If It Ain't Broke, Fix It

In life, the opposite side of intellectualism is sometimes a good place to be. Analyzing a WLAN is not one of those times.

When someone tells you that a boring movie is great because it was shot well or that a nil-nil draw in football (world, not American) was thrilling because of all the close chances, the best idea is often to sit back, draw a creamy bowl of vanilla ice cream and tell that nerd that you don't need a P.H.D. to know what makes you happy. This type of anti-intellectualism is almost certainly born as a rebellion against deep analysis (perhaps making the rest of this blog post intrinsically ironic). Sometimes, though, deep analysis is needed to prevent festering problems from bubbling over at bad times.

It takes no great insight to point out that there is a penalty to eschewing analysis. The man who  avoids Oscar-bait movies may miss a work of great emotional power. Disregarding scoreless football matches would have caused fans to miss the most thrilling match of the 2006 World Cup1. And accepting an underperforming WiFi network because it seems to be working fine could cause an administrator to face dire consequences down the road.

I bring up this problem because lately I've been running into quite a few WiFi networks that work fine, but have serious problems. Today, for instance, I was connecting to a hospitality network with a slick captive portal, solid Internet access and 20% Retrys. It's just my hotel's WiFi network, so I can only guess what the problem could be. Interference? Bad APs? Too many APs? Hidden node? Any or all of those could be contributing factors.

A WiFi network with 20% Retrys may work just fine most of the time, but I wouldn't want to be around when things get difficult. If this hotel had a large conference or wanted to put their push-to-talk handsets over WiFi or even just wanted to place wireless room service ordering kiosks in rooms(why has no hotel done this, by the way? The cool factor alone would lead to a few $17 B.L.T. orders from me), they'd probably be entering a world of pain.

The point here is that there sometimes analyzing and making changes to a WiFi network is a good idea even if things seem O.K. from afar. In WiFi, as in life, uninformed analysis and over analysis can leave a bad taste in a person's mouth, but one should be careful to avoid rejecting analysis entirely.


  1. Actually, the title is misleading. You're advocating finding out IF your network really is 'working' - then fixing a non-working network.

    It's just that many people don't know their network isn't really working until they put it under load - then it fails.

    I totally agree with your sentiments. But... I've seen networks where their 80% retries were totally fine in delivering what they purchased the network for (bar-code scanners) - and in their case, they were happy with the wifi service.


  2. Quite right, Keith. I just always worry because lots of times that warehouse will switch their PTT to WiFi or add tablets/laptops for creating reports without making any changes to the wireless network.


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