Author Topic: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?  (Read 5801 times)

Malaysia41

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Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« on: September 12, 2014, 06:56:14 PM »
"Once you throw money at a problem, you've lost." (attrib to Jacob at ERE I think).

We have this wireless router, the D-Link DSL-2640B.  It's 2 years old, and about a month ago we had issues with it.

It all started when we tried to connect the apple time machine to back up pictures/ data / etc.  Stuff stopped working, we cycled the D-link router power (a few times), and then it just stopped working. So I logged in as admin and re-configured it.  It seemed to work, for all of ten seconds.  Then - no connection.  Tried again.  And again.  Lastly I tried without setting up any security options.  Still failed. Ugh. 

So I called the support line and they asked me to connect to the router via a physical ethernet cable (not over wifi).  Well, we have no computers with ethernet ports, so that wasn't an option.  They sent a guy out (for free - yeah).  He connected his laptop via ethernet cable and configured the router and got it working.

He said that sometimes the settings don't take over wireless admin access.  What?  I mean, if I can get to it over wireless, and hit save and it says the settings are saved, I assume they've been written into flash memory.  Why would the connection over which I made the settings matter?   So I've looked at some of the documentation on this device but haven't really rolled up my sleeves to discover exactly the answer to this question. I mean, clearly, it is the case so move on, right?

Then, Ruzaimi, the support guy,  said we could buy a new router for 160 ringgit ($50 USD). We said we'd just go with the old one. 

Okay now we have two problems.
  • The connection is slow.  We used to get 3-4 Mbps and now top out at 1.7Mbps.  This causes all kinds of problems, esp when multiple people are on their devices.
  • Sonos doesn't work.  Ergh.  I love listening to our sonos.  It not working sucks.

Debugging sonos: at first I thought it was the low internet speed, but online resources say we should be okay as long as the speed is > 1Mbps.  Okay.   Logged onto the router and discovered our support guy had set restrictions on bridges.  So I found the ethernet MAC address of the sonos bridge and the sonos player - set them as exceptions and saved.  Guess what - it saved.  Weird.  But... the sonos controller can only set up the bridge now. Aggh.  Mind you, this paragraph is a concise summary of what, in reality, was >60 debug / test steps so 'aggh' hardly capture the aggravation (but I thought I'd spare you the details of all 60ish steps. You're welcome).

I'm at a point where I just want to throw the $50 at the problem and get a new router and, hopefully, will be done with it.  But then I keep hearing the words in my head, "once you throw money at a problem, you've lost."   

Pre-MMM I wouldn't have given this a thought.  I would've simply asked "how much is the router?" and then handed over what ever the guy asked. But now, I don't want to be that loser, who just gives up and chucks money at it. 

So... anyone care to co-sign my bullshit and say, 'get the router'?  If not, what do you recommend?
« Last Edit: September 13, 2014, 07:14:00 PM by Malaysia41 »

DollarBill

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2014, 07:11:57 PM »
Sounds like you have tons more technical experience than I do. I tend to think that most companies slow down the internet speed after you've down loaded a lot of stuff. If you have a slower speed and down load a lot every day they cut you off.

stlbrah

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2014, 08:02:55 PM »
if the speed is fast over wired connection bit slow over wifi, it may not even be the router at fault, but more of your wireless card/driver in your computer

GizmoTX

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2014, 08:58:17 PM »
What kind of computers do you have that lack ethernet?

daverobev

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2014, 09:24:21 PM »
Can you upgrade the firmware, and do a factory reset?

Dodge

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2014, 10:11:49 PM »
He has Macbook Airs. Amazing machines, but no Ethernet.

