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January 5, 2008

Heavy weather?
Posted by Patrick at 07:26 AM * 80 comments

As of this morning, from our home cable internet connection, we can’t seem to get to a bunch of major web sites, for instance Amazon, eMusic, and Slate. Pages fail to load and traceroutes expire in a hail of asterisks. Facebook loads, glacially, but without its style sheet, which makes it unreadable. Some Google services work, but Google Reader doesn’t seem to be updating with new content, and Gmail doesn’t load at all. (Although Gmail appears to be reachable by POP, and the Gmail client on my phone works fine.) Traceroutes to akamai fail as well.

I know from experience that phoning Time Warner Cable will lead to a conversation with someone in India whose script requires they insist I launch Internet Explorer. So instead I’ll ask the Making Light commentariat: anyone have any idea what’s going on? Are there in fact widespread blockages in the intertubes this morning? Could it have something to do with the storms in the Bay Area? Or are we just lucky? (Yes, I’ve done all the obvious stuff, like clearing caches, restarting computers, and power-cycling the routers.)

UPDATE: The problem has gone away, but since folks with technical expertise are in the thread already, I’ve taken the liberty of asking advice on another, similar matter.

Comments on Heavy weather?:
#1 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:03 AM:

No idea what the problem is, but I had a similar glacial-load-time problem with the NYT site this morning. Making Light, Google News and my local paper all loaded normally.

#2 ::: Malcolm ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:07 AM:

The net is doing OK here on the right coast this morning so far, though Amazon is running a bit slower than usual.

But my data point probably isn't that solid as I'm trying to dump Verizon for Speakeasy for bandwidth and service related issues.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:11 AM:

According to the Internet Traffic Report*, there isn't significant packet loss going on in North America. There were some spikes earlier on, but only the Wisconsin router is showing other than green.

* I'd been saving this link for an Oooh, shiny post someday, but seeing as it's relevant...

#4 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:31 AM:

I've gotten Amazon and Google (including gmail) to behave perfectly normally this morning, as another data point.

#5 ::: Kieran ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:31 AM:

The tubes seem clear here in the desert.

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Add to the list: we also can't get to any site hosted on blogspot.

The idea that all these sites are simply down is refuted by the fact that I can get to all of them with the browser on my mobile phone. (Which is Sprint, rather than Time Warner.)

I called Time Warner anyway, despite my reservations. Unsurprisingly, both people I spoke to knew absolutely nothing about any problems, but supposedly I have a trouble ticket in.

#7 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:55 AM:

Could there be issues with some of the cache server systems and the network connectivity to them?

[The company I worked for six years ago, InfoLibria, a company which officially went out of existence before 2002 was over as a result of the telecom/dotcom industry meltdown caused by the US Government's decision to let Microsoft off the hook and the various consequences of 9/11 (companies which had been going to purchase equipment which suddenly had to deal with their people and facilities devastated from the attack or trying to deal with the psychological and financial fallout if not direct victims of the attacks, shut down their equipment purchases for months except for disaster recovering and critical continuing operations expenses... telecom and related discretionary capital expenditures got cancelled or put on hold, and even purchases which companies had been fully intending to purchase as important, got shut down.... companies such as Cisco which had "deep pockets" went heavily in red ink from lack of sales from customers (who was going to buy new Cisco high end products when for ten cents on the origial purchase price dollar if that much, a company wanting to purchase Cisco "big iron" could buy "used" Cisco equipment of the same performance and model or close to it, less than a year old, from liquidators of the dead or dying or shrunken businesses whose corpses and emaciated husks were littering the business landscape by the hundreds....) but survived, for the rest of the telecom and computer networking industry, could no longer keep up with the carnage of bankruptcies)
made cache server systems/"content distribution network" systems, in which cache servers replicated the content on "the origin server, and when a request came from an "end user" for some piece of content somewhere on the 'net, the request would get redirected to a "nearer" or less inundated with content requests cache server. Alas, I don't remember most of what I used to know, regarding how to poke around, and checking for redirection and such. )

#8 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:03 AM:

Sounds like a time-warner headache to me, given that I'm on a local yokel ISP and my internetz are working as well as they ever do.

