Always check the cables


Today I had to go over to a client’s house to check out his Sonos system.  According to the client, it hasn’t been working properly for a couple weeks, ever since the system tried updating itself.  I could see none of his Sonos devices were able to access the internet, so I thought maybe there was some IP-address shenanigans going on. (Without getting too technical, I thought that two or more devices on the network might be sharing the same network address, and that was causing the system to freak out. It happens.)

I figured a good place to start was just unplugging every device on the network, then plugging them in one-by-one.  If the router is confused by wrongly-assigned IP addresses, this generally takes care of it.  The process took about 15 minutes.  The end result:  Every device on the network worked just fine, except the Sonos system.  Darn.

But the Sonos Controller was giving me a very specific error message.  So that’s good.  Error messages might scare most people, but they shouldn’t.  The more specific the error message, the more specific the fix.  This is where Google (or Bing) can be a lifesaver.  The error message sent me to a specific section on the Sonos help site.  So I figured it couldn’t hurt to follow their advice on how to remedy the situation.  I was wrong.  It hurt a lot.  Another 1/2 hour was gone.  Thanks, Sonos!

So then I decided to take a look at the home network itself.  I noticed that all his wireless routers (it’s a big house, so he had several) were running out-dated software.  So I updated them.  Another 15 minutes went by, but it still didn’t fix anything.

So then I finally did what I should’ve done when I first got there — on a hunch, I swapped out a single ethernet cable that was connecting the main Sonos device to the router.  And that did the fix.

Do ethernet cables go bad that often? No. 7 times out of 10, a network problem will be software related.  And if it is hardware related, it’ll be a device that’s gone bad, not the cable.  Even bad cables have a better failure rate than even the most reliable electronics.

But this time it WAS the cable.  And the next time I have less than an hour to troubleshoot someone’s network problem, you better believe the first thing I’m going to do is swap out all the cables.