Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trendnet TU2-ET100 / ASIX AX88772 USB to 10/100 Mbps Adapter

I was having problems with my laptop's Internet connection.  The wireless worked fine; the cable connection didn't work at all.  After lots of troubleshooting with tech support, a replacement motherboard, and so forth, the problem persisted.  So I decided to try a USB-to-ethernet adapter.  The first one I got, a cheap little item, didn't work, so I bought a more expensive Trendnet TU2-ET100.  This one came with a driver CD.  The drivers installed without a problem from the CD.  When I then plugged the TU2-ET100 into the USB port, Vista Ultimate recognized it immediately.  In Device Manager, it showed up under Network Adapters as an ASIX AX88772 USB2.0 to Fast Ethernet Adapter -- but that turned out to be just the name of the controller chip.  (Oddly, CNET seemed to be offering version of the driver, added Sept. 8, 2004, for current free download, whereas Device Manager was telling me that the version installed from the CD-ROM was (built by WinDDK), dated January 20, 2007.)  A Wikipedia article seemed to indicate that ASIX specialized in these kinds of chips.  It looked like quite a few other adapters used the same chip.

Anyway, once it was plugged into the USB port and had finished installing itself, I connected it to my ethernet cable.  (The cable was known to be good; it was the one I was using to post this blog note.)  The unit's 100Mbps light went on solid, and the Link light was blinking.  Everything seemed good.  But neither Firefox nor Chrome nor Internet Explorer (IE) were able to get to a webpage.  Microsoft Security Essentials was also unable to download updates.  And yet, as before, Windows Network Diagnostics said, "Windows did not find any problems with this computer’s network connection."  But when I closed out of that, I found myself looking at something I hadn't seen before:  a Problem Reports and Solutions window.  I don't know -- maybe the system had updated itself, the last time I went online via the wireless connection, and was now in a position to tell me what had failed with the previous wired connection attempt.  I sorted this list by date and selected just one, the most recent item in this first group.  This was an AntiMalware Service Executable item whose problem was MpTelemetry.  When I clicked on Check for Solutions, it said it was "Checking for solutions" and "Reporting problem 1 of 157."  Then it said, "Unable to check for solutions."

The User's Guide on the CD had only installation information.  Using the CD, I installed the TU2-ET100 adapter on this Windows XP desktop computer that had been connecting to the Internet without any problems.  Again, a hassle-free installation.  After I plugged the ethernet cable into the unit, using the same cable, and got a notice that the new hardware was installed and ready to use, I tried getting to a webpage in Firefox, which I had just been using, but now Firefox said, "Connection Error" -- even though Network Connections reported that the ASIX AX88772 was Connected. IE couldn't connect either.  Very strange!  I left the TU2-ET100 connected to a USB port on this desktop computer, but removed the ethernet cable from the unit and plugged it directly into the computer again, and now the connection problem persisted.  I unplugged the TU2-ET100 entirely and tried again.  IE still said, "Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage."  I clicked on IE's "Diagnose Connection Problems" button.  It said, "Consult your computer manufacturer's troubleshooting information."  The diagnostic log had several instances of "Error 12007 connecting to  The server name or address could not be resolved" (and likewise for FTP).  I connected the cable (without the TU2-ET100) to a third computer.  It had been online previously and was able to find new webpages again without any problem.  On the second computer, where I had connected the TU2-ET100, I tried refreshing the network connection, but I still couldn't go online.  I had to reboot that one to get it back to a normal online connection.  I suspected that the problem there was that I had previously installed two separate ethernet adapters on that computer (one on the motherboard, one on a PCI card), while troubleshooting a network connection problem there, and that the addition of the TU2-ET100 had simply confused the system.

I wondered if a reboot would help the laptop too.  I went back to it and plugged in the TU2-ET100 and ethernet cable there.  The lights on the unit were functioning as before.  Before rebooting, I ran Network Diagnostics again -- noticing the red X beneath its Local Area Connection icon in Network Connections.  This time, I got, "A cable is not plugged into the network adapter "Local Area Connection."  Well, OK, the ethernet cable was plugged into the TU2-ET100, not directly into the laptop.  I plugged the ethernet cable directly into the laptop, and now that connection seemed to be recognized.  But now I noticed that, under the Local Area Connection icon in Network Connections, it was referring to a Realtek PCIe controller.  That was the controller on the motherboard, not on the TU2-ET100.  So, hmm, maybe the TU2-ET100 had not even been recognized previously?  I right-clicked on Local Area Connection and disabled it, and then rebooted.  When the system came back up, I saw that Local Area Connection 2 was now listed as having the ASIX AX88772.  But IE, Chrome, and Firefox still couldn't go online, and I still couldn't download updates.  I right-clicked in Network Connections, ran diagnostics, and found no problem.  I tried the Reset option, but no joy. In short, it did not help to disable the onboard ethernet connection (i.e., Local Area Connection), plug the ethernet cable into the Trendnet unit, and enable that unit as Local Area Connection 2:  IE and Firefox were still not able to go online.

It suddenly occurred to me that possibly the brilliant Compaq/HP engineers had constructed the laptop such that it would not go online via wired connection when I had the button for the wireless connection turned off.  I punched that button, the red one next to the power button.  It turned to blue, as the system searched for wireless connections in my area.  But no, that didn't do it either.  I tried plugging the unit into a different USB port; no difference.

