GearMinder

Router Connection Management Software

Current version : 0.7 (November 2002 release)

By Edward Cheung


Introduction

The Netgear RT311/RT314 routers are specifically designed for the DSL/Cable Modem environment.  Occasionally, ISPs have routing or other network problems where packets destined for the IP address assigned to the router no longer make it to their proper destination.  In this case, you lose connectivity with the net.  If you are occasionally and inexplicably losing connection to the net while everything appears in order on the router status screens, you can test for this condition as follows:
  1. While the problem persists, connect to the internet via dialup.
  2. Ping the IP address assigned to you by the ISP (you can find that from the router config screens)
  3. If the reply states 'Node Unreachable' instead of 'Timed Out', you are having this routing problem.
My uninformed explanation of this problem is that your ISP has forgotten (either accidentally or intentionally) that you own that dynamic IP address.  Packets do not get routed to you, but are dropped on the floor.

GearMinder is a small standalone application that remedies this problem.  It needs no installation, and can be run from the 'Startup' menu.  It regularly connects to web servers (port 80), to verify that all is ok.  After a configurable number of consecutive failures, it telnets into the Netgear router to drop and renew the dynamic IP.  This should fix the problem.  An optional feature is the sending of an automated email so you have a record of the occurrence, and so you are notified of the new IP address of the router.  This is useful if you want to telnet into your system and have not signed up with DynDNS, or if the service is down for some reason.


GearMinder's control screen.

Setup

Clicking on the tabs at the top brings you to the various config screens.  Pausing over key controls will cause a hint to appear that helps to explain its purpose.
  • Main.  Here you can enter the domain names of four web servers.  Be sure to leave off the 'http:' as that is NOT part of a domain name.  I would recommend you use those within your ISP (such as Verizon in my case).  This minimizes useless traffic on the real Internet.  Clicking on 'AutoPing' will cause the program to start connecting with the interval you specify (15 seconds recommended).  You can also do a manual 'Ping' immediately.  The box below this allows you to control if the program auto resets the router after the specified number of consecutive tries (4 recommended).  In the E-Mail Notification box, the user can select being notified when the router is reset by GearMinder, or the router's WAN IP address can be polled at the interval indicated.  If there is a change, the e-mail will be sent.  Enter the polling interval in hours (24 recommended).  You can enter a floating point number if you want an interval of less than one hour, or if you want a very particular interval.
  • Router.  Allows you to enter the LAN IP Address of the router and your password.  There are also control buttons to manually obtain the current router status and to request a new dynamic IP from your ISP.  With this latter function, there are two options:
    • Adjust MTU automatically.  Certain parameters in the router can be adjusted to maximize the connection bandwidth.  Unfortunately, they need to be adjusted every time you renew the WAN connection.  One of these is the Maximum Transfer Units parameter.  Only applicable if you use PPOE, set this value to 1452.  For a more thorough exlanation of MTU, refer to here.
    • Use Reboot Method.  For some users, their connection problems clear up only when the router is rebooted, and not simply renewed.  Check this option if the conventional method does not work satisfactorily.  Note that checking this option disables the automatic adjustment of MTU.  This is because connection to the router will be lost, and it will take some time (20 seconds) to reboot the router.
  • Email.  Allows you to specify the name of your mail server, the email address where you want notifications to go, and a custom 'Subject' line to make the note more meaningful.  There is also a button to trigger a manual send to test the email mechanism.  Before you send the IP manually, be sure to click on the 'Get Status' button on the 'Router' tab first.  If you don't, you will get an empty email message.
  • About.  Data on the program and my contact info.
In addition to the control tabs above, the program shows the number of resets in a small box in the top right.  Double-clicking on this box will reset the contents.  There is also an event window at the bottom with the time tagged events.
 

Operation

Just run the program, and enter the setup info.  When you quit, the configuration is saved in a text file called 'gearminder.txt'.  I hope this program will be useful to you and that you will send me email with feedback.

Please realize that the root problem with your disconnection is with your ISP.  GearMinder is just a band-aid.  It will NOT prevent disconnections, but merely provides an automatic mechanism to restore it.  Please do not email me with question on why the connection is still dropping.  The problem is with your ISP, and varies from case to case.  I will be unable to assist you in your particular situation.

