Category Archives: Networking

Pondering Post-Hurricane Internet Outages

The old saying in my home state of Texas is “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes. It’ll change.” Things took a turn for the worse on Monday and Tuesday, when Hurricane Beryl tore through the Gulf cost then Houston. At one point, over 2M locations (households or businesses) had no electricity. That number is still about 1.2M as I write this screed according to PowerOutage.us. One unexpected effect caused most Internet Service in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to fail from about noon Tuesday until after 7PM that day. As a member of an affected household, it has me pondering post-hurricane Internet outages.

Fortunately, our 5G service stayed up and continued to provide Internet access. So I was able to limp along during the outage, using my iPhone 12 as a hotspot for minimal connectivity. Failing over from a nominal GbE link to something that delivers 5 MBps if we’re lucky stings, though.

If Pondering Post-Hurricane Internet Outages, Think Failover

Until last year, I had a Inseego MiFi M2100 mobile hotspot through my Verizon account. I kept it around as a fallback when the pandemic hit, because we had to have Internet access, guaranteed, while my son was attending high school remotely. He’s off to college now, and we’re doing our best to cut recurring expenses — like most American families nowadays. So we dropped the hotspot when we switched over from Verizon to Spectrum for cellphone service last year. The iPhone isn’t quite as robust as the MiFi device, but it does the job in a pinch.

Looking at news coverage of Tuesday’s Internet outage, Spectrum is quoted as saying it arose from “a third-party infrastructure issue caused by the impact of Hurricane Beryl.” My guess is that an Internet POP/peering location got flooded, or lost power, and backup generators couldn’t or didn’t pick up the slack. The afore-linked story also tells me that the affected area also included Laredo, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, and Corpus Christi.

Resilience Matters

As somebody who makes his living at least partly thanks to Internet access — I use it for research and learning, for business communications, to obtain and deliver work assignments, and a whole lot more — ongoing access is essential. I’m glad I could use the iPhone as a failover device, but it definitely battered my productivity.

It’s enough to get me thinking about doubling up on fiber-optic coverage, and bringing in the AT&T Uverse fiber service alongside Spectrum’s CATV-based GbE service for redundancy’s sake. The question then becomes: it it worth the extra expense? I’ll have to think on that…

 

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Checking Wi-Fi Signal Strength

Here at Chez Tittel, most PCs use wired Ethernet for their network connections. That is: of the 10 PCs on various LAN segments here, 7 use GbE connections; the other 3 use Wi-Fi. But our cellphones, iPad, and other devices — including 3 thermostats — are all on Wi-Fi. It’s a mixed bag. I like to check Wi-Fi quality from time to time, so I have to thank Mauro Huculak at Windows Central. He just reminded me about what’s up with checking Wi-Fi signal strength. See his story “How to check Wi-Fi signal strength…” for a raft of potential ways in Windows 11.

Checking Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Command Line

I’m a command line junkie, so I’ll skip the various UI-based methods he describes. There’s a single command in the network shell (netsh) that will tell you what you (or I, in this case) want to know:

netsh wlan show interfaces

Mr. Huculak also provides a tasty one-liner version in his article that’s worth sharing and keeping around (cut’n’paste into a text editor like Notepad, and remove all but one space between the text on the 1st & 2nd lines, please, so it will run in Command Prompt or PowerShell):

(netsh wlan show interfaces)
-Match '^\s+Signal' -Replace '^\s+Signal\s+:\s+',''

You can see both of these at work in PowerShell on one of my Windows 11 test PCs in the lead-in graphic above. The short version produces all of the interface info for the one and only Wi-Fi interface on that machine; the long version simply shows the signal strength as a percentage (i.e. the “99%” at lower left above). You can go either way. Works the same on Windows 10, too. Very handy!

Thanks again, Mauro. Made my morning…

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Windows 11 Wi-Fi 7 & USB4v2: What’s Up?

