Tuesday, November 10, 2015

TP-LINK M5250: The Story of a Modem, Broken Fingernails and a Tiny Bit of Blood

This unassuming little pebble-like thingy caused me pain.
I found myself in need of a modem urgently recently. I didn't have much time to think and was left with only my phone to connect to the Internet.

Came TP-LINK 3G Mobile Wi-Fi M5250 [TP-LINK | Amazon] into my life quite 'accidentally'.

The Struggle

Even before I could put the modem to use, it gave me the pain that would forever attach itself to it.

The very first step was to open the cover and insert a SIM card and the battery. Let's just say that this step wasn't as easy as it sounds. I had to spend about an hour [I didn’t keep track] trying to open the cover. 

To open the cover, I had to work with a thin notch and flip the cover upwards. The notch wasn't the problem - the cover just wouldn't budge.

Using my nails, I literally tried to pry it open, alternating using my thumbs, my index finger and middle finger [I wasn't giving it the birdie by the way]. I don’t usually have long nails, but at the time my nails were longish - even when they are at the shortest I can still claw someone's skin off - so grip was not the problem. I kept checking the leaflet to see if I did it correctly; if I had to push something to release the cover - but no, nothing - it just said, "Open the cover upwards". As I was practically trying to tear the cover apart, I was preparing myself to accept the fact that I might break the thing. I even had one of those existential moments when I asked myself, "Why is this always happening to me?"

For a split second I considered throwing it somewhere. Maybe if I broke the shell open then I’d be able to reach inside and finally use the modem. It was one of those moments of insanity when you’re hurting and can’t think straight. But, I managed to steer my mind back to the task.

Broke My Nails, Cut Myself

I admit that I’m a special case; my skin is a little bit fragile because of eczema. But my nails are strong; they don't break easily.

Halfway through the process, my fingernails were broken, there were even bits of my nails on the modem. The nail of my thumbs broke at the sides and if I forced it any harder I think I would have peeled my nails off or at least the whole tip off. On second thought, maybe not; I'm not that strong. Have I mentioned I cut myself? Yes, I cut myself and tiny blood appeared.

I have taken some pictures of my fingers but I’m not posting them here because it’s not pretty.

I Did It!

In the end, I managed to open the cover on my own with a little help from a 5 cent coin. I left the cover off for awhile before I could be sure that I was able to make a connection, because I was afraid the modem wouldn’t work or if I might have inserted the SIM card incorrectly.

The Modem with Quirks

Thank goodness the modem works otherwise the very existence of it is non-existent. I wasted no time charging the TP-LINK M5250 using the provided micro USB cable and my phone's power plug. You can use the modem while it's charging, so that's very handy. On a full charge, I find the modem can last about 6-7 hours of non-continuous use and charging takes about 3-4 hours depending whether I'm using it or not. I tried charging on my MacBook and worked but I kept getting an error message. I later found out on TP-LINK's own website that the error message is apparently normal or as they say "meaningless" and you can simply click "Ignore".

The modem works across platforms too since there's no software to install; you simply open your browser and go from there. After the whole ordeal above, the setup was simple enough for me. 

The modem also comes with a couple of SIM card adapters for micro and nano SIM which I think is quite thoughtful of them - if only they could be as thoughtful with the cover design as well.

TP-LINK claims that the M5250 can provide connections to up to ten users simultaneously. I don't have ten users or ten devices but have tried with three devices and the WiFi connections seemed to be working well.

Google says it doesn't know much.
A couple of quirks I've found that I've never experienced with other modems or when tethering with my tablet before, are the 404 error message and the privacy error message. These error messages don't pop up every time; just once in a while.

The 404 error from Google as seen on the left simply says that the requested URL is or rather was not found on the server.

Attackers might be interested in me.
The privacy error message, as seen on the right, is much more alarming; saying that my connection is not private and that attackers might be trying to steal my information from whichever website I'm trying to visit.

On both occasions, reloading the page again later and/or logging in to TP-LINK's web management page and logging out seem to solve the problem.

After that initial struggle, the TP-LINK M5250 hasn't been giving me too much problems; except it adds to the list of my constant-charging devices.

Those with very short fingernails are going to have a huge problem with this. To those who have this particular modem or MiFi or whatever you call it, I’d really like to hear your experience especially how you managed to get it open. Or is mine an isolated case?

I shudder at the thought of having to open the cover again. There’s no way I’m going through all that all over again. I might have to break it open with a hammer next time…

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