Updated: Mar 24
So with all of this working from home malarkey going on right now, it did in fact not take long for some networking realities to shine through in our home networking setup.
It became swiftly apparent to the wife and I that we could not conference call at the same time.
A month ago we did in fact abandon our 1 GB AT&T internet service because it kept resetting more times than a yoyo on speed does.
The network was actually so unstable it was about as useful as tits on a bull as they say in the old country.
We called AT&T support a dozen times before we decided ok, that's it!! Now we gotta do something.
The something was switching to Comcast Xfinity.
Something we were not overly thrilled with I can tell you.
My wife and I previously lived in Danville CA for 18 years in the Eugene O'Neill national historic site gated community on Kuss road.
The problem there with Comcast was the distance to the Central Office junction connection which was so bad the TV looked like grainy static broadcast from the moon but the internet on their DOCSIS 3.0 cable was weirdly pretty ok.
We opted for business internet service there because that way they attended to our connectivity issues if we were ever down and we used DirecTV satellite TV services on a Satellite dish for the TV side of the equation with zero problems so that cable was all for internet.
Our community here in Brentwood/Oakley/Antioch is a brand new KB homes development and our house was built in 2016 to our spec and we moved in just before Christmas of 2016.
We were hoping for fiber optic cable to the kerb there because the area was new and that is in fact what they pulled in here but for some reason AT&T just could not provide a stable service that we needed for conference calls or even normal internet and TV service which was through DirecTV satellite services by the way.
My wife works for Delta Dental and works from home a good few days of the week and is now working from home like me full time.
I had hoped Comcast would see that our internet was not optimal and connect my office upstairs with an Ethernet wireless extender like AT&T had done but of course once it was installed they then proceeded to worm out of what they said they would do.
We had told them when we started talking to them about our challenges and they had in fact come to see how many devices we have that use the internet.
They had initially said that this was not going to be a problem but when we started to have dropped calls and the Zoom, Skype and Webex conferencing software all reporting the network was unstable, once again, we had to do something.
So we got on the blower to Comcast and they sent a technician out to look and see the same day.
He was a very nice guy actually.
Unsurprisingly, after he counted the devices on the network, he informed me with zero hesitation that the Poxy gateway device Comcast had issued us with, which also doubles as a wireless AP was totally overwhelmed and just not up to the job for more than 5 devices.
I have a Samsung Glaxay Note 9, an iPad, two Macbook Pro's, four AMD workstations, a NAS and an AMD based Cray 6 with 32 AMD EPYC CPU's and a Huawei MateBook X Pro that was laptop of the year for 2018.
My wife has her iPhone, an iPad, a Macbook Pro and her work Lenovo Laptop.
Then there is the AppleTV, Xbox, Nintendo and SmartTV...oh and the Solar and the Ring Door bell and the other ring devices out front and out back...
Anyway, he gave me a few tips to make things better and I hauled out my brand new never used before Apple Wireless router that was now a good 5 years old and plugged that in as he had suggested to the above pictured poxy Comcast Gateway in the hope it would solve the problem.
This did not make things faster and it was in fact significantly slower but the network was much more stable.
This situation changed when the wife and I were on Zoom conference calls the next day.
I did not have an issue until she VPN-Zoomed in.
I have told her you can use video on these Zoom sessions for the first few minutes and do intro's, then turn off the video conferencing but she just ignores me.
If you are using VPN plus Video you are making the voice and video packets traverse the network twice which is not sustainable to the WiFi network stability and the conference call will repeatedly drop while in session.
You should NOT use Zoom or any video conference call meeting software in video mode while on any VPN session on your home WiFi, keep to voice only and the shared screen format for presentations.
As such I decided to do what the Comcast guy had told me was the choice option which was getting my own Cable Modem that was fully DOCSIS 3.1 compatible and which had 32 channels to cope with the data.
This would also save us $14 a month which paid for the new Gateway by the way.
The new Gateway was the Netgear NightHawk CM1200 without the voice component.
The box tells you the voice situation by the way.
The Gateway with the voice components is the CM1200CV modem which is $55 more.
