The replacement access point arrived yesterday. I set it up identically to the old AP. I rewrote my kidscript to work with the new AP's Web interface, rebooting it when iwlist can't find the SSID anymore.
It's been up for slightly more than 24 hours now.
In that time, the SSID has dropped seven times. We can now conclude that either a) there was nothing wrong with the original AP, or b) that both APs suffer from the same, mysterious denial of service (DoS) vulnerability.
Whatever that may be.
But it got me to thinking about the timing of this thing, which started some time in August. Then it finally dawned on me...
You might recall, when trying to install this Pile Of Crap over the WiFi network, the driver setup program would say "Testing network connectivity..." and then kill the wireless connection every time.
I had the driver installed in two places: my laptop, and the XP desktop I recently retired. I never installed it on my new Windows 7 box, and I only use the laptop occasionally. Now, the driver is no longer on either side of the AP, but of course the printer still exists on the wireless side.
And up until about 6PM this evening it was on 24x7 during this entire fiasco. Not anymore.
I believe—but can't prove—the printer may run it's own code to "test network connectivity" in the same way the driver setup did. Why? I can only speculate, but HP does want to entice you to buy consumables—ink and paper—directly from them. Either the driver polls the printer or the printer notifies the driver or both. I'm inclined to believe "both". Ink alone is a cash cow and HP wouldn't want to miss the chance to make a sale, popping up a dialog box when you're trying to play UT (this has in fact happened to me at least once on the old XP box).
That would explain everything nicely.
And further confirm my personal opinion that "HP" stands for "Horse Poop".