Gold Stars For Motorola, McDonalds; Trader Joes – Vonage Sits In The Corner

Remember this mystery I shared in last week’s blog?

Let me refresh your memory:

Here’s another mystery.  Currently I connect Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer

  1. If I try to eliminate the Vonage V-Portal for tests, I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Computer, without rebooting the modem
  2. If I perform action #1, then I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer, without rebooting the Modem, followed by rebooting the Vonage V-portal.

I did contact Motorola technical support and they shared this with me:

“The SB5101 uses a Lease table to assign IP addresses to devices. When the modem is connected to the internet service provider, it only has one IP address to assign: the IP address that the ISP gives you. Once a device connects to the modem and obtains that IP address, the modem associates the two together in its lease table. The modem will keep those two associated for an unknown amount of time even after the device is shut down or disconnected from the modem. When you power cycle the modem, this clears that Lease table and allows any device to obtain that IP address.”

“This method of assigning IP addresses has been addressed in newer versions of the modem’s firmware so that it will dynamically update the lease table for any device without the need of a power cycle. Unfortunately, the ISP controls the firmware, so you cannot upgrade that firmware yourself. The ISP automatically updates the firmware on all modems installed on their network to be sure they match what their systems support. This also includes downgrading firmware to versions that their systems support.”

“The only thing you could do at this point is to either contact your ISP to see if they will update your firmware for you. If they will not, then we’ll have to stick to power cycling the modem each time you switch the connection.”

“Alternatively, you could also purchase a router to connect to the SB5101. That way, the router would handle all the IP Addressing and the modem would only have to recognize the connection to a single device: the router.”

Vonage Lessons learned:

Time to beat up Vonage…to be fair, I’m not anti-Vonage (companies like Lingo probably wouldn’t fair much better) .  This week, I tested talking to the University of South Africa via Vonage – very nice – when 0% packet loss.  I’ll wait a year and see…do they fix their problems?

At least I give Motorola credit.  They knew what the problem was – shared the current status – then confirmed a firmware fix would arrive, in the near future.

Remember my discovery in last week’s blog with Vonage?

OK Vonage – give me an explanation (Or for that matter, any competitors like Lingo can take a stab):

  1. How come when I run tests with and, they both show a significant packet loss – at the same time I experience voice degradation via Vonage?
  2. How come every time I recycle your device for 30 seconds – then run tests on with and, they both show zero packet loss – at the same time I experience excellent voice quality via Vonage?

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” –  Douglas Adams

Let me share a cool layman’s article on packet loss at, before I discuss my technology discoveries this week.  Another article by the same author at…,  shares an interesting thought: “In my experience, and that of others I’ve seen on the forums, Vonage devices seem to work better when placed behind a more effective router.”  Would this minimize my packet loss concern?  Maybe I’ll test this with inexpensive routers, like those found at… or…?

  1. Vonage tech support says things like, “it could be anything.  It might be the router, the Comcast connection… blah, blah, blah.”  A former Motorola electrical engineer – who has several patent applications over the years…designed and build cell phones…says it’s the Vonage router.   I also contacted a “computer hardware genius”, studying computer engineering technology at DeVry University…says it’s the Vonage router.   Common sense says that if I power down their device…then power back up…where packet loss is non-existent…it’s the Vonage router.   What do you think?
  2. I had a strange problem this week, where I worked with Vonage level 3 support (normally I get level 2).  The level 3 support person spent 4 hours with me, trying to diagnose the problem.  We came away with a mutual respect for each other.
  3. The problem in item 2 was a Comcast issue.  My Motorola Comcast modem is leased by Comcast.  Guess what they did?  They unregistered my modem on their side.  Why?  They mixed my account up with some other account.   Excuse me?  You win the Curly Stooge tech support award.
  4. I mentioned that Google Voice works well with Gizmo5 (see  Question: If I took a laptop to Mexico and initiated a call to a US number – would that constitute a free call?
  5. I now have Windows 7 running and I’m impressed.  Office Depot will install Windows 7 free in store – regardless of where you brought it…

Or ask this question of Vonage – What is your definition of “unlimited service?”:

I recall seeing some Vonage TV commercials where they advertised unlimited world service.   Yet if you carefully review their terms of service, they state that 5,000 minutes/month  is what they consider normal, for usage with normal residential plans.  Where did they get this number?  Especially when Skype considers 10,000 minutes/month normal for their unlimited plan?

Or things like they can cancel a 30 day money back guarantee any time – without notice?

