Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Solve a host of networking problems (or discover one's you didn't know about) with one simple tweak.

Generally speaking, advances in software are usually worth adopting. Sure sometimes software fixes actually take a step backwards, but for the most part, updates tend to enhance interoperability.
Over the last few years we've seen the introduction of DLNA. A universal platform for a multitude of devices to exchange information easily. In theory, this ought to allow your tablet or phone to cast media (from the Youtube app on your phone for example) to your DLNA TV (or DLNA ready Set top box.) Or files from a USB drive plugged into your router, to your devices around your home.

However after a recent router upgrade, I found many of these services (I used more than I realised) stopped working.

The chances are, like me your network is secured with a password. The chances are unless you've got devices over 10 years old, (March 2006 to be exact) these devices will be using WPA2 (not WPA). This technology encrypts your data, with a password to exchange across devices that use DLNA.

However, having this set to combined WPA/WPA2 can cause problems and most routers, out of the box are set to this combined mode.

The reason for this simple share, is that tonight, I've fixed an inability for my devices to connect (via a new router) to my TV by changing this setting. A router upgrade introduced these new problems, whereby my Samsung Tab couldn't see the Set top box at all, but before it worked fine (the Youtube icon above was missing completely) and my Huawei P8 caused the Humax box to crash. Setting the network encryption to WPA2 (only) fixed this problem immediately and I've been streaming Fail videos faultlessly for the past half hour.

Enjoy, let me know if it makes your network more reliable.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

MAC - 0 ; PC -1 - A lesson learned.

If you've a modern router, the chances are somewhere embedded in the side is a USB port. Perhaps you're using it for wireless printing? Perhaps you've attached a drive as a handy place to back up all of your vitally important files? Maybe you're using it for your Mac Time Capsule backups (anyone tried this; it ought to work shouldn't it?) Or maybe, you weren't aware you could?

I have a wealth of important (to me) files backed up on a 500Gb Buffalo drive, in order of importance

  • Videos of the children growing up (yes they're also backed up on Mega)
  • The contents of my daughters old computer (ready for when we can get her a new one of her own)
  • My Music (also synchronised with Google Music)
  • My Photos (also synchronised with Google Photos)

All of this data takes up over 250gb of a 500gb drive. 

So when the new vodafone router wouldn't work with it, after I'd got my number back, I set about solving this quandary. On the first night this drive was causing the router to reboot every 2-3 minutes, in itself a nightmare to try and diagnose. Fortunately (eventually) I remembered I'd seen this problem before, so I simply unplugged it and got stable internet back. 

A few days later I set about investigating the problem. The help information only stated that the drive needed to be formatted to FAT32. But it was, I double checked. It was definitely formatted to FAT32. I tried a SSD memory stick formatted at ExFAT, but that showed in the router diagnostic pages as Unsupported USB device. So I formatted that to FAT32 (and lost the data) but found it worked. 

This gave me a plan of action, although it was going to be time consuming. 
Remove all of the data from the Buffalo drive, 
Reformat it
Check it works
Return all of the data back over the wireless network. 

This meant some serious space management was required. I wasted a lot of time deleting old files off the Buffalo drive, stuff I could recover if I needed it again, stuff that we could live without. 

Then I cleaned up my Mac, and gained as much space as possible and started the transfer. Music 1 hour; done. Molly's old school computer data (20gb!) done. The old movies 120Gb; had to put that on the old memory stick. The last folder my Photos, I had no more room for, so I'd have to use my PC. 

I plugged the Buffalo drive into the Windows PC and was presented with a warning. 

'This drive has errors, would you like to fix them'

You might've already guessed where this is going?

Yes, I replied, 10 seconds later, the repairs on this drive are now fixed. 
Chancing it, I plugged it into the vodafone router and opened finder on the Mac. 
Sure enough there it was. No rebooting. 

I'm currently in the lengthy process of transferring all of the files I have moved off the device, back onto it, over wifi. I daren't unplug it again. 

The lesson here is, if you have a drive that won't work with your router, try letting Windows fix the errors on it before you do anything drastic. 



Simple laptop buying advice.