Why I hate Wi-Fi

Two bad encounters with Wi-Fi G

Not long ago, I purchased a Netgear WGR614 wireless G router. It's a new router and the G flavor of Wi-Fi is relatively mature so I didn't expect any problems. Silly me.

I set up the wireless network to use WPA-PSK-TKIP and connected to it just fine from my Windows XP laptop. A relative came over and their Windows XP laptop also connected to the Wi-Fi network. But, a few days later a third person tried it and their Windows XP laptop, a ThinkPad T60, refused to make a connection.

Perhaps, the vendor software managing the network connection was at fault. The first two machines had used Windows XP to handle the wireless connection. Nope. Even with Windows XP in charge of connecting, the T60 refused to get with the program. I turned off the software firewall and verified the router was using the latest firmware (which was version 9). I even turned off the firewall in the router. In the end, nothing helped and I had to switch routers.

Netgear

Now, days later, I get to finish debugging this. It turns out, the problematic T60 laptop does Wi-Fi just fine. Using the vendor supplied software, and with the firewall running, it connects to WiFi G routers from both Linksys and Belkin. Then, we try the Netgear WGR614 again, and it refuses to connect.

So, the Netgear router talks to two laptops just fine but not to the T60 ThinkPad. The T60 ThinkPad talks to two WiFi routers just fine, but not the Netgear router.

Go figure.

Last week, I set up a wireless network for a client. It worked fine for a couple days and then nothing. I'm on the phone with the client checking this and checking that, both from the wireless computer and from a wired computer connected to the same router. Some things are working, some aren't, I'm struggling to get a handle on the problem. And then, the network is working. Mind you, we didn't change anything. Like a petulant child, the network just decided to start working. Much like it decided to stop working. My best guess is some type of local radio interference.

One thing we tried was verifying the password for the network, which was also Wi-Fi G with WPA-PSK-TKIP. Rather than have the client login to the router and try to find the sub-sub section where the password is, I had them purposely enter an invalid password. I wanted to see the error message you get, figuring the lack on an error message meant the password hadn't changed. This was on a Windows XP machine using Windows to control the wireless network.

There is no error message.

Thinking that something must be wrong, I verified this on another XP machine on another network. Sure enough, if you login to a WPA-PSK-TKIP network with the wrong password, Microsoft doesn't see fit to issue any error message at all.

I hate Wi-Fi.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.

About the author

    Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

    He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.

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