Friday, November 21, 2014

Dealing with fraudulent charges on Merrick Bank credit card.

Having someone steal your credit card information sucks. How your bank or credit card company handles the aftermath of this should not have to be as painful or upsetting of an experience.

Here is the complaint that I just recently filed with consumerfinance.gov regarding the lack of support, or information from Merrick Bank regarding the fraudulent charges placed on my account.

Describe what happened so we can understand the issue...

Apparently someone cloned my credit card and charged several fraudulent charges to my account in a single day, November 12, 2014. The fraud department from Merrick Bank called me with a robo-dialer system to inquire if the charges were valid or fraudulent. The IVR system that they used was not responsive to my DTMF tones that the charges were unauthorized. Upon calling their number back they were "experiencing a high volume of calls" and eventually my call was disconnected without being able to speak with any representative of their company.

I had to make about 2 additional calls before I was able to navigate thru their IVR system and speak with someone from Merrick Bank fraud department to confirm with them that the charges were in fact fraudulent. They advised me that they would send out an affidavit and a new card.

 Allegedly no further action was taken on Merrick Banks end until the affidavit was "mailed" November 14, 2014. I can not confirm that this was ever mailed since a week later I still have not received this in the mail, and First Class mail should not take a week to reach its destination, so I do not believe that this has ever been mailed.

 November 20, 2014 I called back into the fraud department around 8:40pm to inquire about where the affidavit and replacement card was, and they assured me it was sent out on November 14, 2014. I advised them that it was taking too long to arrive to me and that they should fax it to me. They said they would fax it, but I never got a fax from them so around 10:50pm, I called them back requesting that they resend the fax. They advised me it would take 24-48 hours to send a fax, at which time I demanded to speak with a supervisor. After a brief hold I was advised that "THERE WAS NO SUPERVISORS AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME!" I find it very difficult to believe that there was no supervisors, or senior personal available to handle customer issues that have not been able to be resolved by the first level agents.

 On November 21, 2014 I called back the Merrick Bank fraud department, at which time the initial agent constantly tripped over his words and kept claiming that they were doing their "due diligence" and that in doing so it kept my interest rates low, and kept their company from being fined "millions of dollars" from the "government" Both of which are complete and utter bullshit. Having me fill out an affidavit ASAP would be due diligence, and I doubt that anyone would fine a company for providing a provisional credit while a fraud investigation is ongoing, not to mention this is a HIGH INTEREST RATE credit card, so none of this is keeping my rates "low" as that representative claimed. I was finally transferred to a supervisor who could not provide answers as to why there was no supervisor on call the previous night, and could only say that an "email had been submitted to the department that will fax me the affidavit" she could not give me a time frame as to when they would fax me. When pressed why I was speaking with her if a different department handles the affidavits she claims that department is a "clerical department" and does not handle phone calls.

Issue Identity theft / Fraud / Embezzlement

If you lost money, how much money did you lose? $ 269.09

Date of incident 11/12/2014

Have you done any of these things to try to resolve this issue?

Contacted the company directly


What do you think would be a fair resolution to your issue?

That the fraudulent charges be removed from my account, including any possible or potential intrest, penalty or other fees that may be associated with these charges.

 That a replacement card is expeditiously sent to me bearing a new card number.

 That I am provided with information to where the breach of my credit information was obtained from, and if any additional personal information was compromised, since the physical card is in my possession someone had to either make a copy, or they ordered a replacement card without my knowledge or consent.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Installing 24 port PoE switch and patching everything in

So recently I went out to a customer location to install a PoE switch and set up just over a dozen VoIP phones. They already had all of the wiring in place, and a rack installed.

They also already had one switch connected to some of the ports at the location, but I had to install a seperate PoE switch and patch everything together, so that they could take down the phone network without effecting any of the other devices connected to the network.

BEFORE wide angle
The existing network was not the biggest mess that I have ever seen, but for the amount of stuff that was actually connected, and the fact that the rack had wire management rails installed it was not very neat either.

Used 3 ft. patch cords to connect everything up.

Regardless I did my best to mount my new switch and route the patch cords as neatly as possible.

AFTER wide angle
Only blue patch cords are what I installed,
everything else was already existing.
That's about it. My responsibility lied in installing and maintaining the patch cords and switch for the VoIP phones, as well as installing the VoIP phones. I hold no responsibility of the overall network, they have their own IT person that handles that, which is why I did not want to touch any of the messy network wiring. 

