Pints of Linux Make You Strong: Memoirs of the Broke, Nerdy, and Disconnected

Thanks for sticking with me, folks.  The past few weeks have been rough.  Mishaps with a roommate switcheroo left me sooner than expected with no internet service, and no internet service to order new internet service (meanwhile I had 6 days to find New Roommate and the gas company’s there to cut me off when I paid that bill so long ago, it’s been donated to the National Archives).  I found a temporary (legal!) WiFi fix only after accidentally hacking myself no less than three times.  My hunt continued for a local internet provider other than the dominant not-so-Linux-friendly major-cable-corporation-that-shall-remain-nameless I was previously mentally directing my most creative curses subscribed to.  My research found that in the capital of the capital of the global free market system, this cable-beastie was in fact my only available option.  My hands were tied: If I don’t get high speed internet, I can’t finish writing about people getting high on speed from the internet.  I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that.

The beastie allowed me to skip the in-home installation, as I was sure I need not pay $40 for a professional to plug a modem in the wall (the instructions were one. picture.). Activation was a different story. Dearest service provider and his hardware lackeys were truly concerned about my well being.  I thought they just didn’t understand me– I’m normal, right?  It’s just…I have all these loans, and software is so expensive, how could I resist?  I just wanted to feel free, man.  Apparently, my problem is out of control, according to every tech support employee involved on any level of my internet setup.  It was always the same lecture: “Are you sure you want to do this?  If bad things happen we can’t help you, then you’ll be all alone, scared and helpless and billed in full.”  I know they want to help, but I need to accept their offer to change, or they simply cannot continue to support my addiction to open source software.

“Hi?  The setup screen told me to call.  I need to activate my router and it says there’s a block.”

“OK, connect the ethernet cord from the internet port on the router to your computer.  What operating system are you using?”

“…Kubuntu 10.10”

“Ohh…hmm…I’m sorry ma’am, we do not support that system.”

“Yeah, I know, I got this.  I support the internet, I promise.  I just need the internet come out of the box.”

“You have to install the software for me to properly connect the router, and our software is only compatible with…”

“I know.  It’s fine, it’s all installed, I’m looking right at it.  It’s just waiting for you to remove the block and send the signal.”

“I’m sorry, but after the router is activated you will still need to complete installation, and we are only authorized to assist you on Windows or Mac.”

“Then tell me how to do it on Windows.”

“OK, let me know when you’re connected to your Windows PC.”

“No…I meant, if you give me a list of instructions for Windows, I’ll do it myself, the only issue is the block on the device.”

“We cannot guarantee successful Windows installation on your…”

Right. Can you pretend I said “Windows” from the very beginning then?  I’ll take the liability here.”

“Ma’am unfortunately I cannot resolve your issue today. Activation requires access to the router’s software. If you are considering a Windows system, we provide a full year of personal tech support…”

“BUT THE SOFTWARE IS INST…fine. I’ll go ask the internet.”

This circus of nonsense also featured performances by my ISP and modem manufacturer in a stunning display of cyclical call transferring.  I was unsure whether they thought I was a hacker they couldn’t trust on the network or somebody with no idea what they’re doing about to screw up something big and blame the company, but I guess after my multiple self-hacking incident, they’d be justified either way.  It seemed my only problem was not that I was unable to connect to the internet, but that sometime in the future I might be unable to connect to the helpful troupe of knowledgeable tech supporters I’ve come to know so well.  If that’s the case, please, give me all your problems.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Enter: the ZuneMachine.

ZuneMachine is a little netbook where I spared the life of the native Windows 7 to serve me as…well, a Zune machine.  Zune software is notoriously hard to crack outside Windows, even with emulators, so ZuneMachine manages my music despite being too slow to download any.  This is not the ideal tool for wireless installation, but if they want Windows, I’ll give them Windows, and they’re going to suffer through all of the extended freezing spells they deserve. Tech support got the satisfaction of reciting their rehearsed lines uninterrupted, and I got some internet.

Until I boot up the non-ZuneMachine. Activate services? But…didn’t I…

This war is practically a full time job for several weeks.  Then we got the infestation. New Roommate and I discovered one evening that we have matching insect bites on our ankles and feet.  Cute!  Oh wait, no, it can’t be……BEDBUGS!!!

Paranoia was running wild, and we were convinced that everything simply must be crawling with blood-thirsty arthropods.  We each captured an assailant in action: Black, jumpy, pretty positively fleas, and they’re definitely living indoors.  We don’t have pets, we don’t even have any carpet, and they only seem interested in feet.  What are they going for here, exactly?  We called our landlord, who didn’t believe us at first, but after crawling around the floor with a magnifying glass, forceps and a glass vial collecting a range of specimens, I convinced/scared him enough to pay a visit.

It seems as though order is beginning to prevail again–I finally achieved reasonable internet stability, and while pest control never came, my hydrogen-peroxide-Rambo phase proved rather devastating to flea populations (and every dyed fabric that stood in my way).  Time to get back to some real work.  Bring on the next plague!

I swear if he doesn’t free those Hebrew people I’m calling tenants’ association, this is violating my lease.


About Maria Parrotta

Maria Parrotta is a writer, student, and daring pharmacovigilante on a mission to be an approachable source of honest, relevant information about drugs, healthcare, science, and technology. She is often found teaching impromptu chemistry lessons at social gatherings, building her fleet of tiny motorized robots, or recruiting members for her new "pharmcore" band. She sleeps in lab goggles and dreams of nothing but science.
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One Response to Pints of Linux Make You Strong: Memoirs of the Broke, Nerdy, and Disconnected

  1. Pingback: Understanding Bath Salts, Part III: Living Above the Law | Comrade in Pharms

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