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Web browsing and router shenanigans


Angry the Clown
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Nerds,

 

I am having some router issues (a 3Com 3CRWDR100A-72) - which have actually been infuriating me for a few months now. Web browsing is very temperamental, particularly over wireless. A number of websites will load and work just fine, but many are left hanging and on sites like Amazon and flickr it is difficult to get images to load properly. Often I find myself having to click links three to four times just to get a webpage to load (it is not uncommon for the loading logo in Firefox to continue spinning away constantly in the top right of the browser on some pages that do appear to load either). Even in an app such as iTunes the ?accessing iTunes store? loading bar almost makes it to the very end before hanging. If I hammer at the store's 'Home' button a few times it will eventually load.

 

Interestingly this past week I put my iBook into the DMZ just to see what would happen, and all these browsing issues went away. Now I?ve no desire to leave the machine in the DMZ but it would seem to suggest it might be related to port forwarding perhaps? I actually had no ports open whatsoever on my router, but Romier suggested I add port 80 (and I also added 443) to my Virtual Server but this does not appear to have made a difference.

 

Any ideas?

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I had some weird flakiness going on with my wireless routers. Sometimes everything would work fine, and othertimes I'd start getting page not displayed errors and disconnects for my work VPN.

 

I spent some time playing around with wireless channels and settled on a different number that seems to be getting less interference.

 

Are you sure the DMZ change REALLY fixed the problem? Or did you only briefly test it?

 

Keep in mind also that microwave ovens can cause wireless interference and drop of throughput...it could be a neighbor's wireless router or microwave in the case of an apartment.

 

A throughput problem might explain why browsing activities work somewhat better than bandwidth-intensive activities like uploading photos.

Edited by GreenMonkey
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Are you sure the DMZ change REALLY fixed the problem? Or did you only briefly test it?

 

Positive, yes. I?ve stuck it in the DMZ three times now to be sure and it works every time. The iTunes store and Macrumors.com have proven to be consistently reliable tests I keep returning to when troubleshooting as ? outside of putting the iBook into the DMZ - I can get neither to load fully unless I click to enter/refresh the page a couple of times (and in the case of a site like Macrumors even when the front page has fully loaded the loading logo in Firefox just keeps on spinning). Even Google shows really erratic behaviour.

 

I ruled out any direct packet loss issues having gone through the dslreports.com tweak testing a dozen times a couple of months ago to ensure I am using an optimal MTU and so on. Discovering this DMZ workaround is the first breakthrough I have had in trying to figure this out, but obviously it is not ideal to leave my iBook floating around in there.

 

Are there any common and safe ports everyone ought to have open? As I wrote, I actually have no forwarding activated at all and don't know where in my router menu is best to explore (Special Applications or Virtual Servers). I did put ports 80 and 443 into the Virtual Server but that didn't seem to help.

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You shouldn't have to open any ports for your average websurfing, HTTP type traffic. Only specialized applications/games/etc should need ports opened (like itunes for example). Even flash and javascript applications that run in browsers shouldn't need any ports.

 

If you disable the firewall on the router entirely does it clear up the problem just like the DMZ does?

 

I've actually stopped using the router's firewall in favor of software-based firewalls on the windows boxes. That way there's no issues with all the other stuff on the network (Wii, PS3, Tivo, 360, VPN connections, etc). VPN especially doesn't play nice with my hardware firewall despite opening ports. Been using Comodo firewall lately.

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That's really strange. That seems to indicate a problem with the core NAT functionality. The only difference between having a box in the DMZ and having the firewall off, AFAIK, is that the DMZ'd computer isn't really undergoing any Network Address Translation at all, unlike other systems behind the router.

 

Do you do any torrenting on it or anything like that? Does it run better on a fresh reboot?

 

A thread on DSLreports bitching about this router

 

http://www.broadbandreports.com/forum/remark,12215689

led me to the firmware upgrade page for it:

 

http://www.3com.com/products/en_US/result.jsp?selected=all&sort=effdt&sku=3CRWDR100A-72&order=desc

 

Which you might want to do, although you'd have to re-configure your settings again.

 

Are you connected to the router wirelessly, or wired? Does that make a difference?

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Never run a torrent, no.

 

The PC is wired to it. The iBook and all other devices connect wirelessly. The browsing issues on the PC tend to be similar, just with different websites (iTunes on the PC actually connects to the store page first time every time).

 

The router was actually given to me a couple of years ago and it wasn’t until last November that I decided to update its firmware having noticed I was never using the final one released. It always worked fine before that but I never changed whatever settings the original owner had in place – and I did try the previous firmware again when these issues began just to see if that was in fact the cause of the fault. So it would seem related to the fact that I did wipe clean all the previous owner’s settings…etc, restoring the unit to its factory default, but you’d think it would still work as one would expect given it was reset to act as if it had been first taken out of the box like new.

 

The most expensive solution, I suppose, would be to purchase a new router – which I have been considering given the age of the 3com unit, these issues, and the fact it seems to hate my Brother’s Vista based laptop whenever he comes over to visit.

 

 

It's interesting you mention that it might be a NAT functionality fault. Again since all occurred devices like the 360 have often lost their connection with the router, with the Xbox randomly prompting me about a NAT error (despite the xbox always sitting in the DMZ). It usually requires switching the router off and on again, sometimes more than once, to get it to work and connect me to xbox live again. The PS3 shows similar behaviour now and again.

Edited by Doctor Hoo
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I re-installed the 2007 firmware and reset the router to factory defaults again a little while ago, but nothing has changed. I suspect I will get a new unit in a couple of weeks. I?ve been looking at a couple of Netgear models which seem good as far as SNR is concerned, and there is quite an active community for custom firmware mods.

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I've been pretty happy with my DD-WRT'd Buffalo WHR-54GS. I've also got a DD-WRT micro Belkin 7230-4 that I use for bridging network to the the PC/work laptop/media server.

 

The nice thing about Tomato or DD-WRT is that you get features without spending a ton of money. I paid $20 for my Buffalo 3+ years ago.

 

It does sound like it is simply going bad. Maybe a flaky memory chip or a CPU.

 

With wireless routers so cheap these days, I don't think there's a good reason to wrestle too much with a flaky one any more.

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Unless you have some random thing causing a problem of some sort (I had a bluetooth keyboard killing my wireless internet connection last week, I only figured it out because the keyboard batteries were low so I shut it off to replace them) then it's probably a bad router. I had a Linksys go bad a few years ago and it didn't just die like I figured it would have, it started doing random things on random ports. You've probably already tried a different port for your wired PC, but if not, give that a shot, sometimes a particular port stops working.

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