Getting and Staying connected

Posted: March 17, 2007 in hardware
Tags: , ,


I was in a hotel in Dallas for a few days recently, and while playing around with the wireless connections available in the hotel it got me thinking about network connections in general, and some of the problems people may experience just trying to get onto the “interweb” (to quote the master of all things duct-tape Red Green).

Most of the time we use networks that are familiar to us, but the availability of wireless hot-spots is becoming more popular and the number of people traveling with laptops is increasing (point of fact, my flight back home from Texas had half the people in first class with laptops, and about 10 to 15% of the people in economy class with laptops as well.) It would seem that staying connected is important to us, and here’s a few pointers to help you do just that, while experiencing as little frustration as possible.

1. Use a web-based email program when traveling. This will eliminate the need to adjust smtp settings to be able to send your mail. Receiving email using pop is never tough, but sending can be depending upon how the network you are using/borrowing was set up. I can normally make my pop email work, but i may have to try 3 or 4 different outgoing smtp settings to find one that will send, whereas hotmail or gmail or some other web-based email program like that works without any necessary changes at all.

2. Check your network adapter settings. Network switches and server network adapters have to have the duplex settings matched for communication to function correctly. Both must be set to full-duplex or half-duplex. They cannot be mismatched. The computers on a local area network (LAN) typically share a common full-duplex network medium. This configuration permits two computers to transmit data at the same time. Connectivity problems may occur for a number of reasons, but there are two that are quite common for laptop users. If, for instance, the computer was moved to a new Ethernet switch port that automatically senses network speed. However, the computer’s network adapter is configured to force full-duplex communication with a static network transfer speed setting (10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1 gigabit per second [Gbps]) this can cause issues. So you may be saying – huh? – half duplex/ full duplex – what do houses have to do with this?
“Full-duplex permits two-way communication between networked devices. Without full-duplex hardware, information is sent one way and then sent the other way. Packets frequently collide on the network in a half-duplex hardware configuration, and every time a collision occurs, the packets that collided must be resent. This creates even more traffic that can decrease network performance. With full-duplex, transmit and receive paths are separate. Therefore, you can transmit and receive at the same time, and collisions are prevented. Because of the increased throughput and lack of collisions however, full-duplex is more susceptible to bad cable terminations or to cable attenuation that exceeds recommended limits. This can generate data retransmissions that become sufficient to degrade performance.”

3. Another issue is some network adapters or switches with transmission rates of 10/100 megabits per second (Mbps) do not switch over correctly. Some autosense settings may not correctly detect the speed of some network adapters. You may find that “tweaking” your settings, ie: changing your speed, may give you better access speeds than letting your computer decide for itself. Unfortunately you may not have any access to these settings in a public environment, being as you are just using someone else’s equipment that they configured.

4. In the case of a hotel for instance, check with the front desk as to their rules for network usage and settings. If nothing else, they will be able to tell you which network to connect to (many times there is more than one that’ll will show up in your wireless sniffer, and knowing which one you are supposed to be using may speed things up). Sometimes you need to agree to a usage agreement before getting full internet access through their server, other times you may need to get a temporary password to be allowed to sign on.

And finally, always remember, you are borrowing someone else’s bandwidth, so try to be courteous and use it wisely, and only for legal purposes. In a perfect world, in the not to distant future, i can see freely available wireless networks all over the major cities, with hotspots being able to be linked to, the way your cel-phone links from tower to tower, but if we have to limit their usage and installation due to misuse, and end up clicking okay to usage agreements every time we change access points, it will only hinder the progress.

chow y’all (sorry, a bit of texas got in me)

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