I’m getting Vonage

Before I converted to FIOS, my Optimum Triple Play came with a phone line via the  cable modem. I had the regular house line with Verizon and a home office line with Cablevision.

I used that line strictly for work. It was the number that the NOC would call in the middle of the night when I had to provide support. That way only myself and Lily got woken up and the rest of the family did not get disturbed.

Since I discontinued Optimum Online, I lost that line. Going forward Lily and I plan to use a second line for both work and personal use.

Today I ordered the second line with Verizon. It came out to $44.99+tax each month and had the Verizon Freedom Essentials plan. No international calling but calls to the US and Puerto Rico were bundled in. A quick check with Vonage’s web site and I called back Verizon and canceled the order. I ordered the Vonage World plan for 24.99+tax per month and that includes calling internationally to 60 countries.

For anyone that has been under a rock for the last 6 or 7 years, Vonage provides a box that connects to your network and does VoIP. One end of the box goes into your LAN/Internet connection, the other end goes into your telephone. No Internet connection means no Vonage.

There are several things I like about Vonage.

Caller ID and call waiting. Vonage looks like a regular phone and has all the usual features that you expect these days.

Transcribed voicemail. You setup in your Vonage dashboard your voicemail so that it’s not only accessible form the web, you also get a transcribed e-mail with the WAV file as an attachment. I can have that go to multiple e-mail addresses so both Lily and I know when someone left a voicemail as well as the text of what they said. It works, I’ve already left myself a voicemail and got a kick out of the e-mail that soon followed.

Call forwarding and SimulRing. Call forwarding is one thing, but ringing multiple lines can be cool. There are times when we’re expecting a call and we don’t want to miss it. Now we can forward the call to ring both our cellphones. After 30 seconds the call will go to voicemail.

Network Availability Number. If your Internet connection goes down, you can have a standby number for forwarding to. No Internet connection? No problem, just forward to your cell phone. This forwarding will only occur when the Vonage box falls off the network.

My Vonage V-Portal (the hardware to provide a phone jack) is arriving tomorrow so I expect to beat up the service a lot.

FIOS channel guide not updating?

I examined the logs for my visitors and noticed a couple of hits for the search “FIOS channel guide not updating”. When my FIOS was installed last week, I had that exact problem and here is what I found out.

Make sure your FIOS cable modem is working. Log into http://192.168.1.1/ with the default admin password combination (look it up) and make sure that your set top boxes are listed.

verizon-stb

See that column in the middle of the web page? That lists your PC and your set top boxes. On my installation they are labeled IP-STB1,2,3, etc. and they are all Connection Type: Coax.  The setup boxes need the FIOS Internet gateway to communicate via IP to Verizon and get the guide data. If they do not show up there then they are not getting any updates.

One of the Verizon people I spoke with mentioned that some people hardly use the Internet portion of FIOS and were not aware that the service needs both to work. After two weeks all the guide data was expired; once that customer switched on the Internet gateway the guide data came back.

Of course, that wasn’t my problem.  For me it was that the splitter installed in my cable line was not up to speed and was interfering with my set top boxes getting the guide data. The tech replaced the splitter and everything started working. That splitter was from my Cablevision installation and the first tech should have replaced it. No hard feelings and I’ve been enjoying the service including the ability to remotely schedule recordings.

Atari Video game catalog

Wow. While doing my early morning browsing I came across retroCrush. I think me and my brothers took that catalog to the electronics store in the RKO Keith’s theater in Flushing.  The store was part of the building and next to the ticket booth up front.

I remember because the Atari games were very cool and we had to save our allowance to buy the console and games. I also remember because that electronics store was crooked and pulled a bait and switch.  The ad they had in the newspaper said one thing but when you got their (with a crowd of other kids) they said it was a mistake and they would not honor their own ad.

That was not a bad lesson for a kid to learn and me and my friends went shopping elsewhere.  Now a days all my serious purchases are made online but I do like going to stores if only to see the games and other toys in person.

That store is long gone and RKO Keith’s has languished in limbo for 30 years. But visiting retroCRUSH brought back some fun old memories.

What you get with FIOS

My Internet and TV viewing works well but for some reason the guide data is not being loaded onto the set top boxes. While I am waiting for the (hopefully) Monday morning fix to my TV guide data, here is what you get with FIOS.

fios-box

1. A weather sealed FIOS box that performs the hand off from fiber to copper telephone line and cable TV. This was mounted on the outside of the house.

2. A battery backed UPS unit. This is solely for the Verizon FIOS box and it’s to maintain the phone line in the event of a power outage. The POTS lines are on a separate power circuit so when the town goes dark the phone lines still work. Since the fiber connection does not have electricity this is necessary so that the phones are always on.

3. A very cool cable modem with built in 802.11b/g wi-fi and 5 Ethernet ports (1 WAN and 4 internal LAN). This plugs into the cable line and provides a very complete turn-key solution.  I turned off the wi-fi since I already have a wireless network and don’t feel like redesigning my setup.  But for the non-technically savvy customers this is a good fire-and-forget solution.

4. And of course all the set top boxes.

Each of the set top boxes is assigned a DHCP address from this router on the 192.168.1.0/24 network.  I connected  my Internet gateway to an Ethernet port and was also assigned a 192.168.1.x address.  I like to access my basement remotely so I setup TCP port forwarding on specific ports on the Verizon box to my gateway. Initially I had all ports forwarded but I narrowed it down to a few specific ports and it’s all working. I did have to change my ddclient.conf settings but that was very easy.

The setup boxes get their configuration data via the Internet router.  If the router goes dead, the TV signals will still work but the guide data will stop updating. No guide data means that the DVR is kind of pointless.

FIOS is a work in progress

595186561The phone is flawless and the Internet connection is amazing.  See the SPEEDTEST.NET results to the right.

I just have a small problem with my digital TV service.  At the moment I have no picture at all.  Earlier I had picture and all my channels but I did not have the channel guide.  An hour later, no channel guide and no picture.

I’m not really worried and here’s why: everyone I have dealt with on the phone or in person has been polite and professional. The installer arrived around 11 AM and wrapped up the install before 3:30 PM. He did mention that the programming data might take as long as Monday morning, but all the channels worked and I could live without the guide for a weekend.

I just got off the phone with Verizon and they are working on getting my service back.  I’ll see how it goes.

I want to believe (in FIOS that is)

Since Verizon messed up my order yesterday, they informed me that my order was set for 8 AM – 12 noon today.  That sucked but it was better than waiting till next week. And I have to dial into work around 10 AM today so what the heck, I’ll just go with it.

Before 8 AM I called and wanted to confirm that my installation was on track.  The person I spoke with was polite and professional and informed me that someone would call me back. I just got that call and my appointment is still on for today.

All day today. They can come at anytime today and screw the 12 noon thing.  Oh, but I’m not to worry since they “requested” that the install occur before noon. I informed the polite and professional lady that I’m not thrilled about being held hostage to Verizon’s schedule and that this is NOT what I was told yesterday.

This is how a solid service offering gets ruined.  I’m assuming that once I have FIOS installed it will be rainbows and sunshine but getting there is really amateurish on their part. First impressions are important because they set the customers expectations going forward. If they continue to mess up, I lose nothing by just canceling the order. As I mentioned yesterday I don’t have an axe to grind with Cablevision and the money I save with Verizon is not that significant.

I’m hoping that this afternoon I’ll be able to post how fast my new connection is and how happy I am with the service.