Plenty of people who link computers and other devices to the internet over a wireless network are finding they can no longer connect quite as easily as they once could. That's certainly my experience and, if the many, many emails I received after grumbling about it in public are anything to go by, it's a problem many Register …
There is a really simple solution ...
Don't use WiFi.
It really is that simple.
A lot of people I know band about how great Wireless is but they don't consider its shortcomings. I don't recommend it at all. Sure you are doing away with all those cables... but considering that the vast majority of people have one or two pcs at home - desktops - then they won't be omved around a lot. So just deal with the cables.
Went through this sort of thing myself, recently.
My wife & I recently moved into a new house - and I noticed that using the wireless in the living room (the AP is upstairs in the spare bedroom I'm using as an office) could cause 30+ second outages at random.
Since I'd changed ISP, and therefore was using a different access point, I switched back to the MIMO one first as a check. This improved "peak" speed a little, but the dropouts still occured - seemingly as often.
Since I want to stream video over the house network (MythTV if you're interested) this wasn't an option - and after similar thoughts to those mentioned, I decided to go with the devolo powerline (85Mbps) answer.
I now have the MIMO AP in the living room, connected to the stuff in the office via the devolo. No more dropouts on the wireless, and the speed is pretty good. The devolo are reporting that they are linked to each other at around 85Mbps, and I can easily get a sustained 20Mbps from my laptop, via the AP and the devolo, to the machines in the office.
As pointed out in the article, I've got the issue now that I'm using 2 APs on 2 channels, which may make things worse for the wireless side, but thankfully around us there are a few channels still not in use....
And another thing...
Nice useful article. One major cause of dodgy connections however is BitTorrent.
The router firmware sometimes cannot maintain connections to the many peers and dies. A simple diagnostic step before buying new hardware is to shut down any BitTorrent clients, reboot the router and try again.
It worked for me, so now I severely throttle the number of connections my BitTorrent client can make.
Netstumbler is useless
Using a tool like netstumbler won't gain you anything, all it does is probe for available access points - which any OS with wireless support already does.
You won't see how many clients are connected, you won't see how much traffic is actually going back and forth and you won't see "hidden" networks at all. In short, the information you get from netstumbler will be virtually worthless.
Really, you need an app like Kismet/KisMAC which will promiscuously sniff the channels you hope to use, to see exactly what traffic is already being transmitted on those frequencies.
The problem isn't your neighbours
The problem isn't your noisy neighbours, instead like CPUs your wifi hardware just loses range over time....
All of my neighbours suddenly started getting Wireless connections and my connection would drop out approximately every 15 minutes. So, one quick flash upgrade on the hub and 1 channel change later it's all been fine since (I'm touching a very large railway sleeper as I say that).
From the article: "Plenty of tinkerers have constructed antenna enhancements or installed high-gain antennae, and this can help the access point but doesn't do much for the client if it has an integrated antenna. Yes, it picks up a stronger signal or can hear a more distant source, but it may not be able to talk back."
It helps the client transmit just as much as it helps the access point transmit, because an aerial (that's the UK word) has the same gain whether it is transmitting or receiving. The access point will get more wanted signal from the client, and less unwanted noise from other directions, if it has a directional aerial. That's why we stick satellite dishes and Yagi TV aerials on the sides of our houses, rather than omnidirectional monopoles or dipoles.
The disadvantage with directional aerials, of course, is that you have to restrict the placement of the client to within the directional beam of the access point. Oh, and I believe it is also illegal because in the path of the beam you are transmitting with more power than is permitted, making it more likely you will interfere with other users.
CPUs losing range?
Luca, I've not heard of wireless access points etc losing range, let alone CPUs! *baffled*
Re. CPUs losing range?
This should explain it, Matthew:
But please note the date on which the story was published...
To keep the load down, I skipped all stories helpfully labelled "April fool".
For detecting interference, and "seeing" the spectrum/free channels in the 2.4GHz ISM band, you could do a lot worse than checking out Metageek's Wi-Spy: www.wireless-analysis.co.uk. It's a very handy little tool!
If you're looking at DD-WRT in more detail in the near future, take a look also at openwrt. I've been using this for a couple of years and really like the flexibility of having a small linux server with hundreds of optional packages available.
It's also rock solid; just ssh'd in to the one I set up for my mother in law on the other side of the planet and it's behaving itself; she never complains about her internet connection.
09:05:51 up 111 days, 18:12, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
Even the clock is right.
That said, dd-wrt means I can use a couple of the crippled wrt54g v5s (half the rom and ram of the previous models) I accidentally bought before I knew better.