Will replacement of 4th Gen Airport Extreme make a difference...

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by zeppo2, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. zeppo2 macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    I'm supposed to get minimum 200 mbps and I have been satisfied with speed tests of 170 or more (uploads at 10). But I am wondering if I might see an improvement in the long sync times I get to iCloud with a iphone flashcard app I use. Everything else syncs fine.

    This Airport Extreme is from 2009. I know it has 128 DDR RAM. But I don't what kind of processor it has. Does anyone know the if the difference in processors between the extreme and one of the more current router offerings from Asus, Netgear, and the like would have much of an impact?

    I'm pretty sure it is the app that is the problem, but perhaps there is something in the specs of the Extreme that is holding back the performance of the iCloud sync of its data?

    Otherwise, unfortunate end of security updates aside, this Extreme has performed like a champ.
  2. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    What is "an iPhone flashcard app"?

    Your router doesn't know that you are using "an iPhone flashcard app", whatever that is!

    What are you syncing, and in what direction? With 10mbps uplink, of course it is going to be slow e.g. syncing photos up to iCloud.

    And what is "everything else"? We can't guess what your usage of iCloud is.

    What results do you get with the Speedtest app? Do you have a Mac or PC hardwired to the router with an Ethernet cable that you can also run Speedtest on? (There is now a MacOS desktop version.)

    Very doubtful your router has anything to do with this.
  3. techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    170 is nothing to sneeze at. Most likely, neighbors have more powerful WiFi and are interfering with yours, thus the slower speeds. The Extreme should be able to give you the 200Mbps speeds, but you might have to tweak settings like channels to avoid overlapping with neighbors.

    If you can name 5GHz a different SSID (Network name), try that. Something like Network and Network5G. The passwords can be the same. Then, on the iPhone, "forget" the 2.4 network and only connect to the 5GHz network and test speeds. I don't recall if that version can use separate names, but if so try it and see if it helps.

    5GHz has a shorter range than 2.4 which is a mixed blessing. You get less interference from neighbors but your range in your home may be less than when connecting to 2.4. Also, 5GHz has more channels so it is easier to avoid conflicts with neighbors.
  4. jtara, Jan 17, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019

    jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    Most likely, WiFi has nothing to do with this.

    Only 10mbps up, we don't know if OP is syncing up or down, and the problem only occurs when using "an iPhone flashcard app", whatever that is...

    Reading between the lines, it sounds like OP is syncing photos (from camera flash card plugged into flash adapter?) up to iCloud on a slow uplink. Problem could be the flash card itself, the app, or the pokey uplink.

    If you have a Mac or PC wired to the router, install a flash reader on that. That won't fix the slow uplink, though.

    10mbps is idling for ANY router, unless it 20 years old.
    --- Post Merged, Jan 17, 2019 ---
    Clarify what you mean by that. Do you mean you are supposed to get only 10mbps up (which is typical for an asymmetrical bandwidth cable modem setup) or do you mean you are supposed to get 200mbps symmetrical?

    Too many unanswered questions to give any meaningful answer.
  5. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009

    The actual speeds you're getting (170/10) are just fine. Up until a few months ago, the best I could get was 8mbps "down". Now I'm "where you are".

    You might consider one of the new "mesh" type systems that have 2 or 3 "nodes", depending on how large your home is. If you choose to investigate these, I recommend those that have -three- radio channels. The "third channel" is used for "backhaul", which means that the other two channels aren't affected.

    The Airport Extremes were solid performers in their day, but it's not "their day" any more...
  6. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    Yeah, as I said, I'm content with those speeds and occasionally it does go over 200 on the download test. Frankly, I was happy when I was getting 50.

    The exception is with the icloud sync of the app I mentioned, which has nothing to do with photos. (I don't sync my photos via the cloud by the way.) It is a flashcard study app, but it has always had problems with syncing between the macbook version of the app and the iphone version. Not knowing much about technology, I'm not sure if there is some other bottleneck of some outdated hardware in the Extreme that, while not affecting speedtests, somehow might affect data sync to the cloud. So I'm just throwing out this question on the chance there is something I am overlooking.

