Over the years in my career as a helpdesk/field technician, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on the subject of computers in general and I dare call myself an allrounder when it comes to solving computer-related problems of any form.
I’m not saying I’m a n°1 expert on any field, but my IT-related educations and years of experience help me and my customers a lot.
My most recent employer, a pharmaceutical software developer, has a versatile helpdesk (I’m not naming it a call centre, as it is much more than that) , with competent staff that has a very high knowledge on how stuff works in the computer world. I’m glad to be on their service team and am happy to help our large customer base.

green cross

Green cross, recognize you local pharmacist through it. If the LED cross outside his door is turned on, the shop’s open.

 

However… (insert dramatic tune here)

Those that already know me personally, will also know that I just cannot stand general stupidity.
Just recently the n‘th call, coming from our beloved pharmacists struck me into writing this post and starting a new Facebook group.

The situation is as following :

  • A busy pharmacy decides to upgrade its internet from ADSL to VDSL. Basically a technology upgrade, which requires the placement of a new modem/router by the Internet Service Provider tech team and some fiddling around in the local telephony wiring system down the street.
  • The techie arrives (not sure if he was a subcontractor or actual Belgacom employee), and notices he’s in a pharmacy.
  • Techie virtually pisses his pants, hooks up the new modem to his own laptop, makes sure he can surf over the modem and leaves the pharmacy faster than his tech-unsavvy legs can carry him shouting something like “your network administrator will do the rest !” (at least that’s what we hear from our customer – don’t worry it gets worse as you continue reading)
  • Meanwhile the pharmacy, highly depending on their internet connection for price updates, insurance checks (eHealth) and Facebook browsing during the quiet hours, calls us in a slight panic and demands we come as soon as possible.
  • The situation is filed under ‘critical‘ and we dispatch a technician (myself, in this case) ASAP.
  • A little over an hour of driving and I arrive at the pharmacy where two frightened young deer pharmacists await a hero to come solve the problem.
  • I assess the situation :
    The Belgacom BBox (that’s the modem-router for those of you not familiar with Belgium) has an internet connection.
    I hook up my laptop to the BBox and strangely enough get no local IP. No IP to be exact.
    Luckily, experience tought me that the Bbox has the default IP 192.168.1.1 , so I set my laptop’s network adapter to a fixed IP in the same range (see the guide below,if you stopped reading here, dear ISP technician) and surf to the router’s IP.
    The default login for a BBox is its serial number in capitals, which you can only get by physically viewing the machine’s bottom sticker, so that’s a nice form of security. (This blog isn’t all about bashing, you know. if something good happens, it’s worth mentioning as well)
    I do my own form of fiddling, and set the Bbox IP address to that what the former router had. If you cannot log into the old router, dear Belgacom technician, a simple ipconfig command on one of the computers would suffice.
    I also add a DHCP range, which for some reason was disabled. By the technician. Because by default these things have DHCP enabled from 192.168.1.2 to .63 . If you do not know what DHCP is, don’t change it, dear technician.
    Our software also requires me to forward 2 TCP/UDP ports to the server IP (see below how to do this on a BBox). I forgive the Belgacom technician for not having done this, because he did not know the previous router’s password, and this is also not part of his job description.

    Belgacom BBox

    The aesthetic abomination we call a Belgacom BBox

  • You’d think that by now (if you’re a bit of a network literate) the job is done, and peace is restored in the panicking hearts of the two young pharmacists. The Bbox is now a somewhat perfect copy of the old Linksys DSL router that was still plugged in the power socket, by the way.
  • I boot the server, which I had shut down in order to safely mess around in the pile of cables, in order to unplug the old router and not accidentally pull a power chord of some kind.
    It boots. Slowly. Our software starts. Equally slow. An error about not being able to connect to ‘MyCareNet’ appears.
    The little network icon on the bottom right has an exclamation mark, meaning there’s a problem with the internet connection.
    I check the IP adress in the GUI (used a difficult abbreviation, there?) and for some reason, someone (guess who) manually changed the fixed server IP to a completely different IP, not even compatible with the original out-of-the-BBox settings (see what I did there :3 ?)
    A quick fix later, the server connects again, and a pharmacist’s smile starts to appear, while the other’s stomach starts to growl. Poor girls gave up their lunch break :)
  • Leaving nothing to chance, I quickly boot both client computers at the counter for a double-check.
    Client 1 : OK
    Client 2:  seems OK at first sight, but for some reason the fixed IP address was removed and set to DHCP.
    The amateur’s work is starting to annoy me by now, as it’s been half an hour of work already counting from the second I walked in the pharmacy. (not counting the 2 hour drive to-and-fro)
  • Eventually I quickly triple-check the setup and within a rough 30 minutes all is back to what it’s supposed to be.
  • I also got a lunch date out of it, but that isn’t a story for this website :p

 

My point being : IT’S NOT THAT #@!°& FRICKING HARD TO CONFIGURE A NETWORK !!! IT’S  #@!°& YOUR JOB. DO IT!!!!!! (read in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice)

Do it, Ahnuld

DO IT NAO !

