Ok. Did you turn it off and then on again?
May 4, 2016 10:04 AM   Subscribe

To the immense relief of technical support staff everywhere as well as your Aunt Helen, you can now buy a smartplug for power-cycling your internet router. It seems like router makers are aware you might need this.
posted by selfnoise (79 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
A while back I had a cable modem that actually had an on-off switch. It seemed like an amazing technological innovation.
posted by TedW at 10:20 AM on May 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


There's a reason why I buy Apple routers for home use. They're all VxWorks based and don't crash.
posted by Talez at 10:21 AM on May 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


Incidentally, this has the potential to dramatically drop your broadband speed if you're using an xDSL line - the repeated initialisation of the connection could cause the DSLAM to offer and connect at a lower sync speed, which is then stored in your line profile until you can convince your ISP to retrain the line or increase the max sync speed.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 10:26 AM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ummm ... What if I have to power-cycle my smartplug?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


There's a reason why I buy Apple routers for home use. They're all VxWorks based and don't crash.

This.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I bought a $10 christmas tree timer to do this years ago.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


I bought a $10 christmas tree timer to do this years ago.


So you just power cycle every night?
posted by OwlBoy at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


A while back I had a cable modem that actually had an on-off switch. It seemed like an amazing technological innovation.

The cable modem I bought has a power switch on it and I was like, YES THIS IS PERFECT. Damn thing works so good for the past 3 years I've never, not once, had to power-cycle it. I've pressed the button once, when I first got it.
posted by mayonnaises at 10:48 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


How do you plug Comcast into the Apple?
posted by fragmede at 10:49 AM on May 4, 2016


This is made for people like my parents.

Actually it's made more for people like me who have parents like I do. Means one less thing that I will have to troubleshoot and walk them through.
posted by Jalliah at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


With our setup, half the time it's the modem and the other half it's the router. And of course we've put them both in awkward, hard-to-reach places because, as the article says, that's where the cable drop is.

I don't think I'd buy a $60 automatic solution, but a $10 wireless remote outlet might save a lot of frustration. We have a few of them in the house already because our living room and master bedroom both lack overhead lighting for some reason.
posted by Foosnark at 11:01 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to have to power cycle our router not because of the router, but because for some reason my wife's Vista laptop would refuse to connect to a router that wasn't 'fresh'.

Installing Linux on her laptop solved the problem.
posted by selfnoise at 11:04 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a reason why I buy Apple routers for home use. They're all VxWorks based and don't crash.

weird, my partner and I have an old Apple Air that used to crash when we streamed movies or downloaded larger files over FTP. I swapped it out for a super cheap router a while ago that had an on/off switch because I just didn't want to have to keep handling a really hot, white, rectangular prism every time the internet went down

the cheap router has actually never crashed on us even though our internet usage is much higher. home networking solutions has been one of those things that I've filed under 'blissful ignorance' and have happily left an unexplored intellectual niche since
posted by runt at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


A lot of the older routers have worse handling of TCP connection tracking especially NAT tables. Some companies have gotten better, some haven't changed since 2003. It's kind of like the TCP equivalent of Russian Roulette.
posted by Talez at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't fancy what that would do to the lifespan of my cable modem. I think I'd rather just buy better hardware to start with.
posted by Leon at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2016


In my experience, TP-Link sells great hardware at unbeatable prices, but crippled by atrocious firmware. Fortunately, they make it dead easy to flash them with Open WRT, which in my experience makes them extremely dependable (as in 100+ days uptime with no issues), as long as you are careful about configuring them properly, which isn't hard as long as you carefully follow instructions.

Unfortunately, this might be changing for new routers due to new FCC regulations.

If you go this route, the only challenge then becomes getting a xDSL/cable modem that can be put in bridge mode and then forgotten about, which can be a challenge depending on how cretinous your ISP feels like being.

These days though, I just use my SmartRG VDSL gateway as a router. The first version of the firmware had issues, but after an update I have had no issues whatsoever. SSH access with good default security settings is a nice touch too.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:13 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Soft reboots seem to work just fine for me...
posted by qcubed at 11:13 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Semi-relatedly, my Internet access doesn't work when the power is out, which is super frustrating. I've given up trying to explain this to the ISP's support though.
posted by ODiV at 11:14 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a reason why I buy Apple routers for home use.

