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Loose cables

"The cable fell off". I had been asking the person at the other end of the line to hook his computer directly to the Comcast modem, so I naturally assumed he meant the CAT-5 cable. I asked if the locking tab was broken off the end.

"I don't think this has a locking tab", he said.

Oh, sure. "It's supposed to", I explained. "It keeps it from falling out."

"I don't see why it would fall off normally", he insisted.

I suppose I should have caught on to the "fall off" part, but I didn't. "Well, maybe we can tape it for now until we can get you a new cable", I suggested.

"Naw", he said, "I'll just tighten it up."


"Oh, sheesh: you mean the coax cable fell off - the one that has a pin in the middle and screws on? That cable fell off?"

Ayup. That's just what he meant.

Actually, this knowledge pleased me a little. We had been chasing strange problems out here for several weeks and getting nowhere. Regularly they would have to power cycle this modem over and over before it would cough up a DHCP address for the router. As it was all just black magic to the folks near the modem, the 7:00 AM calls were getting a little tiresome to me. I don't say annoying: their problem was real and needed fixing, but it was tiresome because it was getting worse rather than better.

We'd also had a slowly dying Windows 98 box that couldn't hold its private DHCP allocated address, so that puppy usually had to be powered off every morning before it would wheeze and clunk itself to life. The inability of that machine to work sometimes triggered them to try resetting the modem. I couldn't make them understand that if other machines could reach the Internet there was nothing wrong with the router or the modem: it was that stupid old machine. I was very pleased to hear that one recent morning it had given up the struggle to boot and no amount of rest would resuscitate it. One less problem for me, I thought.

But this falling off cable was really of interest. If the darn thing was so loose that it could actually fall off from handling, that might be the source of my other problems. It certainly couldn't have been helping.

"She's up now", my contact announced. "We have Internet".

That's good. Maybe they'll still have it tomorrow morning, but if not, well, I'm always up early anyway.

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