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Wireless network issue (help!?)


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#1 Vertigo1

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 10:40 PM

ALright, so my father is lazy.

He's the only guy I know who would set up a wireless home network for two desktop PC's and one laptop that's always sitting on the same desk.
Irritatingly enough, is the fact that we didn't even bother to set up the router's connection in the ground level, instead of in the basement.

THis is our second router. My younger brother and sister complained that the older, perfectly usable router didn't have a wi-fi functionality for their Nintendo DS's, so they got my father to buy a whole new router. Now, this router has been giving me all kinds of hell since we set it up. I've gotten almost everything resolved except for one issue. it's difficult to describe.

See, I always have a nice, strong signal strength. Connectivity is not a problem. Any laptop computer in the home gets a fine connection, though on my own desktop and my brother's desktops, my internet connection needs to be repaired at semi-regular intervals. It's almost as though the router sort of "forgot" I was connected to it. Page-loads will hang, videos will stop buffering, IM clients won't always realize they're disconnected.

Is this a problem with my wireless card, maybe? SOmething wrong with my networking settings, or even the router itself?

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#2 InterestinglyAverage

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 01:35 PM

As a first step, I would check that the router's firmware is up to date. I remember on a not-so-old wireless router I would get occassional drops which were fixed by updating the firmware.
The only way to learn anything is to question everything.

#3 Vertigo1

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 03:43 PM

Just to confirm first, two substantially more up-to-date laptop computers are able to connect without any interruptions, and I presume both are using internal wireless network adaptors.

I'm using a $9.99 wireless PCI card that wasn't causing any trouble with an older router, and now, the trouble is VERY intermittent, but always there.

I'll look into a firmware update, but knowing this, is there anything else I should consider?

#4 InterestinglyAverage

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 05:46 PM

You may want to check the drivers for the PCI card, make sure they are up to date.

Also, most of the cards I have seen have a small antenna which is attached to the back of the card itself. In many installations, this antenna can experience interference since it is often placed between the wall and the computer, which produces some interference which could then be amplified by the nearby wall. Compare that to a laptop, which often has a large antenna which is mounted around the monitor or along the edge of the keyboard, as far away from the interference of the power supply and other components as possible. If you are not getting a strong signal on the desktop (or the desktop signal is significantly weaker than that on a laptop placed nearby) you might want to check the placement of the antenna, and see if there might be other alternatives.

How does the signal strength compare with that of a nearby laptop? Also, is the wireless signal encrypted? And, are there any differences in the security software (especially the firewall) between the desktop and the laptops?
The only way to learn anything is to question everything.

#5 Vertigo1

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:58 PM

No, actually, all four computers were using the same version of Norton 360 as their primary firewall and protection suite, and the signal is not encrypted.

I'm getting a very strong signal strength, which has yet to drop below 54%, but generally hovers around or above 75%. Signal strength is, for all accounts and purposes, the same compared to a laptop computer pplaced in various positions around and on top of the computer.

The older router's signal strength was typically somewhere around 25-35%, and I never experienced these sorts of problems. Normally, I'd have just wired the old thing back in, but it got pretty badly doused when the sump pump blew up, and there was no saving it.


To be more specific as to what I mean by "semi-regular intervals", for about 16 or 20 hours at a time, I'll have to repair the connection every 20-30 minutes, while other days, I'll literally have to repair every 3 to 4 minutes.

Another strange detail, that I wanted to comment on... It would appear that certain ports are being disconnected or dropped before others. HTTP always goes first, about 30 to 45 seconds after which, most IM clients and Telnet programs continue to function as intended. After that, even those stop responding, though half of the time, it takes them a minute or so to realize they've been cut-off.

Again, I'm not certain if this helps any, I just figured I'd be as specific as possible in describing the problem.

I've tried keeping track of the frequency of the cutoffs, to try to determine if perhaps it's something related to the ISP, though there really is no pattern, and it seems to have no relationship to peak-use hours.