Close up of PoE switch.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Moving input for Paging system (UTI-1)

The UTI-1 (and amplifier) are located under the cash register counter.

Customer wanted to connect audio to paging system in back room.
Also connected 2 analog lines and a network jack.

Installing 3 relays for doorphones

Customer switched from PBX to IP phones

So I installed 3 relays for the 3 doorphones.

The lines come from a Cisco SRP router.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Adding jacks to an existing small network, cross beams on almost every drop!

So I recently installed a "small" network, which should have taken no longer then half a day. Single office, with no furniture, no drop ceilings, but wiring was to be strapped to the exposed piping on the ceiling. 

4 out of the 5 locations that I had to snake the wire down the wall had cross beams. The only place where I did not have to deal with cross beams is where the existing wiring going to the switch and "patch panel" ran down the wall.

The network is directly behind the center jack on this wall.
Wiremolding used to bring line to jack on left.
Since I had to take time out to get around the beams this wiring job that should have taken half a day turned into nearly a full day. I ended up connecting 12 jacks (6 locations with 2 jacks each). One location was directly behind the network, and needed less than 6 inches of CAT5 wiring. The customer also did not "need" a jack at this location, but since this is where I brought all of the wiring down the wall, it was just as easy to add a jack here then to put a blank faceplate on my opening. 

No drop ceilings, wire strapped to wall on ceiling.
Every drop on this wall (3 in total on this wall)
has cross beams of varying heights that I had to get around.
The other jack that was on the wall opposite of the network, I used 1 length of wiremolding, and about 6 feet of CAT5 wiring, of which I used the scrap pieces from snaking the rest of the wiring down the wall.
Close-up of one of the cross beams
that I had to get around in this room.
I come across cross beams from time to time, but this small job seems to have taken it to the extreme. Every new drop that I had to make had a cross beam in it, and what made it more of a hassle was that each cross beam was at varying heights, so I had to guesstimate the location of each beam to channel around them. 

I had another cross beam in the other room,
This was one of the larger metal studs that I have come across.
I took the photo with my hand to show perspective
of the size of this cross beam.
When you come across a cross beam and have to channel around one you can use a blank faceplate to cover up the channel, as long as the channel that was made is small enough, however since there were multiple cross beams at varying heights it would look stupid to hide the holes in this way. 

Since it is an under desk installation,
and an addition to an existing network
I opted for using a wall jack instead of  patch panel. 
The only way to hide the channels that were created to snake the wire is that it will need to be plastered over. Usually this becomes part of the customers responsibility to repair and have painted over.  

The top jack and top switch was installed by me sometime a year or two ago. (for VoIP network)
The bottom switch is going to a secondary router as a double NAT (for PC network)
At that time the network was so small I just used 8p8c connectors instead of punching in jacks,
except for the wire going to the main network closet.
Once the wiring was all pulled I was able to patch everything together. I had originally installed this small network several years ago. There are seperate wiring for the VoIP and PC networks, however just one internet connection to share between them,

1 foot patch cords were too short, so I used 3 footers,
which were a drop too long so I twist tied them as neatly as possible.
Keep in mind this network is behind a desk and not visible. 
Since the internet is a shared T1 amongst several offices in this building their IT guy double NATed the PC network, (Actually, I wired this T1 for practically the entire block since FiOS isn't available and the cable internet on this block has major problems with any VoIP service for some reason). The reason why you only see half of the wires patched in on the final result because their was not enough ports in the PC switch to connect them. Their IT guy will be replacing the PC network switch and patching in that segment of the network. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

At-the-beep blogspot now live

I have been sitting around with a bunch of unused google voice numbers for a while.

I had put the matrix on one of the voicemails and sent the number out to Yahoo answers at least a year or two ago, and still get calls almost daily to that number with an occasional funny voicemail here and there, so I decided to take one of the other google numbers that I have and make a website for it.

If you call 313-ih4x0r which translates to 313-444-9079 you can participate in this little project.

What can this be used for?
Right now it is an experiment. I expect many blank voicemails, followed by people acting like assholes, but I can also envision how this might be useful to use as some type of public voice message board for people to leave messages back and fourth to each other.

All voice and text messages can be viewed at at-the-beep.blogspot.com or by clicking the At-the-beep link on the top of the page on any blog.nyphonejacks.com page.

