Thursday, December 16, 2010

Turn it off, turn it on again

Ten days to go, eh? Bought all your presents yet? Thought so. In October, wasn’t it, when the streets were empty and the queues were short?

You felt jolly pleased with yourself then, and you feel even more pleased with yourself now as you watch from the comfort of a cosy pub as hordes of shoppers trudge through the gathering gloom.

Your tree’s up and dressed, your lights are gleaming, your cards are sent. It’s mulled wine and mince pies all the way from here to New Year’s Day.

That’s not really you though, is it? You’d like to think it was, but in fact you’re no better off than the other 99 per cent of the population: totally unprepared for Christmas.

The realisation that the Dixon family were in just the same boat came at precisely 8.43 on Tuesday evening, when it became clear that Christmas trees are not compatible with home networking.

We originally had a fairly simple system at Dixon Towers. The internet came in through the telephone wire to a router in what could loosely be described as the study. Then, by the power of radio, it went in a series of short hops to the bedroom in the roof and various games consoles, laptops and touch-screen devices liberally scattered about the house.

There was another radio network which broadcast music to the stereo system and grovelling letters of apology to the printer.

And all of this was fine and dandy, until the XBox 360 stopped talking to XBox Live.

Now any teenage boy reading this (and there are lots) will understand that if he can’t go on COD War IV and repeatedly kill and be killed by other teenage boys whom he has never met in his life, then that life isn’t worth living, and his parents need to sort it out. Fast.

A quick call to our internet service provider established that they couldn’t believe that our system had ever worked in the first place, and that they certainly weren’t going to offer to fix it.

Their only suggestion was to move the router downstairs and hard-wire it to the XBox.

And if that sounds complicated, then you might as well stop reading now. Because from here on things get really technical.

We moved the router. We bought special short wires to link it to the XBox. We reconfigured the wi-fi gizmos so that the internet would go upstairs from the router and then back downstairs to all the other gadgets and the music would go downstairs from the computer and then back upstairs to the stereo along with the letters to the bank and the pictures we were supposed to post to overseas relatives two weeks ago. And we turned it all off and we turned it all on again. Twice, just to be sure.

And the only thing that worked properly was the XBox. The music sounded like an early experiment by Marconi. The printer would  have disappointed William Caxton. The internet was like treacle. But Dixon Junior could take potshots at like-minded warriors across the globe, so that was all right.

Then we got the Christmas tree.

And the only place it would fit was right next to the XBox. And Dixon Junior, quite justifiably, didn’t want pine needles getting into his electronic pride and joy. There weren’t enough sockets for the fairy lights. And Caxton needed his printer back. So we put everything back the way it was, as far as we could remember it. And it worked.

The moral of the story? If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. If it is broke, then fix it properly. And if you don’t think you can fix it, then don’t break it in the first place.

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