A router lesson learned

I've been having strange, intermittent problems with my router, uncluding strange, inconsistent dialogues from the Windows Zero Configuration tool.

After looking at this and that, I finally figured out the problem: DHCP was confused. I had reserved some IP addresses for my systems for port-forwarding purposes, but the DHCP address pool included those addresses. By removing those IPs from the DHCP IP pool all of these weird problems went away.

I'm very pleased to have finally fixed this, but I have to say it was incredibly hard to find because the symptoms are so strange and looked like everything from a client software or hardware problem up through to a bug in the router firmware, or either side's ability to negotiate with encryption. The dynamic nature of DHCP did not help; it now becomes clear to me why the symptoms were so variable - it depended on the order in which devices joined the network!

One would think that the router would be intelligent enough to exclude known-assigned IP addresses from it's DHCP pool, but nope. One would also think that Windows (or even the router) would be more intelligent about reporting IP address conflicts.

But really, the flaw is with the router firmware, specifically with Netgear's DHCP implementation. What I think was happening is that DHCP was trying to assign a bad IP, failing, and then starting over with the negotiation (which caused a weird "network association loop" in Windows).

(Interesting factoid: my iphone helped solve this one. When it associated with the network, one of my computers FINALLY gave me a useful error: something like "duplicate IP on network". That was like a lightbulb going off, and it was smooth sailing from there.)

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