Every once in a while, when problems in the apartment get to be too much, I make rash decisions. And so, it was one fine day, almost a year ago, when my cat Iago was busily chewing on yet another network cable only minutes after he had chewed completely through the mouse cord, that I decided wireless networking was for me. Without checking online for hardware reviews, I jumped in my car, drove to Best Buy and practically ran to the networking section. Much to my delight, NETGEAR products were on sale. For around $100, I walked out of Best Buy with a NETGEAR WGT624SC router and three WPN111 USB wireless networking adapters. It seemed I’d have my apartment networked in about 30 minutes, and this time there would be no cords for Iago to chew upon.
I was right. I did have my apartment networked and ready to go within 30 minutes. The joke was on me, however, because I had paid $100 for what amounted to excrement, laced with transistors and a USB port.
Had I bothered to check online, I would’ve never been surprised by the high temperatures these USB network adapters achieved while in use. Had I bothered to do my homework, I would’ve known they use a disproportionate amount of CPU cycles for a product of their type. Had I spent about a week crawling through tech support forums, I would’ve realized that the blue screen of death, resulting from a IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL issue with wpn111.sys commonly occurs when transferring large files over the LAN or downloading 50 MB files or larger from the Internet.
Of course, no amount of research would’ve told me that any wireless network that has password protocols and is not a NETGEAR router would be difficult to access, even if I have the proper password and tell NETGEAR’s software what encryption protocol is in use (i.e. my apartment complex’s free wireless network at the pool, which is password protected so only tenets can use it). Also, no amount of research would’ve revealed that the NETGEAR router would sometimes forget that it was connected to the DSL, or, alternatively, that wireless adapters were connected to it, requiring periodic shutdowns and restarts.
For those wondering what networking in a home with WPN111 adapters is like, imagine you’ve decided to play your favorite multiplayer game online. Now imagine getting 10 minutes into it, and the WPN111 has gotten so hot that you have to remove it from the USB port because the USB is no longer functioning properly. You cancel you game and let the adapter and USB port cool down, and then decide to go watch some clips from Mystery Science Theater 3000 on YouTube to improve your mood. After watching five minutes of a montage of The Final Sacrifice, the computer flashes the blue screen of death, indicating that a IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL error has occurred with the WPN111.sys software, requiring a restart. After restarting, you can’t access the Internet because the router has forgotten it’s connected to the DSL line. You restart the router and go to Windows Update to look for a driver you’ve heard rumors of. You install the driver for your hardware posted on Windows Update, and you lose all networking ability, requiring you to roll back Windows to the point in time prior to installing those drivers. After all that, you would love to play a single-player game, but you can’t because you’ve frittered away your entire evening dealing with networking issues and it’s time for bed.
The next day, you take the laptop to school and use the WPN111 adapter to access the free wireless networking on campus. This works great until it overheats again, except this time it’s overheating a USB port on a laptop where the distance between the overheating USB port and the CPU is about three inches. Thankfully, the laptop isn’t destroyed, but not for lack of thermal effort on the part of the adapter.
Now, I could blame this all on my Iago, and to a certain extent, it is his fault. I had no real need for wireless networking until he declared war on all computer cables (for the record, I have wireless mice and keyboards now, along with several pairs of rechargeable batteries). I could also blame NETGEAR for their terrible product, and part of my troubles can be blamed on them. But the blame also rests on me for not doing my homework and checking up on such a product before purchasing. Had I done my research, I wouldn’t have had to spend a second $100 on an entirely new wireless networking scheme for my apartment (D-Link this time).
In honor of my lesson on always doing research, let me award the NETGEAR WPN111 the first Cave of Spleen Award. The Cave of Spleen Award is intended for computer products that are more than just bad; they are so frustrating and bothersome they cause significant anger on my part. If a computer product causes me to hear Emperor Palpatine’s voice inside my head saying “Give into your hate,” then it’ll receive this dubious distinction.