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Adventures in dial-up networking

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    Adventures in dial-up networking

    So, my DSL conked out the other day. I've this DSL service for a very long time. Over the years there were a few times when it would go "down" for a while, but always came back after a few hours or at most not much more than a day or so. But this time it appears completely dead.

    But after a day I was REALLY needing to get some things done, so for the first time I called their support number. Of course, it was some Indian in a remote call center, but surprisingly they didn't insist I reboot my computer and let me skip directly to the router, which was clearly showing it would not connect.

    Anyway, they insisted the problem was with my DSL "modem" (bridge, whatever). I don't know, it turns on but the DSL indicator light never comes on. But it is old and not supported. So they helpfully said they would ship me a new "approved" one for $75 in 1-3 business days. This was Friday evening, so probably Wednesday.

    In the mean time, I went down to Microcenter and picked up a DSL "modem" there. It is supposed to work with my ISP. I had been meaning to get a spare but never got around to it.

    Gotta love Microcenter. I can still read their advertisements because it is printed on PAPER!!! And I can just walk in, grab it, and pay with American cash - no internet needed!

    Anyway, bring it home, plug it in and its DSL light just blinks. So still no DSL for me! Called support back, and NOW they say there is a line problem. Tech will allegedly be out here on Wednesday...

    My ISP also provides a "backup" dial-up system. I've had that set up on my Windows 95 computer since the beginning and have tested that periodically, but never really tried to do anything on it.

    To summarize: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRAAGGGGGGG

    First of all, I needed to load a web site that demands a newer browser than what I can run on my 95 system. I might have some proxy software buried somewhere, but the "easiest" thing should be just setting up dial-up on another computer, right?!

    Well, load up dial up on my more powerful Windows XP machine (I mainly use it for running VMs). It connects, but pages only load a few K bytes and then the connection just hangs... no transfer occurring at all. I suspect it is a networking software issue, but testing that would mean uninstalling software I don't want to mess with that right now.

    So... load dial up on my Windows 10 test computer. Why not? It's teh latest and greatest, right?

    Well, first, I don't use Windows 10 much so finding things in there is a hassle. If you have to type something in to a search box to find a section then your GUI is GARBAGE! Ok, muddled around and got a dial up connection set up. But clicking the "connect" button in the control panel seemed to do nothing. Click, click, click, click? Eventually I figured out it had opened 100 "connect" dialogs BEHIND the control panel window. BRILLIANT! Oh, and of course clicking any of the help options helpfully informs me that I'm not connected to the Internet so I cant read help on connecting to the Internet. REALLY!??? [Insert scream tag here]PRIMARY HELP FILES SHOULD BE LOCAL TO THE COMPUTER[close scream tag].

    Ok, finally got it dialing up.... but of course, it starts to DOWNLOAD UPDATES (or whatever), rendering the connection unusable!

    Ohkay, cant turn off updates, so wasn't there an option to delay updates? Yes, in the updates control panel there is an option next to some slider switch control that looks like "(O ) Off".

    First of all, does "Off" mean updates are off or that pausing is off? Apparently "on" means it will pause. So I click it. And nothing happens. Must have missed, clicked again. Nothing. Click, click, click? A minute later it switches on.. and then right off again. Except now it shows me a message that I CANT TURN IT ON AGAIN until it somehow checks to see if there are critical updates. WTF!?!

    Hmm... there is some option to treat some forms of connectivity as "metered", and that can restrict updates and junk... but it seems to only apply to Ethernet, not dialup?! WTF?

    Whatever marketing executive designed the Windows 10 UI needs to be taken out back and flogged for 9000 years non stop.

    Might have had better luck with Linux, but didn't have anything loaded up with a recent enough Firefox.

    So, to a different XP computer. Finally it seems to technically work on this one. The only problem is every "modern" web sites takes a few years to load! Not really surprised by that.

    A few more or less lightweight sites like VCFED or Soylentnews actually load in a reasonable amount of time.

    You would really think that, especially with mobile devices or just heavy traffic, that people would want to keep the critical content minimal. Let people read a page while graphics or dumb animations load. But there are too many pages that won't display at all until almost all 10 megabytes of scripting have loaded - and those can be a pain even using DSL.

