Saturday, April 7, 2012

Put Twitter to Good Use!

Have you ever had to call customer support for your ISP and reached some poor under paid guy or gal in either India or South America?

I know you have, with very few exceptions most ISP's have their tech support outsourced. Being a technical person I always try nearly everything they have on their list beforeI call in. However, these techs often don't have enough comprehension the process to be able to skip a step or ten.  It's not their fault they are hired to answer the phone and get basic steps taken care of.  We all know this can be VERY frustrating!

What does this have to do with Twitter? Well, I have discovered, that most companies, ISP's included have a twitter account which is actively monitored by one or more the U.S.A.!!!  I have twitter as a contact on my phone, so I can send tweets directly from my phone. The number is 40404, at least on Sprint. If you send a tweet to @company and a brief description of your problem, chances are in a few minutes you will get an invite to a private chat or a request to call you directly.

I had problems with my Charter internet connection. I called in, and was basically told to reboot my modem and everything would be OK. As I mentioned before, I already did that.  So even though I was rebooting my modem I suspected it wouldn't solve my problem. I sent a tweet into the twitter-verse directed at@charter. I gave a brief description. in 5 minutes or less I had a response asking for my phone number. They then told me they had checked the modem and saw that there is indeed a problem, and could a technician come out the next day?

I have used twitter with other companies as well and in almost every case I have received excellent efficient help much more quickly than if I had gone through the customer service line.

Now I will tell you that I know some companies make it a policy to keep their customer service in the states. Companies such as Windstream, for example. Their customer support is in Florida, South Carolina, and Nebraska if you have Windstream services then call the technical people for the most part they are all very good.

But if you can't reach an English speaking technician or customer support representative, then try a @Tweet!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Network behind the network

I have just moved from where I used to work, supporting Customers with internet problems to a position where I watch the network actually work. the DS3, OC48 and more that simply blast data from one side of the nation to the other, and I get to help make sure it keeps working.

I'll try to write some more about the Network Operations Center level of Internet support... it should be interesting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What to do when you call for help!

I was thinking that it might not be a bad idea to tell you a couple of ways you can increase your level of customer service when calling into your ISP or CLEC.

When you first discover that your Internet and or Phone service is down, do the following, BEFORE you call your service provider:

1. Verify that all of the equipment involved has power
  • The Router or IAD from your provider
  • Your Switch, router, or firewall (for Internet)
  • Your Phone system.
2. Check to see if you can see any warning lights, chances are whomever you talk to is going to ask you if there are lights on any of the equipment, look before hand. Green lights are good (even if they blink) yellow lights may or may not be a problem, red lights... usually mean something is wrong.

3. Locate the smartjack (If you have a T-1) this is where the T1 comes into your building, it's not always in the same place as your equipment. If you are using DSL or cablemodem you won't have a smartjack.

4. If you are using DSL or cable-modem, you should remove any other routers etc and plug your computer directly into the DSL or Cable modem. When the tech you call asks if you have a network,just tell them, yes, but it's currently disconnected and you have one computer connected to the modem.

5. Call in, to your support center. when you call if you hear a message that tells you there is an outage pay particular attention it may be that the outage is the reason you are without service. Listen to how long the hold time is, if the potential hold time is 15 minutes or longer it's likely that there is an outage and you are affected. Wait a while and call back after things have calmed down. when you talk to a technician remember the following:
  • The tech you are speaking to is there to help you, they don't want to make your situation worse.
  • The tech you are working with probably knows more about the particular situation you are experiencing than you do, listen to them. (Remember techs are people too so they can make mistakes.) While you should listen, be certain that you are clear in what you are accomplishing.
  • Don't assume that whoever answers the phone knows nothing. While at times this is true, it's equally possible that you are talking to the expert of your particular issue. Treat anyone on the other end of that phone like they are your lifeline to getting service restored. It's true, they are, and you will receive better service for it.
  • Don't get upset when you are asked questions that seem inane. The tech on the other end has certain information they have to obtain. They don't like it any more than you do, so just play along.
  • Answer every question truthfully, if you didn't check something tell the tech, if you did, tell them. Establishing trust goes a long way. (Remember this tech may have talked to 20,30 or even 50 people with the exact same issue you are having. If they are acting even remotely human, appreciate it.)
When you open a trouble case if you are not given a case number ask for one. Some companies use your name or account number and not case numbers. However, most use some sort of trouble tracking system so they can monitor customer issues and satisfaction.

