Monday, June 15, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 2

This was to be the day of the Internet Fixing.

Woke up around 0800. Had some breakfast, did some reading. Watched the ocean. I've always enjoyed the sights and sounds of the ocean more than swimming in the ocean.

So, I'm in Costa Rica, and I'm fixing problems. Can't get it out of my system.

I had been unable to get the wireless internet working yesterday.

Some additional complicating factors :

- The computer was running Windows Vista Home Premium
- Almost all the text is in Spanish
- The ISDN modem was a USB device

Normally, the USB network device would not such a big deal if we were connecting one computer. In our situation, the goal was to share the connection to the Linksys router, allowing wireless clilents to connect.

On Saturday, I had discovered and removed a redundant network cable from the router to the computer. I tried configuring the device for ICS, but could not get it to work. I spent my time on Saturday mostly trying to get the system back to English. Through some research with Mr. Google, I learned that this version of Vista did not support multiple language packs. We were stuck with Spanish.

I knew Alan would need the internet access, so when "Scruffy" arrived, I sat down with him to help him get it working. Scruffy arrived from the states 20 years ago on his sailboat, and never left. He is a good friend of the villa owner. He spoke Spanish and together we were able to move forward.

This was one of those situations where having two people working on a problem can be quite helpful. Especially since he could translate menus. We tried a number of configurations until we got it working. We also used Alan's laptop to help with the configuration of the router.

ICS - Internet Connection Sharing - wanted a dynamic IP address...and only the Linksys router could do that. If I set the range of DHCP addresses to start at, then the ICS connection would always get I wanted to set the IP address of the router statically, but it would not allow me to set the gateway address to the same as the internet address --, even though that appeared to be correct.

The implication of this was that wireless clients could never connect automatically, as DHCP was unable to deliver the proper gateway address. There was probably a way of fixing this, but I had reached the point where I just wanted it to work, and that any working repeatable procedure was acceptable.

Another complication we discovered -- the Acer PC had its' own wireless adapter, which would try to connect to the Linksys router. We turned it off to simplify matters.

After a couple of hours, we got it working -- with the caveat that IP, netmask and gateway had to be set manually on any wireless adapters that wanted to connect. It had not been working, and on a whim, I entered the IP address of, which loaded. The ISP DNS was sucky.

Just as we got it working, the PC spontaneously rebooted. Sigh. This computer BSOD a number of times, which seemed to be related to the flaky ISDN modem.

When it came back up, the Linksys Easy Configuration software loaded and somehow blocked the ICS connection. So we uninstalled the "helpful" Linksys software and rebooted again.

Here was the final configuration :
- Acer PC connected to the internet via the Intracom ISDN modem
- ICS used to bond the NIC in the ACER to the Intracom network
- ACER NIC cabled to LAN connection on Linksys router

On the Linksys router
-DHCP turned on
-gateway set to the base DHCP address plus 2

For any connecting wired or wireless hosts
- IP set manually to a 192.168.1.X address not already used
- Netmask set to
- Gateway set to
- DNS addresses set to the public addresses. The DNS servers of the ISP were unreliable.

I entered the configuration into Alan's laptop and gave it back to him.

He needed to download some software from to process his photos. At a maximum data rate of about 18 kbps, this took a couple of hours.

The download speed went up and down as the ISDN B channel kicked in and out. But it worked.

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