I came home from the office one day this week to a surprise — my son was waiting on me with a "I need your help, Dad" message.
In this case, I had purchased a new 8-port network switch to replace an old one that died several months ago. I’d been getting by with a 5-port switch in its place, but I was short by one port. That port needed to provide networking to my wife’s SageTV Media Center Extender, which lets my SageTV-based home theater PC provide its recorded videos in her sewing room.
I decided that I needed a Gigabit 8 port switch
Eventually, I expect to put a 10/100/1000 network card in my home theater PC and in my desktop computer, which acts as remote storage for the HTPC.
Well, as luck would have it, we had one of those coincidences that serve to drive people crazy.
He hadn’t watched television for a while, nor had he been on the Internet. He installed the new 8-port switch but, then, the computers would not talk to the Internet. Strangely, they could get to the cable router, which meant that they were going through the new switch.
The second, and stranger, event was that the cable TV went out, too. We had enough of a connection that we could see poor quality pictures on all channels, but not good enough to watch. Obviously, the poor signal reception, from whatever cause, was also why the cable Internet connection was down.
I called Cox Cable to report the problem, just in case, and was dismayed to learn that this was not a system problem. We’d hoped that this was something on which Cox was working. But, no such luck, we were the only ones affected and the next service appointment was late the next day. Of course, I grabbed it.
As I realized that I wouldn’t be able to check my emails, my first thought was my Internet dialup solution that I had maintained for several years. But, although I never managed to use up my BudgetDialup.com time before it expired ($9.95 for 20 hours that were good for up to a year — that’s a total of 20, not 20 per month), my time had expired in September and I hadn’t gotten around to buying any more.
Of course, the reason I hadn’t was because of my free NetZero account that gives me up to 10 hours per month. This was a time for Free NetZero Dialup!
NetZero’s free deal is this: I get up to 10 hours per month for free. In return, I am obligated to let their toolbar and banner bar run while I’m connected through their dialup service. They’ll give me ads while I’m connected for free. It’s a fair trade, in my opinion.
When I’m not using their service, I use WinPatrol to disable their auto-starting program and use IE7’s Manage Add-ons to disable their IE toolbar. When I need to use their service, I turn them back on in order to meet the requirements of the service agreement.
I connected my notebook to the phone line, started Internet Explorer and turned on the NetZero Toolbar, dialed, and then I was connected and operational! I was able to check my email using my favorite email program (Eudora) and use Firefox for web browsing, too.
The connection seemed really slow, which I finally realized that I was doing so many things at one time that the dialup bandwidth was the limitation. In the background, which I didn’t initially realize, NetZero was downloading an update to their software. I had the same basic problem that any dialup user has — automatic updates of Windows, anti-virus signatures, anti-virus program updates, anti-spyware signatures and program updates, and anything else like that will kill the connection speed.
In this case, I hadn’t logged into NetZero in about six months. I don’t recall any significant updates from them on a regular basis — I think it had just been too long between connections. In the early days, I’d connect to them via my cable connection so any updates were at high speeds. I’m going to go back to that practice.
What was the problem? It was a corroded connector at one end of the underground cable from the cable system’s box to my house — nothing related at all to installing the new switch. Coincidences can be a pain…
The bottom line: I’m glad I had the free NetZero account. It came in handy for backup when my cable Internet connection was down, which was exactly why I had gotten it. I’ve got it on my notebook, but this type of free account is just as good and applicable to a desktop PC.