Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home networking and its woes

A couple weeks ago, I updated all of the Ethernet hubs in the house to support gigabit ethernet. It’s not that I have many devices that would take advantage of this, but I suspect more and more as time goes on will. Nonetheless, this most recent upgrade still didn’t quite work out perfectly: the Netgear ProSafe GS108 in the office connecting to the Netgear ProSafe GS105 up inside the Leviton Structured Media™ box won’t train to gigabit speeds, always falling back to 100 megabit. Grr. Not sure exactly how to diagnose the problem. (The same problem doesn’t occur between the 105 and an identical 108 unit in a different room.)

At the same time I updated the hubs, I decided it’d be nice to actually have more than one working telephone jack available. (I mean, it’s downright tragic to have this awesome patch system in the Leviton box and yet only have one real phone line—connected to the modem itself.) I could put little DSL filters in front of them, but that posed a problem for the only other (prospective) phone in the house — a wall-plate-mounted kitchen phone. We didn’t have a DSL filter that would fit that and have it stay on the wall. So, I did some research and found that of course Leviton makes a DSL filter board (47616-DSF) to stick into the box. When I got it, I realized that I didn’t have (nor really know how to use) a punchdown tool. Fortunately, one of my friends who is a hardware geek did, and gave me the explanation on how to use it. I rewired the phone to go through the board first, but got zero love -- no signal seemed to come out of the “to modem” (or at least it never reached the modem), even though the phone lines still seemed to work correctly. Double grr. Now it’s re-patched to the original configuration, and there’s still no phone in the kitchen.

After all this, we started noticing that our internet service seemed seriously degraded. We have Qwest “Platinum Package” using Drizzle as our ISP. Today, I looked at the modem’s web interface, and it said that our 7 Mbps connection was connected at 3360 Kpbs. That seemed rather unreasonable, so I did some research and found some ugliness — the current description of “Platinum Package” advertises “up to 7 Mbps” (and that makes sense to some extent, seeing as though they could have the fastest modem connection ever, and the ISP may still be the slow link), but they only guarantee at least 3 Mbps! I don’t remember that being part of the deal when I signed up; perhaps they changed the policy? (It’s not like they publish the historical policy changes so that you can see when the terms of the service changed out from under you.) I thought that it was possible that it was my forays into rewiring the punchdowns that caused the problem, but after connecting the modem directly into the telephone test jack where the phone comes into the house, it got even worse training. Putting it back where it was retrained it to 4400 Kbps, but then I updated the firmware on it (which required a reset and retrain), and now it’s back to 3700 Kbps. Let’s just say that our instant-watch Netflix movies on the Xbox 360 went from 4 bars, sometimes dropping to 3, to starting at 2 bars and bailing out entirely within a couple minutes. Really rather frustrating. Qwest’s web page talks about a “Quantum Package” (aka Fastest) that goes “up to 12 Mbps” (with a guarantee of what?), but their availability query suggests it’s not available for my phone/address.

I am tempted to jump the Qwest DSL ship (or at least them running the show — using Speakeasy or something) and venture into cable-internet. I just really want to have something akin to a guaranteed 1 MB/s (8192 Kbps) down and not have it preclude the ability to connect from the Internet into a machine on the home network.

With all of these sequential failures, I’m even less inclined to continue to plan an updated wireless network, complete with a guest VLAN. I had hoped that perhaps the ReadyNAS NV+ would support some RADIUS service so I could just make the denizens use 802.1x, and route guests only to the internet. Maybe someday.


Anonymous said...

Do you have Cat6 cabling between your two switches? Long runs of Cat 5 won't handle Gigabit.

Nathan Herring said...

It's Cat5, I think. (I didn't wire the house originally.) But the strange thing is that this run is shorter than the run to the other room which is training as gigabit. Go figure.

Star Girl said...

We switched to Speakeasy's OneLink (?) DSL when we got their VOIP so that we don't have to have a regular land line anymore to have VOIP. This was a few years ago and our service from Speakeasy has gone downhill ever since.

Then when I was doing a lot of testing for Amazon Video On Demand I discovered our download speeds were sub-2Mbps even though we had a 6 Mbps package. After a lot of customer service calls they figured out their was a screw up in our config limiting the bandwidth, but we're still stuck around 3. Apparently even though they told us we had a 6 Mbps package we can't really qualify for that and we're stuck around 3 with them until we switch providers (unless they upgrade their equipment before we do that).

We really want to find a new provider, but hear such shit about Comcast even though they're well rated on DSL Reports. I hated them when we had them back in Leschi, but that was eons ago in terms of their equipment and corporate structure.

So, that's a long way of saying I would no longer recommend Speakeasy and I'd be interested to know if you find an ISP that's good.

Anonymous said...

Hello this is Steph from Qwest, I am sorry to hear about your connection/speed issues, and would be happy to help you get it resolved. The 3M-7M range is more about pricing, some people only qualify for 3M or 5M and not the 7M but the cost is the same tier. If your bill shows 7M we should be giving you 7M. Please email me at (attention Steph) and I'll help you get a technical support specialist to troubleshoot your speed issue.

thank you

Steph Lake
Manager - Consumer Affairs Team - attention Steph

"At Qwest your account information is confidential and protected by law, so I need your permission to access the account.”