Author Topic: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)  (Read 864 times)

ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« on: August 11, 2020, 10:46:13 PM »
I live in SoCal, which I hate and detest with a passion--stuck here in a pretty good job with a pension and aging, declining parents (my Irish/EU citizenship going to waste).

Among the innumerable soul-sucking aspects of living here is the fact that we have Charter Cable for internet service, probably the least bad of our very few alternatives. On some days our wi-fi goes down about a zillion times for 1 second to hours on end. I want to investigate the culprit(s) of this problem so that it can be fixed--maybe. Is it the modem, wireless router, wi-fi dongle, some combination thereof, or is all of it attributable to Charter? How can I go about identifying the culprit(s)? Thanks!




Catica

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2020, 04:29:18 AM »
I live in SoCal, which I hate and detest with a passion--stuck here in a pretty good job with a pension and aging, declining parents (my Irish/EU citizenship going to waste).

Among the innumerable soul-sucking aspects of living here is the fact that we have Charter Cable for internet service, probably the least bad of our very few alternatives. On some days our wi-fi goes down about a zillion times for 1 second to hours on end. I want to investigate the culprit(s) of this problem so that it can be fixed--maybe. Is it the modem, wireless router, wi-fi dongle, some combination thereof, or is all of it attributable to Charter? How can I go about identifying the culprit(s)? Thanks!
1. Ask your neighbor if he/she is having the same issue.
2. Connect to your modem bypassing the router.
3. Connect to your router using a cable rather than wifi
4. Try a different computer on the existing setup and see if you experience the same thing.

I would start with that.

Daley

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2020, 08:47:47 AM »
All good advice given by Catica to get started. Honestly, if you have a machine where network connection is critical, you need to go hard wired if at all possible from stem to stern. It's also the fastest way to determine whether it's ither Charter's internet service that's crapping out on you, your network equipment, or if it's just local WiFi issues.

This said, I suspect there's probably a lot of network collision and congestion in your neighborhood. I live in the sprawling suburbs of an older neighborhood in a more economically depressed region... you'd think that because of that, there wouldn't be a huge amount of network collision, but getting a sufficiently clear channel on the 2.4Ghz spectrum for a solid and reliable connection is impossible, and 5Ghz is starting to fill up. I can't imaging how much noisier the spectrum is in higher density and affluent areas.

As a quick and dirty way to see which channels have the most interference and which channels are best recommended for use, WiFi Analyzer from the Windows Store is always useful.

Ekahau no longer offers their free HeatMapper software for direct download, unfortunately, but Softonic still has it available for download there. (Even still, I'd double-check the download with VirusTotal, but I'm paranoid.) Grab a floorplan of your house from the county assessor, edit the file to double the whitespace around the building, import it into HeatMapper, and take a laptop on walkabout around the inside of the house clicking on the map where you're standing with each measurement and finish with a lap around the outside for a survey to give you an idea of what networks and signals might be interfering from and where... which can help you better select and lay out your own equipment and select appropriate channels accordingly.

As for sources of interference that aren't competing WiFi networks and won't be measured by those tools, there's Bluetooth devices, microwaves, refrigerator compressor motors, cordless home telephones, satellite dish receivers, fluorescent lights - both tube and CFL, and remote control toys like drones and cars to be mindful of that can cause flaky network issues, especially on the 2.4GHz spectrum. If you're having more problems with the 2.4GHz spectrum than 5GHz, but you're using the whole "same name for both as a seamless network" approach, it might be worth changing the 5GHz WiFi network name to something different. This will force connectivity over the more stable wireless connection.

If you think the problems are with Charter's network, or you're not sure if your network equipment and modem might be going dodgy, PingPlotter is a great tool for isolating where the failure is actually happening... yours or theirs. HeatMapper was invaluable when I got into a months-long beef with Comcast about 15 years ago trying to convince them that a neighbor had nicked the main cable feeding our local node while planting some shrubs, causing the internet to crap out every time it rained until the ground dried up. I'd call as it was wet, they'd never get a tech out sooner than three days later, and the problem would mostly clear up by then, just enough that they'd just leave and do nothing claiming it was fine and within tolerance and trying to pass the problem off on my non-rented equipment. After I finally cornered the on-site tech with weeks worth of HeatMapper logs along with rainfall records showing the two events coupled together and the continued disruption while dry, suddenly a work order was put in to replace the buried cable.

As for Android options, maybe someone else can recommend some similar free tools that don't require an online account to use.... but I'm using Windows and I know you're using Windows, so... (How's the new workstation working out, by the way?)