#9 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Correction to the original post: Google Reader is updating fine. Which simply suggests even more strongly that the problem is 100% with Time Warner.

#10 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:33 AM:

Sounds like a local problem with Time-Warner. I'm in Woodside (my terrace faces Brooklyn and I'm waving at you) with Time-Warner service and I'm not seeing problems with blogspot sites or the internet generally. I am using M$ Exlplorer. The slowness I do see is more likely my computer. (It wants a transplant of more memory.)

#11 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:38 AM:

Anything with server farms or routers in Santa Monica is going to be spotty; that does include some Time Warner routers and it includes My Space and Geo Cities and yes, Google farms as well. Electricity was off for several hours last night, and is still not predictable.

#12 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:52 AM:

The internet has been spotty for the last two or three days up here in far northern New Hampshire; for lack of anything else to blame it on, I've been blaming the weather.

#13 ::: folk on LJ ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:57 AM:

Debra @ 12: Not entirely unreasonable, that; I have a friend in WV whose interwebnet superbroadroad (ADSL) cuts out whenever it gets under 40 degrees F. I seem to recall that it's something to do with metal contracting in cold. (*physics handwavey motions*)

#14 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:22 AM:

Abi @3: shiny!

Debra @12, according to this wonderful new toy, it may not be the weather. See here.

#15 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:25 AM:

To clarify, was experiencing a 12% packet loss. But that was a few minutes ago.

#16 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:28 AM: is physically located far below the Notch.

#17 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Well, the figures for packet-loss in Europe explain some things from yesterday.

#18 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:09 AM:

Warning: *Anecdotal evidence, not reliable*

No trouble out here on the left coast, which suggests it's got nothing to do with storms.

#19 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Speaking of companies that monitor internet traffic, I know of another one, but I am completely blanking out on its name right now. I believe it's the same one I walk past the window of in Kendall Square (Cambridge, MA) next to the Marriott.

I just remembered the name: Akamai

#20 ::: Emily Shore ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:49 AM:

No trouble here in the Lakes Region.

#21 ::: Michael Merriam ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:59 AM:

Everything seems to be working fine here in Minnesota.

#22 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:03 PM:

OK, it's time to start a few conspiracy theories. Such as:

* It's the 'net's reaction to Huckabee's "triumph" in the Iowa caucuses

* It's the 'net's reaction to proclamations that McCain's candidacy was reinvigorated by Romney's "disappointing" total in the Iowa caucuses

* Time-Warner has declared for Blu-Ray, and all the 'net-enabled HD-DVD devices are protesting with an AI-initiated DOS attack controlled by various characters in Xbox-only games

I'm sure that others can come up with better ones, but I sort of like that last one.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:26 PM:

I've had no trouble so far down here in Jawjuh.

#24 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:36 PM:

All clear here in Ohio, far as I can tell.

#25 ::: Zeke ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:37 PM:

I had no trouble with any of the listed sites from my office in Manhattan (with a non-Time Warner connection). This would seem to be another indication that the problem's with Time Warner rather than one of its upstream providers.

#26 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:42 PM:

On your traceroutes, where do they end? If they tend to end at the same place, TW has a bad router (or bad connection that it's still trying to route throught). If you can diagnose it, calling TW's noc and reporting the problem in their language will help.

#27 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:00 PM:

No issues in Cali.

#28 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:13 PM:

I have had a lot of trouble this noon with my blogspot space and gmail.

Otherwise things are fine here in lower NYC.

We have Time-Warner cable too.

Love, C.

#29 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:15 PM:

By the way did you phone the Time-Warner number that provides the outage info for this service area?

I had to call it yesterday for another reason and had to go through that part of the auto message first.

1 212 (or 718) 358 0900

Love, C.

#30 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:39 PM:

I'm in Seattle, on a Comcast cable modem, and it's taken me two or three attempts to load most websites. It seems to come and go - I'll be unable to load nearly anything for five minutes or so, and then browsing relatively freely for another five...

#31 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:07 PM:

I can't add anything more meaningful than to say I have friends out in your direction in Brooklyn and they are constantly having problems like that with Time Warner.

