Last one on networking (at least for a while)...
Not wanting to let a major purchase go to waste, I spent a good bit of Sunday evening trying various combos of old and new equipment to see if there was a version that gave me at least SOME advantage over what I'd had a week ago.
Ultimately I found that the new router, while not particularly faster at slinging bits, did use Beamforming to give some of the corners of the house a signal boost. It also seems to be less of a clog point itself when I have multiple streams going, so there is that.
If I use one of the 802.11ac adapters on the computer downstairs that essentially sits right below the router, and a Powerline adapter on the computer upstairs, then I do see about a 30% increase in transfer speeds most of the times. This is more visible on larger transfers (150 megs or more) as smaller transfers seem to have issues with Windows having to do name info transfer and so on.
So essentially I've made tech lemonade. Highly recommended if you have the parts laying around anyway :-)
Monday, November 25, 2013
Last one on networking (at least for a while)...
Sunday, November 24, 2013
One of the struggles I had with setting up my A6200 adapter was that it comes with two setup programs. The one program does an install of just the drivers, and the other includes the NetGear genie configuration program for the device. If you use the first program you can connect to your network, but you won't necessarily get the Beamforming support. But whenever I would try to do the full setup it would just die partway through without any error messages or other indication.
As part of my install debugging I was able to discover that, like a lot of networking gear these days, the A6200 program takes advantage of WinPCap. The problem is that the Powerline adapter also uses WinPCap and (surprise, surprise) it uses a different version. So the A6200 was installing drivers, beginning to install the configuration program, saw that WinPCap was already installed, skipping the installation of that program, and then trying to run the configuration program which was dying when the program tried to call a feature of WinPCap that the installed version didn't support.
Essential clue to this was trying to run the program from the command line and getting a message that the "side-by-side" configuration was invalid.
In any case, there are two broader lessons:
1) If you are working with Windows networking adapters, you will want to uninstall any version of WinPCap that may be on your system to avoid conflicts,
2) If you are a manufacturer or publisher and your program depends on other programs to run, it is probably in your best interest to be up front about that to avoid some support calls. It would have been very easy for Netgear to have a entry in their FAQ that suggests that if you have installation problems that you should check to see if you might already have a version of WinPCap. Similarly, as many programs that depend on Java already being installed, it wouldn't hurt to have what version they use rather prominently displayed.
As always, I hope that my struggles help you avoid the same :-)
Saturday, November 23, 2013
So when I did my postings about my network issues there were two consistent suggestions. Suggestion 1 was to spend the money to get the house setup with CAT-6 everywhere I was going to do heavy network use. Suggestion 2 was to upgrade to 802.11ac since that was going to be even better/faster than my Powerline setup.
I have not tried Suggestion 1 yet, but have spent the last few days setting up and configuring suggestion 2, and let me say that it was a complete waste of $300.
I had expected speeds that were at least as good as I had with my previous 802.11n router, but the immaturity of the drivers for the 802.11ac adapters mean that if you are running Windows 7 you will get slightly slower speeds. If you are running Windows 8 you will get slightly slower speeds than that. And if you're running Windows 8.1 - expect to spend a couple days getting the drivers installed, convincing Windows that your old networks did not become public and now you can't share your drives, etc.
I have finally gotten everything stable again, but the speeds are "pull your hair out" slow. I am tempted to put everything back in the boxes and see about a refund from Amazon - except that I really don't care to spend another week or two going through all of THAT hassle.
Specifically, I bought a Netgear AC1900 Nighthawk Router, and two of their A6200 AC dual-band adapters. I have read stories on some of the support forums that suggest that going Asus might be better if you are on Win 7, but as bad or worse if you are on Win 8 or 8.1.
My suggestion to everyone out there - avoid 802.11ac for the time being if you are on Win 8 or 8.1. That goes double if you are running the 64-bit versions. If you are on Win 7 then it is probably worth future-proofing your network to get 802.11ac if you are replacing your router anyway. But it is NOT worth going out and spending the money if you are expecting any improvement in the network over an 802.11n that is already working ok.
Hopefully this helps some of you avoid my fate. Now to get a little refreshment, and see about setting up the old Powerline adapter again...
