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Cut Steve's Blatherings

Friday, February 25, 2005

Computer Madness, Wireless Edition

      Last Tuesday, my laptop's wireless conection suddenly ceased to exist.  This was rather disconcerting, in a machine only a month old.

      My first attempt at fixing the thing was rebooting.  No go.  Then I took the laptop downstairs, so as to be right next to the modem.  That didn't work either, though I did establish that the modem was working (it's connected to the desktop by a cable).  Neither did unplugging the modem and waiting a minute.

      So, call Qwest®, talk to technical support, and we spend a long time checking this and that.  The computer still doesn't connect wirelessly.  Then the Qwest guy called someone from Actiontec®, the maker of the modem.  We did a lot of stuff, check this, change that, try a different channel and IP address, connect to the web via the desktop.  The verdict -- the modem was sending to the computer, but the computer was not receiving anything.  'It must be a hardware problem, see your vendor.'

      On Wednesday, I was too busy to go by Circuit City®, but on Thursday I toddled over.  The computer guy fooled with it for a while, including undoing some of the changes the Actiontec guy had made, et voilà, we were hooked up to the store network with no problems.  So, the hardware is working fine.   Go home and try again.

      Now things get really weird.  At home, there's now a new wireless network on my computer, which I assume was placed there by the guy at the store.  It's not secured, but it did work, for a while.  Am I logging on via my modem, or someone else's?

      And when I look for available wireless networks, the laptop is finding the home network, but giving me contradictory messages.  In the same window, it says I'm not connected and am connected.  The icon periodically grows a balloon saying Windows can't connect to my home network, but it will keep trying.

      Eventually, the new, unsecured network doesn't work anymore.  I call Qwest, and talk to someone who tries to help but doesn't know what's going on.  After some prodding from me, he gets Actiontec on the line again.  We delete my old networks, we install a new network, we try this, we do that, nothing is working, I'm still getting messages saying I can't connect, or that I am and am not connected . . .

      Suddenly, the Actiontec guy has a thought.  'Right click on the wireless icon in the tray; click "View available wireless networks;" in the new window, click "Change Advanced settings;" in the new window, the "Wireless Network Connection Properties" window, click the "Wireless Networks" tab; now press the "Properties" button; on the window for the home network's properties, press the "Authentication" tab; there should be a box there that says "Enable IEEE 802.1x authentication for this network;" is it checked?'  Yes, it is.  'Uncheck it.'

      The home network icon immediately tells me that it's connected to the home network, with signal strength excellent.

      How that authentication box ever got checked in the first place, I don't know.  Did some of my security software decide it ought to be on for me?  Did a Windows update check it?  Was it a gremlin?  If you have a guess, leave me word in the comments.

      Anyway, all's well that ends well, or sometimes, just ends.  The glitch is gone, and I can get back on the 'Net.  And if it happens again, I know what to try.



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