So I shot off to Best Buy and I asked them for some advice as the Mesh Networks WiFi the Comcast tech told me about seemed to be the way to go and he mentioned I should consult with their resident WiFi Guru.
After I researched the matter myself for some 4 hours on the interwebs thingy and found concurrence with that sentiment, the sole surviving synapse made an executive decision to go for it given we were in home networking realities for the next 30 days plus at least.
I did not want a Cable Modem Gateway that also included a normal WiFi router as when I was in college studying electronics, RF frequency issues with digital chips were stuff nightmare legends are made of and when I dived into it I found RF is a truly weird and dark art.
Then there was the stark evidence the Comcast gateway was not working well to mull over and contemplate as well.
In Best Buy I noticed that some of the ORBI Network gear had a router and a Satellite device that both sported 4 x 1GbE Ethernet ports.
They bridge between each other on MESH WiFi and offer awesome network connectivity.
This meant I could do what AT&T had set me up with in my home office and I could stick all my computers on 1 GbE Ethernet again!!
The bonus was wireless signal strength upstairs as well, even if the Orbi RBS50 Satellite device did break my RF and digital mix mantra on that device.
The setup of the Gateway was a problem because my wife had been force bundled by the Comcast sales leprechaun with voice services which she was told by said sales leprechaun was "free" when she got the Comcast service bundle and the new Gateway did not work with said "free" voice services.
We did not want them anyway.
We told Comcast that from the beginning. They ignored us completely on that score.
However, when I tried to activate the CM1200 Gateway the instructions provided with the Netgear device and the Comcast experience did not tally.
In fact those Netgear guides are completely useless for both the Orbi and the NightHawk FYI.
You have to call Comcast and give them the MAC address and serial number of your device before you can get it going, its not automatic self activation capable as the stupid guidebook claims it is.
I marvel someone got paid money to produce that garbage.
Fortunately I know how they sync the devices at Comcast with the Mac address and serial no so I hopped on the old Graham Bell and called Comcast tech support to aid my efforts to make it happen.
The lady I ended up working with took the Mac address and serial number after I told her the plot and she then realized my new CM1200 device was not going to work with the Comcast bundled voice services.
She went away for two lengthy breaks and put me on hold then made some excuse her system needed a reboot and promised to call me back in 15 minutes when it had.
She did not.
30 minutes later I called back and this time some nice older guy gave me the short and curly's of it all.
5 minutes later he kaiboshed the voice services I did not want, sent a sync signal to my new device and my computer got an IP address and we were away to the races.
Then it was on to the WiFi piece of the equation.
At first I tried to get the Old Apple AP to work but it went green once sans an IP address and I gave up deciding deep level six was better served with the final gear if I was going to go there.
This Orbi stuff informed me in the quick start doc that I was going to need the Android App to make it happen.
I had downloaded it 2 hours prior and was ready for action.
However the RBR50 was having none of it for some reason so I plugged my Huawei laptop into the Nighthawk Gateway Ethernet port again to verify sanity and instantly got an IP address and the internet.
I was now puzzled and actually had to RTFM.
Surprisingly that made zero sense so I fired up the App and it instantly recognized what was what and activated WiFi at the same time searching for the Satellite that I swiftly nipped upstairs to power on and we wuz away to the internet races on the WiFi.
The original gear Comcast had installed speed tested at 522 Mbps max with a 25 Mbps upload speed.
The new Orbi and Gateway gear was reporting 822 Mbps sustained and 40 Mbps upload.
That was more like it!!
My conference calls Friday the 13th were all stable and not one dropped.
My wife had one drop but she was using Zoom with VPN and I was amazed it even worked at all.
I have noticed though that when the TV goes on (Huge ass 120 inch 4K Smart TV) that network performance drops to 22/10 Mbps.
We never work with the TV on though so this is sorta OK, but do bear that in mind if you have COX or some similar Cable service that uses DOCSIS 3.1.
Now my mission is to make my wife understand that VPN and video conferencing = poop cakes.....
Pray for me....(Oi Vey!)