    I've felt it was due to some flaw in the apps design which is not a problem initially, but manifests itself over the long term in the way the app is dealing with handling of cards that have been in the app a long time (perhaps a bug in how it is syncing scheduling data of the flashcards between the apps).

    I'm sure the processor from ten years ago is probably no where near what is in today's routers, but I don't know if there is something about that piece of hardware, or some other, that could affect icloud sync but not web speedtests, because I don't know how this works.
  7. jtara, Jan 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2019

    jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    You haven't answered any of the questions I asked that would help diagnose the problem. Detecting bottlenecks takes a disciplined, step-by-step approach.

    BUT, skip my questions, which I think are irrelevant given the blanks you HAVE filled in, and then save them for any network speed problems you might encounter in the future.

    - What kind of Internet connection do you have? Cable? DSL? Something else?
    - What speeds up and down do your provider claim?
    - What speeds do you actually achieve? Preferably using Speedtest running on your Mac? (To eliminate WiFi issues.)
    - AFTER you check speed on a (hard-wired) Mac or PC, then you can test WiFi on your phone/tablet.

    Oh. THAT kind of "flash card"! It would help to mention the name of the app, so that we aren't kept guessing what it does. I'd imagine, though, that it isn't sending or receiving a large amount of data.


    Follow your intuition. You are almost certainly right. Contact the publisher of your flash card software. I'm sure they are aware of this. There may or may not be a possible cure. What do reviews of the app say? Do others have the same problems that you have experienced?

    I am a software developer. As a bonus, I am a software developer of educational software, (though not a "flash card app") that has to sync data from/to a server (though not iCloud). Probably a lot more data than a flash card app. (Students submit sketches.)

    It sounds to me like the app is not using an indexed database, or perhaps not a database at all - maybe just one big text file. The app probably has to do a linear search through all of the cards to find the ones that have not yet been synced, and it will just take longer and longer the more cards you add. Or perhaps it does something as dumb as sending ALL of the cards every time, sending the cards unnecessarily and not just your answers, (does it collect answers?) etc. etc. etc. Since you haven't told us the name of the app, I can't guess exactly what kind of data it might sync.

    Replacing your router is not going to solve problems with a flawed app.

    An obvious test is to find a friend or public place, work place, etc. with known fast Internet access. Take your phone there, and try it. There is a 99.9% chance there will be no difference in the behavior you observe.
  8. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    - What kind of Internet connection do you have? Cable? DSL? Something else?
    - What speeds up and down do your provider claim?
    - What speeds do you actually achieve? Preferably using Speedtest running on your Mac? (To eliminate WiFi issues.)

    I supposed to get 200 minimum down, and I think I'm supposed to get around 10 up, and its always been pretty steadily at 10 up. In reality, 200 has really been more of a maximum (it does go test over it occassionally). I'm happy with the speed though.

    - AFTER you check speed on a (hard-wired) Mac or PC, then you can test WiFi on your phone/tablet.
    The phone is always slower on speedtests. 30-35 download is a pretty typical test, though the upload is usually comparable to the mac and I typically test around 10.

    Follow your intuition. You are almost certainly right. Contact the publisher of your flash card software. I'm sure they are aware of this. There may or may not be a possible cure. What do reviews of the app say? Do others have the same problems that you have experienced?

