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I have 5 wireless printers on my network, Brother HL-2170CWs, and not long after the massive solar flare on Tuesday, 2 of the 5 wireless printers are failing to connect to the network.

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seriously? . . . – JamesRyan Jun 9 '11 at 15:21
Umm...yeah, seriously. I'm not a physicist...just a lowly sysadmin. – milkmood Jun 9 '11 at 15:29
Sorry, the tin foil hat was covering my eyes for a second. – milkmood Jun 9 '11 at 18:01
That was just a lowly M2 flare. – starblue Jun 9 '11 at 19:17
up vote 14 down vote accepted

It's sunspots. Wrap your printers in magnets.

Seriously though - while you may notice some mild signal degradation your wireless equipment should function normally -- at least as an anecdotal data point, none of my equipment showed any problems.

I suggest that you look for a more Earthly cause for your wireless woes...

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It's unusual that they went out at the same time. They're at different sites thousands of miles apart, on the same network, but different subnets. Too many coincidences. – milkmood Jun 9 '11 at 15:28
Closest answer without the insults. Thanks. – milkmood Jun 9 '11 at 15:58
Not saying solar activity couldn't be a contributing factor, but something else was at least marginal first... – voretaq7 Jun 9 '11 at 16:07
@milkmood I would start looking for other things that the printers have in common (like being on the same network). Please remember, that although "solar flare" may be a good overall excuse it VERY rarely is the real cause. – João Portela Jun 9 '11 at 17:37

While it is theoretically possible for solar events to affect electronics, the probability is very small for printers, especially two printers in the same area. Bianca Schroeder worked with Google to do a full scale study of the number of DRAM errors caused by cosmic rays and other atmospheric phenomenon and found an incidence rate of between 25,000 to 70,000 errors per billion device hours per Mbit. She also found that 8.2% of DIMMs had errors per device year. (“DRAM Errors in the Wild: A Large-Scale Field Study”, Bianca Schroeder, Eduardo Pinheiro, Wolf-Dietrich Weber, SIGMETRICS, 2009.)

Taking the worst-case scenarios: that the first error is catastrophic, that your printer has around 16M of RAM in it and is using one of the older technologies, and doing some fairly aggressive back of the envelope math, the probability of two printers failing at the same time during a high-activity cosmic event is equal to: the equation where p = 1/100000 and n = 5.

Long story short, the probability is vanishingly small - like, earth spontaneously turning into a goldfish small.

Edit: I think I spent way too long on this. Simple answer would have sufficed.

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Wow...I'm speechless. What a fun answer! Thanks for taking way too long on this. – milkmood Jun 9 '11 at 18:02

Correlation does not imply causation - I think you're seriously grasping at straws here!

Oh - and no, none of our wireless printers or anything else stopped working on Tuesday.


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I didn't say any such thing - I said you were grasping at straws, which you are. Gallileo spent his life doing experiments to reach his insights, I think you flatter yourself to the point of ridicule by comparing yourself him! – Bart B Jun 9 '11 at 15:53

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