Of Internet Installation Technicians and Cell Phones



  • OK, get this: I'm at work, doing the regular "clean up that other guy's work" in some HTML code on a big multinational consumer electronic company's website, when my cell phone rings. I answer the phone and listen to my father-in-law explaining how he just got his Internet gateway from his new ISP and can't get his Internet to work. I tell him I'm pretty sure what the problem might be and I start explaining which settings he should modify when he tells me he's not on the computer because the installation technician is still there, trying to figure out what the problem is, and decides to pass me the technician instead.

    So now I'm talking to some random guy that works for the company that works for the ISP, whose task is to unwrap and plug in Internet gateways and return with a signed paper:

    "Alright, I can't figure out what's wrong with this, it usually works out-of-the-box. When I plug in my laptop, it works right away, and I can confirm the gateway is correctly setup. But when I plug in his computer, I get the LAN connection but nothing works, but since I know the gateway works well, it has to be a problem with your dad's PC."


    I can forgive the fact he's a bit off regarding my parental tie to his customer, but at this point, I think I'm just wondering how I can help the poor guy. Before my father-in-law changed ISPs, I was the one who set up the home network with his previous gateway, so I know pretty well how this PC's set up and why. In order to set up proper NAT traversal on the old gateway, each machine needed a fixed IP address. Now, I have the same ISP as my father-in-law's new one, so I know their gateway comes pre-configured with a pretty weird subnet: its default IP address is 172.19.3.1 with subnet mask 255.255.0.0... My in-law's machine is set to a more traditional 192.168.1.2 with mask 255.255.255.0, so obviously that needs to be changed to work with the new box. So I ask the technician if he checked how the home PC's IP is assigned, and all I get for an answer is:

    "Well... the LAN led on the gateway is lit, so normally it should work!"

    I tell him about the manually-assigned IP address on the PC, and how he should either change it to something in the same range as the new gateway's, or have the PC's IP assigned by DHCP.

    "Usually it works automatically, so there must be some strange setting somewhere on the PC that's keeping it from working. Sometimes it's really difficult to find out what's causing the incompatibility, it's a lot more complicated than you'd think, there are a lot of hidden settings and stuff"

    I told him something around the lines of "Umm... No it's not, it's really quite simple and... hey, wait a second, YOU're the technician, why are you talking to me?"

    He says, "I don't know, I'm not the one who called you, I was just given the phone"

    So I get to talk to my father-in-law again, who apologizes for bothering me at work and hangs up.

    About half an hour later, the phone rings again. My father-in-law tells me they managed to work it out. The technician called a collegue at the office for a good 10 minutes, following step-by-step instructions, going through several tests to narrow down the issue, and finally found the problem. I asked my father-in-law if he knew what the problem was, and he says:

    "Yeah, they found out the PC's IP address was out of range, they set it to be DHCP-assigned and it worked right away"

    I laughed a little too hard and I'm pretty sure my boss heard me from her office.

    When an Internet Installation Technician (who's probably paid more than I am) can't even figure out that the PC and gateway won't be able to talk to each other if their IP addresses aren't in the same range and spends half an hour trying to figure it out, needing to call another technician to get some help, only to basically end up checking the "I'll do it for you, stupid" box in the Windows TCP/IP settings panel, I'd say that's definetly a WTF moment

    -Inzoum



  • Wow, did I really just read that, and hear "DHCP is for n00bs"?

    Because that would be TRWTF.



  • DHCP in itself isn't something I would qualify as being "for n00bs", it's a hefty protocol, and programming a DHCP server or client is most likely out of my league. But when the gateway is right-out-of-the-box pre-configured with DHCP server ready to assign IPs between 172.19.3.2 and 172.19.3.254, and knowing that configuring the Windows XP machine on the other end is just a matter of clicking a radio button and then "OK"... I think my two-year old nephew could do it, yeah... That particular gateway model is UPnP-compliant and has a very flexible NAT config, so I don't think using DHCP or manually assigning a static address to the connecting PC would change much. But the older gateway really needed each machine to have a fixed IP for the NAT traversal to work, and didn't support UPnP.



