Budd Bailey, and I'd like to tell you about my favorite router..."

This advertisement, by the way, has nothing to do with fans.

Last week my laptop computer started acting oddly. The wireless connection seemed to be fine, but no Internet pages were popping up on my browser. This was not good news considering I was sending a story via e-mail to my newspaper on deadline. I figured out a way to get the type into the office, and then started to try to solve the problem.

I plugged in my laptop to a DSL line. I used a virus scan and a computer cleaner. I took it to the local computer store and asked for helped. They couldn't find anything wrong with the way the machine was working, and suggested a router problem ... which since I had used two different ones in two cities wasn't the best piece of advice I had ever received.

My laptop was at least 3.5 years old at that point, and probably more. I bought it used, and pages were slow to come up as it was. Flush (note: this is a relative term) with a signing bonus from my union contract at work, I dove into the computer market.

On Saturday, I came home with a spiffy new laptop. They sure have gotten lighter in a few years. We also decided to enter the 21st century in at least one way (note: this is from someone who doesn't think DVR's are worth the money as long as my VCR's work) by getting a router for Wi-Fi.

So, I brought home a router with the laptop. I had two choices at Office Depot, and one was from D-Link. It also was the simplest, since I didn't need many bells and whistles.

Once I got the laptop up and running a bit, I opened the box for the D-Link router and started to install it. When the CD Wizard started the process, it told me that it had detected another router in the computer and asked if I wanted to replace it. This wasn't true; I've never had one. But, I clicked on the button that said I wanted to replace the old one. I made it to Step Five of the seven-step process. Then things broke down, and I was informed that I should start all over again. I did, a couple of times.

Eventually, I went to the small manual that came with the computer. The instructions for starting the router are pretty simple, plugging in some wires in and out of the modem, but the instruction book and the wizard actually seemed to disagree on what went where. I made executive decisions on what went where, and got it working. The additional steps for configuration, etc., were also complicated and got me lost quickly. I was close to being ready to throw it all out. But at least I had a network.

Sort of.

On Sunday, I suddenly got an error message saying that some sort of new hardware was causing problems and that I should get rid of it if I got the message again. Otherwise, the computer probably would blow up. I jest, but not by much.

On Monday, my wife got that error message. I was convinced; time to start over.

I took the unit back to Office Depot, exchanged the unit for a slightly more expensive Linksys model, and took it home. I started the CD, and the questions and updating of software followed in a logical, reasonable way. I was done with everything in about 15 minutes in a stress-free manner. Best ten dollars I've spent in a long, long time.

If you see me on television doing ads for Linksys, now you'll know why.

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