They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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WiFi Redux Part Two

Last week I found myself with a working DSL connection and an 802.11b WiFi network just old enough that its 128-bit WEP encryption turns out to be non-standard and not implemented in Windows XP. Works fine with the Windows 98/SE/Me machines. Though I found a workaround, I decided that the easiest thing to do was stop by Office Depot on the way to work and just pick up a more modern WiFi access point, which I did. Sunday I went to install it and had another fun-filled four hours plus of swearing and rebooting.

See, The Problem Is I Know What I'm Doing

Always a dangerous thing, knowledge is. And they've made these consumer grade products way too helpful. I could've installed this thing in five minutes if I could've done things on a command-line basis, I'm sure. But the DSL modem has an Installation Buddy, who unfortunately looks vaguely like Gomer Pyle in mechanics coveralls. And the new Linksys unit is designed for one-button setup... if you have only Linksys products. Oh well.

Last weekend I had the two boxes (DSL modem & router, WiFi router & access point) sitting on the kitchen table with my old laptop and strung cables around and stuffed in CD-ROM's until it all worked, then moved it into the bedroom where the usable phone jack and UPS power strip are located. This weekend I was damned if I was going to pull all that wiring apart to get it back out to the kitchen, so I had the laptop perched on a box on top of the bedroom bookcase and it's external DVD-ROM drive balanced on a CD rack. Hey, don't knock it -- it was stable... enough...

One of the things I wanted to do was put a little distance between the two WiFi access points -- both physically (they're about a meter apart) and electronically (the one unit was already on 2.4GHz Ch. 6 and I was able to change the other to 2.4GHz Ch.11 -- why fight the bandwidth?)

Alas, the laptop, which I had connected to the DSL modem router via a USB cable, (a) uses an old WiFi card for which I don't have a driver for WPA encryption and (b) uses the same PC Card slot for the external DVD-ROM drive. But though I could see both WiFi access points and seemed to connect to both in the living room on HARTREE, an old 166 MHz Pentium machine running Windows 98SE for Internet usage, I couldn't get to any web pages on the new WiFi unit.

Maybe I screwed up the settings, because the Linksys setup didn't actually explain what a couple of the options meant and I'd just taken the defaults.

Oh, It Really Was Working

On a lark, late at night I pulled out my PDA and tried to connect to the new access point -- and it did. Worked fine in fact. Well... cool, I suppose. So what was the problem before? I soon remembered, even without re-reading the page I downloaded last weekend, about Microsoft and which OSes support WEP and WPA which started this whole mess with the second WiFi access point. (grin)

And Now It's Just The Opposite

The old 802.11b WiFi 128-bit WEP won't work with XP. The new 802.11b/g WPA-PSK encryption won't work with Windows 98/SE/Me, at least not without a patch. So screw it -- both access points are working and with a combination of hardware and software firewalls I've a satisfactory protection level -- and I'll just have new machines work with the new unit and old machines work with the old one.

I'd worried about getting hacked, of course. Of neighbor kids using my DSL connection for horrible things. But the first night, when I went to bed late, I discovered that the DSL modem router uses big superbright green LEDs (power, DSL cable, Internet logon, and now two Ethernet cables) and was adding too much light to the bedroom! Of the three boxes in the bedroom, the DSL modem router was also the only one with an on-off switch, so I switched it off before going to bed. Hacking into a WiFi router which is connected to a dead DSL connection is not going to entertain anyone for very long. And the houses are spaced pretty far apart out here, due to the large minimum separation required for septic fields in the sandy soil. So I'm not anticipating too much wardriving.

Plans Change

Of course the original plan had the WiFi stuff downstairs in my office, with the possibility of a WiFi relay booster upstairs if I needed it. Guess I'm surprised to have only 60-70% power from the bedroom to the living room, but what ya gonna do?

I have a separate WiFi parallel printer port unit, which I can stick on the LaserJet downstairs. If I grab a WiFi USB printer port unit, I can have the new machines talk to the HP All-in-One 2355 (or whatever its number is), and then I don't have to worry about getting the jack downstairs fixed any time soon to get printer access.

We're getting there. Cobbled up using stone knives and bearskins, as usual.

Dr. Phil

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