Blog Post

When technology fails

Yesterday I had a terrible technology morning when a piece of my mobile tech failed and left me high and dry.  I had begun like many mornings by heading in to Big Oil Co. just after 6 am and setting up the Fujitsu P1620 in the office like usual.  This consists of plugging the little beast in to the adapter, turning on the Bluetooth mouse for wireless pointing, and popping the v740 modem into the Fuji for constant connectivity.  This setup works perfectly for me as it keeps me online and connected while sitting at my desk, ready to unplug and head out to any meetings I may need to attend. 

All started as predicted and I quickly got set up and ready for work and all was good.  It didn’t stay that way for long though, and that’s when my troubles began. 

System_failure_110146

I fired up the Verizon Access Manager to get the Fuji connected via EV-DO and nothing happened.  The indication from the program was that the modem, a v740 ExpressCard modem plugged in using a Novatel ExpressCard to PCMCIA adapter, was not inserted.  Obviously the modem was indeed plugged in so something was wrong that has never happened before.  I removed and reinserted the modem several times but not only would the Fuji not initialize the modem but every time I inserted it Windows would tell me that "an unknown USB device was detected".  It seems the Fuji uses this modem as a USB device and it couldn’t tell what it was so it couldn’t fire it up with the correct installed driver for it.  Bad news indeed.

The next half hour I spent trying to remedy this, I deleted the unknown device from the device manager and reinserted the card but each time Windows failed to identify it and reinstall the drivers for it.  Nothing worked, I even uninstalled the VZ Access Manager and reinstalled it to get the drivers to reinstall but that wouldn’t work either.  The system just couldn’t identify the modem hardware which means that nothing I did could fire up the correct drivers for it.  I was effectively offline and unable to connect at all.  That’s my own fault because I had neglected to bring the HTC Advantage with me so I couldn’t tether it using Internet Sharing in Windows Mobile 6.  Shame on me for not bringing my backup connectivity.

I limped on the rest of the morning totally offline, I can appreciate Warner Crocker’s situation when he finds himself cut off from his communications.  When I headed back to my home office after lunch I proceeded to continue my troubleshooting efforts to get this working.  I figured that worst-case scenario I could go back to my older AC595 modem which I still have.  It’s the same as the v740 that wasn’t working just in the older PC Card format.  That would be better than nothing for getting the Fuji online though and I was willing to do that if need be.  The only problem with that is the AC595 wouldn’t work in my other mobile PCs but if that’s the price I would live with that.  I was totally stuck you see, I kept inserting the v740 and the Fuji kept failing to identify what it was.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

The first thing I did when I got home was to plug the v740 without the adapter into the HP 2710p to see if the modem itself worked.  Imagine my surprise when VZ Access Manager told me the device was not inserted in the HP when in fact it was.  Ah ha!  Maybe the modem itself was bad and that’s my problem.  The HP told me to try removing and reinserting the card so I did that and voila!  The HP detected it and I was able to get online the second time.  It seems that the v740 was locked up somehow and removing and reinserting it on the HP must have reset it because I then plugged it into the adapter and shoved it into the Fuji.  It’s been working ever since with no problems, just like it always has.  I am happy that the problem was resolved but this failure of mobile tech has me less sure of my setup than I was before.  Hopefully this won’t happen again but you know how this stuff works, very seldom are there single failures.  I’ll keep an eye on it and see what happens as life progresses.  I did prove to myself that if you are fortunate enough to be in the situation of having redundancy for connectivity and leave that redundancy at home you get what you deserve.

9 Responses to “When technology fails”

  1. Jon Mojica

    Well I can definitely feel your pain. I originally bought a Novatel S620 PCMCIA air card, but eventually needed a USB adapter for my Q1. So I opted to get a Sierra Wireless 595U USB wireless modem. After having to deal with the USB modem for a while it started to annoy me at how it stuck out so far and put stress on the USB port. I reverted back to my S620 card and my ThinkPad X41 so I had my service transferred back to the S620 card. Well one day I had the same issue you had in this article and I was pretty much stuck with no connectivity unless I used my cell phone. Instead I remembered the SW 595U was still in my bag and had Sprint move the account and re-activate the 595U, I was back in business for a while. It turned out that the S620 bit the dust (as 2 others that I had before did as well), but having the 595U in my bag was a life saver. I eventually had an itch to carry my HUGE (compared to my Q1 and Toshiba Libretto U105) MacBook Pro 17″ around and decided to get a Novatel U720 Expresscard modem and the PCMCIA card adapter. So far I have had not issues, but I still keep the 595U for emergencies.

  2. This might make the future a little less scary, or maybe it’s already part of your normal routine, James….still:

    I had a similar woe. Called Verizon (by the way…some of the best phone tech I’ve experienced – hey, credit where credit is due). We did all the uninstalls/installs…a whirl of reboots. Finally got it working. Anyway, one of the things this guy said that the documentation makes no mention of is:

    –You know the “check for updates” option in the Manager…in the usual place, under “Help”? According to this guy (and an earlier tech dude) it doesn’t report back accurately or is unreliable. Don’t bother. Do it through the Setup Wizard under Options or go to the Verizon site and download updates manually. This may be fixed in newest version…I haven’t checked.

    –It’s apparently very beneficial to run the Activation wizard under Options from time to time. I was having tech trauma for 2 months because of quirky connect routines, slow speeds and frequent dropped connections. Even Verizon tech was bamboozled. Then this guy had me re-Actvate…and – boing – back in the real world. It must clear out conflicts and temp files and dlls and other crap that makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about but it’s a sham.

    Might help. I hope you’re healthy and groovy, JK.
    t

  3. >>>Like yours, a few tries in alternate machines seems to finally get it working again.

    What if somebody doesn’t *have* even *one* alternate machine? Is there any other way to bring it back from its autistic state?!

  4. Randy Moore

    I’ve had the same situation before with various modems. I still use the U720 from Verizon and it has done the same thing on occasion; I know that the U720 is really an ExpressCard in a USB case, so maybe it’s that line of devices.

    Like yours, a few tries in alternate machines seems to finally get it working again. Oh, and I always have backup connectivity through my xv6700 or even my hacked RAZR throught bluetooth at worst.

  5. I have this same problem 2x per week and follow the same diagnostics you described. I have the full size Verizon aircard in my Motion LE1600. Funny this is that we have another LE1600 with the same aircard that NEVER has the problem. In any case, I run the aircard wizard first, then try uninstalling the device, and sometimes powering the aircard off and on. I was once told it was a conflict with Hotsync for Palm, but have not believed that to be the case.
    Just wanted to comment as I felt your pain, also! Keep up the great posts!

  6. I guess the best backup plan for you would be tethering on your 8830. Though that will, of course, add an additional $15 a month to your existing cellular bill. Though it should be mentioned that you can add and remove that feature at will. At least it would provide you with something.

  7. See, you have that OTA for-pay goodness. Now imagine bringing everything with you to a free public WiFi hotspot only to discover the damned hotspot is down!! (Yes, I’m looking at *you*, LMDC!) Cue screams.