FibreOp Update

The wonderful techs from Bell-Aliant stopped by today to replace the smoked router. That still did not fix the problem with the televisions but I suspect what follows is a coincident.

Once they replaced the smoked router – and, yes, it did smell like something popped which could have happened when on Saturday we had a fair “blow” of wind causing a power outage that actually put two generators at the Holyrood thermal generating station off-line; the power outage does play a role here, too – we could not get ANY of the televisions to work. Their calls to level 3 support wasn’t working to get the televisions back online when Mark, the original lead installer, dropped by. He was in the neighborhood and seen the Bell-Aliant van outside our house and wanted to see what the issue was. (A BIG pat on the back for Mark – he said that it was his install and he took ownership of any problems. Bell-Aliant: You need to give a big deal of credit to guys like Mark. They set the standard for customer service!) Mark remembered during his time of configuring the ActionTec routers that they had do ensure that the DHCP server was running. (Another BIG pat of the back to Mark for remembering that!)

I have a rather more complicated network than most people do. Given that I am in I.T. I tend to do things that others don’t want to be doing. (Maybe I’m channelling Jerry Pournelle from the old days. He had the saying that went along the lines of “I do stupid things that most people don’t do” or similar.) Thus, I have a DHCP server with static IP assignments and an internal DNS server so you can find things on the network. This being the case, the second thing I did, after turning off the WiFi in the ActionTec, was to turn off Bell-Aliant’s DHCP server. And hence the relationship with the power outage: when the set top boxes powered up they were looking for a DHCP server and found one – mine.

Well, since we weren’t sure about the need for DHCP I turned Bell-Aliant’s off again. If you think about it, the televisions work on a different VLAN – 34 in their case and use the subnet (you can see this in the advanced setting of the set top boxes) with QoS for video. (You can see more information at this post “Some tidbits on the FibreOP infrastructure” at Digital Home – quite an interesting read if you are a tech-head.) First, I would have thought that the LAN DHCP server would be separate from the IPTV DHCP server. Second, given that the IPTV is on a different VLAN than the data LAN the set top boxes wouldn’t see my DHCP server. Apparently I am wrong on both counts.

There is two additional items that may be coming into play. To try and “fix” the DHCP issue I enabled the Bell-Aliant router to only provide two IP address in the pool. I think that the number of IPs in the range may have a direct impact on the IPs made available to IPTV set top boxes. Second, I have the Bell-Aliant DHCP server handing out Bell-Aliant DNS addresses. I can’t confirm either and I’m in no mood to test this out tonight. (The Motorola IPTV set top boxes take longer to boot than my BlackBerry – and that is saying something!) This will likely cause some issues for me.

I’m not the first one to find this out. After some pretty intense Google searches I found this great post “Running an Internal Windows 2008 DHCP Server and Bell Aliant FibreOp” where Ryan Groom had the same problem. Hopefully my blog will highlight this issue.

Now I have to figure out what to do here. I have my old reliable SonicWall TZ180. I could put that between my LAN and the Bell-Aliant router. But that SonicWall is only 100 Mbit and I found that it was a real bottleneck. I might have to use my Netgear WNDR37AV router to separate my LAN from Bell-Aliant’s. But the Netgear can’t do proper NAT and that will cause me complaints down the road.

I will have to think this one out some more….

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