Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The ISP files

I am not attacking the ISP here, only recording what lunacy there is in the ISP / tech world in general.

This is a true story that takes place from 9:30-10:30pm Jan 5, 2009.

No Tech "geeks" have been harmed in the writing of this story and the names have been intentionally left out to protect the ignorant or innocent – you decide.

I don't have this kind of issue as I run Linux. See, its pretty simple to keep stuff running when you don't have the worry of viruses and other malware eating your systems and bandwidth.

Jeff Hatfield

It all started on a dark, Sunday night with issues of no to spotty Internet connectivity. And it happens to the best of us. After a long, drawn out battle between my Sidux laptop and the update/upgrade repos from which I was pulling massive quantities of data, I noticed my wife's Ubuntu system was not upgrading. Oh, forgot that I started it upgrading to Ubuntu 8.10, also loads of downloads (1200 or so).

The connection just was not there. No matter how many times I rebooted the router. Ok, so the sync light was still lit on the modem - and blinking furiously. I didn't think it would ever be the modem with that light so busy.

I unplugged the modem, waited 10 seconds, hooked it back up and ... yep. Slow blinking sync light. Damn it all. So I rebooted the modem, then the router... still no sync light.

Go to bed around 1:30 after screwing around with the damn thing...

... notice the lack of sleep here. I got up at 6am an started to check it out... Ok, hooked LAN cable direct to my firewalled Ubuntu laptop. Yeah, I'm not stupid and I know Linux is great for security, otherwise I'd be in the dark ages of the Intarweb tubes, all hosed up by Windows.

The connection works ok from the modem to my Laptop without issue. Run as root of course - ifconfig eth0 down, dhclient eth0 ... get an IP address that is a ISP IP. Good, so I restart the router, hook it back up and low and behold it gets a proper IP, DNS and Gateway settings from the ISP.

So I trudge off to work to enjoy my Linux geek job with servers... I love it! I'm doing some, errum work on a Windows desktop. Before you berate me for this, know that like many good Linux admins, I'm forced to use Windows for email and web surfing - when I get a call from home... "the Internet is down again" what can we do?? I know the family did nothing to the connection.

I think this time its the ISP completely, but I race over to OfficeDepot just minutes before they close, buy a nice Linksys CM100 modem and race home to hook it up. Before I hook it up, I see the old one, is still without cable sync. Crap.

I sit down at my Ubuntu laptop, hook direct to the modem and call the ISP.

Now if you thought above was entertaining, this will have you knowing full well ISPs suck at tech support!

I tried to get to the Intarweb with Firefox via the wired eth0 and get directed to an internal page. Whoa! What an improvement over 5yrs ago when I signed on and had the nice, yet clueless lady hook me up over the phone - another story I'll save for later. The page informs me that I need Internet Explorer to continue with the "Self Install". Ok, so I try the link and of course it fails and keeps prompting me for IE. Life is not that simple people! Make things work without ActiveX, please?

So on to the phone call. After a short bit on hold, I get a guy who seems to understand I have a new modem, yet he mentions “I see you've called recently due to a problem connecting.” “Yes,” I say. “I now have a new modem to get setup on your network.”

He can help he says and is polite, yet not too sure of himself. I say, “you need the model & serial number and most likely the MAC address. These are always entered into the DHCP server for the ISP. I know this much as I have worked in IT for ages.” I say, “you might even be able to see that it is hooked up”, but no. Sounds like he's searching for some answer for a minute, maybe he is typing in what I've told him, then says "Yes, I need that information including the MAC address.” I proceed to give this information to him using NATO standard call-outs to make sure it was interpreted correctly. He repeats the information back to me and I'm happy he got it right the first time.

"Ok", he says. "Ok" again and he resets the modem to "provision" it to work on their network as he puts it. I see its lights flash off/on knowing it has just power cycled to get an IP. Good I think. Now it might be close to working and finally I can get on with life. You guessed right. Nope. I tried to renew the IP address by usual means and get the same internal IP from WTF? "Hey, this is nuts" I say to him.

He tries yet again and again and again to reset it.

He's getting down to "Let us schedule a tech to come to your house." Oh, no not that failed mode of help. I don't want that so I try one more last resort thing - No, don't shoot me. I'm trusting some of you have a windows box lying around for games, especially if you have kids who know there are superb games like spore, indiana jones lego adventures, etc..

So over to the windows desktop to hook up the modem direct. Now I'm not stupid even if I run windows. The guy asks me if I have a firewall running on the box. I play a little dumb and say, "well, just the windows firewall", which is true enough. I also have Avast Antivirus and don't let it expire.

Yes, you know the rule and stick to it, but I'm out on a limb with a sharp stick poking me... and I'm wondering just a little if their bad DHCP server will do better with what it "knows". I humor the guy and disable the firewall. ... Boom, windows gets an IP address, and no, it is not the correct one I was hoping for.

I immediately enable the firewall and the guy asks if I have Antivirus on it too. Of course I do, I say. He asks, "so what kind of antivirus to you have?" I say Avast. Well, he says that is a firewall too and it would block you getting an IP address.

Ok, at this point I know the guy is grasping at straws, camels or twiddling his fingers wondering wtf to do.

I really don't want someone touching my network unless they are qualified, so I resort to the old modem. I say let me try the old modem first, ok? He's like ok, but his answer is a little doubtful that it would work at all. I try and it works the first time and makes Windows happy.

Within 10 seconds I have a new IP address on the windows box and have the file to proove it. He's like, "man, that should not have happened. What was that IP addreess again??" I tell him IP, DNS and GW and he's taken aback and says, "no way that should work. I have not provisioned that modem to be on the network." I'm thinking, Errum, dude you never took it off from what it sounds like, which means my new one will never get an IP address since their DHCP only allows for one IP address associated per account unless otherwise noted...

He says hold on, the asks “you said the IP address is working with the old modem?” Yes I say and it is this... and gave him that information. He says no, this is not right. He asks to put me on hold and goes away for 3-4 minutes to find someone to talk to or maybe just get a drink of water?

When he comes back, “We need to get someone to check on this and insists I have a “technician” come out.” Oh great I think... the fun begins again tomorrow!


Now that I'm writing this all down for your pleasure or pain, let me find another cable and hook it up to the new modem too!! Who knows, maybe I'll have two lines and double the bandwidth??