Monday, September 29, 2008

My Wireless Network SuX0R2

Dear Lazyweb,

Please help me get my wireless network at home working better. I am absolutely at my wits end.

The basic setup is:
  • We have a NetGear 834G acting just as a router (no wireless on the box, it's just a DSL modem/router and DHCP server)
  • That connects to a Belkin gigabit switch
  • Connected to that are all the wired hosts (e.g. a desktop machine, my NetGear/Infrant NAS box)
  • As well as the TimeCapsule which is acting as a wireless base station
  • Wirelessly connecting to the TimeCapsule in a WDS configuration (with no local connections) is an Airport Express, which has a wire coming out of it, to bridge (I kid you not) 10 feet that I'm not allowed to run a wire, so that the
  • Sonos receiver can participate in the network.
Here's the deal: I'm dropping packets like mad, and have super-delayed packets. This makes a lot of connections pretty much unusable, and is really starting to get on my wits, because it doesn't happen with the same computer setup in other locations (like our zoo, which has a cheap-ass BT-provided broadband modem/router/wireless access point, but which works perfectly).

And the packet sequence also involves (quite strangely), some dropped packets, and then some packets that are delayed for an excessive period (so I'll drop like 5 ping packets, and then it'll just stall, and then all of a sudden I'll get a massive flow, some delayed by up to 10 seconds). To give you an example of what the ping traffic looks like ( is the NAS box, hooked up directly to the gigabit switch), take a look at this very indicative ping sequence (no drops, just the strange delay):

Macintosh-4:~ kirkwylie$ ping
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=1.545 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.792 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=7481.797 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=6484.930 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=64 time=5485.776 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=64 time=4486.154 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=64 time=3483.138 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=7 ttl=64 time=2483.769 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=8 ttl=64 time=1483.877 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=9 ttl=64 time=484.237 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=10 ttl=64 time=0.657 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=11 ttl=64 time=0.674 ms

During the period between seq 1 and 2 arriving, nothing seems to be coming in over the wireless connection at all, for any application. But if you note, all the packets are blocking somewhere, and then all flowing through within a few milliseconds. This is quite common.

All these dropped packets and packet resends are leading to quite a difficult and horrible internet experience, because especially Web 2.0-related sites with lots of background AJAX don't really like having half of their AJAX connections failing or timing out or whatever.

Running WireShark doesn't indicate anything out of the ordinary.

I get the same results if I ping the TimeCapsule itself.

And on average, I'm dropping like 20% of packets. That's pretty poor all around.

During all this, I have pretty much perfect signal/noise, and that doesn't really fluctuate or have any correlation that I can tell with the packet drop or the packet delay.

Things I've tried:
  • I had an old AirPort base station (pre-draftN), and used that. No love.
  • I've tried 6 different uncongested channels (including low ones like 3). No love.
  • I've tried plugging the TimeCapsule into the router's built-in switch. No love.
  • I've tried turning off the AirPort Express, thinking it might be the WDS doing it. No love.
  • I've tried upgrading the firmware of every single thing that I can find. No love.
  • I've tried the same client systems (laptops and my iPhone) in other wireless networks to see if it's then. They work perfectly. No love.
  • I've tried putting my laptop literally right next to the base station. No love.
Dear Lazyweb, what in the world should I be trying next? I can't retrofit my entire flat with cables everywhere we want the InterTubes, so how in the world do I get past this current impasse? I mean, the obvious thing would be to assume that there's a fault in Apple's products, but my love of all things Jobsian means that I find it very difficult to accept that. I mean, if it is, it is, but I really don't want to have to go out and buy another access point just to prove that an Apple product isn't perfect.

If nothing else, the whole thing is getting embarassing, because my significant other is starting to believe that my powers of technical prowess might be limited after all. This makes me look pretty darn bad.


P.S. Yes, with a cable, it all works just perfectly. It's only wireless that's a problem.
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