Sunday, October 24, 2004

Hardware problems

I recently bought a 3Com wireless router and a D-LINK DWL-G650+ PCMCIA WiFi card for my laptop. After installing and configuring a mini-network in my room (and I say mini because right now my laptop is the only computer in the network) and making as sure as possible that no neighbour enters my network, I began testing and everything was okay. Internet working, mail working, instant messaging and chat programs working. But when I ran Azureus the problems started.

Azureus is (IMHO) the best software for using BitTorrent's P2P network. It's done in Java, and despite that big handicap, it doesn't eat up too many system resources and has a very good graphic interface. Besides, it's one of the best clients when it comes to update the uploading and downloading statistics, which is a very important feature because some of the trackers I use ban the leechers without remorse.

The problem was that whenever I ran Azureus the program got the torrents I was downloading, connected with seeds and started downloading and uploading without the slightest problem. During five minutes, max. Five minutes or so after starting Azureus, my laptop was completely locked up. Frozen. The mouse was not moving, the keyboard not responding, no CTRL+ALT+DEL, no nothing. Dead. And it did the same everytime I ran Azureus.

OK, some software or hardware error was afoot, and I had to find the culprit(s). Making a Sherlock detective work, I began to determine the suspects and to search for alibis:

  • Azureus.- The most obvious suspect was the P2P software I was using. I downloaded and installed another program for the BitTorrent P2P network, called BitComet, and after running it I saw it produced exactly the same results. Azureus was innocent.

  • BitTorrent.- Maybe the culprit was the very BitTorrent P2P network. Something on their protocols or whatever. I tested with eMule and WinMX, which are completely different programs for connecting with completely different networks, and the results were exactly the same. If no P2P network worked, that wasn't the problem. BitTorrent was innocent.

  • Router.- Maybe the problem was with the router. I brought my laptop to my office, where we have a US Robotics WiFi router not generally in use, and I configured everything to connect thru it. Internet OK, email OK, Azureus crashing my computer after more or less five minutes of use. My 3Com router was innocent.

  • Firewall.- Maybe the built-in firewall was causing me trouble. Instead of trying finesse such as port forwarding, I opted for a more gordian approach of the situation: I completely disabled my router's firewall. Again, the same results: the firewall was innocent.

  • WiFi Card.- The card started to reveal itself as the main suspect. I asked a colleague to lend me a WiFi card from another company (a Conceptronics) and I installed it and configure it against my firm's router and, for my desperation, I got the same results: the D-Link WiFi card was innocent.

What can you do in an scenario where all suspects seemed innocent? Ask Google, of course. And after much looking and reading, I find this wonderful forum: Broadband Reports. Thanks to it I found out that the D-Link official drivers suck, quite literally. After some more reading and some more tries, I downloaded and installed the US Robotics drivers for my D-Link card and now I'm a happy client of the BitTorrent community, again. Fucking amazing.

IMPORTANT NOTE.- Not only the D-LINK drivers are shit: their customer support SUCKS too. I sent an email to their Spanish customer support some two weeks ago and I'm still waiting for a reply, even an automated reply stating they've received my mail and are processing my request. I called them the last week, every single day, at least three times a day. The NEVER picked up the phone, not once. In more than fifteen calls, they were always occupied. Amazing. Their US customer support at least has vital signs: I sent them an email stating my problem and I got a reply after fifteen minutes, but sadly it was to tell me that my problem seemed quite complex and they couldn't solve it using mail (?). I called them and the guy who got my call told me he couldn't help me, that I was a non-US customer so I was to be helped by my local customer support. I explained to him that my local customer support was dead or at a non-stop frat party and he told me he was very sorry, but that was the firm's policy. Anyway.

As usual, if you want something done, do it yourself.


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