    The app is called Studies. I've tried to find forums where there are other users of the app discussing among themselves, but haven't found one. Aside from this sync problem, its a really well done app and it always surprises me I don't come across more users (ie, language forums, student forums, etc). It uses an algorithm to schedule due dates for studying the flashcards . Most people probably use his app for short term study, like for one particular test, or a one semester course, and then dispense with the data. As I said, I suspect the issue comes more with long-term use of the app (ie, life long language study where the cards remain on the app and you just let the algorithm do its things without an end date). I suspect this because the developer doesn't do any testing of his app for long-term (he doesn't use it himself to assist with any long-term study goals), and he claims he never has issues with the lengthy sync times and doesn't get that complaint from users (there are a some reviews that complain about it, but as I said, I think most won't encounter this). I communicate with the developer, but he isn't really interested in debugging the problem. If he can sell the app to enough users that study for a test and are then done with it, then there's probably no reward in him debugging issues that arise for long-term users. Plus, I notice he has a rather absurd approach to debugging in that, he figures, if the design he intended to code should not result in sync issues, then it must not be the code. How nice it would be if everything we coded always worked as we intended.

    It sounds to me like the app is not using an indexed database, or perhaps not a database at all - maybe just one big text file. The app probably has to do a linear search through all of the cards to find the ones that have not yet been synced, and it will just take longer and longer the more cards you add. Or perhaps it does something as dumb as sending ALL of the cards every time, sending the cards unnecessarily and not just your answers, (does it collect answers?) etc. etc. etc. Since you haven't told us the name of the app, I can't guess exactly what kind of data it might sync.

    That's interesting. I've wondered about both of these as possibilities. I divide my data into layers of folders that the app allows you to use to sort different groups of flash cards, and I've asked if their could be something in this hierarchy of folders I've organized my notes in that could be challenging to the, but he dismisses this idea.

    thanks for the info
  9. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    I looked at the ratings and reviews. It gets a very good rating of 4.6, and generally reviews look good. If you open the App Store reviews on iPhone or iPad, you can see all of them, and also sort on most helpful, most favorable, most critical, etc. I sorted on most critical. ;)

    The unfavorable reviews are all about sync! Most, though, mention lost cards, no sync at all, etc. not slow sync.

    Since you don't seem to be having those problems - just slow - I will ask one more question... what model of iPhone are you using? If it is an older one, perhaps an update is in order! The biggest breakpoint in recent models is with the iPhone 6. That is, anything older than that is going to suck comparatively. A faster CPU will paper-over a lot of app inefficiency!

    It really sounds like - as you have speculated - your use case is outside of what they had anticipated, and perhaps they haven't planned/designed well for situations where you have a lot of cards that you keep forever. :(

    The problem is NOT your router.
  10. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    I have an iphone 6. I bought it when it first came out and icloud sync times weren't great then, maybe 10-12 minutes. that was with much slower internet. Before that I had used its original version called Mental Case which used USB sync that worked great. Then he swapped USB sync out for icloud sync, which didn't work for me at all (and for a lot of people). I had to just stop syncing and for a a year a half I just studied what I already had loaded to the app. When he came out with the new Studies app, I bought the iphone 6 and gave it a shot. I've added a lot more cards since then, but he's always claimed that the amount of cards I have was not a big deal and shouldn't be a problem. That's why I think it may be more of a problem with cards that have been in the app for a long time, perhaps due to how the scheduling algorithm is handling them. Because although he may test his app with the same amount of cards, they will always be as if they were just added, and not far along in the study history (because that would mean he would have to use the app daily, which he does not.)

    At some point sync times, despite improving internet speeds, slowed to where a "normal" sync might be 20 minutes, and on bad days, which I saw more and more of, they might take 40 minutes to an hour. More recently, again despite another leap in internet speeds, they started getting to be over an hour with regularity to where I had to stop using the mac app again and dispense with syncing. For any new material I add to study, I'm using another flashcard app, Flashcards Deluxe, which is not as good most all respects, except that it does not sync to the cloud, but instead updates with data held in Google Drive and takes seconds to do so.

    I've been thinking of getting a new router anyway since the Extreme is no longer supported. I may buy one at Best Buy and see if it makes any difference, but if not I may return it. Might be better to buy an new iphone. But thing is the phone works totally fine for me in all areas except this app, so It wouldn't be so great to buy a new phone and not see a great improvement.
  11. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    A few things:

    - Because the app uses iCloud Sync, your sync speed between Mac and iPhone is going to be throttled to 10mbps MAX. It has to go up to the cloud, then back down from the cloud. No matter which way it goes (Mac to iPhone, iPhone to Mac, it will hit that nasty asymmetrical 10mbps limit.

