Checkpoint: Router Life Expectancy

There was a time in the early to mid-2000’s where I expected wireless routers to just die after a year or so. It happened to my Linksys and D-Link routers. However, after purchasing ASUS routers, a new expectation was set; routers are supposed to last half a decade or more. I owned two RT-N16 and an RT-N66U and two of the three are still alive with only the RT-N16 finally biting the dust last year. 

I replaced my gateway router with a NETGEAR R7000 Nighthawk router in August 2015 and while it impressed me initially with its feature set and wireless range, its sudden collapse Friday did not impress me at all. I was already planning to demote it from gateway router to access point because of a UPNP issue this weekend but my plans were accelerated when the router inexplicably stopped accepting connections.

Trying to access the admin console was met with slow response and repeated disconnections. I tried clearing the NVRAM but it was a fruitless effort. It took a complete reinstall of the firmware to restore functionality but I’m not confident in the router’s stability whatsoever.

NETGEAR R7000 Nighthawk’s UPNP issue with TitanFall 2 & multiple consoles

My brother and I were unable to play TitanFall 2 together without one of us failing to connect to the match. We never had issues with other titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Overwatch so I didn’t put much stock into it being a router issue. 

I found suggestions to reduce the “NAT Filtering” from “Secured” to “Open” and sure enough that allowed the two consoles to join games without a fuss. This revelation points to the possibility of the router not opening ports properly through UPNP. I conducted a Google search to include the words “titanfall 2 upnp 2 consoles nighthawk” which produced a couple of threads from the official forums including “Matchmaking with another player on the same Local Area Network” where people narrowed it down to a Nighthawk issue. Ten there is this other thread where a forum member detailed the fact that TitanFall 2’s multiplayer works by “registering external IP addresses as opposed to just using port mappings“. Isn’t that just grand? It doesn’t even bother trying to work via UPNP.

Welcome Back ASUS

Despite TitanFall 2’s shortcomings, I need a router that’s flexible enough to deal with said shortcomings. I also need a router that works reliably which is why I’m happy to welcome the ASUS RT-N66U as top dog in my network.

I’m loving my time with The Last Guardian. Trico is a delight to interact with and I’m continually amazed by how lifelike he reacts.

Along with the usual, I returned to Overwatch to do my placement matches for season 3. Going solo is such a fruitless and empty experience. I don’t even get upset over losses due to questionable hero picks; it’s just part of the crapshoot. I placed 2911.

Savestate: Direct Wireless

Early DirectX 12 Benchmarks

AnandTech have a preview of Microsoft’s upcoming DirectX 12. It’s a very promising start.

DirectX 12 will be the biggest iteration of the DirectX API since its inception during the Windows 95 days. It helped establish a set of standards that helped ease the pain of game development on Windows platforms. But as time marched forward and new ideas were tacked on, DirectX became bloated and we needed a new approach. AMD introduced Mantle which promised improved performance for its GPUs by granting lower level access to the hardware and minimizing the performance impact of the API.

That’s all well and good but it’s an AMD thing; what we really need is for a “platform” holder like Microsoft to overhaul things and it looks like they’ve done that with DirectX 12. And with Windows 10 being a free upgrade for the first year, nearly everyone can take advantage of the new API.

I predict the earlty performance gains will be none too dissimilar to the AnandTech conclusion to Mantle’s Civilization: Beyond Earth’s usage. Just replace Mantle with DirectX 12:

As for Mantle, it’s an interesting option if you have an AMD card. While we’re not seeing any huge benefits on our test system, it does typically run 5-10% faster than the DX11 path; this is good but in most cases it’s not enough to really make a palpable difference to the end user. The word is that lower spec CPUs like the Intel Core i3 and Pentium Anniversary Edition along with AMD APUs can benefit even more. I’m not sure how many people are actually pairing up slower CPUs with high-end GPUs these days, as $200 CPUs are pretty common for gaming systems, but additional options are never a bad thing.

Mantle does have a much more tangible impact on minimum frame rates, and this is always beneficial, particularly once a game is averaging more than 60FPS. In some cases Mantle was able to improve the minimum frame rates (e.g. on R9 290X) by 40-50%, though that was only at less strenuous settings. Still, even the 5-15% increases in minimum frame rates at higher resolutions are welcome.

Hopefully we’ll see more substantial gains down the line.

