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Thu, Jun. 18th, 2009, 10:38 pm
Holy crap I love FiOS

So we moved this Monday, and I realize you're all dying to know great the new house is and all that stuff, but, frankly, who cares when I can discuss geek things?

FiOS is, as everyone likely knows, amazing. We moved a) because this townhouse has FiOS and b) the townhouse is bad ass inside. I ordered the Verizon Flex bundle which is 20/5 Internet* and the "Extreme HD" (all "cable" channels like Discovery and USA in HD, no premiums like HBO) channel lineup for $79.99/mo. Oh, and three CableCARD units at $3.99 each for the replacement flotilla of TiVo HD units. No crappy Verizon STBs here, thanks.

Short review: 20/5 Internet really is 20/5. It's OMG-fast, and low latency. About 9ms (wired) to my colo box. The TV picture is incredible and the channel lineup includes everything we want except NASA TV.

The appointed day arrives (Tuesday, 16th, Nathan's birthday coincidentally) and so does the installer, promptly at 1:45PM and begins unboxing the ONT. Fortunately, this shiny new townhouse comes prewired for Cat5 and coax. Where does the Cat5 cabling go? To the phone jacks. *yawn* The coax is hidden behind a blank faceplate that is half covered by the track for the garage door. One approval given to the FiOS installer and the faceplate falls victim to a sudden "butt-end of a Maglite" accident. Frankly, he could tear out the hot water heater with a claw hammer and a blow torch if it means I get my FiOS.

The ONT is mounted and secured; cable ties solve everything. Turns out there's live power wiring running right behind the preset box that will be the ONT's new residence and the FiOS installer is hesitant to electrocute himself or blow up his shiny new drill. Weenie. Cable ends are crimped and power is supplied. Whoops, nobody can activate ONTs or CableCARDs because some system has died. Installer presses on and now notices there is no fiber connection to the box. No problem, we'll just go investigate the fiber frame on the end of the build--oops, where'd that go? Installer goes one way, I go another. I find a door labeled "Sprinkler Room" that has an unlocked doorknob but doesn't open. One slam of myself into the door to unstick it and hello, I found the box. He connects my townhouse (naturally the cable marked "8" is the one that goes to unit 3, it makes perfect sense) and we're back to the install.

Fast forward through the inside wiring and such and now we come to the TiVo part. The installer has only ever done one of these and it was 18 months ago. I ask him for the CableCARDs and he gladly hands them over so I can walk the TiVos through their setup for the new devices. The laptop is extricated and, yay, the activation servers are back up. Roughly 3.2MB worth of serial and device ID numbers are entered, and the 15 minute countdown begins (for some reason, Verizon's activation system doesn't actually activate anything until the 15 minute timer hits 0). One card activates, two don't. Why? Who knows? Better yet, who cares? All the channels are visible. I suspect there might be some problem if we ever order Pay Per View or Starz, but I'll deal with that if it arises.

Of course, now I'm left with trying to network everything. This is fun, considering the alleged Cat5 wiring is located, for every room, in the exact opposite corner I need it. If only there were some way to do what Verizon does and run networking over coax..... Ah, but there is. Enter MoCA, which is the standard Verizon uses to get their router and set-top boxes to communicate without running data cabling. However, I like my Linksys routers with dd-wrt firmware better than anything Verizon rolls out, so I spend 20 minutes on hold to reach tech support and ask them to swap me from MoCA to Ethernet at the ONT. The first rep is stumped: "I'll get you sales." I gently request tech support: "I'll get you sales." I not-so-gently request tech support: "I'll get you sal--err, tech support."

Tech support rep immediately says he will ask a network engineer to do the swap. While we wait he says "you know this will break your televisions." Nah, I'm good, I tell him. "You sure?" Yep. "OK, you sound like you know what you're doing, so I'll just have it done." I like this guy. He's technically correct, in that Verizon STBs use MoCA to get their guide and VOD data, so it'd take some extra hardware to keep them working. No matter, I have TiVo.

However, I'm still left with how to get networking to all of the TiVos, the XBOX, a wireless repeater on each floor, a maybe-Wii, and my upstairs office/network lair. Again, MoCA saves the day. It turns out the crappy Actiontec router Verizon used to give out can be easily configured to be an Ethernet/MoCA bridge, and I have access to one of these from another person's install who didn't need it. I also purchase three Motorola NIM100 units off of eBay. These units are simple bridges that auto form a MoCA network with up to 8 devices on the same coax segment (including splitters).

Two of the three NIMs go in easily, as they take the coax from the wall, chew on it, then have coax and Ethernet output to the TiVo. The third unit is downstairs and bridges an Ethernet port from my Linksys onto the coax segment. It took me a couple tries to figure out which cables go where. Initially I put the Verizon video signal into the "Coaxial In" port on the NIM then connected "Coaxial Out" to my house wiring. Made sense to me, but it turns out that's not right. Instead, Verizon TV and NIM "Coaxial In" must be connected to each leg of a 2 port 1GHz splitter, and then the "input" leg is connected to the house wiring as an output.

Once that's done, I have four MoCA devices all happily chattering away. The initial network formation between them interfered with a random channel (USAHD first, then FOX4HD) for a few minutes and went away. Now all three floors are fully networked with TV and amazingly-fast Internet, and I'm a happy geek. :)

Fri, Jun. 19th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)

As a chick who knows nothing about networking and knows I just want to watch my TV and use my internet, I will politely disagree. Mike and I have had nothing but problems with Verizon-- but most of it has to do with their billing department.

They fleeced me for $500 I'll never get back because the person who originally sold us the package told us we were getting PHONE, internet, and TV all in a super-great bundle discount price. Well, since we both have cell phones, we didn't need a landline, but we couldn't possibly miss out on this super-great bundle price, so we got it anyway.

As we moved and time went on, we never even bought a landline phone.

Turns out, the guy who set us up for the bundle made a billing "error"-- he gave us the internet and TV in a bundle, but charged us FULL PRICE EXTRA for the landline phone that we never used a minute of and didn't even have a phone for. I didn't realize this until a year later when we moved out. It was $40 a month for 12 months that I will never see again.

In addition, we had a LOT of problems when we switched addresses on our account (service got turned off immediately when we GAVE them a date to turn it off, took another freakin' week for a tech to come back to turn it on.....whole thing was a stupid mess).

Plus, I use the internet through my laptop's wireless card, and there's nothing special or faster about this internet than what I get for free at the fucking Holiday Inn. Also, I could care less about "seeing blades of grass" in HD.

But I'm sure you will enjoy it. :)