Blog Archives

FIOS customers – better DNS solution

If you have Verizon FIOS, and haven’t already customized your router to use better DNS Servers, do yourself a favor and do so asap.  By default Verizon uses “DNS assistance” on their *.*.*.12 DNS servers.  Set your router to use custom DNS servers and change the ending .12 to a .14.  Alternatively, using any of the other official Verizon DNS Servers in the range of 4.2.2.1 through 4.2.2.5 is also a good bet. 

If you don’t customize your DNS, the Verizon DNS assistance configuration can potentially cause issues for Tech Savy users who do VPN, host monitoring, etc.  You are also helping Verizon make more money by being served ads on their DNS assistance page. 

I came across this help link on the Verizon website that will guide you through changing your router config to optomize your DNS settings…

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Verizon FIOS billing issues

I’ve been having a difficult time lately with Verizon and their billing of my FIOS account. Sure my account history is a bit complicated. Let me recount the things that have happened in the brief history of my account…

1. Ordered online with a promotion offer (ordered with a landline phone service and had billing through the phone bill).

2. Got billed wrong amount, turned out they never applied the online promotion to my account.

3. Got an account credit of $60 to cover the promotion discount for 6 months. Also got my Target gift card mysteriously after complaining that I had not yet received it after my 12 weeks or service.

4. Ported my landline phone service to a VOIP provider.

5. Switched my billing method to credit card after phone service was ported away from Verizon.

6. Got a letter from Verizon saying I was in default and my account was terminated and sent to a collection agency.

7. Called CS AGAIN and found that my account is ok afterall, they had some kind of mixup with the other CSR that processed the port. My account is in good standing and no balance is due.

So as you can see, its been fun! I love FIOS internet, its fast, reliable and perfect for my home network, but dealing with a big company like Verizon is such a pain.

When you call in to customer service, you get a rep after going through their aweful phone system, and then they find out I’m in Florida and have to transfer me. I finally get someone in Florida and they tell me they can’t help me because they are normal Verizon and have to send me to a FIOS rep. I finally get a FIOS rep and then they have problems finding my billing history and account information. Its all straightened out now though, so I can take a breath of fresh air and not have to worry about this account any longer… until next month that is when they screw up my bill again.

FIOS Update

So now that I’ve had FIOS for several months, I thought I would post an update. Here are my observations so far…

1. I love the ActionTec wireless router that comes with the service. It is a very flexible and fully featured with a firewall, MAC address filtering, port forwarding, and more. I took a little while to adjust to the settings on the router, as you have to click save in more than once place for your settings to be saved and applied, which is a little different, but once you figure out the little neuances of the router, you are good to go! It will do anything and everything I need and more.

2. My only gripe so far, is something that happened when my IP address changed. I had the service for probably over 2 months before my IP changed for the first time. When it did change, my home network lost internet connectivity and my dynamic DNS client was unable to connect to the internet to update my IP. This caused several hours of outage for my home e-mail and internet connectivity. I have not yet had another IP change, so I’m hoping the first time was just a fluke. (NOTE: This won’t be an issue for most people, unless you run DNS for accessing services on your home network like I do).

3. The speeds are consistent and fast, every time I run the Verizon speed test, it comes out over 20MBps down, and nearly 5MBps up, with only slight variations. The bandwidth is exceptional, very fast, and reliable. I have had not real service outages at all and am very pleased with the quality of service I am receiving.

4. In order to optomize the speed your computer will see on the FIOS network, it may be necessary to run the FIOS connection optomizer. This basically changes some TCP/IP settings in the registry to optomize throughput on the FIOS system. These are the same type of settings people have been adjusting since the internet was created, I’ve done it with dialup before, and this is just the most modern way to optomize the connection. Its no big deal, but you will see lower than advertized speeds unless you run the optimizer.

5. The price of the service is comperable to service with other providers in the area, but the speeds are much faster without increasing the cost of the service.

I am overall very pleased with Verizon FIOS service. I highly recommend it to anyone currently using a cable provider. I’ve been a cable user for years, and took a long time to make the decision to switch. I am happy that I did, and will never go back to cable. I would also point out that Verizon offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can always give it a try and test it out to see what you think. You can cancel at the service if you don’t want to keep it. Plus then your home will be wired for the service should you decide to use it again in the future.

First Dynamic IP change a failure

This morning around 1am my IP address changed on my FIOS router at home. I have a dynamic dns client running to update a few DNS entries I use. Unfortunately, after the router got its new IP, it quit working. None of my home machines could access the internet. So the dynamic dns client running on a server, could not update my dynamic DNS. I rebooted the router this morning and was pleased to find that the client was able to update after the reboot. I am hoping this was a fluke and the next time the IP changes, I won’t have this issue.

Verizon FIOS and Relay of SMTP messages

It came to my attention recently that there have been problems relaying mail to an external party from my mail server at home. I host some distribution lists and mailboxes for a small group my wife is involved with. They have a public domain setup with a few mailboxes. All the e-mail for that public domain comes through my Exchange server. Copies of the incoming messages are routed to internal mailboxes, but each mailbox is setup to forward a copy of every incoming message to that user’s home e-mail address.

So I kept getting these NDR messages (since I’m the administrator) and I hadn’t really had time to investigate until recently. When I started to take a look at the problem, I realized it only occurred when a particular sender would send a message to the users on the group’s public domain. Basically this person was sending mail to an address at the groups public SMTP domain. So my server would receive the mail, deliver it locally and then forward on a copy to each recipient’s home e-mail address. So that was the pattern of the problem, at least I had that figured out.

