I’ve spent my morning two inches shy of literally crossing swords with a modem.

So…my parents’ internet has always been slow and they decided, with me down to help, that they wanted to upgrade.  I checked availability and for this address the local company sold speeds as low as 768 Kbps to as fast as 25 Mbps.  I decided that 10 Mbps would keep them up with the median of modern technology.

I put in the call to CenturyLink and learned that mom and dad were actually at the speed of 256 Kbps for which they’d signed up darn near a decade ago.  That’s slow.  The lady on the other end wondered aloud how they accomplished anything on the internet.  So the change was made and ever since then the internet has cut out, at random, every 30 minutes to a few hours (those who watched the Gamers for Godlessness fundraiser got to see it).

Five calls to tech support later, it was decided we needed to replace the modem.  So I drove into town and did that.  I’ve set up new modems before, so I’m no idiot.  This one, however, was possessed by every malicious demon in cyberspace.  I spent the whole morning, including five more calls to tech support (thanks CenturyLink for having decent Classical music when I’m on hold), trying to sort out this little bastard.  By the end of it, I wanted to crawl into the intertubes with a fucking knife and exact my revenge.

For instance, before my first call to tech support today, I had power-cycled the modem seven fucking times.  Seven!!!  When I got through to tech support, the guy did what I expected: he asked me to power-cycle the modem for the eighth time.  That time, the modem let me in to configure it.  Don’t know what was so magic about attempt number eight, but I was left pretty sure that a personal god exists because he spent the morning personally fucking with me.

Just five minutes ago I finally got it working.  I say I got it working, but that might be a little misleading.  While sitting in a chair attempting to subdue my rage, it just miraculously started working.  And I guess, since I can’t explain what happened, it must be god, or Canaanite Jews rising from the dead, or smurfs, or gremlins, or pick your argument from ignorance.

Anyway, I’ll throw a couple quick posts up today, but I am done being around my laptop after that.  If there are no posts tomorrow, then you know I threw the whole setup into the lake.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • John Eberhard

    You’re a hero.

  • Nick Johnson / Remijdio

    I know what’s happening. The support guys on the other end are like “oh shit, atm screwed up LOL uh just fix it and don’t tell anyone haha”
    My web server provider does this every time. I report a problem, they say they’re looking into it. Half an hour later they’re like “Hmm…seems to be working now.” *marks ticket as resolved. NO SHIT IT’S WORKING YOU FUCKING FIXED IT

  • theAtheistAxolotl

    The technology gods demand data sacrifice. Prepare it on an alter of your choice video game console, ensuring that it is clean of virus and malware. Then use a powerful magnet to wipe the drive you are sacrificing. If the gods are satisfied with your sacrifice (it is best if you use an original work of which no copies have been made) they may see fit to grant you working hardware and software for some amount of time.

  • otocump

    As tech support for an ISP I know this story all too well from our side of things. “Whoops, no one added a WA record, *click click enter* “Dear sir, power cycle it once more. Trust me”. IT WORKS! MAGIC!” And no one was the wiser. Thankfully that doesn’t happen that often, but from your description on the Gaming marathon I still suspect someone’s got a bad ADSL filter there. Especially if its cutting out when a phone call is coming in. Either that or gremlins in the phone lines. But Personal God? No. Just us schmucks making things sound so difficult up to the point we fix it and pretend it was nothing hard at all….*snickers*

  • http://Reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

    As somebody who regularly crosses swords with modems, here are some tips: circle parries are too slow, don’t use tbem. A quick disengage can help, but watch for the counter. Mostly, either get it mad so it rushes in and you can stop thrust, or attempt to bait it into overextending on the lunge and stab it while it recovers. Play a long game and try not to exert yourself too much. Fencing is about doing as little as you can to get your modem to stab itself for you.

  • Loqi

    My experiences with CenturyLink have been horrible. They actually managed to be worse than Comcast in pretty much every respect, a feat which was inconceivable to me after what Comcast put me through. If one looks at my Facebook posts from October, one would see a chronicle of ~10 calls to tech support and multiple visits by multiple technicians, each one concluding “the modem is bad” and leaving me with a new modem (there’s a picture of all five modems stacked up, with the caption, “At what point should I look into putting these in a rack?”).
    Don’t expect it to get much better from here :(

  • L. Poe

    A lot of times, with the power cycling, it’s not just doing it, you actually have to do it in a certain order, or it’s not going to work right. Most of the time it’s not the internet or the router that’s at fault, but rather your computer trying to communicate with the router and not getting the right settings so that it can. With intermittent problems, it’s usually a hardware failure, though. Like the modem/router, or sometimes the signal filters on the line generating too much noise for your own communications to get sent clearly.

    I used to get really aggravated and curse my ISP whenever my intertubes went down too. Then I became a networking student, and now I’m absolutely astounded this shit works -EVER- considering the sheer amount of different physical equipment, connections, and interference it goes through just between you and your ISP’s servers.

    • Azkyroth

      A lot of times, with the power cycling, it’s not just doing it, you actually have to do it in a certain order, or it’s not going to work right.

      This is bad design.

  • baal

    Just sing this to the modem.

    • http://www.cstdbill.com Bill

      ball’s link didn’t work for me, so I have no idea what he wanted you to sing.

      The first thing that popped into my mind was Là ci darem la mano. I’m not sure why that would help. 8-)

      • baal

        Baal (it’s not a mispelling). I use the same nym for trivia at bars and love beating the folks who think I can’t spell (I actually don’t spell all that well but this nym isn’t that).


        Peter Gabriael’s Sledge hammer – I have a pretty real rapier and it might dent a casing but nothing like a big heavy thing would.

        • http://www.cstdbill.com/ Bill

          Baal (it’s not a mispelling).

          My bad. My misproofreading.

  • Sunny Day

    I work at an ISP but not Century Link. I know there are certain brands of modems that take upwards of 15 min to sync up and register on our CMTS. It doesn’t matter if its a field tech doing an install, or a customer on the phone calling in with their modem’s SN and MAC. Powercycling the modem will only start the timer over from the beginning.

    The order does matter sometimes too. Have everything connected but powered off, power up modem, wait 1 min, power up next device wait 1 min, repeat till no more devices…
    Good modems and computers don’t care and the order may not matter, finicky older os’s will try the modem once and if it doesn’t get a response from it within a certain time will give up and assign itself an APIPA ip address (169.254.x.x range) that will not route on the internet.

  • Drew

    Next time you call, use the code word

    • CoryM

      That only works on a [few, alterady very good ISPs](http://revk.www.me.uk/2012/11/shibboleet.html). Unfortunately.

    • Amyc

      Actually, for a lot of automated phone services, just saying the words “agent” or “manager” over and over again will get you speaking to a real person…really fast.

      • Azkyroth

        I’m reasonable certain I’ve had at least one robot respond as desired to the phrase “GIVE ME A HUMAN!” Damned if I can remember where, though.

  • UsingReason

    It’s called job creation; if the modem worked right out of the box you wouldn’t need tech support.

  • John Horstman

    I had this happen to me with a Surfboard cable modem provided by Time Warner. The techs flatly refused to consider that the problem was the (decade-old) modem, and went so far as to replace the cable running from the pole to our house, to no effect. I solved the problem by buying my own factory-refurbished modem for $20, which has been working well for two and a half years now.