That point is made in the article. A $250 Apple router ($169 refurbished) against a $29 one from TP-link (top choice on Amazon), or a decent one at $89 (top-rated at amazon, well-reviewed too). All in CAD. This article is about the folks who need to chose between the $29 and the $89 devices (or the $10/mo one from the cable company). If they could afford two or three or eight times more up front, they might not have these problems, it's true.
posted by bonehead at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


If your internet connection dies so often that you need to buy a $60 plug* to reset it, you need to either :

A) Buy a better router than the $20 Best Buy special you are running 2 smartphones, 3 tablets, a TV and your refrigerator on
or
B) Call up your ISP and tell them to fix your damn connection

* Or any device really.
posted by madajb at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Soft reboots seem to work just fine for me...

Same, generally. Sometimes, I can't be arsed to log into the router firmware, but I try to reboot that way whenever I have to.

(Obviously, this is mostly useful when you have one of those combined router/modem gateway devices, when your local WiFi/ethernet is fine but your upstream connection is down. I used to run a separate modem and router, but connecting to the modem firmware through the router's gateway was more difficult than it really needed to be for some reason I can't recall now.)
posted by tobascodagama at 11:19 AM on May 4, 2016


If your internet connection dies so often that you need to buy a $60 plug* to reset it, you need to either :
A) Buy a better router than the $20 Best Buy special you are running 2 smartphones, 3 tablets, a TV and your refrigerator on
or B) Call up your ISP and tell them to fix your damn connection


Or C) find out which of your neighbors is doing something weird with an RF device or hogging the local cable network's bandwidth.
posted by aught at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a reason why I buy Apple routers for home use. They're all VxWorks based and don't crash.

Send me your address and I'll send you my Airport Extreme 4th Gen that goes dark about once every other day. It's a piece of shit.

Bought a Netgear R7000 and can't be happier. It even has (gasp!) a real HTTP configuration page.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Our biggest wifi issues turned out to be our neighbour's crappy old vacuum cleaner.
posted by bonehead at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, this reminded me. I had wifi range issues when I first moved into my house, but they were totally solved after I had aluminum gutters put up. I suspect I have turned my house into some kind of giant antenna...
posted by selfnoise at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hmm, maybe the gutters are acting as (leaky) waveguides?
posted by The Tensor at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


VxWorks based ... don't crash.

*hollow laugh*

I develop on vxWorks (amonst other things); there's nothing magically crash-proof about it. Most embedded OSes are pretty robust in and of themselves; it's the crappy user code and/or drivers that us devs write on top of them that crashes our systems.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:31 AM on May 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


in my experience, the most frequent problem cheap routers have is their DHCP tables get corrupted and they start refusing to hand out addresses to new connections.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


In my experience, TP-Link sells great hardware at unbeatable prices, but crippled by atrocious firmware. Fortunately, they make it dead easy to flash them with Open WRT, which in my experience makes them extremely dependable (as in 100+ days uptime with no issues), as long as you are careful about configuring them properly, which isn't hard as long as you carefully follow instructions.

Yeah, I put DD-WRT on mine as soon as I got it and it has been pretty much a non-entity since. I didn't even think about it until I saw this post today and remembered, oh yeah, I have network equipment.

Possibly the other component to that is that I don't do anything that would remotely stress my network connection.
posted by indubitable at 11:42 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]




I guess I was cutting edge ~7 years ago when I had my router plugged into an X10 plug with a cron job running on my home server which power-cycled the router when it stopped being able to ping the gateway.
posted by jferg at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's this NetReset NR-1000US which has two plugs, one for the modem, one for the router. It's programmed to to give a sequential power-cycle, the modem first, then the router.
posted by ShooBoo at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2016


When I had a cable modem, I rented it from the cable company. Not because I'm too cheap to buy one, but because I'm too cheap to buy a new one every time I hafta interact with their support people. Their script is:

1. Power cycle.
2. Replace the modem.

Until you've done those two things, it's hard to get them to go on to the next item in the script. It's faster to drive a mile up the road to the Comcast office, turn in the modem and get the new one, and put it in, than it is to argue with them. Not that the new modem works very often. But it saves a lot of time to be able to swap it out so easily.
posted by elizilla at 12:15 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have *three* things that could possibly go wrong with my internet (cable model, router, separate wireless AP), so I plugged everything into the same power strip. "Easy"!

