Stuck in a basement, please help.

I'm a gamer and recently moved from my nice, wired and powerboosted town house to a basement "room for rent" situation. I tried to set up my own hardline in the basement, but my ISP wants to charge additional money each month in order to allow my modem access, which I have no problem with, but my landlord is not comfortable with his bill going up, even if I tack the difference onto my rent. I also can't set up my own account since it's not a legal apartment and the whole house is wired on the landlord's account.

So, my only way of connecting to the internet is to use the wireless network my landlord has wet up. He is using a DLink, DIR-655 Xtreme N GIGABIT Router. I'm currently using a NetGear WPN111 RangeMax Wireless Adapter. As if dealing with the obvious signal problems that come from connecting so far away from the router weren't enough, I get unbareably lag whenever one of my neighbors does more than casually surf the internet. I thought my lag issues were simply due to the wireless adapter overheating, but even if I unplug it every couple of hours and let it cool down or run a fan next to it, I'm still experiencing high latency and low frame rates in online games.

Anyone have suggestions for a better way to connect to the router so I get a stronger signal or steal some bandwidth from my neighbors?
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  1. I don’t know which is colder, that basement or your chances of improving wireless performance. Right now it’s probably a dead heat. And to make matters worse, you don’t even control the wireless setup, so whatever issues there might be (e.g., interference), you’re pretty much stuck with.

    Wireless is inherently more susceptible to latency (lag) issues for several reasons.

    First, only two wireless stations can be communicating at any given time. Any neighbors w/ their own wireless routers or other wireless devices sharing the 2.4GHz band (cordless phones, microwave ovens, radio control equipment, etc.) are all potential sources of interference. Even multiple wireless users of your landlord’s wireless router can be a problem. Collisions occur routinely, even if you don’t necessarily notice when used for more mundane tasks (browsing, email, etc.). But when gaming, now the slightest interruption can be the difference between virtual life and death in your FPS, or even the ability to play at all.

    Secondly, wireless is half duplex. Even under perfect wireless conditions, half duplex means you can’t send and receive data at the same time. So you’re ALWAYS at a disadvantage compared to your wired competitors.

    The solution is wire; no interference, full duplex.

    I presume there’s no chance of running wire from the basement to the router. So one other possibility might be a powerline bridge. Doesn’t always work, and when it does, performance can vary widely. And you may still have some issues w/ latency although I suspect much less. But at least it gets you past this wireless issue and offers some hope. It might be worth a try.

    [wireless router]<--wire-->[powerline adapter #1]<--power lines-->[powerline adapter #2]<--wire-->[pc]
  2. Well every room of the house is wired for cable. My little apartment has 3 cable lines in it, and when I moved in and explained the importance of having a wired system to my landlord, he simply said "Buy a modem and put a splitter on one of your cable outlets." And that would be just fine if I wanted to run 5 televisions down here, but the ISP is not as liberal with allowing multiple modems to connect to the internet as they are with allowing multiple televisions to turn on HBO. And the landlord has made it clear that his obligation to keep the internet going stops at making sure the router is turned on. He's not willing to contact the ISP so that my modem can be placed on their network, so I highly doubt he'd be able to set up a powerline adapter for me.

    I'd hoped that there would be some kind of hardware solution so I can work within the confines of the wireless network. Should I using a wireless bridge instead of an adapter? My adapter is 54mbps, would it help if I switched to one that was 108mbps or higher? Or a better adapter (I'm seeing a lot of bad reviews in regards to the one I have)?
  3. I'm not sure why a pair of powerline adapters is much of a stumbling block. They just plug into a couple of AC outlets, one near the router, the other near your PC. Not a big deal imo. Certainly nothing compared to dealing w/ the ISP and another modem.

    In the end, if you can't get cooperation from the landlord about having a second modem, then that just doesn't give you many other options. Frankly, I don't see the big deal. You'd think the ISP would be happy to get another paying customer rather than the landlord redistributing his own bandwidth to his tenants. And that may be the real issue here. The landlord probably fears that by contacting the ISP, they will become aware (or at least suspect) he’s redistributing bandwidth to his tenants. And unless he has a BUSINESS level service plan ($$$) is probably a violation of his much cheaper RESIDENTIAL service plan. So better to let sleeping dogs lie.

    As far as wireless, my primary concern is that you specifically mentioned “lag”. Not speed, but lag. Those are completely different problems. You can have the fastest download speeds available, and still suffer enough lag (as in latency) to make online gaming intolerable. Gamers want instantaneous response, which is problematic over wireless. Having a rather weak wireless connection certainly doesn’t help. Many gamers refuse to use wireless even under ideal wireless conditions for this very reason. And then you have the neighbor. It couldn’t be any worse; a landlord who insists you use his wireless signal, and a neighbor who stomps on that ta-boot, neither of which you can control.

    If you want to continue w/ wireless and try a wireless repeater, then I suggest the ZyXEL WAP3205.

    I've been waiting for Newegg to drop the shipping charge over the past few days (they often do), but so far no luck.

    It can function as a WAP (wireless access point), WDS wireless bridge, wireless client bridge, or wireless repeater bridge. Supports wireless N, comes w/ two LAN ports (presumable extendable w/ a switch), even supports multiple SSIDs for separate secured and guest access. A lot of features packed into one device. You can easily pay $70 or more for a simple Linksys wireless client bridge.

    Just configure it for wireless repeater bridge, establish a wireless connection to your landlord’s wireless router (no different than connecting a USB/PCI wireless adapter), and place it in some location that’s close enough to get a strong signal from his wireless router but not too far away from your own wireless adapter.

    [wireless router]<--wireless-->[wireless repeater bridge]<--wireless-->[pc]

    But beware, a wireless repeater will always increase lag and reduce performance (at least compared to a direct connection) since now you have TWO wireless hops, and wireless access is serialized. Each side of the bridge (wireless repeater to the wireless router, and wireless repeater back to your PC) has to wait for the other’s transmission to complete before it can transmit itself. Not a big issue for browsing, email, etc., but maybe a show stopper for gaming (you decide).

    Or you could use it as a wireless client bridge (wireless to the landlord’s wireless router, but connected over WIRE back to your PC). At least that’s one less wireless hop. It’s just a matter if having a potentially lengthy wire in the basement is something you can tolerate.

    [wireless router]<--wireless-->[wireless client bridge]<--wire-->[pc]

    See what I mean. It gets complicated when you introduce wireless, even under the best of conditions. It’s incredibly convenient, but there are so many issues and gotchas to be considered. And it may just require experimenting until you find what works. I just thought powerline *might* be the best way to avoid your biggest obstacles; the landlord, wireless, and the neighbor.
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