I got a flyer in my last TWCNYC bill which I gave to my friends -- it was about a series of public hearings for people who want/need to bitch TWC out. There's a hearing on, I think, January 29 at, I think, Brooklyn Tech, if you are into blowing off steam. You probably got the flyer too, but if not and if you are interested, I'll try to track the hearing details down.

#32 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Well, the problem seems to have gone away, so we'll never know. Thank you all for the help.

While we're here, though, does anyone have a strong recommendation for a particular wireless router? We're not interested in fancy security snake-oil, or alleged super-duper speed boosts that actually work only with the manufacturer's proprietary adapter attached to your computer. What we're looking for is something that works robustly in a home network that includes PCs, Macs, and VoIP telephony, and doesn't go down constantly like our never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Linksys BEFW11S4. We'd also like it to have that feature, absent from our current Linksys, by which you can tell the router to always assign the same local IP address to the same computer.

#33 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Avoid Belkin, if at all possible.

I've had decent results with my Linksys WRT54G (running the stock firmware), it supports IP address reservations by MAC address, but in a MUCH less elegant fashion than some of the Netgear routers I've seen.

#34 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:05 PM:

Patrick, as far as I can tell, all of the consumer-grade wireless routers are fundamentally unacceptable for one reason or anothers.

It's probably more geeky technical work than you're wanting, but one possibility is an older Linksys WRT54G or GS, or a current WRT54GL (but not a current WRT54GS) and one of the replacement firmware packages, such as OpenWRT or Tomato.

(My personal lazy half-assed current "solution" is a WRT54GS with the 'wrt54g' remote shell package set up so I can reboot it from my laptop when it forgets how to talk to the outside world, and an automated process on another machine which uses that to reboot it daily whether it needs it or not.)

#35 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:12 PM:

PNH@32: The Netgear WR-614 (
works pretty well, and is reasonably cheap.

#36 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Interesting. I have, not currently in use, a Linksys WRT54GC, their tiny little travel router. Would one of those firmware packages work on it, do you suppose?

#37 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:15 PM:

I have a Linksys WRT54G upgraded to the DD-WRT freeware OS. The Linksys hardware is good and reliable, but the operating system that comes with the router has a known problem which causes it to crash if you try to use file-sharing. As I note in the link, the older versions of the WRT54G are actually superior to the current version--more onboard memory--so you should definitely think about using that with a new OS.

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:20 PM:

#30 Darth:

I'm seeing exactly the same symptoms here in northern New Hampshire.

#39 ::: Tom Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:20 PM:

abi @3: very cool!

I like the WRT54G too.

#40 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:26 PM:

It doesn't look like the WRT54GC is much like the 3rd-party supported 54G, 54GS or 54GL models. It uses a completely different wireless chip and doesn't have much memory, so supporting it would be non-trivial in several different ways, and I'm not seeing anybody who's put the effort in.

Bill Blum @33 -- where are the MAC IP reserverations on your 54G? I can't find it on my 54GS stock firmware, but between their design and my occasional obliviousness that doesn't necessarily mean it's not there.

#41 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:26 PM:

Great -- so far, the router the most people like best is only available in an inferior version. I see Todd's point about how everything sucks.

#42 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:29 PM:

My experiences with an older Apple Airport in a mixed Mac/PC home network have been positive. You may need an Apple computer to configure one, however.

#43 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Re Randolph Fritz's #42: I've been very happy with our Airport Extreme base station. That said, it's only really been used heavily from various Mac laptops, an iPhone, and a couple of Palm TX PDAs so I can't really speak to the cross-platform compatibility question.

#44 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:04 PM:

About this time last year I went through three wireless routers until I found the preposterous
Netgear WPN824. I say preposterous because that blue circle in the middle (if you look at the picture) actually has twirling lights in it that are supposed to assure you that it is finding the absotively, posilutely best combination of something-r-others to give you the best wireless connection in the whole wide world. Fortunately, there is a button you can push to make the twirling lights go away. I actually kept them on for a while because I find twirling lights amusing. But then I grew tired of them.

But in any case, it has been one solid customer for months now. You can indeed assign local ip addresses to all your computers. I know this because that is how I have mine set up.