Suppose you brought sometime from the Internet.  They offered a 30 day money back guarantee (like Magic Jack does).  You  send the product back after 15 days.  They refuse to refund the money, because they claim they can cancel a 30 day return policy any time.

How would you feel?  Tell me!

This is similar to some Magic Jack complaints I found via Google.  Yet Magic Jack has no excuse –  Vonage does – it’s stated in their “terms of service”.

Or (if I read this correctly), if you don’t cancel within a precise time frame – after one year of service – they can automatically renew you for another year?

What?  Come again?  I feel like I’m an actor in the TV series Star Gate – in order to return to earth, I need to enter the Star Gate within a certain time frame.  Else, I’m stuck on a remote alien outpost for another year.

There’s So Many “Loopholes” in Vonage’s “Terms of Service”, an elephant can squeeze through – Lingo probably wouldn’t fair any better – didn’t  they change their contract length from 1 to 2 years a few months ago?

One good thing I did was to buy another surge protector.  Why?  Plug the Vonage device into surge protector 2.  Plug surge protector 2, the Motorola Cable modem, and other electrical components into surge protector 1.  If I need to reboot the Vonage device, I just use the surge protector’s off/on switch.  I can even boot the modem – followed by the Vonage V-portal – all by using surge protectors’ off/on switches.

McDonald’s Now

I’m not sure if you visited the McDonalds’ headquarters in Oak Brook.  I have several times over the years.   There used to be this former Roman Catholic priest (now deceased), who became a spiritual healer.  Someone in his audience worked at McDonalds, so they were able to hold spiritual healing seminars there.

Someone else I knew had a connection with McDonalds.  There were different presenters of homeopathic medical topics, over the years.  It’s interesting that many medical doctors were audience members.  There’s actually no disconnect between homeopathic medicine and spiritual healing.  I find them to be quite complimentary.  You can ever throw in traditional medicine into the mix and I would see them as potentially fitting together.

Speaking of McDonalds – their coffee is very good!  Let’s not forget the excellent price also!  I know some would rather pay he premium prize for Starbucks.  Or buy these very expensive beans, rather than the excellent Trader  Joe  (a grocery store chain) “Joe” variety.  I’ll tell you what.  I rather invest the money I save, not going to Starbucks.  Let me stick with McDonalds and Trader Joes store blends.




Matrix Movie VOIP, Senate GOP Mayhem and Sweat Lodge Deaths

Let’s start with a cool – yet funny –  advertising talk at productreporter….

An Independent Wonders About The GOP

For the record, I’m an independent.  This means I vote for the right person in a particular job – regardless if Republican or Democrat.  Yet lately, I have serious concerns about what the GOP is attempting, blocking passage of unemployment benefits.  A few days ago, WFMT radio news announced that Illinois hit 10.5% unemployment.  Great non-profit website talking about the plight of US unemployed at unemployedworkers….   Perhaps they plan on passing it just before Christmas.  This way, they allow everyone a NICE Christmas present.

Vonage Again

Let me leave an update to my blog article last week. I did reach another good technician at Vonage (it’s the luck of the draw – same as Comcast). We conducted some tests and I replaced the cable, between the modem and V-portal. Pack loss is now minimal, with the testing tools at and . The voice quality is good.  Let’s review what Vonage finally recommended:

  1. A firmware update push to their Vonage portal.
  2. I replaced the cables between the V-portal and Motorola Cable Modem, along with the cables from the V-portal to the computer.  The replacement cables were Belkin from Wal-Mart.

I did ask an ex-Motorola electrical engineer on the cables, on what could cause a packet loss.  He mentioned one of two things:

  1. A connection problem with the cable (i.e. – corrosion).
  2. A cable has an improper bend (i.e. – broken wire).

I still  have strong ethical business objections to Vonage locking people into a year’s worth of service.  You do this by imposing a stiff cancellation fee, costing about half a year’s service with you.   This is probably more than twice what both ATT and Comcast charge for cancellation.  This is OK – if and only if this practice is public knowledge.

I have issues with Comcast mentioning to take up my concerns with Comcast management and now following through.

In a way – I’m lucky.  Comcast has their hubs in Elmhurst and Chicago, which is less than 30 miles from me.  I’m also a short hop from a Commonwealth Edison facility.  Remember a few years ago, with all the talk about using the electrical grid to deliver Internet connection?  What became of that?  I would love to have Commonwealth Edison become a competitor to AT&T Uverse or Comcast Cable.