Are there any modern, 802.11ac/gigabit routers that support Tomato? I loved Tomato when I had it on an old WRT-54G, but sadly I had to ditch it when my internet got faster than 100Mbps.

Metafilter: I just didn't want to have to keep handling a really hot, white, rectangular prism every time the internet went down
posted by neckro23 at 12:17 PM on May 4, 2016


And this, in regards to the FCC rules and TP-Link's formerly awesome routers being locked-down.
posted by eclectist at 12:19 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Unofrtunately my Comcast cable-modem-that-also-does-phone thing has no on/off switch and has a big-ass backup battery inside it. You have to yank out the power cable, then take out and re-insert the battery to make it reboot. Fucking Comcast.
posted by w0mbat at 12:19 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, this has the potential to dramatically drop your broadband speed if you're using an xDSL line - the repeated initialisation of the connection could cause the DSLAM to offer and connect at a lower sync speed, which is then stored in your line profile until you can convince your ISP to retrain the line or increase the max sync speed.

Hmm, is this true? I have DSL and I've had to recycle the router fairly frequently.
posted by tavella at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2016


My roommate has a great router. He is able to stream multiple devices on it, download whatever, everything works great. Except for the fact that my last 3 computers have about a 75% chance of connecting to it when I turn them on. They have been a Mac, a Dell and an Asus. One was old, one was recent, the other is less than 4 months old. This only happens to my computers, no one else has ever had any difficulty with this router. My phone never had any trouble connecting to the network, except when I destroyed the wifi on the Dell and started using the tether to connect to the wifi. The suddenly, the connection would be spotty.

So about once or twice a week I go and reset both the modem and the router and everyone stop streaming for five minutes.

I do not like anthropomorphizing technology. Eventually, there will be tech that deserves to be regarded as actually intelligent. But even so, I swear that router hates me.
posted by Hactar at 12:28 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Unofrtunately my Comcast cable-modem-that-also-does-phone thing has no on/off switch and has a big-ass backup battery inside it. You have to yank out the power cable, then take out and re-insert the battery to make it reboot. Fucking Comcast.

As an aside here, all of them (should) have this. Otherwise you have no phone when your power goes out. A regular land line provides its own power so they (used to) make the non-POTS systems do that too. (This varies; Comcast happily sent out a replacement all-in-one thingy without a battery to replace one with a battery. Given that the phone line was used solely for an alarm, this was rather stupid, but then Comcast. also their activation thing crashed so it wouldn't set up and then they tried to upsell on their security system and yano if you can't make your actual internet work properly...)
posted by mrg at 12:37 PM on May 4, 2016


I guess I was cutting edge ~7 years ago when I had my router plugged into an X10 plug with a cron job running on my home server which power-cycled the router when it stopped being able to ping the gateway.

You had a cron job? I had to create an emacs macro that reapplied a kernel patch whenever I typed the line "include stdio.h".
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:39 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


This was circulating around my office (local/small/ISP) yesterday, and the consensus was that 1) we can't convince people to spend money on good wireless routers, so they aren't going to spend it on this*; and 2) wireless routers will probably adopt a similar technology soon. Products like Eero already are.

* seriously, people will hold on to their 10yr-old 801.11n wireless routers (or older!) which can't even handle the speeds for which they are provisioned rather than spend $50-75 on a new router that will.
posted by terrapin at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2016


At a point, I considered fitting the extension cord for the router/cable modem with a lamp switch because during the summer there were times a reboot was needed every 30 minutes (and of course they blamed my router, that spent months working perfectly before, and worked well until it was replaced with a provided all-in-one unit).