Tell the tech that you know they are busy, but would like to know when you can expect a return call. Don't hold the front-line tech to their answer, they often don't know. Ask them to note in the case that you will call back in an hour for status.

Wait an hour or a little longer and call back. When you get through provide your case number (or account number if they don't use case numbers), ask for the current status of your case. At this point, your case may not have been touched by a technician. Don't get mad. They are working to get issues resolved as quickly as possible. If this was an outage there may be nothing that the techs in the customer care group can resolve and they have to wait for word that the problem is resolved.

At this point regardless of the issue, hang up, and call back an hour or two later.

At or around the third hour it's OK to tell whoever answers your call that you would like to escalate your problem. Don't tell the tech that you are a business and can't afford to be without, chances are most of their customers are in the same boat. they aren't unsympathetic, but they do hear the same story over and over again. The worst line you can use with any tech is, "I'm losing tens of thousands of dollars an hour!" Let's be honest if you are making that much money per hour, then you can afford to have, and will have a backup Internet / phone service installed so when one provider is having an issue the other is (hopefully) unaffected. However, you can politely ask for an escalation, request that you either speak with a technician who can look at the problem or a manager who can the issue. Again, remain polite and understand that these folks talk to lots of people who are being jerks. They will do their best to be friendly and helpful, but you can help a lot!

When you talk to a manager, explain that you have called in for the last 3 or 4 hours and there has been no progress and you would like to know if your case is going to be looked at soon. They will likely be able to hand you off to a tech who can help you immediately, if they can not, they will tell you. So I can hear the thoughts now, why not just ask to speak to a manager immediately? Because it makes you look like an uneducated jerk!

Now when you reach a technician there are going to be one of 4 outcomes (in the most common order)
  1. The problem is somewhere on your network. Don't immediately assume they are passing the buck. Be polite, but ask them, "How can I prove your dmarc?" Be willing to walk through whatever steps the ask you. (If you are an individual and you already have your computer as the only device attached to the modem you are a HUGE step ahead!) If you have a T-1 you will need to plug a PC or laptop in directly to the T-1 Router on site. you WILL need a cross-over cable(the one that is already plugged into the ISP's router should work fine.) Ask the technician you are working with what IP information you need to put in your computer. make the changes and as instructed and test to see if you can get to the Internet. At this point it's possible that you will still not be able to reach the Internet. Ask the tech if they can "ping the Internet sourcing the Fast Ethernet port." If they can then there may be a problem with the router, if not, then they may have a routing issue.
  2. The problem is in the Router. If the problem is in the router or modem, then the technician will have to send someone out to work on the problem. If you have had tornadoes or heavy storms in the area, understand that it may take a while. you are better off, if you can, telling them call me with x minutes of lead time and I'll let them in at any time of night. That way the tech can dispatch someone to work on the equipment knowing that they will have access to the property etc. Don't a certain time, scheduling is nearly impossible due to traffic, weather, other customer issue etc. Everyone is treated as an individual and it takes time.
  3. The problem is on the T1, underlying carriers network. At this point your ISP has no more control over the situation than you do. they can call and open a ticket, and keep updates on it every hour. you can call for you updates and they can call for theirs and pass that info on to you. Again depending on weather and storms it can take from 1 to 12 hours or more to get a technician form an underlying carrier to work on an issue (most have a standard ETTR (Estimated Time of Repair) of 5 hours. After the ETTR then your ISP can start escalating with the ILEC (underlying carrier, they own the physical lines)
  4. The problem is on the ISP's network. This is when the tech you are working with becomes your advocate. they can find the problem and fix it for you and are much more willing to go the extra mile when they feel that you are appreciative of their efforts. Again the problem may require a technician to go out in the field to check a piece of equipment, so things like traffic and weather will affect this.
When one of the above situations is identified, that's the answer now it's just a waiting game. often you will know the problem is resolved before the technician working on your case, particularly if it involves some outside agency. When they call to verify service is restored. Thank them for following up.

