Wireless networking setup question

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by thomasp, Jun 20, 2007.

  1. thomasp macrumors 6502a

    Sep 18, 2004
    I hope this is posted in the correct forum - if not, mods, please move it to the correct one :)

    Basically, we want to upgrade our wireless networking hardware for two reasons - one piece of hardware is still 802-B (and painfully slow for networking); and we want to make better use of wireless-enabled laptops. Our setup is a little strange, so it is best explained through this crudely-drawn (in AppleWorks :D) diagram (blue solid lines = Cat5 cable, purple dashed line = wireless, red shading = Linksys hardware, green shading = computers & misc):

    Our router & ADSL Modem is in the Office - this is Wireless G+ enabled (Linksys Speedboster thingy). In the Office, computers connect to the 'net both through Cat5 cables and via wireless.

    Inside the house where there is a small collection of computers (mainly equipped with G3 processors, and the odd laptop...) connected via a hub to a Linksys WET11 Bridge. This picks up the wireless signal from the router in the office. This distance is about 35m, through many walls and very close to poorly-shielded 240V overhead power lines. Unfortunately, both the router and the bridge are pretty much fixed in position due to mains points and phone lines.

    The biggest problem with the current setup is that the bridge can barely pick up with router's signal and none of our laptops (1st gen MBP and 2nd-to-last revision PowerBook) can pick up the wireless signal in the house. Obviously, we'd quite like to be able to surf wirelessly in the house and not be tethered to one room with ethernet cables. The router was upgraded recently and this improved the stability in the house and meant in certain weather conditions the MBP can just (and I mean just!) pick up a signal in the house, but only right next to the window that's nearest to the office. As the WET11 is quite old, relatively unstable and only B-spec wireless, it'd be quite nice to upgrade this to G-spec or higher.

    From what I've heard you can get "access points" that take the wireless signal and amplify it, acting as a second router. We want to ideally stay with Linksys to keep the commonality and for ease of tech-supporting. Would something like this do: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Linksys-WRT...1_1/203-1357689-8466348?ie=UTF8&s=electronics ?
    Or would the Apple AirPort work?

    In summary: we want to surf wirelessly in the house, all around the house, but need some form of wireless signal booster, that ideally has an ethernet interface as well, like the bridge, so as a hub can be plugged in.

    Thanks for reading this very long post :D
  2. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    Linksys offers a range expander, so if it can pick up your main wireless router's signal (from the office) in your house, it would create a second wireless 'bubble' in your house, effectively an 'expansion' of your wireless network. The only problem is the fact that it doesn't have an ethernet port for attaching a hub, so you'd be stuck using the 802.11b bridge for the wired computers in your house.
  3. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Nov 6, 2006
    Norfolk, UK
    you have the option of something like the netgear wgps606 (802.11g - 54mbps) which has a 4 port 10/100 hub built in, although I'm not 100% certain it would do what you are after.

    I do know that a zyxel g570s (54/108 G) or 570u (also has 802.11a networking) would do the trick.
    It could be used as either an extender (repeater mode) which just bounces the signal from a to b or as a wireless bridge which acts in the same way as a wire would without the wire

    I use the 570s and its a lovely bit of kit for the money (about 60 quid from lambdatek)
  4. thomasp thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Sep 18, 2004
    Thanks for the link. I don't think that's really an option though, since we'd still be keeping the old, slow bridge and we'd be adding yet another device to our already-confusing network!


    Thanks for the reply, LeviG. I am keen, however, to stick with Linksys as there's more chance of all the devices "getting along with each other", plus if we ever need to phone Tech Support (which was required recently), it'll be a lot easier for troubleshooting.

    In my first post I linked to a Linksys WRT54G - would this be able to do what I want, or must it be connected to the modem via ethernet?
  5. MikeTheC Guest


    Apr 26, 2004
    Gallifrey -- Capitol City, Prydonian Sector
    Ok, let's start by taking the entire LAN apart and looking at the constituent groups.


    Basically, you have two groups of computers: those with 802.11b, and those with 802.11g WNICs. For the moment, we're going to forget about your already-equipped "G" WNICs, since the area of interest here is getting everything up to a faster standard.

    Probably the best option would be to buy some sort of Wireless Ethernet Bridge. A number of manufacturers make these, and since you expressed concern about brand interoperability, you can certainly go with Linksys' offering, the WET54G. This is a "G" standard bridge, and what's more, you can attach it to more than one computer at a time.

    What I would then do is run some shielded twisted pair CAT6E around the room with your computers (this should help to cut down on some or most of the EM interference your overhead 240V power lines are putting out), and connect each of the computers you want into a local wired switch. A switch is basically a network hub, but with the added ability to provide independent dedicated lines of communication between any two network devices. Make sure you get a switch with enough ports to suit your needs, with one port already "spoken for" because it will attach to the WET54G.

