Saturday, October 3, 2009

Everything you'd like to know about Telenet but you were afraid to ask...

Well, I'm not gonna be as ambitious as this blog title suggests, but I reckon, some of the things I learned by riding a road full of bumps in my quest to make an Internet of Things working in our house could benefit a few, especially those living in this country and renting Triple Play from Telenet, one of the largest and certainly the fastest local cable broadband provider.

I have reached a moron geek status to such a degree that I use, not one, not even two... but three (!) glorious Digital TV set-top boxes, two of them with recording capabilities and one without, just a channel decoder. The recorders, called Digicorders by Telenet, offer additional interactivity by connecting via Ethernet to Telenet's residential cable modem. Now that I'm thinking about it, the simple decoder, a.k.a. Digibox, might do the same too... I could verify this in a heartbeat, but right now I'm kinda lazy to leave my desk...

In fact, as the Telenet cable comes in thru the wall, it meets a splitter that separates the signal into one group riding the coax cables towards our TV sets, and a second entering a dedicated 'modem' that is used to provide service to the remaining two components of our Triple Play, i.e. Internet and Telephony. The Internet connectivity from that point on relies on just one Ethernet output on the modem itself. Thus, if one wants to connect routers and/or any other Ethernet appliances to that same output, one will have to use a separate 'port multiplier' hub. I've got one of these myself, and use it to connect my two Digicorders, and one Apple Time Capsule router. All three of them  instantaneously receive their unique IP #'s as soon as they get plugged into the hub. This is very much an improvement, as in the past with Telenet, at least for routers, if you happened to change the device that they had recorded in their databases via its unique MAC address, you had to wait three quarters of an hour to get a new IP reallocated. They just didn't want you to serve multiple computers those days (the days before routers, that is) or else you had to buy multiple access subscriptions (horny bastards). A huge hemorrhoids pain, if you ask me. Now this is gone and IPs are generously distributed as soon as you connect your cables.

What I found out the hard way though is that the theory often breaks down on the following detail: Having Digicorders and routers plugged into the same hub, and especially, if your router(s) were the last to connect, IP allocation conflicts may occur and prevent routers from receiving a valid IP address from the Telenet Mothership. You have to connect these devices in the following order sequentially to avoid any problems:  routers first, set-top boxes next, one by one.

Second thing I recently experienced, and I'm not quite sure if this is happening to everybody else in a similar situation, the moment a second set-top box gets plugged-in the hub, the router 'loses' its IP address and disconnects from Internet. I repeated the experiment a few times yesterday with always the same result. Not much of a deal though, as I am not using set-top box interactivity a lot anyway, so one connected box out of three will suffice.

Morale of the story: If you are a tech-geek nuts like me and you're using similar appliances as I described above, beware of too many Ethernet boxes seeking IP # allocations, when connected via the same hub. They might jeopardize your PC/Mac Internet connectivity and you'll think most of the time that the problem in in the router and/or your computers and even your Ethernet cables. It might still be there, but try some experimentation first before you condemn the wrong appliances and boxes, like connecting your computer(s) and router(s) directly to your cable modem (bypassing your hub) to see if they still can get a legitimate IP adress that way.

... Sure! ... You're welcome!

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