#6 InterestinglyAverage

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:39 PM

Personally, I would be more inclined to believe this was an ISP issue if the problem was occuring with all of the computers. However, an ISP issue would not stop you from accessing the web interface of the router.

You might want to try putting your firewall (included with Norton most likely) into verbose mode, so that it shows any and all traffic that it is blocking. If there are certain packets being blocked at the same time, it could indicate a firewall setting is causing an issue. If you see suspicious traffic, such as from an IP address or MAC address you don't recognize, that might indicate something else is trying to use your IP address.

Finally, you might also want to check the routing table of the router after a soft reset, but while everything is working normally. Then, when you get dropped, look at the routing table again from one of the working computers. You are looking for additional MAC addresses that don't belong.

Edit: Just another thought... are there any other devices operating in the 2.4Ghz range (this includes microwave ovens, cordless phones, and several other types of household wireless devices) either near the computer, or between the router and the computer which might be interfering with the connection during certain times?

Edited by InterestinglyAverage, 30 January 2009 - 03:41 PM.

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#7 Vertigo1

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 09:39 PM

I hadn't thought about the cordless phones... Though a cursory inspection reveals that ours is a 1.8gHz phone, and our microwave never gets used once every three minutes, especially not at 11:00 at night.

I'd be much more inclined to think someone was buggering off our router, except that... Well, I live in a town with a population of 241 people, and almost all of them are retired, old, and irritatingly well-to-do, most of whom have better household internet connections than I do.

I'll have to poke around Norton to see if I can set the firewall to verbose mode. That would seem to be my best option right now. Failing that, I'll check into intruding MAC addresses, because as unlikely as that is, it's still possible.

EDIT:

An inspection of N360's "advanced features" section revealed a manual (response-request) option for the firewall, but not a verbose mode. Would it then be adviseable for me to switch to Windows default firewall temporarily? I'm asking, because if I'm on the right page here, it's possible that WIndows firewall's settings are different by default, and that it amy also have a verbose mode if my problems persist.


(or is the "alerts" system equivalent to a verbose mode?)

Edited by Vertigo1, 30 January 2009 - 09:48 PM.


#8 InterestinglyAverage

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 07:39 PM

Alerts is probably what you want. Basically, anything the firewall detects, you want to be notified of. It is possible that the firewall is being overzealous and blocking some necessary traffic - such as DHCP requests. Having it pop up notifications will be annoying, but you might be able to spot the cause of the problem.

You can also try turning that firewall off and going back to the Windows firewall temporarily to see if that eliminates the problem. If it does, that would confirm that it is some sort of firewall issue. Just bear in mind that the Windows firewall is less secure and less comprehensive than the firewall you got in Norton.
The only way to learn anything is to question everything.

#9 Vertigo1

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 09:35 PM

I figured Windows would be less secure, but I'll check it out.

EDIT:

Disconnects occurred three times without any notification by Norton regarding any blocked accesses or request notifications.
The firewall did not give any alerts regarding anything, at all, while it was set to verbose.
I'm going to attempt to use WIndows firewall to rule out Norton itself as the cause of the problem. Will reply with results...

EDIT:
Results of switching to Windows firewall were null, indicating that EITHER:
1. Problem was nota result of Norton's firewall, or
2. Same or similar conditions existed using Windows firewall.

Established control-set by disabling all defensive firewalls for a period of approximately five minutes, in which time the router disconnected me approximately three times, confirming hypothesis #1.

EDIT:
Confiormed, router is not handling any connections except my own, effectively ruling out unwelcome access as a perpetrator.
Also, attempted to use third-party network detection software (Airlink 101 WLAN monitor) instead of Microsoft's included software, no results.

Will attempt to update firmware tomorrow, and if this doesn't work, I have a very large Marine Corps fighting knife. That probably won't fix the router, but it'll make me feel better.

Edited by Vertigo1, 02 February 2009 - 12:38 AM.





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