Bits Are Boomin'!

As of Friday 21 January 1999, all of the base moved over to a DSL connection from Pacific Bell. So, the IP addresses all changed, and the bandwidth went up. So far I'm pretty happy with the state of the world.

The guys who came out to hook up the line were friendly and knowledgeable, and worked quickly and well. They were willing to leave things in a reasonable state so that I could hook the new line into my amazing multi-port wall plate. They even slipped me some cool phone wire connectors. Most importantly they were in and out quickly, cleanly, and they left a working line behind them.

From there on out things were somewhat more hairy, primarily because I don't think that Pac*Bell has considered that a home user like me would want to set up and run a firewall. The DSL equipment assumes that all the hosts sit on the same Ethernet line, which caused some configuration problems for me.

For one thing, it isn't convenient to break up the IP sets they give you into subnets. That's not surprising - they broke them into subnets once to give me a set. Again, this isn't a problem unless you want to configure a firewall/router. Of course, I wanted to, so I had to do some finagling. Right now, I actually did the subnet split, so one of my addresses isn't routable, but I think I'll be able to work around that in the long run.

The other problem was a little more foreboding. As I said, the Pac*Bell router thinks all my hoists are on the same Ethernet, so when that router has a packet for one of them, it queries the whole Ethernet for that computer, caches the result and sends the packet. Most of my computers (meaning 2 of them, it's a small net) aren't on the Ethernet that's directly connected to the DSL router, so when it queries for one of the inner hosts, no one answers, and the router assumes that the packet was misaddressed.

I was hoping to get the Pac*Bell folks to solve this problem for me on their end, by routing all of my IP addresses to the one I'd chosen as my firewall address, but sadly I couldn't convince anyone at tech support that this was a reasonable thing to do for me. Fortunately, I was able to solve the problem with choparp, a publically available program that answers for my inner hosts without confusing my router. Using the fast DSL line, I found choparp and put it in place about 15 minutes after I failed to convince Pac*Bell to fix my troubles, so in a way, they did solve them. I wish I'd been more encouraged by my discussions with the tech support, though.

Still, I recognize that I'm an unusual customer for them, and hey, I solved the problem, that's not the worst thing in the world.

The service itself has been great so far, too. There's nothing like a fast available line to make me forget any other problems.

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