Bridging the disconnect

Bridging the disconnect
Date:6 September 2009 Author: Anthony Doman Tags:, ,

If there’s a single word that describes the modern lifestyle, it’s the word “connected”. We really are never more than a click or two away from cyberspace. But sometimes, it seems, we can be too connected.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m delighted to be able to Google in the garden, to Mxit in the mall, or to Twitter during tea. Where’s the harm in that? It certainly beats noisy conversation or music.

For me, the danger lies in becoming too comfortable with this convenience. On being deprived of it, withdrawal symptoms of the worst kind are inevitable. The reason I know this? Last week, I became disconnected.

Until then, I’d cheerfully gone online on my ADSL line via my home wi-fi network. Suddenly, all I could get was Website Not Available. Two telephone calls later, normal service was resumed. All it took was a tiny adjustment in my PC’s Internet settings – changing Domain Name System server selection from automatic to manual. Like I said, we’ve become comfortable with convenience: thanks to DNS, communicating with the Web is as simple as typing in an easily remembered address (“www.popularmechanics.co.za”). DNS servers convert that into Internet Protocol (IP): 196.38.49.156.

If only that was where it ended.

A few days later, attempts to connect via the home network using my smartphone’s wi-fi produced a terse “No gateway reply”.

Luckily, I got through to a Telkom helpdesk operator who freely admitted he’d not before fixed a problem involving a mobile phone… but nevertheless he’d try.

Well, it’s a good thing helpline calls are free. It took a while.

The reason I described it as lucky was that he didn’t take things for granted. We were laboriously going through seemingly irrelevant details of my laptop’s operating system when the penny dropped. It uses Windows XP, recently updated to Service Pack 3. It seems that the update process can cause connectivity conflicts. Changing the DNS setting works, but all other wireless devices on the network have to be reconfigured.

Go on, Google it. The Web is littered with complaints.

In a way, this story has a bittersweet ending. Yes, my mobile is once more happily connected. (See below for details.) And yes, thanks to the drawn-out telephone discussion with the helpdesk man I now know where the problem lay – even if I don’t really understand it.

The thing is, I didn’t get his name, and we parted before I’d been able to implement his suggested changes. So, whoever you are, anonymous Telkom helpdesk person, thank you. It worked.

* It turns out that, with the DNS setting change, you have to designate an IP address and default gateway for your mobile phone manually. As easy as that. Reconnecting the mobile: Open Network Connections in Control Panel, right-click on Local Area Connection, click Properties, click Internet Protocol, then click Properties and then click Use the following DNS server address. Input the relevant server address supplied by Telkom (in Cape Town, it’s 196.43.46.190). You should be able to obtain IP address details from your wireless router’s manual or via a PC on the network, by going to Start/Run/type in cmd/Enter, then type in ipconfig/Enter

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