Oh, and that matrix number, thats 646-48-1337-0

Friday, July 18, 2014

Small install and mounting modem, router and ATA

New customer was coming over from another VoIP provider. 
The first thing that I was concerned about was the router that they were using, and outdated WRT54g.
They also had 2 single line ATA devices, as well as a cable modem that was rounded on both sides (making it nearly impossible for it to be properly mounted) 

They did also have a Yealink phone from their previous provider that we replaced with a VVX 300 series phone. They also had a Yealink cordless VoIP phone with 3 handsets, that we also replaced with a Panasonic cordless VoIP phone with 3 handsets. 

I replaced the router with an E2500 (stock firmware on this one, although we do occasionally throw in DD-WRT) and also replaced the cheap single line ATA devices that they were using with a 2 line SPA 112 device to provide them with 2 "analog" lines. 

Mounted everything to the wall with zip-ties that have screw holes. This is much better than the double sided tape that the previous company/tech used to mount everything to the wall, damaging the paint in the process. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cleaning up my own network

So my personal network closet started getting unmanageable.I began by removing the doors from the closet since they were trapping heat and I usually had to leave at least one of the doors open while operating the AV receiver or one of the PCs.

What my network started looking like after about a year.
The top shelf holds 2 phone systems (currently not connected) along with my 2500 phone, my patch panel, a turntable (currently not connected) and a Samsung HTIB (not connected) that will feed the audio for my zone 2 (bedroom). Also on this shelf are several ATA devices that are not currently used, mostly PAP2 devices, but also includes at least 1 3102 and several other generic ATA devices, eventually when I set up an asterisk server these devices will provide lines for the 2 phone systems.

The left side middle shelf holds my Brother all in one lazer printer.

The right side middle shelf holds my entertainment distribution center, centered around an Onkyo TX-NR626, it also includes my Roku3, a Samsung Bluray player, analog cassette deck Panasonic HTIB (which is only being used for its VHS player) an Xbox 360 (not currently connected) and an 8 port linksys switch.

On the bottom shelf lives 5 desktop computers (currently not connected) my Ooma, and an external laptop hard drive enclosure.

The network mostly cleaned up.
I have not determined uses for all of the computers yet, but one of them contains my entire DVD collection of over 500 movies, so that one will be a media server. One will be used just as a regular desktop computer, one will be an asterisk server. The other 2 I have not yet determined what to do with them.

The entertainment shelf.
This is a slow moving, ever evolving project. The AV distribution system is nearly complete. I just need to connect the Xbox to the system (or its replacement if I decide to get a new gaming system) 
I actually placed a small (8 to 10 inch) fan behind the AV shelf blowing air out the front of the cabinet connected to a switch on the side of the cabinet to prevent overheating of my Onkyo receiver. 

ceiling mount TV (monitor)

Customer uses a video chat program between the office and a remote worker, so he wanted a pole mounted monitor to see the remote worker.

A USB webcam was mounted in one corner of the room and a microphone was dropped from the ceiling.

The computer is on a shelf off to the side of the office.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Never buy an Apple Router!

It is bad enough that Apple feels the need to lock down their phones and operating system, but they felt the need to reinvent how you interface with the management of a router as well.

You can not log into an Apple branded router like EVERY other router in existence. There is NO HTTP GUI, there is NO HTTPS GUI. You MUST install software to configure their routers.

Since there is no HTTP or HTTPS access into the router guess what? No remote administration!

No ALG settings, so using an Apple Airport (Extreme), so that means no SIP ALG settings - therefore making them not very VoIP friendly.

If your into iPhones, fine buy an iPhone, many companies provide functionality and compatibility with their phones and tablets. If your into Macs, which I don't know why you would be, I guess it would be OK to buy a Mac laptop or desktop. But please for the health of your network, only trust a company who builds network equipment for your router purchase.

Do yourself a favor and stick with Linksys / Cisco routers. They only build network equipment, thus have the most experience in building products that will provide the functionality and flexibility for your networking needs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to factory reset a Cisco 7960

It is rather simple to factory reset a Cisco 7960 IP phone, actually this method should work for most Cisco IP phones! Password not required!