  • I saw this happen a couple of years ago with Charter Cable (now SuddenLink). I had purposely given them a Windoze box to configure as I knew my Linux systems would be way over their heads (and there was no way I was letting them loose on the Linux boxen anyway) and had exactly the same static/dhcp conversation with them. I ended up having to show them how to change it...



  • @Inzoum said:

    DHCP in itself isn't something I would qualify as being "for n00bs", it's a hefty protocol, and programming a DHCP server or client is most likely out of my league.

     

    Actually it's quite simple. A DHCP client can be implemented in a few hundred instructions on most CPUs. I still wouldn't recommend that you try, though.



  • I was actually referring to this:

    "only to basically end up checking the "I'll do it for you, stupid" box in the Windows TCP/IP settings panel"

    ...that hints to me a startling misunderstanding of DHCP and it's uses.

     



  • The Real WTF is that the originally subnet probably should have been 255.255.240.0, since the 172 reserved space goes from 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255 (it's half way between a /24 and a /16 for some reason..)



  • I'd just have told him "Yeah, there really is some strange setting somewhere... and here's how to turn it back to normal".



  • @Inzoum said:

    Internet Installation Technician (who's probably paid more than I am)
    Or possibly not. I'm betting it's essentially a level 1 tech, who's just told "Plug this cable in here, that cable in there, turn everything on and it should just work". Because most of the time it WILL just work. They're not going to waste their good techs on a job that is mostly driving around.



  • @rbowes said:

    The Real WTF is that the originally subnet probably should have been 255.255.240.0, since the 172 reserved space goes from 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255 (it's half way between a /24 and a /16 for some reason..)

    It's 16 class B blocks. The distinction was dropped when CIDR came along, making it a flat /20, just like 192.168 stopped being 256 class Cs and became one /16.



  • I loved the time that Charter wasn't assigning me an IP address.  The guy explained to me that the problem might be because I have my IP set as dynamic.  "You see with a static IP, the cable company assigns a different IP address to your computer every so often.  With a dynamic IP, you have to configure the right settings in Windows.  So if you've got a dynamic IP and it's set to the wrong thing, we won't assign you one."

    "Can I speak to your supervisor?"  Shockingly enough, the problem turned out to be a bad modem, not me configuring the wrong "dynamic" IP address.
     



  • @rbowes said:

    The Real WTF is that the originally subnet probably should have been 255.255.240.0, since the 172 reserved space goes from 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255 (it's half way between a /24 and a /16 for some reason..)

    That would make the first address range 172.16.0.0-15. Any reason why he'd want that?
     



  • @Inzoum said:

    When an Internet Installation Technician (who's probably paid more than I am)

     Extremely unlikely.  Remember, he doesn't work for the ISP, he works for a contractor who got the job by being the low bidder.  I guarantee that his paycheck is comparable to his skill level.

     



  • I think you have expectations far too high of your contractors. This is the guy whose job description is

    • Plug a hole in the wall
    • Bring some cable through that hole
    • Attach that cable to the cable box
    • If it doesn't work, use your signal meter to determine if the line is too noisy or too quiet

    Complaining about not knowing how to configure DHCP is like being mad that the guy serving you in burger king doesn't know what the hell Kosher means.



  • @Volmarias said:

    I think you have expectations far too high of your contractors. This is the guy whose job description is

    • Plug a hole in the wall
    • Bring some cable through that hole
    • Attach that cable to the cable box
    • If it doesn't work, use your signal meter to determine if the line is too noisy or too quiet

    Complaining about not knowing how to configure DHCP is like being mad that the guy serving you in burger king doesn't know what the hell Kosher means.

    You're probably right about me having too high expectations, but then again, I would expect someone serving me at Burger King to know what Kosher or Halal means, since the Burger King guy is likely to encounter Jewish or Muslim customers occasionally. Being able to answer these customer's questions will determine if they'll stay and eat (if the employee's able to suggest an alternative meal that conforms with his customer's convictions) or just go away. I doubt the Burger King guy's boss will like seeing potential customers leave and never come back because they couldn't get an answer to a question that's so important to them. As a Burger King crew trainer, I'd probably make sure my employees know what to answer when someone asks them if the food there is Kosher, it's just normal for any restaurant and fast food should be no exception.

