Mom came over yesterday with her laptop so that I could fix her email account. She’d received no email since I set it up on June 6. 

I know the problem before I start. I had to change the password on the 6th because Mom couldn’t remember the old password. So at some point she got a password prompt and didn’t know the new password. Fine. All my fault. 

This is what troubleshooting looks like. 

I open the laptop and mail client. It says the settings are invalid. Ok. Oops. Mom isn’t connected to my wireless network. I connect her or, at least, try to.  My wifi password is super long, but by my third attempt I know I’m typing it right. The error it is giving is “failed to connect. “. I run the Windows network diagnostic tool even though that never helps. “Try connecting to a wireless network,” it suggests.  Useless. That is what is failing!

Now I pull out my laptop. First I check her email account online. Maybe she’s locked out – I’ll fix the account and forget about her laptop. No dice. The account works perfect. It is certainly the email client. I’ll need to connect her laptop to correct and verify. 

I check my wireless. I have a dual band modem. Only one band is showing up on Mom’s laptop. Hmm. Maybe the two bands have different passwords?  I dunno I only use the one band – the other one. So now I log onto the router. 

Note: I started with her email client then her network settings then her server then my network settings and now my router. I’m far away from the actual problem. This is when Mom goes: “Maybe we should call your brother. He can always fix it.”  I’ve now been taking a while and my stomach is a bit upset. 

“This he can’t fix from work.”  My answer is a little peevish. 

Back to the router. Yep. The two band passwords can be set independently. Great. But…they are both the same. Nuts. Ok. I look at the firmware level. 1.0.  I’ve never updated this thing. Gar. 

Now I’m at the router site downloading the latest firmware –  2013 was the last release. My router is both ancient and out of date. Terrorists have likely been using my network daily. I have to drive to the router to check part of the model number. Mom is watching mystified. I haven’t touched her laptop into over 20 minutes. I insist it is all under control, but I don’t really know that. The firmware update is a shot in the dark. Tier 1 script-like troubleshooting. “Is it up to date? No? Then update before going to step 2.”  The next step would be real troubleshooting. I’d need to consult the event logs and see why the connections were failing, research it on the web, adjust settings and retry and repeat. It would be annoying for what I knew to be, at heart, a bad password issue. 

When I was in the router earlier, I didn’t see the firmware update option. So I look at the instructions on the support site. Nuts. It is a friendly video instead of a document. Grr. I play it. It takes 5 minutes of annoyance before it tells me where the menu option is. On the way there it provides helpful warnings like don’t do a firmware update wirelessly. I have no cable so I ignore that advice. I think it is unlikely the upload will corrupt and if it does brick the router? Meh. It is ancient, I can get a new one. 

Mom notices though and asks if I should plug it in. I wave down the concerns. 

5 minutes later I’m done. The firmware upgrades fine. My settings are retained. My laptop still reaches the Internet. I connect Mom’s laptop with no issue (both bands are no visible). I fix the password in the mail client and download a week of email. 

That was the highlight of my birthday. My upset stomach made the rest of the day unpleasant. 


  • Even simple issues can turn into a pain
  • I bet my router will work better with Windows mobile devices now
  • Having the customer watch you work and suggesting calling your brother for advice is annoying. 
  • Troubleshooting is just chasing the issue from one state to another until it works or you’ve found a bug that needs to be reported. One annoying step at a time. 

One thought on “Troubleshooting

  1. Dano says:

    I also would have called Tim.

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