[kwlug-disc] Crashing wireless routers

unsolicited unsolicited at swiz.ca
Sun May 18 21:06:03 EDT 2014

On 14-05-18 12:59 PM, Khalid Baheyeldin wrote:

> My last 3 routers lasted for years without problems, after the first
>  one, many many years ago, being unstable.

Similar. Seems by guess and by golly. Some work forever, some not so
much. My Netgear (OpenWRT WNDR3700) 2.4GHz stopped working one day (just 
out of warranty), while the 5GHz remains. Go figure. Known problem on 
OpenWRT forum ... long after purchase. (*(*&^(*&^

Seems residential routers/gateways are disposable. I would not go D-Link
again (interface wise). e.g. Ludicrous that it cannot get the time
except via the WAN connection! (Same on Netgear too, for that matter.)
Last time I looked there's a TP-Link getting some good respect out
there. Also, it seems like technology has indeed changed (multi-antenna
wise) and today's products have much higher speeds than a few years ago.
If you have clients that can take advantage of it. Apparently external
antenna much preferred. (Don't fall in to thinking that wi-fi will ever
be as fast as copper, though.)

Buy two, 'cheap'. One for modem with wi-fi turned off, one for wherever
wi-fi is more convenient within the premises. When one goes, the spare
is then to hand until you have a chance to do something about it.

Bonus if OpenWRT'able. If you do so to one you can play with additional
functionality if/when you need to, or turn that functionality off if you
find you don't use it long term. e.g. OpenVPN, media sharing, ssh
(autossh / reverse even), dynamic ip, net sniffing, sanity checking 
(ping), whatever.

Same principles whether you do OpenWRT, pfsense, or whatever. Have to
say though ... doing so hasn't really bought me much. Certainly nothing
I can't live without - but that's my use case. Inevitably, anything I do
like that is easier to figure out on the real computer - full screen,
keyboard, documentation, functionality. And, of course, once done, no
real reason to slim it down into a router sized solution. It ain't broke
at that point so doesn't need fixing. The router solution does make a
great deal of sense when you're putting in black box functionality. e.g.
Remote ssh/vpn endpoint on a client's premises. Not so much when at home
and playing/learning only. Which is all to say, as a one-off, not much
point - after that, a great deal of point.

> Rogers provide me with modems that have WiFi in them. My current one
>  is the second such one. I just disable the residential gateway
> feature, so the modem is just a modem.

I don't much like using a provider's box - mind you I rent. PITA when it
has to be returned. What were those settings ... again? Let alone, the
provider will be able to read the configuration. Which, I assume,
includes passwords and wi-fi settings.

Khalid, your wi-fi still works this way? When I put mine into bridged
mode, all functionality but being a (one IP) modem stopped. (Not that I
wanted its wi-fi.)

On 14-05-18 12:43 PM, Charles M wrote:
> We seem to have bad luck with wireless routers and tend to go
> through one at least every six months. ...

> Our wireless router does the dialing for the DSL (our DSL modem is
> in bridged mode), is our DHCP server for computers on the LAN and

I used to do this too. Wanting more DHCP flexibility one day (e.g.
larger statically assigned ip address pool) I broke down and figured out
the isc dhcp server on my kubuntu box. The advantage since has been, new
box, copy files, go. No manual re-entry at each new router change. Worth
your time (if you have one, or two, non-mobile devices in your place).
And to change, pop into vi, restart service, get on with your day. No
popping into the router web interface or restarting the device and thus
the entire network. (Higher WAF!) Bonus - can play with (win)bind / try
and make Win happier at DHCP request.

- it's easy to forget that the DHCP server and gateway device don't have 
to be the same thing.
- for the purposes talked about, it's quite possible a vm will buy you 
as much and more than OpenWRT. e.g. One computer down, fire up vm on 
another. No hardware change or failure required. (Not entirely sure I'd 
want such as the gateway / pfsense 'box', performance wise, but DHCP and 
probably more would be fine.)

> We have a couple of computers connected to the wireless router, but
> they're actually going through a (couple of) unmanaged 4 port gigabit
> switches, one of which connects to the wireless router. We also have
> a small voip box connected to the wireless router. Typically there
> are only 3 wireless connections at any time to the router.

Changing switches isn't going to buy you anything significant. If it
ain't broke, it doesn't need fixing.

Which is not to say if you get two, not to swap out the switches if it
makes sense. Merely no point to doing so in and of itself.

Be careful of 'managed' switches. In your case they won't buy you
anything significant (assuming switches with QoS capability, not that
that means much when QoS isn't well adhered to). 'Careful' in the sense
that I bought one that turned out only to be 'smart' - a web interface
to see traffic flow and enable VLAN - pointless. (And has since died - 
without really getting any advantage out of the price premium. It was a 
Cisco device even.) Running OpenWRT on a cheaper model would have gotten 
me to the same place. What I expected was a CLI - NOT! )(*&^(*&%^(

- the same would not be true at CR though ... I could see a real managed
switch there where you could vlan / segment / secure various areas in
different ways. e.g. Bench / volunteer area vs other areas. And/or
pfsense between CR and the rest of the world. e.g. test bench for
incoming win computers with no internet access, blacklisted public ip
tables, etc.

> The other day I had some connection problems on one of the LAN
> computers. Thought it might be one of the switches, but the problems
>  have since disappeared, but I'm thinking I have some major
> rethinking to do to get our home network in shape.

May not be you. I've been finding my kubuntu box goes stupid some times,
and only after resetting the net a few times tried a ping from another
computer - it was fine. Problem was solely within the kubuntu box.

I've found an ifconfig down, up, has worked occasionally, and also a
'service ipblock restart'. (There's a bug in there where a failure to
fetch a list seems to stop the UI in it's tracks, and the world stops
spinning.) Strangely, I can ping other devices on my net, including my
ATA, but not, for example,, or the Roger's box the gateway gets
its DHCP from. Thus being able to get to a sh on my phone, or browse to
the ATA's tools interface, for ping, has been very useful.

> I was thinking of building a wired router (pfsense/untangle
> /smoothwall) and only using the wireless router as a wireless access
> point. Thinking I would ditch the two gigabit switches (plastic dlink
> ones) for a single 8  port one
> I saw at Canada Computers (TP-Link I think).

I'm starting to think, being disposable, OpenWRT et al isn't worth the 
effort. By the time whatever fails, I've long lost the knowledge, and 
reconstituting it on a new device is just a PITA. Especially if the net 
is down for the duration - you sort of have to jump right on it, usually 
when you have 42 other things you're supposed to be getting on with.

My last one I just stayed stock, and haven't looked back.

For the provider connection point, assuming you don't use the wireless 
as you propose, any old router will do. You just need PPPoE and DHCP at 
that point - even a 100MB only connection will be way faster than your 
provider. i.e. Any old router turned in to CR will do you.

It seems to me the last two routers that have died (wi-fi  wise) have 
been after exercising the wi-fi quite hard for some time. I remember 
wondering if they had just over-heated / burned the wi-fi out.

You might see if your wi-fi box is getting quite hot / it has adequate 
ventilation. For such even within a closed closet should do, so I don't 
imagine that's it. Cooling efficiency on such devices seems quite poor, 
though. i.e. No matter where you put it, if wi-fi is being used hard and 
heating up and the fans aren't adequately pushing the heat out of the 
box, no amount of space surrounding the beast is going to help - the 
overheating is not of the surrounding area, merely within the box 
itself. And nothing you do will overcome design shortcomings at that 
point - short of decasing it. And usually by the time you know you need 
to the damage has been done.


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