Technically speaking Part III

Now that I have the router up and running, it’s now time to decide where the best place to put it.  Since we moved into the house, the router and modem have been in close proximity to the main computers here.  That is, in the addition off the main house in the back of the property.  For whatever reason, it’s really been the place that we spend the majority of our time, year in and out.  Which is weird sometimes, considering it’s a 3 1/2 bedroom house, on two stories.  We don’t have children, so 2 1/2 of the bedrooms have become de-facto storage space.

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D-Link DIR-868L router

Getting back to the issue though, our WiFi setup has been incredibly wrong since the beginning.  If you consider how WiFi works through a router, the antennas send out a signal in all directions, as long as you have them pointed in the correct configuration.  The old D-Link router I had for the past 6 years had an omni-directional antenna, in that it was encased inside the housing and wasn’t visible. 

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TP-Link Archer A8 router

 

Most routers have the ubiquitous 3-4 (or nowadays more) antennas and most people (me included…yes guilty) leave them in the standard up position without even considering that they can be directed where you want your WiFi signals to go.  By all that I understand, generally you want your router to be in the middle of the action, where you spend the majority of your time, so that you can get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of WiFi coverage.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to invest in things like Access Points, repeaters, even possibly a second router to adequately cover your house and property.  Of course, it’s not as simple as that (it never is, right?) because in most instances you don’t just have a router, you have to consider where your modem is, whether it’s fiber, cable or even DSL (I’m guessing satellite is probably similar, but I’ve never had a satellite Internet downlink).

In my case, the modem sits next to the router.  When we upgraded to fiber 4-5 years ago, the installer asked where to put the modem.  At the time, I had thought probably it would have been a better option to put it in the middle of the house, near the west facing exit door, but our computers are here in the addition, where the router would be.  The house was built in the 19th century (1838), so it wasn’t designed with electricity in mind, let alone hi-speed Internet connections.  Consequently, when the house was wired sometime in the 1950’s (I’m guessing based on the age of some of the outlets) there wasn’t a lot of thought put in to where those outlets needed to go.  So it was very haphazard.  Over the last 20 years we’ve been upgrading outlets as needed, because the very idea of re-wiring this house might end up costing us more than the property is valued at.  Too, to do a proper re-wiring, one needs full access to walls and such, to pull wire.  So we’d have to basically demo the interior to a degree that makes my eyes water.  Most people’s houses it wouldn’t be an issue because drywall isn’t all that expensive.  Plaster on the other hand?  Double your price estimate.  Or triple it.  There aren’t many qualified plasterers these days.  Believe me, I know.

As of right now, my plan is to put the modem and router more central to the middle of the house and run either Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable back to the addition to a switch so both of the desktops can be hardwired to the router.  Hopefully that will assist with the remainder of the house being covered by both the low speed WiFi (2.4 ghz) and the higher 5 ghz connection.  After I’ve had it connected and running for awhile, I’ll give another update.

 

Technically Speaking Part II

This is the conclusion of the saga I started back last month with my TP-Link router…

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m no newbie when it comes to computers, computer systems and the like.  I remember (vividly) a time when connecting to a computer network took way more than just flipping a switch.  Plug-and-play just didn’t exist in the 1980s.  Hell, personal computers were in their infancy at the time I was in high school. A TRaSh-80 was something you got at a Radio Shack.  Needless to say, I thought I was equal to the task of figuring this out.  Apparently, nothing could be further from the truth.

After having worked on different solutions, for many days I was rewarded with failure after failure.  Giving up after the fifth or sixth go-round of shutting off the new router, then the modem, then powering one on and then the other (and vice-versa) I posted a cry for help on the router manufacturer’s help forum.  There ensued a spirited conversation with a couple of tech-heads, but the solution remained elusive.  Although in the end, at least one hit on the right idea, even if it was sort of backwards when he suggested it.

I ordered a replacement from Amazon, thinking the router I had was defective.  Amazon was very obliging and sent me one in a couple of days.  Being wary of failure, I put off trying it out for about three weeks.  I’m an ace procrastinator when I have the opportunity.  I definitely put that to good use, even though I should not have.  This week I’ve been on vacation and many opportunities to work on this presented themselves.  But like some other things I’ve been meaning to do, it was put off time and again.

