Archive for August, 2005

ADSL adventures, part 2

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

Once I managed to get the necessary information for configuring my Speedtouch 350 DSL modem (see part 1), the next logical thing to do was to start using it. Or at least try to.

The first problem was that Belgacom apparently never sent me the letter containing the user name and password that I was supposed to use for accessing their services. After spending a few minutes on the phone (that music sounds familiar) I got a login and password that I could use. Well, that’s what I thought. I learned later that what I got was not the login/password pair that I asked for, but just a pair of passwords (for PPPoE and for POP). No login. Doh!

My second call to the support center (ah, that music again!) was barely more successful: this time I got a user name and a (new) password, but again I discovered later that the user name that I got was incomplete (last characters missing).

The third call was more interesting. After 20 minutes of music (I really know it by now), a technician told me about the missing characters in my user name and asked me to try logging in while he was monitoring their side of the DSL line. This time, the PPP authentication was successful but then the PPP connection went down immediately after that. Strange! The modem re-tried a few seconds later, with the same results. And again, and again… After a few more minutes of debugging, he told me that he was resetting their card and asked me to power-cycle my modem. I did that and when the line came back, the connection worked and I was able to access the Internet. Oh joy! But I also noticed something else while looking at the system log of the modem: the connection speed after the reset had dropped from 3 Mbps to 1 Mbps. I mentioned that to the guy, who said that it was normal. Ah well, at least the ADSL connection was usable so I was happy (after wasting two hours on that).

According to a colleague who had a similar experience, the reason why my line went down immediately after a successful authentication was related to the 3 Mbps. By default, the DSL access is configured for 384K/3M up/down. But the offer that I had accepted had a cap at 1 Mbps (apparently, because I never got the letter with the details of the offer). Although the telco part of Belgacom handling the DSL access was happy to let me in with 3 Mbps, the ISP part of the company was not happy with that and dropped the connection immediately. That could make sense, but I am still wondering why the access line had not been configured correctly on their side in the first place and why it took so long for the problem to be identified. Ah well, at least I can use my connection now… And I am glad that I could do all the tests using the built-in web interface of the modem over Ethernet instead of USB. I’m wondering what would have happened if they had required me to use some Windows software for configuring the stuff.

ADSL adventures, part 1

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a telemarketer about a new ADSL
offer from Belgacom/Skynet (main telco and ISP in Belgium). I did not
hang up immediately and I even accepted the offer. By now, you
probably think “sucker!” and you may be right, but that’s not the
point of this blog entry. After a bit of discussion about this offer,
he asked me what version of Windows I was running and I said “Linux”.
Hmmm… Two minutes of please-do-not-hang-up music later, he was back
and said that everything should work fine with Linux and my “free”
modem would be delivered soon. So far so good.

One month later, after returning a package containing the wrong
modem (USB only), I eventually received a package containing the right
one (Speedtouch 530, with both Ethernet and USB ports), some cables,
ADSL filters and CD-ROM for setup and documentation. That CD-ROM
surprised me, as it appeared to be empty. Strange… It was mounted
without errors, it had a label and a non-zero size, but there was
something missing: the files.

After a bit of investigation, it turns out that the CD-ROM had both
Joliet (Windows) and Rock Ridge (UNIX) extensions. But the Rock Ridge
extensions were hiding every file on the CD! So mounting this CD on a
Linux machine (or Solaris, MacOS X or other UNIX systems) shows an
empty filesystem. From a Windows system, everything looks fine.
Fortunately, mounting the CD with the option -o norock
allowed me to access its full contents. I did not care much about the
drivers for Windows included on the CD, but the whole documentation
including the basic hardware and software setup instructions could
only be found there. Without that documentation, it would have been
hard to guess that I had to use the address 10.0.0.138 in order to
access the configuration menu of the modem.

I found out later that I could get this information and much more
by visiting the Speedtouch web
site
directly instead of relying on the CD distributed by
Belgacom. But still, that CD was interesting considering that I had
specifically asked for Linux support…

By the way, if you want to create such a CD, you can play with
mkisofs and the options -hide and
-hide-joliet. I have used these options a few years ago to
create useful CDs that were showing README from Linux and ReadMe.txt
from Windows (with DOS CRLF line endings). But you can also use these
options for creating broken CDs, if you really want to alienate your
customers.