    - The old app synced over USB, which would be MUCH faster. Even USB 2 can achieve 480mbit/sec. Almost 50 times faster than your 10mbps throttle.

    - The maker of that app missed an opportunity and a market by not providing some way to sync locally over WiFi. Typical local WiFi should be able to give you at least 100-500mbps. Your download speed is poor, we'll deal with that in a minute/

    - Do you see how silly it is to send data up to the cloud and back down again to get the data a few feet between your phone and your Mac? ;)

    - Let's at least fix your "30-35 download" problem, though that isn't going to fix the sync problem, because that's already at least 3 times the speed you need, since you have the 10mbps limit. Please download this free speed test app:


    It has a speed test similar to SpeedTest, and the stupid thing will make you use it once. So, go ahead and do that first. But the really cool feature I want you to try is called Wi-Fi SweetSpots(r). (Yes, that's a registered trademark...) It will let you walk around your house, and show you your Wi-Fi performance between your phone and your Wi-Fi router or access point. You can turn off the annoying "geiger counter" sounds if you want!

    This will tell you if you have a local WiFi problem, while not confusing this with Internet speed.

    - Somebody else earlier suggested you make sure you are using 5gHz to connect to the router. I poo-pooed it at the time, because you hadn't mentioned the low 30-40mbps download speed. Make sure you have given DIFFERENT NAMES to your 2.4gHz and 5gHz beacons on your router (sorry, I don't know how to do that on your router, but surely somebody here will know how), so that you can easily select one or the other on your phone.

    - 5gHz will give you the best performance if you are near the router. The signal doesn't go through walls well, so you will have less interference from neighbors.

    - 2.4gHz may give better performance if you are several rooms away, for the same reason. It goes through walls better. But you WILL also face more outside interference.

    Wi-Fi Sweetspots will help you sort out the local WiFi performance.

    - BTW, WiFi sweetspots may saturate your router, and your router might briefly think it is not connected to the Internet. (That is what happens to me when I test with it at 5gHz). The sweetspots test is just a local test between your phone and router, so don't freak out if Netflix dies while you are doing the test!

    - If you have a big house, you might need to go to a mesh router setup. A friend has had good luck with the Google hotspots, though some of the tech blogs are not so hot on it. Ubiquiti is the gold standard (used in hotels) but NOT cheap!

    - I get 960mbps with WiFi Sweetspots in my office (where the router is) and anywhere from 60-600mbps in other parts of my ~1000 sq ft condo on 5gHz with what is now a pretty old ASUS RT-AC88U. On 2.4 gHz I get 185mbps in the office, and from 75-150 in the rest of the condo. This is consistent with what I would expect: 5gHz will give you higher speeds if you are close to the router. 2.4gHz will give you greater range and more consistent results, at the detriment of raw maximum speed.

    - FWIW, I have a 1gbps symmetrical Internet connection through WebPass (now owned by Google Fibre). Real world performance - I consistently get in the range of 800mbps up/down with my Mac Mini or iMac Pro running SpeedTest, and 400-600mbps on an iPad going through the router. I pay $0 a month for this. (OK, the HOA pays $30/month, so in reality I guess that's what it's costing me...) AND I cut the cord and got an over the air recorder, so my total TV bill is Netflix and Hulu. Yes, you can all drool now. ;)

    - One last thing. (This IS an Apple forum...) If you have 4G in your area, you would certainly best the performance syncing FROM the phone TO the Mac by going off WiFi on the phone, and just using the phone carrier network for the uplink. Of course, it won't help performance the other way. (FROM the Mac TO the phone.) Depends on where you are. I'm on the edge of a busy downtown, and the performance isn't that great. At a previous residence, though, I consistently got 50mbps on ATT 4G. (And get this away from home.)

    - Your iPhone 6 is probably fast enough.

