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Something along the lines of what ixs complains about actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago. My flat-mate and I were thinking of installing a LAN and connecting to our national Telco’s ADSL experimental service. Now, because I know what I know (i.e., not much), I called to check if there should be a problem configurating this – the ADSL modem connects as if through a LAN to the switchboard, and different things need differently assigned IP addresses, etc.

So I call their support line, and say I have a question – I want to know if a configuration like the one described above should work, if they’ve done it in the past, and so on and so forth. Well, the young lady talking to me (I asked her if she does sales or tech, and she said tech) says it can’t be done. While disappointed, I still want to know why, and when I ask her she answers by saying that what I need in order as to connect to the new service is:

  • A Pentium computer running windows 95/98 or NT/2000
  • The computer can’t be a lap-top
  • It must have at least ??MB free on a hard-disk…
To cut a long story short, it’s clear she didn’t understand the question, yet she won’t admit it, ‘cause she’s supposed to know how to handle the question “can I connect to the service?”, so she’s reading stuff to me off a list. I thank her kindly, and as I disconnect inspiration strikes me.

A half-hour later I call again. “How may I help you?” asks the telco representative. “I need to know if sending TCP-IP packets over an Ethernet network is possible while one of the nodes connected to the hub or switch is…” in short, I ask a not very well formed question, but loaded with every bit of technical jargon I can think of that is even remotely related to the topic. Flabbergasted, of course, the support-person tells me to hold while she calls for a technician.

The moral of this story is true for many situations in life - the way to wherever you may be going is often smoother if padded with bovine excrement...

As a side note, I had a short conversation with an ISP tech-support to get their POP3 and SMTP server names:

Me: “Hello.“
Tech: “Hello.”
Me: “Could I please have the name of your POP3 server?”
Tech: “What?”
Me (understanding I’m speaking to a dim-wit): “Can I have name of your mail server – you use it when configuring outlook express”
Tech: “Oh! Would you like the incoming mail or outgoing mail server?”
Me (relieved): “Well, actually I’d like both”
Tech: “Well, they’re both the same…”