I went searching for ideas.  I saw an improbably high number of perfect scores for the device at TigerDirect (and CompUSA, which seemed to have the same reviews), making me wonder whether they were padding their customer feedback to make it look like they were getting more buyers than Newegg.  But maybe they were; I had bought from Newegg, where the price had only recently been dropped $8 from what I paid -- to a dollar less than TigerDirect was now charging.  Anyway, Newegg did get a more mixed batch of scores and comments, but no troubleshooting advice for me.  Ditto Amazon. (Later, I found a Wize webpage that seemed to aggregate these multiple sources of buyer reviews.)

A couple of reviewers did say that they had better luck with the drivers from the Trendnet website than those on the CD, so even though the device was being recognized OK, I went to Trendnet's download page.  There, I saw that there were three versions:  A, B1, and V3.0R.  The pictures made plain that I had the V3.0R.  They offered what seemed to be version 3.2 of the driver (full name:  Driver_TU2-ET100(V3.0R)  That was below the numbers cited above, but the date (April 3, 2008) was newer.  It didn't seem to matter which operating system I had.  I downloaded it, copied it over to the laptop, unplugged the unit, and installed the driver.  The Trendnet dialog said "Install OK," but it came up really quickly, and I wasn't sure -- especially when Vista popped up a Program Compatibility Assistant note that said, "This program might not have installed correctly."  Well, OK, I plugged in the unit to see.  Vista indicated, "Device driver software installed successfully."  With great hopes, I tried going online again.  Diagnostics still found no problem with the network connection, and yet IE and Firefox were still not getting anywhere.  I unplugged the unit, went back to that Program Compatibility Assistant dialog, and tried "Reinstall using recommended settings."  This time, the Trendnet dialog incorrectly identified the system as running Windows XP rather than Vista.  I said, OK, let's see what happens.  I went ahead with that and got a Confirm File Replace dialog telling me that I was about to overwrite the newer file that was already on the system.  I said Do It.  It finished.  I plugged the unit into a USB port again.  Dead!  No lights.  Ah, but wait.  The lights came up eventually -- not immediately, like before -- but no difference.  Still no connection.

Confusingly, I now found a Trendnet page telling me, "Please wait while we are developing drivers for Windows Vista."  But that seemed to be just a generic notice; it led me to another page where I saw a link to a Vista-compatible driver download; but that turned out to be the driver I had just downloaded, which of course had detected that it was being installed on a Vista system.  In other words, it didn't appear that I could be expecting any new drivers -- especially when all these other happy campers were doing fine with the drivers provided on the CD or the website.

These adventures left me with a couple of possibilities for testing and exploration.  One was to cycle the router and the laptop.  I had tried that before, without success, but maybe it would be different with the Trendnet unit -- though I didn't see why it should, when the desktop computer was working fine with the same router.  Another was to try installing the Trendnet drivers on the desktop computer after removing that extraneous ethernet card.  From the comments, it had seemed that virtually the only problems people had were that a few buyers got units that were DOA, and this one certainly wasn't that; it was being recognized and seemed to be installing correctly, especially in Vista.  A third possibility, which I had also tried before, but not with this Trendnet unit, was to reboot the laptop in Ubuntu and see how things went there, in case it was somehow a Vista- or Windows-specific problem.  A few people had indicated that the unit had worked for them in Linux, so it seemed like it should work for me.

I decided to start with the third option.  Leaving the unit plugged in, I rebooted this dual-boot laptop into Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) (I probably could also have tried with a live CD) and clicked on the network icon on the top panel.  It opened a window that said "Wired Network (ASIX Elec. AX88772) -- Auto eth2" and gave me an option to disconnect.  So apparently Ubuntu believed that I was connected.  I clicked on the Disconnect option and got a little notice that said "Disconnected -- you are now offline."  I went back there and connected, and now it said "Connection established."  So, yeah, I was online.  I opened Firefox and tried to go to, but after a while it said, "Firefox can't establish a connection to the server."  I also couldn't download package information using Synaptic.  And still the light was blinking merrily on the TU2-ET100.

It seemed that I had a hardware problem on the laptop.  It wasn't clear whether I also had a nonworking Trendnet unit.  But even as I was writing these words, Synaptic began, ever so slowly, to download updated packages.  Woo hoo!  Something appeared to be happening.  So, another possibility:  for some reason, the hardware was so impaired that it could only operate at a very slow speed -- too slow to keep webpages from timing out.  But no, as I looked at Synaptic's list of individual files, it seemed that its efforts were failing in each case; it was just taking a long time on each file to make sure there was no way.

I located another desktop computer, one where I had not previously tried to install the Trendnet unit.  I went through the original TU2-ET100 installation process, using the CD, and then connected the ethernet cable and plugged the unit into a USB port.  Device Manager considered it to be working properly, but the Trendnet unit did not enable this Windows XP computer to connect.  Baffled, I posted a question on it.  That was as far as I went with this investigation.  I moved to a different apartment shortly after this, and the laptop was able to go online normally there.  I never did find out why it was having such a hard time at the other place.