Monday, May 12, 2008

Even though we never got to Baltimore today, thanks to the craptacular weather which delayed KC's plane's arrival by over two hours, we still managed to accomplish the task which we'd hoped to complete during the meeting at NFB. KC's BrailleNote had stopped communicating via bluetooth with her cell phone, so she wasn't able to download email.

MT, the person we had intended to meet with, actually called us from the airport in Baltimore while he was waiting for his flight, and we did a bit of troubleshooting. There turned out to be a few separate issues that needed resolution.

The first problem was that when the BrailleNote was reset, as it had to be because KC had done a software upgrade, the bluetooth pairing with the phone was lost. This meant that the phone was prompting for a bluetooth passcode when the BrailleNote tried to connect. Unfortunately, because KC is blind, she couldn't SEE the prompt on the cellphone screen, so it didn't get entered. No passcode = no bluetooth pairing. We put the default passcode in, and we didn't see that prompt again.

Then there was one particular modem setting that got goofed up when the BrailleNote was reset. The default was "wait for dial tone = yes", and that value had to be changed to "no". End of modem problem.

The ISP phone number which was stored in the BrailleNote also needed some adjusting. It did not have the area code preceding the number, and for whatever reason, the phone wasn't able to connect. I was puzzled by this, as KC said that she was able to dial the number sans area code in the past. Moreover, it's the same area code as KC's cell phone number, and she lives in an area that still has seven-digit dialing (as opposed to the Philly/SE PA area, which requires dialing all ten digits of the phone number). But at any rate, KC added the area code to the stored phone number in the BrailleNote. Problem solved.

Once we did all those things, we were still having connectivity problems. She tried to retrieve her email, and I saw and reported that the cell phone's display screen said it was dialing all ten digits' worth of the ISP's phone number. It got to a point where it said "Connecting", only to say "Data Call Ended" a moment later, at which time the BrailleNote's display promptly read "No Carrier". In English, the gosh darned flippin' connection kept freakin' dropping, so she couldn't log the heck on. Or at least, that's how one would describe the sequence of events when one is in polite company.

The inability to maintain the phone connection for more than a few seconds at a time was a head-scratcher, as we reviewed all the steps we'd taken and MT verified that we hadn't omitted anything. Fortunately, MT then thought to ask what the signal-strength display on the cell phone was. At the time, we were in Joe and Jean J's house, in Joe's basement apartment, and the signal strength was poor. There was only one bar, which is sufficient for a voice call, but a data call requires a better signal than that. I suggested that we go upstairs to the first floor and try to connect again.

We carried everything to the dining room and set ourselves up in there. Then we tried again to connect to the ISP, and YAY HOORAY HALLELUJAH, it worked! The signal strength indicator was not substantially better -- in the dining room, it had a grand total of TWO bars on it -- but apparently that was enough of an improvement to make a difference.

Then we did one more thing to make sure that KC would be able to resolve these issues if the BrailleNote was reset for some reason in the future. We made sure to WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING WE DID. Later, KC will braille it and have a hard copy of the procedure, which she can refer to if she ever has to adjust the settings on the BrailleNote again.

It's always a productive day when you can exterminate some computer connectivity Gremlins. I haven't worked in an IT job for quite a while, but I'm still more than geeky enough to thoroughly enjoy it getting some equipment that hadn't been working to perform as it should. :o)

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