Adventures in Apple Land

September 17th, 2012 6 Comments

Ever since I got a new Macbook Pro about a year ago, I’ve had wonky issues with wifi at home.

First, they seemed to be related to the dual-band router I also bought last year, but over time, they persisted. I’d lose connectivity and have to reboot the router; that probably wasn’t the best solution, but it was the fastest way to get back online.

After some digging, I found a lot of other people had similar wifi issues with Macbook Pros, but there didn’t seem to be any consistent diagnosis or fix. That makes sense, given how variegated the environments could be for something as simply described as “my Macbook Pro loses wifi connectivity.”

After my upgrade to Mountain Lion a couple weeks back, the issues got much worse. When the connection dropped, I’d have to reboot the entire machine because every, single internet-connected application running would become unresponsive. No force-quitting, no nothing. I couldn’t even open Terminal to kill via command line because it was trying to connect. To what, I’ve no idea.

That’s a major loss of productivity when it happens several times a week.

My first instinct was to test the wifi signal. Maybe it wasn’t strong enough, although my Ubuntu laptop can hold a connection more dependably in the same general area. OS X has a wifi diagnostics tool in Lion and Mountain Lion that told me the signal was pretty weak and noise was high.

This made sense given the router is in the basement, for aesthetic reasons, not practical ones, and my office is on the second floor.

So, my first test was to move the router around within that area to find a better signal. That worked a little, boosting the signal a small amount, but even so, I still had drops.

I tried tweaks on the router too, but nothing stopped the problems.

Next step was to buy a repeater for the upstairs, and somehow, I was talked into an Airport Express at Best Buy. The guy mistakenly told me I could wirelessly repeat the signal of my Netgear. Nuh-uh. That only works wirelessly for Apple-to-Apple gear.

To his credit, he might not have fully understood what I wanted.

Anyway, after much research, I found myself wondering if I’d have to get funky and put DD-WRT on some old gear I have to try to repeat the signal wirelessly. That sounded like way too much work.

I decided to call a buddy who works in network ops for his advice. Much to my surprise, his advice was very simple.

He told me he’d replaced his old router with an Airport Extreme a while back and all his network issues had resolved, including signal strength and drops.

I never figured him for a guy who’d trade a browser-based network utility for a glossy, but less functional, application. Plus, the Airport Extreme only has three ethernet ports, no QoS, and a laundry list of other network geek features.

Meh, he said. It does the trick.

Odd, but plausible.

I did some research, and the Airport Extreme isn’t super well-reviewed by consumer electronics sites. It’s not as fast as some other dual-band models, and it’s pricey.

Still, I’m willing to take a hit in the wallet and in the bandwidth to resolve this issue.

So, over the weekend, I switched routers, and so far, knock on wood, I’ve been connected consistently.

Plus, I’ve noticed the signal is stronger on all my devices, not just the Apple ones, including my Android phone and Ubuntu laptop. Oh, and a speed test says I’m bringing several more mbps down that with the other router.

Odd, but true.

I fully expected this to be a failure, but so far, it’s been exactly as my buddy described. All my network issues have magically resolved, including improved outdoor range.

Creepy.

Has anyone else seen this Macbook Pro wifi issue, or had similar (or dissimilar) experiences with an Airport Extreme?

Care to comment? You know what to do.

Update: After a couple days up in my office, I’ve noticed that the new Airport Extreme has not resolved my connectivity issues. The problem now is what to do next. If this is a hardware issue with my Macbook Pro, I’m pretty much screwed. I can’t really afford to be without it, even assuming I demand and receive a replacement. That also assumes a replacement machine would not also have the very same issue. Pouring over the Apple support forums, replacements don’t always guarantee a fix.

I may have to invest in a wireless repeater, which would degrade the bandwidth, or experiment with different physical positioning of the router. After so many years, I think it’s naive to think that Apple will deploy a software fix. Sigh.


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6 Responses to “Adventures in Apple Land”

  1. chad_thompson Says:

    I’ve been using the Airport Extreme for awhile and have never had an issue where the office router seems pretty flaky at times with my MacBook. I’m curious – and haven’t been able to find a good comparison – about the signal strength with various routers. Way back when I had a Titanium PowerBook, I struggled to maintain a wireless connection with nearly any other router than the Apple Airport Extreme. (The old UFO-shaped one.)

    I’m wondering if Apple’s routers have stronger signals to overcome the limitations that they ran into with having a metal box surround the WiFi antennas.

  2. oraclebase Says:

    Sounds like the work of Satan to me. Bring this Airport Extreme witchcraft to OOW and we’ll burn it while dancing round a fire and chanting…

  3. Jake Says:

    Spoken like a true captain of support :)

  4. Jake Says:

    It does seem very fishy that MBPs would have intermittent issues w non-Apple routers, whether by design or by workaround, but the signal is definitely stronger for all my devices, regardless of make or OS. The speed thing is interesting too. I did notice that the download speeds are faster on Apple devices at least vs. Ubuntu.

  5. Cam Says:

    yup, i had netgear and still do. I fopund that ipods, iphones would all stop working at various times on the dhcp on the router (wifi) would stop issuing new leases. In the end I think it was to do with DHCP on the wifi router so I configured all my apple hear with static Ip’s. 192.x.x.x and since then no problems.

  6. Jake Says:

    Interesting solution. Wonder if that would work for the MBP. I haven’t heard that iPxs have connectivity issues, just MBPs. I never had issues w my old school white Macbook, and at first, I thought it was Lion. But no, issues have been reported since 2008 w the MBPs. Weird all around and no fixes in sight.

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