Under pressure

It always seems to happen when the boss man in London asks me to put in a few extra hours of work researching stories on the internet. That’s inevitably the time that the internet doesn’t seem to work exactly the way that it should.

And, of course, yesterday morning was no exception. As I fired up my trusty Firefox browser, I had hoped to take a gander at what some of our esteemed university researchers here in the UK had been up to. But it was not to be.

Despite the fact that I had meticulously configured my Firefox browser to open numerous UK university websites simultaneously, none of them would open at all. All I got was an error message that indicated that all the websites had timed out.

Now, oddly enough, you’d think that if the UK universities were all failing me, that ones a little further overseas would have worse problems. But that wasn’t the case at all. While I could access the UCLA website perfectly well, the UCL site was a different matter entirely.

You can imagine just how frustrated I was. So, in an effort to determine what was wrong, I called the folks at my internet service provider for help.

After a short time, I was put into contact with a rather patient lady who decided that the best thing for her to do was to take control of my machine remotely to diagnose what the nature of the problem might be.

I watched in amazement as she downloaded some free anti-malware software, ran it, removed some ’problems’ and then restarted the machine. Sadly, I still couldn’t connect to a single university website.

She then examined some of the Windows system files on the machine and, upon discovering that a few important ones seemed to be missing, she replaced them and restarted the machine. Sadly, I still couldn’t connect to a single university website.

The young lady in question then decided that the problem might lie with the router and so she decided to download some software that she said would fix the problem within an hour. One hour later, of course, it still wasn’t fixed. I still couldn’t connect to a single UK university website.

Naturally, I phoned the help line back. This time a rather patient young man took the call. He told me to boot the machine up in safe mode, and once I had done so he also logged in remotely to the machine to take a sniff around.

He could find nothing wrong, either – even though I could still not access a single UK website.  I was put on hold for 20 minutes while he discussed the issue with his supervisor, as they both reviewed the log that the young lady had created earlier.

When he finally returned to the phone, he informed me that another customer in the local area was having the same problems connecting to similar websites and that the fault appeared to have something to do with their servers, rather than my computer.

As if wasting four hours of time on the phone wasn’t bad enough, you’ll undoubtedly be amused to learn that I also had to subscribe to the company’s ’technical service’ for almost £10 per month just for the privilege of finding that information out.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Electronicstalk

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