Monday, 10 October 2011


Postcards from the edge

I had a great time in Belfast, eating out, shopping, chatting and catching up with sleep. However, on my return I found that our internet problems are back. Apologies, this is the most boring post in the world, but I am now at a point of desperation. If I can't get this sorted, it will kill my business. And quite possibly my soul. Please, can anyone with technical nous help me?

Here's the situation:
  • When we first had the wireless installed, I had heaps of problems. Internet worked in the morning, but changed to an intermittent connection in the afternoon. Four technician visits, a replacement of the router, tinkering with settings of Norton, all sorts of ipconfig stuff in cmd, it started working. I thought it was fixed.
  • There was a power outage on the evening I left. Up until this point, the internet had worked more or less all day long for a couple of weeks. Now, we're back to the old problem of a working internet in the morning and intermittent connection from the afternoon. All of the things mentioned above I have done again but no fixes this time.
  • By intermittent connection I mean that about two thirds of the time I either refresh sites I've been on or try to access new sites I get Server Not Found or Connection Timed Out errors. If pages do load (after hitting refresh refresh refresh refresh), the format is often all wrong with missing images or embedded content (like google ads, Youtube etc) showing the same Server Not Found error within the page. Clicking through almost never works.
  • When I'm in cmd after service has become intermittent, pinging works occassionally, but most of the time it gives a server not found error.
  • From the time the connection gets poor, this is the case for all of our devices. Safari on the Ipad is slightly better than the PC at actually making a connection with sites, but it's still getting server not found errors and it is slow. This leads me to believe that it can't be PC or Norton related, but Virgin / router related.
  • Logging onto the router shows no obvious problems, although the error log can have quite a few 'time not established' critical errors about T3 time outs and DHCP WARNINGs.
The most frustrating (and baffling) thing about this is that it works for the first couple hours of the day. My normal work day with the kids at school and nursery is to sew while they're out and do all my computer stuff like blogging / updating sites / answering emails etc in the evening. Having to do computer things in the morning means that I'm not actually getting a chance to sew uninterrupted any more and it's only a little bit melodramatic to say this is ruining everything I've been working hard at over the last couple of years.

Can anyone shed light on this?

UPDATE: Now, 120% more boring! My diagnostics:


  1. We had the same issues we got rid of virgin in the end and are now with bt. It can be slow around tea time but still connects and works fine.

  2. Some questions:

    Are all your connections to your router wireless? Is anything cabled directly to the router, and if so, do they display the same problems? Also, is your wireless password protected?

    What Norton are you using (and also, without wanting to sound funny, why? Norton=bleuurh)?

    How far away from your exchange are you? Or are you cabled?

    Have you just had Virgin installed? Did you have another provider beforehand?

    fwiw, you're not alone when it comes to Virgin:

  3. Thanks, Vicki, sorry you had problems too!

  4. My mum has problems with virgin (wifi works in the living room but not in the kitchen, wtf?) but not as bad as yours.
    If you're looking for alternative providers I can recommend Plusnet, cheap and cheerful and never had a problem with connectivity.

  5. Bis0nfish, thanks for your help!

    The PC is ethernet direct to router, the Ipad etc are wireless. I have turned off wireless in the router when the problem has started, but it doesn't correct it. All have the same problems at the same time. Yes, password protected.

    I am using Norton 360 on the PC and netbook, Ipad and Kindle obviously not :) I have added router IP and MAC to the network on Full Trust. I'm not sure why Norton... do you recommend something else?

    Not sure how far from exchange I am, or actually, whether I am cabled or not. I am on the maximum package, which I believe is fibre optic.

    I have been with Virgin for years on a regular wired package without any major problems (other than throttling which is why I upgraded). It was only when I upgraded to the best package (which included the router) that the problems started.

    Anything else, just ask!

  6. Not wireless then, could be the modem - what sort of modem, and if you can find out, what does it say the upstream and downstream power levels are?

  7. I've added a screenshot to the post. It's a Netgear router, software version V5.5.2R30.

  8. As far as it's possible to see, your power levels are good. And no computer settings are going to make your broadband modem drop a connection. Unfortunately, it would appear your problems lie outside your front door. If you get no joy from Virgin, you may want to think about changing provider (and tell them so, it might make them pull their finger out). Good luck!

  9. Hi Amanda, I got my husband to take a quick look, and it looks like he agrees that you should probably move from Virgin!

    But here's what he says, in case it helps...

    "I wonder if she has DNS problems – the “server not found” stuff is significant. shows her how to set up a different DNS provider (click on “configuration instructions” and scroll down to instructions for her OS).

    But it sounds like she’s not the only one with Virgin problems – she should probably change ISP."

    Good luck! I hope you get it resolved soon - we had recent problems with our internet connection dropping out. We're not too far away from you (in Falkirk), and we're with Sky, although the external line belongs to BT. BT came out and found the problem a couple of hundred or so metres from the house and fixed it - they were great.

  10. Thank you everyone!

    Carolyn's husband: I've just pinged both of Virgin's DNS servers in cmd (as listed on my router) and got this for both:

    Request timed out.
    Request timed out.
    Reply from bytes= 32 time=37ms TTL=247
    Packets: sent=4 received=2 lost=2 (50% loss)

    Would switching to OpenDNS fix it?

  11. Keith says:

    "Looks like it’s worth a shot! Obviously I can’t tell if the problem is the DNS server or the link in between, but that doesn’t look good. Can you try pinging the Google Public DNS server instead – or If that does better, then definitely change to it. If it’s just as bad, then the link is the problem.

    OpenDNS might work too, if you prefer – I don’t know anything about it though."


  12. Thanks Keith. Pinged both google servers, each had one request timed out and then 25% packet loss.

    Which link are you talking about?

  13. Keith says: "Hmm, 25% loss is better than 50% loss. You should give it a try. But there shouldn’t be any loss at all – there’s something wrong with the link.

    By link I mean the connection between your computer and the DNS server – in particular, the broadband connection from your router to Virgin’s data centre.

    If you want to eliminate your wireless, there should be a “ping” option in the Netgear router’s menu, which lets you ping directly from the router."

  14. Pinging Virgin's DNS servers from the router direct is timing out!

  15. I agree that it sounds like it's between you and Virgin and not between your devices and the router. There is one more thing it could be inside your house, though. It could be that your devices are competing to get a "local" ip address from the router. Do you know how to login to your router? Can you look at the table of the local devices and make sure they all have their own ip address? If the router is set to only dish out a couple local ip addresses and you have four or five devices accessing the router then they'll keep bumping each other off.

  16. Mine crossed with your last about the timeouts so ignore it. It's definitely Virgin.

  17. Yep - Keith agrees - it's definitely Virgin. So you need to get on to them now... :-( .

    Good luck!

  18. Showed my hubby ur plea for help and he said it is definitely a network fault. Virgin need to own up to it and sort it out. Hope it's fixed soon

  19. Big random thought, but do you have any offsite backup or synchronisation going on?
    I have a NAS that backs up photos to Amazon s3 overnight, but if it throws a wobbly and decides it all needs to go up again then the connection is saturated with the upload at unexpected times, resulting in issues like you have.

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