Yet That’s Not The Root Cause

Here’s the thing.  I decided to pray about the situation and  be shown the root cause of my Vonage VOIP packet issue.  Now I can’t say this is the result of prayer, in which God or angels are speaking to me.  It might also be my subconscious speaking.  But I hit upon the answer.

Imagine you were part of the Matrix, as shown in the movie’s namesake.  Imagine that the bad guys with sunglasses were computer geeks.  Imagine that you go to them, every time the Matrix is “not quite right”.  So one software geek wearing sunglasses says it’s a firmware issue.  He upgrades the latest firmware and reboots the Matrix.  The problem resurfaces after a couple days.  The second geek suggests to replace the cable and reboots the Matrix.  Everything is fine.  All your tests show 0% packet loss – for a couple of days.  Then another geek with sunglasses says they need to program the Vonage device.  Then they reboot the Matrix.  The problem is solved, for a couple of days.

See the pattern here folks?

  1. Paint the Matrix device blue and reboot the Matrix.
  2. Put a picture of George Washington on top the Matrix device and reboot the Matrix.

In case you don’t see the pattern, I didn’t call the geek squad with sunglasses, when the problem resurfaced.  Instead I conducted 2 tests.

  1. I first rebooted the modem then the Vonage device.  Everything was running fine and tests showed 0% packet loss.
  2. Next time packet loss resurfaced, I just rebooted the Vonage device. Everything was running fine and tests showed 0% packet loss.  I have now conducted this same test a number of times.

I talked to a ex-Motorola electrical engineer and asked what he thought.  Our suspicions fell upon the Vonage device itself.  Is it cache getting filled up?  Is it a timer issue?  My friend through out some possibilities.  Couple this with the fact that Comcast shows 0% packet loss, remotely pinging to my Motorola Modem.

So the solution is NOT in making a fix within the Matrix, but rebooting the Matrix itself.  I’ll be very upset if this is a known Vonage issue.  Can the V-portal cause packet loss?  Look at the Wiki article at en.wikipedia.or…: “Packet loss can be caused by a number of factors, including signal degradation over the network medium, over saturated network links, corrupted packets rejected in-transit, faulty networking hardware, faulty network drivers or normal routing routines.”

I did follow up with Vonage tech support and shared my findings.  I’ll be conducting more tests.

Cool Tech Trick:

Let me share a cool trick with and  If you use the Ping Plotter free version, it  combines both a trace route and ping, with a refresh every few minutes.  Just set the URL to the server used by the Ping Test website.  Cool, right?

Another Tech Mystery:

Here’s another mystery.  Currently I connect Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer

  1. If I try to eliminate the Vonage V-Portal for tests, I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Computer, without rebooting the modem
  2. If I perform action #1, then I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer, without rebooting the Modem, followed by rebooting the Vonage V-portal.

Here’s what my electrical engineering friend said:

“If the modem was locked to a defined IP address talking to the Vonage, I would have expected it to restart communication with it, after a reboot.  After all, the modem should know it’s address.  It sounds like the Vonage is dependent on the modem for communication initialization. The modem must not look for other addresses. Interesting that the modem stops talking to all other devices.  I’ll have to mull that one over for a bit.  It sounds like there is a conflict with it, that the modem doesn’t know how to handle. The handshake between the two devices is correctly reset by the recovery reboot sequence you did, starting from the modem then going to the Vonage.”

Note to Myself (for future testing):

Google Voice + Gizmo5  = Magic Jack clone travel kit? (see

Arizona Sweat Lodge

Did you hear about the folks conducting a lodge in Arizona, where 3 people died and many got sick?  I talked to a Native American friend who runs lodges about this and he mentioned the Arizona leaders covered the entire lodge in plastic.  Another who knows even a little about lodges – or for that matter, basic science – knows that you would suffocate if you can’t get air.  My friend just covers his lodge with plastic around the base.  What are their leaders thinking?  It indicates two things:

  1. Their leaders don’t know anything about Native American lodge building practices.
  2. Their leaders don’t know anything about basic science (i.e. – physics, chemistry, and biology).

A Twitter Trick

Someone tried to play a trick on me.  I follow people either based upon select targeted keywords, or someone who is following me.  I happened to follow someone who is in the same niche I’m in.  He mentioned we should critic each others work.  Here’s the issue.  He sent me a direct message.  However, he wasn’t following me back.   I couldn’t send him a direct message. If I reply to his message with @XXX, he gets free publicity.  I was not born yesterday.

Randy Kemp