  1. Power cycle the phone
  2. Hold down the # key when you reconnect the power
  3. Once the phone is restarted "Reset key sequence detected" will appear on screen
  4. Release the # key and enter in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 * 0 #
  5. Choose 1 to save network config or 2 to delete network config 
  6. Phone will revert to factory settings regardless if you choose to keep the network config or not.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What to know about upgrading your business to VoIP

Before getting rid of your legacy PBX, or choosing a VoIP provider or solution for your new office there are considerations that you will need to address. Most of the time your first point of contact with your potential service providers will be with a salesman. Understand that most salesmen are not technicians, and many technicians are not salesmen (although there are a few techs that also work off of commission, or assist in the sales process).

Your salesman may not address issues that are not brought up to you, therefore it is YOUR responsibility to do as much research as possible before you sit down for a conversation with a salesman. On the other hand, without doing your own research you may feel that the salesman may be trying to upsell you if he brings up something that you did not address to him.

If you already have a legacy PBX you may consider getting an analog adapter to provide VoIP lines to your existing PBX system. This should provide you the fastest way to move over to a VoIP provider, however you will be using your existing phone system to handle call routing, and like traditional POTS phone service you will be limited with the amount of calls based on the amount of lines you order from your provider. This is the cheapest method to get VoIP to your business, and it also will allow you to maintain your existing auxiliary systems connected to your phone system, such as your existing door phones, overhead paging system, music on hold, etc. In the event of an outage your provider may be able to automatically have your lines forwarded.

Another option you may consider is having a VoIP server installed in your office in your network room, and have your VoIP phones connect thru this system. With this method you would pay your provider for however many channels that you expect to use. Depending on how your PBX is configured you may be able to connect IP phones off site, but all management would be accomplished from the server located on your premises. While this may save you some money over a hosted solution for your recurring charges, the upfront costs of the additional hardware required (the server) and the configuration would increase your initial costs. This method would really only be recommended for companies that have an IT department that can manage and maintain the VoIP server. In the event of an outage your provider might be able to have your lines forwarded, however since your server is located on site callers would not hear your IVR menus.

The most common, and in my opinion the best choice when moving to a VoIP platform would be to go with a hosted PBX provider. The only thing located on your site would be the phones which would communicate over the network to the providers servers directly. This allows phones to be located anywhere on the internet without and additional configuration (normally). The provider is responsible for maintaining the VoIP server, as it is located in their datacenter. In the event of an outage your provider will be able to forward your lines, your callers will still hear your IVR menu just as if your system never went down, and calls can actually be forwarded to different numbers based on the extensions that were dialed.

Now that you have a better understanding of the different VoIP choices that you have, now you should consider what other systems work with your phone system. If you have or need a door phone, overhead paging, or even some custom hardware or software that needs to be integrated into your phone system - you should really consider a provider that has a physical presence with technicians local to where you intend to operate. Many of the cloud only phone providers will only be able to provide you with your telephone service needs, and not have any ability to provide more complex configurations or system integrations.

An example of a custom integration would be one of our customers has a system where their customers take a number and they wanted that integrated into their phone system so that people could call in to see what number they were up to. This is not a feature that we had ever provided to any other customer before, but with collaboration with our in house programmers, and on-site technicians within a week we had a solution for that customer and was able to implement it to the customers satisfaction. Had that customer chosen a provider that did not have a local physical presence with field techs this feature would have never been possible for this customer.

Moving onto wiring requirements. It is recommended that there is a separate CAT5 (minimum) wire for each computer, printer, and VoIP phone. Yes VoIP phones do have a pass-thru so that you can share a single network cable for one phone and one PC, and if that is all that your location is wired for you should normally be ok, but for optimal results and future-proofing you should have separate network wiring done for voice and data.

If you have separate wiring you do not need to have them connected to different internet connections, however it would be recommended that your phones and computers use different internet connections.

If you only have one wire connected to both your phone and your PC you can still use different internet connections for each device, You would connect the second router to your network, turning off DHCP on one of the routers, and changing the subnet that the router is on. Then you would set either all of the phones, or all of the computers to the router that you set DHCP off.

Another internet option would be to connect your network to a multi-WAN router. This provides multiple internet connections to a single network, this provides redundancy in the event of a failure of one of the internet connections. You can also set up a multi-WAN router to send all of your VoIP traffic on one internet connection while sending your data traffic over the other internet connection.