These days I just shrug and do something else.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:46 PM on May 4, 2016


my Comcast cable-modem-that-also-does-phone thing has no on/off switch and has a big-ass backup battery inside it

My modem from Wave fka Astound is the same -- pulling the power isn't sufficient to reboot it, as it keeps running from its backup phone battery -- but on Googling its model number I found that it does have a tiny recessed poke-it-with-a-small-pointy-object reset button.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:48 PM on May 4, 2016


seriously, people will hold on to their 10yr-old 801.11n wireless routers (or older!) which can't even handle the speeds for which they are provisioned

It was my understanding that 801.11n was faster than most consumer internet speeds provided by ISPs in the U.S.? I would upgrade my router if I thought it was a choke point but I suspect it's not.
posted by selfnoise at 12:48 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a reason why I buy Apple routers for home use. They're all VxWorks based and don't crash.

I don't think that's a causal relationship, but I have been slightly happier with AirPort Extremes than Cisco/Linksys (my second choice) when it comes to both speed and uptime. Sadly, none of this helps when it's the discrete cable modem that locks up, not the router. Apple doesn't make cable or ADSL modems. Not that they should, either.

The story about reaching under your kid's bed is nice and all, but the underreported benefit of these things is resetting/fixing your home internet connection when you are *not* home, and wondering with increasing anxiety why you cannot reach your home security cameras or streaming media player from your hotel room or cottage.

For this, there have always been internet-addressable power bars, and I'm using one now in a hacky way: a script running 24/7 on a computer in the house tries to reach the internet, and when it cannot it tells the power bar to reset the cable modem (and router, to make sure). It works, but it's ugly hardware and a kludgy hack that the linked box seems to do in a tidier fashion.

That said, I'll still wait for more reviews.
posted by rokusan at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2016



seriously, people will hold on to their 10yr-old 801.11n wireless routers (or older!) which can't even handle the speeds for which they are provisioned

Wow I'm feeling old today! Has it really been 10 years since the introduction of consumer-grade 802.11N routers? I still have an a/b/g router for crying out loud!! Although I suspect it must be 10 years old by now.
posted by some loser at 1:02 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Same, generally. Sometimes, I can't be arsed to log into the router firmware, but I try to reboot that way whenever I have to.

Yeah, I suppose. I have a router running Tomato, and since it's way in the other room I like just logging into the web ui and clicky clicky.

It *also* helps, I assume, that I own my own cable modem, so I have the ability to reboot that one remotely as well--I dunno if you can if you don't own it.
posted by qcubed at 1:15 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow I'm feeling old today! Has it really been 10 years since the introduction of consumer-grade 802.11N routers?

Pre-N (based on Draft 1.0) are circa March 2006 so yes, it has been ten years.
posted by Talez at 1:22 PM on May 4, 2016


I was on the verge of buying one of these because of terrible internet problems at home (long ping times, daily disconnections, etc).

But when I connected a laptop directly to the cable modem, everything was fine, and worked well for days. So it wasn't a problem with my service quality.

After extensive debugging and isolation of the components, it turned out it was a bad firmware upgrade in my router. I installed the original version of the firmware and it all works fine now.

Using one of these would have been an interesting workaround, but would have avoided the root cause of the problem in my particular case.
posted by theorique at 1:23 PM on May 4, 2016


Yeah, I suppose. I have a router running Tomato, and since it's way in the other room I like just logging into the web ui and clicky clicky.

To be clear, when I say "can't be arsed", what I mean is it's the middle of the night and my partner's Netflix has stopped working, and I don't want to activate the parts of my brain required to do anything more complex than removing a plug from a big brick thing and then sticking it back in 15 seconds later.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:31 PM on May 4, 2016


Here's my tale of broadband connection problems:

My ADSL connection worked fine for about 10 years, then recently got more and more unreliable until the connection was dropping for five minutes or so, ten or more times a day. Wifi was fine - the connection between the ADSL modem and the ISP's hardware was shutting down.

I replaced filters (repeatedly), the phone socket, cables, and the router, disconnected and reconnected the burglar alarm, tried different configuration settings, and asked my ISP to test and reset the line configuration at their side*.

