It started innocently enough. A quick call to Telstra 2 weeks ago to set up Messagebank on my mobile phone.
“Now, while you’re on the line, let’s take a look at your account and see if we can do anything to improve things.”
And before I knew it I was agreeing to a technician coming to set up cable wireless broadband which - I was assured - was the bee’s knees. It would save me many dollars, be faster and give a stronger signal than my current internet connection throughout my entire house.
I warned her I lived in a large sandstone house, and that the cable modem had to be situated downstairs while my study was, of necessity, upstairs. Not a problem for our whizz-bang cable wireless broadband, apparently!
The fact that the phrases “strong wireless signal” and “sandstone house” are almost never uttered in the same sentence seemingly mattered not a jot to our Telstra.
Even the cable guy who came to the house to do the job and saw the the thick sandstone walls was unphased.
Then the trouble started. I became a bar-watcher. Not to be confused with a bar-crawler. However, watching the signal hovering between one bar (low) and 2 bars (poor), with the very occasional peak at 3 bars (fair), and experiencing constant drop-outs, was indeed enough to drive a perfectly sane computer user to drink.
Telstra wouldn’t help me since they “don’t support” helpful items like repeaters or booster antennas. Nice. So if you do as I did and invest in one you feel like some sort of geeky criminal.
But before I slunk off to the shop I tried making one of these from aluminium foil (didn’t work for me). There’s a whole world of Heath Robinson antenna makers out there, and they love to trumpet their successes on internet geek forums. Other home-made designs, I soon learnt, even utilise Pringles cans. Hmm…If I wasn’t careful I could end up overweight and sozzled!
An onmi-directional booster antenna was no better, and the wireless G access point/repeater which promised me the Wizardry to set it up ‘in minutes ‘ defeated me after about 600! The manufacturer’s technical support line carries a not-so-welcoming message informing you that you can be charged $40 flat fee if you ask anything that you could have found out by just following the manual. Ouch!
Feeling an absolute dunce, I prepared myself to face the music this afternoon, and dialed the wirelwless repeater manufacturer's technical support line once again - this time holding onto the phone until a real person actually answered. To my grateful surprise I was told, with a dismissive laugh, “Oh, we never charge the $40”. (So, I wondered, is this really just a ruse to cut down on the number of calls these poor overworked geeks have to handle?)
My reward for being a brave girl and facing the possibility of a $40 ‘fine’ for not reading the manual? A sweet young thing who, quite patiently and non-judgmentally, took me step-by step through the set-up of my repeater.
And a strong wireless internet signal where I want it – upstairs. Yaaaayyyyyy!!!!!!!!!! (no thanks to Telstra).