Re: Wireless Bridging & Forking Custom Firmwares

I’m no stranger to forks of custom firmware. Hell, I used Shibby’s Tomato custom firmware for a while and that lineage is even deeper.

Linksys Linux based firmware -> HyperWRT -> Tomato -> TomatoUSB -> Shibby’s Tomato build

I installed Shibby’s Tomato on my ASUS RT-N66U for the longest time but decided to switch over to a spin-off of the official firmware known as ASUSWRT-Merlin. (Link req’d) With the spin-off (known as John’s fork), the ability to crank up the transmit power on the wireless radios was restored and what a difference it has made. I can nearly get away without a bridging/repeating solution.

As I alluded to yesterday, I currently have the RT-N16 acting as a wireless repeater to the RT-N66U’s 2.4GHz radio. The RT-N16 sees the 2.4GHz network at 100% signal strength but the performance fluctuates wildly at times. Some times even going down to 1 Mbps. I’m not sure what’s the culprit here. Is it the RT-N16’s hardware or firmware? I know the RT-N16’s 2.4GHz radio isn’t as powerful as the RT-N66U’s but at 78-83% signal strength is still pretty good.

On top of performance issues, the Roku 3 cannot connect to or acquire an IP address through the wireless repeating solution. I believe it has something to do with the fact that the RT-N16 isn’t acting as proper bridge. Every other device functions fine but the Roku 3 is finicky like that. Thankfully, it’s close enough to the RT-N66U to use the 2.4GHz radio.

So what are my options at the moment?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Hard wiring — Ethernet, power line or otherwise — isn’t possible which is why I’m investing so much time and effort into this solution.

  1. Swap out the RT-N16 and try the Linksys E4200 w/ Shibby’s Tomato installed and try to establish a Wireless Ethernet Bridge
  2. Change the RT-N16’s firmware back to the latest Shibby Tomato build and try to establish a Wireless Ethernet Bridge
  3. Buy an ASUS RT-AC68U ($230) and couple it with my RT-N66U and form a Media Bridge (with ASUS’ firmware) or Wireless Ethernet Bridge (with Shibby’s Tomato). I can also try wireless repeating again.
  4. Buy a Netgear R7000 Nighthawk ($180) and couple it with my RT-N66U to form a Wireless Ethernet Bridge or try wireless repeating again.
  5. Buy an Amped SR20000G ($130) or Netgear EX6200 ($130) — actual wireless repeaters.

Plenty of options and I still haven’t exhausted the free ones. This has been somewhat enjoyable but at the same time, I wish everything would work as I wanted.

Random Thought of the Week

Pull ups are a real challenge. I will persevere though.

Checkpoint: Another Restructuring Edition

Despite’s successful launch, I’ve found myself busy with scrounging up deals, updating the site with posts and tweaking banners on Thursdays. So I’m going to move “Savestate” posts to Tuesdays. We’ll see how that works out.

In other news, I’m still struggling to establish a good wireless bridging solution with my ASUS RT-N66U and RT-N16. The RT-N16 isn’t great as a repeater. I’m not sure if it’s the firmware or the hardware at this point. It could be a combination of both. More testing and pondering required.

I’m making my way through Wind Waker HD. I’m enjoying it and I’m thankful for all the gameplay tweaks. There’s a lot of sailing. A lot of sailing. Really high highs and calming seemingly endless blue lows. I need to get that faster sail as soon as possible. On top of that it’s been FIFA 15 and Dual Destinies. The latter is at its final stages.

The Results of the Second WDS Attempt

I completely forgot about following up on the progress of my wireless bridging solution.

First a little recap of the inter-site wireless journey I went down. The first WDS attempt was a failure. Then I decided to try the wireless ethernet bridge but sidelined that idea after repeated router failures. I then decided to acquire new hardware and retry the WDS.

As I noted back in October, the second attempt was accompanied by a new router, the ASUS RT-N66U. With the new router’s wireless signal strength, I’m now able to establish and maintain the WDS without any issues.

Here are the settings that I employed on both the ASUS RT-N66U and Linksys E4200 v1 routers:

  • Channel 13
  • Channel Width: 20 MHz
  • 2.4 GHz band
  • WPA2 Personal + AES encryption
  • Spanning Tree Protocol enabled
  • Routing Mode: Router
  • Use user-entered gateway if WAN is disabled: On

Up next? Guest wireless networks.

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