Fixing the other home network

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Part of the blog-silence the past few weeks is because I was on vacation.

Nice, nice vacation.

However, it was at my parent's place and as with any technically savvy sprog who comes home, there be questions. In my case, it was an ongoing problem of slowness with the network. The first few days I didn't have time to delve, but I did eventually get into it.

The symptoms:

  • Wifi download speeds were about 75KB/s, and upload about 3x that. Yes, upload was faster. Yes, my 4G phone had faster downloads.
  • Wired speeds were at the rated speeds for the broadband connection.

Clearly, something was wrong with the wireless.

My little spectrum analyzer showed remarkably clean airwaves for a residential area. There was some congestion on their frequency, but moving it didn't help much.

And then I noticed something when I ran iwconfig on my laptop:

wlan0     IEEE 802.11abgn  ESSID:"dadhome"  
          Mode:Managed  Frequency:2.462 GHz  Access Point: 06:1D:61:FF:BB:00  
          Bit Rate=54 Mb/s   Tx-Power=15 dBm  
          Retry  long limit:7   RTS thr:off   Fragment thr:off
          Encryption key:on
          Power Management:off
          Link Quality=70/70  Signal level=-31 dBm 
          Rx invalid nwid:0  Rx invalid crypt:0  Rx invalid frag:0
          Tx excessive retries:2942  Invalid misc:1892   Missed beacon:0

Specifically, that "Tx excessive retired" statistic was incrementing, and I'd never seen that other than zero before. Most odd.

The router was a Cisco/Linksys, and a pretty new one at that. The firmware was latest, so that wasn't it. After a bit of poking about I found out that I could get vastly better throughput by setting the Wifi to G-Only, instead of B/G/N. In fact, setting it to N-only made the problem worse! Clearly, this router's N implementation is a bit off.

Wifi wasn't at the broadband speed yet, but it was still a vast improvement. That's where I left it, and they're happy.

1 Comment

This is exactly why I build routers for my family from Alix boards with known good Atheros chipsets. Not everyone has a sysadmin around to craft their routers and I feel for the people putting up with the shovel-loads that Linksys and DLink produce.

It also allows me a great deal of freedom in linking networks, troubleshooting, and a variety of other tasks that the "fix it guy" in the family is always call on for.