hot router blues

I’m not quite sure when it began, but this problem has been plaguing us for months now. My home network seems to have acquired a sudden and violent allergy to downloading torrents of all shapes and sizes.

We have a total of four computers currently on the network, and in regular use. Of them, Rincewind (the old server turned secondary windows desktop) and Vimes (“my” laptop that Penny monopolizes) generally shun the torrents, letting Hedwig (linux server) and Tarma (windows media center type bedroom computer) handle all the dirty work. Which is fine by them, since they’re the machines with the big processors, big ram, and big hard drives (though Rincewind does have a gig of ram and 300gb drive of his own now, shrug).

Traditionally, I have always preferred the command line python scripts to bulky gui applications. So… Hedwig has had a long and only slightly besmirched career as our primary download and redistrobution center.

When Hedwig moved home from the office after I quit my last job, I expected some slowdown – after all, we only have a 5 mbit downstream and 512 kbit upstream. The results of my first batch of downloads led me to believe that the torrent itself was somehow bugged – they were all healthy files with 10 or more seeds and 100 or more general users, yet even after a few hours running, I couldn’t manage to eke out more than 5kbps per torrent.

I let this slide for a while in the face of a new problem. One particular studio whose shows I was interested in watching was having problems with their single-episode torrents and recommended people to just use the batch torrents in stead. This is usually fine by me, but in this case, the batches were 25 episodes huge (~4.5gb) and I only needed one file out of the mix.

So, I hunted around for a client that would allow me to selectively download individual files from batch torrents, and was pleased to find BitComet. I installed it on Tarma and fired it up.

Instantly, I noticed a huge difference. BitComet was actually able to utilize my bandwidth and get me transfers at the rates my connection would actually support. It was great. But, I was still running the mud from home and didn’t want to lock out players, so I throttled things way back – leaving plenty of bandwidth open for no less than 10 users to do their bidding w/o any problems.

Yet… even with a dedicated portion of the pipe, users suddenly began to complain about inability to log in to the game. Once an active socket was opened, there were no problems, but people were generally incapable of opening said sockets…

About the same time, Penny started complaining from the couch that the laptop was having problems browsing web pages. I noticed that I too began to have problems opening up outgoing connections from any of our machines. I throttled the torrents waay back – leaving 3/4 of our bandwidth unused. And still, the problem did not go away.

I quit BitComet. The problem did not go away. I rebooted Tarma. No such luck there either.

Finally, I gave our router a violent kick to the head and rebooted it forcibly. The network was immediately cleansed and back to normal.

This problem has repeated itself numerous times since that first event. It became so reliable – if I so much as looked at BitComet, my network would sieze up – that I stopped downloading files all together until the mud had left the building. And then, I got into the habit of stopping torrents during the day so I could work, and then turning them back on when I went to sleep. I had assumed that BitComet was somehow opening up so many connections that it managed to exhaust the router’s capacity to handle them all.

Until today. [Cue dramatic music and lighting]

The answer (I hope) to all of my woes and problems finally hit me. BitComet was not leaving stale connections around. It has been overheating the router. See… they’re both fairly new (<1 year old) Linksys models, and this particular line of networking hardware is designed to stack together, so the router was sitting directly on top of the modem.

I figure the high number of different sockets created when added to the high amount of wan communication and the fact that Tarma is connected to the network via encrypted wifi (high amounts of radio energy plus extra computational power spent on every packet to maintain security) probably generated more heat than anything else I’ve done to this network.

Since, previously, my high traffic transactions had been mostly one-way communication (sending a file between two machines) and my torrents had been on Hedwig (who is plugged into the network via good old fashioned cat6 twisted pair)… yeah.

When I checked on my torrents this morning (Sousei no Aquarion for Penny), I noticed that they were acting unusually sluggish. Like really really slow. So, since I needed to get onto the web anyways to work on things, I went in to physically reboot the router. It was almost painfully hot to the touch. The modem underneath it was also practically a puddle of molten plastic.

I smacked myself in the head and proceeded to fashion a cardboard stand for the router from the packaging of some Atari computer game or another. There is now at least an inch of airflow between the two devices and I’ve had torrents running all day w/o interrupting my work.

I can even post rants on here and stuff 🙂

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