Technical (lack of) Support

Being the local “person who knows about computers” I was recently drafted to sort out someone’s inability to get a new laptop talking wirelessly to a new router on a new ADSL connection.

It didn’t help that she’d been mis-sold a few times over. By the time I was called in she’d already bought an ADSL USB modem, two wi-fi dongles, and an ADSL router. Of course she’d installed the software that had been shipped with each and every one of them, as well as the contents of some would-be drinks coaster from Tiscali, her ISP.

In an effort to avoid suffering death by driver overload in Windows I decided to boot from a Ubuntu live CD. I was hard-wired into the router at this point, as I just wanted to verify that the ADSL connection was up and running before worrying about the complexities and nuances of wi-fi.

I let the laptop boot from the CD, and watched it get a DHCP connection as expected. I pointed Firefox at the configuration screen for the router and stepped through the connection wizard. All went well, the lights looked okay, and I was able to ping Google and the BBC. Try as I might, however, I couldn’t get a web page to appear. I thought I’d better check that there was no filtering at Tiscali’s end of the line, so made the foolish mistake of calling their technical support line. The conversation went something like this:

Me: … I can ping Google and the BBC but can’t get a web page up. Are you filtering anything at your end?
Tech Support: No sir, we don’t do any filtering here. If you can ping then you should be able to view the web sites. What version of Windows are you running?
Me: I’m not running Windows, I’ve booted from a Linux live CD for testing purposes.
Tech Support: Okay sir, but what version of Windows are you running?
Me: I’m not running Windows, I’m running Linux.
Tech Support: Okay sir, so you’re running Linux.
Me: Yes.
Tech Support: What version of Windows are you running that on?
Me: I’m not running Windows at all. I’m running Linux instead of Windows.
Tech Support: Can I put you on hold, sir, while I consult with one of my colleagues.

… time passes … quite a bit of time, actually …

Tech Support: Thank you for holding sir. I’ve consulted with one of my colleagues, and we think you need to reinstall Internet Explorer

Now I don’t expect every tech support person to be a Linux expert, but it would be nice if they at least knew a little bit about computers. Like what an OS is, and that if the customer isn’t running Windows then telling them to reinstall Internet Explorer probably isn’t going to help much.

I never did find the source of the problem, but a reboot seemed to do the job. After removing all the drivers and extra rubbish that I could I finally got the wireless connection working. The router web interface was absolutely rubbish and refused to remember any of the settings I applied, so although it’s working there’s no encryption or MAC address filtering. That should make any technically savvy neighbours happy. Maybe I’ll fix that sometime, but I really didn’t feel like dealing with D-Link’s technical support staff at that point.