My ISP then advised me to check for "REIN and SHINE" - radio interference that could be disrupting the broadband connection (helpful video). I wandered around the house with an old radio listening to static like an amateur ghosthunter and found that the metal supports of the shelving holding my router and phone seemed to be acting as a an aerial, picking up interference from my DECT phone and overwhelming the ADSL signal.

I disconnected the DECT phone and I now have maybe one brief connection glitch a week. Connection speed has recovered from about 3Mb/s to about 9Mb/s.

So having an old AM radio can be quite useful.

* ADSL lines start out configured to be as fast as possible, and as NordyneDefenceDynamics has said, disconnections cause the speed to be gradually lowered until (in theory) the connection becomes reliable. The more my line reset, the slower it got. An ISP can reset this so it becomes faster (and probably less reliable) again.
posted by BinaryApe at 1:48 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why does it need to be automatic? Will it just endlessly power cycle your router if there's an actual service outage?

Why not buy like, this for $20, and be able to switch other stuff too?

I am very wary of "automated recovery" sort of things like this. What if i'm utterly maxing out the connection with a huge FTP transfer or something and the ping times out so it reboots and kills it?

I realize this "isn't for me", but even as a thing to give to someone not all that tech savvy i could see it creating stupid situations.

I've owned routers that needed to be flashed after they had been hard rebooted a few times.
posted by emptythought at 2:01 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ummm ... What if I have to power-cycle my smartplug?

I thought a little more about my question and I think I've figured it out. The answer is "smartplugs all the way down."



Could someone please lend me infinity dollars?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2016


That point is made in the article. A $250 Apple router ($169 refurbished) against a $29 one from TP-link (top choice on Amazon), or a decent one at $89 (top-rated at amazon, well-reviewed too).

people will hold on to their 10yr-old 801.11n wireless routers (or older!) which can't even handle the speeds for which they are provisioned rather than spend $50-75 on a new router that will.

I think these things are both true, and this is my particular bugaboo. You need to buy good quality, then do it again, and again. I inevitably cheap out in that sort of situation, usually to my regret.
posted by bjrubble at 2:29 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bought a Netgear R7000 and can't be happier. It even has (gasp!) a real HTTP configuration page.

Yes.

When they were designing the packaging for my apple airthingy they forgot to print: "Did you want to set this up using your Linux laptop? Then go fuck yourself."
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:31 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh wow, finally an explanation for my experience why Apple's routers suck the least of the ones I've dealt with.

I mean, nobody ever enjoys dealing with wifi routers, but at least you can get one that doesn't actively suck. (And the AirPort Express is nowhere near $250 list)
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


$249 List price for the Airport Extreme on the Apple Canada website, in CAD (as are all prices in that post).
posted by bonehead at 3:08 PM on May 4, 2016


Right, which is why I wrote "Express."
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:10 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why not buy like, this for $20

That'd work from home, yes, but not while away from home.

Also, of course, you'd have to notice and manually reset it, which is a small deal for some, a large deal for those of us who leave large downloads or uploads running overnight.
posted by rokusan at 3:26 PM on May 4, 2016


A lot of the cheap routers have badly under-spec'd power supplies. I improved the reliability of my other half's Netgear from one crash a day to months by dumping the small hot bricklet it came with and replacing it with a two-amp third party PSU.

Myself, I've had nothing but joy with my Asus RT-N66U, which is a very solid Linux box that I can happily leave hosting a VPN for weeks at an end when I'm away. It's not perfect, but it does almost anything I ask without complaining. If it has ever crashed, I didn't spot it happening.
posted by Devonian at 3:51 PM on May 4, 2016


Yes, I've got an Asus RT-AC68U which has apparently been up for 73 days, and I'm guessing it's that because of us losing power. I don't remember ever having to restart it. But definitely at the high end price wise.
posted by markr at 4:13 PM on May 4, 2016


This is timely for me because I am moving and just ordered a new cable modem for the new place (since of course the current modem is not compatible with the new service, natch). I ordered what seemed to be a well-reviewed modem but with low expectations and half expect to be ordering another within a week or two. For routers I've been defaulting to Apple for some years now because they are so easy to set up and work well, but there does not seem to be such an obvious choice for the modem.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:22 PM on May 4, 2016


We've got so much shit plugged in and so many places that the network could be going wrong that I find it easier to just flick the power off at the mains. Fridges hate me!
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:31 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just move down here to S/W Florida. Power outages are frequent. Not usually of a long duration. <Than a minute usually. But three or four times a week.
posted by notreally at 4:36 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


For routers I've been defaulting to Apple for some years now because they are so easy to set up and work well, but there does not seem to be such an obvious choice for the modem.

