Wednesday, September 28, 2005

WiFi Detective

Jim was called upon to do a little detective work with a non-functioning WiFi hotspot. All the RV park systems 'check-in' electronically with our monitoring center every 20 minutes or so. This park last checked in on Friday night at 7:11pm. Why does this always happen on a weekend? Jim didn't get back from Salt Lake City till Sunday afternoon and we couldn't make any connection with the park management. So, it was late Monday before we could get there and there were some grumpy customers by then. I KNOW how grumpy I get when I'm without my Internet!! OK, so where do you start. First he turns everything off. Turn off the gateway device, turn off the bridge to the remote access point, turn off the modem. Count to 10. Now, turn everything back on - modem first. So often, that is all it takes. Just like a computer gets 'hung up' and needs to be rebooted, the hotspot equipment needs a reset once in a while. But, this time it didn't help. Using his laptop, Jim checks to see if he can get connected. Although he connects to the wireless network OK, when he opens a browser he gets 'Page cannot be displayed'. No Internet. OK, let's eliminate the hotspot (wireless network) altogether and plug the cable modem directly into the computer. Still no Internet. Aha! It's something to do with the cable modem. Yeah - the 'ready' light is NOT on, and it should be. So, I call the cable company. They usually can perform some diagnostics from their end and help figure out the problem. Busy. I call again. Busy. Again. Busy. After about a dozen tries, I look for another number for the cable company. This time I get a recorded message something like: 'no-one is ever going to answer your call because we are having technical dificulties ... ha ha' Meanwhile, Jim is still thinking. He follows the cable from the modem to the wall and sees a splitter that has nothing else attached to it. So he removes the splitter - eliminating one more possible bad piece. It didn't help. "Let's go outside and see where the cable comes into the building, maybe we'll see a problem there." He can see the cable going into the building, but it immediately disappears into the ground, so he can't follow it. He walks around a little, notices a utility pole, and then ... hmmmm, what's this? "Oh ya, well there's that then." Apparently, a very tall RV pulled in on Friday night and didn't notice that he'd gotten hold of this cable. Some people saw and tried to yell at him to stop - but he didn't hear. He kept going until the cable had torn apart! They don't know what the cable goes to - but Jim had a pretty strong suspicion that this was the cable that fed Internet to the cable modem. But, a good detective needs proof. He can't see where the cable goes, but he has an 'electronic friend' who can! His digital multimeter that he's had (and kept) since electronics school in '85. With this device, he can test the cable. With the outdoor end of the cable 'open', he tests the inside end and gets no beep. With the outdoor end 'closed', (shorted, wire crimped together), he tests the inside end and - I hear a beep. That's it! It is the cable. Unfortunately, this is a problem he can't fix, and we wish them luck with the cable company. But at least the mystery is solved. I gotta tell ya ... before we ever walked in the place, Jim said, "I'll betcha the problem is with the cable." Ah yes, the WiFi force is strong with this one. p.s. Jim got a brand new, shiny multimeter in his toolkit from Motosat. He's so excited! I wonder what he's going to do with his 'old friend'?

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