Dell Laptops, D-Link routers and Cisco VPN

Steve Jones, 2007-08-08

It’s not directly SQL Server, but it does prevent me from working with SQL Server 🙂

So I’m in Virginia this week, traveling to my Mom’s house with the kids (all three of them, Yikes!!) so they can see Grandma. It’s been a good trip, the little ones argueing about who gets to sleep with Grandma every night, we saw cousins, etc. Three is a bit much for someone not used to kids and since my job is portable (and I don’t have horses), I decided to come along. After all my Mom broke down and got cable broadband and I figured I’d just use her connection during the day while she has kids.

I get here and need to work on the newsletter over the weekend. I unplug her ethernet cable and put it on my laptop, and get ready to work. Open IE, Cisco VPN, Outlook, etc. and …

Nothing. “ cannot be opened”.

Hmmm. That’s strange. Check network connections, I’m live. Command Prompt, ipconfig, and aha! I’m not live. Check the settings and I’m DHCP. I go to check the desktop and of course there’s nothing there; it’s unplugged. Fire that one back up and it connects. Check the settings and it’s DHCP all the way. I get the IP, reach deep into the pensive storing my networking memories and figure it out.

Cox Cable out here limits your internet connection to one particular MAC address. And if you want more, like a whole network, they want more money, want to sell you equipment, etc. Since I’m here like 4 days a year on average, I decided it might be better to get a wireless router instead and share the connection.

After a day of slurping off an unsecured neighbors connection and working at Starbucks, I head to Best Buy. See some routers, but not any Belkins (which I have in Denver), so I grab a Linksys and go up to the salesman. He’s 20-something, geeky, and I ask if this router cna clone a MAC address.

“Why do you want to do that?”

I try to explain my Mom has cable, want to insert this into the link and replace her machine. He acts like I’m hacking the Pentagon and claims he knows nothing about cloning MAC addresses and I should just call the cable company. He also says that each MAC address is unique for security purposes. I refrain from berating this snot-nosed little punk and remember Best Buy sells Cox service here and walk away, grabbing a slightly higher end D-link to be sure it will clone MACs.

I get home, run through setup manually and configure the router to clone the MAC and secure wireless, etc. I put the key into my Dell laptop and I’m live on the Internet. Fire up the Cisco VPN and …

Nothing. I try it a few times (I can be slow) and eventually realize that it’s not even sending packets through the network connection. I plug it into the wired port, same issue. Do some research on the Internet and apparently some of the Dell and HP wireless chipsets, especially Broadcom ones, have issues with D-Link home routers and Cisco VPN.

How crazy is that? And obscure? I try changing all kinds of transport settings (tunneling, protocols), changing the router security, etc. and eventually decide I’m tired of this. Do what I can, then slurp the neighbor’s connection for the VPN and do the few things I need from there.

Why don’t I always use the neighbor’s connection? It only works in my Mom’s office, the west side of the house and I have to life the laptop up off the desk, balance it on the fax machine or hold it in the air. Not the most fun. And since my cell phone only seems to have a signal on the East side of the house, it’s not a great set up.

The joys of a road warrior.





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