Some blather on the good...the bad...and the foo king ugg lee...FWIW.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Monster From Cable Internet Hell

For someone who spends a decent amount of time on the internet, I’ve been going through Cable Internet Hell the past month. In fact, I should send a rough draft of some sort to Wes Craven or Clive Barker for the screenplay of this story. Some other working titles I’m considering: Nightmare on the Internet, Cable Mayhem: Apolcalyse, Firewall Frustration, or Snakes on a Browser.

I have been so frustrated for these past weeks, it’s a wonder I haven’t gained back the recent weight I lost on The Sonoma Diet, fallen off the bourbon wagon, or thrown all my computer equipment in the pool. Fortunately, I didn’t do any of that...but certainly felt like it at times.

It all started one quiet afternoon after we returned home from two days in Monterey.

I went to log on my usual browser, on my usual Apple Mac laptop, in the usual way. I have been on a cable modem for several years now, so this task has always been a very timely process. Anyone familiar with high speed internet will know that it only takes a few seconds to “fire up”...and you’re there...surfing away without much delay. But for some unknown reason (unknown to me at the time), it didn’t go anywhere...fast!

By the way, there is a new message that my brain has registered as reason to disengage from rationality: “Browser not found. Check your internet connection or retype the browser address.” After a few days of seeing this message many times, I had become The Lost Connection Monster From Cable Internet Hell. Poor Loretta...but that’s another story for now.

But wait...the next morning, I logged on and everything worked just fine...for about five minutes. Then, in the middle of uploading photos to my website, reading an email, or just trying to load a web page...it “takes a crap”...again. Re-log onto the browser...same message...over, and over, and over again. It continued this process, ie, on, then off, on, then off until I couldn’t get a connection at all...all day...during many days.

Of course, at this point, I am reinventing the wheel with my computer network configurations, hypotheszing why it has happened, re-wiring every cable connection, disconnecting all the TV’s in the house, buying cable boosters, and sweating like a farm animal. Not to mention...becoming The Lost Connection Monster From Cable Internet Hell. I was pissed off to say the least....and very frustrated...and this was before I called the cable company!

So...after a couple days of this mayhem, I called the cable company...Charter F***ing Cable. Of course, that’s not their real name. It’s simply what they will be referred to by yours truly from here on out, the remainder of my days on this Earth. I’ll just use the abbreviation CFC for brevity and decorum the rest of this blog entry.

The first call to CFC, I spent 20 minutes “talking” to Mr. Automation, “Let’s see if we can find out what is wrong with your connection before sending you to an (live) agent”. Yes, a full 20 minutes answering automated questions like, “Is your computer plugged in?”, “Is your cable plugged in to your modem?”, “Did you purchase your computer before 1968?”, “Is your head currently up your ass?” All of which I had checked many times before making this call...of course, I was only reasonably sure that my head was not up my ass. After waiting another 20 minutes for a live agent, “Linda” comes on the line. Linda, by the way, may not have been her real name since I believe she was calling from Sri Lanka. In her best broken English, Linda commenced to ask me the same questions as Mr. Automation just did. And I am answering these questions again to the best of my ability through tightly clenched teeth. Try talking sometime with your mouth clamped shut and your lips pursed so tight that every word sounds the same. Occassionally, Linda would say to me, “Mr. Hansen, are you still there?” Apparently, the response “Ah huh” in growl mode doesn’t come across clearly on a phone conversation to the Far East.