Personally, I wouldn't debug past what you've already done. All hardware has a shelf-life, your router is on and working 24/7, that probably couldn't be said for any other electronic device in your house. They will break every few years or so. In my opinion, a router is something worth spending money on. When mine breaks, I get the best one currently available, which only maxes out at around $200. You'll thank me the next time you're trying to do an audio/video chat or playing online games, while someone is watching Netflix or downloading files (QOS to the rescue).

madmax

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2014, 10:36:41 PM »
Have you tried switching the wifi frequency to a different channel to minimize the chances of collision? Could be interference. If that doesn't work, then I'd probably buy the new router.

eil

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2014, 11:02:06 PM »
Quote
All hardware has a shelf-life, your router is on and working 24/7, that probably couldn't be said for any other electronic device in your house. They will break every few years or so.

What? No, that's crazy talk. Hardware can fail on occasion of course, but most routers have nothing in them that can wear out. Unless it has a fan, which will eventually fail and cause the router to overheat, but routers with fans are rare. They do have flash memory inside them, but you have to upgrade the firmware 100,000 times on average before you wear that out.

OP: I would plug away at it for a while longer. I don't know why it is, but most router firmware provided by the vendor are atrociously buggy and getting them to just do the things the box says they can do is usually a nightmare. It sounds like you have some technical expertise, so maybe see if you can put a third-party open-source firmware on it like DD-WRT or Tomato. These are going to be more featureful and far less buggy than the vendor firmware.

If that fails, then you have permission to buy a new router. Just do your research this time and get one with good reviews and good support for open-source third-party firmware.

kaetana

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2014, 11:50:55 PM »
I was in this situation, and I tried EVERYTHING I could think of, plus a few more things that people at an online forum suggested. It took months. During this time we dealt with intermittent internet, which caused further aggravation. Finally I just got fed up and bought a new modem router. And you know what? It worked perfectly from Day 1.

I think there's a line after which your frustration/time/effort wasted just isn't worthwhile compared to the cost of a decent modem router. Where that line is is up to you, but I would guess that you're already past it. Do your research on the next new one, pay for it with cash, and then enjoy it, IMO.

dcheesi

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2014, 12:13:54 AM »
Some routers are just lemons. Sometimes the problems are software based, in which case it may be possible to fix by flashing to a 3rd party firmware. But other times it's poor hardware design causing overheating or intermittent bugs.

space

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2014, 12:51:18 AM »
I've never liked combination modems/routers - for some reason, they always seem to have issues. D-Link firmware can be unstable at times at well - it can even be region-dependent at times.

That being said: are you sure you can actually just switch to a new router? Usually that requires putting the existing device into bridge mode, but not all devices support this.

RichLife

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2014, 07:16:08 AM »
Do you know someone who has a spare router or would lend their working router to you to help you identify if the problem would be fixed with a new router? Would be rather awkward if you got a new one and the problem persisted.

I'd certainly try the channel switching. Also see if anything is in the way of the signal, by either moving that, or moving the router if possible. Lots of wireless devices but also microwave ovens can interfere with the signal. Thinking of stuff like remotes or baby phones. Also, maybe try making a wireless reflector to boost the signal, it's cheap and easy.

johnny847

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2014, 04:00:58 PM »
I think there's a line after which your frustration/time/effort wasted just isn't worthwhile compared to the cost of a decent modem router. Where that line is is up to you, but I would guess that you're already past it. Do your research on the next new one, pay for it with cash, and then enjoy it, IMO.
+1

Malaysia41

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2014, 07:11:58 PM »
Wow, I walk away for a couple days and you guys come up with a wealth of advice!

Based on my memory of what it looked like, I believe the router that Ruzaimi offered is the Riger DB120.  But Ive texted him to confirm.  I found this review on the Riger modem.  Hmmm, I'm hoping Ruzaimi's modem is different - a) because apparently this reviewer got the modem for free in 2007 (vs Ruzaimi's offer to give it to us for 160ringgit now), and b) because the signal seems intermittent for this reviewer. 

So, I'm going to play with different frequencies and consider updating the firmware as I await Ruzaimi's reply.   

Also, I looked at the windsurfer antennae boosters with my son.  It looks like a fun project so my son and I might give it a go. But our problem really isn't signal strength.  I think the modem is throttling data rate for some reason, so updating the firmware seems the the best option at this point. 