    - Final takeaway: because sync has to go up to the cloud, and back down, you are limited to 10mbps. Your router is NOT the problem, but you can probably improve your local WiFi performance, if that matters to you. (For other things). If you just don't like the way the router looks, get a new one. ;) (But it will probably be an ugly, geeky looking router out of a science fiction movie like mine...)

    I now give it a toss-up it's either:

    - the app is slow internally when you have a lot of cards
    - it senselessly sends and re-sends data it doesn't have to, perhaps due to the smallest change (such at the last date you looked at the card)
    - it is limited by your 10mbps upload speed
    - some combination of the above
  12. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    Thanks. Wi-Fi Sweetspots gives a reading of 235 Mbps right next to the router on 5ghz, and 105 on 2.4ghz. I have a small place and the lowest spot on 5ghz was 198 on 5ghz and 55 on 2.4ghz. I usually set it right next to the router when I sync the app given the issues it has had.
  13. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    So I think the router is eliminated as the source of the problem. A newer router and a newer phone could give you higher speeds- which would be of absolutely no help given the 10mbps bottleneck from the asymmetrical cable bandwidth. And both the Internet downlink and WiFi speed is fast enough that it’s not impeading browsing, downloading, etc.

    I really think it is the app.
  14. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    It's good to know there not some other element within the airport extreme hardware that could be causing me problems. Once the initial sync after I first install the mac app and all the data from phone app is transferred to it (I think that is around 650MB) , the syncs after that should amount to only around 35 MB. At least that is typically what is stored on the cloud at any given time. Not that I feel confident I understand it, when I google a mbps to MB converter it seems like a transfer ot this kind should take around 30 seconds. Yet even if I don't edit any data on either app, the sync always takes way longer than this. I've wondered if it is getting interrupted somehow and the real difficulty is in reestablishing and continuing after and interruption. But this would still be an app thing as I've never had issues with other data.

    I'm noticing flaws in the space-repetition scheduling of flashcards by the app that are disappointing to me anyway. So it may be just as well to be using other apps. Its just the ability to create, edit, and sort flashcards using the mac Studies app is superb compared to others. If I didn't value the productivity value of being able to study anywhere at any time on the phone, I would just use the mac app. Really a shame the syncing between the two apps is such a problem.

    Thanks for your help!
  15. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    You could try setting up a test configuration of a wireless network, and then use Activity Monitor on the Mac to observe network data flow. If there are gaps when syncing the flash-card app, then it's a pretty good bet that its performance is limited by the app and how it's coded, rather than something related to network speed.

    The goal here is to setup your Mac so it shares its internet connection. Then have your iPhone joing that wireless network instead of the wireless network provided by your Airport Extreme. This will effectively put your Mac as a middleman between the iPhone and the Internet. Once that's been setup and you confirm it's working on the iPhone, you run Activity Monitor on the Mac, and use it to observe network traffic.

    I don't recall if OS versions after Sierra even offer Internet Connection sharing. If they don't, and you're using one, then you can stop reading this and give up, because you won't be able to do any of this.

    Step 1 is to setup your Mac to share its Internet connection.

    I don't see where you said what OS version your Mac is running. Here's an article about sharing the internet connection for Sierra.

    I recommend connecting the Mac to your router using an Ethernet cable, rather than using a wireless connection. Otherwise the wireless traffic can create interference that degrades throughput. If you don't have an Ethernet cable, or your Mac lacks an Ethernet socket, then you'll have to use wireless.

    Configure the Mac to share the internet connection over wireless. Give it an obvious name like "TEST", and use encryption that your iPhone supports. Use a wifi channel that's as far away as possible from whatever channel your Airport Extreme is using. This is to avoid having multiple networks competing for the same channel, which creates radio interference.

    Step 2 is to get your iPhone to join the test network.

    Once the Mac is sharing the internet connection, use your iPhone to scan for the "TEST" network and join it.

    After the iPhone connects to the "TEST" network, try something simple like visiting a website. If it works, then launch Activity Monitor on the Mac, and set it to watch Network traffic.

