Baffled By Broadcasting

October 11th, 2009 | Posted by administratrix in Nerd

In which universe does this make any sense?

Okay, so I don’t really know how wi-fi works. I assume it’s some sort of transmitter/receiver relationship like radio or old-style television. I figure there needs to be an appropriate amount of proximity and an inversely appropriate lack of obstacles between the two stations, but once you’ve got a device that’s transmitting and a device that’s receiving, it should just work barring interference on the same frequency, right?

So why does my wi-fi signal degrade over time?

I have a cheap-ass Encore wireless DSL modem. It’s in the guest bedroom, which is at the front of the house. I do 99% of my computing from my bedroom, which is upstairs and at the opposite end of the house.

I can get online just fine most of the time; but then everything gets really shitty. I can barely surf, let alone watch vids on Netflix (which is, yes, my main use of my connection these days. So sue me). If I run a tracert, the first hop – between my computer and my modem – takes FOR. FUCKING. EVER.

And here’s where it gets weird: no standard troubleshooting (refresh wifi adapter, reboot computer, reboot modem, etc.) has any effect whatsoever, BUT if I just carry the netbook down to the router I can then put it back where it started and it WORKS JUST FINE for a week or more.

In my room I get two bars. Next to the modem, duh, I get five. All I have to do is get the netbook close to the router for a few minutes and my problems are solved for days. I have experienced this phenomenon too many times to dismiss it as coincidence. I don’t have to reboot anything, or even reconnect: I just have to get physically closer for a few minutes and my connection stabilizes for up to a week.

My question is this: WTF, over?

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6 Responses

  • Pavix says:

    So from my experience having the modem also performing wifi functions is very bad. I had problems with my routers for the longest time, I got fed up and took a old 500mhz box with 300ish MB of RAM and installed FreeBSD, I was using just generic DHCP, but nowadays I require PPPoE authentication before you’ll get an IP and of course statically assigning yourself an IP wont do you any good. I have a belkin pre-n wireless router setup as an AP only, and my network is 99.9% reliable. I would turn off wireless in the modem, connect yourself a shiney wifi router and set it up as a AP and your problems will be fixed.

    Noted. -m

  • amped says:

    Ditto that. Don’t use the modem as a wireless router. We’ve never had any consistent luck doing that.

    Okay. -m

  • Jay-Rob says:

    We can lock the modem into 802.11B. The link speed will be locked at 11Mbps but the signal should travel farther.

    We can try that. But I think we should maybe get a wireless router too, and see what theze bitchez is talkin’ about. -m

  • Jim@HiTek says:

    You can also buy yourself any one of hundreds of WiFi extenders. What’s happening of course is that the WiFi AP you are using has firmware in it that’s set up to consistently change. In your case, it’s changing to less and less signal throughput. It looks at your transceiver levels and counts the dropped packets. When it reaches a threshold, it drops to a lower rate to try to reduce the dropped packet rate. Keeps doing that over time until at the end of the week you have no bandwidth. It seldom feels the need to increase throughput. These drop backs are caused by thousands of variables. Remember the vagary of radio.

    Of course! It renegotiates over and over until there’s no bandwidth. Duh. Just like a dial-up handshake. Thank you! -m

  • Brad says:

    I bought a Linksys router that could be flashed with DD-WRT firmware. It gives you waaay more options to configure your router and is very stable. Here’s a link:

    Just make sure the router that you choose can be flashed.

    Hello, you! I check your blog and it’s still dead. Glad you’re around. *smooch* -m

  • Buzz says:

    Do you have a lot of neighbors with WiFi that you see in your area from your laptops POV? See if they’re all on the same channel, then try changing your channel in your router settings. It’s most likely some sort of interference occasionally causing a problem, like when you and your neighbors are all downloading pron at the same time. 🙂