During the past few weeks, we here at Abiogenesis Towers have been having more than the usual amount of communication difficulties, primarily concerning assorted methods of connecting to the Worldwide Intraweb Thingy.
If I can take you back to just a week or so after my last weblog entry in mid-August, I should begin by relating the initial horrifying incident which not only left me without email or Internet connection, but without my trusty laptop altogether. It almost inevitably involves a small white bulldog, subject of a previous essay regarding a hot cup of tea, ball and same laptop.
This time, the said laptop was plugged in to the mains, with the lid closed and a tray holding a selection of plates, mugs and cutlery placed neatly on top. During the familiar process of chasing her ball under the coffee table, Babs the bulldog managed to become entangled in the power cable, pulling the laptop, tray and crockery onto the laminate flooring. As the coffee table is fairly low to the ground, casualties were limited. One was a mug containing a small amount of brown liquid, almost certainly tea. The only other casualty was the plug on the power cable where it connects to the laptop, which was unfortunately shattered.
A brief attempt to squeeze some juice out of the laptop’s battery pack proved fruitless. A recce of the local computer shops the following day only turned up highly-priced multi-purpose mains adapters, so a genuine replacement had to be ordered by mail. It arrived several days later, and thankfully the laptop had suffered no damage other than a loss of its sound facilities, and has otherwise been working well since.
When, a few days later, I appeared no longer to be receiving emails, I was concerned that a previously unrecognised fault had made itself known. As it happened, my Internet service provider’s incoming mail server had become “a bit overzealous” in filtering suspected spam. So much so that it was filtering out all email. You would imagine that this is rather effective as regards the safety aspect, but no so good if you actually want to receive the genuine messages. After a day or so, the mail server was back to normal and no messages (so I’m told) were lost.
But this was not the end of my troubles, oh no. The provider of my broadband connection decided to move out of the ADSL business and encouraged me to migrate to a new supplier. It just so happens that Sky were offering an impressive 8Mb connection to its satellite TV customers at an extraordinarily low price. So I immediately registered to migrate my connection, providing Sky with my MAC code and suchlike. Sky were very good at informing me of the progress of my order by mail and phone.
I did at one point receive a curious letter stating that there was some kind of unspecified problem with my order, and that I should contact them immediately. I called them to be told several times that the ‘compatibility test failed’ but that everything actually seemed OK and on track.
Due to a remarkably inconvenient coincidence, the line was to become active and my new hardware was due to arrive while I was away on holiday. My old supplier was also switching off around the same time.
Upon return from my well-deserved break, I called Sky to ascertain whether the broadband service had indeed been activated. With an enthusiasm that implied I had won the lottery, the guy on the other end of the phone told me that I indeed now had access to Sky’s Doesn’t-Get-Better-Than-This-Band.
The only problem being that they had installed it on the wrong phone line – my domestic phone line – instead of the studio-based fax and internet line where all desktop, printer and assorted software and other peripherals are hardwired into my system.
Following an entertaining twenty minutes on the phone, I decided that I should consider my options before exploding there and then. A brilliant idea emerged after some sleep, which involved setting up the new wireless router/modem on my phone line where I could at least access my email until Sky had connected the fax line. The Internet connection was very easy to set up and momentarily I was surfing and downloading the many hundreds of emails which had accrued during my vacational absence. Another problem surfaced when trying to respond to these messages, as Sky’s router forces the user to send their messages via their own SMTP (outgoing mail) server.
The difficulty with that was that the documentation included with the router package didn’t specify Sky’s SMTP server’s address. After several calls to what’s known as Sky’s ‘Technical Support’ line, it became apparent that no one at Sky knew what the address was either – most of them didn’t even seem to know what a SMTP server was. I was also enlightened to the facts that Sky Webmail was ‘down’ and I should find the answer to my questions on the Sky Broadband site. Which was also ‘down’. I was starting to know how it felt.
I was told that I might try the sky.com site. Which I did, and found the extremely useful FAQ topic, “What is email?”
Eventually, three days later, aided by my very helpful and knowledgeable web space hosts POBox Internet, I figured out Sky’s SMTP’s address (smtp.sky.com as I might have guessed) and called Sky again to clear up the problem regarding my crazy, mixed-up phone lines. After assorted phone calls to various departments totaling almost three hours, it transpires that Sky’s ‘system’ does not allow more than one broadband account per address. In other words, there is no option than to cancel the existing phone (i.e. wrong) line and reorder another on the fax (i.e. correct) line. Which could leave me without Internet access for several weeks.
So please appreciate, dear reader, that my email response time and blog update frequency may be negatively affected over the coming weeks until this matter is resolved.
As a tangential aside, at one point shortly after my three-hour Sky chat marathon, I was so frustrated and angry, I walked down to the end of my garden and attempted to kick Bulldog Babs’ ball against the fence as hard as I could. I didn’t connect with the ball properly, and it hit the fence with a disappointing tap about three inches off the floor. However, the force of my follow-through sent my right sandal soaring into the air and over the six-foot high fence into my neighbour’s garden.
He did have a good laugh when I knocked on his door and asked, “Could I have my shoe back please, mister?”