Saturday, September 24, 2005

How is your WiFi?

I must admit that I am impressed with the adoption of WiFi. My parents, friends, coworkers, etc. all have jumped on for the ride. In fact, in my apartment I can see at least five networks—seven if I stay near the window. I think this is great!

Of course you knew I was going to say "but." Here's my gripe: the wireless protocol is still notoriously unreliable. It isn't enough that we get less than half of the advertised distance and perhaps a quarter of the advertised speed; we also must weather intermittent connections.

It's really the randomness that bothers me most. For example, I have a Netgear wireless router at home (802.11g) that worked pretty well for my Dell laptop for about three months. I could venture all over my apartment without fear. Recently however, my connection sucks. It is dropped frequently (several times a session) and often refuses to reconnect. If you use Windows XP and have experienced this, you are familiar with the dancing yellow ball. That annoying animation is supposed to indicate "one sec, we've got the network." For me, it usually lasts about a minute before the horrid red X appears. That awful red X is supposed to indicate that no access point is available. In my case it indicates "fuck you, you're on your own today."

Whoa, I got a little worked up there.

Perhaps the problem is with my router. I don't remember reading in the manual that it requires daily hard-resets but doing so does seem to do the trick.

I recall similar experiences with my D-Link router (so old that I could only find it on the support site!). I used to use a Linksys router at work and it functioned pretty well most of the time and required a reset only a couple of times each month. All of my experiences have been with protected (WEP or WPA-PSK) protected.

My point is that this technology has had plenty of time to mature. I'd rather see advancements in stability instead of speed. For nearly all users, speed isn't the issue.

If you have had good experiences with your wireless connection, please comment on what equipment you have. It might also be helpful to know if your access point is open or closed (if you don't know what that means and you set this thing up yourself, your router is open).

Finally, if you are using a Mac, don't bother commenting. My iBook rocks with any WiFi connection.