Until yesterday morning.  It just so happened that my wife had a dentist appointment in the afternoon, and I’d successfully discovered a manual for the fiber modem that I have.  Of course it’s not so easy as you’d think since it’s written in Portuguese.  Still, it had pictures, so with my basic understanding of a bit of Italian and Spanish, I pieced together how to disconnect the fiber line from the modem, having hit upon the idea it might be keeping power to the modem even after having disconnected the power cord.  After a little pulling and squeezing, I was finally able to remove the cable without breaking it.  The manual for the modem said to wait at least five minutes for the modem to ‘forget’ the MAC address of the old router.  Just to be sure, I waited eight minutes.  Put everything back together, powered things up and crossed my fingers.  Green light!  Success!  I fixed…oh damn.  It went back to Orange.  And stayed there.  Checking the web browser, setting up the router for the umpteenth time, I determined it still wasn’t connecting to the internet.

The time had come.  Cracked open the new router, saved the packing material and put the other one into the new box for shipping back to Amazon.  Connected it to the modem, turned it on and….bupkus.  It didn’t connect.  Again.  But even with this failure I discovered it wasn’t the router, it was something else.  Apparently at my ISP there was a breakdown in communication.  So I called their helpline and talked to one of the customer service reps.  I was all prepared to explain everything that I did when she mentioned that she needed to open an IT support ticket.  For what purpose I inquired.  So one of their techs could erase the MAC address of the old router from their system, thereby allowing the new router to communicate with them.  I asked how long it was going to take.  Just a few minutes she replied, but they had to call me back.  So I was going to be offline for awhile.  Unless I wished to reconnect the old router while I waited.  Thinking that was going to be more trouble than it was worth, I told my wife we were going to be offline for the time being, if she needed to connect to the ‘Net I could create a hot-spot on my phone and she could connect to that.  She said she was ‘good’ she could wait.

Less than 30 minutes later the phone rang.  George was on the line, ready to help.  I explained in basic detail what the problem was, even admitting that I’d dismantled the modem I had been provided four years ago, having been extra careful not to damage it.  I even lamented over the fact that the fiber modems they provide for their customers are nearly impossible to troubleshoot, as they don’t have easily accessible operating manuals.  Unless you’re ok reading Portuguese.  He apparently was unaware of it, but as I had apparently reassembled the modem correctly, he was able to see that it was online, but the router wasn’t powered up as he wasn’t seeing it operating from his end.  I have to be honest, when he said that it was a little creepy, that even though he was a good 12-15 miles away, he was able to see whether or not the modem was connected on my end, and the router wasn’t transmitting.  When you think about it of course it makes sense, they’d have to be able to see the hardware from their end in order to be able to better troubleshoot.

George asked for the MAC address of the old router.  I read it off to him, he confirmed that was the one that was listed in his system.  He asked for the new router’s address.  I provided that as well, he swapped out the addresses in his terminal and asked me to reconnect the router to the modem and power it up.  Voila!  The light turned green and stayed that way.  I went to the web browser, set up the router through it and it connected to the Internet as if it had been doing it all the while.  Damn.  I thanked George, he asked if there was anything else he could help with.  I said no, getting the router connected was my concern and that was now accomplished.  He wished me a good day, said if there was any further issues to give them a call and terminated the connection.

All for the want of a horseshoe nail.  Or a phone call.

My only lament is I sent back to Amazon a perfectly good router that wasn’t broken.  And that I spent a month troubleshooting and procrastinating when that phone call could have easily been made.  Damn it.

 

Technically speaking

I like to think of myself as being technically proficient.  But after this past week, I’m not so certain.

I bought a new router to replace/upgrade the one we’ve been using for the past eight years.  After doing a bit of research, I settled on one from a company called TP-Link.  I have 2 of their WiFi extenders and they’ve been working well, so I thought I’d bite the bullet and get a router as well, to complete the set.  The price point seemed right, and the features on the router seemed to be in line with what I needed to be accomplishing in terms of my home network.  It also had the ability to be controlled by an app, which would be useful if I was away from home and needed to reboot the router remotely or change settings if I happened to be on vacation.  If vacations are still going to be possible in the future.

I bought it from Amazon since we have Prime, and it arrived in a couple of days.  It seemed pretty straightforward when I opened the box, it came with its own Ethernet cable, a power supply, and a really small instruction booklet.  As with many items nowadays, the instructions were more visual than textual, with limited information as to how to set up the unit.  Having had more than one router in my day, I disconnected the D-Link from my fiber modem, connected the Archer A8 (the new one) and turned everything on.

And nothing happened.

Well, to be clear, it turned on, and I got green lights indicating that it saw it was powered on, connected to the modem, but the indicator that said it was connected to the Internet was an off-putting orange.  And thus began my tumble down the router rabbit hole.