Life outside the firewall

For as long as I’ve had access to the Internet, it’s been courtesy of my employer. About ten years ago, I got a leased line from work to my home (56KB…what terrific speed that was then!), but it was inside the firewall, so my home computer appeared to be on the building network. Over the years, my connection has changed, going to ISDN, then 128KB SDSL, and finally 384KB SDSL, but it’s always been inside the firewall, and I’ve never had to explicitly login to the network — my home network has just been part of the corporate network.

But these days, having a straight connection inside the firewall is not a good thing — Jeffrey really doesn’t need access to the corporate network…and neither does the maid service! So I asked my neighbors for recommendations, and decided to go with
LinkLine Communications, which resells Verizon DSL. From everything I’ve read, dealing directly with Verizon is a recipe for headaches — but, given the state of the alternative DSL providers, I didn’t want my connectivity to be dependent on Covad or Rhythms, so a Verizon reseller seemed to be the right choice for me.

I decided to have the DSL superimposed on my second phone line, — I figured that would be easier than trying to deal with the main line, with its many phones. The second line comes into a dedicated jack in the office; I use a two-line phone, with a wire plugged into each jack.

The DSL service was active when we came home from services yesterday; it seemed to work fine, but there was interference whenever I tried to use the phone on the second line. I’d installed the filter, just as the instructions said, but it didn’t seem to help — the phone knocked off the DSL.

So today, I decided to do some serious troubleshooting. First, I made sure the filter was set up correctly; it was. Then I checked all the other connections; they were fine. So I decided to try changing the phone; I disconnected the second line from the two-line phone, and, much to my amazement, never lost dialtone on that line. I made sure that there were no wires plugged into the jack at all — not the DSL modem, not the phone, nothing…and I still had dialtone.

Apparently Verizon had not only wired the second line to the dedicated jack, but they’d also wired it to the outer pair on the jack for my regular line, and so I had two connections from Line 2 of my phone to the second phone line — only one of which was filtered. After figuring this out, the solution was easy — I happened to have a cable which only carried the inner pair of wires, so I used that to my normal jack so it’d only bring in Line 1; Line 2 was connected, via a filter, to the secondary jack. Voila! No interference.

So now I have higher-speed service, outside the firewall. Needless to say, I have a hardware firewall of my own, as well as software firewalls on all the computers. When I need to talk to work, I can, using a VPN tunnel; it’s almost as easy as it was when I was always connected directly to the company network.

Even better, this service is significantly faster than the service I used to have — especially when going to sites outside the company, since I don’t have to go through the corporate gateways. And I don’t have to wonder who might be checking logs, either.