April 19, 2010

Tech under tech support.

One of my jobs was technical support for Dell Computers. There was a tendency among my fellow techs to disparage those who called in need of help. I refrained for the most part. Yet, every so often I would find someone on the other end of the phone that would make me questioned that stance.

I would state "every computer users starts someplace and learns more from there."

When it comes to PC support at home I tend to let the kids deal with the tech support personnel and only jump in when needed. There is a tendency among my technically savvy friends, family and workmates to disparage those tech support people on the other end of the phone.

Oh what a dual edged sword!

I regularly diagnose PC and network problems, sometimes dialing into various tech support lines and proceed to convince them that I know what I am talking about.

Last week I had two calls I had to make. One went swimmingly the other, not so much. My wife purchased some headphones for PC gaming. We had tried various kinds and this one actually worked to her liking until it didn't. We tried various settings and none of them helped.

Finally it was determined that they broke. As Logitech has a great warranty on products, (upwards to seven years on some), I made the call. The tech was jovial and sounded confident and was familiar with US slang and spoke without an obvious accent. After the preliminary identifications was out of the way he asked plainly if I had done any diagnostics. So I recounted what had been done and he was satisfied. A new headset should be winging its way to our house.

Next up was internet trouble. Our Internet Service Provider (ISP) is Qwest. For some reason our signal started bouncing between working and not working. Not being the bulk of the time.

Thinking it could be the modem I tried adjusting some of the settings and ran the handy diagnostic tool they provided. This lead me to calling in and finding out there was an outage in the area. They set up a call back time to notify me when service was restored. Good enough!

The next day I got the call and things got a little bit odd. The various websites I was used to going too would take a long time to load and then stopped loading all together. A shut down and start up of my web browser (Chrome) would seemingly resolve the problem. Which is even more perplexing. It also turned out that was a coincidence. As a couple of easy ping tests proved.

Qwests DNS server was not working, was my conclusion. At which point I realize that not everyone who reads this could possibly know what that means....

DNS is Domain Name Service. It is a computer that maintains a list of where everything on the internet is located. All the computers on the internet have an address. This is a unique identification that tells data where it has been and were it is going.

An IP address looks like this:
Which is actually:C0.A8.1.64 or 11000000.10101000.00000001.1100100 (which is me just showing off)

Without getting into a bunch of tricky stuff about switches and routers and subnets and such. Lets just say that in a DNS server = www.google.com

Computers only work with binary numbers 1 or 0 or on and off. So a computer can only translate text into numbers to work. Trust me when I say there are lots and lots of Ones and Zeros working tirelessly day and night so you can watch youtube.

So launch your web browser, type in www.google.com. Your DNS server looks that up and sends back the web page you requested. Unless the look up table is not there. Trying to convince the tech that the DNS server was down was an exercise in frustration.

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