Thanks everybody.  I'll post an update after we've made further progress.

GizmoTX

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2014, 08:04:35 PM »
A MacBook Air from July 2011 on should have a ThunderBolt port; a $28 Mac Thunderbolt to Ethernet Adapter will add Ethernet capability.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2014, 04:57:18 AM by GizmoTX »

Daley

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2014, 09:07:53 PM »
Some good suggestions, including making sure you can actually make an ethernet connection. This is important when dealing with flashing and configuring routers.

If you do happen to replace, make a point to separate out your DSL modem from your router and keep the items separate, even if it costs a little more to do so. Better flexibility, easier to troubleshoot, easier to configure. Also, stick with router makes that well support DD-WRT, OpenWRT and Tomato firmwares... they are almost universally better than the stock firmware from the manufacturer. Do flash with a network cable, though.

Speed issues and connectivity drops with WiFi may be due to crowded bandwidth in your area, a consequence of popular unlicensed radio communication technology. Make a point to survey what channels all your neighbors are on and try to keep to a less populated chunk of spectrum.

Malaysia41

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2014, 12:00:01 AM »
A MacBook Air from July 2011 should have a ThunderBolt port; a $28 Mac Thunderbolt to Ethernet Adapter will add Ethernet capability.

After my initial post I found our ethernet adapter for the macbook airs.  I'll be using this from now on!

Malaysia41

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2014, 05:37:05 PM »
Okay in the end I journeyed to loserville!  I paid $47 for the new router and had Ruzimiah install it.  There are lots of small reasons - but really, I just wanted to get something solid that freaking worked. 

In subsequent debugging since last post I discovered these things:
1. couldn't connect to router with ethernet - only wifi. IDK why.
1. the sonos issue had to do with both low speed and janky ethernet connection to the sonos bridge.
2. I looked at our latest bill and discovered, we're only paying for 2Mbps. 

I'm guessing that TM accidentally provided us 4Mbps and only recently throttled us back down to 2.  At 2Mbps we really just get 1.7Mbps.  So I should be happy for getting the extra 2Mbps for so long?  I'll look at it that way. 

Ah, but can't do anything about it til tomorrow - it's Merdeka day today (Malaysian Independence Day), so the call to TM to upgrade will have to wait as everyone is on vacay. 

Here are the subscription TM plans (https://www.tm.com.my/Home/Broadband/Streamyx/Pages/Home.aspx )
1. $41.00: 2Mbps + land phone  - no cable (130 ringgit per month  (what we have now))
2. $44.44: 4Mbps  + land phone + cable (which we will forgo) (RM140)
3. $50.79: 8Mbps + land phone + cable (which we will forgo)  (RM160)

I think we'll go for option #2 and see if that's adequate.  I really wish we could get just internet - no phone no cable bundling - but they don't offer that.

Thanks for all of your help everyone. 

dragoncar

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2014, 05:48:29 PM »
If you buy sonos and apple products, you've already lost.

Me, I end up getting a $12 refurb router every couple years when it stops working (I also own apple products)

Malaysia41

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2014, 11:20:58 PM »
I bought the sonos long before discovering MMM.  Sunk cost.  Apple products too. We bought the macbook airs with an employee discount (courtesy of our neighbor).  Even so, all of these products were purchased long before we began extreme budgeting.  So, I'm not going to lament past expenditures too much.  What I will do is try to get use out of them since they are already paid for.

Malaysia41

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Re: Be a loser and throw money at wireless router, or debug til I die?
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2014, 12:10:16 AM »
For closure:

So we bought the router and one good thing is that the signal strength is stronger in every corner of the house.  Also, the ethernet ports are more solid so we don't get the intermittent issues anymore with wired connections.

Second, I called TM and asked to upgrade to 4Mbps and they said 2Mbps was as high as we could sign up for at our house.  I opened an issue with their tech department to look at our consistently low speed, and they bumped us to 3Mbps.  Now we consistently get 2.4Mbps or so.  Not great, but better.

Thanks for the great advice and face-punches everyone!