Transmission

XMission's Company Journal

Troubleshooting for the Inexperienced Introvert

The following article is intended to be a fun introduction for the relatively uninitiated introverts out there who are reluctant, for whatever reason, to call technical support. First and foremost is the quintessential “restart” (which will be clarified further), some speed troubleshooting steps, and also an introduction for those unaware of our incredibly useful wiki.

Let the “Fun” Begin

There’s the age-old adage that there are two types of people in this world.

This is of course indisputably true – the type that believes there are two types of people and the type that doesn’t.

However, for the sake of this article, we’re going to suppose there are two additional types – those who proactively seek assistance resolving technical problems and those who proactively seek to resolve the same problems themselves.

At XMission, we have no preference on these two types, or really any types at all, and we always enjoy hearing from our customers. But sometimes the second type may be a bit too proud or timid (or just plain busy) to give us a call. Therefore, this article is intended primarily for this supposed second audience.

Restart versus Reset versus Powercycle

It’s a well known fact that people obsessed with computers and networking do not have the slightest clue how to speak any distinct language known to normal human beings. While the words above may appear similar, and even happily sit beside one another in the thesaurus, in the perplexing world of computing and processing they potentially can mean very different things.

A “Restart” is simple. It’s the option that hangs out with “Shut Down,” “Log Out,” and sometimes “Hibernate.” But you’d be surprised, despite or maybe in spite of the British IT Crowd, how useful a restart can actually be. For example, sometimes operating system and Internet security software updates will inadvertently block mail ports, leaving the user wondering what gremlin crawled inside their machine overnight and why it wanted to prevent them from sending out the latest and greatest cute kitten photograph.

Less complicated, but more frustrating, is when your computer freezes. Unless you left it out in the cold overnight, there’s no good reason your computer should be frozen. And yet it happens. To all of us. And unfortunately, at that time, it’s time for a “Restart.” Only this time, it’s the button kind.

We could go on and on about the myriad of problems a “Restart” will fix, but take our word for it – it may seem like a last resort, especially if your computer seems to want only to race a snail upon booting up, but sometimes it can actually save you a lot of time and potential headaches. In fact, if booting up is taking awhile, I find that an excellent time to step away from the computer for a cup of coffee, or to just to take a peek out the window so I can recall what the outdoors look like.

Not to be outdone by personal computers, another myriad of problems (or gremlins) can cause routers and modems to freeze or sometimes just not to operate at full capacity. One step you can take that will often, though certainly not always, resolve a problem with your modem or router is a “Powercycle.” “Powercycling” is different from a “Restart” in that many routers and modems do not offer a helpful “Restart” button externally, and in order to restart them you’d likely have to be inside the web-interface, which is likely inaccessible given the angry frozen nature of the modem or router in question.

It’s time to pull the plug! Literally! “Powercycling” simply means removing the power source from the device, typically for about thirty seconds, which is of course the approximate amount of time it takes starve the electric gremlins residing within.
If your device is frozen, this may very well warm it up. If you seem to be having speed issues (for more information on that, see the next section), a powercycle can quite often force the device to re-establish a stronger connection. If you have switch, or router, or modem (or all three), it may be necessary to powercycle each of them to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Lastly, we have “Reset.” He’s a confusing little button typically hidden in a small hole on your device. The reason he hides is that he does not typically want to be hit. Not only does he restart your modem, he actually restores it to a “Factory Reset” – which means any configuration your device had will be lost when this button is pressed, and the device will be restored to its earlier, pre-purchased, straight-out-of-the-box default configuration.

The “Reset” is typically recommended only for users who are comfortable reprogramming their device.

To hit this button, you’ll have to get something very small and thin (typically we recommend a bent paperclip), dig inside, and poke the clandestine bugger for about 10-15 seconds. When finished, you will likely have to say goodbye to your old internal wireless configuration and any connectivity configuration. Yet, while you may have to re-configure some settings, we have seen the “Factory Reset” give older devices new life.

Breaking the Speed Limit

Troubleshooting speed issues can be a very difficult task, as there are often so many variables that can interfere. If you have an internal network, it’s important to consider that even one device can consume a lot of bandwidth, especially if it’s misconfigured or infected. This can become even more complicated if you have a wireless network, as some bandit may have sorted out how to hijack your connection and could now very well be using it to send out his own latest and greatest cute kitten photographs.

Therefore, one of the most important steps that can be taken when trying to diagnose a speed problem is to remove as many of these variables as possible. The easiest way to do this is to have only a single computer plugged directly into your gateway device. You can use our speed test, available at http://speedtest.xmission.com, to now check the speed. If you notice little to no change, then, despite the previous comments about not calling us, we definitely recommend calling us! However, if you find that the speeds have drastically improved, it’s likely an internal problem that someone more familiar with your home or office network would be more adept at troubleshooting.

What’s a Wiki?

Although it’s been brief, we hope you have found this article somewhat helpful. If not, we have even better news! There’s a ton of information available at your fingertips at http://wiki.xmission.com/ and we are constantly (and consistently) adding more. So for those of you haunted by the want to resolve problems without our delightful assistance, we fully welcome you to explore our wiki. And if you find something you don’t quite understand or that isn’t clear, please ignore your haunted soul and give us a call. We can’t bite over the phone and we pride ourselves on our technical expertise and astounding customer service.

Either way, we look forward to hearing from you and also wish you the best in this brave new world of befuddling words, wikis, gremlins, and the great things that are yet to come as technology and XMission continue to grow!

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One thought on “Troubleshooting for the Inexperienced Introvert

  • Skyler V says:

    Thanks Chris, now to show this to EVERY person that ever asks me for assistance (in an IT Crowd fashion) before I spend one second of my time figuring out what they mean by “isn’t working”.