ISP Review - Thunderstorms, Master Sockets & ADSL

Editor's editorial on a fun weekend of ADSL dilemmas

Thunderstorms, Master Sockets & ADSL
By Mark 'Winter' Jackson : July 24th - 2006

"It kept me well informed of the storms progress by kindly disconnecting the line and network with each and every single lightning strike"

This last weekend proved to be quite interesting, allowing me the ability to test and see the impact of a heavy thunderstorm on my ADSL connection. On top of that I also FINALLY got around to removing the faceplate of my BT phone line, something I’ve wanted to do for several years, yet for some reason never found the time to do.

The thunderstorm is the first I’ve experienced since having ADSLMax installed and it was a bad one - loud, bright and ultimately very wet (luckily I’m fond of torrential rain). I knew ADSL could be susceptible to such things and have had disconnection problems in the past as a result of lightning, but how would it impact an ADSLMax line?

Routers & Lightning Don’t Mix

Now to be frank, my Kcorp router is not the best in the world. I sometimes think it’s been put together using bits of chewing gum and foil because the damn thing will disconnect the entire network at the slightest hint of ADSL line instability. Mind you, it may be cheap, ugly and never get issued with a Firmware update, yet it does work, which is more than can be said for most of the other routers I’ve tested.

With that said, you can imagine my delight when the big storm rolled aloft, in fact the router acted as a pretty good weather station. It kept me well informed of the storms progress by kindly disconnecting the line and network with each and every single lightning strike, even while the bad weather was still far.. far away.

Naturally I gave it a pat every couple of minutes to say “well done little fella, you make me proud with your unique weather predicting ability”, which later turned to a punch followed by “god damn it you stupid piece of **** - WORK!” etc. Suffice to say, the router did not last the storm – R.I.P One Kcorp router. From this I learnt that hitting modern electrical equipment with considerable force will not, contrary to popular belief, cause them to function correctly.

I attempted many things to minimise the disconnections, from shielding the router with foil and anti-static bags (an utterly pointless exercise, one governed by desperation and twisted curiosity - please don’t laugh =]), to disabling the Wi-Fi and switching over to its wired Ethernet ports, all to no avail.

Ultimately I returned to my aging ZyXEL Prestige 630 USB modem, which aside from having some of the longest connection times ever, could at least hold the line for a moderate period of time. Mind, even it, like many ADSL modems/routers, fell foul of the most ferocious lightning strikes.

Making ADSL Faster

With nowhere to go in the rain and no work possible I finally found time to spare and remembered my long held ambition to unscrew the faceplate from BT’s phone line box. Typically there’s more to this dull act than meets the eye, for it is well known to improve the quality of an ADSL line by minimising the number of connections and thus interference involved.

Removing the two screws and faceplate exposed a single master socket connection, to which I plugged the micro filter in as if it were any old phone line. Some older BT boxes are wired differently and may need extra work, luckily mine was a breeze.

Just as expected, by removing the faceplate and thus cutting out an extra element in signal quality loss, I increased the connection speed by some 30 to 40% variable. My line is now running at upwards of 3.2 to 3.9Mbps, compared with 2Mbps to 2.6Mbps before.

So there you have it, a brief personal editorial on my weekend spent toying with a pesky broadband ADSL connection. Fun huh? Tomorrow I shall have a funeral for our dearly departed router, the headpiece of which shall read “WORKED FOR AWHILE – Next time, spend more cash!”.

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