I'm sure others will pipe up with the problems they have had with it. I can only give you my personal testimony. It is the best, most reliable router I've ever owned. The only gripe I have about it is that there isn't a check box to turn off or on certain services such as ftp or http. I get around this by routing those services to non-existent addresses on my network to turn them off, and then routing them to the proper machines when I want the services running.

#45 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:09 PM:

I've been wrestling with the lousy-ass state of consumer-grade wireless routers since 802.11b.

The sad conclusion I'd come to was 'buy a new one every 18 months'. I thought I was doing good with the Netgear model with the blinky spaceship lights . It lasted for over 2 years before it got too strange to live, and even then it worked fine as long as we didn't have friends over with wireless devices. More than three connections and it dropped a load in its router-pants and started painting the walls.

I really wish I'd known about the replacement firmware for the older Linksys product. I think I've got one of those in a closet somewhere.

I've now got one of the new Belkin .11n routers, the one with the menu-system on the front bezel. I've had it for about a week and it's working very well indeed. The selling point for me was that it explicitly, intentionally plays well with other nearby routers. Or at least Small Net Builder thought so.

Alas, it does not provide static routing for local MAC addresses, which is suboptimal for our setup here. It is working well enough with an ethernet printer, a Mac, a scattering of PCs and other more exotic wireless gizmos.

It would be really nice to have one of these things that doesn't eat itself after a year of operation. It's not like it's full of moving parts to wear out. Is it really too much to ask that these things not suck?

#46 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:49 PM:

The deal with the Linksys WRT54G models:

All the ones before version 5 work swimmingly with the fancy open-source firmwares. Version 5 doesn't, and the WRT54GC is another thing entirely.

Once the version 5 WRT54G had been out for a while, Linksys actually re-released version 4 specifically to appease firmware tweakers, selling it under the name WRT54GL (L being for Linux). I think it's still available new, and it's the one to get if you want to use the fancy firmwares and don't know anyone with an old model sitting around.

#47 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Being pretty much completely non-tech, I don't have much to add to the discussion, except: the wireless router that came with my DSL service was a 2Wire HomePortal-something that could accomodate several visiting friends' laptops (both MS and Apple) at once. It lasted about two years; its replacement is a 2Wire HomePortal 1000SW, but as none of my laptop-wielding friends have visited lately, I'm unable to report on that facet of its behavior.

#48 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:41 PM:

I'd say Buffalo (houseNet runs on them) except that you can't buy them any more because of some silly patent dispute for which I no longer remember the details. Should they reappear ...

#49 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:42 PM:

My own wireless router is a five-year-old original 2wire Homeportal 1000W, which 2wire gave me when the company I then worked for, which had invested in 2wire, helped them into the UK market (we introduced them to British Telecom, who I thnk are still reselling 2wire kit sometimes with BT badge). It's worked perfectly all this time. Its only drawback is that the firewall isn't very controllable. I don't know whether current 2wire kit is as reliable.

I respectfully disagree with Bill Blum about Belkin, at least here in the UK. Friends recently canned their Linksys WAG54G which had become outrageous, and on my advice bought a Belkin G+ MIMO ADSL modem-router which is working fine (since about six months).

Does anyone understand why Linksys boxes decay, and work worse over timee? Even 'factory reset' doesn't seem to help.

#50 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:58 PM:

Dater pernts: A Belkin and a BuffaloTech were the two routers I had to sh*t-can before I got to the Netgear. They both were driving me out of my mind with dropped connections. And after my experience with the Belkin router and Belkin "support", I will never buy another Belkin product. Not even one of their super-duper Gold-Plated Cables.

#51 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:12 PM:

Michael @ 50

I'm using a Belkin KMV switch. So far, so good. (Not that it's a particularly complex piece of equipment. I needed small and connecting-two-boxes-to-one-everything-else.)

#52 ::: cheem ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:31 PM:

Regarding Apple Airport Extreme: I use those things to manage some extensive mixed wireless networks. It has the feature you want of being able to lock MAC addresses to fixed IPs (I thought most D-links can too), can also share USB printers/storage off the router, are very robust and have a very nice antenna. However, Airport Extremes are pricier than consumer-grade D-Link and Linksys routers by about a factor of two.