If you get a survey request fill it out, be honest, but don't be personal. Fill out the survey and mail it back.

OK I think that about covers it.

Links Used in this Blog:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ethernet vs cross-over

I fully apologize that it' has been weeks since my last full update.

Due to some issue with work schedules and a family emergency I was unable to update on my normal weekly schedule. I'm doing my best to get back to that starting now.

Normally published on Friday night... you can expect your next update on 4/24/09

ok On to the juicy stuff.

I told you that Iw as going to explain what a CAT 5 ethernet cable is and how it differs from a cross-over cable.

First let me say I found an excellent resource here.

According to Wikipedia:
Category 5 cable, is a twisted pair (4 pairs) high signal integrity cable type often referred to as "Cat5". Many such cables are unshielded but some are shielded. Category 5 has been superseded by the Category 5e specification structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet, and is also used to carry many other signals such as basic voice services, token ring, and ATM (at up to 155 Mbit/s, over short distances).

The important part of this is the twisted pair part. The reasons the different pairs of wire are twisted, and each pair has it's own twist frequency, is to minimize "cross-talk" or signal transfer from one pair of wires to another. That's the basis for a whole article in and of itself, so we will just leave it at that. The important part of cross-talk is to remember that if you are stripping CAT-5 wire in order to punch it down to a block or jack, don't untwist the wires further than you have to in order to make the connections.

OK here is a diagram of a standard CAT-5 ethernet cable:

The cool thing is that EVERY CAT-5 calbe looks just like this. The outer sheaths vary according to the kind of use the cable will be put to, however the inner pairs remain the sames standardized in the IEEE standard on CAT-5.

whats that mean to you? you can look at any ethernet cable and expect to see a blue wire and a white wire with a blue stripe, a brown wire, and a white wire with a brown stripe, a green wire and a white wire with a green stripe, and last but not least, an orange wire and a white wire with an orange stripe.

Not only do the cables have a standard, they also fit together in a standard method.

Standard, Straight-Through Wiring (both ends are the same):

RJ45 Pin # Wire Color
Wire Diagram
10Base-T Signal
100Base-TX Signal
1000Base-T Signal
1 White/Green
Transmit+ BI_DA+
2 Green
Transmit- BI_DA-
3 White/Orange
Receive+ BI_DB+
4 Blue Unused BI_DC+
5 White/Blue Unused BI_DC-
6 Orange
Receive- BI_DB-
7 White/Brown
Unused BI_DD+
8 Brown Unused BI_DD-

Straight-Through Cable Pin Out for T568A

Straight throug, or standard ethernet cable, means that the wires are straight through from one end of the cable to the other. Both ends are the same if you hold them and look at them side by side.

Just be aware that if you are told you will need a crossover cable that you can not use a straight through cable in it's place, or vice verse.

this is jsut the difference between crossover and straight through calbes. anyone else have questions?


Friday, April 10, 2009

Next blog

Some basic info on how to find your IP address. Understand what a DNS server is and how it works, and I'll try to find some more useful tools.

I hope to get the blog written tomorrow and posted tomorrow night.

I'm also going to give you a basic rundown of what and Ethernet CAT5 cable is vs a cross-over cable.

Bits, bytes, Kilobytes and megabytes, what's the difference?

And some of those other router settings.

Look for it tomorrow night (I hope!).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hey! That's MY Wireless Internet!

This has been a VERY busy week. I'm working for 18 nights in a row, covering for the weekend guy. As a result, I'm tired and I'm at work instead of at home. But in between calls I found time to write this blog.

I told you I was going to write an article about securing your wireless network, and I am. I'm going to focus on home users. Frankly, commercial enterprises shouldn't be using the home style routers. They are better off using a firewall to protect their networks.