On January 8, 2024 Wi-Fi 7 went public. That’s the same day the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced its Wi-Fi Certified 7 program. USB4 version 2.0 goes all the way back to October 18, 2022. But only with the release of Insider Preview Canary Channel Build 26063 in February 2022 did MS start testing support for related Wi-Fi 7 drivers. (USB4 version 2.0 has been baked in since Build 23615 in the Dev Channel, released January 11, 2024.)  Neither has appeared in a production version of the OS. Thus, a valid question for Windows 11 Wi-Fi 7 & USB4v2 has to be: What’s going on? TLDR answer right now is “Not much just yet.” There are lots of good reasons why so please let me explain…

What’s Afoot with Windows 11 Wi-Fi 7 & USB4v2?

One way to look at this is from a market availability standpoint. Precious few devices for sale right now support either or both of these standards. As I write this item, I see exactly 2 network adapters (one USB, the other PCIe x4) that support Wi-Fi 7.Ditto for  Wi-Fi 7 routers. I can’t find any laptops that offer built-in support for either standard just yet. Many new models are promised later in 2024, and could change that.

Though it’s being proclaimed as something of an oversight  it’s really just a function of supply and demand. (See this Tom’s Hardware news item by way of illustration.) Basic economics and recent history with Wi-Fi 6 and USB4 version 1.0 show that it takes about two years for these new standards to make their way from introduction and into more general adoption. I don’t see this latest iteration as terribly different.

Shoot! I didn’t lay hands on my first PC with built-in USB4 capability until the Panasonic Toughbook FZ-55 showed up here at Chez Tittel late last year. Just before Christmas, in fact. If it takes that long to hit my hot little hands again, I’m looking into late 2025 before a personal encounter might happen.

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RDP Absence P16 Fixed

It’s been weird. I had trouble accessing my Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Mobile Workstation for an attorney call last Friday. I couldn’t see it while it was hooked up on Ethernet but it worked OK in Wi-Fi. Today, i finally figure out why that was happening and RDP absence P16 fixed as a result. Deets follow…

How to Get RDP Absence P16 Fixed…

The ever typical error message that shows up when RDP can’t find a PC by desigation (computer name in this case) appears in the lead-in graphic above. Because I already fixed my P16 problem, I used “P15” as the machine name. Since there ain’t no such beast on my LAN, of course it provokes the old familiar “can’t find the computer…” error message shown. But that’s what I was seeing for the P16.

Took me a while to figure out why. If you follow this blog you know I had a Panasonic Toughbook FZ-55 on loan here for some time (unboxing post). While it was hooked up to the LAN it used the Ethernet port my P16 normally uses. On the P16 I switched to Wi-Fi.

That was the problem: with a new NIC for Wi-Fi the P16 also got a new set of IPv4 and v6 addresses. When I hooked back into Ethernet, RDP knew nothing about this. So when I accessed the P16 by name it went looking for it on its Wi-Fi associated IP address. No go!

Fixing the Mix-up

Removing info from RDP requires deleting associated keys in the Registry. I had to visit the key named

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Terminal Server Client\Default

to reset the RDP roster. With the old (and incorrect) entry removed I had to go through initial RDP connection set-up again for the P16. But that was easy (provide a password for the Windows login I use) and done. Now things are working again on the Ethernet connection. Only problem is, I’ll have to remember to do this again if I switch back to Wi-Fi (or just use the IPv4 address, which is how I got back in and ultimately how I figured things out).

And isn’t that just the way things go in Windows-World sometimes. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another!

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Windows 11 Canary Grants Wi-Fi List Refresh

Here’s a good, if subtle, addition to Windows 11’s bag of networking tricks. In Build 29997, Windows11 grants Wi-Fi list refresh capabilities. Let me explain, starting in pictorial form.  Take a look at the lead-in graphic. There’s a refresh button (a circular arrow) at the lower right (cursor is perforce parked on it; you’ll need to right-click the image and show it in its own tab so see what I’m talking about). But the “Refresh network list” button is the real key. That means the Wi-Fi interface is forcibly scanning its locale to rebuild a current list of available Wi-Fi resources. Very handy, to get this right from the Taskbar.

