I use Drobo hard drive enclosures as an inexpensive means of redundant file storage. I went this route a few years ago after realizing that I’d had 13 hard drive failures in the preceding 12 years. Before that I’d used nightly backup programs. This works as advertised, but runs the risk of losing a day’s worth of work, and still requires a fair bit of effort to recover from a failure.
Last Monday one of my Drobo enclosures notified me that a drive had died and should be replaced immediately. So I walked down to Central Computer and bought a 2-Terabyte Seagate drive and hot-swapped it with the Seagate drive that went bad. This was my 3rd Seagate that died, but my Western Digitals seemed to die even more frequently. The dead Seagate would be replaced under its warranty, though Seagate’s drive-check for Windows wouldn’t run on my Windows 7 pc, and their return provisions are less friendly than most.
The Drobo enclosure told me it would take about 32 hours til I’d be fully protected against a 2nd failure. Fair enough – a short window of exposure. The drives churned away day and night. On Wednesday morning, shortly after this process was completed, one of those big electrical transformers atop a wooden pole on the street outside my window exploded, resulting a power outage for most of the day. So I took the day off and rode my bike over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the Marin headlands. The irises and poppies are blooming.
That evening when power returned to my building, I restarted my Windows and Mac computers to see reports saying abnormal terminations of file transfers may have resulted in disk errors and that I should run the utilities to fix any bad files. This took several hours to work its way through a stack of 2-Terabyte drives, but all was good by Thursday morning.
At noon on Thursday I lost my internet connection. When rebooting the router and the DSL modem didn’t fix it, I called AT&T to have them check things out on their end. After entering “One” a few times to decline hearing about new services, speaking in Spanish, and saying that I didn’t want to pay my bill by phone, I waited a bit (call volumes are unusually high) and spoke to a person.
I explained that I had a 10-year-old Alcatel ADSL modem. I said my internal network, wired and wireless, worked fine and that my computers could see each other. Therefore, there was either a problem at AT&T or my old Alcatel had gone belly up. Could they help me determine which, I asked. I explained that my router showed everything was working on my network but that it had no internet connection.
The support rep asked what operating system I was using. I explained that the operating system had no connection with my problem, repeating that my router and network were functional, but that the router reported there was no internet connection. He asked what kind of router I had. I told him, and he replied that they don’t support routers. I said I knew how to use and debug a router, and that I wasn’t seeking support on it.
About 90 minutes into the phone call, I had talked to several people and had given my phone number and DSL number (the one I was calling from), name and address to all of them. “Windows 7,” I learned to say. We were finally at the point of their running some tests on their end. I had to leave for a phone meeting so I asked them if they could run their tests and call me back to report findings. Yes.
A few hours later I got a recorded message saying they’d found and fixed the problem. Still no connection at my place though. I called AT&T, this time getting a much more competent tech rep. She then tested or checked something, taking only a minute or two, and agreed that the problem still existed. A few more tests showed that the problem required physical access to some AT&T equipment that couldn’t be accessed until Friday morning. She said I’d get a call when it was fixed, by 10 a.m.
At 9 a.m. I got a recorded message saying that the problem had been found and fixed. Guess what - still no connection. I called AT&T and talked to guy who said that I had received that recorded message in error and that they were working on it. A bit after noon I got another recorded message saying all was repaired.
Still no connection. When I called back, AT&T said everything had been checked out on their end, so the problem must be with my modem. I suggested that the likelihood of a simultaneous failure on their end (they knew one existed since they had isolated it) and my end was extremely unlikely. I suggested that since they had erroneously reported correction of a problem they said they had identified once, the symptoms didn’t really point to the modem.
Well, they’d send a rep out to my house to investigate, but that there may be charges associated with the house call. How so, I asked, pointing out that the Alcatel modem was supplied by AT&T and was covered under their service plan. They agreed that I wouldn’t have to pay for modem replacement, but that there may be charges. OK, I said, let’s schedule service. It was now late Friday afternoon.
They gave me a 12 hour window (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) for that service call. Please hold a sec, I said. I looked up the phone number for Webpass in San Francisco. I called them on my iPhone and asked when was the earliest they could schedule an installation. They said they’d have a guy here within 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes from now. Ok.
I told AT&T to cancel the service request and my internet service while they were at it. The Webpass guy arrived as promised and set me up in a jiffy. Viola.
Technology report card
AT&T: D- overall, though one tech rep was way ahead of her pack
Central Computer: B (prices good, selection ok)