Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Computer Network, No Strings Attached (Part 1)

Last week I arrived home to find out the McQueens were thinking of switching internet service providers. Before they did, they wanted to check with me for technical consultation.

Right now, we're renting a wireless router from our current ISP. In order to save $5/month with the new ISP we're not getting a wireless router from them. Instead we'll get their basic modem, and we'll buy our own wireless router. After about a year, the wireless router will have paid for itself.

I have never bought a wireless router before. I know the one the McKays have at home stinks. It crashes whenever you try to watch a YouTube video. I emailed my friends who might have recommendations.

This is a summary of what I was told:
  1. Don't get the Apple Airport Extreme.
  2. Get the Apple Airport Extreme.
  3. The Linksys WRTG45 (what Criag and I had in the Sault) is good. I liked this one. It did everything I wanted it to without a fuss. I find it hard to find right now.
  4. The Linksys WRTG54 sucks.
  5. The Linksys WRTG54 is good.
  6. The Linksys WRTG54 is a "bug" in it that won't work with Macs.
  7. The hardware in the Linksys WRTG54 has been changed so much that the model name doesn't tell you anything.
  8. D-Link sucks.
  9. D-Link sucks.
  10. Stay away from D-Link.
  11. The D-Link DIR-625 works fine.
  12. No matter what kind you look at you will see positive and negative reviews.
  13. Oh, they're all good.
  14. Netgear is the only good kind.
  15. Netgear is good, but hard to find in stores.

I also ended up at Staples, Business Depot, and the computer guy there told me these falsehoods:
  • "802.11n routers will only work with 802.11n network cards, so if you have 802.11g network cards, they won't work." - Everything I've seen suggests the 802.11n is backwards compatible meaning 802.11g wifi cards will still work.
  • "If you get the Airport Extreme, it will only work with Macs." - It says right on the box of the Airport Extreme "Mac + PC."
  • "Any external hard drive will do," when asked if he had any routers with USB ports for sharing hard drives as well as printers. - The only one I've seen that can actually do this is the Airport Extreme.

So, I won't be buying from Staples.

If you have any recommendations, please, leave a comment, or email me.


Anonymous said...

If I need a replacement I would be tempted to get the Linksys WRT54GL which has the larger flash, Linux OS, and can be reflashed with openwrt or Tomato firmware. It is still available online (e.g. see ncix.com). I think I'll wait a while before I jump into the wireless N routers.

I have a linksys which has been OK, although it works better with WPA encryption than in WPA2/RSN mode.

Big A

Anonymous said...

> So, I won't be buying from Staples.

Big mistake. What do you care if the sale people know nothing since you are unlikely to get more reliable advice elsewhere. YOU make the selection. That said, the staple warranty service is vastly superior to either Future Shop or Best Buy, so why not avail yourself of it when you buy?

Andrew said...

Support from Staples? I don't think I've ever, nor will I. I think I'd call the manufacturer. Mind you, I don't know who would have the best support. I think D-Link boxes say something like 24/7 support. That would be the first good thing I've heard about D-Link.

Andrew said...

Why would I care if the sales people know what they're talking about?

It goes to credibility. If I can't trust Staples to put knowledgeable people in sales positions, how can I trust anything else they may tell me?

Scott Adams says "Most of your day involves asking for a cup of coffee and being handed a bag of nails." I'm just trying to avoid that.

Part of the theory of the free market economy says that market forces will reward and punish businesses for their behaviour. If a store has good sales people who know what they're talking about, that store should be rewarded with sales. Those who don't have that will be punished with a bad reputation, leading to less sales.

That's the theory. In reality it doesn't always work that cleanly.

You do raise an interesting point. I should go to FutureShop and BestBuy and ask the same questions to see what their sales staff say.

lawlorja said...

While I am a staunch Netgear supporter, I should mention that my old 802.11B router would lock up if I had too many connections while using BitTorrent. I have read online that this problem might not be fixed in newer models, but I haven't had it happen yet with my Netgear 802.11G.

I don't use BitTorrent a lot, though, and the problem did seem to go away when I throttle uploads back.

Craig said...

N-standard equipment looks cool with all the antennae, so i'm considering getting one of those.

(Never anything d-link, though)