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Linksys Router Snafu

December 15th, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

According to Volker Weber Linksys may have a minor product recall on its hands.

Somehow a small number of WRT54GX4 routers have been built with RJ11 (phone jacks) instead of RJ45 (ethernet) ports, rendering the units useless.

Back in my tech support days I took a large number of calls that dealt with this type of problem. People very seldom know the difference between a phone and ethernet jack until they can’t get online and somebody explains the difference to them. Personally I’d hope that people would understand on their own after simply looking at the ports (plus there’s the fact that they’re usually labeled).

Here’s a brief version of a real call along these lines that I took a few years back:

Me: “Thanks for calling tech support, my name is Jason, how can I help you?”

User: “Hi there. I’m trying to get online and I’m getting an error message that says ‘no dial tone’.”

Me: “Ok, let’s take care of that for you. First off, let’s check the cords. Is the phone line plugged in correctly?”

User: “Yeah I think so.”

***Several diagnostics/tests/questions later***

Me: “Ok, well we’ve tried all the usual suspects and we still can’t get a dial tone.”

Suddenly the problem snaps into focus. Tech support often involves trying everything that should work, and only after that do you get an idea of what’s going on. 95% of the time you’ll never know what caused the problem, just how to attempt to fix it.

Me: “Sir, this is a laptop correct?”

User: “Correct. My daughter just brought it home. She’s in college and she just got home tonight, which is why she’s trying to check her e-mail.”

Me: “Does she live in a dorm?”

User: “Yeah, why do you ask?”

Me: “Because they usually give students network (ethernet) access for free. When you tried to connect her laptop, did she plug the phone line into her ethernet port from force of habit?”

At this point you see where I’m going, and you probably know what the problem was. Because phone lines are smaller than ethernet jacks they can fit inside an ethernet port, but not vice-versa. Two minutes later this customer was online.

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