The Network N00b

I am a network n00b.  I remember when networking on Windows (and DOS for that matter!) was fiendishly difficult and I am truly glad those days are behind us.  Although it is not really related, I was reminded of those days recently when I was trying to determine why my home internet connection would sporadically drop out.

I used these drop-outs as motivation to finally replace my ADSL modem / router with a new one.  I have wanted one for a while now, but couldn’t justify replacing a working one.  The world has finite resources after all, and we really don’t need the extra land-fill!  The drop-outs commonly took the form of firstly losing the VPN connection to work followed by extraordinarily long times to resolve web addresses.

The only way I had found to correct the problem was to power-cycle the ADSL modem.  Once I had bought and installed the new ADSL modem / router, I was horrified to discover the problem had seemingly become worse!  Now, a power-cycle was not always sufficient to recover from the problem.

Fortunately, diagnosis of the problem became much simpler with the new modem.  Once “the problem” occurred, I discovered that I could still ping the gateway machine, but I could not ping the primary or secondary DNS servers of my ISP.  The new modem has a less cryptic web interface.  This was able to tell me diagnostic information such as line attenuation and signal-to-noise ratios.  (The old one probably could do this, but I had a bad “hunt-to-peck” ratio – clicking on random links before I found the page I was looking for!)

Armed with a few statistics, I turned to the Internet for possible answers (when it was available!) It did not take long to find an answer and I am annoyed with myself for not starting the problem resolution here!  Recently, our local exchange had upgraded from ADSL to ADSL2+.  I had upgraded the firmware in my old ADSL modem/router for this change but did not upgrade my line filter.  The solution to my problem was to replace my existing splitter box and line filter with a new combined splitter/ADSL2+ filter.  Since then, things have been going swimmingly!

In the end, I probably did not need to replace the ADSL modem.  But I did want some features that my old modem did not have.  Also, the old modem had a quiet high pitched whistle which I’m glad to be rid of.  You live and learn!

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