    With dial up, some scripts will actually fail and time out because things take "too long".

    So anyway, I'm almost without Internet access right now. At least I'm not as addicted to it a some people are. They would probably have a meltdown if they couldn't check or post on twatter for more than 5 minutes. (cant... see... eBasay... [shivers] )

    Sell phone? Meh, most of the stuff I do would never work with a toy cell phone. Heck, often even DSL is not enough. But fiber? Around here the only fiber is in cereal boxes! I did check around to see if anyone had open wireless connections, but no-go there.

    I'll probably go down to the local library again and use one of their machines, but they don't have all the software tools I need, and all of my important data is on my home file server. So, yet even more headache.

    Posted via dialup!

    #2
    Ten years ago mobile devices needed lower bandwidth.

    Today, mobile devices might use more than a desktop machine.

    I actually use the cellular networks as backup for my home network. I have had to do it, and it works well. In fact, I used it nonstop for five years.
    Be polite and I may let you live.

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

    Comment


      #3
      yea, w10 is a horrible experience. I only have it on my gaming machine because I MUST have it for DX12 and for the ONE game I like to play in DX12.

      I've been incredibly lucky to get off dialup in 2001. And have shelled out a premium to Cockmast since. I've had maybe a TOTAL of 48 hours of unplanned, unintentional downtime in all those years. It would seem that I am in the minority here.

      I'd sell my left testicle for gig fiber, and its SO CLOSE in the area I live in. (NE Denver)

      Oh, by the way, when that Tech shows up, KISS HIS ASS. Literally if you need to. My siblings both work as DSL techs and they tell me horror stories from the field. It's common practice to put asshole customers on crappy lines, or to say '**** it' and not find an issue, just dicking around with people. Is it right? No. Does it happen where you live? Oh probably.
      It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

      Comment


        #4
        Just show him round your vintage computers, and let him play a few rounds of Jumpman. That's what I did.

        (Posted from a cell phone, the same one I used to diagnose a bunch of network issues today.)
        Be polite and I may let you live.

        https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

        Comment


          #5
          Even if dialup worked it would really cramp your computer use these days.

          Anybody who screws around with customers should be fired. Only companies that have a monopoly in the area get away with bad techs like that.
          What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
          Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
          Boxed apps and games for the above systems
          Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

          Comment


            #6
            The only wire connection that I have is a pair that goes from the house to the fiber-fed RT about 400 feet away. I keep a backup VDSL+ modem just in case. I ditched regular POTS service some time ago because it didn't make any sense--the RT is fed by fiber using TCP/IP, no matter what type of connection I use, so I use VoIP here. So far it's worked pretty well.

            But I'm not deluded.

            Should a car or tree land on the fiber, I know that everybody will be without service. When the power goes out for whatever reason, I know that there's about a one-hour or less backup in the RT before it goes dark.

            Cellular service, you say? I get one bar of 3G here at home--enough to place a voice call or do a text message, but scarcely enough for Internet browsing.

            No cable, no microwave. I suppose I could add satellite, but that's an expense for very little return--and data caps and half-second latency.
            Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Unknown_K View Post
              Even if dialup worked it would really cramp your computer use these days.

              Anybody who screws around with customers should be fired. Only companies that have a monopoly in the area get away with bad techs like that.
              Well, they really don't know. 3/4 of all the work (at least for the DSL based centuryclink) are done via contractors. They shoot the job to the contractor, pay EITHER WAY if its fixed or not. As long as the tech shoes up and does [i]something[/] trackable. Quite often they "kick it to cable", which is a different contractor that gets paid AGAIN.