When Windows 11 Canary Grants Wi-Fi List Refresh, What Then?

This is always a good thing to do when searching for networks. MajorGeeks does a good job of explaining the “old regime” — namely: “How to Reset Network Settings In Windows 10 & 11.

That means clicking through the following sequence: Start → Settings; → Network & Internet (Win10) or Advanced network settings (Win11) → Scroll down, then select “Network reset.” I count 5 mouse clicks required.

The new ways take 3 clicks if you’re using wired Ethernet, 2 if already using Wi-Fi. For wired Ethernet, that’s Select Network icon in taskbar → Select Caret to left of Wi-Fi “Available” button in network pop-up → Click on “Refresh list” button at lower left of network list pop-up. For those using Wi-Fi, clicking the Wi-Fi icon on the taskbar skips the first wired step. Easy-peasey.

Does This Change Matter?

To those who switch Wi-Fi networks regularly, it is a nice little touch. For everybody else, it’s mostly nugatory. But hey, improving Windows is most definitely a matter of “little by little, step by step.” FWIW, I really like this change and think it makes Wi-Fi networking more usable on Windows 11. What’s your take?

Here’s a shout-out to Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero. His November 16 story brought this nice but subtle change to my attention. Spacibo, Sergey!

 

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MS Recasts Printer Driver Requirements

Very interesting! There’s a September 6 update to MS Learn Windows device drivers docs. Therein, MS recasts its future printer driver requirements (End of servicing plan for third-party printer drivers on Windows.). For those who manage and use Windows printers, it’s worth a read.

Driver Standards Explain How MS Recasts Printer Driver Requirements

The change comes courtesy of the the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP). Originally developed by IBM, IPP is explained in an MS Print support app design guide. Indeed, IPP may be “[u]sed from a client device to interact with the printer to retrieve and set printing preferences and to send the document to be printed.”

Long story short: support for IPP and Mopria standards is a good thing. They make vendor-supplied printer drivers and software unnecessary — at least, for printers that support those standards. And FWIW, IPP and Mopria work on Android, while AirPrint does likewise for iDevices.

That explains the MS timetable in its “end of servicing plan”

September 2023: MS announces end of servicing for third-party  printer drivers
2025: No new printer drivers from WU
2026: Printer driver ranking always prefers IPP drivers
2027: Third-party print driver updates disallowed (except for security-related fixes)

IPP Has Been There All Along…

Check out this sub-Window. It comes via Control Panel → Programs and Features → Turn Windows features on or off. It shows built-in IPP support in Windows 10 and 11. See “Internet Printing Client” (box is checked) under”Print and Document Services”

MS Recasts Printer Driver Requirements.winfeatures

Internet Printing Client checked means IPP is active.
If not, do check it.

Using TCP/IP addresses for networked printers, I’d been unknowingly using IPP for years . Thanks to MS’s updated printer driver architecture, I needn’t use device-specific drivers and software, either. Good stuff.

Indeed, my 2014/2015 Samsung (now HP) and Dell (Brother, actually) printers already use IPP. Most printers made in 2014 or later will do likewise. Good stuff!

Here are additional resources that readers may find helpful.

OpenPrinting Driverless Printers: Vendor makes and models for IPP and/or AirPrint capable printers.
Wikipedia: Mopria Alliance: Info about this trade association. Founded by HP in 2013, it includes global print device makers backing open print initiatives and standards.

Cheers!

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Intel Fixes PROSet Problem

Back on August 18, I reported that version 28.2 of Intel PROSet didn’t support Windows 10 22H2 for some reason. Because I was away from my desk from August 25 through September 4, I only discovered today that Intel fixes PROset problem. According to the properties for the 64-bit executable, it dates back to August 4. That said, today’s download and install works. Indeed, it threw no “version not supported” error message as shown in the earlier post.

