Coded green.

Thursday 21 July 2005

SparkLAN router

Pic of the day: Consigned to the rubbish heap of history. Or at least of my history. Defective SparkLAN router. Probably. Who knows where it has been?

New network woes

One year ago, I was frustrated. I was trying to set up a small home network based on the Bluetooth short-range wireless technology. The documentation was scarce and if anything misleading. Things that worked on one machine did not work on another, or stopped working for no obvious reason. But eventually it worked well enough for my rather domestic needs.

One year later, it was still not reliable. I would sometimes have to reboot my bedroom computer to connect to the Internet, and moving files between my computers was so hit & miss that I transferred them over the Internet rather than directly. So, time to install a REAL network, one that was made for that purpose only.

Do I really have to tell you how it went? If you've ever worked with computers, you probably know the rest by now.


I bought a SparkLAN, one router with a built-in wireless access point. One USB receiver for the bedroom computer, one plug-in for the portable. All from the same company.

I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall when the USB device looked different from the picture on the box. I definitely saw the writing on the inside of the cardboard the router came in. That writing was with a ball-point pen and contained some trivial information pertaining to a small company in town. Proof of my theory that computer shops don't return faulty products, but rather put them back in the shelf and sell them to another customer. Sooner or later they will find someone who doesn't return it. Or perhaps they give up when the packaging gets visibly worn. In this case, local readers may want to know that I bought it at Telehuset here in Kristiansand. It would be nice if they were the only ones doing this, but I doubt it. Most of my computers have come with some trivial hardware fault, and/or pre-installed with some other user than me.

Anyway, I tested the equipment at work first, but this was hopeless as we already have a router and it conflicted with this one. (They were preset to the same IP address, which is probably commmon in the industry. Only much later did I find out that you can change the settings for one of the routers.) I took the stuff home, and one warm summer day I turned off the computers, unplugged the USB sticks and set up the router. The two machines in the living room both feed off cables from the router now, whereas in the past the newest of them functioned as a server and broadcast to the other 1 meter away over Bluetooth.

Needless to say, I turn the first machine back on and it does not connect to the Internet. On the bright side, it did not explode and even worked normally offline. I log on the router (which did not work either until I had reset it) and play around with the settings. I gradually realize that the router should be the one to log on to my ISP with my username and password, and conversely my PC should no longer do so. Trying to make it log on when there is a router in between caused it to not connect at all. Instead, the connection should just stay open and the Internet would automatically flow into it from the router. So far, so good. I connect to the Internet.

I start Azureus, the BitTorrent client. (Open-faced file sharing network.) It connects, but poorly. Performance is abysmal and most leeches cannot connect to me at all. The router evidently acts as a firewall. So I fiddle around more on the router, and happen upon something called DMZ. I run the command "ipconfig" in a dos box on my PC to find the IP number, then set that one in the DMZ. (You can only do this with one computer on your network. I have no idea how to have two or more computers run file sharing, but then again I have no idea why I would want that either.) The problem is solved. Time to move on to the next machine.

The other living room machine is so old that it runs Windows Millennium Edition. That means that the same things are done in a different way. Also it lacked a built-in network card (that's how old it is) and I had to connect via a Jensen USB Ethernet card, which I accidentally got when I first ordered ADSL. (Back then I used a HP portable which already had a network card, and of course when I added the USB network card it didn't work, back then. But now it came in handy.) Needless to say, after installation it did not work with the router. I fiddled with the settings, until I happened to delete a driver for TV something, light knows why it had come in there since I don't have a TV. When it then forced me to reboot, it came up asking for username and password suddenly. I gave my online username and password and was on the Net as soon as I logged on. For all I know this would have worked even if I had chosen Donald as username and Duck as password. Perhaps I'll try it some day when nothing else is in disarray.

Time to boot the bedroom PC, the newest one with the super graphics card bought for playing City of Heroes. Although as it is, it ended up becoming my Sims2 machine, while I play CoH in my living room with a GeForce 3 Ti 200 graphics card from around the turn of the century, cannibalized from a machine where the fan finally broke on the power supply. Back to the bedroom machine. I connect the 11g USB receiver. The machine detects new hardware, and reasonably asks for permission to fetch a driver online. Alas, it is to get online I install this card, so the answer is no. Well, says the machine, I can't find any driver here, so we'll just ignore it. The CD with the driver is in the CD bay, if you wondered. So I install it manually and start again. This time it manages to install the driver.

Now to look for a network. It finds a network called HOME, but when I try to connect it says that the network may have moved away. This repeats itself. I know the name of my wireless network and runs the wizard "Install a home or small business network". This time it discovers and connects to the home network. Success! For a few minutes. I try to copy a file over the network and notice that the signal strength varies randomly while I sit there watching it. It varies from good to very low to nothing, and back. During one of the nothings it disconnects. Now it seems to have blacklisted the network. Even reboot won't help. I must run the home network wizard again and make a new connection and a new instance of the network entry. Not fun.

After a couple days of only sporadic network connection, I go to the Shop of Angels and buy a network card from a different supplier. (Jensen, the guys that made the USB Ethernet card. They make a lot of small electronics.) I connect it, and of course have to run the network wizard again, although in a shorter form. It still does not work. I bring up the process list and kills the process that supported the old network card that is no longer in there. Suddenly it connects. The signal strength still varies randomly, and it still gives up after some minutes. I have tried with a different USB port, same thing.

The next day I go to the shop again, and this time I buy a new router. Shrink wrapped, so I know it hasn't been returned from another disgruntled user... at least not locally. What will happen now? Will the new server miraculously work at first try, all the programs run fine, and the bedroom computer come online? Watch this space. Or at least watch space.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Fast forward
Two years ago: Monday with Sims
Three years ago: Perspective, people, perspective!
Four years ago: The future revisited
Five years ago: Not always be strong
Six years ago: Sleepy & unfocused

Visit the for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.

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