Wireless Networking – My Faith Hath Been Restored

I was at the end of my tether with wireless. I've been rebooting my router pretty much hourly for the last week or so. Not too big a deal - I don't live in a big house - but annoying all the same. What stopped me replacing the router was a belief that pretty much all wireless routers are flawed. My sisters and I bought our Mum a new laptop & wireless router for Christmas - she was all wired up with broadband and ready to go. Imagine her disappointment (and my hours of frustration) when the router would only sustain a connection for a limited period of time. Every time she wants to use the laptop -> router reboot time.

There does seem to be a relationship between the reliability of the router and the security scheme. Being a fan of WPA2, I expect the router to deliver. So even if it works on WEP or worse, Open, that doesn't really help. I want reliable WPA2 for all the devices on my network.

Well, I seem to have found an answer. For the grand sum of £34, and based on the great reviews it got on their site, I purchased a Zoom X6 from Ebuyer. (A word of warning on Ebuyer reviews BTW, they sometimes switch out products but retain the "old" reviews - especially for their own brand range - that's how I ended up with a pile of junk instead of a decent router for my Mum. When you dig deep you find out all the 5 start ratings are for a different router than the one they're currently shipping...)

The difference? I haven't had to reboot the Zoom router since it turned up 3 days ago. It's bliss. Every time I want to connect, it connects. Doesn't sound like too much to ask for? It's something the SMC Barricade I had couldn't do (and it wasn't the only SMC Barricade I had that couldn't do it either!)

It did take me a while to setup the Zoom as the MAC filtering works the opposite way to the SMC so I had blacklisted my own MAC address. A valuable lesson in doing things one step at a time (especially with wireless networking) rather than taking an "all at once" approach. Had I got it working in Open mode, then secured with WPA2 then added MAC address filtering it would have been pretty obvious why things stopped working. As it was I fumbled around for an embarrassingly long time before I figured it out.

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Comments (7)
  1. Michael says:

    For this exact reason I recently invested in a Cisco 1170ag, that a PC world was selling at discount as the box was opened, got it for 45% of retail price!

    and it works fabulously well, absurdly configurable – maybe too much! – but it just works, always.  

  2. @Michael

    That’s sweet for Cisco kit, the IT boys at work tell me it’s normally overpriced to begin with!

    More or less everyone I know uses the DG834G from Netgear (or the Sky-branded equivalent). It just works…

  3. Bruce Sandeman says:

    I agree with Michael.  Netgear are solid when it comes to reliability.  I’ve currently got the sky branded wireless router and it works with every device that I ever try to connect to it.  Makes me happy. 🙂

  4. Kev Palfreyman says:

    Don’t want to burst your bubble, but I have that same Zoom ADSL wireless router, and I’m now looking for another because the wireless is unreliable. Seems to be fine most of the time then you might get 3 disconnections in a couple of hours.  Prior to this I have an ebuyer special (a guru branded one) that worked perfectly for the first 18months before the radio died.  I have to say that in my old house (where I was on cable, not adsl) my MS 720 was the best thing ever and super reliable.  I’m considering separate adsl modem and wireless router next time – maybe the dlink 655.


  5. Tim Long says:

    The firmware can make a big difference, keep it up to date. Back when WiFi was relatively new, I had a Linksys WAP that needed rebooting about twice a week. It was like that for over 2 years. Then one day I upgraded the firmware and it ran for well over a year without ever needing a reboot, until I retired it in favour of an 802.11g model. I have had varying luck with various brands, I will not touch the white "domestic" netgear stuff because I have consistently had problems with them. I find myself gravitating towards ZyXel lately. They are so cheap it is tempting to think they can’t possibly be any good, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

    Another tip. Consider "HomePlug" power line networking. The devices can run at up to 200Mbps and in many cases can be a better alternative to WiFi, especially if you have signal strength issues.

    –Tim Long [SBS MVP]

  6. Ed Gough says:

    I can tell you what the problem you’re all seeing with the wireless being dodgy.

    Sufficed to say I’ve gone through NetGear, LinkSys, DLink, Zoom and a Thomson BT Home Hub.

    All did the same thing, the DNS resolving fails (most noticeable on a Mac) and then the routing fails.

    This is to do with overheating, I knew my box(es) had been getting hot but thought they were operating within normal parameters, especially as the UK isn’t known for its heat. However, at the end of my tether I decided to get an ice-pack from my freezer and put it on top of my router. Sounds unconventional, but it came back to life within a minute. The problem being I put all my kit in one place: TV, DVD, games consoles, phone and wireless router.  Now the TV alone generates masses of heat, so moving it further away did help. However it evenutally starterd failing again, because at the end of the day, with 2 humans and an array of electrical devices your living room is the hottest room in the house. So for 2 weeks our router was ice packed until I stretched it into our hall to broadcast beautiful WiFi to my garden and was too lazy to put it back – not been down once since then.

    Anyway, I hope this helps.

    BTW, the Zoom is a very sturdy box, but it’s also unbelievably slow when resolving domain names (you’d probably only notice this on a Mac due to different DNS caching policy).

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