partial answer to "unexplainable WiFi connection drops"

Previously, I blogged about some unexplainable WiFi connection drops I have been experiencing since a few days. Many thinks to everyone who replied by expressing their ire against Network-Manager. Unfortunately, it seems that the fault might indeed be on the WRT54GL's OpenWRT setup:

See, I have this old ThinkPad that I keep for Debian development purposes and that one runs whatever is on Debian/Testing, connecting to my LAN, using either an RTL8139-based Ethernet or an ATH5K-based WiFi adapter, plugged into the Cardbus slot; these days, more often the Atheros.

Now, this morning, I noticed that my Geode desktop stopped being able to ping both the Dell and the ThinkPad at the same time. Bingo! Now, the question is, how do I track the source of the problem, on this WRT54GL running White Russian?


Jc2k said...

I found OpenWRT to be completely unstable with my WRT54GL. Not just wifi dropping but rather shocking packet loss too. Tried quite a few different versions and ended up rolling back to the stock firmware :(

Samat said...

It may be that your router is dying. It's meant to be cheap, commodity hardware, it's not made to last forever!

Barring that, you haven't mentioned whether you've tried something from the OpenWRT Kamikaze series. Whiterussian/0.9 is very old, and basically unmaintained.

Martin-Éric said...

I've been pondering whether to upgrade to Kamikaze for ages. My answer keeps on being: not until they get around documenting it as well as White Russian and not until wireless on the WRT54GL is supported out of the box.

Samat said...

Funny you mention documentation... see this great OpenWRT how-to I found the other day. It'd be nice if there was an effort to improve the documentation on the main OpenWrt website, but they've taken their wiki down and "official" documentation is extremely sparse.

Not sure what you mean by wireless on the WRT54GL not being supported out of the box. It is, if you use the right driver? (Use bcrm-2.4)

I compiled my own OpenWRT image earlier this week. It is ridiculously easy. I created my own image containing only the software bits I regularly use, saving much memory.

Martin-Éric said...

Practically all of their development is based on the assumption that a 2.6 kernel will be used, the only exception being on old Broadcom hardware such as the WRT54, for which a 2.4 kernel still gets built.

Rumor has it that they will eventually deprecate the 2.4 kernel, once the b43 driver in kernel 2.6 has matured. As far as I can tell, that's still not the case.

Yes, the OpenWRT wiki being down is what I'm talking about. They used to have a wonderful wiki to document White Russian. Not anymore since Kamikaze.

Samat said...

Regardless of whether they're focusing on 2.6, the 2.4 driver does continue to work.

If you're bothered about them dropping support for 2.4, that's fair enough, but by that logic you definitely should not be using the White Russian, because there's no upstream support for that at all.

All in all, however, I think it's very likely that your hardware is flaking out.

Samat said...

Useful link: OpenWrt is rebuilding their wiki over at nuwiki.openwrt.org.