Thursday, November 27, 2008

Computers Not for Dummies

As much as we've progressed, computers still aren't always easy enough to use.

A few days ago I borrowed Shelley's Windows laptop to use to connect to my jSuneido server.

Of course, as soon as I fired it up it wanted to download and install updates, which I let it do. I thought I was being nice installing updates for her. But when I was done, the wireless wouldn't connect. It had been working fine up till then (that's how I got the updates). I just wrote it off to the usual unknown glitches and left it.

But the next day, Shelley tried to use the wireless and it still wouldn't connect. Oops, now I'm in trouble. I tried restarting the laptop and restarting the Time Capsule (equivalent to an Airport Extreme base station) but no luck. It was late in the evening so I gave up and left it for later.

Actually, the problem wasn't connecting - it would appear to connect just fine, but then it would "fail to acquire a network address" and disconnect. It would repeat this sequence endlessly.

I tried the usual highly skilled "messing around" that makes us techies appear so smart. I deleted the connection. I randomly changed the connection properties. Nothing worked.

Searching on the internet found some similar problems, but no solutions that worked for me.

One of the things I tried was turning off the security on the Time Capsule. That "solved" the problem - I could connect - but it obviously wasn't a good solution.

While I was connected I checked to see if there were any more Windows updates, figuring it was probably a Windows update that broke it, so maybe another Windows update would fix it. But there were no outstanding "critical" updates. Out of curiosity I checked the optional updates and found an update for the network interface driver. That seemed like it might be related.

Thankfully, that solved the problem. I turned the wireless security back on and I could still connect.

It still seems a little strange. Why did a Windows update require a new network interface driver? And if it did, why not make this a little more apparent. And why could it "connect" but not get an address? If the security was failing, couldn't it say that? And why does the hardware driver stop the security working? Is the security re-implemented in every driver? That doesn't make much sense.

But to get back to my original point, how would the average non-technical person figure out this kind of problem? Would they think to disable security temporarily (or connect with an actual cable) so they could look for optional updates that might help?

Of course, it's not an easy problem. I'd like to blame Microsoft for their troublesome update, but they have an almost infinite problem of trying to work with a huge range of third party hardware and drivers and software. Apple would argue that's one of the benefits of their maintaining control of the hardware, but I've had my share of weird problems on the Mac as well.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I had the same problem at home with my wireless key. I need to download a new driver for it before I could get back online with the laptop. It sucked! Thankfully the desktop is connected with an actual cable so I could download it from the desktop and then take it over to the laptop and install it.