    In the same fashion, i would expect these technicians to be told "If it doesn't work, check these parameters: (...)" before being sent off to do an installation. "Checking the IP address settings" would probably be just behind "Checking if the cables are plugged and devices powered on" in my list, as it's an obvious necessary step for the communication to work. I wouldn't expect them to know how to clean a hijacking malware that keeps the network from properly working, however.



  • @Inzoum said:

    I would expect someone serving me at Burger King to know what Kosher or Halal means, since the Burger King guy is likely to encounter Jewish or Muslim customers occasionally. Being able to answer these customer's questions will determine if they'll stay and eat (if the employee's able to suggest an alternative meal that conforms with his customer's convictions) or just go away. I doubt the Burger King guy's boss will like seeing potential customers leave and never come back because they couldn't get an answer to a question that's so important to them.

    This clearly doesn't describe the attitude of staff at the Burger King chain I'm aware of - it's certainly another. Do you have a link to their website?



  • The real WTF is that you thought a box-unwrapper might have actually had some networking knowledge.

    When Virgin came to fix something at my house (my tv, not my broadband) he said he'd had to disconnect everything in the box outside and reconnect it again so could I check my internet. I fired up Firefox and nothing, so I browsed to 192.168.100.1 which is the IP of the cable modem. I said it's still acquiring an IP, refreshed it a couple of times and it got one and it all worked.

     
    The technician was very impressed and had to ask me how I did it, because it looked quite useful for when he was installing broadband...
     



  • @valerion said:

    The technician was very impressed and had to ask me how I did it, because it looked quite useful for when he was installing broadband...
    Did you tell him?

    If yes, did you charge for your training? 



  • @Inzoum said:

    @Volmarias said:

    Complaining about not knowing how to configure DHCP is like being mad that the guy serving you in burger king doesn't know what the hell Kosher means.

    You're probably right about me having too high expectations, but then again, I would expect someone serving me at Burger King to know what Kosher or Halal means, since the Burger King guy is likely to encounter Jewish or Muslim customers occasionally.

    Going into a random fast food restaurant and asking if the food is kosher or halal is just real-life trolling anyway. If you've got half a brain yourself you know what the answer is going to be: no! If it's in an area with a high Jewish or Muslim population (up to and including nations) it's a reasonable question, but if not, it's not.



  • @Inzoum said:

    @Volmarias said:

    I think you have expectations far too high of your contractors. This is the guy whose job description is

    • Plug a hole in the wall
    • Bring some cable through that hole
    • Attach that cable to the cable box
    • If it doesn't work, use your signal meter to determine if the line is too noisy or too quiet

    Complaining about not knowing how to configure DHCP is like being mad that the guy serving you in burger king doesn't know what the hell Kosher means.

    You're probably right about me having too high expectations, but then again, I would expect someone serving me at Burger King to know what Kosher or Halal means, since the Burger King guy is likely to encounter Jewish or Muslim customers occasionally. Being able to answer these customer's questions will determine if they'll stay and eat (if the employee's able to suggest an alternative meal that conforms with his customer's convictions) or just go away. I doubt the Burger King guy's boss will like seeing potential customers leave and never come back because they couldn't get an answer to a question that's so important to them. As a Burger King crew trainer, I'd probably make sure my employees know what to answer when someone asks them if the food there is Kosher, it's just normal for any restaurant and fast food should be no exception.

    In the same fashion, i would expect these technicians to be told "If it doesn't work, check these parameters: (...)" before being sent off to do an installation. "Checking the IP address settings" would probably be just behind "Checking if the cables are plugged and devices powered on" in my list, as it's an obvious necessary step for the communication to work. I wouldn't expect them to know how to clean a hijacking malware that keeps the network from properly working, however.

    You must be disappointed in life quite frequently.


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