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devil duck

Networking woes

So I started installing my new DSL service. The "quick start guide" says, in large menacing letters, "be sure to put filters on all phone lines before connecting the modem." The installation kit helpfully includes five (5) filters, which apparently keep out the high-frequency DSL signals so you can talk on the phone without hiss.

The "quick start guide" also says "Do you have any phones mounted on the wall? If so, install a wall mount filter," with a helpful picture of a wall mount filter. Nothing resembling the picture was in the installation kit. "To order additional filters, call 1-800-etc." So I did that, made my way through a twisty maze of automated prompts until I found a tech-support human, and explained that I needed a wall mount DSL filter.

"Didn't you get filters in your installation kit?"
"Yes, but not a wall mount filter."
"Take one of those filters, plug one end into the wall, and plug your phone into the other end."
"That won't work; my phone is mounted to the wall. These filters are four inches long. The phone is not four inches from the wall; it's about half an inch from the wall. The filter doesn't fit between my phone and the wall."
"I don't understand."
<arlo>And we was talkin' back and forth like this for about forty five minutes, and finally arrived at the Truth Of the Matter,</arlo> which was that I could order a wall mount DSL filter by calling 1-800-etc.
"But that's the number I just called, following the instructions, and I got you."
"Yes, call that number again, but choose option 2 for Sales."
"Why do I need to talk to Sales to get a part that I need in order to use the service I've already paid for?"
"You have to order the part."
So I hung up, dialed the number again, and chose "Sales".
"This office is closed. Please call back during normal business hours....
It was of course Saturday evening, and there were no business hours until Monday. I called Tech Support again, got a different human, and explained the situation. She seemed a little quicker on the uptake than the first guy, but confirmed that I needed to pay for the additional part (she didn't know how much), and that I couldn't even order it until Monday, which means not getting it until at least Wednesday.

So I called Radio Shack. "Do you have a DSL filter for a wall-mounted phone?"
"Yes, it's $16.99."
Hopped in the car, drove to Radio Shack, and asked for a DSL filter for a wall-mounted phone. She handed me a DSL filter for a non-wall-mounted phone, looking remarkably similar to the things I already had five of.
"No, I need one for a wall-mounted phone."
This took a little more hunting, but it's Radio Shack, they have everything. It's actually $18.99. Anyway, I drove home with my wall-mount DSL filter and took the phone off the kitchen wall.

The directions for installing the wall-mount DSL filter were pretty minimal, but they made it clear that you attach things to the electrical box behind your wall. AFAIK, my house has not one electrical box -- not behind a wall, not behind a ceiling, not anywhere -- only cords coming through holes in drywall. The kitchen phone was no exception: the wall plate was connected to wires coming through a small hole in the drywall. OK, I thought: I'll take off that wall plate and put this filter in its place. The filter looked like a wall plate, but had a protruding rectangle on the back, maybe 1/8" thick, which would keep it from being flush with the wall. So I got the drill, the keyhole saw, the tape measure, and the markers, and cut out a rectangle of drywall the right shape for it to fit in (unearthing, in the process, some wallpaper that I think dates from the 1930's). Is it bad to have accidentally cut through some of the wooden lath strips behind the wall?

Connected wires to filter plate, screwed filter plate into drywall, hung old phone on the plate... no dial tone. Borrowed another phone from upstairs, plugged it in... there was a dial tone. So it was the connection between phone and wall plate. Hmm... the old wall plate has a female part that protrudes about half an inch out from the plate, and the phone has a male part that fits nicely with that; the new wall plate has a female jack set into the plate so it's flush with the surface, and the phone can't reach it. (Some guys really need a forward sort of woman....) In a nutshell, this phone was not going to work with this filter, or (based on the pictures) with any filter I get from the phone company either. Unscrewed everything and put the old wall plate back on the wall. I hope they didn't mean me when they said "be sure to install filters on all phone lines before attaching the DSL modem."

Anyway, I installed the modem and got things working last night, although the kitchen phone is unfiltered and sounds extremely staticky. (It would be a pity to have to replace it, not only because it's an extra expense, but because it has a real live rotary dial and a real live bell, which appealed to our retro sensibilities when we bought the house. Although being able to check voicemail from the kitchen would have its appeal too...)

This morning's project was to put back the wireless router that I disconnected in order to reduce the number of variables in installing the DSL modem. Plugged the computer into the router, and the router into the modem, and got nothing. It turned out that both of them were trying to be at the same IP address, which even I can tell is a Bad Idea... but just changing the IP address of one of them apparently isn't enough. The ISP's web site has mind-boggling amounts of help information, but you have to use just the right incantation to find what you actually need, so after about half a dozen tries I found a tutorial on connecting this brand of router to this brand of modem.

The directions on the Web say you start by switching the modem into "bridge mode", by pointing a browser at the modem itself to get a modem-configuration page. The directions on the Web don't mention that it asks for a username and password before allowing you to configure it... so I called tech-support again, dreading the prospect of another head-banging tech-support experience. This time I got a guy who paid attention to what I was saying, figured out my level of sophistication, answered at that level, and was able to find the information I needed within a few seconds. He gave me the username and two possible passwords, one of which worked. I was ready to thank him and hang up, but he suggested he stay on the line while I do the next couple of steps... which was a good thing, since the directions on the Web were for a slightly different model of modem, whose configuration pages were organized completely differently. I got that working and was ready to thank him and hang up, but he suggested he stay on the line until I had confirmed that the wireless network was up too (no problems). Anyway, I again have a wireless network, connected to the outside world.


Glad it ended in mostly-success :) I know how these things can go...
If you have ready access to the place where the phone line enters your home you can stick a single DSL filter on the line at that point.

Then you create a second line just before the filter and run that as a dedicated line to your modem. This way you don't need separate filters at each extension.
If you only access your modem via the router you can put the modem and the router near the point of entry so the dedicated line doesn't have to go very far.

You might have to fiddle with the position of the wireless router if is far from where you have your computers, however.
That would take care of the kitchen-phone issue. Although the splitters and DSL filters I got with the installation kit all have modular thingies at both ends, so I'd presumably need to adapt from two-wire to modular at that point, and then back to two-wire after the filter... and I have no idea where the phone line enters the house. I'm not sure it's worth it.

Re: it's Radio Shack, they have everything

Particularly since you too, IIRC, have a "house of a certain age". I don't remember whether you also have "telephones of a certain age"....
I love accidentally getting the good tech support. In my DSL saga, I had a tech guy tell me he wouldn't blame me for being frustrated because he sure would be with what I had gone through to that point. In my case, it turned out that a guy had to climb a couple of poles a few streets over and prune some unused wires, something neither I nor the DSL group knew anything about. I'm glad you got your network back relatively quickly.