Wi-Fi woes
April 11, 2012 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Wi-Fi woes!

I want a single Wi-Fi router on the ground floor of a house, broadcasting across the gap to the neighboring one-story house. We have some G devices and some N devices.

Setup 1: Linksys WRT54G with Tomato set to 75mW transmit power, RCA cable modem
This worked great! For years I was getting reliable download speeds of up to 17mbps. One day the router started failing to get an IP from the modem, and I think sometimes the Wi-Fi would fail, requiring a router reboot. I got the cable company to replace the modem. (Possibly of note: I got an iPhone around this time.)

Setup 2: Linksys WRT54G, Motorola SURFboard SB4200 cable modem
Wi-Fi regularly fails and the router requires a reboot. I figure, this router is dying, let’s replace it.

Setup 3: D-Link DIR-601, SURFboard
Nope, too weak.

Setup 4: D-Link DIR-655, SURFboard
Fairly good with our laptops, but a little slow. Unfortunately the iPhones have such a weak connection that requests would sometimes fail entirely. I tried G-only mode, didn’t help.

Setup 5: D-Link DIR-645, SURFboard
Reliable connection; reliably slow as molasses. This router appears to lie to Windows about what it’s doing: when Windows sees a 54mbps data link, the router claims to be in a 11mbps 802.11b data link… even if I switch the router to G-only mode! WTF, people.

Setup 6: Linksys WRT54GL with Tomato, SURFboard
The old ways are the best, right? Nice speed. Having read this guy, who says he’s been running dozens of WRT54GLs at 150mW for years without a failure, I bumped the power up to 100mW. (I mention this in case you think it caused permanent damage, although based on what I’ve read, that seems unlikely.)

I notice that the Wi-Fi is failing with regularity, requiring a router reboot. This is painfully reminiscent of my original problem. I decreased the power to the default. Same problem. I restored the original Linksys firmware. Same problem. While the router is by a window, the failure happens equally at night, so I don’t think it’s getting baked by the sun. It also doesn’t appear to be dependent on other factors, like the iPhones leaving or entering range. (I assigned them static IPs just in case.)


So I would like either

1) Advice for getting my current setup working. (Any chance I need to replace the modem again?)

2) Recommendations for a router that will give me the speed, strength and reliability I seek, ideally under $200, ideally with Wireless-N (but I will happily forgo that for reliable Wireless-G).

posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Another thought might be to try DD-WRT instead of Tomato, just to see what happens.

You might also want to take a look at the local spectrum with InSSIDer, if you have a laptop you can run it on. It's possible that new APs have gone up in your area that are interfering with yours.

Radio is an inherently unreliable medium. If you're in a position to do so, you can always solve problems like this permanently by running a network wire.
posted by Malor at 8:10 AM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been using several Asus routers in a similar setup. They were G models running DDWRT. One of them would freeze once a day like clockwork, so I set up an automated reboot in the settings and it's been running ever sense.
posted by neversummer at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and yes, you can cook a 54GL by setting the transmit power too high, but I think 100mw should usually be safe.

Using a directional antenna is another way to approach the problem; by concentrating the signal along certain paths, you get the same effect as boosting the power, without increasing heat or decreasing reliability.
posted by Malor at 8:14 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a pair of 54Gs (rev. 1 and 3) that have been running Tomato with transmit at 100mw for years now. No issues with them really; the more reliable one serves as the main unit, the secondary (which flakes out now and again) as an extender (wired connection to primary, same SSID, different channel).

What seems to do the trick for me is the reboot setting. I have both set to automatically reboot once a day, staggered by a little bit so neither is offline for too long and not at the same time. Once I had that setting in place they both are pretty reliable. The flaky one still hangs now and then, so I have it somewhere it is easy to grab, and when it hangs I simply unplug it for a minute to power-cycle the thing. Seems to be hardware specific issues, not software, that make it hang, as the Rev. 1 model almost never freezes and they are running the same version of Tomato.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:49 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

After you check for interference... Consider not limiting yourself to a single router. If you can put a second cheap router acting as a repeater in the neighboring house then it should fix all of the weak connection issues, especially with the phones. It's easy to set up. (I had the same problem where the connection was reasonably strong for a laptop/router but too weak for a phone, and this was magic.)
posted by anaelith at 5:45 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've been running DD-WRT v24-sp2 std (SVN revision 14929) for a week now with no problems. Malor is a golden god. Thanks for all your help guys!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:37 PM on April 18, 2012

« Older Waves of deer are entering my backyard at night...   |   Why am making so many typos lately? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.