              To be more precise, the stories I hear of, are of asshole customers, and how the contractors will act in kind. So the adage of “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”, is an apt one.
              It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

              Comment


                #8
                Because the RT is close to home (I actually sold Qwest a bit of land for it) i see the techs out at it quite frequently. I've made it a point to be friendly with them--they know both me and my wife by name and will stop work and chat a bit if possible. It never hurts to cultivate relationships. The tech who installed my VDSL+ took pains to make sure that I was getting the best possible connection (on his suggestion I wired a "home run" from the NIU right to the modem). (I pay for 20Mbps and train at 26 and ping at 24, so I'm not complaining).
                Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
                  Cellular service, you say? I get one bar of 3G here at home--enough to place a voice call or do a text message, but scarcely enough for Internet browsing.
                  1 bar is subjective. I can browse and post here no problem with 1 bar of 3G. (I have no idea how many dB that is.) But if I couldn't, I'd put a "hotspot" on a tower. I haven't been anywhere within hundreds of miles from home where that wouldn't give a reliable connection on a least one network. Even at -25°F, apparently.
                  Be polite and I may let you live.

                  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

                  Comment


                    #10
                    When you deal with a big corporation you tend to get a new tech every time you need servicing (usually every 5 years the modem needs changed out). Last time my cable went out I didn't feel like waiting a few days for a tech so I snagged my gear and took it to the local office and upgraded from 20Mb to 100Mb cable (they gave me a nice router along with the new modem). Just checked 110Mb down and 11Mb up, don't see the need for anything faster.

                    I never had a noisy phone line and the local AT&T building is 2 blocks away so I could do 56K when that was the rage before cable modems were around here (2001 ish?). Never bothered with DSL so the phone still works when power goes out (at least last time we checked).
                    What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
                    Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
                    Boxed apps and games for the above systems
                    Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                      1 bar is subjective. I can browse and post here no problem with 1 bar of 3G. (I have no idea how many dB that is.) But if I couldn't, I'd put a "hotspot" on a tower. I haven't been anywhere within hundreds of miles from home where that wouldn't give a reliable connection on a least one network. Even at -25°F, apparently.
                      Depends on location and terrain. I As far as coverage, try hiking in the PNW BLM or National Forest land here (the Feds own 53% of the state). People are surprised when their cell phones don't work--you really can get lost out here.
                      Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                        1 bar is subjective. I can browse and post here no problem with 1 bar of 3G. (I have no idea how many dB that is.) But if I couldn't, I'd put a "hotspot" on a tower. I haven't been anywhere within hundreds of miles from home where that wouldn't give a reliable connection on a least one network. Even at -25°F, apparently.
                        Depends on location and terrain. I take it that you're east of the continental divide. The nearest cell tower is over 4 miles away and down in a valley. If I walk over to some parts of my land down into a ravine, all coverage disappears. There's something about wrinkly land that microwaves don't like. Oddly, I used to listen to commercial SW broadcasts quite well there--before the broadcasters all went to the Internet.
                        Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I'm West of it, or perhaps right on it; but you may be referring to a different Continental Divide.

                          We sure aren't short of rapid changes in elevation here. In fact, I'd say we have a much higher frequency albeit lower amplitude than any mountain range I've been in. But none of our cell towers are in valleys. The one I use is very likely further than ten miles. I'm on a descending plateau, and it's on a high peak. I may be 200' lower with lots of hills and trees in the way. But if it was in a valley, I'd probably just need a taller tower on my end. Line of sight is king.

                          There are a lot of places one can go within a thousand miles of here where a cell phone won't work. But in most of them, a cell phone on a different network will get an excellent connection. (Most) people walking round being surprised that they don't have cell service aren't in a fixed location with a tower, either.
                          Be polite and I may let you live.

                          https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

                          Comment


                            #14
                            If you want to use dialup as a backup for DSL, you may want to use Windows 98 SE rather than Windows 95 for this task, so you can take advantage of Internet Connection Sharing. This may be the easiest way to integrate an old-style dialer into a more modern network (i.e. more modern browsers).

                            It's also possible to use a mobile phone hotspot as a backup for your Internet, which is usually a better option.
                            Last edited by kgober; January 28, 2019, 08:08 AM.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                              I'm West of it, or perhaps right on it; but you may be referring to a different Continental Divide.
                              I'm only aware of one American continental divide. If you're right on it, that would put you somewhere up in the Rockies or perhaps the Andes.
                              Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                              Comment

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