Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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I CAN HAS WIRELESS

754 words

You know the 21st century isn’t quite what we expected it to be. No flying cars, no beaming, not even Terminators (so far). And in fact, I had to without wireless networking in my Apple notebooks in the past years as well.

Which is a shame because Apple jumped the wireless bandwagon early and my (otherwise tragic) TiBook always worked well on the wireless network. So I adjusted to the idea of not having to worry about another crappy wire. Of course all my following Macs (an iBook, and three MacBooks) came with wireless networking built in as well. Yet, they worked very poorly, if at all, on my home network.

It never became quite clear what didn’t work there, but certainly the home network - both in a setup with a Linksys 802.11b router and an AVM FritzBox 4030 802.11g router - worked all right as a network. Sony, IBM and Acer laptops could use it just fine. Yet my Apple machines (as well as another PowerBook G4 and friends’ MacBooks) always had problems.

Those problems appeared in many different variants: Either the network wasn’t visible in the Airport menu at all, or it was visible and refused to connect (claiming a timeout when checking the password), or the machine connected and the signal strength went down, or connected and claimed full signal strength but had next to no throughput and ping times in the half-minute range. All this in situations where another, non-Apple, laptop had full signal strength and a decent speed in the same location. These problems appeared rarely two years ago and where pretty much constant recently. iPhones and iPods didn’t suffer them in the same way, but the connection speed always felt sluggish in our flat (with iPhone users in fact preferring to use UMTS instead).

That meant I had to connect my MacBook to the network in stone-age style with an ethernet cable. Which sucked for inconvenience, ugliness and tripwires. And it still sucks and perhaps a grown up, honest, company would try to find out what’s wrong with their hard- or software so their customers can use the advertised features they paid for. Ah well, no help to be expected there from Apple, I guess.

We still had another masterplan up our sleeves. My flatmate had bought a fancypants Asus WL-500 GP router at some stage which can do all sorts of useful things in addition to routing network packages. But as a true freetard, he decided to install Linux on it so it could do even more fancy things. As Linux installations go, that of course never worked out (I think the idea of attaching an USB audio card took things too far). And as ADD sufferers go, the router ended up on a shelf and its password was forgotten.

Now everybody will tell you that the password is easy to reset on those routers (they have a button for that) but apparently that only works if you haven’t replaced the firmware. The word ‘bricked’ comes to mind. By sheer luck I mentioned the issue to someone knowledgeable who said this would be ‘easy’, then classified the problem as ‘ugh’ after learning about the Linux thing and googling that but then managed to find a webpage with the solution for the problem nonetheless.

Unfortunately said ‘solution’ involved opening the router and short circuiting some tiny contacts (with a reassuring remark on the forum that hitting the contacts to the left and right of the correct ones would destroy the machine), which we did nontheless. And voilà after doing this the machine actually flickered in a different way. Which apparently indicated that it didn’t have any firmware at all (or so). The last step was to find someone with a working Windows computer to ‘flash’ the original firmware into the device. And after some eternal waits that actually worked.

Even better, my MacBook can actually use the wireless network again. And we even have a networked hard drive (not so great as it’s SMB which sucks in itself and even more so if you connect to it from Mac OS X) now and more settings than I can conceivably understand. (Well, for me it’s the handy UPnP as well as DynDNS which I like, so I can use PortMap to easily open up channels for AFP or http, but other network users like the idea of settings for fast gaming apparently).

So, for a change, things seem to be working at the moment.

March 14, 2009, 13:48

Tagged as airport, macbook, network, router, wlan.

Comments

Comment by Hauke Fath: User icon

Isn’t it funny how the distant past always grows a golden glow…

When I got my tibook, I was simply apalled with its wireless performance. It couldn’t even see an access point (Apple AirPort, of all) that would give four out of five bars on the Pismo besides it. Metal case, you remember? An antenna inside a Faraday’s cage doesn’t work too well — Apple Design 1 : Functionality 0. And while my PowerBook (generation n-1) is a little better there, the plastic {Mac,i}Books have always had an edge on the fish-can ones in wireless performance.

Now, your problems (which I do not doubt) remind me of another issue - POTS modems. And just like there was no “good” modem on its own since you always had to match both sides, I guess the average cheap-o access point is well-matched against wintel notebooks, only. That being said, my and my wive’s PowerBooks just work fine with a for-free La Fonera…

March 16, 2009, 15:10

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