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Tragedy of the commons: WiFi version - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Tragedy of the commons: WiFi version [Apr. 8th, 2009|02:12 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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For years now I've run an open wireless network at home. I'm in agreement with Schneier here. Sadly, my network is no longer open.

It always annoyed me that everyone else's network was password protected. On the rare occasion when you need it, such as when you're traveling and the person you're staying with doesn't have a wireless router, a neighbor's open wireless can be a life-saver. Since we don't have a culture of open networks, I'm forced to pack my wireless router when I travel.

Unfortunately, some of my neighbors seem to have decided to steal my wireless permanently. They must be running bit-torrent or something, because my connection quality is seriously degraded. In classic tragedy-of-the-commons fashion, they've forced me to protect my network.

Actually, the admin interface to my router doesn't work any more, so I can't even do that. I'm just plugging my laptop directly into the modem for now; I'm going to have to get a new router. I've had seriously bad luck with wireless routers: this is the third one to die on me in as many years. The only category of electronics I've had worse luck with are hard drives — six failures in two years. Fortunately that will never happen again, because I've switched to SSDs. Seriously, those of you still on hard drives have no idea what you're missing.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2009-04-08 03:13 pm (UTC)
SSDs do seem appealing but they also have limited R/W cycles. Of course, I've killed many, many HDDs too and that's never fun.

But routers? I've only ever killed one router, and that was because it fell on a hot oven and melted.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-08 11:41 pm (UTC)
the write cycle limitation manifests as speed degradation. it's not like you will lose data.

i find the discussion largely theoretical, because degradation or not, it's still way faster than a hdd.
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[User Picture]From: medryn
2009-04-08 04:50 pm (UTC)
I also went through many routers, which is why I finally shelled out $130 for an Airport Extreme, which has been one of the most reliable pieces of electronics I've ever owned.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-08 11:43 pm (UTC)
i can't buy a curvy wireless router.. that just doesn't look right :-P
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[User Picture]From: medryn
2009-04-08 11:48 pm (UTC)
You might actually consider the Airport Express, especially since you like to bring your router when traveling. It's very portable.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-08 11:49 pm (UTC)
i was being facetious. i will indeed consider it. thanks.
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From: eightbit
2009-04-09 12:49 am (UTC)
Which SSD did you buy? I have been playing wait-and-see since reading about some shenanigans in their benchmarks. (e.g. here)
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[User Picture]From: psydeshow
2009-04-09 01:37 pm (UTC)

Linksys WRT-54GL with Tomato

If you're even a little bit daring about installing your own firmware, you can get the best wi-fi router ever by using Tomato linux on Linksys hardware.
http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato

Rock solid performance, with real time monitoring and all the features you can imagine.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-04-09 09:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Linksys WRT-54GL with Tomato

i don't have that kind of time. it's got nothing to do with daring. and i don't need any 'features'. i just need to get on the internet, and keep my neighbors out.
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[User Picture]From: psydeshow
2009-04-11 02:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Linksys WRT-54GL with Tomato

It's not like you compile it yourself or something, you really just upload the new firmware and reboot. The daring comes into play because you can't call Linksys for support--and if you're short on time, you REALLY don't want to do that. :-)

In my experience (recent Netgear, Airport Express, two Linksys routers with factory firmware) Tomato on the WRT-54GL is by far the most stable and (dear god) fun to use of the bunch. It's on par with the Airport, but not curvy and not Mac-centric.

My hunch is that consumer router hardware has evolved too fast for the software engineers to keep up. These little boxes are general purpose computers now, they all run some sort of embedded Linux or VxWorks system. They're like smartphones--most of the software is crap soup, but we put up with it because that's what they give us.
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