a thimbleful of internet: a tale of woe

This is my NB6W. It’s a one port ADSL modem with wireless LAN. This coming Tuesday will mark its 3rd return to Netcomm for purposes of warranty.

We were selling a lot of NB6Ws at work, so when my WAG54G died during a storm, I figured I’d get one and familiarise myself with it so I’d be better at supporting it over the phone and such.

What I’ve actually accomplished, though, is to become familiar with the various ways in which these things become faulty and die.

By far, the most common is that they’ll suddenly stop working one day, you’ll turn it off and on again, and all you’ll get is a red power light, and the USB and Ethernet lights will stay solid green. Plugging and unplugging anything else – phone line, network cable – makes no difference. If you see an NB6W doing this, it’s gone.

We’ve also had a couple that just refuse to get line sync whatsoever. We’re aware of incompatibilities with telephone exchange hardware – apparently NB5s won’t work on Optus ADSL2 – but that doesn’t seem to be the issue.

This one is new. When I woke up today, i had every light but USB on (I don’t use it as a USB modem), the power light was red, and the network light was flashing. Even when I unplugged the network cable. It’d locked up hard; which lights were on was completely irrelevant to what was actually plugged into it, and I definitely couldn’t see it on the network.

I cycled power to it, and now it’s as you see it above. Red power light, ethernet light comes on if there’s a network cable, and that’s all. Basically it’s a blinky doorstop.

I’m still trying to decide what to replace it with. We also sell the NB6+4W at work – the four port version of mine, which must be different enough inside to not have the same problems because we’ve never had a single one back – and one of those would definitely solve my issues.

At the other end of the scale, I’m eyeing up Belkin’s N1 Vision router, that insane thing with a D-pad and LCD screen. I’d pair that with a Billion 7300 or a plain NB6 – again, same as mine but without wireless, and again we’ve never had a single one back – and rely on the N1 for routing and wireless networking.

That’s all speculation, though. It’s the long weekend, and I’m stuck without broadband.

I still have internet access, though. Of sorts.

This is my W800i. It’s a GSM mobile phone with Bluetooth. It’s not 3G, but it does support GPRS, and is capable of running Opera for very slow web browsing while out and about.

It’s also, if you can connect it to a PC, a GPRS data modem. It’s no speed demon – OzSpeedTest reckons I managed five whole kilobytes a second, so calling it a “broadband” speed test is a bit of a misnomer – but it’s rock solid stable and reliable, and is more than enough for MSN, light web browsing and blogging.

This is a snap to set up. Pairing a Windows PC with a Bluetooth mobile phone will automatically install it as a Bluetooth dialup modem. If you have a USB data cable, it’ll detect as a USB dialup modem.

Then, create a dialup connection in Windows, with your phone as the modem. The number to dial is *99# and you can leave the username and password blank. When you start ‘dialing’, your phone will behave like you’ve just opened its own browser and told it to load something off the net.

Whether or not you can take and make voice calls while you’re using GPRS depends on what kind of phone you have. I think my phone downloads SMSes via GPRS anyway, so Voicemail could let me know I’d missed a call, but calling them back dropped out my net access. I think my W800i is a class B, and the GSM network can tell, so it didn’t interrupt the GPRS connection to allow the call though.

One Response to “a thimbleful of internet: a tale of woe”

  1. Clint says:

    I got my NB6+4W a year before you tasted the fail of the NB6W. It’s still going strong, although it occasionally locks up from unholy amounts of ADSL2+ bit torrent doom when it’s doing it’s own PPP (problem fixed by putting it in bridge mode, but then the “+4W” part becomes pointless). Also the overheating if it doesn’t have plenty of air around it. Captcha: tuxedo married.