FundamentalsTools

Nintendo vs. Cisco

Okay, that’s an admittedly a sensationalist headline, but several months ago, that didn’t seem out of line with my dilemma. From the top: I, like many other technology-centric folks like to relax with the occasional video game. Owning a few gaming platforms that support wireless connectivity such as the PlayStation 3 and the Wii, and having what you may consider a ‘reasonable’ wireless infrastructure at home, I happily used both to play games online, stream movies via NetFlix, get system updates, and yes – even send the occasional message to my Wii friends. Things were happy go lucky at home. I had finally deployed an autonomous Cisco Access Point at home on the Internet side of my lab to give my family a more consistent connection than what they were getting off of my lightweight lab seeing as I was always screwing around with new controllers, code releases, Access Points, and general configuration mayhem.

Once I bit the bullet and converted one of my 1142 Access Points over to autonomous and vowed to leave it alone, my overall ‘production network’ woes stopped. Fast forward a few months and I was performing some general cleanup on my infrastructure since I was anticipating spending a good chunk of my upcoming future in the lab. I reviewed my autonomous config and realized that on the default configuration all of my data rates were still enabled! Since this is a big no-no in the general world of wireless, I took it upon myself to banish all non 802.11G or better gear from my house and disable those pesky 1 through 11M data rates! Reviewing my associations on the AP revealed:

 

c1140#show dot11 assoc all-client | inc Supported
Supported Rates   : 6.0 9.0 12.0 18.0 24.0 36.0 48.0 54.0
Supported Rates   : 6.0 9.0 12.0 18.0 24.0 36.0 48.0 54.0 m0. m1. m2. m3. m4. m5. m6. m7.
Supported Rates   : 6.0 9.0 12.0 18.0 24.0 36.0 48.0 54.0 m0. m1. m2. m3. m4. m5. m6. m7.
m8. m9. m10. m11. m12. m13. m14. m15.
Supported Rates   : 1.0 2.0 5.5 11.0 6.0 9.0 12.0 18.0 24.0 36.0 48.0 54.0
Supported Rates   : 1.0 2.0 5.5 11.0 6.0 9.0 12.0 18.0 24.0 36.0 48.0 54.0 m0. m1. m2. m3.
 m4. m5. m6. m7.

 

The bottom two devices are 2.4GHz clients and you can see from the capture that they supported not only my lower data rates, but all the way up to 54M. I was good to go! I happily changed my 2.4GHz radio config to disallow all 802.11b connections – wholesale.

 

c1140#conf t
Enter configuration commands, one per line.  End with CNTL/Z.
c1140(config)#int dot110
c1140(config-if)#speed 6.0 9.0 12.0 18.0 24.0 36.0 48.0 54.0 m0. m1. m2. m3.
m4. m5. m6. m7. m8. m9. m10. m11. m12. m13. m14. m15.

 

I then went about my merry way believing that I was forever rid of those pesky 802.11b data rates- that is until much much later (I did mention I was going to be spending time in the lab, no?). Once I emerged from my studying, I fired up my trusty Nintendo Wii and was going to play some Mario Cart online and school some of my friends that had been pestering me. I tried to connect to NFC to no avail:

 

Oh noes!

 

I briefly suspected my wireless network but when my Wii failed to connect to my other lab SSIDs (did I mention that I disabled the same data rates on my lab gear?), and all of my other equipment connected to the wireless network just fine, it seemed that my Wii was failing miserably. Having just sent it in a few months back for an optic drive issue, I was confident that my Wii was on it’s last legs. After double checking that my Wii did indeed support 802.11G, why would I suspect anything else?

Dreading the call, I looked up the number for Nintendo and gave them a ring (Yes, I actually called!). After trying to convince the support representative that my Wii was previously working and that I strongly suspected the wireless card – then debating the technical differences between bridging devices and routing devices, I gave up.

Eventually it dawned on me that there was a possibility that something else was going on and I finally spent an afternoon digging on the issue. Come to find out, the Nintendo Wii requires the 1 and 2M data rate enabled for a successful association to the wireless network. After firing up a wireless packet packet capture application, you can see that the wireless network with the 1 and 2M data rates disabled continually loop between Probe Request and Probe Response.

 

This can't be good...  That's way too many packets

Compare this to the same Access Point with both 1 & 2M data rates enabled and you can see the 802.11 Acknowledgements and the beginning of the WPA2 PSK handshake.

 

Look at those key exchanges - now that's healthy!

Moral of the story: don’t assume that since ‘everything else works’ that your device should. While this is clearly a problem with the Nintendo Wii, and all signs point to ‘it should work’, you may need to try and try again various configuration aspects of your environment. As for my particular issue, wanting to remain 802.11b free yet still use my Wii, there was a pretty graceful fix ready made.

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Sam Clements

Sam Clements

CCENT CCNA CCNA Wireless CCNP Wireless CWTS CWNA CWDP CWSP CWAP CWNE #101

6 Comments

  1. January 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm — Reply

    Nice work Sam.. I now have a link to reference when people ask the “BUT WHY!” Good job!

  2. January 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm — Reply

    Wow. I would have went crazy if my PS3 did this. My lowest data rate is 12 on my home network. It’s my way of eliminating sticky clients haha. I have a Wii but it has not been on in awhile. Guess I know it will not work next time I turn it on lol.

  3. April 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    Hey Sam,

    Great article. I also noticed the exact same issue, however I have a Cisco WLC with LWAPP ap’s at my house. In my case, similar to yourself, I disabled the 1Mbps to 11Mbps speeds, in an attempt to ensure better connections. However when I noticed the issue with the Wii a few months later, I immediately re-enabled them and set them to ‘Supported’, but this made no difference. I needed to set the 1Mbps and 2Mpbs rates to ‘Mandatory’ on the WLC to let the Wii connect successfully!

    Thanks for the article, I wouldn’t have revisited the data rates again, but would have continued to kick the Wii instead!

  4. Harel
    November 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm — Reply

    I ran into the exact same problem with my Wii…

  5. afinn
    July 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm — Reply

    1.5+ years later, still helping people! Thanks!

  6. BBlake
    January 14, 2014 at 4:22 pm — Reply

    Same problem with a Wii, setting to mandatory fixed the issue!

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