Difficult things are easy if you know the secret handshake

I signed into blogger.com and was surprised to find I have five blogs there!  This post is from one of those blogs, originally posted on April 29, 2006.


Silly title, and not a real serious post – but I just left a friends house after fixing their Wireless Router. It was a simple fix (changed the channel away from 6, which is where three of his neighbors WLAN routers were sitting). But they thought I was a genius – partially because I fixed it, but more so because I “knew enough to fix it so fast”.

Knowing the “secret handshake” always helps. From 1995-1998 I was lucky enough to live in Honolulu, Hawaii. I had many palm trees in my yard, and the first time a coconut fell in the yard I decided to open it up. Turns out it wasn’t so easy. I ended up using my Makita electric saw and just cut the damn thing in half. Of course all of the milk was lost, and the meat wasn’t very tasty looking with metal saw blade marks all over it.

Two or three weeks later a truck pulled up in the front yard with a bunch of native Hawaiians in it. They had been hired by the US Army (I lived on an Army base then) to come and cut the coconuts down so they wouldn’t fall on a kid, or car, or whatever.

These guys knew the secret handshake. They climbed the tree, sans any equipment, cut down the coconuts, then settled down for a snack and drink of coconut. With nothing but a machete one of the guys opened a coconut with just three whacks, and did so in such a fashion that the first two whacks sliced off an angular slice of coconut shell that was later used as a tool to extract and eat the coconut meat.

I was, to say the least, totally f*cking amazed! What took me 20 minutes with a sledge hammer and power saw took this guy 30 seconds with a little chunk of sharp steel. He knew the code.
So, being who I am, I brought out a 12 pack of beer and started learning the handshake. Amazingly, it only took a few minutes to learn the trick, and for the next couple of years I amazed both visitors from the mainland, as well as Islanders with my coconut opening skill.

So if you meet someone that knows the “secret handshake” – no matter what it’s for (magic, Active Directory, using WordPress, getting Ruby on Rails working under Apache with FastCGI), ask them to show it to you. Most people that know the secrets love sharing them (well, maybe not the Magicians!)


  1. @Rob: “Mine is fine”

    is? IS?

    You’ve got only ONE of them wrinkled thangs?

  2. Uhmmm. Paul – YOURs may need ironed. Mine is fine. Thank you for tuning in πŸ˜‰


  3. @Deannie… I REALLY hope you were referring to the loin cloths…

  4. *giggle* I give up. But definitely IRON those things!

  5. @deannie: family rated?
    What are you suggesting here?
    That Rob and I in proper company provided khaki (Rob) and denim (me) loin cloths are in some way indecent?
    I even have a pin stripe one somewhere, and Rob always wears a matching tie with it.
    Granted, I too find Rob’s camouflage one and the one his daughter knitted for him improper business atire, but for casual Fridays it’s okay!

  6. Umm wow. I walk away from my keyboard for a few hours and this conversation just goes south right away. You guys keep those loincloths under cover! This is a semi-family rated site, isn’t it?!?

  7. Maybe. I don’t miss them though. Ironing the logo onto the left butt-cheek of the loin cloth while I was still wearing it was just wrong!

    I don’t think they respect you either, Paul!


  8. I’m gonna miss this company!
    They got me my first loin cloth with company logo!

  9. Cool – and that picture was probably taken in the office (which means I was almost certainly in a loin cloth!)

  10. I think I have a picture somwhere of Rob cracking open a wireless AP .. will that do?

  11. I imagine you want me to be in a loin-cloth as well, huh?

  12. In an ongoing effort to learn secret handshakes, I sure would love to see a video posted of Rob cracking open coconuts. Aww, c’mon! You know you want to!

  13. Yes, it was one of the older Netgear Routers – when it seemed every Netgear product had a watchdog timer that randomly rebooted the box. Every time it would reboot they would connect to a neighboring access point.

    The router has been replaced now, so not an issue anymore πŸ™‚

  14. And to further educate your subscribers who are reading this: Rob fixed this by changing the AP’s ssid. Changing the channel would not have done anything, since roaming happens across channels. And since Rob knows a thing or two about wireless, I’m sure he also enabled security on his friend’s wireless network! AND he probably investigated why the damned thing roamed in the first place, since, unless that neighbor lived next door in a dormitory, neighbors’ AP’s signal strength is usually sufficiently low to be ignored by even the worst roaming algorithm. It could have been a flaky AP that reboots itself every now and then.
    When DOES changing the channel on your AP make sense (in a home environment)? When you lose your internet connectivity everytime your cordless phone rings! πŸ˜‰

  15. Paul – of COURSE you are right :). The problem wasn’t just that they were on the same channel – they were all on the default SSID. So often they would connect to a neighboring IP on a different subnet – and things wouldn’t work (like connecting from their XBOX to their desktop)

    And yeah – I’ve seen WLAN installs where I could see a dozen APs on the sam channel – but it worked (because we built good stuff!)


  16. You KNEW I would comment on this, didn’t you!
    Next time I need a coconut opened, I’ll call you!

    But the wireless story is nonsense. You may have fixed it, but having three neighbors on the same channel wasn’t the problem.
    And YOU should know that!
    (My much admired co-workers just came back from fixing a problem at Cisco, where they had tens (in fact, probably closer to hundreds!) of AP’s on the same channel sitting next to each other, and every now and then, one of their (or Nokia’s) VoIP phones would drop a call…. had NOTHING to do with shared channels!) Worked great when we fixed our problem! 4 AP’s on the same channnel? NO problem whatsoever.