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"ethernet has a self-assigned IP address and will not be able to c

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I've never owned a mac before and never had this much trouble on any other machine connecting to the internet. The title says the problem: "ethernet has a self-assigned IP address" and will not be able to connect to the internet" This is the message displayed on my macbook when my ethernet cable is plugged in. I can't connect to the internet via wired connection. I cant at this time attempt wireless. I've tried several "fixes" including deletion of the file "com.apple.alf.plist" which did nothing.. I tried to contact apple support but never received my call from them :( Thanks for any help. :)
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