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DSL Surfing

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I never knew browsing from home could be this fast, but getting there took some work. A few days after ordering the DSL service I noticed a new box installed on the outside wall. A couple of days after that I received the modem and the other equipment. It seemed like a painless job. Plug in a filter to the wall jack. Connect the DSL outlet of the filter to the modem, and plug in the network wire to the modem and the PC's network card. Connect the phone and fax to the other outlet of the modem. The hardware work was all done.

I powered up the modem and my Windows XP PC, popped in the installation CD, and got on the way to complete the installation. The installation program was a user-friendly piece, taking me step by step through the motions. Things were rolling fine until I hit a wall. The program couldn't find the modem. I checked the cables, the modem, the network card settings, disabled all running programs, stopped the firewall and rebooted numerous times, but no dice. The program kept stalling when trying to detect the modem. Obviously the connection between the modem and the network card was the problem. I knew the network card was fine; I had networked the XP PC with a Linux box not too long ago. So I surmised the problem lied with the modem.

Stumped, I called tech support. The techie was a pleasant and friendly lad, and he took me step by step through his playbook. But over and over we were stymied by the pesky detection routine. Somehow the network card was refusing to acquire a dynamic IP address through DHCP. So we decided to give it a static IP and see what happens. After changing the TCP/IP settings, XP prompted me to reboot. This was peculiar, reminiscent of the old Windows 95/98 days, when you had to reboot the PC every time the TCP/IP settings was changed. Windows XP is supposed to take the changes and continue without rebooting. But the static settings did the job, and after the reboot I was up and running. Only thing is that by then it was 1 AM and I was exhausted. Broadband surfing had to wait until the next day.

The DHCP problem and the TCP/IP rebooting continued to dog me the entire next day. Did I need a new driver? was the network card faulty? Was the modem misconfigured? Scouring the Web I searched for answers, but came up empty-handed. And then while troubleshooting a particular Windows service at work I came across the "DHCP Client" service among the list. This is one of those native XP services that is installed with the automatic setting, so it is kicked off every time Windows is booted. It dawned on me that long ago I had disabled this service on my home PC. Who knows why, but I was able to reproduce the exact problem on that work PC by disabling the service.

When I got home that night, I booted the PC and inspected the services. Sure enough, the "DHCP Client" service was disabled and enabling it finally fixed the issue. Moral of the story: if you tinker with your PC, expect to be stung with these types of problems, unless you have super-memory. So far the DSL service is running great. I am finally unshackled from the dialup hell, the busy tones, the slow connections, and the busy phone while online. The only remaining question is that why the tech support guy didn't asked me to check that service? He had me do everything else under the sun. Checking that service should have been at the top of his troubleshooting list. Oh well, all's well that ends well.

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