This Does Not Compute

Technology, gaming, music and things that just don't compute

Fix for Blindingly Bright Motorola Cable Modem Lights

cable-modemNot too long ago I got an upgrade to my cable Internet speed — 50Mbps down, 10Mbps up — which finally pushed me to buy a new cable modem. I had been using the same Linksys unit for about 8 years, and it was a reliable, well-designed unit. Sadly, there was only one Cisco/Linksys model listed on my ISP’s compatibility sheet, and it’s not available in stores. I’m not the biggest fan of Motorola products, but there were lots of rave reviews for the SB6141, so I hesitantly picked one up. It performs well, but I soon discovered a major gripe that the reviewers looked over — the LEDs on the front are stupidly, ridiculously, blindingly bright. I set out to remedy that.

Taking the 6141 (and its sibling, the 6121) apart was an exercise in itself. The whole thing just snaps together, with one screw in the back to secure the rear panel. But all the spudgering in the world wouldn’t separate the two halves of its casing; I had to do a bunch of searching but finally came up with the way in.

tab-holesAfter removing the Torx screw on the back, look through the ventilation holes on the top of the unit. The red arrows point to the location of two tabs that need to be pushed in to disengage them.

pushing-tabI had to break out a flathead screwdriver in order to push the tabs in. They really don’t want to let go, and make a very disturbing crack when they do. You have to use more force than you’d think is necessary. Motorola clearly didn’t want anyone to go in and fix their screw-up.

After unsnapping the top, flip the unit over and carefully peel off the label on the bottom. (If you want to keep the label, stick it to a sheet of parchment paper or something to keep the adhesive intact.) You’ll clearly see two more tabs that need to be released.

There are yet more clips, this time holding the front panel to the two halves. There’s one on each side; just carefully release them and the front panel will come away easily.

I experimented with a lot of different things to try to dim the LEDs. My first attempt was with regular electrical tape, but black tape is too opaque — if you don’t want the LEDs to be seen at all, this would be the way to go. I also tried white electrical tape, which, strangely, was too transparent; even with 6 layers on an LED, it was still way too bright.

I ended up digging out the solution in the garage:

leds-coveredIn my quest for not-too-opaque tape, I found my roll of 3M Scotchlite reflective tape. It’s meant to be used on things like bike reflectors and traffic cones, but just so happened to have the right level of translucency to tame the LEDs. The packaging mentioned that it’s metallic tape, so I figured it would be best to cut it into little squares and cover just the face of the LEDs, for fear of shorting out any of the leads or traces on the board. The tape is thin enough to fit between the LEDs and the light pipes for the front panel.

Normally, reassembly would be, as they say, the reverse of disassembly. In this case, though, I found it easier to snap the two halves of the case back together, then simply clip the faceplate on.

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