Tag Archives: Problems

Communication Difficulties

Apologies if you’re trying to get in contact via e-mail with either myself or Beth over the next few days. Since Monday night our previously pretty well rock solid ADSL connection hasn’t been able to maintain a connection for more than about a minute before losing synchronisation and reconnecting, as a result doing pretty much anything on the internet is a bit of a pain at the moment.

Zen, our ISP were pretty helpful, and on my first serious use of their technical support since moving to them five years ago I was very impressed. Rather than the expected series of “have you plugged it in?” type questions, the engineer immediately gave me the information I needed to know, which was details of what their system at the other end of the line was saying about the connection. There was also no argument about performing an additional series of line checks. Unfortunately those showed up no problems with the line, so I was advised to do a more detailed series of checks on the router and the connection.

Router wise I’m running the latest firmware, and even after a factory reset it is still failing to hold a connection for much more than a minute. From there I’ve tried it in an alternative phone socket, and tried disconnecting some of the other devices. One suggestion is to try an alternative router, so after the discussions about issues with AR7 chipset routers, of which mine is one (see this PC Pro article), I’ve ordered one of the non-AR7 chipset routers that Zen recommend.

Unfortunately if that doesn’t solve the problem then I’m going to need to get to our BT master socket, which is hidden away behind our sideboard, as often BT will only look at the line once all other possible sources of interference have been excluded. They do that by having you plug the router directly into the test socket located behind the master socket faceplate. In this way they can exclude any extension wiring issues from the problem.

As with most problems like this, with a multitude of things that could go wrong, and several different organisations responsible for different parts of the connection, trying to nail down exactly what changed on Monday night to cause our connection problems really does end up being a pretty tedious process.

Update: Hooking the router up to the test socket produced exactly the same problem, so on the phone to Zen we went through the connection statistics the router was reporting and compared them to what they were seeing – the stand out oddity was the SNR figures – signal to noise ratio – which were radically different at our end from what Zen were seeing. We were getting 6/22, they were reporting 22/365! This was enough to be able to report the problem to BT, who picked up the problem this morning.

BT spent all of twenty minutes on the problem, and basically turned on interleaving. What this did was sort out the problem when the router was plugged into the test socket – their yardstick for a working line, but the router was still unusable when plugged into the master socket. Unfortunately, BT were going to do no more, so I resigned myself to having to rearrange the wiring in the house to filter the ADSL signal at the test socket. But then when I got home, looking at the router logs it had dropped and reconnected about fifteen minutes before I got home. The speed was a lot less – about half of what I would usually expect, but the SNR had changed to 9/22. I tried the router plugged into the master socket and it worked, then I moved the router back to the original location on the end of an extension, and again it worked. Indeed there is nothing different in the setup now than with the way it was on Monday before it failed. Fingers crossed there was some sort of external interference which has now gone, and hopefully we won’t get any more problems.

One final note, this is the first time I’ve had to make serious recourse to Zen technical support, and without fail, all the engineers I have spoken to have been helpful and knowledgeable, and at no time have I felt that I’m fighting them to get what I need to solve the problem. A totally different experience from what other people seem to find with their ISP customer support.

History Repeating at T5?

If you think the problems at Terminal 5 are anything new, Jeff Atwood has a great article highlighting a rather similar scenario at Denver in 1994. The similarities are uncanny, even down to all the over-hyping that proves to be spectacularly misplaced once problems hit the system, in the case of T5 being staff who due to other technical issues couldn’t do their jobs. At that point the system has just backed up totally, such that there are now 15,000 bags piling up at the airport. As Jeff quotes in his article – “It wasn’t the technology per se, it was a misplaced faith in it.”

Vista Update Problem

Has anyone who is running Vista had any problems with the 8th January security updates? All of my XP machines updated fine, but I had a call from a friend running Vista saying that their machine had locked up, and when they managed to get it restarted they were getting errors that Security Center was unable to start. Going on to their machine with Remote Assistance all the Security Center services were disabled. Starting those up manually seemed to resolve the problem with Security Center errors, and didn’t seem to cause any other adverse reactions (yet) – so I’m assuming something went wrong in the update. Anybody else had any similar experiences?

When Mailing Lists Go Wrong

I’m signed up on a good few mailing lists, last night it seems, one went wrong. Usually it is set up as an announcement list, sending out the messages that the company who runs the list wants to send out to it’s customers, however at some point it seems to have been switched over to a discussion list mode, whereby it sends any message from any member of the list to any other. As a result, after the message they sent out last night, this morning I had a stack of ‘out of office’ messages initially from some of the subscribers.

However, as with many of these problems, the situation is made significantly worse by some of the other mailing list subscribers. There were one or two ‘unsubscribe’ messages, but the real annoyance was the person who had bulk replied to all the ‘out of office’ messages asking them not to send them again – fine, aside from the fact that the messages all have a reply-to pointing to the list address and so he’d sent all the replies there instead and they had all bounced around to all the subscribers too! The original message header does say that that is what it would do, but then how many people actually look at the detail in that before hitting reply?

Fingers crossed, the owner of the list should now be in the office, and sorting out the problem, otherwise I suspect I’m going to have some more bouncing messages to deal with…

Best Laid Plans

I always remember growing up some of the more stressful moments my parents had dealing with Church stuff, especially when it came to the joys of doing anything to the fabric of the Church – indeed even now we have conversations about the problems with our respective buildings and dealing with the Church politics around them.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before we are in the process of planning a project to undertake major work to conserve the fabric of our crumbling building. The planned start date has been put back on a couple of occasions, and is scheduled to start at the beginning of January 2008 – all we needed was the official permission from the relevant authorities. We’d put in the paperwork and got a few apparently straightforward questions back, and everything seemed on target – however as with all the best laid plans, reading my e-mails tonight it seems the questions are rather more involved than first thought… I can feel a long PCC coming on next week… 🙁