I get a LOT of email due to GearMinder.  I will gladly accept bug reports, donations, compliments, and complaints.  If your question is extremely basic, or already covered on this web page, I may not reply (sorry).
 

Known Bugs

Description : Running under Windows XP, GearMinder will prevent the PC from shutting down.  You need to shut down GearMinder first.
Resolution :  Under investigation.

Description: Running under Win XP, the router does not accept the password.
Resolution: I do not have much insight in this very strange problem.  Some XP users do not report this problem.  I do not know if Version 0.7 fixes this.
 

Links

  • GearMinder Executable.  Please click only if you intend to download.
  • My DSL page.  Describes the setup I use.
  • Home Automation -  the reason I have DSL.
  • KeepRAS.  Equivalent utility for setups with no hardware router - direct connection to the DSL modem with Dial-Up Networking.
  • DSLReports.com.  Great forum on this router and occasional discussions about GearMinder.
  • Netgear.org (not affiliated with the corporation).  A user site with some good information.
  • Known vulnerability with this router.  This web site describes a vulnerability that was discovered with this router that can be closed by forwarding port 80 on the WAN side to a non-existent IP address on the LAN.  This fix confirmed by correspondence with cirt.net.

Improvement fund

If you find GearMinder useful, I hope you will contribute to the Improvement Fund.  Any size donation would be welcome.  Thank you!

Version History


GearMinder's download history.  Each column represents number of downloads per month.
The '6' on the right is the partial total for June 2002.  From Nedstat.
  • 0.1 - 9/27/00. First version.  Watching and renewing the connection works well.  E-Mailing reports does not work if the connection is unavailable.  This will be addressed in a future version.
  • 0.1b - 9/30/00.  Uploaded debug version for 0.1.  Resetting of the router was commented out.  This rev fixes that.
  • 0.2 - 10/4/00.  Fixed automatic e-mail and rewrote logic to improve robustness.  Event log does not show all successful pings to reduce amount of text.  This allows the viewing of more useful events.
  • 0.3 - 10/12/00.  Improved logic of auto mail feature.  Runs in the system tray when minimized.
  • 0.4 - 10/26/00.  Starts minimized.  A total of 1369 downloads for version 0.4 (about 8 a day).
  •          4/10/01.  For the past few months, I have been receiving numerous e-mails from users that found GearMinder because of recommendations by Netgear!  Also, DSLReports now has a link to GearMinder on their Netgear support page.  GearMinder is now internationally recognized.
  • 0.5 - 05/01/01.  Several improvements for this version:
    • When running GearMinder for the first time, it will not start minimized.  New users were confused by the lack of control screen.
    • Password is scrambled in the config file, and no longer appears 'in the clear'.  Any non-control character can also be used in the password.  For this reason, the router password must be retyped when upgrading to version 0.5.
    • Double clicking on the 'number of resets' counter clears it.
    • For highest transfer speed, the MTU size can be automatically set.
    • The WAN connection can be reset by optionally rebooting the router.
  • 0.5b - 05/15/01.  MTU can only be adjusted after reacquisition of the WAN connection.  Some ISPs take slightly longer, causing the MTU adjustment to be unsuccessful.  This rev adds some wait time to compensate for that.
  •         - 09/09/01.  Lots of reports and emails of Netgear recommending GearMinder.
  •         - 10/10/01.  Report from a user that GearMinder also works with the Netgear RP114 router.  A total of 3284 downloads for version 0.5 (about 8/day).
  • 0.6 - 06/10/02.  On one occasion, a change in the WAN IP address was not caught by GearMinder, nor the router, and I lost connectivity with the house from the Internet.  As a result, I decided to add a feature whereby the Router is polled at a selected interval so that changes in IP address can be caught.  Also, as a minor change, added the feature that causes hints to appear when the user pauses the cursor over key controls. A total of 2153 downloads for version 0.6 (about 15/day).
  • 0.7 - 11/21/02.  Updated Windows 2000 and Borland 5.  This version addresses the problems by XP and 2000 users.
  • 12/13/03 - Tweaked GearMinder logo.  Added vulnerability of router in the links section (thanks to David Facer).

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