S h o r t S t o r i e s

// Tales from software development

Netgear DG834G: Groundhog day

with one comment

I’ve been using the Netgear DG834G for the past five years. In fact, I’m on my third one: I’ve had a v1 and a v2, and I’m currently using a v3. Each one has had problems but repeated firmware upgrades have largely resolved these. It’s a capable piece of hardware at a very modest price and I’ve been happy to stick with it despite the problems.

The v3 I’ve been using for the past couple of years or so has been the best but there were a couple of issues that I was experiencing that I thought might be down to the v3. The first is that I suspect my broadband connection is underperforming. There is a known issue with the chipset in the DG834 and DG834G v1, v2, and v3 models that can result in the modem and BT’s IPMAX service negotiating lower connection speeds than the optimum. The second is that I’ve always had occasional dropouts with my WiFi connected Squeezebox. I’ve tried everything I can think of on the server and the Squeezebox to remedy this but after a year the problem still remains. The most obvious thing that remains to try changing is the wireless access point, i.e. the DG834G.

So, a couple of weeks ago I ordered a DG834G v4. It arrived a couple of days later and after checking that it had the latest firmware installed, I spent an evening configuring it so that it was identical in every respect to my existing DG834G v3. The following morning I swapped the v4 for the v3 and there appeared to be some immediate improvements. The downstream signal/noise ratio jumped by 5db and the wireless dropouts on the Squeezebox seemed to have gone away.

After a few days it was apparent that I still had a problem with the Squeezebox. In fact, at times it appeared to be unable to connect to the WiFi network at all. I also noticed that my 802.11b enabled PDA couldn’t connect to the WiFi network. The PDA could see the network but repeated attempts to connect to it always failed. Then things got a lot worse very quickly…

There are four laptops in use in my house and all of them were suddenly unable to maintain a WiFi connection for more than a few minutes at a time. Then the bandwidth seemed to diminish to almost nothing. I was using a WiFi connected laptop with a remote desktop connection to a local server and each keypress took several seconds to register on the server. The problem got worse and worse to the point where a keypress might take up to a minute to register. I connected the laptop to the network using a cable to prove that the problem was with the WiFi network. The next thing I noticed was that the signal strength in the upstairs rooms was very poor whereas it had always been excellent with the DG834G v3.

I rebooted the DG834G v4 by powering it off and on and the problem went away for a day and then it started all over again. This time I tried logging into the management UI to see if I could diagnose what the problem was. It rejected my login attempts even though I was sure that I was using the correct username and password. I cycled the power on it again and logged in successfully a few minutes later.

Another day passed and the whole thing repeated: WiFi connections dropping out every few minutes, WiFi throughput grinding to a halt, and unable to access the management UI. I gave up. I pulled the power on the v4 and plugged in my old v3 again. Within a few minutes order was restored and two days later remains that way.

There’s no excuse for Netgear screwing up like this. If this was a brand new product there might be some justification for not getting the firmware right first time but this is the fourth version of the hardware and I’m pretty sure that everyone’s lost count of how many firmware versions have been released over the past six or seven years.


Written by Sea Monkey

February 15, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Hardware

Tagged with

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I had similar problems with my old 3com wireless router so I decided it was time for an upgrade. I chose the Netgear WPM824 for no other reason than it has a rotating blue light on top. It solved all my problems. I turned the flashing blue light off after the first day…

    Dave Williams

    February 15, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: