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Motorola's NVG510 DSL modem... not very good

By , Network World
March 14, 2012 04:07 PM ET

Network World - A few weeks ago here in the above ground portions of the Gibbs Universal Industries Secret Underground Bunker we got hooked on the British series "Downton Abbey".

The reason I mention this new found delight is that we wanted to watch it on Netflix and the best way to do that was on the Second Generation Apple TV connected to the TV upstairs. I discussed the Apple TV briefly here in Gearhead last September and I realize that the problems I discussed then must have been related to the kind of problems I'm about to discuss.

The reason for choosing that particular TV was that the house isn't hard wired for data and as the Apple TV handles WiFi very well and as my AT&T DSL service was, at the time, stable, all was fine and we happily watched the episodes. For a while.

I've written about my problems with AT&T's DSL service a few times recently (my editor recently threatened me with violence if he has to edit another column on DSL ... luckily we're on different coasts) and it is, in truth, a complete and utter mess. What's more, it appears I'm not alone. I've had more reader responses from those columns than almost anything else I've written, and it seems like when your AT&T Internet service has problems, it's almost always an ordeal.


In my case, my AT&T U-Verse connection is mediated by a Motorola NVG510 DSL modem. This device, customized for AT&T, has an ADSL2/2+ WAN port, a four-port 10/100 Ethernet switch, a 400mW 802.11b/g/n access point, and a single RJ-14 port for VoIP service (if such a thing is available in your area).

Note that Motorola offers no support whatsoever for this device and you cannot get the manual for this product from either Motorola or AT&T. You have to download it from Ron Berman, a PhD student in the marketing department of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, who also explains on his Web site how to download the manual from the FCC's archive of product approvals (Ron also answers a number of support questions about the NVG510 that AT&T fails to address; big props to Ron!).

It came as a non-surprise to me that the product manual as submitted to the FCC by Motorola doesn't exactly describe the product as provided by AT&T! Significantly, command line support, which is detailed in the manual, is completely absent in the delivered product.

So, what of the hardware? Physically, the NVG510 has the usual irrelevant and clumsy "Jetsons" form factor that so many devices in this class have, which means it can't be stacked and can be easily toppled over by the merest tug on any cable connected to it.

Next, the user interface: Quite extraordinarily, much of the NVG510's user interface isn't, and can't be, password protected though other sections of the user interface are protected by what Motorola calls an "access code". The first thing you see when you load the root page in your browser is way more detail than you'd expect, such as the wireless SSID and the network key in plain text!

Wait! It gets better: If you go to the Device page you can see the IP addresses of all network-connected gear, while the broadband page gives you lots of detail about your WAN interface and the Home Network Page shows you everything any hacker could ever want to know about your LAN configuration.

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