Wireless internet -- why so slow? and why does it sometimes crash?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Allan, Mar 19, 2004.

  1. Allan

    Allan Stunt Coordinator

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    As many of you know, I recently was helped on this board to set up a wireless intranet in my apt. Well, it has been about a week and a half and I have 2 questions I hope you all can help me with.

    1) For some reason, my laptop (which is connected wirelessly) is much much slower in surfing the web than my desktop (which is connected by wire). The laptop is a virtually brand new desktop and is actually a faster processor than the desktop, so why is it so slow? (And when I say slow, I mean it takes a LONG time for some page to load and some won't load at all.) Another observation is that (I think) the laptop is quicker when it is plugged in to the power outlet than when it is running on the battery.

    2) Every so often (maybe every other day or so) the whole intranet crashes. Neither computer can connect to the internet. If I unplug the ethernet cable from the wall and plug it directly into the desktop, that computer works fine. In order to get the intranet up and running again, I have to hit reset on the router and/or unplug it for a few seconds and then plug it back in.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    thanks again!
    -Allan
     
  2. Erik*R

    Erik*R Agent

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    slow browsing could be a few things including your PC not setup properly.

    The crashing may be a power issue. Linksys routers in particular are VERY sensitive to power flucuations. UPS with power regulating = necessary
     
  3. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Try the UPS idea. About your laptop being slow when unplugged, most laptops drop their processor speed when on battery. For instance, I have a Dell Latitude with a Petium 3 1.0Ghz processor. When it is running on battery it drops the processor speed to 700 MHz to save battery life. If you don't like this you can change it in the BIOS.

    About the slow browsing, do you have a display that shows how good your signal is? For instance, I have a 3com card that displays on the screen my connection speed and strength (i.e. 11Mbps and 5 out of 6 bars). You may need to play with the placement of your access point to get the best coverage.
     
  4. Allan

    Allan Stunt Coordinator

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    1. What is "UPS"?

    2. Seth, are you saying that if I have a "low" signal, web browsing will be very slow?

    Lastly, assuming the "crashing" is in fact a power problem, what is the solution? Just hit reset and/or turn the router off and then on??

    thanks
    Allan
     
  5. JohnVB

    JohnVB Stunt Coordinator

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    on the wireless network being slow....

    I don't have a wireless network, but I've talked to some people who do. What I hear is that the position of the wireless router is important. If your laptop isn't getting a good clear signal, you can get lost or corrupt network packets, which will make things slow.

    What you need to do is to determine if the problem is with the wireless connection to your laptop, or with the routing to the internet.

    As a test you might set up a network share on your desktop computer and check out fast it is copying a file to/from your laptop to your desktop. You want to get a number in kbytes/sec or mbytes/sec, if I remember right wireless can give about 11 megabits per sec which is a little over 1mbyte/sec or 1,000 kbyte/sec. There is some overhead in the network protocol so reasonable number would be a little below those.

    Unfortunately I don't have a specific recommendation on how to get transfer speeds. I know that when you ftp files, it often gives you a transfer rate, but you'd need to set up an ftp server to use that. You might try copying a fairly large file and use a stop watch. That won't be exremely accuate, but should give you an idea.

    If the speed is fast this way, then the wireless connection is fine, and the problem is in how that's getting routed to the internet. If this copy is slow, then there's something about the wireless itself - maybe you need to move the router to your attic or some other place. The suggestion about your battery being low might be valid too.

    As for the network crashing....

    Check to see if the computers can see each other on the network. If they can, then the problem probably is that you got a dropped signal from your ISP to your dsl or cable modem (I'm assuming this is how you connect to the internet). I get dropped signals on my modem too, from time to time, and just have to reset my modem.

    If the computers can't see each other, then I suspect there's still someting not quite right with your wireless setup.

    Hope this helps,

    - bones
     
  6. Shawn C

    Shawn C Screenwriter

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    Another thing to consider is maybe someone is leeching off of your connection? You machine will see other wireless networks within it's range.

    You should see an icon down in the system tray that shows your wireless activity. It kind looks like two monitors, one behind the other and they alternately flash colors depending on send or receive. Double-Click on that and it will show you your current status. Speed, time connected, whatever. I am 4 feet from my connection and on Wireless-G so mine says 54Mbps. Do you see the sent/received packets going up excessively when you aren't doing anything. Some activity while idle is normal.

    Click on properties, and then on "Wireless Networks". You will see all of the wireless connections available to you. Although this really won't tell you if someone is on your network, you can see if there is someone else near you with a wireless network and maybe you can change channels.
     
  7. Chun Lam

    Chun Lam Agent

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    If you are using a Linksys router, you should update the firmware of the router. I had similiar issues with an earlier version of the Linksys firmware.


    Hope this helps.
     
  8. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Good call on the firmware. Definitely do that ASAP.

    UPS is Uninteruptible Power Source (basically a surge protector with a big battery). They are fairly expensive though, so try everything else first.

    Do you have encryption and MAC Address filtering enabled? If not, do so immediately to take care of anyone who may be using your connection.

    If you have a weak signal it will certainly affect your performace. Now if it says 1.0Mbps, but you have 6 out of 6 bars or whatever measure it is, you're fine since most internet connections don't hit 1Mbps anyway. But even if it says 11.0Mbps, but you only have 1 out of 6 bars you will take a big performance hit.

    Also, do you have any wireless phones that run on 2.4GHz? If so, they may or may not be causing interference. Also, things like microwave ovens can interfere with WI-FI networks.
     
  9. James T

    James T Screenwriter

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    I have the same problem with my wireless router. I have an older class B router, which you may have.

