Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hikari Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The chronicle of my conversion from ADSL to fiber optic cable service continues...

In the Director's Cut of the last episode, I mentioned that Soft Bank / Yahoo sent me the router for my FOC service a full month before I was due to have it installed. They assured me that billing wouldn't start until I used it, so I heaved a (sharp, trembling) sigh of relief and waited for the impending Day of Connection.

About one week before the DoC, my fiber optic TV tuner arrived. I only vaguely remembered having said I was interested in trying out the internet TV service, especially since they said I'd get a two month free trial, but the box that came immediately presented some logistical problems regarding hookup; you see, the router and the TV are in separate rooms, and there's already a long cable stapled to the wall molding leading from the router to the phone. Then of course there was my wife's anticipated fit; she already feels that our satellite TV service is too much considering both our kids are supposed to be studying to prepare for entrance exams (i.e. no lives allowed). The new internet TV tuner box remains unopened and will probably be sent back.

The weather forecast for the DoC was cloudy with partial clearing later. Naturally, it rained. That didn't stop the erstwhile hookup man from doing his job. Bravely shrugging off the cold, the dampness, the inconvenient location of my computer, narrow spaces, aggressive shrubbery, and my FIL's attempts to weasel him into hooking his phone to my connection (i.e. trying to get me to pay for his phone calls like he already suckered my wife into footing his cell phone bill), he got the cable installed, surgically removed my Softbank / Yahoo BB ADSL modem, set up an NTT (i.e. the phone company) router, hooked everything up, and got the phone working. Then, after an obligatory cup of tea and a friendly chat, he got called off to perform his next mission.

(When he took the call, I couldn't help noticing that at least one name of a colleague he mentioned was the same as one of the 'NTT reps' on the phone that tried to fast-talk me into subscribing to "iNächste" internet service. Yes, it wasn't an uncommon name, but still...)(Cue Boba Fett's theme)

Now I was left with some interesting, new problems:
  1. The hookup man had connected and set up an NTT router. That left me with the puzzle of what to do with the one Soft Bank / Yahoo had sent me. Since both incur rental fees, one definitely has to go back.
  2. There are basically two kinds of fiber optic cable service available through "Flet's" (apparently the universal cable service here in Japan, contracted through NTT or local providers). The most common one is called "Flet's Hikari Next", and it's compatible with regular fiber optic phone service. The other one is called "B Flet's", which is faster but not compatible with regular fiber optic phone service (though it does work with NTT's phone system). When I made my reservation with Yahoo BroadBand for fiber optic internet, NTT hadn't yet given me all the details of the service I'd be getting (or if they had, I hadn't understood them). The Yahoo rep told me that they'd call me back later to get that information. They never did. Instead, they just sent me a router and documentation assuming I'd be getting Flet's Hikari Next service. It turned out to be B Flet's. Correcting my account was solved by a "quick" (if you don't count the twenty minutes I spent on hold) call to Yahoo and incurred no extra cost. However, it did add another complication.
  3. Using NTT's router instead of Yahoo's meant that I wouldn't be able to keep using Yahoo's BB phone service. BB phone does offer some advantages, but its main selling point, the fact of being free, no longer applies; apparently NTT imposed a universal service charge on all firms offering internet or fiber optic phone service since they still have to use NTT's facilities (cue Imperial March). It's still cheaper than NTT's phone service, so I hoped to keep my account going. However, if I read the oh-so-confusing fine print correctly, BB phone can't be used on a B Flet's account anyway, so that pretty much settles that. At any rate, I decided to cancel the BB phone option, send back the Yahoo router, and just use the NTT router that was installed. That led to another problem.
  4. Basically, the instructions for the "start-up kit" that came from Yahoo for activating my new service could be summed up like this: "If you use our router, just insert the included CD in your computer, enter the codes, and you're done! If, perchance, you...ahem...use a *cough* NTT router instead, well...huh huh...pray to whatever ugly, alien gods you worship and prepare to be taunted until you gnash your teeth and wail in unspeakable anguish." You see, the NTT router also came with a CD, but it wasn't a set-up utility, just interactive instructions and a summary/checklist. In order to change the settings you had to access a set-up utility on the internet. Therein lies the rub; since Yahoo apparently isn't one of the "accepted" internet services supported by NTT, my router wasn't preset for internet access. When I turned on my computer, it accessed the "home network" just as with my old ADSL modem, but the home network wasn't connected to the internet. I flailed around for I don't know how long, poring over the NTT and Yahoo documents trying to make sense of all the Japanese technical jargon, and finally I tried logging onto my Yahoo account manually. First it told me that access was denied, but after a little while I noticed that I was, in fact on the internet. Then I was able to call up the set-up utility and (after struggling with the user-unfriendly access protocol) put in the codes necessary to make the router connect to my Yahoo FO service automatically as the family default. Now log-in happens on boot-up on any machine connected to the router. Hopefully, that took care of it. (Cue The Force/Obi-Wan's theme)
(While all this was going on, I couldn't help wondering how much easier it would have been had I just allowed myself to be railroaded into dropping Yahoo and subscribing to "iNächste" instead. But then again, I'd have to deal with using "iNächste"...)

