This Space for Rent

Ahhh, customer support

The connection we've got from home to the outside line is via a cablemodem, which we put in sometime over 7 years ago when @home was still in business. Since the @home tech came out to "install" the modem -- a process that involved the following conversation:

tech: umm, you're not running Windows, right?
Orc: right. I'm running FreeBSD on this machine.
tech: Okay, well, I'm not going to touch your machine. Here's a copy of the worksheet; you'll find what you need to connect to our network
we've been running with the same modem, the same ethernet card, and the same ethernet cable. Most of the time it's been hunky dory, except for one teeny problem; a lot of the Windows machines on my network segment appear to be infested with viruses that spend all of their time busily scanning the entire @home/at&t/comcast address space for new Windows machines to infest. The modem is a fairly stupid bridging modem, and it's always suffered from the interesting misfeature of if it gets too many arp requests (and/or random windows network gunk) tossed at it, it goes catatonic and wants to be rebooted (which is usually not a problem, because before that happens connectivity through the cable segment has reached the sort of enthusiastic opaqueness that the earth provides for radiation from the sun.)

In the pasts few months, the modem has been locking up more and more, and, more annoyingly, when I give it the big red reset, it spends a lot of time trying to fight through the virus-ridden neighborhood to even establish a carrier. So I wrote to customer support, saying "your network is having connectivity troubles in the evenings and on weekends. There seems to be a lot of traffic that looks like viruses attempting to reproduce, and it's killing connectivity and my modem. And I have to restart the modem before it recovers."

I got back, not surprisingly, a message which was comcastese for "did you plug in your computer." Which is more or less what I expected. So I wrote back describing the problem in more detail, but otherwise not adding anything new.

This time I got a little checklist of things to follow, most of which boiled down to "don't forget to plug in your computer" and "did you unplug your cable modem."

Why, yes, thank you. So I sent back a third iteration of the problem, this time mentioning the stuff they should have already known, like the actual IP ranges of the offending arp scans, and what the diagnostics on the modem were telling me about line failures. If the damned cable modems had any sort of error logging, they could just go in and see, but the operative words for consumer electronics are old and no managment and as cheap as we can get, so I hoped that it might provoke the customer support people to fling up their hands and pass me to a tech. I even commented that "if you think your old modem is causing the trouble, I would be happy to get a replacement unit."

This got a slightly different reply. This time it was basically "we don't know if you're plugging your computer in, so we need to send out a tech. And if we think it's your fault, you get to pay for the tech." No offer to replace the modem, of course, and certainly no reply to my comments about the virus level on the cable network. Just an offer to have some Windows tech come out, see the Unix machine, and turn around and leave because their tinned Windows Support Disk won't run on FreeBSD.

Sigh. It's the price I pay for not paying business rates for a T-1 into my basement (and for living in darkest Westmoreland, where I can't get DSL Northwest service [DSL Northwest was, by far, the best network connectivity I've ever purchased. Their technical support people appear to have actually looked at a computer during their adult lives, and hence don't run screaming when they have to deal with yet another annoying Unix sysadmin customer.])


“Your actual speed may vary.”

Lynn Sun Jan 14 12:26:54 2007

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