Help with checking for internet network errors

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rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
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@Steve , All,

I have been experiencing internet connection errors coming from Comcast. Sometimes, my VPN will drop its connection. Sometimes the picture on the TV will freeze or display compression artifacts on the screen. Sometimes phone calls drop. This is intermittent, and variable. Before you ask, my own internal equipment is working fine. When Comcast isn't "kicking ions" (to quote a Timothy Zahn Star Wars novel), I get very solid performance.

So, I was wondering what free and reputable Windows 7 utilities are available to monitor internet connection quality over time at this time. I seem to remember @Steve mentioning such things over time, but cannot remember specifics. I am generally running Torguard VPN, and I know that reduces speed for the PC. I can live with that. But, the fact that the TV and phone are glitching says that it's a Comcast problem, as the only thing they have in common with the internet is the cable. I did remember smokeping, but I think that's Linux only. By the way, if you run a VPN, I think TCP connections are more reliable, and slower, than UDP connections with a glitchy line.

This is not critical, but if I'm going to harass Comcast about data quality, I wanted some evidence. At the moment, my internet and TV are working pretty well, so it maybe it's weather related. Who knows? I also want them working on their cable plant outside the house, not inside here.

All help is appreciated.

Ron
 
Does your router have any logs? That may show the connection dropping intermittently, and provide some evidence.
Is your TV connection also using the internet, e.g. Netflix/Amazon etc or are you watching channels broadcast by your cable provider? If the latter, and that drops when your internet goes, that suggests a problem with the cable itself. If the TV is unaffected, the problem may be with your ISP's connection to the rest of the world.
 
Hi @AlanD , thanks for the note. My home router really doesn't have any logging ability to my knowledge. The internet, TV, and phone are all fed from the cable, but all have different modems / cable boxes. All three generally fail at once, so I'm highly convinced that the problems are outside the house. As I said, it's all very intermittent. I don't want to get in the situation of tech comes out, finds nothing, charges me a fee, etc. Everything seems to be working fine at the moment.

Ron
 
Maybe NetWorx? https://www.softperfect.com/products/networx/
IIRC 5.5.5.0 is the last free version. I can post a link to my copy (4.5 MB) if anyone wants it and can't find it.
It was mentioned on SN, that's where I found out about it.

I have it monitoring my modem/router. Since my "high-speed" internet is 1.5Mb/sec, someone doing something as simple as looking through Facebook on their phone can use all the bandwidth :mad: . I can see on the graph if the bandwidth is maxed or if there's any data movement through the modem at all.

I see that it can send notifications but I've never used that function. Note that it requires SNMP on the router you want to monitor. It has a UpnP option if your router doesn't support SNMP but I've never used that either, I have it turned off everywhere I can.
 
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@PHolder You have to escalate the problem up to 2nd or 3rd level support. The low level people only read a script and flowcharts. You have to get past all their directing you to reboot, reset, reinstall, recheck your own hardware (assuming you don't need to). You have to get an engineer who can discuss the nitty gritty details and run in depth diagnostics. You have to get a case number. You have to re explain every time you call. It's incredibly frustrating. That's why I haven't tackled it yet on this problem. I'll take a look at those links. Thanks. :cool:

Ron
 
I've been Googling and trying to remember something @Steve mentioned years ago on this issue, without success.

In my OP I mentioned SmokePing. So, I thought I'd provide the link to them.


But, that wasn't what I was trying to remember.

Then, I found this article:


And, in THAT article, I saw the name I was trying to remember, PingPlotter!


Then, I did a little more Googling and found where @Steve mentioned it three years ago.


So, there's one more piece to the puzzle. Love y'all's suggestions.

Ron
 
@rfrazier Thanks for bringing up PingPlotter. I used to use DSLreport.com SmokePing feature, but they seem increasingly unreliable. (Last time I checked i couldn't by credits and I see complaints about the site not being updated.)

I'll just mention that I've experienced some trouble with Comcast similar to what you experience. Don't use them for phone or TV, but definitely have periods with high latency... some sites unreachable. Using results of smokePing, my problem was escalated, never found a positive source, but they did some hocus pocus on their end and problem got better. Occasionally it seems to show up still, but usually gone by the time I start to troubleshoot. My suspicion is that it's congestion related on their side. Very hard to nail down. Sadly, I cannot locate a link to my issue on dslreports.

