So http://www.brooklynfreespace.org/ needs an Internet connection for 2 700MHz eMacs. Earthlink is cheap for decent speed. I ordered a couple AirPort Extreme cards, a Linksys WRT54GR, and DSL service (and Kid Pix 4 Schools).

Those of you who are eMac savvy will know the first problem already -- although the slot (cleverly concealed behind the CD-ROM door) is about the right size, they need an old (802.11b) AirPort card, not an Extreme card. Fortunately I have my father's old AirPort card, which has outlasted 2 iBooks and still works great (it was worth more than the last iBook I salvaged it from -- original blue, with 3gb drive and dead battery).

Second problem: CD-only drives. Target Disk Mode and my PBG4's DVD drive solved that problem.

Now to the good (bad) stuff:

The WRT54GR comes configured for 192.168.1.1, with DHCP on. The EarthLink DSL modem (which they charged me $20 for, despite telling me there were no set-up charges), comes configured for 192.168.1.1 with DHCP too. Now it's neat that a $20 piece of hardware is a full router with decent NAT control, but I can't access it through the WRT54GR, since http://192.168.1.1 goes to the Linksys, and never reaches the DSL modem.

I got them working with Internet access on Sunday, but cannot reproduce yet. Everything is seriously hampered by a strange error that I keep getting out of the DSL modem when I try to configure it. Suddenly, all the configuration pages start returning this:

Protected Object

This object on the P-660R-ELNK is protected

Then I cannot configure the DSL modem until I reboot the Mac I was using. I suspect it has to do with changing IPs on the Mac (perhaps there's a cookie which it doesn't like seeing come from another IP), but haven't figured it out yet. I sent email to Zyxel, in hopes they'll take pity on me and explain what causes this error (and how to avoid it!).

EarthLink assures me that a full reset of the modem (which they didn't tell me how to do, and isn't covered in their docs) will clear the problem. I doubt it, but we'll see.

So to get support, they want me to use web-based chat. Except that to open a chat session, I have to answer some questions, and click a radio button confirming that the answer wasn't in their knowledge base, and when I Submit the form, I get an error that I didn't check the button. So it's impossible to get support with Safari. I fire up Firefox, and am able to get past that barrier. So much for the first Mac-friendly ISP!

Today, the chat applet didn't drop my characters, or crash Firefox -- a big improvement over 2-3 weeks ago, when I used it to get pre-sales info (and they told me there was no set-up charge).

Also, the school's EarthLink email address was 31 characters. The service is PPPoE, which requires me to enter the address, into a box which only allows entry of 30 characters! I tried without @earthlink, and it didn't work. So I went to EarthLink's support site, and tried to change the email address. I tried three times, and each time it told me I had mis-entered the captcha. It's 5 upper-case letters -- apparently they can't even get that to work in Safari!

So I got someone from EarthLink to change my email address, and I told him that (since they're obviously selling more DSL than dial-up), they should either fix the stupid Zyxel web page to remove the stupid HTML attribute that prevents more than 30 characters in the address field for PPPoE, or warn people when they create email addresses > 30 characters. I asked the rep to tell someone about the 30-character limit, but doubt it happened.

So today (actually yesterday, by now), I sent email explaining the problem to support@earthlink.net. I get back an auto-response telling me to use their web form. I fill out the web form (again, doesn't work in Safari, so I have to use Firefox), and describing my problem, I get a page that tells me they don't take this type of query by email! I try another, and am again stymied.

Oh, well. That much frustrated effort, trying to help EarthLink fix their problems, requires that I point out their idiocy in a public forum.

Update: I managed to send my report via their Feedback form, which warns me not to expect an answer. But perhaps someone will read it.

Not holding my breath.

And again, this was the Mac-friendly ISP! (Open Door Networks was cool, but never local to me) I remember seeing EarthLink folks getting started at MacLeak's MVB events pre-Expo, back in the day!

Update: No thanks to Earthlink, I eventually figured out that if I used a self-assigned IP address (instead of one assigned by the DSL modem's DHCP server), I always got this error. Dumb. People who use static addresses are much more likely than average to use the DSL modem's configuration interface.