November 10, 2007

Surfboard Problems

As most readers of the Pond are aware, cable broadband became available last month for the first time out here.  Everything was fine and dandy until last week, when it appears that my Motorola SURFboard (model SB5101) started to  have a case of the hiccups.

Once or twice a night, the modem'll just stop functioning.  The "send" and "online" lights go out, and access just disappears.  Usually a hard reset (unplugging the power cord) will rectify the problem, but at least half of the time, the signal will drop again a few minutes later.  Another hard reset, combined with a reboot of Chiyo-chan, will fix the problem... until the next night.

Obviously, the modem still works... I'm posting, after all.  It's just annoying as all get-out to have the connection just drop like that.  When it IS working fine, I get some flat-out amazing (to me and my many years of dial-up only, your mileage may vary) d/l speeds: 175kbps is quite common, and I've seen it up around 200kbps when d/l'g something with a lot of seeds (I've switched to uTorrent, by the way).

There's a 25' run of coaxial from a splitter connecting the modem (which I'm considering naming "kamineko") to the wall, and a ethernet cable connecting the modem to Chiyo-chan.

This sound familiar to anybody out there?  The tech from the company came by and left a note saying to "clean the teeth on the ethernet cable" with a q-tip and a drop of denatured alcohol, but to this ex-CowPuters employee, that sounds like a standard brush-off answer ("Take two aspirin and call me in the morning").  If any of my readers have experience with the SURFboard, I'd appreciate your advice.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 02:44 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
Post contains 287 words, total size 2 kb.

1 I've got SB5100 which seems to work fine going into its 3rd year of service. However, I had a couple of them to die on me. The SB5100 replaced some Siemens crapmodem, and before that a pre-DOCSIS LAN City died in my care. I figured that cable modems just have limited life spans by nature, unlike normal modems.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at November 10, 2007 03:22 AM (9imyF)

2 You named your computer Chiyo-chan?

I would make fun of that, but I named my network "Roshtaria", and my various computers "Bugrom", "Escaflowne", "Cephiro", and....

Posted by: Ed Hering at November 10, 2007 09:04 AM (+3/HD)


I've used cable modems in Massachusetts, in San Diego, and here in Portland, and I've never seen that happen. But I always used an external cable modem, never a card.

What I would suggest is to talk to your neighbors. See if anyone else has a cable modem, and find out if they've been suffering the same symptoms.

My suspicion is that they'll say they aren't, which would mean your board is bad.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 10, 2007 01:03 PM (+rSRq)

4 One of the main causes of speed and connection problems with Cable Internet can be the splitters.  Did you supply the splitter, or did the cable company supply it?  Make sure it's a 1GHz Splitter.  Also, if it is more than a 2-way splitter, make sure that the cable modem is on the 3.5dB split, not one of the 7dB splits.

Do you live in an apartment building?  Unfortunately, due to the way a lot of those places are wired, heavy duty amplifier/distribution blocks are required to get a signal to all the apartments.  Unfortunately these things lead to some issues.

Finally, many cable modems have an on board Diagnostics page.  You can usually access this by doing to in your browser.  Your Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) should be 30dB or greater.  Your downstream receive power should be between -6 to -3 dBmv or -2.5 to +2.5 dBmv depending on your provider.

If that's not the case, then you have probably have bad lines somewhere, either inside or outside the house.  The cable company may or may not have tested the signal strength during the initial setup.  If they didn't, have them come out and check it, if it's low, they are responsible for the lines outside the house.

This is way longer than I intended, hope it's useful.

Posted by: Buttons at November 10, 2007 02:29 PM (VjS5e)

5 That's all pretty good advice, but none of it would explain why Chiyo-chan would lock up. I've lost my cable connection once in a while, and it's never locked up any of my computers.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 10, 2007 05:27 PM (+rSRq)


Sorry... allow me to clarify:

1) The Motorola SURFboard is an external cable modem.  Despite the name, it's not a internal board at all.

2) My computer has never locked up when the modem signal dies.  However, to 'cleanse the palate', such as it were, I've rebooted.

3) The Pond is in an apartment complex, which is also the cable provider through an external company, and the splitter (2-way) came with the SURFboard.

Oh, and yes, I named my computer Chiyo-chan.  She's small, cute, EXTREMELY intelligent, and holds a lot of information in her head hard-drive.  My 80gb external HD is Tadakichi-san.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 10, 2007 07:18 PM (DcSb+)

7 Oh man, you are otaku, aren't you?? What'd you do for ponytails?

Posted by: Ed Hering at November 11, 2007 12:03 PM (+3/HD)

8 I had the same symptoms (different cable modems) - twice.  The 1st time, the Cox 2nd level tech found hundreds of IP resets on their router, it ended up being low signal (their tech has a dba meter), and they installed a local amplifier at my entry point which fixed it.

A couple of years later they apparently upgraded the neighborhood.  I started getting the same symptoms again.  This time, the signal was way too high.  The tech removed the amplifier, and extra splitters, and everything is working fine again.

Posted by: conrad at November 11, 2007 02:51 PM (mo/xg)

9 What'd you do for ponytails?

USB cables.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 11, 2007 03:09 PM (AW3EJ)


No, we use the twist ties that come on USB cables. (Otherwise they'd just go to waste, you know.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 11, 2007 04:13 PM (+rSRq)

11 Steven, I used to work for CowPuters, back when they had retail stores.  When they closed them, those of us who decided to stick around (so as to get our severance pay) got an added bonus: spare parts.

I've got so many USB cables I could use them to decorate a geeky christmas tree. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 11, 2007 05:37 PM (AW3EJ)

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