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Holiday Tech-Support

A brief tale of two PCs for Holiday Tech-Support. A relative with a Windows machine v. a relative with an Ubuntu machine. Which one did I have to troubleshoot?

Relative 1

This machine had dropped its wireless connection inexplicably. Wired connections were fine, though. On Windows, there are myriad reasons this can happen. Sometimes proprietary wireless management software (intended to “help” users manage their wireless connectivity) can actually break functions. I’ve seen instances of Dell’s wireless software conflicting with Windows’ native network stack, rendering the card inactive.

Sometimes, there’s a driver problem. An erroneous update, a missing update, an incorrect driver version… Perhaps the machine received a Windows update that interfered with the currently installed drivers.

This wasn’t a rare-form specialty wireless adapter by any stretch, just a run-of-the-mill common chipset USB dongle. Complete removal and reinstallation of the device and its driver software, application of any and all missing Windows updates, still no go.

At this point, the card would connect but would not successfully query for a DHCP address. All other hosts on this network queried and received addresses without issue. No filtering or blocked hosts in the router (also acting as DHCP server), either.

At this point, no reason to not be working, but still not working.

Rebuild the TCP stack.

netsh int ip reset C:\resetlog.txt

This effectively reinstalls the TCP stack on the machine, and gives it vanilla settings. For an experienced Windows admin, this whole process is nothing new and it’s by no means a taxing process. It is however annoying, and once you become familiar with OS alternatives, it is revealed as unnecessary.

Relative 2

I installed an Ubuntu system for them two years ago when a hard drive died. After setting up some preferences for email and browsing (and one snafu with a Facebook interface problem), I’ve not had a single support issue on this system since it was installed. As we all like to say, “It Just Works.” (Of course, this is separate from the whole Gnome3/Unity debate, so we’ll talk about that later.)

On this GNU/Linux machine all drivers were included upon installation; try that with a purchased copy of any Windows version. People often claim driver issues as a roadblock issue for Linux, but in my experience that has rarely been the case. Only one machine of mine ever had significant issues, and that was due to an older ATI graphics card and an infamous Broadcom BCM-4318 wireless card. Both of those have now been addressed in later kernel releases.

I use this rather simplistic example to relate my over-arching experience contrasting Windows and Linux usage. Ask yourself how much time you spend up-keeping your machine in order to get work done, vs. how much time you spend actually getting work done.

#justsayin (sorry, had to.)

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Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.