IP phones require power. This is a fact that many people overlook. Legacy PBX phones got their power from the phone system in the closet. IP phones can get their power from a PoE switch installed in the network closet, but this will increase the initial costs of the installation and is not a requirement.

My recommendations would be:

  • A local VoIP hosted PBX provider with field techs
  • Separate network wiring for voice and data networks
  • A PoE switch for IP phones
  • A UPS back up power supply connecting all equiptment in your network closet
  • A dedicated Multi-WAN router for your VoIP service for fail-over protection 
Understand that most VoIP issues are not the result of the speed of your network, and increasing your internet speed rarely improves call quality. Local network configuration or congestion, as well as latency or quality issues with your ISP cause a majority of the quality issues experienced with VoIP calls. We have had customers with a specific ISP in a very localized area (within a 2 block radius) that have experienced issues even when all tests show that the connection is solid, when moving these customers over to a different ISP the issues resolved. A provider that does not have a local field tech presence would not be able to troubleshoot or resolve obscure issues such as these. 

Don't forget to inquire about:
  • Any issues provider has noticed with other customers on specific ISPs in your area
  • Recommended speeds needed for your specific needs (how many phones, PCs, CCTV?)
  • Support for auxiliary systems (door phones, intercoms, paging systems)
A final note - It is NOT recommended to have your VoIP lines behind a hardware firewall device like a sonicwall. You can maintain a firewall device for your data network but you should have a seperate router set up for your IP phones. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

$15 minimum wage is detrimental to the economy!

  • Increased labor costs for employers
  • Increased unemployment for unskilled workers
  • Unskilled workers replaced with skilled workers
  • Increased responsibility per employee
  • Increased cost for goods and services
  • Increased delays for services provided
  • Increased unfilled positions for entry and mid-level skilled jobs
  • Less money available to compensate higher skilled workers

  • I heard on the radio the other day that Washington state was going to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. This is TWICE the national minimum wage standard required by the federal government.

    While it may seem nice to provide all of those who rely on minimum wage jobs with better wages doubling the minimum wage is going to cause more harm than good.

    Some people will likely benefit from working low wage jobs if and when this takes effect, however for a majority of low wage earners they will undoubtedly find that they no longer will have a source of income as many small business owners will lay off many of their staff to mitigate the increased operating expenses these increases bring with them.

    This means less workers performing the same amount of tasks. Granted low paying jobs come with minimal responsibilities, so as pay increases the responsibilities of each employee will thus have to be increased, as well as the productivity levels that they will be expected to attain.

    Not only is this a direct threat to a majority of the people who hold these low wage jobs that have minimal responsibilities, but this is also going to effect workers with higher specialty skills that are currently making close to the $15 per hour wage that will become the new minimum wage. Why would any worker want to continue on in a position that has greater responsibility and skill level at the same rate that someone with little to no skill is making? If these workers who are currently making close to the new $15 per hour minimum wage do not themselves see a similar raise in their income, then I foresee that many of them will seek similarly paying jobs, that have historically been seen as low paying jobs such as within the fast food or janitorial industries.

    With higher skilled workers seeking to leave their employment for lesser skilled work they will then begin to replace the unskilled workers in the low wage positions. Why? Because as an employer wouldn't you rather higher someone with a higher skill set which usually would equate to a better work ethic, or would you rather hire the lowest common denominator?

    This will also lead to the increase of costs for goods and services, as well as an increased turn around time for goods and services as less workers would be performing the same tasks.

    None of this is good for the economy, the small businesses and employees affected by such a large increase.

    Minimum wage jobs are generally filled by unskilled workers, and have historically never been considered as careers or used to support a family. Many minimum wage jobs are redundant or unnecessary. Many small businesses hire minimum wage workers in attempts to give back to the communities that they do business in, and provide opportunities to those communities. Increasing the minimum wages so dramatically is going to cause many of these redundant or unnecessary jobs to be eliminated, or replaced with more skilled workers who are able to provide more productivity. 

    Higher paid or skilled workers will also suffer as raises and possibly pay reductions may ensue in order to maintain payroll, as a means to cover the added costs associated with providing all employees a minimum wage of $15 per hour. 

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    Another neater network

    This is one network that I wanted to clean up for a while. The problem is that every time I went to this customer was close to the end of the day and everyone wanted to leave the office.

    Finally they had issues with their network, and I attempted to troubleshoot the issues within this mess. I was semi-successful, however I advised them that I would need to come down at a time that I could disconnect the entire network to resolve all of the issues that they were having.

