Sometimes you’ll hear me groan or sob quietly when you describe a simple problem. Let me give you an idea of some of the things that go through my head when a problem comes up. Take this as an example:

slowinternet “My Internet connection is slow.”

Your Internet connection is fine; your computer is slow.

Your computer is running normally but it has malware installed that is using up all your bandwidth sending out spam email.

Your computer’s network card is going bad and needs to be replaced.

Your connection is saturated by another computer in the house that’s downloading movie torrents.

Your DSL line has some problem – line noise, static, or the like.

Your cable/DSL modem is going bad and needs to be replaced.

Your router is going bad and needs to be replaced.

There is something causing interference that affects your cable/DSL modem – an appliance, a cordless phone, or something outside the house.

Your DSL filters aren’t installed correctly – maybe the DSL line is filtered, maybe the voice lines aren’t.

You have a bad network cable somewhere – between the cable/DSL modem and the router or between the router and the computer.

The interesting thing is that I have personal experience with each and every one of those, so I know they aren’t theoretical possibilities. All too often there is no way to know where to start! Only one of them is likely to be the source of the problem, and it will look obvious in hindsight. I can gather clues from a lot of different places – I’ve learned a lot of tricks over the years so I’ll do things you wouldn’t think of to track down the problem. But make no mistake, computer problems can be elusive and maddeningly time consuming!

This is on my mind because I’m dealing with a troublesome DSL connection used by a small business with a simple Sonic DSL circuit (provisioned by AT&T). After two weeks and multiple visits and lots of time spent checking logs and working with Sonic, the business has a new network card in their server, a new router, a new DSL modem, and new CAT5e cables. Only after that work was done did we get to the point that Sonic could identify errors on the line justifying an AT&T service call. AT&T made its first visit and claimed to have identified and fixed the problem, but it was quickly apparent that things weren’t any better, so we’re waiting for a second AT&T visit. Hundreds of dollars in new equipment and fees for me to investigate, replace equipment, and deal with Sonic, and the problem is not solved.

Optimistic but frustrated. That describes how I feel often about technology. Sound familiar?

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