Review: Why the Netgear WG311 v3 Sucks

I’ve had the WG311 wireless PCI card from Netgear since I initially set up my home wireless network a few months ago. In that time it has been no end of f**king trouble!!

The first problem I had was that on installation was that the connection would cut out inexplicably (the router was about 2 feet away through a plasterboard wall), but wouldn’t actually realise that it had been disconnected (either running the Netgear utility or the Windows Wireless Zero configuration, both seemed to think they were still connected despite the lack of traffic.

Fortunately I also had a nearly clean partition with Windows XP Pro installed, so I tried using it with that. Here it seemed ok, for a few hours anyway. It turned out it was suffering from the same problem, but it the connection lasted for 8-12 hours rather than 30-90 minutes.

I tried everything. I used the Netgear utility; upgraded the drivers to the latest version from the Netgear website (1.1 – despite well-known problems with Windows XP SP 2, they’ve only ever produced one revision); I disabled the Netgear utility and just used the Windows Wireless Zero Configuration (uninstalling and reinstalling the card between times to be doubly sure there was nothing left lurking on the system). Nothing seemed to work.

A Solution?

Eventually I downloaded the drivers provided by Marvell, the original manufacturers of the chipset for the v3 version of the WG311 (Netgear seem to bring out different, incompatible versions of the same card with chipsets from different manufacturers to allow them to shop around for parts- and you can’t usually choose which one you get when you buy, not that the previous versions of the WG311 were problem-free). Shock of shock, the Marvell drivers actually worked!! Netgear should just bundle them with the card instead of their own messed up piece of crap they call a ‘utility’.

Now all I had to worry about was the fact that since moving the PC with the WG311 in it to a different room, the signal was extremely weak and intermittent. Having little experience with wireless networks, I just assumed this was because, despite only being about 10 feet away, there were 3 plasterboard walls between the router and the PC. Still blaming the router, I was on the verge of ordering a stronger antenna when my brand spanking new laptop arrived and in the same room, it was getting a “Very Good” signal at 54 Mbps; imagine my pure rage!

So that’s that. After a few months of pain after pain in the ass with Netgear’s WG311 v3, I’ve given up and am planning to replace the card in the near future. What’s the point in a wireless network card that only works when its right beside the router?

If you’re having similar problems, you might find the Marvell drivers (MV-S800374-00.zip) useful. That said I make no warranty as to their usefulness, and Marvell probably won’t either since I can’t find a link to the file from their site. Use at your own risk.

Also, see this follow-up for the next chapter of my battle with the Netgear WG311v3.

Playing iPod Video on Your TV

Please note that this entry is about my 5G iPod Video.  Information may not apply to other models like the iPod Classic.

Getting video files to play on your TV from your iPod is actually a lot easier than I imagined it would be. If you have AVI files that you couldn’t be bothered burning to VCD/SVCD or DVD, a much friendlier alternative is to play download them to your iPod. There are two hurdles you’ll have to overcome, but in reality, the process is much more painless than converting the files to MPEG and burning them to a CD or DVD is.

Converting Your Video

Before you put a video on your iPod you will need to convert it to

an iPod friendly format. For this I recommend the free program, Videora iPod Converter. This will convert your DivX or Xvid AVI files into an iPod-friendly MPEG-4 file; I recommend the highest bitrate 1500kbps setting.

That’s it; easy! I’ve found that the time taken to convert a video file using Videora is slightly less than the play time of that video. A 2 hour video file should be converted in about 1 hour 25 minutes.

Playing On Your TV

When Apple released their video iPod they released a special AV cable for it that would connect your iPod to the red, yellow and white AV sockets on your TV, allowing you to watch the videos on your iPod on a larger screen. As it turns out, this was a bit of a scam. All they did was take a standard RCA-to-AV lead (commonly used for connecting camcorders to TVs) and send the video over the red cable (which usually carries sound) instead of the yellow one. This means that you can use a standard RCA-to-AV lead if you have one kicking about – just connect the red plug to the yellow socket, yellow plug to the white socket and white plug to the red socket. Scumbags, eh?

Don’t panic if you, like me, don’t own a camcorder and don’t already have an RCA-to-AV lead. You can buy one specially colour-coded for iPods (so red goes to red etc.) off eBay, where I got mine for £3.73 including postage!

Then it’s really simple, just go into your iPod video folder and set the Video Settings to output to TV, connect it up and you’re away.

BT / Netgem Iplayer+ Review

There are lots of patronising adverts on television telling us to ‘go digital’. A few years ago I decided to get a Digital Terrestrial Television (Freeview) box for my student house and plumped for the BT / Netgem Iplayer. I’ve now decided to generously share my thoughts on such product after a couple of years use; because that’s how nice I am.

A few years ago I purchased a (Netgem) BT Iplayer Freeview box (a returned sale) for £30 from ebay so I could get Freeview in my room in a student house in Belfast. Now, a couple of years on, I’ve decided to share my experience of this particular piece of kit.

From what I’d read on the subject on the internet, it seemed unlikely that the loop antenna on my TV wouldn’t be sufficient to receive DTT (Freeview), even though the iPlayer supposedly performed better than other boxes when there was a weak signal. I assumed my house would have poor reception (particularly in my downstairs room) so I also grabbed an amplified set-top aerial from Argos and was initially quite impressed with the quality of the picture and sound. In fact, aside from the fact that initially the EPG was only a now/next (see below), I would have been delighted.

Setting Up

The box immediately auto-tuned to pick up the available channels; the standard 5, plus ITV2, BBC Three and Four etc. The picture’s good, although subject to interference from mobile phones and cars outside (I blame that on the set-top aerial though). The on-screen display menus make it easy to configure your box the way you like it.

Features

The box itself is packed with features. Mine was the BT Iplayer, meaning that although it was manufactured by Netgem, it was BT-branded and came with different features, such as on-screen caller ID when plugged into your phone line, at the expense of a Top-Up TV slot (which wasn’t a problem as I wouldn’t waste my money on Topup TV anyway). Other than that the boxes were nearly identical, and thanks to a subsequent software upgrade (downloaded through the box’s built-in modem) I now have a Topup TV-capable “Iplayer+” (complete with 7-day EPG) anyway.

Continue reading “BT / Netgem Iplayer+ Review”

Welcome to nerd.

Hello all and welcome to my new blog. Once the design is finalised I will be uploading guides, reviews, ideas and problem solving / ‘how-to’ posts based on my daily struggle with the beast that is technology. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for some time, in particular with a view to recording the problems I’ve had with particular devices and/or programs so that others may find the solutions without resorting to pulling their hair out like I often have.

The topics covered will largely be computer related (hardware and software) including compatability issues, dodgy hardware/software, wired and wireless networking etc. I may also touch briefly on UK Digital Terrestrial Television (ie Freeview) and, well, anything else that I determine worthy of comment.

In fact I’ve already written one or two little guides that I plan to post in the next few days. I just hope they will prove useful to someone.