Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Home Networking

If your home network isn't quite up to snuff, it will put quite a damper on your pairing velocity. You will be doing a lot of VNC and VPN and screensharing and file transfers. If your normal bandwidth isn't everything you want it to be, just wait until you lose wifi and all your sessions have to be re-stablished. It can take several until you can continue where you left off.
Today :
  • I had a download of a scrubbed production database over secure VPN fail multiple times.
  • The method I used for downloading the file did not have a "resume" feature.
  • I had video and audio either freeze up, "stammer", or "flutter" all morning and afternoon.
  • I had my WebEx screen session drop out on me a few times.
  • Twice I had my laptop suddenly drop off the home network. I was in the middle of a quick architecture meeting and dropped out for probably fifteen minutes.
  • I lost time to a short series of reboots because windows was acting all wonky with relationship to the network. It didn't start normally after the first reboot. It's likeley that the problem was hardware responding to network troubles, but wonky is wonky and windows loves a reboot (oh, yes it does).

I made a number of changes to improve my situation:

  • The wireless G router I had set up earlier was in a corner of the house, and my office is on the opposite wall of the room opposite the office. I set up a second router, positioning it on top of a tall bookcase closer to the center of the house. I think it's better. I see better connection strength anyway. I do notice that the download speeds are more along the lines of 9Mb/s (have seen over 10) and the upload is closer to 1.5Mb/s.
  • The old router was also near a wireless phone base. I hear that's generally not such a good idea. Not so the new one.
  • The new router has shiny new firmware, because I updated it immediately.
  • I tried moving the older router (which is also a Vonage phone appliance) to be further down the chain, so that I got my wireless first. It made no discernable difference, and I feared degradation of phone service so I put it back. I'll leave it as-is. It did teach me that my modem is specifically expecting a certain MAC address. With that, I grew a new admiration for the standard feature of setting a soft MAC address on appliances.
  • Most of my neighbors (and I see networks for a lot of neighbors) are on 1, 6, and 11. Sigh. I don't have a lot of hope of avoiding collision, but since most of them are channel 1, I shifted up to a higher channel.

I wish I'd paid more attention to my home network before getting into this. I will continue the home pairing, but I really do need to have this stuff rock-solid.If you want to provide pointers to wifi stability tricks, please feel free to post comments and/or links.
I could use the help.