Netgear WNDR3300 wireless router not working with your cable modem? Here’s how to fix it

Recently I set up a Netgear WNDR3300 wireless router with a Thomson (since renamed to Technicolor) DHG574 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem on Mediacom. The router had worked perfectly with a previous CenturyLink DSL modem, but was now unable to maintain an internet connection. The Internet LED (the middle one in the above picture) would turn green initially, only to get stuck on amber soon thereafter.

Following the official instructions¬†here only resulted in the same. For some reason, the router acquires a connection upon detection of Dynamic IP, but then loses it in the next step. To fix that, you’ll need to exit the Setup Wizard before it’s complete to prevent the router from borking the connection it detected:

  1. Connect to the router directly using a physical Ethernet cable.
  2. Power cycle the cable modem.
  3. Repeat Steps 1 – 5 only in the above link so that the router indicates that is has a Dynamic IP connection.
  4. Check to see that the Internet LED is green. If it is, proceed to the step 4 below.
  5. Click Basic Settings under Setup in the router admin UI.

    I suspect clicking any sidebar link that takes you out of the Setup Wizard works, but Basic Settings is pretty safe so I'm going with that.
    I suspect clicking any sidebar link that takes you out of the Setup Wizard works, but Basic Settings is pretty safe so I’m going with that.
  6. Exit the router admin UI.

You should now have a stable internet connection with the internet LED remaining green throughout. Unfortunately, all indications are that you’ll have to repeat this process after every power loss to the router and/or connection loss by the modem itself. It’s probably a good idea to get a new router anyway, but if it’s what you have to work with, this will certainly help.

How to set up Linux Mint on PCs that lack Windows 8.1 support

Recently a friend came into possession of an HP Compaq 6730b laptop: a 6+ year old relic running pre-SP1 Windows XP. After quickly determining that it wouldn’t support Windows 8.1, I decided to load it up with Linux Mint. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Download the Cinnamon 64-bit (assuming you have a 64-bit CPU) ISO here. Ignore the other builds: a general rule of thumb with Linux is the more exotic you get, the more problems you run into. Keep it simple.
  2. Download Win32 Disk Imager.
  3. In Windows 8.1, open the folder containing the ISO file.
  4. In the View tab, check File name extensions.
  5. Change the .iso in the ISO filename to  .img.
  6. Plug a USB flash drive of capacity 2 GB or greater into your PC.
  7. Run Win32 Disk Imager.
  8. Click the file icon in the Image File section.
  9. Navigate to the renamed .img file in Step 5.
  10. Click Open.
  11. In the Device menu, select the name of the drive in Step 6.
  12. Click Write.
  13. When that’s done, remove the USB flash drive from your PC and insert it into the PC onto which Mint is to be installed.
  14. Reboot the install PC.
  15. Set the USB drive as the boot device (how to do this varies from PC to PC). Mint should fire up from there and give you the option of installing it to the hard drive, which you should then do.
Not a pretty UI at all, but gets the job done.
Not a pretty UI at all, but gets the job done.

If your Wi-Fi doesn’t work after installation, try resetting the PC’s BIOS to factory default settings. That worked for me.

Pros:

  • It’s fast. The old laptop boots to a usable desktop faster than my Core i7-3770 powered Dell XPS 8500.
  • Very low RAM usage.
  • Excellent legacy hardware support.
  • It’s free.
  • It installs quickly.
  • Peripherals (assuming they’re recognized by the OS) install and configure rapidly.
  • You can get up and running with word processing, email, web browsing, etc. in no time.
  • Easy to nonexistent learning curve for basic functionality.
  • Read NTFS storage out of the box.
  • No annoying, unmovable dock (unlike Ubuntu).
  • No need to worry about security software.* Unfortunately, this pro is nearly nullified by a con below.
  • Since most of the ways to hose the system involve command line use, you can hand it over to less experienced users without worrying about them borking it.
  • Very familiar to Windows users.
  • Aero Snap is better than it is in Windows.
  • Can play DVDs out of the box. (Ironically, Windows lost this feature in Windows 8+.)

Cons:

  • Documentation is thin to nonexistent for anything more advanced that email, productivity, and web browsing.
  • Limited default software support compared to Ubuntu, positively woeful compared to Windows. While LibreOffice worked, I couldn’t get OpenOffice to install, for example.
  • As with many distros, solutions posted online often lack important details.
  • Samba just doesn’t work.
  • Doing anything more than the basics still requires using the terminal or manually editing config files (I’m a GUI guy).
  • Although there are no antivirus worries, there’s also no way to check for and/or automatically install updates; it has to be done manually. This produces a significant security risk, especially if you’re passing the machine on to non-technical users who’re unlikely to check for updates themselves.
  • The menu for adding/removing users doesn’t update immediately, so deleted user accounts show up until you close and reopen the menu. Confusing and annoying.
  • Dated UI that looks like a reimagined Windows XP.
  • (For Firefox Nightly users) Nightly builds are few and far between compared to Windows.
  • Little annoying things. For example, while Aero Snap Windows key combos work amazingly well, some basic Windows key combos with obvious analogs in Mint don’t work.

Conclusion:

I’ll be honest: I grew up on Windows, and the way it does things just makes more sense to me. It’s not that Linux Mint is bad, it’s just that it would have to offer some significant advantage over Windows in daily use for me to switch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, except in the following cases:

  • You absolutely need Linux for something that can’t be done on Windows.
  • You have older hardware that doesn’t meet Windows 8.1’s system requirements AND don’t want to buy a new PC. Seriously, if you can stand the cost of a new machine, just go that route instead and eBay the old one.

That said, it’s the best Linux desktop experience I’ve come across yet, and my friend seems pretty happy with it.

*This is mostly because there isn’t much Linux security software out there, not because Linux malware doesn’t exist.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus doesn’t support 20/40 MHz Wi-Fi channel bandwidth

Stick to 20, kids
Stick to 20, kids

Learned this the hard way over the past few days after I switched my ASUS RT-N66U‘s channel bandwidth setting from 20 MHz to 20/40 MHz. For what it’s worth, here’s what ASUS’ official documentation says on the setting (emphasis mine):

802.11n can combine two 20 MHz channels to form an effective bandwidth of 40 MHz. 40 MHz enables higher data transmission rates to be achieved as compared to 20 MHz. When you select 20/40 MHz mode, the router decide to use 20 or 40 MHz based on the interference/contention the router detected. Care should be taken when using 40MHz mode, the legacy client may not be connected to the router.
However, when using a wider channel bandwidth, there are fewer channels available for other devices, making more interference/contention with neighboring WLANs due to increasing overlap. In order to avoid excessive interference, the Wi-Fi Alliance develops an advice: setting 20 MHz in 2.4GHz as default. 40MHz is still appropriate for some situations, e.g. in a warehouse, but we do not recommend that using 40MHz in the 2.4GHz band for dense residential areas.

I enabled it anyway, and noticed my Galaxy Nexus frequently being unable to access the internet despite being connected to the router. Switching back to 20 MHz solved the problem. Given the Galaxy Nexus’ release date, apparently “legacy” for ASUS means anything from late 2011 or preceding. For the record, the phone’s Wi-Fi radio is the Broadcom BCM4330XB2KFFBG. Broadcom radios have been suspect recently, so this isn’t surprising.

And yes, I know ASUS recommends 20/40 MHz not be used for residential settings, but my Dell Precision M4600, Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and Sony Vaio Fit 15 E all handled it without complaint.

UPDATE: Also, disable “b/g protection” for 2.4 GHz frequency. Then, forget the network on the Galaxy Nexus and then reconnect to it.