I bought an Arris Surfboard recently that I've been entirely pleased with. The one I bought has a built-in WiFi router, but they also make standalone modems.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:56 PM on May 4, 2016


neckro23 - try the Shibby or Toastman TomatoUSB builds. They update them regularly. I use Shibby on my Asus RT-N16 (and RT-N12 I use as a range extender and the old WRT-54G that is plugged in only because the Wii requires an 801.11b connection...)

Surprising that the 54G has held up as well as it has... I've had to replace a capacitor on the RT-N16 and the RT-N12 flakes out every time I upgrade the firmware, usually takes 3 tries to get it current. But hey, it's rock solid once I have it running.

Pretty sure I told the 54G to power cycle once a week. The N16 is at 70 days uptime and counting, since last firmware upgrade.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:22 PM on May 4, 2016


Bought a Netgear R7000 and can't be happier. It even has (gasp!) a real HTTP configuration page.

Same thing is true of the R6700, which has the same form factor but is (I think) a slightly older model. It worked great for me until I upgraded (!) the firmware, and again once I reverted the firmware (mentioned up thread).

Aside from that minor glitch, it has been extremely reliable, works well with OS X, iOS, Linux devices (can't say with Windows because we don't have any, but I'd be very surprised if it didn't)

The web interface is most useful because it's so universal and accessible from any device with a browser. Configuration by a custom app is less universal, and by shell/ssh is more complicated and less intuitive.
posted by theorique at 6:29 PM on May 4, 2016


I find it easier to just flick the power off at the mains. Fridges hate me! -- turbid dahlia

Hard disks and digital clocks hate you more.
posted by rokusan at 7:43 PM on May 4, 2016


Also, the combination of the words "available now" and the words "shipping in 4-8 weeks" really stretches the definition of "now".
posted by rokusan at 7:46 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


From what I can work out there are several problems:
- shit power supplies
- bad heat sinking (assuming your PS is up to spec the heat has to go somewhere)
- bad wireless drivers (ap and client)
- bad chipsets (ap and client)

The actual OS involved doesn't matter much, when most folks can grab a copy of Linux off the shelf for approximately free. I suspect that Apple's routers are generally better because they know how design hardware enough to cover the first half and they understand the Broadcom chipsets and drivers from building iDevices and Macs well enough that they can overcome the fact that What Broadcom calls drivers are shit.
posted by wotsac at 9:32 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Apple used to dictate the Broadcomm FW to drive the best performance/quality. After antenna gate their RF designs were similarly good. It used to drive us nuts at Amzn. We would always get the sloppy seconds and the QCom/MTK drivers were nowhere near as stable. Our antennas and beam patterns were shabby in comparison as well. We had great speakers and cameras though!

The new MIMO/Beam-steering/etc. 802.11 standards are going to kill the open source FW mods due to FCC power concerns and the proprietary radio/steering IP.

I used to roll my own OS/FW patches in my Motorola days but gave up when I could no longer take advantage of the proprietary SOC IP / RAM fabrics. A typical ADSL link would never show the issue but I was leaving over half of the performance on the table.

I gave up and started buying expensive APs and using the most reliable standalone modems that I could find. All of the issues I've seen since then have been in the NOCs and in damage to the physical wiring. I'm not sure what I am using now. The stuff has been working for 3 years and I can't be bothered to get off the couch, move the pile of books, and scrape the dust off the labels to see what they are. I tried to remote in but I've forgotten the admin password.

I did plug a hard drive into the AP for backups/streaming last year. Haven't touched it either.

