Linksys WVC54G camera

Paul, after more than 4 hours online with Linksys technical support

Descent into tech support hell

In December, I bought a new Linksys internet video camera, model WVC54G. Setting it up in the first place drove me half nuts. Then in late January I discovered that I was the only one who could watch it! Until then I had assumed that my friends' difficulty connecting with the camera was "pilot error" or attributable to difficulty installing the needed ActiveX control.

I realized the camera was inaccessible to the rest of the world when a bloke in the UK emailed me to say that he had purchased the same camera but was unable to get it to work notwithstanding long hours spent with Linksys Tech Support. He wondered if I might be able to help him. It turned out that he also had the same router as I do, so I sent him screen captures of my camera and router configuration screens.

Imagine my astonishment when he wrote back that thanks to my help his camera was now working! He also added that he was unable to connect with my camera. That demolished my theory about pilot error or the ActiveX control. I took my laptop — on which I had viewed the camera while at home — down to Starbucks and tried to connect. No go. Damn!

For the next two weeks I did everything I could think of to make the camera work on my own. I uninstalled and reinstalled it. I printed and read (!!!) the manual carefully. I changed the port numbers. I tried it wired and wireless. Nothing worked.

Last Saturday night, I finally broke down and contacted Linksys Tech Support through online chat on the Linksys website. The first person I "talked" to, Romero, gave up and passed me to second-level support, Anna. Anna had me adjust some settings in my router and in my camera configuration. It was still invisible to the outside world. More than four hours later Anna told me I should call in so they could work further to isolate the problem. OK, I'll try anything once.

The number Anna gave me went to India, and Linksys apparently has absolutely no connection between online chat Tech Support and telephone Tech Support. I had to start the explanation all over again! It was clear that the person in India knew almost nothing about the camera.

  • She insisted that I had to sign up for Linksys Sololink service to be able to view the camera from the internet. Wrong: All that Sololink does is provide you with a domain name that keeps track of the current dynamic IP address from your ISP. already provides that service to me — and for free.
  • She insisted that it was the firewall software on my PC that was preventing people from accessing the camera. Wrong: The camera connects directly through the router/access point, not through the PC. The PC doesn't even have to be on for the camera to work.
  • She said she would get a senior technician to talk to me. Once again I was treated to horrendous screeching and static on the phone line. This is intolerable. I hung up.

On Sunday, I decided to disable my Veo cam and send the Linksys camera to port 80, which is normally used by the Veo cam. I went to Starbucks again after brunch and tried to connect. Nothing! Since I had paid for a day's connection time with T-Mobile, I sat in Starbucks and nursed a tall mocha while I browsed through every comment I could find on the web about the Linksys camera. Most people hate it — they couldn't get it to work; they couldn't connect to it from the internet; Linksys tech support was horrible, etc. etc. A few people loved the camera and couldn't imagine what all the fuss was about. I decided I would try to return the camera and get my money back.

On Monday, I went to the Linksys website to request my return authorization. The form would not accept my "Incident Number" as the "Case Number." I would have to call. One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies, "Thank you for calling Linksys Technical Support... Please make your selection from the following menu...." Back to India. Arghhhhhh!!!!

Oh, I'm sorry. But you must have a "case number." You'll have to get that from a senior technician—

She transferred my call. More screeching and static. A person came on the line and asked me for my case number. I explained that I didn't have a case number, that I had been transferred to him to give me a case number. He said to wait a moment. And then the line went dead.

Meanwhile, while I was on the phone to India, I got an email from the bloke in the UK, suggesting a change in my camera configuration. I made it. The camera worked!

All the hours! All the aggravation!

Dan, the "bloke in the UK," captured from his Veo cam. This is Dan right after I helped him get his Veo camera to work. I had earlier helped Dan get his Linksys camera to work, and Dan gave me the crucial clue that got my Linksys camera to work. We're going to buy each other a pint the next time I go to England. Dan says, "You can drink some real ale hahahahahahhaha." I guess Dan's tasted Budweiser.

Postscript. This morning, while I was working on this article, I got another email from the UK bloke saying that the Veo cam he had ordered arrived but he couldn't get it to connect. Could I help? I dredged up from my memory what few random thoughts I could (it's been a while) and replied. A few emails later, and his Veo was working, too!