Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Home Network: Gremlins

So get this… Network issues have plagued me since moving into my new place. This has been a constant source of frustration for me. Lets look at the symptoms, from greatest nuisance to least:

-Constantly dropping connection from Xbox Live
-Choppy speech, major lag with online game play
-Inconsistent NAT readings between the Xbox, the Xbox 360, and my PC’s.
-Slow transfer times via HTTP and FTP
-FTP sessions hang in mid transit, without fail, 100 percent of the time.
-Intermittent web page hanging or incomplete web page content

Now this is the same equipment I have used in previous locations without fail. So, to test things, I plugged my PC and my 360 directly to the cable modem, a situation I am not thrilled with, but I wanted to eliminate problems. Sure enough, everything works great when run straight through, so this narrows down my candidates to my Linksys BEFSR11 router or my Dlink switch. Turns out, this was a combination of two issues.

First, the firmware on the Linksys router was corrupt. I don’t know how it got corrupt, but it did. Of course, updating it was not easy, considering TFTP was failing, and the management web pages upgrade page would not load the firmware properly. To resolve this issue, I had to hold down the reset button for 30 seconds (and because I am overly paranoid, I did this a few times), disconnect all cables from the router except the PC, and then it finally took a downgrade in firmware. Once I completed the downgrade, I was successfully able to re-upgrade the firmware.

This resolved the failure to download via FTP issues. Since the firmware was upgraded successfully, I was able to download the routers manual from online. In the troubleshooting section, I read an interesting tidbit about web pages loading incompletely. The resolution for this issue was to turn off full duplexing from the PC’s nic card. Well, that tipped me off to something. Previously I didn’t have the Dlink running directly into the router, I had used an older, slower 10Mbit hub, while the Dlink is a 100Mbit switch. Once I swapped out the switch for the hub, everything worked like magic. Now both Xboxes see the NAT as open (I didn’t even have to enable UpnP), and my latency issues dropped. What a PITA. This setup is fine since I only need 100Mbits inside my LAN. It didn’t occur to me to use the hub since I haven’t quite unpacked all my equipment yet, and my IDS system has not been setup on my local network.

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