Thursday, November 30, 2006

Weird DSL problem Weird DSL problem

I have DSL both in Dillon and in Golden. It works fairly well in Golden, except for the VOIP problems I mentioned earlier today. But it is flaky in Dillon.

Tuesday morning, we lost power between for an hour, most likely due to the blizzard outside. After that, the DSL barely worked for the next 36 hours. Of the eight sites that I frequent, and open en-mass when starting Firefox or Mozilla, only two or three would load. The rest would invariably time out. I could do a DNS search for those sites (via nslookup), but couldn't "ping" them by name, but could by the IP address returned by "nslookup". So, the sites were out there and should have been available, but weren't. I figured that it was a timing problem.

I kept calling the published phone number for the complex, and kept getting a FAX machine. If I called back quick enough, I got voice mail, and left a message to call, etc. Then, after about 36 hours, I went out into the blizzard (now in its 2nd day) and found the managers. Apparently, they operate by cell phone and the published number is now used solely for FAXes. Silly me, thinking that the number in my brand new Dex phone book or in the Condo Assn. minutes was a voice line.

So, we went down into the basement of this building and one of them unplugged and replugged the DSL modem and the router. And that was when I figured out the big reason that DSL stinks here. The router is tied to three eight port IP to DSL converters. Thus, one Qwest DSL line (like I have in Golden), is suporting 24 DSL lines in the units in this building.

In any case, I was expecting this to solve my problem. Well, only somewhat. Instead of only being able to load two of my normal sites, I could now do 5 or 6 of them. Interestingly, Mozilla did better than Firefox with the same list of sites, but has the annoyance that whenever it fails to load a site, it puts up an answerable message to that effect - which steals the focus of whatever else you are doing in Mozilla. Worse, it puts those answreable messages up when it fails to load a blacklisted (advertising) site, even though the reason it failed to load was because it was blacklisted. Firefox ignores blacklisted sites, and its messages are not answerable, but rather, just has a retry button on the site's tab.

But what was really weird was that I could load them with Internet Explorer. Even weirder, once I had loaded them via IE, I could load them via either Mozilla or Firefox.

My guess at what is happening is that IE is more lenient in its timing. Add to that, that both Mozilla and Firefox are pipelining, and IE probably isn't. This normally results in faster overall loads, but here... In any case, my problems are that:
  • Dillon is somewhat remote, and they probably don't have that fast of access to the rest of the Internet to start with.

  • The local DNS server supplied by the ISP for the complex most likely is lightly used.

  • The DNS entries for the sites I want to visit invariably have to be recursively downloaded from ther DNS servers, and this takes enough time that Firefox and Mozilla time out before they have completed.

  • The IE requests load the entries into the local DNS' cache, and

  • When I then try to load these sites via Firefox or Mozilla, the DNS entries are now retrieved quickly enough not to time out.

  • I should add that the sites that seem to timeout the worst have the shortest DNS expirations.

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