“If It Ain’t Broke…” — concluded

More Steps to Upgrading My DSL Service

Some folks won’t care, but just to bring this little saga to a conclusion for those of you who do…

The beginning of this story was posted last Thursday evening, when indeed the newly-upgraded DSL service seemed to be pretty much okay, with a few lingering issues.  I had created that post in my text editor, not completely trusting my link’s stability to edit in the WordPress online editor — but with some post-cut-&-paste tweaks, the piece was done and published.

The next day was a different story.  By late morning, it was clear that the new setup was in trouble, and degrading rapidly.  I moved a Linux laptop nearby to the new DSL modem, and direct-patched them together so I could watch service and error counters in the modem’s Setup utility.  At first, seeing no framing or retrain errors, the modem seemed okay, and I was about to turn attention to the suspect ol’ Linksys router.  But without warning, the modem itself turned non-responsive: no Setup utility, no error screen, no nothin’…  Dead Internet.  Dead modem?  A brand new unit?

Saturday, a trip to the local electronics store scored a replacement “high speed DSL ready” router, this time a Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band model WNDR3400 — only 4 local Ethernet ports rather than the 8 I’m used to having (manufacturers have stopped making 8-port consumer-grade units?), but hey, I can expand with an Internet switch, or cascaded routers, if I have to.  Anyway, I’m dead-in-the-water until Qwest gets me a replacement modem.

I made the Qwest service call first thing Monday.  My tech-buddy Bob was working on another project, but sent Greg in his stead.  He arrived within the hour, and brought along a spare Q100 modem — we plugged that in, and were immediately rewarded with the Setup utility and a nominal status display.  Time to plug in the new Netgear router.  By now, practice made me recall nearly everything I once knew about modem and router setup (I just don’t do this stuff very often), so configuring the two to work together was pretty straightforward.  (N.B. to Netgear, Qwest and other manufacturers of network stuff:  Please include the real technical manual in the router’s/modem’s box.  It’s fine for you to provide an “idiot-proof” instruction booklet and/or Windows-oriented installation software; but please don’t make me go to your website to hunt for and download the manual which should be in the box to begin with…)

Summary:  With the addition of the new Netgear router, things have certainly stabilized, and the link has been rock-solid for nearly 60 operating hours at the time of this writing.  Throughput tests using sites like SpeedTest.net (Google “internet speed test” for other sites, if you’re interested) show download/upload rates of ~11.2Mbps and ~0.82Mbps, nearly right on the speeds promised by Qwest.  Most importantly, no more intermittent drop-outs.  And, with experience, you can “feel it” when something’s finally fixed… this upgrade, with the new modem and new router, feels solid, unlikely to degrade back into the former flaky condition.

Building on the conclusions of the previous post:  Yes, the old Linksys router must have been the root cause of the intermittents, although the other discovered deficiencies in the initial ADSL installation were probably masking and/or complicating the effects.

The future?  Now I’ve got at least three old routers, including the newly retired Linksys, to play around with… My son-in-law Gejza in Budapest read last week’s post, and wrote back to me:

“If you need some intelligent routing I definitely recommend DD-WRT (www.dd-wrt.com) as the router OS, and anything that runs it as the hardware.  I’ve been using a dual ADSL2 setup here for a long time, mostly because I need both the bandwidth as well as some redundancy.  This gives us about 8+8 Mbits which are handled partly dynamically by a Linksys/Cisco RV042 dual WAN load balancing router.  We’ve been given two D-Link DSL modems by the service providers that work fine, as they are just simply modems, not routers themselves, (probably something similar to your ‘transparent modem’ setup).

“…The dd-wrt [firmware] is very flexible, easy to setup and has proven to be extremely stable, as my basic network structure hasn’t changed in the past 8 years.  From time to time I just update their firmware, add a machine here and there, but the basic dual stage firewalling and three separate sub-zones have never changed since then.  We’ve never reached their limits regarding throughput and we don’t seem to experience delays.”

Router firmware is user-installable, and you can swap out your factory-installed firmware for something better.  DD-WRT is a Linux-based, alternative open-source firmware development project which supports a huge number of existing router hardware products.  It’s likely that DD-WRT has a compatible, higher functionality replacement module for it.  Additional credibility is found in this press release:

AUSTIN, TX – March 9, 2010 Buffalo Technology, a global leader in the design, development and manufacturing of wired and wireless networking and network and direct attached storage solutions announced the next step in the partnership with NewMedia-NET to deliver DD-WRT based software as a standard configuration across Buffalo’s array of high power routers and access points.  DD-WRT, long a mainstay in the open source community, delivers an easy-to-use, versatile and extensive feature-set to a broader wireless networking audience.  From the novice user to demanding professionals, this partnership provides best-in-class products for a wide range of consumers…  Serving millions of users worldwide, DD-WRT is the leading Linux based alternative open source firmware for wireless routers, enabling basic entry level equipment to act like enterprise products [my emphasis]

DD-WRT is definitely worth looking into, especially since I can afford to “brick” any one of the old “extra” routers which have accumulated.  I’ll likely end up with superior functionality in an old router package — maybe even resurrect one of the units with 8 ports!  Thanks for the lead, Gejza!

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1 Response to “If It Ain’t Broke…” — concluded

  1. Pingback: Recovering Linux – 1 | The Rockjack

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