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Wingsley

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Mar 20, 2014
292
37
Over the past few years, my household has been nagged by a minor source of irritation. I have no idea what it means or how to deal with it.

It goes like this...

A couple of years ago, I replaced my aging 2004-vintage Airport base station. The base station was hooked via Cat5 cable to a Verizon DSL modem. We also used a (approx.) 2007-vintage Airport Express as a range booster and connection to an HP LaserJet via short Ethernet cable. I was having problems with the network (blackouts in WiFi service).

The solution: I bought a factory-refurbished Airport Express base station direct from Apple's web-store. I made the hugely disappointing discovery that my older WiFi and computer hardware was not compatible with newer Airport gear. The Airport software utility does not recognize the older Express and will not let it on the network. I have an ancient G4 iMac which I occasionally use as an (archive) file server. No go on the new LAN. I would up buying a refurbished Airport Extreme from Apple. I believe that both the newest Extreme and Express are the latest generation.

In the last couple of years, our household has been relying on the newest Extreme base station, which is connected to the Cat5 cable and ultimately the Verizon DSL modem and the internet. Most of the problems vanished.

Except: there is an occasional hiccup in the internet connection. It makes no sense. It could happen once a day, once a week or once a month. For anywhere from one to three minutes, there will be a total interruption in internet service. And just as suddenly as a blackout occurs, it vanishes as if it never happened. If you try to call Verizon technical support when it happens, the problem is gone before you can get anyone on the phone to talk to.

We replaced the ethernet cable from the modem to the Airport base station with a brand new one. We even tried replacing the Verizon DSL modem. Nothing changes. Verizon's newer modems are a real pain because they have a WiFi router built-in and if you don't want to use their WiFi, you have to get into their settings and turn it off, and they don't like to let you do that so you have to do a diplomatic dance with their foreign tech support personnel (who do not speak English as a primary language) to get them to help you turn the modem's WiFi off. They don't like to hear that you're using Airport.

Unless Apple is in the business of pedaling low-quality refurbished Airport gear on their site, I'm tempted to suspect it's a Verizon problem. I have no idea how to address it.

When you call Verizon for help, you get someone on the phone who obviously isn't even on the same continent and it is obvious they are told to put you through all kinds of rigorous tests that are designed to avoid consideration that the problem could be with Verizon's lines or hardware outside your house. The routine goes like this: You have to unplug your network from their modem, then you have to plug your computer directly into their modem via Ethernet. (The modem is in a storage room that makes it necessary to lug a computer in there, set it up, plug it in and go through their procedures to test the connection.)

We have had DSL service through Verizon here since Dec. 2002. Most of that time, there was absolutely no problem. There were occasional hiccups requiring we put up with the diagnostic procedure mentioned in the previous paragraph. They were few and far between. Then when we had to replace the old Airport a couple of years ago, this new infrequent interruption in service issue kept nagging us. It has never really gone away. Sometimes it also feels like our internet service has been throttled. It just seems slow.

I can't see how this is anything on our end.

We live on a side hill on the outskirts of town. The rest of the town got DSL the same time we did. The local cable TV company also offers high-speed internet, and both Verizon and the cable company slowly nickel-and-dime your monthly bill until they make phone, TV and internet all expensive.

About the same time we were having blackout problems, Verizon installed a new cell tower a few miles out our road and strung fiber optic lines out to the tower. We talked to the Verizon linemen and asked if this meant that we were finally getting Verizon FIOS (fiber optic service) in our neighborhood. (We were promised this by Verizon in 2007.) The line crew said no, this was just for the cell tower.

Verizon no longer allows you to complain to a local office or line crew if you have a problem. You have to call their tech support line and do the diplomatic dance with someone on another continent who's pre-programmed bias is that you have something wrong with your equipment, not theirs.

Short of ditching Verizon and moving to a cave somewhere, I was wondering if anyone else had any thoughts on this. At present, we're only using the newer Airport Extreme modem; everything else is shelved.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,751
12,860
"Short of ditching Verizon and moving to a cave somewhere, I was wondering if anyone else had any thoughts on this. At present, we're only using the newer Airport Extreme modem; everything else is shelved."

My thoughts:

Time to leave the Airport behind and "move on".
I suggest you take 4-6 weeks and do a thorough investigation of the new "mesh" type systems.

Some of the available ones:
- Linksys Velop
- Netgear Orbi
- Ubiquiti "amplifi"
- google wifi
- eero
There are others as well.

Mesh is "the way of the future", especially for larger homes or living spaces with enough square footage or obstructions that aren't good for coverage with a single wifi router.

Plenty of user reviews to check on amazon and elsewhere.
All of these use an iOS app (on an iPhone or iPad -- there's an Android version too) to setup. Orbi and Velop can be setup with a web browser, as well.

I've had an earlier "flat" Airport Extreme that has worked well for 7+ years, but now have a Linksys Velop which puts out a stronger signal everywhere...
 
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Wingsley

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Mar 20, 2014
292
37
Do any of these new-generation WiFi bases offer USB and/or Ethernet ports? The LaserJet hooks to my Extreme via Ethernet, and we also have an Epson photo inkjet and a Demo LabelWriter that both hook up via USB.
 

waw74

macrumors 601
May 27, 2008
4,710
972
without doing tests, it's hard to tell if the problem is outside your house (DSL) or inside your house (wi-fi)
it's possible something of Verizon's has degraded, either failing equipment, or something is causing noise in the line.
or that something inside your house is causing wi-fi problems.
on 2.4gHz things like microwave ovens, cordless phones, and baby monitors are frequent causes of interference.
or could be failing wi-fi hardware in your airports.

try a speedtest, with a computer connected via ethernet directly to your router (fast.com is a simple one from netflix)
and again over wifi
"black magic disk speed test" is an easy way to test your network, it's in the mac app store. you would need 2 computers on your network, have one (pc or mac) share a folder, and then use black magic on a different mac to test read/write speeds over the network.

once you've done all that, remember that the slowest number wins, so if you're 20 on wired ethernet to the router, but 40 on black magic, you still will only get 20 on downloads.

also keep in mind, the repeater is only as good as the signal it's getting, so if you put the repeater at the far end of the wifi where it's getting a poor signal, then it can only repeat a poor signal.
and ideally all repeaters should connect to the main base, as main->repeater->repeater will lead to slower network at the far end

The newer generation wifi with "mesh" just means that the connection back to the main router is handled by a different radio, leaving the wi-fi radio to only talk to your devices, instead of splitting the wi-fi connection between your devices and talking to the main base.
they're also smart enough to find the fastest route back to the main base.

most of the mesh repeaters have ethernet ports, but you should check specs before you buy.

as far as USB, it's not likely as most printers released recently have their own network print server built in.
But you can still use the old airport as a print server.
either....
turn wi-fi off, and connect via ethernet.
or
have the wifi on the airport connect to your network. (it would behave as a client like a computer or phone)
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,751
12,860
OP asked:
"Do any of these new-generation WiFi bases offer USB and/or Ethernet ports? The LaserJet hooks to my Extreme via Ethernet, and we also have an Epson photo inkjet and a Demo LabelWriter that both hook up via USB."

Orbi has 3 ethernet ports per node.
The Velop (and I believe eero and google wifi) have 2.

Some of these have a USB port (perhaps for future use), but I don't believe the USB port on many of them (any?) is actually "live" yet.
 
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