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Wireless router? More like functionless router.

Yeah, that's not a very funny joke for the subject line, but I've got a boring, technical computer problem question.

For the tenth time, I've tried setting up a wireless router at home, and once again, the setup process leads us all the way through, then has no useful troubleshooting tips whatsoever to explain why our system doesn't work.

(Usually this involves us buying a router, trying to set it up, failing at that, exchanging the router for a different one, failing at that, then giving up for a few months until we decide to try again.)

And please skip ahead to someone else's photos or Twitter-stream if this stuff bores you. I'll try to be brief, though.

Anyway, we've got a little black box that provides us with a DSL connection for our "land" computer, and we're trying to set up a wireless router so that we can use that same DSL for our laptop. So far, so good, right?

Here's what happens every single time: We go through the setup process, bit by bit, connect all the cords properly, and when we're finished, we end up with a slow (possibly non-existent) connection to the land computer. Our wireless router/network appears as a network option on our laptop (and it claims that the connection is at full strength), but we end up with that "trying to connect/rainbow pinwheel" thing for about five minutes, and no connection ever happens.

The main thing that I notice when we go through all of the connections (as the setup disc instructs us to do) is that the green blinking "Activity" light on our DSL router/black box thing doesn't blink much at all once we've connected everything.

If anyone has any good troubleshooting advice for router installation, please let us know. We've tried just about everything, and it feels like we're close to getting this solved, but it also feels like we might never get this problem solved, too.

Thanks in advance for any advice.