(It Just) Has To Be .Net
Two long-term IT techies, with a penchant for Microsoft's .NET Framework, air views on whatever topics take their fancy.

In search of reliable WiFi

About ten years ago, I cabled the house up in Cat5 terminating at a home-made rack in the smallest bedroom (or the data centre as it's affectionately known). Typically, I didn't install anywhere near enough as the number of devices running over Cat5 has continued to increase. It's manageable, though, with the aid of a couple of strategically placed ethernet switches.

My main bugbear has been maintaining a decent WiFi capability to accommodate the numerous wireless devices that I own (and seems to be ever-increasing).

Originally, I took the standard route for most people, and installed a Wireless ADSL router. That didn't last too long, because it was a piece of D-Link tat (a DSL-604+) but when I replaced it, I made the move away from wireless routers to separate wired router and wireless access point. For me, this was a sensible move as it allowed me to segment my network with a DMZ and separate wired and wireless subnets.

The replacement WAP was another D-Link (why?) DWL-900AP+. This proved to be much more reliable and lasted a while but didn't support 802.11g.

When I made the move to 802.11g, I replaced the D-Link with a Netgear WG602. What a pile of sh*ite, that was! Forever dropping connections, so after a very few months, it was consigned to the scrap pile.

And replaced with a 3Com OfficeConnect access point. For a while, this seemed OK but now periodically drops the wireless connections and refuses to associate with new clients. To bring it back to life, I have to disconnect and reconnect the power. Interestingly, the problems with this access point seem to be related to the volume of data carried more than anything else.

While this was serving as the 'main' access point at home, I'd made a couple of other changes. The old DWL-900AP+ was pressed into service as a second access point providing dedicated connectivity for a Nintendo DS. That's because the DS only supports WEP encryption and the 3Com can't do WEP and WPA-PSK at the same time. Locking the DWL-900AP+ to the MAC address of the DS and only allowing direct routing out through the firewall keeps things nice and secure.

Then, when setting up my photographic studio, I found the need for another access point so that laptops could connect to the network there. This time, I thought I'd try something slightly more upmarket and bought a Netgear ProSafe WAG102. The ProSafe range is Netgear's blue metal-cased kit that is a world away from their domestic stuff (like the WG602). I've used a number of their switches and hubs in the past and they've always performance flawlessly. The WAG102 is a dual-band 802.11a/g access point, though I've no 802.11a devices to connect to it. It's been running 24x7 for 13 months now without skipping a beat.

A few weeks ago, I bought a new iPhone 3g. A major feature, of course, is the WiFi connectivity and it works brilliantly at home and in the studio (and wherever I can find free WiFi connectivity).

If only it wasn't for that bloody 3Com OfficeConnect access point. As soon as the iPhone was introduced, the rate at which the access point crashed got completely ridiculous; typically 2-3 hours before requiring a reboot.

So, no messing about. Time for another Netgear blue box. This time, I bought a WG302, the most highly featured access point in Netgear's ProSafe range. It's a bit pricey for an access point, costing £142 from Insight including postage. But, so far (about 3 weeks), it's been rock solid. Hopefully money well spent.

Only time will tell if the WG302 is up to the job, but I'm optimistic. All of the other blue Netgear kit I have is working just fine so the signs are good.

Posted Aug 11 2008, 07:22 PM by Steve Morgan


Wayne Faulkner wrote re: In search of reliable WiFi
on Tue, Dec 2 2008 0:21

Interesting network for the home, I've not enabled subnets myself, but I also have an interesting network; I also suffered from the tat from D-Link and Netgear's residential offerings, and after undertaking a CCNA course decided that business equipment was the way forward.

My present setup consists of a Netgear FVS-338 in control of a Draytech Vigor 110 ADSL 2+ Modem on Business ADSL, together with a rollover to an email only V.90 Rockwell External Modem, these form the basis of a wired network on CAT-5 that links the Hallway to one bedroom and the attic (well the bedroom was on the way!), in the attic we have a Netgear Prosafe 100Mbit Switch distributing to a Tyco Media Converter and WAG102 AP, the AP covers the entire house from the attic, from the attic a pair of ruggedised fibre optic cables run to the shed in the garden, and via another media converter a CAT-5 network.  The reason for the fibre is that I am a radio amateur and ethernet cabling would not have a hope of shielding against a 400 Watt transmitter, plus there's no chance of picking up the wifi in the shed due to it being lined with four ply aluminium radio frequency shielding/insulation to protect the CAT-5 network and various rackmount, tower, and laptop computers operating in the shed.

I may need to line the attic roof with aluminium shielding, if there's any significant RFI problems affecting the AP.

There's no planned AP for the shed due to the possibility of RFI from any unshielded Intermediate Frequency used by an AP, Amateur Radio Receivers work by detecting weak signals, so a low noise floor inside the shed is important.

As it happens I am also connected to a 144MHz Radio Network and 1.8 to 14.35 MHz Radio Network, on APRS, Packet, and Automatic Link Establishment using datalinks between 75bit and 1.2kKbit, plus encrypted Satellite Weather Imagery running at 2Mbit on 12GHz.

Maybe my network is more interesting?

Steve Morgan 2008. All rights reserved.
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