Monday 31 January 2011

step into the vortex....

For some months now, I've been having trouble with my network connection. Initially, this was the result of a fault that was affecting lots of users in Nottingham and was (eventually) fixed by my broadband supplier (partially thanks to their excellent customer service on Twitter, actually). After that was resolved though, I began to have issues with my laptop dropping the connection and requiring the airport to be switched off for a few minutes before it would "see" my wireless network again. Annoyingly, this seemed to start after I did a software upgrade on my Macbook Pro. A quick google revealed it was a fairly common issue but not one with a simple resolution. Well, cheers for that, Apple.

I quickly got tired of this, and at Christmas, purchased an upgrade to Snow Leopard in the hopes that it would clear the issue up (although google also revealed that this was a long way from being the silver bullet to this particular problem and may have brought problems of its own). The upgrade was painless, and it seemed to do the trick for a while. Before long though, I was finding that my iPhone was also unable to connect to my wireless network from time-to-time, indicating that the issue resided in my airport itself. All I had to do was to restart the airport express that was broadcasting my network (a simple case of unplugging it and plugging it back in) and everything was fine again. Manageable, but annoying.

I don't think my home network is unusually complicated: the broadband cable comes into the house, goes into a modem. The modem is plugged into a router that splits the connection and acts as a hardware firewall. From there it goes to an airport express to create the wifi network, which is extended by an apple time capsule and a couple of other airport expresses that I use to stream iTunes to stereos around the house. It was a doddle to set up and has never really caused me any bother. The airport express transmitting my wifi is quite a lot older than the others and is operating on a much older version of firmware but cannot be upgraded any more. Was that the problem? I was loathe to take the whole thing apart as I just had a sense that it would not be a trivial matter to put the whole thing back together again.

On Sunday, I bit the bullet.

The small matter of 5 hours later, I had a network that was up and running.

I have no idea what caused the problem, but what I half-heartedly hoped would be a simple swap of the airport express transmitting my signal turned out to be a nightmare of lost internet connection, double NAT errors and DHCP conflicts and lost IP addresses. I work in IT, but I'm by no means a technical expert.... but once I'd started, what choice did I have but to plough on and try and make the whole thing work? I managed to get the internal network up and running again, but only discovered I still had no internet connection when I couldn't connect my kindle. That meant a whole lot more stress before I finally got it sorted by a combination of juggling IP addresses and remembering how to access the configuration on my router. I'm not exactly sure what I did that made it work, but I carefully wrote down all of the settings and put them in a drawer. 24 hours later, and it all still seemed to be up and running, even if occasionally I'm finding that I need to reboot stuff to make it pick up the new configurations (like when I tried to connect my phone to access the remote control for my iTunes). Now I have all my airport expresses up and running and streaming music, and the signal now being sent out by my timemachine. A much cleaner solution, I hope, with the wifi signal now being broadcast by a device operating on the newest version of the firmware.

What a palaver. Not only had I managed to railroad my own Sunday, but I'd managed to also completely derail my wife's plans for the day, and she was forced to go to Sainsburys without me and to go swimming without having eaten a proper lunch.

To celebrate getting everything working, whilst C. was at the supermarket, I pranced around the house with the vacuum cleaner whilst plugged into my noise-cancelling headphones and an old playlist on my iPod. It's positively eerie when you can't hear the hoover, I can tell you.......... especially when you can hear slightly muffled singing.

Technology, eh?

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