Ground Control to Major Tom, Your Circuit's Dead, There's Something Wrong
April 9, 2006 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I receive a weak wireless signal in my dorm room. With this connection I can use AIM, send and receive e-mail, and upload and download from my FTP site, but I can never view web pages - everything always times out. Am I missing some solution that will let me get on the web? I'm using WinXP.

Technically my hall has no internet access, but I realized soon after I got here that I can usually pick up a weak signal from another nearby hall. I had been assuming that I couldn't use the web since the signal wasn't strong enough. However, pinging takes an average of 25ms, and last week I found that I was able to download a file hosted on the web at around 130 kb/sec. And yet I still can't view any web pages. Why would this be? What am I missing here? I'm computer savvy, but I'm not the most knowledgeable when it comes to network stuff.
posted by ludwig_van to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Best answer: They might be blocking port 80. See if this link works (a random site not accessed on port 80).
posted by cillit bang at 11:33 AM on April 9, 2006

I've seen this happen before on weak wireless connections, though I don't know what causes it. I don't think it's a firewall problem (you don't seem to report that it's saying Server not found or the like), because it always seems to start loading web pages, but times out before they are fully loaded.

That being said, there is seriously a college out there these days that doesn't have at least a wired connection to the Internet? I'm floored.
posted by symphonik at 11:44 AM on April 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks cillit, I'll try that link when I get back to my room.

That being said, there is seriously a college out there these days that doesn't have at least a wired connection to the Internet? I'm floored.

I was too - and I came from CMU, a notoriously wired place. Only a couple of months until I'll once again be immersed in constant internet, though; but of course, I'll also be immersed in constant Pittsburgh.

And to clarify, it looks like it's starting to load the web page; Firefox's status bar will say "Connecting to" and the little green bar will get halfway full, but it never loads any content - not a background color or a page title or anything. Then it tells me that " is taking too long to respond."
posted by ludwig_van at 12:04 PM on April 9, 2006

It's packet fragmentation, most likely. There's enough interference that either the DNS lookups are timing out or you're having so many resends of dropped packets that it's dying. If you can set the maximum tcp packet size via your network card, try that. I used to have this problem occasionally when we had wretchedly bad phone line issues back in the modem days.
posted by mikeh at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2006

Problem. Solved.

Well, no, not really. It's kind of expensive, and probably not worth it. That said, I desperately want both of those products. And, if they are blocking port 80 (but why? on my campus, they block or throttle anything that isn't port 80) then all the signal in the world isn't going to help.

Also, I'm assuming you're connecting to your school's wifi. It's also possible that you are connecting to a router in somebody's dorm room. If that's the case, see if you can get to '' or ''. That'll be the router address. Try a default password, (admin, admin, or somesuch. You can look up big lists of them on the internet, sorted by vendor). Once you're in, you can see what's being blocked or forwarded.

But that's also mildly illegal, so, you know, heads up on that.
posted by Drunken_munky at 12:33 PM on April 9, 2006

Can you use curl to get these pages?
posted by kimota at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2006

Response by poster: Can you use curl to get these pages?

I'm not familiar with curl. Is this what you're referring to?
posted by ludwig_van at 1:09 PM on April 9, 2006

Run a tracert on for some additional information. It would probably help if you posted the results here.
posted by mr.dan at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2006

Run a tracert on for some additional information. It would probably help if you posted the results here.

1. In the Windows "Start" menu click "Run..."
2. This loads a command line. Type "tracert"
3. This initiates a trace, telling you who your connection is going through and how long each jump takes.
4. When it says "trace complete", select the output (you have to right click, then click "select all", then press ctrl-c, then paste it into the Metafilter window).
posted by Hildago at 2:19 PM on April 9, 2006

Whoops, line 1 should read:
Click "Run..." then type "cmd" and press Enter
posted by Hildago at 2:20 PM on April 9, 2006

ludwig_van sends the following message:

"cillit_bang - that website worked! So what does that mean? What should I do next?"
posted by rbf1138 at 3:00 PM on April 9, 2006

Response by poster: Score! Victory! Yahtzee!

Thanks, cillit_bang!
posted by ludwig_van at 4:16 PM on April 9, 2006

As to why port 80 is blocked: You may want to check with your campus IT/helpdesk staff, and see if they require you to set a proxy (web cache) for web browsing. Our campus used to require that, but eventually eliminated it when the amount of bandwidth saved by proxy caching dropped to under 5%.
posted by fings at 7:30 PM on April 9, 2006

Set up your own proxy, if possible. I have a server with a good network connection. I ssh into this server and route all of my outgoing requests through it.

Bitvise Tunnelier handles everything for me - my server acts as a SOCKS proxy, routing all my web requests through whichever port is available. SSH defaults to 22, but you can proxy over 53 (DNS port) or pretty much any other port.

As a plus, this works in many airports as well: Except for those using Sprint or T-Mobile as a wireless provider, I get good connectivity. (If I cna figure out how to route my proxy through port 7 - the ping port - then I'll be golden everywhere...)
posted by caution live frogs at 6:54 AM on April 10, 2006

Response by poster: clf, that sounds like a good idea, but you're going to have to be more explicit for me.

I have a server for my web site, would I be able to use that as a proxy? How do I set it up?
posted by ludwig_van at 3:18 PM on April 10, 2006

Ludwig, if you can can ssh to the server, and are running a recent version of ssh, the simple way would be to use ssh's dynamic port fowarding, where it pretends to be a SOCKS server. You would do

ssh -D 8000

And then in your web browser, tell it you are running a SOCKS proxy on port 8000.

Note that this will only work while you are ssh'd into the server. When you log out and close the connection, you will not be able to web browse.

If you want to run an actual web proxy, you can use apache's mod_proxy, or a stand alone program like squid. If you choose to go that route, I *strongly* recommend setting a password on the proxy or it will be abused by people (hackers) looking to launder their network connection though an open proxy.
posted by fings at 4:57 PM on April 10, 2006

Response by poster: fings: Ok, again, I'm not terribly experienced with this stuff. I SSH to my server using WinSCP. I also have Putty. How exactly do I setup the proxy with that software, and then how do I configure Firefox? Do I enter and port 8000 for HTTP proxy and check "use this proxy for all protocols?" Or do I just enter it into the SOCKS field?
posted by ludwig_van at 5:18 PM on April 10, 2006

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