NotJen

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2020, 09:02:51 AM »
On some days our wi-fi goes down about a zillion times for 1 second to hours on end.

I had this problem earlier this year.  The outages slowly got worse over a period of time - at first I just chalked it up to more network traffic, but then it got unworkable.  I knew it wasn't the WiFi specifically because I use several wired connections.  I even bypassed my routers and plugged directly into the modem which SEEMED to fix the problem, but was apparently just a coincidence (that wasted some time and sanity).

In the end, I replaced my modem and that fixed my network issues. (Edit: I don't know exactly how old my modem was - probably 14 years old, but at least 11, so I really didn't feel bad replacing it.)
« Last Edit: August 12, 2020, 09:05:49 AM by NotJen »

Daley

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2020, 09:06:17 AM »
I had this problem earlier this year.  The outages slowly got worse over a period of time - at first I just chalked it up to more network traffic, but then it got unworkable.  I knew it wasn't the WiFi specifically because I use several wired connections.  I even bypassed my routers and plugged directly into the modem which SEEMED to fix the problem, but was apparently just a coincidence (that wasted some time and sanity).

In the end, I replaced my modem and that fixed my network issues.

For future reference, PingPlotter is fantastic for finding that sort of thing. :)

Hvillian

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2020, 09:24:46 AM »
Going through a very similar situation at our house currently, though nowhere near SoCal.   It makes work/school from home a real mess.  The fact that it is intermittent makes it that much worse to figure out.  So far I have tried troubleshooting by:
1.  Calling the Cable Internet Provider - They just said that they don't see any service outages.  Recommend rebooting everything (of course)
2.  Calling the Wifi Router People - Had me swap out the wifi boxes and move them around
3.  Switching out wireless router - Plugged in our older router.  Tried it by itself and with the newer router wired into it, too.
4.  Plugging devices directly into the router - Still had outages.
5.  Discovered my cable modem is on a list with known problems due to a "Puma" chip (no real idea what this means), so I bought a different cable modem which is getting its first test today.  Fingers crossed, prayers said . . .

Unfortunately I have to keep throwing time/money at this until it gets fixed.  Work and school from home involves a lot of live video, so even a few seconds of dropped connection a few times a day is very problematic, and I don't see an end in sight to that.

Sibley

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2020, 11:24:42 AM »
I was having similar issues and ended up replacing the ancient network cables connecting everything. That helped significantly. Still a bit suspicious of the modem, but it's not enough for me to investigate further at this time. When I got a person on the phone at Comcast and asked her what the errors were, that's when I was able to pinpoint the cables.

ixtap

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2020, 11:26:53 AM »
Spectrum sent out new modems a couple of months ago. Now we have to restart the modem at least once a week. You may want to give this a try if it goes out for any length of time before you have found any other solutions.

ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2020, 01:17:48 PM »
Thanks very much folks. Lots of info here to digest. We went all wi-fi several years ago because of our strange setup at the house we moved into (a wealthy suburb to be sure, but we are renters). Getting the cable to the den/office would require wrapping the entire house with a cable and drilling another hole--but I am leaning toward that solution at this point. The modem and router are two or three rooms away depending on how you measure this sort of thing, so there's that as well. We seem to have more problems with the desktop than our laptop--often both being used in the same room. But yesterday everything was going to hell for both machines.

I am setting up a new PC very soon--thanks to Daley suggestion here--and we'll see what difference that makes. It does not have a wi-fi card, so if any of you can suggest a USB wi-fi dongle/antenna I would be interested. 

Daley

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Re: Investigating the culprit of my crappy wi-fi (CHARTER Cable)
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2020, 01:50:57 PM »
I am setting up a new PC very soon--thanks to Daley suggestion here--and we'll see what difference that makes. It does not have a wi-fi card, so if any of you can suggest a USB wi-fi dongle/antenna I would be interested.

I've found that most USB WiFi solutions anymore, no matter how much you pay for 'em these days, are pretty flaky under Windows - or Linux for that matter. Ideally, you would probably want something PCIe based for that desktop, preferably an Intel-based chipset. Expect to pay around $50+, but your wireless network is still your Achilles heel. This said, if network stability is that important on your workstation or in that room, run the cable.

Unless these are rooms in the first floor of a two story building, it might be easier to poke a couple holes in the drywall (with your landlord's approval) and pull a run of Cat6 through the attic between the rooms, than poke holes through the exterior of the house.

There's also powerline network adapters that basically piggybacks a network connection off the Romex powerlines in your house and turns them into network wiring... not quite as good as a proper Cat6 line, but no destructive hole punching and attic crawling either, and the equipment isn't much more expensive than a decent WiFi card.