Saturday, August 24, 2013
So as mentioned in the earlier post, I had gotten a couple of Powerline Adapters and had a very nice speed pickup even to other computers in the house using WiFi. As I mentioned in that post and have discussed previously, the lion's share of my network traffic is copying files from my main computer upstairs to the family computer downstairs and vice versa. So I figured if I got one more Powerline adapter to connect on that computer I would see a nice pickup on the speeds for the transfers that are the most time consuming.
Before I continue, let me give you a mental picture of my layout. House is close enough to a rectangle for all purposes, with the long axis being east-west and the short axis being north-south. One of these days I should get some solar cells I'm sure. The cable modem and connection come in the second floor (no idea why) at the southwest corner. Router is just a few feet north of that still against the west wall. My computer is about ten feet from the east wall and also on the second floor. Family computer is just a few feet from the west wall on the first floor. So the family computer is almost directly below the router while my computer is at the other end of the house but on the same floor.
I mention all this because when I plugged the family computer in the result was not at all what I expected. On WiFi only I had a top speed of 2 mb/s copying from my computer to the family computer, and whenever the microwave on the first floor was running it would drop to almost a dial-up modem speed. When I just had the router and my computer on the Powerline, I would see a top speed of 4 mb/s to the family computer with the average speed being not much lower. When I plugged in the family computer my top speed and average speed locked in right around 3 mb/s. So faster than WiFi alone but worse than WiFi down and Powerline up.
So WHY is it this way? For one thing, I know there are some interesting "features" in the wiring between the first and second floor due to us having two AC units (Texas) and I imagine some work to isolate them. Second, it appears that there is network traffic congestion at the router. I could not suss out if it was the router itself (possible) or the Powerline unit (slightly more likely). Finally, I can't entirely rule out some "feature" of the Windows drivers. I did try different computers plugged in up and downstairs and so am reasonably sure it isn't an ethernet port issue on the computers (though it could also be that they all used cheap components).
Hopefully I'll be able to save up enough in the near future to get an 802.11ac router and adapter and see how that affects speeds. I noticed that most of the ac routers have beefed up CPUs and memory (compared to the average 802.11n) and so can imagine they might be able to better handle a load.
In any case, if you are thinking of adopting Powerline then remember - Two's company and three's a crowd when it comes to adapters.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
I had been getting increasingly aggravated with interference from our Microwave oven when transferring files from my main computer upstairs to the family computer downstairs. I'm not sure that it had actually gotten worse so much as I was now aware of the cause after spending some time doing measurements.
In any case, I had been considering getting an 802.11ac router and a couple adapters when someone mentioned I should look at Powerline. I can remember the issues when that first came out, and thought I still remembered hearing about ongoing issues with security and how wiring in your house could make it slow. However, a starter set of two Powerline adapters was a little less than $80, so it seemed worth trying.
I picked up two of the Zyxel pass-through 500mb units since you can't attach them (for fairly obvious reasons) to a UPS or a power strip. Note that in both cases a power strip is the pass though attached to them in case you are concerned.
I plugged the first unit into my home router, and then to the outlet. I then plugged the next unit into my main computer and into it's outlet. I then went back to the first unit and held the "Encrypt" button in for 5 seconds. I had two minutes (more than enough time) to walk back to the second unit and do the same. That was it. Everything was now running just fine. One of the simpler installations I've ever done.
I then installed their program to monitor the connections, and saw I was getting about 150mb down and 125mb up. Not the promised 500mb of course, but I wasn't really expecting that. Those of you familiar with wireless/wifi will recognize that it's still a LOT faster than a good WiFi connection. And I suspect that it could be the computer ethernet port is the limiting factor.
The thing I really DIDN'T expect was that it made transfers from the upstairs computer to the family computer almost twice as fast. Given the family computer is still on a Wireless N connection, I wasn't expecting any change other than a more consistent connection. Instead transfers that normally ran from 2mb down to 30k when the microwave was running, now run at a fairly consistent 4mb. I suspect this is because only one leg of the transfer is now over wireless. So as soon as the family computer is ready for the next bit that bit is already there.
So, not only would I recommend the Powerline as an upgrade option (even over 802.11ac), but as an option to consider to speed up your home/internal network even if you aren't ready to upgrade all your machines yet.
Of course I will eventually still do the 802.11ac upgrade as my laptop and my daughter's tablet will not be helped by a Powerline setup. But this means everything is running faster right now, and that I can wait to do that upgrade until the prices on 802.11ac gear come down.