Over the last few weeks I've written some posts about the troubles that I've been having with various Linksys routers, and today was the day that I officially removed all Linksys devices from my network. Over the last few years I have sworn by this company, having had problems with some of the other competitors out there. There have been print servers, NAS devices, wireless routers, firewalls, and repeaters on my home network since 1999, and I have aimed to ensure that everything was always manufactured by Linksys because of the quality and ease of use each hardware device had. I know that there are better devices out there, but the consumer line of devices made by this company has typically been above the competition.
Until recently, that is.
In previous posts, I've ranted about problems with the WRT54GS (version 6) and the WRT300N (version 1). I've been through two of the GS models and a 300N in the last 4 weeks. The last solid device, a WRT54G (version 3) gave some very good performance with the factory firmware, followed by superb performance with Sveasoft's Alchemy. Unfortunately, that device's LAN ports died, which prompted the replacement.
To summarize the failures of the Linksys devices, both the WRT54GS routers would consistently drop a network connection. It did not matter if the computer was running wired or wireless, the connection would often drop every 20 minutes to an hour. When running more than a single torrent, the router would often kick the offending computer offline. At first, I had thought this was a network driver problem on my PC (my notebook has a known issue with older drivers and WinXP SP2), but this was not the case. When running Slackware, WinXP Pro SP2, or Sun's Solaris, I could never remain on the network for more than a day.
To say this was infuriating would be an understatement.
The WRT300N was a little better, in that I could allocate DHCP addresses (which is pretty important to me). This device gave superb wireless transmissions when it wanted to work, and would let me run up to four torrents simultaneously before succumbing to some dumb failure. I did attempt to use the Sveasoft Talisman/Basic firmware to correct the matter, but unfortunately, this does not seem to be ready for full-time use. The install went perfect, however, configurations would often be incredibly difficult to implement. I would often be greeted with a blank screen after trying to make changes, and found that my requests would never be executed before the white screen. To that end, I re-installed the factory firmware and prepped the device for a return to the store.
So, throwing caution to the wind, I decided to give D-Link a try again. I have worked with these on several occasions in the past, but never on my own network. In the past I had found the web UI to be very weak and lacking in functionality. Luckily, the newer routers do not have these limitations.
I picked up a DIR-625 after exchanging the WRT300N, and quickly made my way back home. Future-proofing is always a consideration when picking up new hardware, and judging from a few review sites, this router is pretty solid for everyone. What I didn't understand, though, was why I was having so many troubles with it after getting the unit home.
Only my notebook was plugged into the LAN port of the router when it was first powered up. The web UI was quick and easy to understand. I had the unit configured with my standard SSID, WEP, DHCP allocations and port accesses within the space of five minutes. Then I plugged my router in to the WAN port and tried to configure the device for internet access. This is when I started running in to problems.
The router picked up the DSL modem (a D-Link, no less) and was assigned the standard "unrecognized MAC IP" that Telus provides when an unregistered MAC device connects to the modem. This usually is not a problem as this means users are automatically forwarded to the registration page when they access the internet. Unfortunately, this didn't happen for me, and the router decided to give me a "gateway is measuring your connectivity" messages, saying that I would be directed in a moment.
This never happened.
To add insult to injury, my wired connection was being reset by the router every 60 seconds while it measured.
At one point, I had let the router try and measure my connectivity (which was nil) for half an hour while on hold with D-Link tech support. I feel sorry for the guy that answered my call. I did maintain civility and discussed the matter with him as politely as possible, but it was clear to him that my frustration had reached a boiling point. After another half-hour on the phone, the issue was not resolved and I decided that enough was enough, thanked the tech for his time and ripped the power cord and CAT5 cables from the router. I'm sure that my neighbours heard my explicit shouts as I came to terms with yet another failure in my network.
I just expect things to work. Just because I'm a programmer working with both software and hardware doesn't mean that I want to spend my weekends at home struggling to get simple consumer-grade equipment to work in some consistent and dependable manner.
It was at this point that I called Reiko and talked with her for a bit. I'm really lucky to have met someone like her. It seems that whenever I'm upset, she is calm and I can relax and return to normal. Shortly after our chat, I reconnected the router and decided to try again.
The modem was plugged in to the router. My notebook was plugged in to the router. It was the exact same configuration that had been in place for the past three hours of frustration. Only now, I could register the router (modifying it's reported MAC addy did nothing, as this was the first thing I tried). Once this was done, the router went and talked to the D-Link servers to measure my connectivity and report back that a newer firmware was out for my model.
So it's my guess that the router was stuck in some repetitive loop because the modem said that it was connected to the internet, but Telus' MAC registration requirements were preventing the unit from talking to its home servers. Fun? Wow ….
Suffice to say, the unit is now up and running. I'm able to get some great speeds from my torrents as well as the NAS. The radio strength is superb. And best of all, the router has some meaningful status pages.
Hopefully this unit will give me many years (at least 2, please) of solid use.