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Raleigh, NC
·Time Warner Cable
reply to cramer

Re: How to lease SB6141?

said by cramer:

The logical extension of this... they tested a specific firmware version. So, if you show up with any other version, they don't let your modem on the network. They're still NOT going to upgrade customer owned modems. They've been down this bumpy road and have no desire to try it again. It sucks, but I agree with their reasons.

Ideally, they should have a portal to allow *you* to request an update. But such a system would have a boatload of security implications.

This is kind of off topic, but OBIHAI VoIP ATAs (commonly discussed in the VoIP Tech Chat forum here) have a nice optional web management portal that lets you centralize administration of all of your OBi devices. When a firmware update is available, they do not automatically push the update - instead, an alert icon pops up next to any devices with an update. If you want to install it, just click the icon and within about 1 minute, your ATA will reboot with the latest firmware. Obviously they have it a lot easier since this is a single vendor solution, but it is a nice implementation.

For residential customers, the My Services portal already has a feature that will show whether or not your equipment is online or not. If it is easy enough to query the firmware version of the modem (possibly over SNMP?), it shouldn't be too hard to add an update function that would be reasonably secure, possibly with a customer interface similar to what I described above. They can force the customer to accept the terms and conditions before pushing the update. This (should) make both sides happy. Customers can get bug fixes when they want, and customers who are happy with their modems can skip the update if they are concerned about bugs. If they can securely offer remote management of DVR recordings and Digital Phone features, it seems like a secure way to update modems should also be possible. Obviously, the update function would have to be set up to only allow official firmware from the cable modem vendor. If TWC wants to do more testing before approving the update, I'm all for that as well. I'm not suggesting that they should allow customers to update firmware images... that would not be a good idea, and most of the time customers can't get them anyways.

There is definitely a lot of conflicting information on how they have handled or will handle updates for customer owned equipment in the future. And both sides have valid points. However, I think the policy of not updating will be far more likely to cause problems for both TWC and customers in the long run. Not many cable modem firmware release notes get released to the public, but some of them I have seen definitely show some important bug fixes.

Raleigh, NC

1 edit
Not to keep kicking the dead horse, but... Either way they go, there will be issues. No updates mean there will be buggy modems out there. Doing the updates means some of them are going to fail -- yes, with a sample size as large as an ISP, there. will. be. failures. (I've been there, signed the PO for the t-shirts.) If you screw up a modem, you'll have to replace it. This makes for a very pissed customer -- esp. if they owned the modem. Angry customers are very vocal customers.

DOCSIS 1.1 introduced a number of security processes for firmware updates. The process is specifically engineered to only come from the network, so no manufacturer even has a channel to get a new firmware to end users.

Given that, it follows that the firmware on any given modem will either be a "GA" release loaded from the factory, or an ISP specific firmware they loaded on it. The operator has to authenticate every modem on the network. So they (should, can, etc.) know the manufacturer, model, serial number, and firmware version of every device out there. Proper testing means having one of everything in your testlab. How the 6120 bug didn't happen in their lab leaves me bald. This wasn't some random Chinese modem; it was a very popular, and approved, modem they themselves used, and they were coming from the factory with the old/buggy firmware. It makes no sense that they wouldn't have *one* 6120 with that firmware on it in the lab. Or that they wouldn't've retrieved one from the field as soon as this started to put it in the lab to see *why* it's failing. (I'm also assuming motorola didn't have it striped down so far it wouldn't log why it was rebooting. "invalid field" doesn't help much if it doesn't say which field; that doesn't mean you cannot find it, just that the engineers will have to earn their massive paycheck to find it.)

I've been there and worked through many a panic. The test lab cannot simulate an entire universe. Bugs are going to be missed; this is a fact. The 6120 issue should've been seen in the lab, but it wasn't. (we'll come back to that when we're looking for someone to fire.) This is why it's suicide to do any rapid, large scale roll out. When an issue surfaces -- and it will -- you now face a network-wide problem instead of localized problem. Rolling back an entire network is, well, more of mess than the upgrade. "Staged Upgrades", say it with me class. Given the size of TWC (Comcast, etc.) network, they should never be finished with an upgrade -- they should never have the same version on every system... there should be several versions rolling across the network like ripples in pond. </rant>

[Edit: I've worked for and with several ISPs over the decades, but TWC isn't one of them. I have no idea what they test, or how -- and it's never come up in conversation with the people I know there. There are pictures of someone's test lab over in the bbphotos forum.]

Stargate Universe fan
What really annoyed me is that, according to the status Web page from the modem, it was coming online enough that, if they so chose, I think they could specify firmware to download (TFTP of parameters, IIRC), but it was outside their SOPs. So I was forced to negotiate with the vendor (Best Buy in this case) to swap it.

They also ran into an issue where the modem would "upgrade" itself every night, and therefore reboot...for weeks. I basically didn't care because very close to 100% of the time it happened while I was asleep, so I didn't notice it at all until I looked at the log page for a reason why my DSLR monitor showed unreachability .
English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when a writer chooses not to follow those rules.

Jeopardy! replies and randomcaps REALLY suck!