Well, for better or worse, now my family is online using gigabit fiber optic service. I just hope it'll be smooth sailing from now on...if you don't count these options I have to cancel and hardware I have to mail back.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Situation Normal: All in the Family as Usual

Saturday, February 12th, 2011 (Day 3 of an accidental 4-day weekend from hell)

3:45 p.m.
- The Saturday rehearsal of the Flying Eggheads Jazz Band ended, and I hoped to be able to head home by 4:00.

3:50 p.m. - Discovered that the chief music director at the school had left without saying anything, leaving me to hold the fort until all the students went home. Got pestered by the student committee about a score I'm arranging, so I opened the file - and found that someone had played around with it and chopped it up.

5:30 p.m. - Finished fixing the damage in the score and adding another section to it, signed off, and left. All the snow was long since melted away, but it was raining again.

5:45 p.m. - Since there was no hope of my getting home in time to take my son to his cram school (meaning my FIL had probably already done it anyway), I went to a nearby home center to do some shopping.

6:10 p.m. - Headed home. Rain mixed with snow.

6:25 p.m. - Cell phone text message from my wife saying she was on her way home from her 2-day business trip and asking if I could pick our son up from his cram school at 7:30. Stopped at a 7-11 and replied that I could. Phone rang as I started to leave; it was my daughter asking the same question. Replied that I could, hung up, drove home.

6:40 p.m. - Arrived home. Another text message from the wife telling me that she'd promised our son she'd pick him up after coming home. Mixed rain and snow was falling pretty hard. Worried about her highway bus arriving late, I sent a text message saying I'd get our son if I didn't hear from her. Started doing some housecleaning.

7:10 p.m. - Still no word from the wife, so I left to pick up my son. Now it was snowing.

7:35 p.m. - Arrived at the cram school at the same time as my wife. She told me the battery in her cell phone had died. My son went with her. Since he'd just won a Prefectural award for an essay he'd written, my wife suggested our family go to Sushiro, my son's favorite conveyor belt sushi restaurant, for dinner. The nearest Sushiro is over in Kamisu. Since driving back to Namegata to pick up my FIL and daughter would take too much time, my wife suggested that I ask my FIL to bring my daughter in his car. I thought that sounded a bit optimistic, but I agreed. With that, my wife took off for Sushiro with my son.

7:38 p.m. - Called my FIL on my cell phone and explained the situation to him. He said it would be no problem. I then headed for the Sushiro in Kamisu myself.

7:48 p.m. - My cell phone rang while I was driving on a highway with no shoulders, i.e. no way of answering it. Continued on to Sushiro.

7:50 p.m. - My cell phone kept ringing intermittently, so when I finally got stopped at a red light, I answered it. My FIL said he wanted us to go to the Coco's restaurant over in Itako. I reiterated that we were going to Sushiro in Kamisu and that my wife and son were already well on their way. He replied that he refused to go any further than Itako. The light turned green, and I hung up. Tried to call the wife at the next red light, but her cell phone was dead.

7:52 p.m. - My cell phone rang again. By now there was a shoulder, so I pulled over and answered it. My daughter told me that her grandfather (my FIL) refused to drive unless we went to Coco's in Itako. I told her I would come and pick them up, pulled onto a side street, whipped a quick U-turn, burned rubber, and raced home. Luckily it was only raining by then, and I didn't encounter any cops.

8:17 p.m. - Arrived home to find my FIL and daughter waiting outside. My FIL was being unusually jovial.

8:50 p.m. - Finally made it to Sushiro. My wife and son had already finished off several plates of sushi each. The rest of us dug in in earnest while constantly having to re-explain the concept of a conveyor belt sushi restaurant to my FIL.

9:20 p.m. - Finally decided we'd had enough. Paid the bill. My wife and son left immediately. My daughter and I had to wait several minutes for my FIL to stop screwing around. By then all precipitation had stopped, and the roads were drying. I somehow caught up with my wife on the way back.

10:00 p.m. - Arrived home. FIL went into his house, we went into ours. Sat around the kotatsu and watched TV. I had my first gin & tonic in ages. Everyone fell asleep except me.

11:00 p.m. - Facebook time.

12:00 p.m. (or thereabouts) - Started work on a very lame blog post. But that's the way my life has been these days. I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings...and until then,