Apr 18, 2006

Simple Pleasures

About a week ago a coworker came to me for recommendations on hooking up some broadband at home. I gave her the usual breakdown of the differences between Cable and DSL, what she would need in her laptop to make it connect properly, blah blah blah... So after a little back and forth she settled on a DSL package which offered a decent price and a wireless package which she was told initially included a pcmcia card (later found out it didn't, but they'd be happy to sell her one...).

Since her 266Mhz laptop (running Win98E) only had 28MB of memory we ordered her up a 128MB stick to fill the empty slot (she's trying to do this all on a constrained budget, but there are limits!). We got the memory installed and plugged in an old 10BT pcmcia card I had lying around (a useless spare part to me, but a helpful token for her while she waited for the wireless card to appear) and she was up and running.

A few days later the 802.11g card appeared and this is where things went wonky. She installed the full set of the ISP's software (which included absolutely pointless crap that I'd avoided for her initially when I put the wired card in) in order to get to the wireless card drivers. Not only did the wireless card not work, but the setup died midway, the wired connection stopped working, several random error dialogs started appearing, and the coup de gras.... The backlight on the LCD winked out completely. In short, her one-year contract with the ISP was going to be worthless because her only computer had just exploded.

So she brought the PC back to work with a heartwrenching face of woe. After two days of twiddling with it in between the stuff UC actually pays me to be doing, the laptop is officially singing. The software problems just required uninstalling the ISP's mierda, getting updated drivers from the card vendor, and a tiny bit of registry hacking, nothing phenomenal for a IT person, but not something she could have managed without a reinstall (the process of which would have likely led to the same end result). The LCD was a bit trickier, turns out the lead from the step-up transformer to the backlight lamp had snapped off (coincidental to the software problem, though perhaps aggravated by her frustration induced thwacking) at the bulb so I had to tear open the whole panel and resolder it. Again, nothing more amazing than (effectively) reseating a cable, but this was fun because I'd never dissasembled a panel to that degree before.

Best part of all, when I opened up her laptop to show a vibrant screen (actually better than it had looked before all this started) and successful connectivity to AirBears (UCB's wireless network), the look on her face just said it all.

Sometimes, doing helpdesk work kicks ass.

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