A Mind Lost

Anything and everything.

Upgrading my Interwebs

Lately I’ve had to keep a closer eye on my bandwidth usage.  With a sibling forced to return home, as well as myself, my parents, and my kids, it really doesn’t take long to burn through 95 gigabytes of bandwidth in a month.  YouTube and the various other Flash laden sites, Steam’s digital distribution, and all manner of sundry entertainments conspire to consume our bandwidth limit.  Throw in a pair of XBoxes, a PS3, two smartphones, all on top of the 5 computers (6 if one counts my notebook) that can all be running simultaneously, and it really doesn’t take long to chew through what’s available.

While checking our usage this morning, I noticed that Rogers now provides something called Usage Assurance; five bucks a month gives an extra 20GB of bandwidth.  This certainly beats their $1.50/GB overage charge.  I Googled it to see what the specifics were and along the way found out that they had grandfathered our plan (“Extreme 95”) in favour of a newer one.  The same plan, at the same price point (although with higher transfer rates) now grants 100GB of usage.  As for the Usage Assurance, I sort of got sidetracked weighing the cost benefits of switching to a newer plan and didn’t really give it any more thought.

Unfortunately, upgrading requires a new modem.  We’ve been using a Motorola SB5100 since we bought it five years ago (it has more than paid for itself in saved rental fees); I’ve never had any problems that I could definitely attribute to the modem itself.  It’s been a rock-solid piece of hardware.

A lengthy chat with a CSR ended up with an order placed for a new “D3” modem to be purchased and an upgrade to the ExtremePlus plan for an extra $10 a month over what we’re currently paying.  That’s 150GB per month for $69.99, rather than 100GB (or 95GB) for $59.99.  A quick trip to the most convenient Rogers store and I had my new modem.  Yay.

The modem is an SMCD3GN-RES modem/router:

The SMCD3GN-RES is a powerful DOCSIS 3.0 gateway providing 802.11n wireless connectivity to high-speed “Wideband” Internet services. Taking advantage of DOCSIS 3.0 technology, the gateway operates on up to four downstream and/or upstream bonded channels supporting speeds of up to 160Mbps downstream and 120Mbps upstream. In addition, the SMCD3GN-RES offers numerous remote management options, provisioning via GUI, CLI or downloadable configuration file, advanced troubleshooting capabilities, Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall, PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec VPN passthrough, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), and DOCSIS Quality of Service (QoS).

Basically it’s a modem and router in one with all sorts of fancy pants stuff that I don’t really need.  I suppose it’s easier to troubleshoot problems for ignorant people (ignorant in its benign meaning) when everything’s all in one box, but I’m not too keen on the whole thing.

I already have a D-Link DIR-615 (B2 rev, no OpenWRT for me sadly) that’s served me well for a few years now, but I figured I’d give the SMC’s WiFi a go since it’d be one less electronic device sucking up juice.  Configuring it was pretty easy, although it took me a while to find the login and password that allows access to the device’s more advanced features (rogcesadmin/wra8uje) rather than the “customer” administration panel (cusadmin/password).  Incidentally, if you have one of these and are looking to access the control panel, it resides at 192.168.0.1.

Messing around with things, I noticed a couple of issues that really started irritating me after just a short time.  The first was that the device appeared to spontaneously reboot…

In fact, while I was typing that, the modem went ahead and rebooted, except this time it didn’t come back.  I spent an hour and a bit messing around with it, including power-cycling, trying multiple cable outlets, and even factory resetting the damn thing before finally calling tech support.  The techie asked me to move it back to its initial position and jack, and blammo, it came right back up.  Sometimes I really hate technology, especially when it screws up for no apparent reason, and makes me look like a tard in the process.

Aside from the inexplicable reboots, the built-in WiFi was performing absolutely terribly.  The ExtremePlus plan’s download rate is around 32Mbps, I was pulling a third of that:

I dug around and figured out how to disable the built in WiFi, opting instead to go back to my D-Link router, and sure enough my rate tripled:

Even better is the occasional burst speeds:

The D-Link is within a few feet of the modem, so it’s not a distance or interference issue.  Anecdotal evidence indicates the SMC is a crappy wireless router.

One thing the technical support fella did say was that plugging the modem directly into a wall outlet for electricity, rather than a power bar, would eliminate the reboots.  I jimmied mine around to get it into an outlet (our home’s electrical outlets appear to have been placed by a clueless twit), so we shall see if that fixes things.

The only other gripe I have right now is that my modem also randomly disconnects from the network.  It’s been doing it with the old modem for the last two weeks or so, and now it’s doing it with the new one.  I’ve called them about this problem too, but the tech I got on the line was less helpful.  He tried blaming it on my router.  I’m really starting to get fed up with Rogers, and can’t help but wonder if I should have looked in to an alternative provider rather than sinking more money into a new modem and upgraded plan.

If the disconnections continue, I’ll be back on the phone with them tomorrow… or Tuesday, not sure if their support lines are open on Monday.  It’s really frustrating, particularly while gaming.  I dusted off my LoTRO account, but eventually gave up after getting disconnected thrice in one hour.  I think there was something else I was gonna mention, but I got disconnected again, then side-tracked by YouTube for a moment, and just realised it’s time for bed.  Got a bit of a headache from messing with things…

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