When Intel Fixes PROSet Problem, Then What?

This time around, the update worked as expected. The readme.txt file still omits Windows 10 22H2 as a supported version, but the exe file now works properly on my machine. Sigh.

This has me wondering: Did Intel fix something on the sly, or did I simply try to run the wrong exe file last time around? I’ll never know, but I’m glad the update now works as it should. I no longer get nagged when I check updates for something I thought I couldn’t fix on my own.

It’s Still a Mystery to Me…

Looking back at my earlier post, the error message says nothing about which version of Windows it expected to find. I suppose I could have jumped to the conclusion that 22H2 wasn’t supported because it doesn’t appear on the supported version list.

As before, readme.txt calls out Windows 10 21H2 and 1809 but does not mention 22H2. I wonder now if I mistakenly tried to run the 32-bit PROSet executable instead of its 64-bit counterpart. That could provoke the same kind of error message as before. When I try to run that version now, it tells me “Another version is already installed…”

Such surprises can be educational. They teach me that my diagnoses may not always be the correct ones, no matter how plausible the supporting evidence may seem. Indeed, that’s the way things go in Windows-World sometimes, as I know only too well.

Bottom line: I’m glad the update worked this time. Though it may actually have been a self-inflicted problem, PROSet now shows version 28.2.0.2 on my desktop. Call my Windows 10 PC updated, even if I’m not sure exactly what went wrong on August 18.

Intel Fixes PROSet Problem.28.2.0.2-running

As you can see at lower left, this running PROSet instance self-describes as 28.2.02 — the latest version.

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So Long Surface Pro 3

OK, then. I think I’m at the end of a long, long road. I remember buying my Surface Pro 3 in 2014. It was the first in a long series of tablet PCs I’ve bought over the years. Included were models from MS (Surface), Dell (Latitude), Fujitsu (Stylistic) and Lenovo (ThinkPad). But now, it’s time for me to say: “So long Surface Pro 3.”  Please: let me explain what’s going on…

Why It’s Time for So Long Surface Pro 3

This morning when I logged into my network, I noticed the SP3 had switched over from the wired GbE port in the dock to its wireless interface. It’s been dropping this wired connection for months now. As (almost) always, a reboot brought the wired interface back up. But I can tell the dock is starting to fail.

I just spent US$19 last week to replace the power supply brick for the dock. But I hesitate at replacing the dock outright (costs about US$100 for a refurb unit). It’s time to quit futzing around with this old beast, and unload it into proper disposal channels.

Where to Take This Aging Beast

For years, I’ve given my older PCs to Reglue, a charity that placed them in the hands of under-served students and their families to confer low-cost/no-cost Internet access. But alas, the founder of that organization has retired and is no longer accepting donations.

For about the same period of time, I’ve recommended Goodwill as a safe, responsible drop-off for used PC electronics of all kinds. Thus, I’m glad to see that the Austin Reuse Directory likewise recommends Goodwill for such purposes. I’ve already got a Goodwill bag going with some old hard disks, memory modules, cables and interfaces ready for drop-off.

I’ll need another bag for the SP3 and its accoutrement, though. I’ve accumulated a major mound of stuff for this unit over the years. This includes:

  • an MS keyboard with fingerprint reader
  • the dock, with its external power brick
  • the original power brick shipped with the SP3
  • a Brydge aluminum keyboard that turns the SP3 into a clamshell style laptop

Another thing to take care of this weekend, when out running errands and shopping. Good thing my nearest Goodwill location is only 3.2 miles away!

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Intel PROSet Still Ticking Along

In surveying my PCs this morning, I learned it was time to update the Intel PROSet software. This remains an entirely routine matter. It’s easy if a bit time-consuming to accomplish. Hence, I’m pleased to find Intel PROSet still ticking along. I have an admittedly small population of PCs (11 in total right now). Of those 6 show Intel interfaces in Advanced IP Scanner. I’m aware of at least 3 more Intel interfaces that don’t register on its scans. (Example: my Asrock Z170 motherboard has two Intel GbE interfaces: an I-211 and an I-219V.)

