Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Reliable WiFi boxes, do they exist?

The WiFi is on the fritz again. I just had to switch in the backup box as our latest router begins to show the now familiar symptoms of the WiFi pox. It works well for a while until the WiFi part stops working without notice. After a reboot the box is fine for a while but the time between freezes steadily declines until it needs a reboot every hour.

Lucent, Linksys, Netgear, I have tried all the brands. My older netgear box still works but it is only 802.11b and the firmware does not support VPN passthrough (says it does but it does not work with our checkpoint VPN).

It is quite possible that part of the problem is caused by overheating. The older Netgear device has a nice metal case with plenty of ventilation holes. The new ones are pieces of plastic crap. Nobody seems to make a wireless router that has a built in power supply, they all have those obnoxious mains adapter plug things.

When the Linksys started to die the wireless service just shut down at random intervals. The Netgear has developed a similar but somewhat less critical problem, the DNS proxy shuts down and won't restart. This would not be a problem if there was a way of configuring the built in DHCP server so that it didn't tell machines connecting to it to use it as a DNS proxy. The only options provided are to turn DHCP on or off.

So now I have to turn on my VPN to surf the Internet and K's machine has the Comcast DNS server addresses hard coded. We can both surf the net fine at home but her machine has to be reconfigured to work outside the hose. The geniuses who wrote the Windows WiFi support code did not anticipate the need to store the TCP/IP settings as part of the connection profile.

The answer might be to get two of the new MIMO/pre-N routers which are meant to provide greater coverage in addition to greater bandwidth. I need two since the machines in my office run off an wifi to ethernet bridge. In principle it should be easy to configure any WiFi router to work this way. In practice only a few do it and those that do often don't say. My linksys travel router works that way but I only found out after I had bought it.

Online reviews are pretty useless as they are all of the 'open box, use it for a week, return' variety. The reviews are not long enough to demonstrate the reliability of the hardware.

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