    You don't have to reset your router or unplug it. Just run IPCONFIG /release and IPCONFIG /renew. It's a lot faster than unplugging or resetting your router.

    JohnVB mentioned other computers accessing your internet. For some reason, by default, wireless routers have encryption turned off. Access your router and ensure that you have some form of encryption and lock on your MAC address of your laptop. It's not 100% foolproof, but it will stop amateurs from accessing free internet.
     
  10. JohnVB

    JohnVB Stunt Coordinator

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    James T,

    Just a couple points of clarification. It's not hugely important, but thought you might want to know.

    First, I'm not the one who suggested that someone was leaching bandwidth off of his router. That was Shawn C.

    Second. I thought you might like to know that the performance of a router is not dependent on the number of open ports on it. I'm pretty sure that having the firewall on does not affect performance such that a person would notice. Depending on how the rules are implemented in the router, you might be able to measure a slight performance difference with benchmarking tools, but a person wouldn't be able to tell a difference.

    Also network software typically doesn't open a ton of ports and blast messages across multiple network paths. When you have a program that communicates over the network, usually it only "talks" to one port at the other end at at time for each type of operation. So let's say it's an instant messaging program. When it starts it will talk to a port on a master browser server to discover who's out there. After this it will show you your online buddies. Then when you decide to chat with someone, it will "talk" to another port on that person's computer to send the text. Your friend's computer will "talk" back to your computer on another port. So it will end up using a port for discovery and a couple ports to send and receive messages. It's slightly more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.

    So the short of it is, I'm pretty sure Allan's slow network connection is not cuased by the firewall, nor the number of open or closed ports on it.

    Third, when ipconfig is used, that doesn't reset the router itself. With the /release and /renew options, all it's doing is telling the DHCP software in there to make your ip address available if a computer needs an ip address and then requesting an ip address be given to you (usually when you do these one right after the other, you get the same ip address back that you had before). To reset the router, one must push the reset button (if there is one) or power cycle the unit.

    Your comments about the security of wireless routers is correct. While it won't stop a good hacker, they'll stop most people from getting in.

    It's no biggy. I just thought I'd expand your knowledge of computers a little bit.

    - bones
     
  11. James T

    James T Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the correction regarding Shawn, John.

    Although I have taken A+, MCSE, MCSA and Cisco courses, I was speaking more of personal experience. I have the same problems and the IPCONFIG thing actually does work. And yes, I'm aware I still get the same IP. I also never said ipconfig is the same as resetting, it's only an alternative.
     
  12. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Real Name:
    Nick So
    I found the wireless internet on campus to be real sketchy, sometimes its pretty decent speed, but usually when i first start up its slower than dialup [​IMG]

    I found releasing and renewing the IP worked on occasion as well...

    Ill try some of the stuff mentioned here
     
  13. JohnVB

    JohnVB Stunt Coordinator

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    Ok, I misunderstood then. Thanks for clarifying.

    - bones
     
  14. Kris McLaughlin

    Kris McLaughlin Stunt Coordinator

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    I hope no one minds if I throw a related question in here. I have an SMC 802.11b router that works great when encryption is off. (I do use MAC filtering, though.)

    Whenever I enable encryption (WEP or WPA), the wireless connection starts getting dropped about 4-5 times a day. It comes back in about a minute, but it's a real pain when it happens.

    I have no problems whatsoever when encryption is off. Any ideas why this might be happening?

    This is on my Powerbook running OSX.3, if that helps.

    Thanks,
     
  15. Diallo B

    Diallo B Screenwriter

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    Kris,

    somehow you have a setting in your wireless setup on your mac that is asking the network to confirm your connection. i don't use macs but i had this same problem with a smc router a few months ago. in order to solve the problem in win xp i had to uncheck "enable IEEE 802.1x authentication for this network" in the authentication tab in wirless network properties.

    look for a similar setting in your mac and i bet you will solve your problem!
     
  16. Allan

    Allan Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for all the tips. As it turned out, I was only getting "low" signal strength when sitting on my couch (which I don't really understand since the router is only about 10 feet away with nothing in between). Anyway, when I brought my laptop into my bedroom (about 15 feet away with a wall in between from the router), I had "excellent" signal strength and the speed was just fine.

    One more question though -- how do I configure the router/computers so that no one can tap into my connection and see what is on my computer. (I don't mind so much the tapping in, but I am concerned that someone could find personal information located on my computers.)

    thanks
    Allan
     
  17. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Enable encryption. This will likely be called WEP if you're using 802.11b or WPA if you're using 802.11g. Also, use MAC Address filtering. Both should be covered in the manual for the wireless router and card. Both are very important. You would leave yourself vulnerable if you only did one of the two.
     
  18. Allan

    Allan Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Seth. I'll check this out tonight. Do I only have to adjust those settings for the router? (i.e., I do not have to change anything on my laptop or desktop?)

    thanks
     
  19. Diallo B

    Diallo B Screenwriter

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    allan,

    step 1 and the easiest:

    you will have to enter the mac addresses of all your computers in the router's mac filter and activate mac address control in order to apply mac filtering to your network.

    step 2:

    for wep encryption, you will have to create a 26 character encryption key for your router (some routers create their own keys, but i like to create mine so i can enter it on any computer that i need to on my network) and enable wep encryption on your router. then you will have to go into the network properties of your wireless connection on your laptop and enter the same information.

    once you are in wireless network connection click on the wireless network tab then the configure button. after that enter your encrypted network key and enable data encryption. then click ok.

    once you have completed this you wireless connection will be as secure as it can be with today's current standards.
     
  20. Allan

    Allan Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Diallo,

    I'll try this all out tonight when I get home!

    Allan
     

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