Here is the semi-short version of the next 21 days. Linda set me up with a “tech appointment”. CFC tech comes out one week later and replaces antique cable modem and a couple of cable wires. CFC tech notes: “Wow, this is taking a long time to come up (on his laptop)”. CFC tech leaves. My internet connection works fine...then takes a crap as the CFC tech truck is pulling away from my driveway! I get a “priority” return appointment 2 days later. Same CFC tech comes out and tells me that their system won’t work connected to a router (the system I have been using without change for 2 years). CFC tech spills the beans, “CFC has made some technical changes in their signal of late. Some people have had to rewire their entire house...at their expense. Oh look, your connection is working now”. CFC tech leaves. My connection "takes a crap" as CFC tech truck is driving away from my house. I find out that our next door neighbor has had the exact same problems for exactly the same amount of time (they have not had the patience to schedule a visit from CFC tech, remember those 20 minute conversations with Mr. Automation and “Linda” from Sri Lanka?) I see a TV ad for A.T.T/SBC/Yahoo High Speed Internet. I managed to get on line for 10 minutes and check it out...$12.99 a month. I speak to the A.T.T. booth girl at the fair. Yes, DSL is now available in your neighborhood (a few years ago, it wasn’t...hence the cable modem fiasco). A.T.T. booth girl at the fair also informs me that high speed DSL does not tie up your phone line any longer. Ureka! A solution. Booth girl says she will call me on Tuesday after Labor Day and set everything up for me. No call from booth girl. I manage to get on line for 10 minutes...quick, order the DSL! A week later (Monday), the modem and self-installation kit arrives (saving me $200 in hook up fees by a tech). A.T.T. email says it will be configured and connected to your house by Monday. I stick in the installation CD, following all the instructions to the letter, hit “connect”...nothing. I get the message, “Browser not found. Check your internet connection...blah, blah, blah”. Only this time, the message is in a pretty, more graphically pleasing, colored font from SBC. I try the CD procedure again (twice). I call A.T.T. They check my order...”It won’t be active unti 8:00 pm (it is now 7:45). I wait until 8:30 and try again. Nothing. I call A.T.T. back. The nice lady (sounds like the call is from Shanghai this time) talks me through “manual registration” procedures. Nothing. Informs me that my browser (Firefox) won’t let me register the account (something about Flash), she must pass me along to a “Level 2” phone tech who can do it. Andy comes on the line (also sounds like a resident of Shanghai). Andy talks me through some other technical stuff, various websites, and keystrokes and...voila! It works. Flamethrowing, firebreathing, Formula One internet connection! I ask Andy, “May I ask from where you are calling?” Andy responds, “California...San Ramone”. “Oh...I’m in Modesto”. “Yes, I know that”, Andy replies in his best, polite broken English. “Hmmm...how’s the weather in San Ramone?” That blew my Shanghai Conspiracy Theory.

I remained civil to all with whom I spoke during this whole process. The only un-civility I exhibited was to the cable modem itself one night. I won’t go into details at this juncture..but let’s just say that it got “bitch slapped”.

You must realize that I am in the middle of taking my photography business marketing efforts to some new levels. These new levels fully involve the internet...specifically uploading photos to my website portfolio and answering new email inquires about wedding dates and portrait sittings.

My demeanor over the past 30 days of this internet nighmare likened to Steve Martin’s character in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Similar to the scene in the airport after he was stranded in a distant, snow-covered rent-a-car parking lot where their was no rental car to be found...walking miles across freeways and runways back to the terminal and confronting a very non-caring, unattentive counter person. My parody on his conversation: “I f***ing want a f***ing internet f***ing connection right f***ing now!”

So...I got my internet connection back, without displaying that sort of verbage to anyone...rare for me. How many brain cells did I lose during this month long interlude? No telling...irrelevant at this point in my life anyway. Evidently, I still have enough cells left to take photographs and write and blog or two on occasion. Loretta was very sympathetic to my plight...very supportive. She is very sensitive to my anguish in these areas, during these times. She’s a jewel...a peach...and breath of fresh air when things get stale. She’s happier now as well.

As far as CFC goes? They are history to me. I have had it with the B.S. of this whole situation and with the B.S. that they dole out. You have no choice as to which cable company you use in your house...one cable company per neighborhood is how it is set up. CFC only gives you choices on how much money they are able to gouge from your pocketbook in forms of upgrades and so-called premium services. What choice you have now is the choice I am making. There is phone company DSL service almost everywhere now. There is satellite service for TV viewing everywhere...and several companies from which to choose. My internet cable service problem was never resolved. During this past 30 days, the ratio of success versus failure: 50% of the time I could never get on line. During the other 50% of the time the connection was slow, slower than any dial up connection 90% of the time...leaving 10% of that 50% in which I had a working connection...for 10 minutes at a time at best. That can not in any shape of the word be considered: cable service. It is not anything but shameful and sad. Sad that CFC has changed things technically...shameful that they don’t care and they are doing nothing about it. By the way, all new connections and home construction is set up to accomodate the new system. Retrofitting older homes for any kind of digital internet will be at a cost to the homeowner, so I am told by Johnny CFC tech (his named changed to protect...me!)

If you are having similar problems, don’t let them try to convince you that it because you have a router or a wireles system in your home. That is complete and utter bullshit!

As far as my intentions for television service, I will probably go with Dishnet (again)...evidently they are part of the ATT/SBC conglomerate. The cost for these changes will be simlar to what I have been paying for cable non-service. Plus, we just recently bought a HD plasma television...we may as well have a good, clean HD signal from a satellite dish (and maybe TiVo too, huh?).

So, just like Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde...I have transformed back into regular Mr Skip after a few weeks as The Monster From Cable Internet Hell. A character that I am not at all proud of or comfortable with...as per usual, I am working on it!


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