#53 ::: Adam Ek ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:49 PM:

My Netgear WGR614v6 has been working pretty well for me. I need to reset it every month or two. The DSL "modem" and the router stop talking to each other. The router still works for the internal network, but the WAN stop working until both devices are rebooted.

#54 ::: Arthur D ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:38 PM:

I got a Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 specifically to use with DD-WRT. It worked well with Buffalo's firmware, and aside from a tricky DD-WRT firmware installation process, the DD-WRT firmware also works very well. Some retail stores may still have Buffalo products, but they're pretty hard to find. It replaced a Linksys WRT54GS, which was OK but prone to freezing up under heavy load. If you're going to go Linksys, I'd go with WRT54GL, which is more commonly found in major online stores versus places like Best Buy. The Linksys firmware is pretty full featured.

Those looking at using 3rd party firmware should investigate those packages first, and see which routers are recommended. Also, some router manufacturers, like Linksys, have forums which highlight issues of specific models.

#55 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:07 PM:

We have a D-Link DGL-4300. We don't have VoIP, but we do have two Macs, a Windows PC and a Linux PC. We've had essentially no performance problems with the router; every once in a few months we might have to power cycle it. It will allow you to reserve IP addresses for particular computers via DHCP.

The only hesitation I have in recommending it is that I find the user interface difficult to navigate. The router will do everything you need, but you'll waste some time figuring out how. I think it's a vocabulary problem, mostly -- when I'm looking for port redirection, for example, I don't think to look under "virtual server". It also has features you might not need, such as the ability to give priority to particular traffic. Then again, you might find that useful for VoIP, I don't know.

#56 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:41 PM:

I picked up a Trendnet TEW-BRP432 for twelve bucks about six months ago, and it has worked flawlessly with both Mac OS X and Windows anywhere in my five-room flat, (wooden/plaster walls, approx 40' x 30' L-shape). This includes around corners and with doors closed. This router doesn't have the ability to always assign the same IP address to a computer through DHCP, but once a NAT subnet is defined it allows manually assigned static addresses in the subnet simultaneously with DHCP-assigned addresses.)

#57 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Get an Airport Express if you'll have less than ten users simultaneously; you can take with you when you travel, and use it to stream music to your stereo wirelessly, and share USB printers.

#58 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:21 PM:

YMMV, but I had a horrible experience with a Belkin 11n router a few months ago. It worked somewhat well for about a week, then took to dropping connections, even with only 1 computer talking to it, every 10 minutes or so. I returned it, bought an Apple Airport Express, and that has been running rock-solid ever since, except for losing its NVRAM once during a power blackout. No problem; it's the easiest router to program I've ever used.

#59 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 01:02 AM:

I'm not perfectly happy with it, but I've been using a Netgear 802.11b router here on the home network for about three years now. So long as one cycles the power about once a month, it has been fine (except for the "speed issues" associated with 802.11b, but I'm purposely not upgrading to something that would allow my son to effectively use streaming video!). It does have IP address locking, so long as you simultaneously use MAC restriction.

And it set me back a whole $9.50.

If your VOIP connection will be primarily through a Windows machine, I can't recommend an Airport — I've been informed that there's a mild incompatibility in data formats that can lead to a lot of dropped packets. If your VOIP connection will run through a Mac, though, I doubt that will create a problem.

#60 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 01:05 AM:

Seconded for the Airport Express. I've been using one for a couple of years now, and it 'just works' with both my PC laptop and the boything's Mac iBook. I can also confirm that they're definitely configurable from a PC. After years of frustration with Netgear and Linksys routers, the reliability of my little Airport was a huge relief.

#61 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 01:19 AM:

My bad @ 58

No, of course that wasn't an Airport Express I bought, it was an Airport Extreme, an 803.11N base station. I previewed that post twice and it still got through.

#62 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:36 AM:

Nah, there's no cross platform issue with Airports.

it's way easier to set up, 'specially on a Mac. I travel with one--PNH and TNH, that's what you used at VP.

#63 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:32 AM:

Earl # 833

So that's what Brits do now instead of holding soccer riots?

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:34 AM:

Hmm, I just had this site (only) fail to load for a few minutes.

