Troubleshooting network adapters on Windows

We all love the Internet and connectivity, but how often do we think about “how” we connect?

At work, I use a Windows PC, which has a physical Ethernet network adapter and a physical WiFi network adapter. Typically, I just use the Ethernet adapter, as it’s faster. I don’t need my desktop to use WiFi, unless I’m having to manage something on our wireless network. I recently noticed the desktop also has a Bluetooth adapter, but I haven’t used that yet, although an increasing interest in the Internet of Things means that I might start to use it soon!

In any case, that’s 3 network adapters. Already it’s starting to sound like a lot. But I also have a host-only virtual adapter for Virtualbox, so that I can have a private connection with my Virtualbox virtual machines. That’s 4 adapters now.

I also use a USB Maxon Modmax modem with a SIM card for connecting to a private network. That’s 5 adapters.

Recently, I’ve also started to use VMware on the same PC. VMware installs another 2 virtual adapters (host-only and NAT). That’s 7 adapters.

After installing VMware, I started to have issues with the USB modem, so I disabled those adapters, and everything was fine…

…until I wanted to use the USB modem in the VMware virtual machines, and to do that I needed the VMware virtual NAT adapter. So I tried that again and had the following result: “C-motech UI Main has stopped working.”

c-motech-crash

The Modmax connection would stay active until I dealt with that C-motech UI Main window. As soon as I clicked “Debug”, “Close program” or “X”, it was all over.

So I could have my VMware adapter and Modmax adapter enabled and achieve the network functionality I required… but I was blighted by this pop-up window that I had to try and hide on my screen. This wasn’t going to be a long-term thing I wanted to live with.

 

I called Maxon technical support to see if they had any insight, but they didn’t. The Modmax was also end-of-life years ago, so they weren’t going to work on troubleshooting it too thoroughly, which was fair enough.

So I decided to experiment a bit by disabling some other adapters and trying again… and voila it worked! I realized that the Modmax modem would work, so long as there was a maximum of 5 enabled network adapters (including its own adapter).

I can’t explain why this is the case. I’m guessing it’s a bug in the Modmax Connection Manager, but maybe Windows has some secret limitation… who knows? At the end, it matters that it works.

I rang Maxon back up to share my discovery, and that’s that. I’m writing this post in the event that someone else is Googling “C-motech UI Main has stopped working”. Hopefully my efforts will help them avoid this crash!

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Getting started with Arduino

I think I first heard about Arduino in 2012. I was studying for my masters in library and information studies, and I was working as a systems librarian. While I found the idea of working with hardware interesting, my main focus was software and servers.

But in 2015 an engineer I know gave me an Arduino Uno. Not knowing what to do with it, I put it in a drawer until 2016 when I taught myself C, read an official tutorial online, and discovered my printer’s USB-B to USB-A cable could be used to provide power and code for the board.

I stated with the blink tutorial then made it send a SOS signal with the on board LED. Then another engineer challenged me to dim a LED he gave me, so I plugged it into the board (without a resistor which is naughty but worked fine), and started playing with PWM (pulse width modulation).

I was running out of things I could do, so I started reading as much as I could. I thought about sourcing a breadboard, LEDs, LCDs, piezos, pots, push buttons, motors, etc. I realised though that it would be faster, easier, and probably cheaper just to buy an Arduino Starter Kit.

A few days later, it arrived and I examined all my goodies. To date, I’ve only had time for the first two projects, which are just about using switches to light up LEDs. But I’m looking forward to playing with the motors, LCD, piezo, temperature sensor, pots, and photosensitive resisters with the other projects.

I like the idea of home automation. A robot greeter using PIR (passive infrared) motion detectors; using Bluetooth to signal my arrival home and kick off some automated processes like phone backups; using IR to signal household devices instead of using lots of different remotes. If the temperature drops, turn on a heater; hacking a doorbell to alert a device which sends me an email or turns on a door cam to see who is there.

I’d like to fit a 3G module to a board so that I could communicate with it remotely, but I don’t know what my device would need to do remotely. Such devices are useful to government and corporations, but what use are they to an individual? I suppose if I was a farmer, it could be used for measuring rainfall or temperature. I suppose you could make a long-range robot. A 3G module enables so much more physical freedom than a device controlled by Bluetooth or WiFi.

But what does all this have to do with libraries? You could use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to make your own self-checkout or security gate, but those products already exist.

I figure my newfound knowledge of electronics would be of more use in a library makerspace.

I sometimes wonder why we have makerspaces in libraries, but it seems a natural evolution. Libraries have traditionally been about the mental world, but now they’re branching out into the physical world too. Marrying the two together with information resources and physical tools.

Most of my project ideas are for home, but I’m sure people have all sorts of ideas for their art, their businesses, their inventions, their own diverse lives.

I think libraries provide a collection of specialized resources we couldn’t afford ourselves, and they also serve as a place for expanding our collective knowledge and skills. As we become digital citizens, we should become closer to the art and craft that comprises our world.

Politicians talk about innovation… and I reckon that’s how you do it. You make spaces for information exchange and promote creativity.

Anyway, I’m just getting started with Arduino, but I’m excited by where I’m going.