I'm not sure how to translate all of this into a recipe that you can fork over to a sufficiently clueless user other than "buy mid range Apple products every couple of years". That is going to raise the hackles of my more thrifty Linux/Windows friends and I don't follow the advice either, so....
posted by pdoege at 9:57 PM on May 4, 2016


I was working the Wireless and Multimedia call queue at AppleCare when the Time Capsule came out. It ... might have given me a skewed view of the reliability of their wireless hardware. but hoo boy did I ever wind up with the impression that that thing was a trash fire
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 10:02 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hah, if theres one thing guaranteed to skew impressions of reliability, it's bound to be interacting exclusively with defective units
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:44 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Asus RT-N66U

I really wanted to like mine. Maybe I got a lemon, but it had a hard time seeing all the pieces of the network, wifi would drop regularly for no reason, settings would randomly change on me. I power cycled that thing 3 or 4 (or 6 times a day). I replaced with something from TP Link and have had maybe only one or two issues over the 18 months I had it. Glad yours worked. I really wished mine did...
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:44 AM on May 5, 2016


A few years ago when I caught my roommate replacing our modem and router with a combo one that Comcast had generously sent for "free" out of the blue (which meant of course that there was something in it for them, namely that it would broadcast a hotspot and share our internet connection with passers-by) I bought a DOCSIS 3.0 modem on Amazon and it came with an actually-free On Networks router that was on clearance but has worked perfectly, perhaps requiring power cycling once. (Though I upgraded the firmware immediately upon receiving it which perhaps has helped.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:50 AM on May 5, 2016


From what I can work out there are several problems:
- shit power supplies
- bad heat sinking (assuming your PS is up to spec the heat has to go somewhere)
- bad wireless drivers (ap and client)
- bad chipsets (ap and client)


Add to that stupid combo units.

I swear to god, i have yet to EVER see a modem/router combo that wasn't a stinking piece of shit. I even had one of the high end netgear DSL routers at one point, and the damn thing still needed to be rebooted like once a month.

Buy the simplest modem on your ISPs approved list that supports the speeds you want, and a router. I would rather have the very shittiest monoprice store brand, airlink, or tplink and a basic router and a simple modem than even the nicest combo unit.

I think i have to reboot my super duper basic arris modem and apple airport(the AC version, which replaced the N version) every six months... and it's usually after a brownout or other weirdness. I think after the first install the uptime was almost literally a year, and might have been killed by an actual power outage.

I'll also cast a vote for apple routers being awesome as long as you buy the basic ones. The time capsules are garbage, but i'd argue that also falls under the umbrella of "combo unit". Your router should not also be a NAS. The apple replaced a midrange linksys, which i also had no complaints about. Just don't buy a freaking router that's also a media hub or something.

I am firmly in the camp that if you need to reboot your router or modem/router combo even once a week, replace the damn thing.

I feel super bad for the people who have like, FIOS or wave G or whatever and are forced to use the stupid piece of shit combo unit because it's the only approved solution. At my moms place, i literally have a decent linksys router plugged INTO the combo modem with the wifi disabled and it set to bridge mode. It's... almost reliable.

I also hate media player/receiver combos, and other types of combo units. Yes, i'm a curmudgeon.
posted by emptythought at 10:25 AM on May 5, 2016


The most recent time I moved off of my ISP-provided modem/router/AP device I went way overboard and bought a Ubiquiti router and AP, plus the cable modem that the wire cutter recommended. The router and AP are great, although a small pain to set up initially and would easily stump a lot of users. The modem has started giving me shit though, which is very frustrating because I have so very little control over it or ability to troubleshoot.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:42 PM on May 5, 2016


> I swear to god, i have yet to EVER see a modem/router combo that wasn't a stinking piece of shit.

Billion BiPAC 7800NXL here. Only dies for power outages, failover to MiFi is rather handy, and the web interface appears to be smarter than I am. Would recommend.

(In general I prefer single-purpose devices too, but this is a really solid piece of kit).
posted by Leon at 4:31 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm a TWC customer with a TWC router. They do push updates to the router occasionally, which will temporarily disrupt the internet connection as the device is configuring/rebooting itself. I wonder what effect the power cycling would have on that process. How is this not going to end up with corrupted/partial installs and a malfunctioning device?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:19 PM on May 6, 2016


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