For anybody who has done support work (paid or gratis) the scenario below is very familiar:

My non-techie neighbor, who is also on the same morning shuttle service that my wife and I are taking, just purchased a new computer for her kids. I just provided some inputs on the parts but all-in-all she went with the recommendation of their office IT guy.

After a few days my neighbor asked if I could drop by to see why the new computer won’t connect to the dial-up service. She said that their IT guy has already done some initial test on it and they could connect just fine. Since I am on good terms with my neighbor I said I will drop by when I have free time.

Due to conflict of schedules I was only able to take a look at the computer last Sunday after my wife and I arrived from our trip to Nueva Ecija. Expecting that the problem will be with the internal modem I dug up my old diamond supra external modem and proceeded to my neighbor’s house. The workstation runs Window XP. I made a half-hearted effort to pitch Linux but ,knowing the users, I cannot commit to providing 24×7 support line and besides my neighbor is adamant on having ‘Print Artist’ on the computer because it is the primary reason why she bought the machine. I didn’t understand the reasoning but it sways on the issue of it being a crucial part of school work. (NOTE: Don’t ask me about Print Artist because the last time I saw a version was circa ’97. If you want to talk about graphics software then talk to my wife. I am happy being artistically-challenged. Thank you.)

Back to the topic. The computer was configured to auto-login to the administrator account (yippee! instant-admin+XP! what else can you wish for?). I checked the Device Manager and the internal modem seems to be detected without any problems. I tried to dial-up and the pop-up dialog just hangs there and throws out an indecipherable error after a minute or two. I plugged in my external modem and transferred the phone cables. The modem was detected correctly. I disabled the internal modem to ensure that all dial-up activities will be routed to the external modem. When I tried to connect I was greeted with a “No dial tone.” message.

Ah, we are getting somewhere. I then checked to see if there is really a faulty connection. I picked up the receiver of the phone to see if there is indeed no dial tone since it is connected via the modem. Egad! There is a dial tone!!!!

Scratching my head, I assume that this is a Windows problem. I went back home to get my Knoppix LiveCD to verify my assumption. When I got back the company technician who assembled the unit arrived. As I explained my assumptions to him he watched as I booted the system in Knoppix and answered questions about running Linux on the desktop. When KDE is up I opened a terminal and did a quick check on the modem using this command:

echo > /dev/ttyS0

The lights on the modem gave a few blinks so it was definitely working. I created a new dial-up account using the information on the prepaid card. When I started the dial-up connection I was greeted by the very warm message “no dial tone”.

Scratching my head, I took out my liveCD and rebooted the machine to Windows. I gave the machine to the tech so he could do his thing. Being the tech he is, he wanted to see everything for himself so he opened the dial-up window and fired the connection. After 5 seconds THE UNIT HAPPILY AUTHENTICATED WITH THE DIALUP SERVER!

My jaw dropped. Wha– How– whe—? I can only shake my head in disbelief. Another gremlin incident has wasted 30 minutes of my time and what is worse the tech didn’t do anything special! This was really a role reversal since I was usually at the other end when officemates asks me to troubleshoot their computer issues. 🙂

Oh well, I just gave the tech my Knoppix livecd. At least something good came out of the experience since I have introduced another IT professional to the world of Linux. There is no guarantee that he will use it but at least he now has the knowledge that Windows is not the only OS out there.

ciao!