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Summary:

I’ve been following Dave Winer’s new netbook passion with obvious interest. He dipped a toe in the netbook waters back in July with the purchase of an Asus Eee PC 901 and it’s clear to me that Dave "gets it" with this device genre. He needed […]

MsiwindI’ve been following Dave Winer’s new netbook passion with obvious interest. He dipped a toe in the netbook waters back in July with the purchase of an Asus Eee PC 901 and it’s clear to me that Dave "gets it" with this device genre. He needed a low-cost, highly portable device that could still run Microsoft Windows XP. He has other requirements too, but they’re all met by a netbook. While we (and by we I mainly mean me) sometimes try to push the limits of these small companion devices, Dave happily uses a netbook for its intended purpose.

Let’s fast forward in time a little from July. Dave thought about getting another netbook: one that offered a little better experience from a screen and keyboard standpoint. Although my experiences weren’t the sole factor in Dave’s upgrade decision, he read the many positives I’ve shared about my MSI Wind, so he bought one. And that’s when the trouble started….

Long story short: everytime Dave put the MSI Wind on his wireless home network, it took down his Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (AEBS). I spent a little bit of time working with Dave to try and isolate the issue but we had no luck and back the device went.

Oddly I’ve used my Wind with Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Mac OS X all with my AEBS and never had the problem. Dave’s got a few more odds and ends in his network topology, but testing showed that these had no effect. We also had the same Realtek WiFi hardware and drivers on our Winds, but something is clearly different. We looked at network settings and everything else we could, but in the end, we simply couldn’t figure it out.

Now we could just chalk this up to a one-off case, but here’s the kicker: other folks are reporting the same issue. Here’s the two most recent on Dave’s blog. Here’s two more on the Apple Discussion forums. The common factors? An MSI Wind and an Apple AEBS. My question is: what the heck is going on? Isn’t 802.11g a pretty solid standard at this point? Where’s the issue… on the Wind… on the Apple router… both?

I’d really like to figure out what’s going because using a netbook on a wireless network should just work in this day and age. The MSI Wind is a definite contender in the netbook space, but when folks experience issues like this, the device doesn’t stand a chance for acceptance. It not only hurts MSI, but it hurts the netbook market as a whole. Has anyone else seen this issue or have any thoughts? Dave’s Wind was already returned, but I’d be thrilled if even one person having the issue could have it eliminated.

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  1. I’ve had the same issues but in the opposite direction. My MacBook & MacBook Pro kept crashing my D-Link & Linksys router – especially when uploading.

    I also had a P.O.S. PackardBell desktop that I bought when in South Africa and it always crashed my Airport Extreme.

    Sorry, but I never figured out the problem in either case.

  2. Its an AirPort problem by definition. It should not be possible to crash a router no matter what junk is thrown at it.

  3. I don’t know… My (former) MSI Wind and my AEBS worked fine together. Maybe he downloaded some malware onto XP or something.

  4. Isn’t actually a problem of Apple rather than MSI? Winds have worked with other routers without such issues and Apple laptops have been working with non-Apple routers fine, so the problem must lie in Apple router, I guess.

  5. I posted my woes on Dave’s blog with my fresh out of box Wind crashing my Airport Extreme. Definitely not due to any malware. I believe it was related to the WPA2 personal encryption as removing all WiFi security allowed the combo to work well.

    Agree, this points to a bug in the AEBS, but I prefer having a protected network. As I use the AEBS for printer sharing & time machine backups, I didn’t want to swap the router.

    I ended up voiding my Wind’s warranty and swapped the Wind’s Realtek mini-pci wifi with a Dell Trumobile 1500 card. Using this Broadcom based wifi card, the Wind works great both in XP and OS X 10.5.5.

  6. How odd, I’ve been having an odd issue with my AEBS and it all started when my new Wind arrived a last week, so it seems this is not uncommon. The wifi connection basically melted down when the wind connected and its been wonky since.

  7. One more point of reference… I too run WPA2 and had no problems. The Wind I had was the b/g WiFi card, not the b/g/n. Not sure if it makes a difference.

  8. I honestly believe this is a Airport extreme problem. I have a Time Capsule and recently got a Aspire One netbook. Despite driver changes etc, my AAO will not maintain a constant connection to the apple router. It continually just stops working, yet shows everything is okay. My 2 other notebooks connect and maintain connections fine.
    Thinking it was an AAO problem, I decided after multiple updates of drivers to try one last thing. I enabled the wireless on my DSL modem which has a built in wireless router that I had previously disabled, and voila, problem solved. No more disconnects. Reconnect to the Apple router, trouble again.
    Even though not exactly the same as the Wind, very similar in that wireless problems are creeping up with netbooks. (The AAO uses Atheros drivers.) I think we need a firmware update soon to resolve these problems.

  9. Michael Horowitz Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Kevin,
    Did you check that your Apple router and Dave’s were at the same firmware release level?
    Some other things to try for people having a problem:
    -Try no encryption, WPA and WPA2.
    -Chances are that WPA can be used with either TKIP or AES, so try them both.
    -WPA passwords can be up to 63 characters or so, but maybe there’s a bug, so try a short password as a test. Short passwords, in general, are bad things, I’m only suggesting it as a test in case there is a bug somewhere with very long passwords.
    -Finally, there are some oddball parameters for a Wi-Fi network connection that I don’t understand. Things like the length of the header. All I can suggest, if nothing else works, is to experiment with these too.
    -When testing things, its probably best to reboot the router between each test.

  10. This is by definition a problem with the Apple router. The netbook might be triggering this problem, but the router should not be crashing under any circumstances. Keep in mind the 2.4GHz band is fair game for *anything.* Routers have to deal with analog phones, running microwaves, and other wireless networks. You could even think about this as a potential vulnerability to a DDoS attack.

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