I have a slight feeling nowadays, if you ‘re able to read and have a driver’s license, you can get a job installing DSL and cable modems (more on cable modem antics in a later post). This has to stop. Companies are suffering actual loss of money because of this amateurism.
I’ve taken it to a personal level, and will educate (that’s right, you were expecting “bash someone’s head in“, right?) every uncapable technician until either they or I drop dead.

 

Retracing the steps one by one, for technicians-in-training only :

  1. How to set an IP address manually
    on a Windows 8 computer : http://kb.mit.edu/confluence/display/istcontrib/Windows+8+-+Set+up+with+a+Static+IP+Address
    on a Windows 7 computer : http://windows.microsoft.com/nl-be/windows7/change-tcp-ip-settings
    on a Windows XP computer : http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/sag_tcpip_pro_manualconfig.mspx?mfr=true
    on a Linux computer : REALLY? You’re not thinking of even touching a Linux machine, if you don’t know how to set an IP address, right ?0
  2. Running an ipconfig command.
    Windows 98 : Start ->Run -> winipcfg (it’s a graphical version of the IP config command, because it didn’t exist in command mode yet)
    Windows 2000 ~ Windows 7  : Start -> Run -> cmd . In the window that appears, type ipconfig
    Windows 8 (in Metro mode – that’s the flashy full-screen giant-icon mode) : just start typing cmd and press enter when you see the black command icon. The type ipconfig in the appearing windowDid you know : there’s more to the ipconfig command than just the command itself?
    Try typing   ipconfig /?   to get a list of possible optional parameters to use with the command.
    For instance type   ipconfig /all      (space between ipconfig and the slash) to get a more detailed result showing your DNS servers and other handy info.0
  3. Setting an IP address and modifying/creating a DHCP range on a Belgacom BBox. 
    Handy page on how to set the IP (in Dutch – also why type it when someone has done the work for you) : http://www.thierry76.be/het-ip-adres-van-de-b-box-2-aanpassen/0
  4. DHCP? What’s that?
    This wiki page has a firm explanation on the basic concept of DHCP : http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_Host_Configuration_Protocol
    Basically, DHCP allow sort of plug-and-play in your network. You just plug in a network cable (or connect to the router’s wifi), and the DHCP software part gives your computer a specific address in the network, in order for it to communicate with other computers in or outside the network.
    The alternative to DHCP would be to give all your computers a fixed IP adress (see above)
    A combination of both is also possible. Make sure you do not set a fixed IP address within your DHCP range. For instance, if your DHCP range on a BBox is still by default 192.168.2 up to 192.168.1.63 , then your starting IP for the fixed IP addresses range would be 192.168.1.64 as all the previous ones have been reserved for other computers.0
  5. Forwarding ports on a BBox
    Sometimes, certain applications on your local network need to be accessible to the bigger public.
    Say you would have a server running the Remote Desktop protocol (which allows you to see the computer screen from another pc).
    This protocol uses a certain predetermined port number. In this case RDP uses port number 3389
    You would have to tell your router, that all traffic from outside your network (for instance the pharmacist’s computer in his private residence) towards this port (basically every Remote Desktop program that connects to the BBox, from the internet) has to be directed to this specific server (with a specific IP address – this is also important as to why you should know the difference between DHCP and fixed IP)A fine example of this, using IP cameras instead of Remote Desktop is explained at http://didiersalembier.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/camerabewaking-op-verplaatsing-bekijken-met-een-bbox2-belgacom/

3 Responses to “ISP technicians bashing (part 1)”

  1. Geniaal. Dit moeten ze af drukken en omhoog hangen bij onze ISP! Zelfs via de telefoon kan je instructies geven aan een AAP en die zou het dan zelfs nog kunnen :)

  2. En het gaat er niet beter op worden… De jeugd van tegenwoordig groeit wel op met GSM, computer en tablets, maar als ze een zip bestand moeten openen, dan bellen ze mij op voor support (true story). Als ik ooit kids heb kunnen ze alles zelf doen met diene computer, ze krijgen de onderdelen in een doos, en het OS op een schijfje. Ze zullen het dan wel leren, wij hebben dat ook zo moeten doen :-p

  3. Spijtig genoeg, sprekende uit mijn jarenlange ervaring bij een ISP als installateur.
    Je mag enkel de toestellen van ons instellen, die van de klant daar blijf je af. (zo was het bij ons toch indertijd.) Nu moet ik wel eerlijk zeggen dat ikzelf toch wel eens wat verder keek dan mijn neus lang was.
    In het eerste jaar mocht ik de pc van de klant nog configureren daarna was het met een scriptje. (als dat werkt leuk en anders shit, resultaat veel latere collega’s kennen enkel dat scriptje en als het niet werkt mja dan shit wur)
    Maar ze zouden echt wel wat meer mogen kunnen dan alleen maar een modem ophangen en wat rondrijden.
    Natuurlijk hebben deze mensen meestal een tijdsdruk die niet normaal is. En als je dan zo een bedrijfsklant tegen komt zie je heel je planning in duigen vallen. (En de helpdesk voor die tech’s op de baan van die ISP’s is zeker geen hulp hoor)

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