If Intel ProSet Still Ticking Along, Then What?

The download/install routine is pretty straightforward. Search Intel Downloads/Drivers&Software for the string “Intel Ethernet Adapter Complete Driver Pack” (for wired Ethernet). or for “PROSet wireless” (for Wi-Fi connections). Either way, you’ll get a ZIP file out of the download. Unpack it to a folder of its own, and you can use the autorun.exe file therein to perform installations for drivers (if applicable) and the latest PROSet software version (28.0.0.2 for wired; 22.190.0 for wireless).

Note: Don’t ask me why the window shown above reads “intel Network Connections.” It’s been that way for a long, long time. If memory serves — and this goes back far enough that it may not serve very well — this used to  be the general description for intel network drivers and software before PROSet came along. But that’s what it says, no matter if my recollection is correct or not.

The lead-in graphic shows the wired package, as you can see from the version number at the lower right of that image. The whole update process took less than 5 minutes on each of the affected machines. If you unzip the contents of the download to a shared drive, it works like a charm for all PCs on an accessible network.

It’s Easy to Get Lost in the Weeds

There are tons of advanced settings for Ethernet (especially wired GbE or higher speeds) available. PROSet provides access to such things pretty directly, or you can go through the Advanced Properties tab for the target interface in Device Manager under the Network Adapters heading. All-in-all, PROSet is a bit less unwieldy to use than DevMgr (where it is available).

So if one needs to monkey around with such things, I find PROSet preferable for such shenanigans. If you’re not already using this tool and you’ve got Intel interfaces to manage, give it a try.

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Remote Wi-Fi Driver Update Magic

I remember the networking wars of the late 1980s. That was when Token Ring, ARCnet, LocalTalk and other physical media vied with Ethernet for market- and mindshare. Indeed, I’ve worked with versions of Ethernet all the way back to 10Base2 and 10Base5. Thus, I successfully upgraded the Wi-Fi drivers on my 2018 vintage Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (running Windows 11) with bemusement and appreciation minutes ago. Based on how earlier Windows versions worked, there was surely some remote Wi-Fi driver update magic involved.

The lead-in graphic is the Intel installer pane that announces a successful Wi-Fi driver install. What’s interesting about this? It’s inside a Wi-Fi based RDP session. I’m working on my production PC via Remote Desktop Connection to the X1 Extreme. It restored itself automatically once the driver install finished. It came back up, even though the connection dropped as that update occurred. No working driver means no Wi-Fi during the switchover from old to new.

What Makes Remote Wi-Fi Driver Update Magic Happen?

Good question! RDP apparently recognizes enough about the dropped session to bring it back to life. And FWIW, that occurs during the first “retry” — by default, RDP attempts resuscitation up to 5 times — without undue muss or fuss.

What makes this noteworthy? I can remember that even Windows 7 could not restore RDP sessions dropped during driver updates. Windows 8 (and 8.1) were hit or miss. It’s only since Windows 10 came along in 2015 (General Availability: 7/29/2015) that this capability has been both mainstream and dependable.

Once upon a time, Wi-Fi driver updates meant the end of open RDP sessions. Recovery was impossible: the only way back in was to fire Remote Desktop Connection up, and start afresh. It’s a small thing, really, but one I’ve learned to appreciate in modern Windows versions.

Thanks IEEE!

Modern Wi-Fi testifies to robust and practiced driver design. Indeed, it keeps working in the face of many predictable difficulties. Replacing drivers is a case in point, but Wi-Fi just keeps on chugging along. And that’s despite various source of interference, occasional hiccups with power, wireless gateways, and more. Having followed the technology as it’s grown and sped up I’m grateful it works well.

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