Sunday, 4 September 2016
How not to do WiFi?
I am in a caravan park, Hendra, in Newquay. Don't ask! Sandra and myself and our grandson (whilst his parents are on honeymoon). Yes, I know, slumming it. Very reminiscent of the holidays we had when first married with our kids, so nostalgic in a way.
They have WiFi on site by a bunch called "Camping Connect".
Now, I appreciate that providing WiFi for a physically large site is a challenge, but actually that bit they have managed. The WiFi signal seems good. I also appreciate that Internet access for a large bunch of people on a site is a challenge.
But there are things you should not just get wrong like this. It is scarily bad.
The access has a voucher system, and they do a number of days and number of devices, and you can buy on-line on the captive portal. So far so good, and pretty bog standard.
The Internet access is via a simple BT back-haul connection, no idea how fast, but in principle not unusable.
The problem is that whatever kit they have handling the double NAT going on and the authorisation sessions is very very broken. A single TCP session is lucky to last a minute before being dropped, same for a UDP (VPN) session. I cannot ssh or VPN using it. But maybe they are just expecting people to use the likes of FaceBook and Twitter.
They have a FaceBook page. It mentions what one would assume is a twitter account @CampingConnect but that is not actually on Twitter. Well, it is now, and is me...
But even such simple things are badly broken. After a few minutes they stop working. Indeed all https stops working. To fix you have to go to an http page which is redirected to a "You're online" page...
Then, once you have that, your https will work again. It is just massively broken trying to do anything.
Seriously I have had more reliable Internet using a 2400bps sat phone on a ship, and way more usable Internet at 30,000ft on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
Their DHCP is messed up. It answers a broadcast and issues a 300 second lease with 134 second renewal but then does not answer the unicast renewal requests so the client has to give up and rebi d. This could explain losing connection we very couple of minutes and perhaps the portal reset if tied to DHCP at all. No, it is worse, it is replying sometimes, but rarely to unicast or broadcast which means I am often losing IP totally and having to try daIscover many times and then request many times to regain an IP. The wifi signal is fine so looks like just bad network kit. No, it is more complex. It is not replying to a lot of the DHCP requests, unicast or broadcast - so often losing IP totally for minutes at a time.
This morning there is nothing working, no replies to DNS and no routing at all!
I am guessing double NAT as the wifi is on a /22 but a second RFC1918 appears before the BT DSL link, so probably a bog standard BT router doing one lot of NAT and their portal/access doing another.
Update: they called - and have whitelisted the MAC on an AP. Now ssh stays up (yay!), VPN seems to connect but does not work, and the connection is so poor I cannot even use vim. I give up.
Update: they called again - looks like lots of noise/interference, so they are going to change channels around. I am surprised that I did not know I could use ALT and the WiFi icon on a Mac to get details!
Further update: pretty usable now after much juggling..
Conclusion: The support staff tried - the service in the caravan was hampered by WiFi - so more APs would be needed I expect to do better. The service at the club house was very different, and difficult to use. Overall some key things I may have needed to do on a laptop this week would not have been possible at either location. Poor, but they tried.