Home Routers and Why You Need One

I like to think of modern home routers as your first line of defense against the bad things out there on the internet. They are super important, and everyone with internet access should have one. Most new routers have a lot of features that surpass “route traffic to the internet and back”. Your basic Linksys router will have the following features, and a lot more right out of the box.

  • Basic Routing – Get your traffic to the internet, and the internet’s traffic to the right computer. Some of them can even do internal routing.
  • Network Address Translation – Lets you have more than one computer share an internet connection without your ISP really knowing it.
  • Wireless Networking – Connect your laptops and other wireless devices to the home network.
  • Basic Firewall – Protect your stuff from basic attacks originating from the internet.
  • VPN Passthrough – Lets you connect to your work without any re-configuring your firewall.
  • Quality of Service, Port Forwarding, MAC address restrictions, Diagnostic Tools, Data Usage Tools, DNS, DHCP and tons more.

Your basic $50-$80 wireless router will have at least all these features, and probably a lot more. Most people just use them to put Wi-Fi in their house if their internet provider didn’t just ship them one.

One major reason to get a router is that it will actually save you money in the long run. It’s not terribly surprising if your cable modem or DSL modem goes out a year after you buy it, and you’ll have to get a new one. If you have a combination router/modem then it’s going to be a lot more expensive. A good router that wasn’t the low-end $20 one at Wal-Mart will typically last five years without much more maintenance than occasionally unplugging it and plugging it back in. So instead of having to buy that $200 router/modem combo just because the modem part when out, you can just go get a $30-$80 modem once every year or so and be fine.

The other reason is the firewall. Most routers have basic firewalls that just work, no configuring by you is needed. If you’re hooking your PC directly to the modem, you will be depending on Windows Firewall, or whatever Apple uses. This isn’t a good idea. Windows Firewall isn’t that great, and a lot of malware just flat turns it off. Router firewalls can be a lot tougher to get around.

What Routers Are Compatible With My ISP?

Unlike modems, there’s not a lot to router compatibility. If you go to your local Best Buy, you’ll see about two dozen models of wireless router. They’ll range from $30 to $250 and have all sorts of guarantees on the front about gaming and video streaming.

The reality is, most of those claims are utter bull. At very least they are misleading. They’ll compare their routers to a competitors low-end router, show how much better it is then make a bunch of claims about speeding up video streaming from the internet. The competitor’s router will have the same thing on their box. Some will even say “Compatible with Suddenlink!”. Yeah, they’re all compatible.

All routers work with TCP/IP and the only major differences are speed, chipset and features you probably don’t care about. Wireless network speed is the biggest thing to look for. You want to get a Wireless N router. It has a range of roughly a thousand feet as opposed to the 300 feet a G router provides, and you get get data speeds up to 300Mbps as opposed to 54Mbps (depending on the security you choose).  Even the speed is misleading because you’ll be lucky to get 64-75Mbps on your wireless if you secure it right. A lot of that depends on your network card and what your house is made of.

Now I know you probably just want me to suggest a model. I prefer Linksys E2500’s. They’re right at the $80 mark and have just about everything even an advanced user could want. Here’s a link if your ad-blocking software are hiding the ads: Cisco E2500 Router

If you are an Apple user, I suggest either the AirPort Extreme 5th Generation or the Base Station with the print server port on it. The only drawback to these for a PC network (other than price) is they don’t have as many wired ports. Otherwise there aren’t any real differences between the Apple product and the Cisco product except the base station has a print server and some iTunes features you can take advantage of on your Mac, iDevices, or PC.

Telnet Commands for ShoreTel Phones

I wrote a post on how to telnet into a ShoreTel phone but not much about what you can do once you’re in there. I checked around on the internet for a listing of commands you can run and what they do and the documentation is pretty scarce. I did find that ShoreTel nicely put several commands in their Maintenance guide for 11.2, and probably every maintenance manual they’ve put  out. Also some of these commands can be done through the PhoneCTL utility it talks about in section 6.4.5.

