Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Frustration and investigation

Yesterday, I discovered that my 16-port Ethernet switch may have died. It’s a device that regulates my LAN traffic, which is the wired network that, among things, connects all the bedrooms and the living space to the Internet, my servers, to streaming devices, my VOIP phone line, etc. I still have wifi (which is connected separately to the router/modem).

When I started my investigation, I noticed the lights on the front of the switch were all out, and the case was cold to the touch. I can’t see behind the switch because it’s in there very snugly: The guy I hired to set up the network when I moved in didn’t do mere cable management, oh no, he created a work of art—it’s amazing! And snug.

I was able to wiggle it enough to be able to slip my fingers behind the switch to make sure the power cable was plugged in (after Googling it to find out where the power is connected, since I couldn’t see it…). However, I couldn’t see or reach the power adapter. There’s no power button on the switch.

Today, I planned to undo at least some of the work-of art-cable management, labelling any cables I disconnected so I could tell where they go. I was hoping that the power adapter just came loose from the board it was plugged into, or that the power point in the board had failed. If so, I’d just need to plug the switch in somewhere else (and get a new power board). Or, I could try a power adapter I have that can be set for nearly any AC to DC connection, and I could use that to see of the switch worked. Otherwise, I thought, it could mean buying a new Ethernet switch and trying to get it setup correctly.

I knew that one of the Ethernet jack points in the lounge failed awhile back, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time, however, the failure was intermittent at first, and I now wonder if it could’ve been the first sign the switch was failing.

A friend suggested I use a multimeter to check the power supply, and I knew that I have a multimeter that Nigel had, because I found it some time ago. Back then, though, I didn’t know how to use it, so I put it “somewhere safe”, as always, and of course I have no idea where that is.

When I was unpacking boxes of Nigel’s stuff after I moved into this house, I put all the mysterious adapters, cables, remotes, and other assorted “toys”, as he called them, on some shelves in the garage so I’d know where everything I found was. That gives me a logical place to look first—if I could get to the shelves, which I can’t.

Also, I remembered after I went to bed last night that Nigel had an Ethernet switch, and I DO know where that is—in fact I can see it! It’s on top of those shelves. However—and it was inevitable there was going to be a but—I have no idea where its power adapter is. Of course. To be fair to me, I don’t think Nigel was using it at the time he died (he used it at the house before our last one), so keeping it with its adapter wasn’t a priority for him, and so, me not knowing where it is has nothing to do with me—THIS time.

Despite all that, today I managed to wrangle the switch and my server enough to access the power adapter, and I plugged it into a working power point. Nothing happened, though I thought I saw a faint light indicating power was on—I’m not certain because if it was on, it was very faint. This proves nothing: It could still be that either the power adapter OR the switch itself is faulty—exactly what I thought before I started investigating.

The adjustable power adapter I have has the wrong size barrel plug, and I don’t know where I put the bag with the rest of the tips and the instructions to tell me how to put the tip in to get the polarity right. And I’m not sure what the output amps is.

So, I’m now officially stuck.

My only logical course of action right now is to start working in the garage again. That’s probably the best way to find the missing multimeter, and even the power adapter for the backup Ethernet switch (I think I may have a hunch where the missing adapter tips could be).

This isn’t the end of the world—my wifi works really well, and I already switched my desktop Mac to use wifi instead. So, the only things not working at the moment is the VOIP phone connection and my servers aren’t accessible. If getting the Ethernet going again takes me longer than a week, I’ll sort all that out, but they’re just not important right now.

I’m not sad, nor angry—just frustrated by yet again being unable to complete some necessary work because I can’t find the things I need to do it. On the other hand, after a downpour of rain this afternoon, a magnificent rainbow appeared. That’s gotta be a good sign. right?

On my side in this battle is the fact that I’m familiar with all the concepts and I know how to analyse tech problems carefully and methodically. I’ve also proven I can solve tech problems I didn’t know I could, so if I need to change the switch, I’ll be able handle that, too. But I wish Nigel was here to just take care of it like he always did. No matter how proud of myself I am when I solve a tech problem, I would so much rather that he was still here to take care of this sort if thing—not the least because he’d be doing it for us. This 100% adulting everything by myself isn’t just exhausting, it brutally reminds me I’m alone. Still, Leo often wags his tail when he looks at me, and there was that rainbow this afternoon. Those are nice things, despite all the frustration.

This post is adapted from posts I made on my personal Facebook, with many revisions and edits.

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.
Update – October 10, 2023: This post has been updated again.

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