Fighting with My Wireless Network

So, I moved into a new office at a nicer location, it’s in downtown Evanston. I had been looking or a single office a few weeks ago, but I stumbled upon a good opportunity to rent some space in downtown Evanston @ 626 Grove across the street from the Italian Coffee Bar. Location makes a difference, my last office was tucked away in the back of a poorly constructed building near Main and Chicago. While Main and Chicago is a great place to live, it’s a somewhat depressing place to work (there’s nothing there).

Spent the majority of this last week struggling with a network. It took the AT&T DSL guys two visits to get the line functioning properly, but that was only the beginning of my trials. I was trying to get the wireless network to work for a colleague renting an office down the hall, and I’ve come to the realization that wireless networks are too much rocket science….. too many options, and some fairly annoying problems with standards.

1. IBM Thinkpads with the Intel3495ABG wireless have this setting called Roaming Agressiveness that is incompatible with sanity. The idea is that if you configure the card to agressively roam, it will drop your current network whenever it sees another network with a stronger wireless signal. In other words, if you work anywhere where there are lots of companies packed together, your computer is going to constantly try to switch signals and drop your existing signal. To the user, this means that even though you might be perfectly happy with your two or three bar wireless signal and ongoing Skype conversation, as soon as the office next to you turns on the Netgear router that you have nothing to do with, your Thinkpad is going to drop your connection and try to get on the other network. Long story short, it took me hours to figure out that Roaming Agressiveness was the problem – deactivate it if you are having intermittent connectivity problems. This feature might have made sense when there were very few wireless networks, but, these days, there are at least 50 access points in a 100 foot radius.

2. Wireless B support, turn it off. Wireless B is essentially worthless. Disable B and go with G. As soon as I did this, performance of all the wireless clients on the network improved dramatically. If G is so much better than B, then why does everything try to connect as a B client before it tries G? Ugh.

3. Wireless N routers – now this is the thing that is the most annoying. Airport Express will attempt to connect to the wireless router as a B, but there is no setting to tell the Airport Express to connect as a G-only. The only way to get Airtunes to work was to run the N router in G mode only. This is fine because all of the clients are running G, but well (throwing hands up in the air) why did I bother buying an N router if I have to run it as a G router.

I hate everyone.