We recently switched to Verizon FIOS and after more checking, realized this issue started occurring right around the same time we made the switch. When looking in the event viewer on my Exchange server I found events saying that I had to authenticate to send mail as xxx user, which I knew was not my account. I checked the message tracking in Exchange and found that mail delivery worked fine locally, but failed when relaying a copy out to the user’s home e-mail address.

The issue it seems is that when Exchange forwards a copy back out to the user’s home account, it has the from address of the sender in the SMTP transmission. My server is configured to route all outgoing SMTP messages through Verizon’s outgoing SMTP server. But the user sending the original message was also using Verizon DSL with a verizon.net e-mail account. So when my server tried to relay the outgoing copy, it saw the from address and that it was a verizon.net account. I can only assume that Verizon has some type of account restrictions in place that prevented my server from relaying mail from this address while authenticated as my account. (I’m using SMTP authentication for outgoing mail through Verizon). The message would be blocked at this point and I’d get the NDR. So I naturally started looking at outgoing SMTP accounts with third parties for use with relaying. I toyed with the idea of setting up another SMTP connector for the recipient’s domain to bypass Verizon, but was weary of that due to PTR issues with my DNS, which could cause more problems than its worth.

I found a good SMTP relay service for only $15 a year, and was about to buy it when I decided to stop and try the SMTP connector in Exchange first, just to see if it work, or if hotmail (the home recipient with delivery problems) would reject the message if it did any type of PTR lookup on the sending mail server. I set everything up and sent a test message and was happy to see it was delivered successfully. I now route all outgoing mail to hotmail.com directly to the hotmail MX servers rather than route through Verizon. This way all other mail can go through Verizon, but anything sent to hotmail.com will go directly from my server to hotmail, which then resolves my problems of another verizon.net user relaying through my mail server. After more testing I have found this works well and saved me $15 a year.

Server Closet picture

ServerCloset

Pardon the cable mess, but here is a picture of my server closet. I have two domain controlers (PCs on the left) and one Exchange server (HP desktop on the right laying flat). My FIOS router is on the top left on top of the black HP desktop/server. Right next to that is my Road Runner cable modem (Motorola SBG900). On the bottom shelf, I have a Dell Power Connect 16 port 10/100 switch. My vonage router is at the other end of the lower shelf and just above that is a phone (now the only phone connected to Vonage – until I cancel the service). I will be dropping road runner and Vonage this coming week, so the collection of devices will be reduced by 2 and a few cables will be removed.

FIOS Speed!

ScreenshotAfter having FIOS installed for 1 whole day now, I’m excited to post the speed test results. Which I must say have been very consistent and very fast! I’ve tried many speed tests, but this screenshot shows my actual network speed to the verizon CO. Talk about fast! This is great, and a good value for the money.

Faster speeds, better value

I’m excited to say that tomorrow evening I will be getting FIOS installed. I opted for the 20MB/5MB plan. So now I will have 20MBps download speeds and 5MBps upload speeds to support home networking services. This will be a major boost for my e-mail, picture uploads and web design work that Liz and I both do.

These changes come after several frustrating issues with Road Runner. I’ll explain more about that in another post.

Oh and I also have to get a part of my roof fixed tomorrow as we discovered some major leaks during the last few thunderstorms we had.

Can't use FIOS :-(

I recently came to the sad realization that I am not going to be able to use FIOS for my home ineternet connection afterall. This is very sad, as I was looking forward to using this new service from Verizon. I was very impressed with their wireless router and the upload speeds, but sadly I will be forced to cancel my account. The issue is that they expire your IP address every 104 minutes, making it a true DHCP (Dynamic IP) network. Where with Road Runner they have a DHCP network, but your IP pretty much never changes. I’ve had RR for almost 2 years, and its only changed once because I got a new cable modem, so it got a new IP address. I checked into using Dynamic DNS services, which the Verizon router supports, but I have more than one domain, so updating my IP with more than one domain would be a problem. Most dynamic DNS services assume you only have one domain to work with at home. I have 3 main domains that I use, and some supporting domains. So I am going to have to stick with Road Runner for now. I am sure there are workarounds I could do, like run the dynamic DNS service clients on my various computers at home and set each one for a different domain, but that is a huge liability in that if one of them doesn’t work right, then mail services for that domain will stop working until I realize what happened and fix it manually. Right now I don’t host any websites on my home network just e-mail, but e-mail is important and I don’t wait any problems with mail flow, I have enough trouble with that at work, I don’t need it at home too.

ISP change

The time has come for me to try Verizon FIOS. The pre-installers were at my house today to bury the fiber optic cable for FIOS internet. Their base package is only slightly slower than what I get with Road Runner, but Road Runner is $10 a month more expensive and has slower upload speeds. So they will be installing the system at my house tomorrow between 8am and 11am. I get a free wireless router and it does support port forwarding and all the advanced features I need to keep my home network up and running. If I do decide to keep FIOS and ditch Road Runner, I will have some DNS zone changes to make but it should be a fairly easy switch. Eventually I’ll upgrade to their middle package wtih 15MB down and 2MB up. I’ll start off with 5MB down and 2MB up. Which is enough to get me started, but eventually I’ll need more bandwidth!