#65 ::: Red (Chris Holdredge) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:01 AM:

A upgradeable-firmware version of the WRT is definitely available, but seems a little bit expensive if all you're looking for are standard router features. OTOH, if you're trying to set up something slightly unusual, or just like knowing that you can if you need to, nothing beats running a general purpose computer with lots of network ports. By those standards the WRT is CHEAP

For anyone who's interested in a third-party firmware package, I'd suggest looking at X-wrt, a fairly simple, and really flexible, web interface that can be installed with or run on top of the OpenWRT Linux setup. Even if you're very comfortable with configuring Linux networks from the command line, the web forms can probably do it for you faster.

#66 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:10 AM:

The real question is this -- Can you spend some real money on it?

Otherwise, the answer is buy whatever $50 router is out there that doesn't have the entire Internet telling you it's utter crap (in other words, it's only typical crap) and replace frequently, because, as a class, they all have horribly inadequate power filters, thus, they die quickly from the assorted noise on AC power lines.

If you have money, you buy a Cisco 870W series. Exactly which one depends on your internet connection. Right now, the 875W, with a built in ADSL, seems to be on sale everywhere, but note this one has an ADSL WAN port, not an ethernet, so if you have a cable modem, it's useless.

If you can find it, the 851W is about $350, and will do the job with your existing network interface, provided it has an ethernet output.

What I'd need to know for more particular model numbers -- What internet service do you have? Does it have a network interface of it's own (DSL bridge, cable modem) or does your current router act as both the network interface and the router.)

#67 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:25 AM:

Questions answered about the AirPort product line.

(Disclosure: I am one of the firmware engineers for those products. I have worked on every single one of them except the original, grey, single -ethernet-port version. Trivia: that one was code-named "Pogo" for reasons lost in obscurity. All the subsequent models had boring project code numbers.)

p1. Only the AirPort Extreme w/ 802.11n (square models, either fast ethernet or gigabit ethernet) have the feature Patrick wants, i.e. DHCP address assignment. Specifically, the AirPort Express does NOT have this feature. (Sadly, the AirPort Express is currently the only product that supports AirTunes, i.e. the stream-music-to-your-stereo feaure.)

p2. None of these products have internal web servers for their configuration interface. You must use the associated rich client to configure it. The good news is Apple supports Windows 2000, XP and Vista with a version of the AirPort Utility for them.

p3. The data sheet on the AirPort Extreme w/ 802.11n and gigabit ethernet is here.

#68 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 01:47 PM:

I have one of the earlier Linksys WRT-54G routers, and second the recommendation. I got it with the intent of reflashing it to one of the open firmware sets, and discovered to my surprise that I really didn't need to to make it work just fine for my needs. Those are quite different from Patrick's - I wanted to bridge a LAN with its own router, fixed public addresses, and its own DHCP server - but it is working just fine for that even though it's completely different from the typical deployment.

#69 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:24 PM:

We have the Netgear router too.

Love, C.

#70 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:41 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 67

p2. None of these products have internal web servers for their configuration interface. You must use the associated rich client to configure it. The good news is Apple supports Windows 2000, XP and Vista with a version of the AirPort Utility for them.

The flip side of this point is that the config interface for the Extreme is an order of magnitude better than any web interface to a router I've seen. It's not anything to do with limitations of web technology; it's just crappy design. Most projects I've been on, the user interface is done at the last minute by a junior engineer who's just been hired, and then bolted onto the outside of the rest of the firmware. The result is exactly what you'd expect.

#71 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:56 PM:

When it comes to wireless routers, you really need a Narbus Aethermate.

Yes, it consumes 300 watts and you can fry eggs on the top of the cabinet; yes, the Ethernet sockets use non-standard cables that only come in four-foot lengths; yes, spare tubes for the transceiver have to be ordered from Russia.

But if you're a real afficianado it's the only way to go.

#72 ::: Jim Schimpf ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 05:05 PM:

If you are interested in the WRT54G and want to work with the internals I would suggest the book "Linksys WRT54G Ultimate Hacking". Excellent book with a very good field guide to all the various models and internals of these boxes. It also guides you through the various firmware you can put on them.

