August 8, 2011

Another technical problem? Must be a day with a “y” in it

Filed under: Administrivia, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 21:44

Last week, you’ll recall that I was bewailing the failings of the Microsoft Windows Easy Transfer utility. Having given up on that and managed the transfer of files by the traditional tools of Brute Force and Ignorance (BF&ITM), I thought I was done.

All the necessary files now reside on the new laptop, and the old laptop has been dedicated to a new life as a genealogy workstation for Elizabeth. Today’s problem was network connectivity.

But not just network connectivity for the laptop, as I discovered when I tried turning on my desktop machine a little while ago.

At some point while we were away, the wireless router seems to have had some hiccoughs, because now it seems to imagine that it’s actually two separate machines. When I tried to connect to the internet this morning (from the new laptop), it insisted that I was connected to both a public network and our own named private network. But because it thought the public network was the primary, it refused to actually interact with our named network. It took several iterations of running diagnostics and power-cycling the router before the phantom “public” network disappeared and I was able to connect to the internet normally.

This evening, I had a similar problem with my desktop, except that my desktop machine is connected by ethernet cable, not wireless. That phantom “public” network re-appeared, and nothing I could do would get rid of it. The physical connections were fine, but nothing could persuade my desktop that it actually had a connection to the router and it was unable to get an IP address.

Having just bought a new laptop, I’m hoping that these symptoms do not imply that I need to also buy a new router, as you can imagine.


  1. Nicholas,
    Sorry to hear about your tech gremlins. Lately it seems I’ve been buying routers and switches in bulk for my home/office network, so as somebody once said, “I feel your pain.”

    You’d never know it by looking at our property, but we straddle a bit of a ridge between two local watersheds. While this is great for avoiding floods, it’s not so great in terms of avoiding lightning strikes. We’ve been lucky enough to avoid any direct hits, but it seems that WiFi and long runs of Cat5 cable are great for picking up some sort of induced current (or EMP?) when we get a ground strike anywhere within about 1,000 feet of our property. The electrical side of the router, switches and access points are all UPS/surge protected, and every bit of the Cat5 still works fine, so that only leaves indirect surges through the ethernet.

    With the crazy weather this summer, we’ve had thunderstorms twice a week on average. I’ve seen ground strikes at less than 100 yards maybe 5-6 times, and performed the third round of switch replacements just last Friday. Needless to say, I opted for the extended replacement warranty on the first round, so that helps, and after the second round, I bought a full set of spares so I can do a swap out without interrupting the workday for a trip to the store.

    But enough about my troubles.

    The best thing you can do to minimize network headaches is to assign IP addresses for any hardware that spends most of its time connected to your network, and leave DHCP for devices that come and go (200’s for manual IPs and 100’s for DHCP). Next trick is whenever a simple router restart doesn’t help, power everything down, modem, router, access point, desktops, laptops, everything. Wait about 10 minutes, and then starting at the modem, power on the devices one at a time in the same order as their distance from the modem.

    If any one device is doubling up on networks as described, or being generally troublesome, delete the connection(s)on that device, reboot, then set up a fresh connection on that device.

    I’m no expert wrt networks, but lightning aside, I’ve had pretty good luck keeping a PC/Mac network with WiFi, NAS and a few network printers mostly behaving as desired for about 10 years now. I do have to perform the whole-network cold-boot about 3-4 times per year, and across roughly 10 machines I’ll need to lobotomize a device’s connection(s) maybe twice per year (total, not per machine).

    Best of luck,


    Comment by Tom Kelley — August 8, 2011 @ 22:51

  2. Thanks for the detailed suggestions. I’m a lazy home network administrator, so I was hoping to avoid having to be more hands-on in the network configuration department. It’s possible that the router has taken some damage, as we’ve had some really dramatic thunderstorms over the last two weeks, but it’s weird that only some of the machines connecting to it have problems. However, the router itself is a few years old, so maybe it’s just due to be rotated out of active use.

    Comment by Nicholas — August 8, 2011 @ 23:42

  3. TK,

    Is your wiring grounded? In my youth I was an IT jack-of-all-trades, spent some time running coax cables, back when that was the hip and happening thing. Spent a lot of time on field exercises ramming grounding rods into the earth, that’s for sure.

    I seem to recall that grounding cable runs was a good thing, that an ungrounded run of wire was also a great antenna.

    Comment by Brian Dunbar — August 9, 2011 @ 01:48

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress