Monday, September 14, 2015

Techie Battles

I've been fighting the tech again today.

Not just at work, although that's a given at the moment. We've just "upgraded" to Windows 7 and AbominOffice and the network has crumbled. Cloud computing is all very good if the network infrastructure is able to handle it. I have my suspicions based on what I see at home and how I see the work machines behave. They freeze often when doing things like simple writing of emails, which suggests that they're phoning home and freezing while waiting for a reply.

Add to that, this Windows 7 desktop will send small data packets (about 10-20kbytes) to the network quite often. You can bet the work ones are doing the same. What are they ? I never found out for this machine. Multiply that by several thousand machines and you get a problem.

But enough about work ...
I've been hunting the techie stuff again ...

But before that - Warcraft. I'm back in the old game again. I dunno - with Elite, I kinda got burned out on it. The trading gets very samey, very quickly, even if you're trying to avoid doing a 2 or 3 station loop. I've never been one to enjoy grinding like that in games, it always felt a lot like work and not fun. Warcraft has felt a lot like that in the past but for some reason, I keep going back to it.

Add to that, my dodgy wrist apparently taking a massive dislike to all that joystick time. Instead of having your hand flat for typing or mousing, the joystick forces it vertical (like if you're holding a mug). Also add in the need to have very fine control over the movement of the stick for when you're flying the space craft. It's that fine control that really kills my wrist, the muscles don't like balancing against each other.

Warcraft is different, I play it with one hand on keyboard doing movement and combat stuff and the other on the mouse. My mouse at home is on an elevated deck which I think is helping that wrist, whereas at work, the mouse is flat on the desk and I believe I strain the wrist by tipping it back. The drawback is that the playstyle hunches me up, tenses me up and my back and shoulders hate that. Wrist happy, back unhappy.

But ... I've been getting frequent disconnects from the server while playing Warcraft. Apparently, that's a problem in my old cable modem (Virgin Media Superhub). These have a few problems, including flawed firmware updates that cause this disconnect problem (it thinks the game is a filesharing piratey thingy). There are other issues like the breaking of my audio stream, which goes through the router. The printer that refused to connect to my desktop (curiously, it now refuses to connect to the laptop). The knowledge that my ISP has decided that they're going to roll out free wifi access, using residential customer routers.

That last point is why I've decided to - grab a new router. That exploitation of my wifi connection is annoying. It comprises my connection. It is not what I'm paying the ISP for. They should be paying me for it ! Not a happy bunny and I am seriously considering moving away from them for this and irritations with my TV system.

Where was I ? The router is what connects all of your devices to the internet. It arbitrates traffic between everything. So my desktop shouldn't see the traffic going between laptop and audio device. It gives security. It doesn't mysteriously decide that your devices are hacking the internet and block them like an old Philips router of mine did.

I've acquired an ADSL wireless modem router from TP-Link. Actually from Argos, which surprises me as they seem to be becoming my go to choice for pooter bits. This is very strange. But it does go to show that you should shop around with no preconceptions as to how much people will charge. Except Maplin. They'll always charge +10%, although you'll get stuff there that you'll struggle to find elsewhere.

What's it do ? It can do two things - either connect to the internet through your phone line or, in my case, connect through a cable modem. Herein lies the first problem. The cable modem will only recognise a device if it's plugged into it when the cable modem is powered up. Just means it needs to be power cycled plus a little wait. Hmm - this post could get long so I shall summarise the various problems tonight ...

Setup disc didn't work. It was dumb and assumed I'd be connecting via the phone. Fix - all routers have an address you can type in that will take you to a configuration page. Something like (That's not what mine is now and it's strictly local addresses only, this is not accessible over the internet). You can set the router up correctly there.

Problem two - the Airport Express didn't want to play nice. It is only accessible over wifi, so part of the prep was to take it off the old Aquarius network that I was shutting down and have it make its own wifi network "Littlewhitebox" (name chosen because it's a little white box). The Airport Express is how I get music from laptop to hifi, so it's ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that it works. It didn't want to answer to Littlewhitebox. Grr. One factory reset later and it connected up right.

My networks have followed a pattern of Artemis, Aquarius and now I needed a couple more names ... The new ones are Athena and Ariadne. I like those. I still get a flash of this lady for Athena :
Name that show ... and for bonus points name the characters who she's doing Mischievous Things to.

So - Macbook connects through Athena, which works off 5GHz. Ariadne works off 2.4GHz. My Macbook has a major problem talking to 2.4GHz but I can work around that. It's fine off 5GHz but my printer and camera are not. They have to talk over old wifi. One point I'm pleased about with the router is that it can separate the old 2.4GHz from the new 5GHz, which keeps the Macbook happy. Now if only it could ...

Talk to the printer. It's an old Kodak printer that used to have problems talking to my desktop. It would talk just fine to the laptop. Now it'll talk to the desktop but not the laptop. Urg. Hopefully the camera will cooperate.

Cue the next problem - I thought I'd test it by watching a Totalbiscuit stream of him playing the new Starcraft expansion beta. And the stream breaks up a lot, causing a very worried SleepyPete. Actually not a problem with the network - it's good in cases like this to have independent devices. My Macbook and Desktop (Win7) run completely different software underneath everything, which is a godsend when troubleshooting. Macbook ran the stream just fine (it was yet another problem with Flashplayer)

Curse you Adobe !

I think things are configured now, although I'm going to give Warcraft a miss for tonight. Hopefully that'll go ok tomorrow. I got home a bit late today after spending a while at the Mall buying stuff (actually just the router) so there hasn't really been time tonight.

Especially as I need to check that last piece of the puzzle ... camera ! It connects over wifi as well. On the old network, it would talk to the Macbook just fine ... and refuse to talk to the desktop. Hopefully that'll be consistent this time. And I have found it, after a "I can't find it!!!" panic. It was where it should have been - laptop bag. Oh and I need to investigate all of the settings for the router. Even the ones I don't have a clue what they mean.

Right - I've rabbited on enough ... One last pic ?
Don't forget your firewalls.

PS I'm hesitant to mention - no dropouts on the audio tonight (but then again, all the bits have only been on for a couple of hours) ... good sign.
PPS TP-Link do Good Stuff ... but their manuals and automatic setup are dire.
PPPS And some head scratching later and flicking the "Client Isolation" switch on and off (it stops  all devices on a network from talking to each other but does let them through to internet), things magically work ... Hurrah !

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