Why are MSI Wind netbooks crashing Apple routers?

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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