Why this utterly bizarre situation with wireless access and browsers?
October 12, 2008 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Why this utterly bizarre situation with wireless access and browsers?

I'm at the in-laws this weekend and brought my laptop along (MacBook Pro, 10.4.11). Last time we came through, I got the password and connected with their wireless router. At that time, I had the odd experience of getting a wireless signal and being able to use a POP mail app as well as IM and VOIP services, but any attempt to navigate with a browser went nowhere. The browser wouldn't hang, but the page wouldn't load. Wireless and network protocols are my weakest point in the vast landscape of information technology, so I wrote it off to compatibility issues and used another computer when I had 'net needs. (Other computers were Windows, FWIW.)

Tonight, weeks after that visit, I was reading an e-mail from someone and inadvertantly clicked on a link. I was expecting the page not to load, as before, but suddenly it did. Again, I was ready to write this off to compatibility issues, but this time they had inexplicably solved themselves rather than arising. Later, I hit yet another wrinkle as I went into the room with the wireless router (where I had been on the previous visit) and once again, neither Firefox nor Safari would work. A quick kinda-scientific-but-not-really survey suggests that the browser won't work if I'm within about 15 feet of the router, but will anywhere else in the house. Again, this is NOT a connectivity issue. I'm getting a signal and exchanging data with other servers using other apps and nothing changes about that as I move closer to or further from the router.

While there's an obvious and easy workaround and this doesn't affect any of the other computers in the house, I remain baffled by this. Any hypotheses?
posted by el_lupino to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
You are sure that you had no proxy settings on your browser?
posted by k8t at 8:46 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you sure there isn't a second WiFi network which your computer is hooking up to preferentially when you're away from the one you know about? And the different network is set up differently?
posted by Class Goat at 8:54 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

run something like ping google.com in the Terminal and walk around. Does it kepp working when your browser doesn't?
posted by niles at 8:59 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by niles at 9:00 PM on October 12, 2008

Response by poster: No, I had no proxy settings. Double-checked that just now, and it's definitely set to "no proxy" and had not been changed.
posted by el_lupino at 9:00 PM on October 12, 2008

Check the SSID name of the router, maybe there are two routers named Linksys (or equivalent) nearby.

You can use an application like "MacStumbler" to see all the various routers nearby by SSID and channel they are on.

If you are unsure, you can change the name of your parents router to something unique. You'd need to update the names/keys of all the other machines that connect to that router if you do that.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:00 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Definitely not another WiFi network or nearby router. Checked that, too.

The laptop can indeed ping various servers in all parts of the house, including the "no-browse zone" by the router.
posted by el_lupino at 9:08 PM on October 12, 2008

Is your browser completely hosed in the NBZ or can you access the browser configuration pages?
posted by niles at 9:23 PM on October 12, 2008

Has your computer been told to connect to a WAP, or could it making an ad-hoc connection to the nearest computer? And is there a computer within the NBZ running Norton Internet Security?
posted by flabdablet at 5:23 AM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There is a computer running Norton Security in the NBZ, FWIW.
posted by el_lupino at 8:09 AM on October 13, 2008

Then I suggest that what's happening is that your own computer has not been told to connect directly to a Wireless Access Point, and is instead making an ad-hoc network connection to whatever random wireless workstation has the strongest available signal, and that Norton is "helpfully" firewalling your web activity when that turns out to be the one in the NBZ.

You can test whether this is in fact what's happening simply by turning off the Norton-addled workstation and seeing if your web browsing comes good.

Personally, I hate the Norton "security" products, and if I'm having any kind of network misbehavior and Norton is anywhere near any of the machines involved, I reef it out pretty much by reflex.

But in your case, I'd be making sure the words "ad-hoc" don't appear in any of your own computer's wireless configuration before messing with the other computers on your in-laws' WLAN.
posted by flabdablet at 7:02 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, btw. None of these ended up resolving the problem, but the input is appreciated.
posted by el_lupino at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2008

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