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802.11N Woes with OSX

July 16, 2007

Between enjoying the Alps stages of the Tour de France, I spent some time upgrading my home network. I’ve been using the Netgear FWAG114 for the past couple of years, but this weekend made the upgrade to a Linksys WRT350N . The new router has gig ethernet ports, a built in NAS via USB port, 802.11N, and perhaps mostly importantly, is Linux based so you can upgrade the firmware to DD-WRT.

After installing the new router, the first thing I did was check signal strengths. The Linksys WGA11B wireless game adapter I use for my Stoker had a much stronger signal in the backyard, but my Macbook Pro had a *worse* signal strength via 802.11b. From the office to living room, the furthest possible distance in my home, it would spike to above 50% signal level then plummet to nearly no signal.

Thankfully Joe reminded me earlier in the day that a download was available from Apple to enable 802.11N on the Macbook Pro, for all of $2. (great its available, but why the annoying $2 charge??) So after verifying my laptop didn’t include the update (instructions on the apple store page), I went to purchase, install, reboot, then check for a speed improvement. The result? Maybe 30% increase in signal strength, although the connection was still really erratic- jumping from 0 to 6 bars (out of 15 total) in seconds. Also, it seems the combo of the OSX 802.11N plus the WRT350N is responsible for my first two back-to-back system lock ups. (I’m running it in non-mixed Wireless N Only mode as I write this… so far so good. And now I don’t have to worry about getting my net locked down to only my MAC addresses to urgently, I doubt there are many 802.11N enabled machines out there looking to snarf free wireless. :))

Time to do some homework on the DD-WRT and WRT350N (will it fix the mixed-mode issues, will it preserve the NAS functionality?) I’ll need to sort it out before my next BBQ session- swapping back and forth between mixed-mode and 802.11N only is going to be a PITA, especially if it means a locked up machine if I forget. :-/

EDIT : it locked up again on me 24 hours later. Time for some more debugging…

Update 26-July-2007 : I’ve had several more lockups since. The only “fix” has been setting the router to 802.11G ONLY. Whether the issue is with the routers implementation or the OSX driver, I blame Apple for writing software that causes a complete system hang for something as high level as a wireless connection.

Update 1-August-2007 : Apple released a patch.

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8 Comments
  1. I’ve been running Tomato firmware on my Buffalo router with good results. This thread suggests it will work on your hardware, but I didn’t se anything about NAS.
    http://forums.hardwarezone.com/showthread.php?t=1322409

  2. Oh you took the plunge. I have the new mac going on the WRT54G with DD-WRT. I had some issues with using WPA2 only and AES. Got a tip from a Sun Mac user to try WPA2 Mixed and AES-TKIP. So far no further problems. I will be keeping an eye on how the WRT350N works for you.

  3. there’s some more info here on getting USB working on the 350N- a bit too bleeding edge for me since its my one-and-only router right now:
    http://scrutator.lo2k.net/uri35134-dd-wrt-2007-posts-forum-post.html

  4. chris permalink

    I’ve had exactly the same problem. I’ve completely given up on using the 350N in “N-mode” for now because my MacBook Pro crashes more often than Johnny Knoxville. I’ve read somewhere that the MacBook Pro and the Linksys are using different chipsets, and this could be the source of the problem.
    I’m really frustrated that I’ve wasted $150 on this wireless router that’s no better than my WRT54G. If anyone comes up with a solution, please let me know…

  5. Another “me too”. This time with a netgear router (unsure exactly what model, it’s at a friends house). Still waiting for confirmation that switching to just b or just g worked in his case.

  6. I decided last night to either take the 350N back to Best Buy or hawk it on ebay. Probably will end up just switching it for an Apple Airport Extreme, but I’m not very pleased that Apple neglected to put gigabit ethernet ports in it…

  7. The most reliable home network for me was the linksys range-N router. I was able to pretty much go where ever I wanted around the area of my house.

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