First of all let's look at what a wireless network is. I borrowed the above and following images from

At typical wireless network is setup much like this image.
You have your Internet modem (DSL, Cable modem, or some other variety.), then you have a router with wireless technology built in. Of course there are variations and your mileage may vary. some popular home routers for wireless are Linksys Wireless-N Home Router WRT150N Wireless router - EN, Fast EN, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n (draft) From $36-$119 (Don't worry I'll try to explain all those letters and numbers in a bit) NETGEAR WGR614 IEEE 802.3/3u, IEEE 802.11b/g Wireless-G Router Around $40.00 or the slightly more expensive ZyXEL Communications ZyXEL NBG-318S Home Network Kit Wireless router - EN, Fast EN, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, HomePlug AV (HPAV) for $143 to $215

There is a wide price range, $39.99 to $215 and probably higher if you want to start looking in the commercial range. It's always important to remember that you get what you pay for. I wouldn't go for a $40 bargain basement model, and most people don't need the $215 Cadillac version either. Personally I have a Netgear which I paid $99 for. It gets the job done.

Before we look at securing your router, let's look at some of those numbers and letters after the names above.
  • EN - Ethernet
  • Fast EN - Fast Ethernet
  • IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • The numbers, 802.11 and 802.11g refer to documents at IEEE defining how wireless networking is supposed to work.
OK now on to security. Why do you want to secure your wireless network? Or should you care? Some folks say, "I don't really care? why should I bother?" and I suppose if you live out in the country and have no neighbors within 3-500 yards of your house that it really doesn't matter. Leave it wide open and be happy. However, if you live in town , or even in an apartment, you probably want to secure your network. From my apartment, I can see 6 or 7 wireless networks, one or two of which are always unsecured.

There are some common practices which people use to secure their wireless routers, but some while common are not always best. For example, turning off the Broadcast SSID of your wireless network is not really recommended, even though most people turn it off first thing. Why, you might ask. Well apparently when the SSID is no longer broadcast your network devices have to constantly broadcast additional information to make certain that everyone is talking. If you have one or two wireless devices this may not have enough impact to matter, but if you have several, then it might cause some slowness. So how are you supposed to hide your wireless network if you broadcast your SSID? First change the name, most manufacturers use a default name, Linksys uses, linksys (Big surprise) and Tsunami, or Netgear. There is a great article with naming hints and tips on

Next, change the default admin name and password. whatever you do Don't leave them set to the default router password it' way to easy to find the default password. I suggest you use a tool like Microsoft's tool or for more information use The Password Checker to test the strength of your password.

another thing to change, if you plan to manage your router remotely (from somewhere else) change the default port. Pick a number you can remember (usually between 8000 and 60000), if you are not planing on ever accessing your router remotely be sure to disable the remote management selection. (see your router manual for specific instructions on how to do this.)

Just changing the default network name and ports and making sure you set the admin ID and password make your router much safer, but it's still got a glaring hole. All of the traffic on that network is broadcast in plain text. Whats that mean? If someone is using a tool like Netstumbler a tool for finding wireless networks, and some other tools which would allow them to "sniff" the packets going through the air, weather they are on the LAN or not. If they have the correct tools to capture and sniff packets then they are already on your LAN. So what are you to do? set at least some basic security, WEP is not secure, but it will at least stop most novice hackers, better still use WAP v1 or 2 check out this wikipedia article about the possible security settings and risks.

So now you have changed the default name of your network, the default port and set a unique admin ID and password. Then you turned on encryption. So are you secure? probably not, but you are a whole lot better off than you were! And It's probably a fair bet that the neighbors aren't going to use your wireless internet to download all of their warez and hot music!

I 'm going to write an article on email next, I think, what the various settings are and how you can use them to your advantage. See you next week!

Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

STOP Stealing My Internet

Next blog will be about securing wireless lans so you don't have to resort to this!

Though, I do have to wonder if it works?

Watch for the blog next Friday.