One other thought is the Puma chip based modem issue: these devices are said to be plagued by dropouts which could manifest as what you experience or my issue (though my modem isn't on the list).
 
Thanks for bringing up PingPlotter

@saguaro I'm glad that was helpful. At the moment, my internet is working pretty good so I can't do much troubleshooting. That's probably a good problem to have. I noticed some packet loss a few hops away from me but probably not enough to complain about. I also suspect that the servers may be slower responding to pings and traceroutes than they are to actual data. Good luck with your issues.

Ron
 
A few thoughts:

Learn how to login to your modem (assuming you have a router and a modem) and check its event log for errors.

Check that the coax connections are tight, they can loosen up over time. Lesson learned the hard way.

Get a better router. I like Peplink and their routers (starting at $200) have three features that would help you. WAN quality monitoring is built into the firmware, its even on by default. They also have customizable health checks. That is, they can do pings or DNS lookups or website contacts on a schedule of your choice and report errors. They can also display a whole host of Ethernet stats, so you can see if that's where the problem lies.

Here is a screen shot of configuring Health Checking
 

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Comcast has been tightening their DNS allowances lately, forcing DOH to go over Comcast's (their own) servers. I wish I had some advice to go along with that bit of AFAIK news.
 
forcing DOH
One presumes the DOH destination port is still the DNS port (53), or the alternate port (853), and they're blocking any connection to a DoH port on any destination (or destinations known to be DNS servers.)

The DoH clients do not directly query any authoritative name servers. Instead, the client relies on the DoH server using traditional (port 53 or 853) queries to finally reach authoritative servers.
 
I thought the browser, etc. would establish an HTTPS tunnel to the DOH server. How can they block that without blocking conventional services? Anyway, as I said earlier, that's why I'm always on a VPN.

Ron
 
I think it went along with at least a couple of things:
  1. Modem/Router firmware updates (the device is officially referred to as the Gateway)
  2. The movement of typically (and formerly) on-router configuration for things such as LAN and WAN to online sources at comcast.com, comcast.net, connect.xfinity.com, etc.
    1. This move to online configuration of LAN functionality was concomitant with things such as forcing automatic choice of Wi-Fi frequencies (to minimize wireless bandwidth congestion, presumably—that's what I would use it for. Actually, I'd use the frequencies that are least-congested to increase my own connection strength, but that's saying more-or-less the same thing.)
 
would establish an HTTPS tunnel to the DOH server. How can they block that without blocking conventional services?
Well think of how the post office could block parcel delivery to your home address. (Assuming, for sake of theory, we have ONLY the one delivery service.) They would put your address on a "block list" and assuming every time that address came up, the block list was checked, your deliveries would be blocked.

The internet has addresses too. The IP address AND the port form a destination address. Well known services are ALWAYS on well known ports. If you want to block those services, you block any attempt to reach those ports. The workaround becomes using a non-well known port, which is a game of cat and mouse. (Presumably you need to advertise your non-standard port if anyone is to find it, and the blockers can read those advertisements too.)
 
on-router configuration for things such as LAN and WAN to online sources at comcast.com, comcast.net, connect.xfinity.com
You should NOT be using an ISP supplied router, period. Unfortunately they may have rules that prevent this, and I realize there is often no other choice. The fact remains, however, the router is your only barrier between your LAN being their LAN.
 
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Modem/Router firmware updates (the device is officially referred to as the Gateway)

I use my own Motorola modem, although I still think they can update the firmware. I don't want no stkinkin' forced wifi for the whole neighborhood, both from privacy and security point of view and from an EMF hazard point of view.

Well known services are ALWAYS on well known ports.

Still, I don't see how they could get away with blocking the DOH port to Cloudflare, for example. Maybe they can. They've got no business snooping on, and selling, every address I go to.

You should NOT be using an ISP supplied router, period.

Exactly. As I said, I have my own Motorola cable modem and my own routers behind it. There is no Comcast equipment on site for my internet. There is for telephone and tv. Even if I had their gateway, I'd still be using my own routers. People worry about double NATTING. It never causes me any problems, but I don't do online gaming and such. However, most average people don't have the technical abilities to get this working, and if Comcast sends a tech or a self install kit, they'll never advocate this arrangement.

Ron