Technology is frustrating

Technology is frustrating

Technology is frustrating, even for technical people. There is always a solution and once you get it right, it can even be delicious.

I recently purchased a new security camera system for my home. I unboxed it and it died within two hours of powering it up. It just wouldn't even turn on anymore. I sent it back and purchased from a different manufacturer because my confidence was shattered.

I was trying to download a television program "On Demand" on my DirecTV DVR and I could not connect and download the episodes I wanted. This after a full reboot of just about every piece of equipment that I myself could physically get my hands on. I found them on my AppleTV app a few minutes later.

I purchased a brand new Mercedes Benz automobile a few years back and I barely got it home before it completely quit on me and had to be towed back to the dealer. I considered giving the car back but the dealer handled the whole situation really well and went over the top to make it right. (Turned out to be a faulty relay that caused the issue. The car thought it had no gear box as a result.)

I'm not complaining at all, these are just real life examples of technology gone awry that have happened to me personally. And of course there are plenty of other examples, but I hope you get the point...

I'm a technical guy. I know my way around an OS and a network. I'm definitely a bit of what people might call a "computer nerd". So what does a non-technical person do when these kinds of things happen? Most of the time they call someone like me. And I get it, there's a whole lot of times where I was in over my head and needed a lifeline. But most of the time I'm usually the receiver on these phone calls or text messages. Most people have "a guy".

And that's exactly what happened last week. A friend of mine who owns a restaurant (check out Zappone's Italian Bistro if you're ever in the area) called me in a panic. Their spot is a busy italian joint right down the block from me that seats about 85-100 people max. Their point of sale is all done through iPads on their wifi with three POS ticket printers hardwired on their network. A pretty straightforward and simple setup. They were using a modem/router/switch/wifi access point all-in-one box that the cable company had provided to them.

And it sure was lousy. Their system had been having problems and they had reached the end of their rope. So they called Cox (their cable internet provider) and determened that a new modem/router would be necessary. Cox rolled a truck and the technician replaced it without doing any of the necessary work to get the printers online and to stay online. (If you know anything about network printers you know that a static IP is a good idea so that you know where you're printing to.) The tech left and service began. And it was a total disaster. Tickets had to be hand written, they had to steal borrow a neighboring restaurant's wifi to run credit cards. They couldn't print credit card receipts. Their staff didn't make the tips they normally would have because it angered and frustrated their customers. All because of a lack in attention to detail.

I got a text message that night pleading to help the following day. They simply could not have a repeat of the previous day's service. Of course I said yes and made room on my calendar.

When I arrived the next morning I was able to assess the situation very quickly. However I could not get into the newly replaced device. The tech had changed the default password and neglected to tell anyone what it was. So we called Cox support. They couldn't help us. We needed to do a factory default. Ok no big deal. When I finally got into the device I could see my hardwired printers on the network. But I couldn't assign static IPs. I knew I could do some things to patch it together and at least get through the next couple of services.

But a bandaid wasn't what they needed. It was time to face reality. This modem/router/switch combo was not working out for them. In the meantime a sandwich (pictured above) was placed in front of me and my keyboard is forever oily from trying to eat and type at the same time. I needed to come up with a permanent solution to their problem.

I advised them to purchase a new router/access point. I had purchased the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3000 a few months before and installed it on my own home network and knew it would be the perfect device for them and their environment. (In full disclosure I've since moved on to another router and installed my Nighthawk at my in-laws with great success.) Zappone's needed a router that would not only handle their wired network better, but also have rock solid wifi for their fleet of POS iPads. It fit their square footage perfectly. It's priced at about $170 (Buy here on Amazon) which, in my opinion, for the feature set you get, is right where it should be. It really is superior to most of the "home grade" routers in its class. Quite honestly it's throughput is better than most of the "enterprise" routers I've used in the past. (A word of caution though with Netgear products. There was a slew of hacking problems with these devices in particular about a year ago. The simple solution is always keeping up to date with the firmware they release.)

I expected the Zappones to reject the new device but was pleasantly surprised when I sent her the recommendation and she replied by saying that she had immediately placed an order for one. My bandaid was holding and a couple days later I recieved a text letting me know that our hero device was there and ready to be installed. I'd be in and out of there in 20 minutes I said to myself. And boyhowdy was I wrong...

This time the modem would not go into bridge mode and talk to the newly acquired router. I spent too much time on trying to shove a square peg in a seemingly round hole. And then I remembered that I had an extra modem that I "reclaimed" (don't ask) from a job site last summer, in a box in my garage right down the street. It was between dinner and lunch service so the restaurant was fairly quiet. I quickly ran home and grabbed the modem. We called Cox and it took a while to get through their queue. The restaurant staff only had to hand write one ticket in that time. And that customer was very gracious about it and was even cracking a few jokes. Once everything was restored and the printers online I was finally able to enjoy the beer they had poured me. And then they fired a pizza. If you know me at all you know I love food and their pizza is top notch. So what started out as frustrating turned into a delicious day. Being #paidinpizza and sandwiches doesn't happen to me all the time but when it does I sure do appreciate it.

I love helping my friends like the Zappones. Especially when they have outcomes like this. The system is markedly faster than before and they no longer have issues with the iPads dropping off the network when a server is taking care of guests outside on the patio. And they're so appreciative that it makes my black heart sing a little when they hand me a stack of gift cards to come back and bring my family. So thank you Dina and Chef Sal Zappone for all you do for your community. I'm really the lucky one in this relationship. Keep doing what you do so well!

As a matter of fact, this project went so well that they asked me to help them with the network at their newly acquired Cottage Wedding Venue in historic downtown Gilbert, Arizona. (Which is a totally different beast and will require much different hardware that I'll cover in a different blog post. So make sure you subscribe below!)