Friday, December 30, 2005

PowerBook on a WLAN with a Billion 7402VGP

As the result of a protracted saga (involving two faulty Linksys WAG54G† routers supplied by Internode), my home network now runs through a Billion 7402VGP. Getting the PowerBook to work smoothly on the WLAN took some time. Maybe I've been spoiled previously, but with my previous router (a Netgear DG834GT), everything just worked.

I set up WPA-PSK on both ends. The symptoms were these:
  • After waking from sleep, the PowerBook was no longer connected to the WLAN, and it would not automatically reconnect.
  • Manually selecting the SSID from the AirPort drop-down menu wouldn't cause a reconnection. On the contrary, an extremely unhelpful dialog containing the text "There was an error joining the AirPort network Sesame Street", and no other information. What is it with Apple and error reporting?
  • Inexplicably, selecting "Other..." from that same drop-down, and entering the SSID by hand along with the password did work. The problem with disconnecting after sleep persisted.
Unfortunately, I did three things to try to solve the problem. I am not sure what subset of the following is necessary and sufficient:
  • I downloaded and installed Airport Update 2005-001.
  • I increased the Idle Timeout on the router (under Configuration/LAN/Wireless Security) to 65535.
  • I created a custom Location under the PowerBook's Network Preferences for use in my house. Obviously, it lists AirPort as the first preference for a network connection.
It has been working for 48 hours, so I am assuming it's fixed.

† I just can't let this post go without adding my voice to the myriad criticisms of the Linksys WAG54G. After purchasing one from my ISP, it ran well for about 36 hours. At that point, it locked up completely: the first thing I noticed was that the WLAN was down, then that it had lost line sync, and was not returning ICMP pings over Ethernet. It took three or four power-cycles to get it back to normal. This lasted perhaps another 12 hours, after which I reverted to using my trusty, old Netgear DG834GT. Internode replaced the WAG54G with another. The replacement couldn't even get a line sync on the known-good line—the Netgear was syncing up to 18Mbit/s straight away. I jumped through the Internode tech-support hoops—and it was pretty handy having the working Netgear by my side to fend off the more mundane troubleshooting suggestions—and they eventually suggested replacing the Linksys with a Billion 7402VGP. At my expense. Don't get me wrong—I am one of Internode's biggest referrers; they are a great ISP. But with the Linksys WAG54G, they're peddling junk.

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