Saturday, November 10, 2007


Another Macbook comment: wireless woes

Oh, here’s a great one. All along, there’s been an issue with my Macbook that’s only shown up when I’ve been plugged into the office wired LAN... it doesn’t happen when I’m at home, or anywhere else that I’ve used it. The system periodically bogs down horridly, the most noticeable effect of which is that the mouse freezes for a second or two, and again, and again, for ten seconds or so, each time jumping suddenly to where it would have gone had it not frozen. That makes it pretty much unusable for the ten seconds. And then it’s fine for several minutes, until it happens again.

A co-worker thought the problem might have to do with some probing or polling that’s going on on the office LAN. I was going to bring in a router to test that theory, since the router would firewall my machine.

But I’ve just recently figured it out. It’s not got to do with the office LAN, but with the fact that I’m using the wired connection... and it keeps periodically trying, and failing, to connect the wireless anyway (my office, at a corner of the building, is poorly served by the wireless network).

Why doesn’t it see that it has a wired connection and doesn’t need the wireless? I’m told how great the Mac is with these sorts of things, but, hey, the Windows software that handles this stuff gets it right. And the ThinkVantage Access Connections software (formerly IBM Access Connections) even does the extra nicety of turning the wireless radio off and on automatically as needed, saving battery power in the bargain.

Now that I know what’s causing this, I can work around it easily enough in one of two ways:

  1. Manually turn the AirPort off when I don’t need it, and on when I do.
  2. Manually switch the “location” to one that doesn’t use the AirPort, or to one that does.
Neither is very cumbersome, but either way is a manual process that shouldn’t be necessary if Apple did it right.

While I’m complaining about how MacOS handles wireless networks, I should point out something else that’s lacking: the “location” feature lets me select whether or not the AirPort should be used at each location (and would let me select a different dial-up number for each, if I still used dial-up), but doesn’t let me tailor the preferred network list by location. That’s really annoying. When I travel to a conference, say, I’d like to be able to make the conference’s network the preferred network for the duration of the trip, disabling my home network, which it won’t find there anyway. When I get back, I’d like to switch back. Again, Access Connections makes this easy on Windows, but I don’t see any way to do it on the Mac.

Maybe both of these issues are fixed in Leopard, and I should upgrade tout de suite. If that’s the case and someone knows about it, please post a comment and tell me.

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