The dark side of modern technology

Technology allows us to do more in less time than ever before, but there is a price to pay, especially when we try to upgrade a working system to another level of capability. That’s when we have to look under the hood and our complacency is often shattered.

I spent the last two days installing a secure wireless network in my home and my workplace. This was not bleeding edge technology because I deliberately chose a two year old model in hopes that the product would be properly sorted out.

I Googled for evidence of problems and found plenty, but most of the complaints were several years old. Recent installations seemed to have gone well, so I chose a TRENDnet wireless router and hoped for the best.

I knew I was in trouble when the Network Wizard software that was shipped with the router failed to recognize the router. This "Network Wizard" was supposed to handle all of the messy details of the installation and couldn’t even start. The installation went downhill from there.

I have had root canal procedures that were easier to experience…
Rainydaycatnap

I would have much preferred to follow the example of this cat and spend the time snoozing.

Instead, I subjected myself to another "learning experience" which resulted in me working furiously to get a system working instead of having a pleasant weekend with friends and family.

Those of you who are considering adding wireless capability to your home computer network might be interested in what happened. Continue reading after the jump.

I already had a working wireless network gets continuous heavy use.
Unfortunately it’s an open network and is accessible for use by
neighbors and passing motorists. I planned on setting up a secure
wireless network in parallel with the existing network and then
switching our more remote computers from the open network to the secure
network, once the testing was done.

This was not a foolproof plan, but it seemed to offer the advantage of keeping things running until the new network was in place. Wrong!

Setting up the new network periodically shut down the existing wireless
network which did not endear me to Gretchen who was trying to handle
important emails

Our modern technology is marvelous when it works and it works amazingly
well once all of the gritty details are worked out. And there’s the rub.

Designing for all of the possible situations that may be encountered is
no longer done, mostly because it would be impossible to release the
product and meet the marketing window. Long-suffering customer service
people here and abroad pick up the slack when a product is released.

I decided not to use the service reps in far off India, because I
couldn’t figure out what the real problem was and I was setting up an
installation that was beyond the simple examples that Tech Support does
well at. I discarded the "Network Wizard software" and pored through
the user manual until I found information I could use to set up the
router by using a browser.

Thirty hours later I had tried every combination and I was getting
repeatable and stable results. I have switched all of the laptops and
remote computers over to the secure network and all seems to be well.

Having spent two long days in this changeover, I am still a little gun
shy, so I am keeping the open wireless network on as a backup. If one
network hiccups, I can easily switch to the other network. Redundancy
seems like a good idea today.

I will probably make both networks secure, once I am sure that the system is really stable.

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0 Responses to The dark side of modern technology

  1. Tom King says:

    The cat got it right.

  2. Dave Opton says:

    David,

    As for me, I think based on your experience, I’ll wait for another year before I take the plunge, besides, by only being connected in my home office over the garage, it gives my wife a chance to not have to listen to me all the time. 🙂

  3. Myke says:

    I’m very gun shy for the same reasons.

    I dread technology problem avalanches like hard disk crashes. They are so time consuming and stressful.

  4. We are a long way from Plug and Play capability for wireless network equipment, but I am sure we will eventually see that level of convenience become an absolute requirement for product acceptability.

    Self-installing software took many years to appear and much of the delay was due to the lack of interest by software development teams. I remember discussing the need for such capability with a software development director in the early 1980’s. His response was, “Why would they want that?”

    We are much more market oriented now as a result of instant feedback from customers on the Internet, but universal plug and play capability is still a few years away.

  5. As an IT guy, I believe you problem was going with an “inexpensive” consumer-grade wireless router, rather than the “expensive” consumer grade. I’ve used Linksys and Netgear to good effect on small installs. The cheaper stuff–Belkin, Trendnet et al–has always had problems, either during setup or shortly thereafter.

    You can get away with the cheap stuff when buying network cards, as a rule. But you do it on the router side at your peril.

  6. George says:

    I understand your article now; it was a little too complex for me, and I apologize. You obviously know a lot more about it than myself.

    I had never thought about products working before actually selling them before; it is an issue that is rarely discussed (to my knowledge) and is completely true.

    I have subscribed to “making ripples” and look forward to trying to comprehend your next post.

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