Tiny Code

Tiny Code

Sunday, July 20, 2008

No-name router problems

I spent part of this morning doing some remote troubleshooting of a problem my in-laws were having with their broadband connection. Their broadband provider supplied a no-name router. Somehow it had decided that my wife's laptop had made too many outbound connections and therefore must have a virus. Once having decided this (and quite erroneously so), this poorly designed router continued making this assertion even when her laptop was no longer plugged into the router. In fact it seemed completely unable to determine which were active computer connections and which had timed out. Its status page listed two computers which didn't match any computers currently connected to the network nor had there been any such computers connected that my in-laws could remember.

You might wonder how I could determine that the complaint about too many outbound connections was erroneous beyond the shadow of a doubt. I simply enlisted the use of the "netstat" command. The netstat command exists in all major OSes (Windows, MacOS, Linux, and BSD). It allows you to determine the state of network connections for the computer on which you execute the command. Using the "-b" option allowed us to see which programs had open connections. As I suspected, only iTunes, Thunderbird, and Firefox had network connections and none of the three applications had an unusual numbers.

And yet this silly router continued complaining about the number of outbound connections from this one computer even when the computer was disconnected to the network and through several power cycles of the router. So I walked my stepdaughter through the procedure to disable this poorly implemented portion of the firewall (the detection of number of outbound connections) because it obviously wasn't working properly.

My advice is to stick with a name brand router (Linksys or Netgear) whenever you're presented with the option. Sadly since this router was supplied by their ISP, they don't have a choice in the matter. Using a no-name router may cost you more than any initial cost savings realized by purchasing a cheap device in the amount of troubleshooting time you spend on poorly implemented features such as this one.

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