I did a telnet session into one of my phones to see what commands were available.

I copied and pasted a lot of this from the telnet output of my phone. I’ve tried to run most of these commands and commented whether it works or not. If anyone has any additions to this please use the comments or contact me form so I can add it.

This is a work in progress and I’d welcome any submissions on commands that have been discovered. If it’s something that can ruin the phone, please make note of that when you send.

ShoreTel Related Commands

These are some commands not expressly listed in the “help” system in the phone.

bootChange – This will let you enter the IP address, ShoreTel server IP and other things. It doesn’t persist any changes you make, so if you are trying to change the IP or something of a remote phone, you really should either talk a user through this or use DHCP reservations. I have a feeling the items you enter on the phone setup screen are stored in a text file somewhere on the phone.  – Updated 9/4/2012

printsysInfo – Shows a lot of system info for the phone. You can see MAC address, IP address, which FTP server it is set to download from, SNTP server information and all that here. This will show firmware versions as well.

reboot – Reboots the phone.

ping “xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx” – Pings an IP address. you need to enclose the IP address in quotes.

prtleveltabs – Prints the volume levels of the various audio outputs on the phone.

setAllCallApearanceLEDs [state] – Just for fun, you can turn on and off all the Call Appearance LEDs. State is a 0 or a 1. I did type that right, there is only 1 “p” in Apearance.  I haven’t figured out how to turn them green.

Networking Commands

Command – ShoreTel/VxWorks Documentation – My Thoughts

hostAdd “hostname”,”inetaddr” – add a host to remote host table; “inetaddr” must be in standard Internet address format e.g. “90.0.0.4” – Command works. If you don’t have a DNS server this could be somewhat useful as it adds a host and IP address combination to the phone.

hostShow – print current remote host table – Works. Shows the host table with hostname/ip address combinations. In mine I got the following output:


netDevCreate “devname”,”hostname”,protocol – create an I/O device to access files on the specified host (protocol 0=rsh, 1=ftp) – Works. This is a file access command. Not sure what use it might be.

routeAdd “destaddr”,”gateaddr” – add route to route table – Works. Adds a network route. This might can be used as a way to direct a phone to the ShoreTel server without the aid of a static route in a router. Will have to try this.

routeDelete “destaddr”,”gateaddr” – delete route from route table – Works. Removes routes added with above command.

routeShow – print current route table – Works. Shows the current routing table.


iam “usr”[,”passwd”] – specify the user name by which you will be known to remote hosts (and optional password) – Works. Probably a vxworks specific command. Not entirely sure of use.
whoami – print the current remote ID – Works. Got the output “value = 1 = 0x1”. Again might just be a VxWorks thing with no relevance to ShoreTel.
rlogin “host” – log in to a remote host;”host” can be inet address or host name in remote host table – Doesn’t work. Returns “undefined symbol”.

ifShow [“ifname”] – show info about network interfaces – Works. Shows information about the physical interfaces on the phone.

inetstatShow – show all Internet protocol sockets – Works. Shows ports and sockets the phone might be using. Could be  useful if you have firewall issues.


tcpstatShow – show statistics for TCP – Works. Shows stats on network activity.


udpstatShow – show statistics for UDP – Works. Shows UDP stats. Same as tcpstatShow, just shows UDP protocol stats instead.


ipstatShow – show statistics for IP – Works. Overall IP stats.


icmpstatShow – show statistics for ICMP – Doesn’t work, or might not have had data.

arptabShow – show a list of known ARP entries – Works. Shows ARP table.


mbufShow – show mbuf statistics

IO Commands

This looks like VxWorks file system commands. Not entirely sure that this can be used for troubleshooting purposes. I won’t comment on these as they are almost identical to DOS commands. these probably have a real potential to screw your phone up.

cd “path” – Set current working path

pwd – Print working path
ls [“wpat”[,long]] – List contents of directory
ll [“wpat”] – List contents of directory – long format
lsr [“wpat”[,long]] – Recursive list of directory contents
llr [“wpat”] – Recursive detailed list of directory
rename “old”,”new” – Change name of file
copy [“in”][,”out”] – Copy in file to out file (0 = std in/out)
cp “wpat”,”dst” – Copy many files to another dir
xcopy “wpat”,”dst” – Recursively copy files
mv “wpat”,”dst” – Move files into another directory
xdelete “wpat” – Delete a file, wildcard list or tree
attrib “path”,”attr” – Modify file attributes
xattrib “wpat”,”attr” – Recursively modify file attributes
chkdsk “device”, L, V  – Consistency check of file system
diskInit “device”  – Initialize file system on disk
diskFormat “device” – Low level and file system disk format – This seems like a bad idea.

 

How To Install a New Cable Modem

So your cable modem went out, you don’t want to take an hour off of work to have a technician come over. How can you replace it? Well you can’t just plug it in like you can with DSL and it work. Also most cable providers don’t have a good ‘set it up yourself’ method as many DSL companies do.

Step 1 – Go get a new cable modem. Most big box electronics places like Best Buy Sell them. Refer to the notes at the end of the post for what the two major ISPs now use before you go shopping.

Step 2 – Remove the old modem. Remember what cables went where.

Step 3 – Unplug the power from your router, or turn your computer off if connected directly.

Step 4 – Plug in the new modem starting with the coaxial cable (this is the big cable with the screw on end. Do not use tools to connect this as you can damage the connector on the modem. Tighten this with your fingers until it is “just tight”.

Step 5 – Plug the ethernet cable in next (the one that looks like a large phone cable). Do NOT plug the power in.

Step 6 – Call your Internet Service provider and get to the tech support option. I’ve included phone numbers below for Comcast and Suddenlink.

Step 7 – Tell the tech support person your account info so they can look you up then tell them that you want to “provision a new modem” and take the old modem off your account.

Step 8 – They will ask for the MAC address of the modem. This is usually labeled clearly on the bottom of the modem. Most manufacturers print this on the box as well. MAC Addresses look like this 00-00-00-00-00-00. They contain numbers and the letters A through F.

Step 9 – They may ask for the serial number too. Motorola serials are something like 24 digits long and has only numbers. Don’t’ confuse this with the Customer Serial which is shorter and has letters.

Step 10 – Follow the instructions the tech support agent gives you. You may need to reboot some stuff a few times.

Step Done – You should have internet!

Modems By Provider

I’d love to add more links here. If someone would send me information for their local cable internet providers. 

I highly recommend the Motorola SB6121 modem. Both Suddenlink and Comcast list it as compatible with their service. It’s easy to find at Best Buy or you can order one here: Motorola Surfboard Cable Modem SB6121

Comcast – Comcast has a modem compatibility tool here: http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/internet/list-of-approved-cable-modems/

Suddenlink – You need at least a DOCSIS 3.0 modem to get the best service. The compatibility list here: http://help.suddenlink.com/Internet/Pages/DOCSIS2.0(orhigher)CompliantModemList.aspx

Tech Support Numbers

Comcast – 1-800-XFINITY – 1-800-934-6489 is the number in real person digits. This is their main 800 number listed on their website.

Suddenlink – 877-794-2724 is the tech support number listed on their website but may be regional to the southwest. There is also 1-888-822-5151 which might be all purpose.

If you hate working the menus here’s a link to Get Human’s instructions for getting a human:

Suddenlinkhttp://gethuman.com/phone-number/Suddenlink-Cable/
Comcasthttp://gethuman.com/phone-number/Comcast-Xfinity/

I do not endorse the Get Human method, but some people might find it useful.

Motorola SB6121 Instructions

Here’s a link to Motorola’s quick start and user guide instructions for the cable modem I recommend. The quick start guide is included in your manual.

Quick Start Guide – This is quick guide to installation.
User Guide – This one has a little more details on how to set it up and what the lights mean.