    They agreed to allow me access after hours today so that I could repair all of the issues that they had on their network. As small as this network is it actually took a while to get things neatened up. 3 hours actually.

    There was an old unused PBX system (unfortunately cut out from the before photo) located above the 66 blocks. I removed that system, and removed the old MoH player. I moved the 16 port switch from the side wall to where the old MoH player was located. I mounted one of the surge protectors, and one surge protector was able to be removed completely (several unused plugs, the PBX and MoH systems no longer needed power). I replaced all of the patch cords with shorter wires, and routed everything as neat as possible.

    Sunday, May 25, 2014

    How to disassemble Polk Audio speakers (TL1 / TL1900)

    Just a short video I created to show how to take apart Polk Audio speakers.

    Rooftop cellular site / tower

    While I was installing a point to point wireless bridge between two buildings, one of the roofs that I was working on was a cellular site / tower. 

    I am unsure what provider operates this tower, other than it is highly doubtful that it is Sprint, due to the lack of a decent Sprint signal in this neighborhood!

    Installing a wireless point to point ethernet bridge

    UPDATE: 5/29/14: While these antennas worked perfectly fine, and I was getting an excellent ping VoIP was still an issue with these antennas, so I had to take them down and run a wire from one of our customers in the next building over. If you are doing anything other than VoIP these antennas should be perfectly fine for your use.

    I am currently in the process of installing a wireless point to point ethernet bridge between two buildings. 

    Mounted 1-1/4" PVC pipe as an antenna mast
    and installed antenna on chimney.
    The original plan was to run CAT 5 between the locations, but the distance was nearing 400 feet or more - which is well beyond the recommended 300 foot length for CAT 5 cabling.

    Antenna mounted
    Both antennas have been mounted and aimed at eachother. Outdoor CAT5 has been run from the antennas to the inside of each building. 

    View from building to building. 

    The antennas have been set up with unique static IPs which are on a different subnet than the WAN that they will be bringing between buildings.

    View from building to building.
    distant building is the one with the elevator enclosure on the roof.

    The main antenna will be connected to a T1, and the remote antenna will connect to a router to provide internet for the far building.

    This is where I brought the CAT 5 inside from the roof.
    It connects to the PoE injector, then connects to a jack that goes back to the patch pannel.

    Cable internet is currently at the location where the T1 will be extended to, however it has been causing issues with the VoIP services. FiOS is not currently available at the location, and Verizon provided a ridiculous construction cost to bring a T1 to this location. (Think the cost of a brand new mid-range vehicle)

    View from oppisite roof back towards other antenna mast. 
    This may not be the ultimate solution to resolve the customer's issues, but it should at least provide the ability to separate their voice and data internet traffic. 

    View between roofs
    Currently I have spent about 5 hours on site running wire and installing the hardware. I have already tested the antenna in the lab. 

    1-1/4 inch PVC pipe mast mounted to the wall with antenna mounted.
    I have about 2 hours left to connect the antenna to the T1 and complete the configuration of the network(s). 
    View between buildings

    Thursday, May 22, 2014

    cleaned up another network

    While I went down to resolve a multi-WAN configuration issue with this customers RV082 router which took less than 5 minutes, I decided to use some of my down time cleaning up the wiring around their network.

    This was accomplished with barely no down time. The only down time was when I replaced the patch cords one at a time. This took about an hour to clean up, and a ton of zip ties. Had I been able to take down the network completely I might have been able to come up with something more visually appealing, but I think it came out much neater than it originally was.



    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

    The worst router I ever came across!

    EDIT: This post was made before I had to deal with a customers Apple Airport Extreme - It amazes me how Apple doesn't think that port forwarding, SIP ALG, a web GUI, remote access or many of the other features that they leave out of their routers are important! 

    I have had my share of devices provided by cable and telephone companies to their customers to connect internet services. 

    There is the Ubee modem that Time Warner Cable installs in businesses that is a modem with a built in router. These are NEVER a good idea to leave alone and should ALWAYS be bridged with a real router installed behind it (ALWAYS make sure it is bridged before installing a router behind it or risk having a double NAT)

    Then there is the horrible modem/router that Verizon installs with their FiOS service. Wherever possible (when customer does not have TV service) I remove them and connect a real router directly to the network port of the ONT. You need to release the IP address before replacing the router, otherwise you will need to call Verizon to have them release/renew the DHCP lease once you have the new router installed. 

