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Issue #243: March 18, 2012

Q: I’ve been reading with interest your recent articles regarding IP addresses on home networks (I.G.T.M. # 231 – Dec 25, 2011, I.G.T.M. #235 – Jan 22, 2012).  I have a bit of a different problem, but I’m wondering if it might stem from the same issue.  First, here’s my setup:

My ISP is Network Tallahassee, DSL/VoIP bundle.  They have provided us with a combination modem/router/tel system in a black box from Zoom (ADSL 6v).  It also handles our VoIP.  We have a printer and a desktop hard wired into it, as well as a phone system.  Via Wi-Fi, we connect an iPhone, iPad, Kindle, laptop and AppleTV.  The home network is secure WAP.

The problem is that, often, one of these Wi-Fi devices is not allowed onto the network, after having been on it just fine, previously in the day.  This is usually the Kindle, but has happened with the laptop as well.   The device can connect just fine one minute, and the next time it tries after “sleeping”, it can’t join the network.  The only error message is “cannot connect to chosen network.”

This problem can *always* be solved by rebooting the router.  No changes ever need to be made to any of the devices.  But it’s frustrating to have to do that.  I do it every night before going to bed, yet still sometimes the next day, this problem will happen again.

It may be my imagination, but it seems to be more common when I am *often* connecting a device, then putting it to sleep, then connecting it again, etc. I am wondering if the router is running out of addresses for some reason?  Or maybe it perceives these repeated device requests as threats somehow.  I, of course, have contacted Nettally about this, but they have not offered any suggestions.  They control the router set-up, so I can’t really get in there and try different settings.  Any ideas from the Geek?

Robin H.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: Almost everything you said in your e-mail is spot-on Robin.  Sounds like your place is really wired (or WiFi’d) and your family is making the most of modern technology.  One thing that didn’t make sense was your reference to “secure WAP”.  WAP is an old protocol used for information exchange with mobile devices such as cell phones.  You might have meant “WEP”.  If so, you’ll want to change that as soon as you can.  See my article on that subject (I.G.T.M. #238 – Feb 12, 2012) for more information.  For the rest of your problem, I think you’ve already put your finger on it, you just can’t fix it if you don’t have access to configure your device.  Rebooting the router fixes the problem because it forces every single connected device to re-negotiate its IP address.  But either the router doesn’t support as many simultaneous connections as your setup needs, or its DHCP server is configured with a range of addresses that is too small.  Fixing either of these is going to require you to engage your ISP.  In my experience, many so-called customer service agents have in mind as their primary goal to get you off the phone as quickly as possible, whether they solve your problem or not.  So be tenacious, and don’t be quick to take “no” for an answer.  At a minimum, they should be able to tell you 2 things:

A) Whether your router supports the number of simultaneous connections that all your devices require (the numbers for wired vs. wireless might be different, so make sure they know the breakdown), and
B) Whether the range of IP addresses that is configured in the router’s DHCP server is large enough. 

If you count up all your devices, and your needs exceed what the ISP is providing, an upgrade is in your future if you want to stop resetting your router every night.


Bonus Web-only Content:

The following is verbatim text from an actual e-mail I received from one of my webmail providers last week. This strengthens my belief that the people who provide our information services are so out of touch that they believe that everyone who uses a computer must be an IT person, or hold at least a Masters Degree in Computer Science.  Bear in mind, this message was sent to all users of their webmail service.

Subject: – important message about SMTP on port 465

Dear user

In order to increase the security of your outgoing emails we added additional security layer. We would like to inform you that SMTP server on port 465 will be switched to SMTPS on March 6, 2012 23.59 PST

Please do not edit your email settings before this date!

We implemented SMTPS method (vs. SMTP) on the port 465 to provide a secure client server connection. There is no change needed for ports 25 and 587.

If you are using port 465 you may need to change the settings of your email client by enabling SSL/TLS for SMTP server. If your client does not support SSL/TLS please use port 587 and disable SSL/TLS. Please refer to the FAQ to find out settings for various email clients.

Sincerely, Development Team

Did you get all that??? Yeah, me too.

Until next week – good luck and happy computing!

– Geek

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