#73 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:02 AM:

Believe it or not, the rich client allows us to localize the utility for something like twenty different languages, which might not matter to you, but it sure helps in Europe and Japan. There are also some issues with device discovery that are significantly better with a rich client than with a web browser. I'm just pointing out the trade-off that you actually need to install the software on the disc to configure the device— just firing up your web browser isn't enough. That really annoys some people.

If you're using Windows, you get the Bonjour for Windows package installed along with the AirPort Utility, which by itself makes Windows almost tolerable when it comes to discovering and using network printers in odd places. (You'll want the Bonjour package anyway if you're planning to plug a printer or a disk drive into the AirPort Extreme's USB port.)

#74 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:02 AM:

I wish I could get a rich client. All my current clients are cheapskates who moan about every invoice.

#75 ::: Steven Gould ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:21 AM:

I recently purchased a second brand-new Linksys WRT54G (v8). Whoever said that you couldn't put dd-wrt firmware on the newer models is wrong. The micro version works very well and all versions of the router (4 mb flash or 2 mb flash are covered). This second wrt54g is set up as a repeater of my primary wireless network, extending range out to my backyard office.

This functionality isn't available on the stock firmware. It will come in very handy at VP since we can put it in the front of the meeting rooms within range of an upstairs ap and cover the basement.

#76 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:58 PM:

BTW, Patrick, the magic phrase you're looking for which describes always assigning the same IP address to the same computer is "static DHCP assignment". That's what you want to look for when comparing feature lists.

As the first Google hit for the phrase was here you may definitely take it that it's supported by some of the 3rd party LinkSys WRT54 firmware packages.

#77 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:21 PM:

I've got a Linksys WRT54, mojo-ified with DD-WRT, and it works like a champ.
(Except this weekend just past, when I had to bounce it a few times, but I'm chalking that up to sunspots or something. It really is a workhorse.)

BTW (and apologies if everyone in the universe knows this, but it took me a while to figure out--and I'm a professional geek): there is, as far as I can tell, no such thing as a dongle that will plug into your wired ethernet (RJ 45) port and turn it into a wireless signal. For that, you want a router (such as, for instance, a bog-standard Linksys WRT54x with DD-WRT superpowers) set to "Ethernet bridge" mode.

#78 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:32 PM:

Nicole, that bridging is exactly what I'm doing with mine. You don't even need the DD-WRT firmware, all you need to do is plug the Ethernet into one of the "LAN" ports instead of the "Internet" port and pick the right combo of options on the web interface.

#79 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:48 PM:

j h woodyatt (#67) mentions various versions of the AirPort base station. I still have one of the original gray ones; we passed our AirPort Express to my in-laws when we got the Extreme (GbE/n).

Fun story about the old gray mare station: back in 2000, the Lucent WaveLAN cards were hard to find at retail. I was at a conference that had 802.11b access, but they'd run out of loaner cards and I couldn't find anywhere in San Diego that had one in stock. However, I knew that the AirPort base station was really a small 486-clone computer with a PCMCIA slot and a Lucent WaveLAN card.

I went to Fry's and bought a base station, opened it up, pulled the WaveLAN card out, and used that for the rest of the conference. (I ordered another one online so I'd have both a card and a working base station once I got home.)

#80 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2008, 06:30 PM:

Nicole, the feature it sounds like you want used to be available in an ancient LinkSys product, the WET-11 if I remember right, which would proxy your ethernet address and use it as an 802.11b station address. Once it had connected to the network, the thing was unable to communicate directly to the computer to which it was attached, and that made it really hard to configure. I don't know if anybody makes things like it anymore.

The IEEE 802.11 working group didn't make it very easy to attach bridges as stations in a Wi-Fi network. The technical explanation for that is highly obtuse. You don't want to know, and I wish I could forget. There is a task group working on the forthcoming 802.11s standard that might fix this. Might. (One of the occasional posters here is the task group chairman, if I recall correctly.)

Sadly, nobody seems to have built a device that can proxy for more than one station address at a time. That idea has its own problems, but at least they could be usable by humans with normal brains.

One day, maybe, wireless networks will be as easy to use as ethernet. Alas, the future isn't here yet.

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