New ISP

I’m writing this post with a fresh Internet connection. I was hoping this wouldn’t be a blogworthy experience, but you’re reading this.

I used to have Comcast. For unimportant and not terribly negative reasons, I decided to switch to DSL, since FiOS, which is what I really want, isn’t available in my building. In my area, it seems like AT&T is the best choice. Things started off pretty well. The ordering process was mostly straightforward, and I wasn’t that surprised to learn that ordering Internet without phone service would cause a bit of trouble, but not too much. They shipped me the modem, and there was no need for a technician to come to my apartment. I really appreciate this.

My service was scheduled to be available tonight after 8 PM, and around midnight I started the installation. Of course, it began with the dreaded installation CD. Maybe it’s just because I’m a Mac user, but I don’t understand why I need an installation CD for this. Just give me a list of settings, like… “Configure using DHCP.”

I didn’t see anything like that in the documentation, so I stuck in the CD. Fortunately my optical drive (which I hardly ever use) was behaving, and the disc included an OS X installer. For most of the “installation,” nothing was actually installed on my computer. It was just an application interacting with the modem via my Ethernet port. Fine. That’s understandable. But just when I thought I was finished, with little warning of what it was about to do, the installer opened a few scripts which did simply annoying things like adding bookmarks to my desktop, an arguably useful thing by setting my network preferences, but also some scary things like copying files to the Application Support folder, where they will probably hang out until the next time I do a clean install of my OS. The thing that freaked me out the most was when I saw it open Mail and attempt create a new email account. It completely butchered the settings, using my username as the incoming mail server, and naming the account after my password!

After that horrible process was over, I was online, and the connection so far seems snappy and stable. I checked the CD for an uninstaller, and there is none. If I were in a worse mood I’d call and complain to customer service, but that would go nowhere and I’m just not that surprised by what happened. It was easy enough to delete those desktop bookmarks that made my Mac look like a PC full of preinstalled trial programs, and I got rid of that email account which I’ll never use seconds after it was created.

The last time I had DSL I had to connect via PPPoE, so I’m happy that this time with DHCP getting the connection to my router should be plug-n-play, as long as the installer didn’t tie anything to my computer’s MAC address. I’ll update if that’s an issue.

Hopefully the rest of my experience will be smooth-sailing, but if you’re a Bay Area ISP and you have a painless installation process, feel free to get in touch with me. I already own cable and DSL modems.

Update: It looks like the damage was worse than I thought. When I tried to connect to my local wireless network today to throw some files over to my desktop, I realized that I couldn’t even turn my laptop’s Aiport on. Fortunately Apple’s discussion group was to the rescue again, and I found this post by Ryan Godfrey, which told me to create a new Airport service in the Network pane of System Preferences. Unfortunately the same problem recurred each time I would go back to the profile created by the installer. Deleting the AT&T profile seemed to fix things, and accessing the modem via a plain old DHCP Ethernet connection works just fine. What an unnecessary mess.

Update 2: I shared this post with AT&T and they got in touch with me to make sure all of my concerns were addressed. I told them that I just wanted my comments to make their way to whoever was in charge of the installation process. The representative promised that this will happen. If any new customers happen to see an improved installation, please let me know.

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