    However, you may want to do some research on the Bridge that you actually buy, since older models only support WEP, and these days if you're going for security, you'll want to use at least WPA, if not WPA2.

    Wireless Link:

    The antenna on the WET54G is, I believe, detachable, so you would then probably do well to replace the antenna with a Cantenna (and, if necessary, a second Cantenna on the remote end if signal quality is still an issue). The purpose of a Cantenna is to passively amplify and unidirectionally focus the WiFi broadcast, thereby jumping up the range and helping to minimize the impact of outside sources of interference. The only catch is that you want to make sure you have a good line-of-sight between each end. Ultimately, only personal testing is going to reveal how well this will work in your installation, and exactly what kind of configuration you will need to establish.

    Wireless Router:

    You have several options, all of which can be used on their own or in conjunction with each other.

    1. Buy a Cantenna for the wireless router and replace one of the two standard antennae with it.

    2. Buy one of Linksys' sets of longer antennae for the router. While this won't boost the signal in a given direction (since Linksys' product is omni-directional) it will increase the overall signal strength from the router (and it's sensitivity to in-bound traffic) so it may be an acceptable option for you.

    3. Replace your Linksys' firmware with that from either the OpenWRT project or the DD-WRT project (my preference is DD-WRT). There are both benefits and pitfalls to doing this, so let me enumerate them for you:

    1. Obviously, your warranty is void.
    2. No tech support from Linksys.
    3. If installed improperly, you can brick your router.

    1. Ability to adjust the unit's transmitter's broadcast power.
    2. Ability to prioritize data packets, thereby giving you QoS control for, say VOIP.
    3. Access to not just WEP and WPA1, but WPA2, Radius, and many other wireless security protocols.
    4. Well-thought-out, yet corporate-class network administration.
    5. Probably better longevity of future updates and enhancements because the agenda of both WRT projects is product usability, not selling you a new product.
    6. Ability to schedule events, like auto-rebooting of the router.
    7. Probably better interoperability between the hardware and non-Linksys hardware products.

    For the record, I have a WRT54G v5 Linksys router, got tired of some of the glitches/hassles of it, and replaced the firmware with DD-WRT's firmware. I've never looked back.
  6. thomasp thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Sep 18, 2004
    The computers that are connected to the bridge either have Airport ("G") cards in them or no means of wireless networking at all - hence the need for retaining the hub/switch

    We currently have the older version of that - the "B"-standard bridge. But this offers no signal-boosting capabilities for the house.

    That is the current arrangement (well, Cat5e instead of Cat6)

    Security is not an issue for us as we live in quite a remote area and would generally be able to see if there was anyone trying to steal our wireless internet!

    Essentially there is no line of sight between the bridge and the router, due to a roof and about 5 walls. But it is a straight line, so to speak.

    We have recently upgraded the router (and don't really want to do this again!). Unfortunately, our router has a built-in antennae, so it is not possible to remove it.

    For obvious reasons, I think I'd like to steer clear of that option. The router itself is not a problem. The only issue is that we can't get a decent wireless signal through 35m and half a dozen walls/roofs.
  7. MikeTheC Guest


    Apr 26, 2004
    Gallifrey -- Capitol City, Prydonian Sector
    Well, clearly replacing the older WET11 with the WET54G would boost the throughput.

    However, 35m (I'm assuming you mean "meters") is already a considerable distance to broadcast wirelessly. If you were at closer range, the other obstructions might not have as significant an impact.

    So, if you don't want to replace firmware and cannot remove the existing antennae, then the ONLY option is for you to, as someone else said, buy a wireless repeater and see what happens. You'll have a touch of latency on the network then, but the boost in throughput will probably exceed the latency, and you may not even realize it.

    Too bad you can't just run a long, shielded Ethernet cable from A to B on this one.
  8. thomasp thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Sep 18, 2004
    Yes, "m" is metres. The bridge's setup pages record a signal strength of around 30 - 40% (depending on the weather) - this is up about 5% after upgrading the router. However, neither the PowerBook or the MacBook Pro can pick up the wireless signal next to the bridge.

    Could something like the WRT54G (link in my first post) act as a signal booster and access point? Or would something like this - http://www.linksys.com/servlet/Sate...nksys/Common/VisitorWrapper&lid=0367629416B02 - a WAP54G do the job and allow wired and wireless computers to connect in the house (the WAP54G being installed in the house)?
  9. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Nov 6, 2006
    Norfolk, UK
    right according to page 47 of the wap54g user guide pdf it is able to be a bridge or an wireless client as well as access point (only one at a time though by the looks of it) It does say it may need a second wap54g to work though in relation to the client mode etc.

    May be worth a shot, you get a 7 day return rule with the distance selling regs in the uk anyways. ALternatively you could email their support and ask them wether it would work in the way you want.

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