    I haven't seen one out in the wild for a while now, but for a short period of time some of the router/modems that Verizon was providing for DSL did not have the option to be bridged. They either stopped providing these routers or finally provided an updated firmware that allows these modems to be bridged. 

    So with all of those awful devices that the cable and telephone company ISPs provide to their customers, none of those would qualify for the worse. Today I encountered a new router that Optimum has begun providing to their customers. The Sagemcom F@st 3965CV takes the award for the absolute worse device ever provided by a cable or telephone company ISP. Why? Well, when you attempt to browse to the default gateway you are redirected to the Optimum web portal, not to the devices configuration page. 

    What genius decided that it was a good idea to provide a router that HAS to be managed online, and REQUIRES the customers Optimum credentials (their account user name and password). With this roadblock there is no reason, or no ability to log into the router itself to make any adjustments or changes to the LAN or WAN settings. 

    EDIT: Apparently Optimum is flashing this "smart router" firmware on all of the routers, regardless of model or manufacturer, that they provide to their customers. This cripples the full capabilities of the router, and prevents local access directly to the router. Do not keep this router connected to your network, install your own router immediately!

    The worst ISP provided router EVER! 

    If they charge you for this router, send it back to them and buy your own!

    Mounting cable modem, router and VoIP phone

    So the cable company just left the modem and some awful router on the windowsill. 

    I snaked the cable wire down the wall and mounted the modem, ran a new CAT 5 wire for a jack in another room, and installed an e1200 router with DD-WRT.

    The Cisco E series routers do not have an easy way to mount on the wall.
    I use oversized fender washers to keep it in place.

    Cisco 504g with wall mount bracket.
    Wires brought down wall to electric and network jack
    in a wire molding. 

    Cleaning up a network

    So I had to troubleshoot this network, and it was a mess. So before starting to troubleshoot the network I decided to clean up the mess that their network was.

    This is what the network looked like when I arrived. 

    This is the network after about an hour of neatening up the patch cords. 

    Once the network was neatened up then I was able to troubleshoot the network. It turns out that every 400 or 500 packets over the cable modem drops a single packet. This would normally go undetected, but it was enough to cause issues with their VoIP service, so I ended up sending the VoIP traffic over the DSL line and keeping the cable connection for a back up for the VoIP (as well as the data network)

    Monday, April 28, 2014

    Replacing RV016 router with an SRP series router and 16 port switch

    One of our customers had a defective multi-WAN router. For some reason whenever something was connected into the WAN2 port of the router the speed would dramatically reduce, even if all of the traffic was being sent thru on the WAN1 port.

    The network as it existed before I began work.

    Since this customer has 2 internet connections leaving WAN2 disconnected would not work, also since we no longer use RV routers a switch would have to be added.

    Since the network was a bit messy I took this opportunity to install a vertical 4 space mount on the wall.

    Halfway thru.
    SRP router mouted on the wall,
    vertical 4 space mount installed
    DSL connected to SRP router.

    I removed the patch panel mount and installed it into the vertical 4 space mount, and installed my SRP router below.

    Everything mounted and patched in.
    In the background (black boxes and wires) is the cable modems
    which I did not touch or modify the existing wiring configuration in any way.

    I am really starting to like these vertical mounts and will probably be using them more frequently instead of taking up a ton of wall space mounting hardware all over the wall.

    I really only *needed* a 2 space mount, but a 3 space mount would have been ideal. The reason I opted for the 4 space mount instead of a 3 space is that there was only a $5 price difference, so this provides an additional space for future expansion. I used one of the spaces to let the wires pass behind the patch panel since the wires are coming in from above.

    The view from above. 16 port TP link switch patched in,
    DSL modem and surge protector resting on lip of bracket. 

    The job is not as neat as it would have been had I started everything from scratch, or had I been permitted to take down the entire network for a few hours. However it is much neater and more manageable then it was when I first arrived to replace the router and add the switch. 

    All in all it took aprox. 3 hours because some settings had to be migrated from the old router in order for the PCs to be able to communicate with the local server. 

    If I would have just changed the router and switch I probably could have gotten out of there within an hour, but I wanted to clean up some of the mess in the closet so that it will be easier to work on this network in the future.