    Then do a page-refresh on the iPhone. You should see both reading and writing of network data. This is because every request the iPhone makes to read something, the Mac must pass along the data read, and write it to the shared wireless network.

    Next, you test the app in question.

    After you've confirmed that you can see network data transfers, run your flash-card app and do a sync. As I noted above, if there are gaps with no network activity, that suggests the iPhone is busy doing something that doesn't need the network. For example, it's looking for the next thing to sync (the technical term is "compute bound", as distinct from "I/O bound"). On the other hand, if there's a fairly constant barrage of network traffic (I/O, input/out), even though nothing changed, then that indicates the iPhone app is transferring data it doesn't need to.

    When you're finished, simply tell your iPhone to join its Airport Extreme wifi network. Then you can turn off internet sharing on the Mac.

    If you run into a problem or have questions about any of the above, feel free to ask.
  16. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    I use High Sierra (tried Mojave but had too many strange Safari problems). MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014.

    This sounds really cool. Just to clarify, this will work when syncing via iCloud? (the apps aren't designed to sync to each other directly via wifi)
  17. jtara, Jan 22, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2019

    jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    I wouldn't advise a non-technical person to do this. Too much risk of getting things screwed up and not being able to get it back again. And interpretation of the results would be dubious, even for somebody skilled in analyzing IP traffic.

    This approach is useful for somebody who understands IP networking throughly, and can set up filters to look at only the traffic from iCloud, and/or ignore other traffic. (iOS is QUITE "chatty"!) There then remains the problem of filtering the iCloud traffic from this particular app from that from other apps. You won't be able to do it, because the data is encrypted, and there is no way you could distinguish the traffic from, say, photos being synced, a calendar refresh, or, or, or, or.... )

    I sometimes use a bit more sophisticated setup. My Internet connection goes through an isolated 3-port static VLAN on my router. The third port is set up as a "tap" that listens to all traffic in both directions promiscuous mode. I can connect a notebook running Wireshark (or, an extra Ethernet port on a desktop) that can then observe/filter all of the Internet traffic. I've sometimes done then when testing my own apps.

    This is something for the maker of the app to do, though! And all it is going to do is confirm, "yup, there's a problem with the app!" The maker of the app will have more options, since they can run a version of their app with debugging enabled, and will be able to better observe the app behavior.
    --- Post Merged, Jan 22, 2019 ---
    I second that. I mentioned this earlier, as well. We've never established for certain that you connect the Mac to the router using an Ethernet cable. If you aren't - do.

    I'm afraid, though, that what we have here is wishful thinking that the cause is something that is under your control. :(
  18. zeppo2 thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    I see. Well, probably not worth the effort then. It is obvious to me that the developer himself doesn't use the app on a long term basis, and probably only uses it in the short term when testing out new features, etc. I think the problem is related to how the app is able to manage data over a long period of time, so the developer never sees these issues, and most flashcard users also use the app for short term study, so he doesn't hear much from them. And unless he sees the problem himself, he has to be able to imagine why the problem would occur or else he otherwise assumes it cannot occur and it must not be the app's fault. As a result so he doesn't pursue it as a problem. That's right, a developer that apparently cannot imagine the unexpected could ever happen. Blows my mind.

    In some respects I don't blame him. He has another project going on, and if I was getting sales enough from an app from just people who try it and use it for just a few months, I might not worry about trying to appeal to long-term users either. Most long-term users are language students, and they gravitate to other apps like Anki and Quizlet that offer libraries and exchanges of pre-made flashcards. Googling around, I've found that his app's name rarely comes up much in discussions about flashcard apps, and this is probably why. For me though, creating the cards is an effective part of the learning process, and I make better cards, so I don't care about that advantage of pre-made cards. After looking closer at the problem with the app, I'm noticing other flaws with how its schedules. So its probably just as well to move on to other apps and just maintain the data that's already on the iphone without worrying about syncing to the mac app-- at least until he has a major over-hall.

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