Flowers Are for Chumps

Perhaps it is now too late in the day for this advice to help you, dear reader. But offer it I shall. The lady in your life does not want flowers or candy or champagne today. She wants an iMac.

A lovely 17-inch screen, with a 1GHz processor. Now that’s a fucking Valentine’s Day present.

And so I bought one for my wife yesterday from our local Apple Store. Now ours was, until yesterday, a non-wireless household — but it seems downright uncouth to connect one of these pristine Kubrickian-white iMacs via CAT-5 cable. So why not toss an Airport Extreme Base Station and an Airport Extreme card for the iMac into the old shopping bag while we’re at it?

And so I did. And we got home, opened boxes, and connected the keyboard and mouse and speakers. Popping the AirPort Extreme card into the iMac was a breeze. Just unscrew the plate from the bottom of the iMac base — a plate which is simply held in place by four small captive screws (“captive” meaning they don’t actually detach from the plate when unscrewed, so you’ll never drop them, like you might have done when performing similar tasks on other computers in times past; clever, clever Apple). Card clicks in slot, antenna wire clicks in card. Screw the plate back on. Done.

Nice.

Then, follow the instructions for setting up base station. So far, so good. Soon we’re up and running — wireless Internet. Terrific. This is easier than setting up a wired network.

But then suddenly, for no good reason, the iMac could no longer connect to the base station via AirPort. This is not a range problem, or at least it shouldn’t be: the base station is only eight fucking inches from the iMac. And then it would get a signal, an incredibly strong AirPort signal — but without a connection to the Internet. The Status, it claimed, was Not Available.

And so instead of mating the new machine with her old iPod, playing The Sims Unleashed, surfing with Safari, or any of the other fun things a lady might expect to do with a lovely new iMac, she was instead treated to several hours of watching me hog the machine just trying to get it to properly connect to a base station eight inches away.

The other computers in the house, non-wireless relics routing through the base station by way of the old hub, could (and still do) connect to the Internet just fine, thanks. Easier than setting up a wired network, my ass. So off to Google, to see if someone else has suffered similarly at the hand of AirPort. And lo! — the very first hit for “Airport status not available” is a story from last summer by our good friend Dean Allen at Textism, describing a problem strikingly similar to ours:

After a while it would mock me, showing a strong network signal in the AirPort info (no interference), but reporting that its Status was Not Available.

Well by fucking god if that didn’t sound like my problem exactly. Surely Mr. Allen would reveal to me the solution to this frustrating problem. But as I continued reading, it all came back to me: I had read this story when it was new, and it did not end well:

And seemed to keep working. I reclined, laptop on lap, and glided through a relatively eventless email check (barnyard friends, cum guzzling sluts, Nigerian investment), when it hesitated and, there off in the corner of the screen, Internet Connect was saying Status Not Available.

And here you need to understand that I am not a violent man. But at that second, almost instantly, the powerbook became the human face of all the ruinous frustration, all the stomach-lurching repetitiveness of not getting it to work, and I punched the keyboard a couple times, hard enough to knock loose half a dozen keys.

Fine. My bad. Breathe. Put the damn keys back on. One snapped back into place right away, two and three needed some wiggling. And then I spent the next hour and a half cursing, occasionally yelling, sweating in the airless night, trying to mash four five and six back into place. They would not take. They would not take.

Finally, sick of it all and uttering the words ‘I am irritated’ (‘Yes, I know’; came from the other room) I just let the powerbook fall, open, from my hands to the couch — a distance of maybe six inches. It turns out that six inches of free-fall provides more than enough momentum to snap the fucking screen lid off its mounts, rendering one G4 powerbook frankly, essentially, useless.

While Mr. Allen’s technique does have a certain appeal (in that it solves the problem of having a computer that cannot connect to a base station), it wouldn’t do at all in my situation. You can’t just smash up a brand-new computer. Maybe if you’re Johnny Depp holed up in a swanky hotel, but not if you’re Johnny Gruber holed up in your home office.

So I went to bed, defeated. Unconnected. Shackled by CAT-5 cables.

Then I woke up this morning, damn if the motherfucker hadn’t fixed itself. Connected straight away to the base station, zipped right on to the Internet. I hadn’t touched a thing. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil comes to mind: Machines don’t fix themselves.

And then it went away. And then I gave the base station a good shake and a stern lecture. And a hardware reset. And a reconfiguration, starting over from scratch, this time connecting over good old-fashioned CAT-5 cables from a different computer across the room.

Knock on wood, but it’s been working splendidly ever since. Hour upon hour of uninterrupted wireless splendor.

If you have any idea what I might have done wrong the first time, I’d love to hear from you.

The wife doesn’t care. This is most definitely my problem, not hers. She’s too busy laughing, because this new machine is so fast that it takes longer to:

  1. grab a CD from the shelf;
  2. open the CD case; and
  3. plop the disc onto the iMac’s tray

than it does for iTunes to rip one of the songs to MP3.

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