Mark Tomlinson

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Home Networking redeaux

Messing with my home network falls way down on my list of things that I want to do. Somewhere just below getting a root canal. Still yesterday was another one of those days. Where do I begin?

For the longest time after Charlie, I have been running with the DSL modem plugged into a wireless router (WRT54G--running the old Alchemy firmware from Sveasoft) which then plugged into a LinkSys 8-port switch (EZXS88W) and from there out to all the rooms. Mind you somewhere along the way my home network got complicated:

(2) TiVos
(3) PC desktops (another one in the Mame cabinet via wireless for a total of 4)
(1) XBox
(1) Xbox360
(2) PocketPCs (via wireless)
(1) work laptop (either wired or wireless)
(1) home laptop (via wireless)

Everything hardwired except as noted. This means that aside from the above mentioned network 'closet/rack' in the central location there are a couple of odd switchs in remote locations to supply multiple ports (for example an 8-port NetGear switch in John's room for the XBoxes, a TiVo and a PC). Everything had been working OK, the WRT54G was handling the routing and WAP and the 8-port switch it plugged into was simply to handle 6 homeruns from the rooms (it only has 4 ethernet ports).

Cool. Working. Goodness.

Now a few weeks back BellSouth offered to upgrade the DSL service from 3 MBPS to 6 MPPS, and charge me a dollar less to boot. Huh. Who am I to argue? Set it up sez I.

A few days go by, I check the speed, 3 MBPS. A few more days go by, same. So I call and talk with tech support and futz around only to come to the conclusion that everything looked good on their end. They offered to send a technician on-ste, but warned that if he jacked directly into the DSL modem and got 6 MBPS, I'm out 80 bucks.

So in the interest of saving the money for more important things (like Scotch whiskey) I figured I could at least do that and then blame them when it still was stuck at 3 MBPS. Naturally I had to re-remember how to connect to the Westel modem, take it out of bridged mode and then use it from the laptop (fun, fun, fun). So after doing that, I run the speed test and bam! 6MBPS. {expletive deleted}

Hmmm... So I unplg all remote connections from the WRT54G, re-reconfigure the Westel to bridged mode, reboot eveything and jack just my laptop into the router and re-run the speed test: 3 MBPS. WTF? OK, I vaguely remember enabling traffic shaping (QoS) not too far back, maybe that is capping it somehow? Turn it all off, no joy. OK, it is a router problem, but one I am not willing to deal with 'right then'. Put everything back.

So YESTERDAY I decided it was time to go back, revisit this and get it working. After all, there was 100% speed gain waiting if I could just get it working. I knew the router was the guilty party so I had prepared by acquiring a plain-jane ethernet router (no wireless) figuring to drop that in and then switch the WRT54G into just an access point. Yes, wireless connections might be throttled to 3 MBPS, but I was willing to suffer that. So, start ripping out and replacing. I dropped in the new router (BEFSR81) tossed the 8-port switch (8-port router, no need for that). Plugged in the Westel and ran the test. Bam! 6 MBPS through the router and even at remotes. Sweet. Now to configure the WRT54G as a AP only. Seemed pretty straighforward. Disable DHCP, give it a fixed address ( and then do a little advanced routing to macke sure wireless units can find the BEFSR81 DHCP server at

This is where is got ugly. No matter how I played with it, the WRT54G wouldn't implement the routes corrrectly. Oh, it let me type them in, but when it was done the routing table was not correct. Well, the firmware in it is really, really old...I had purchased a license for the Talisman stuff from Sveasoft a while back when helping a neighbor set theirs up, what the heck. I had the 1.05 version on my laptop, I went ahead and upgraded it. Yes, I know the hardware versions have to match--they did. The router was now working, but really flakey. LAN connections came and went and the routing table STILL was not cooperating. OK, the latest Talisman releasse is 1.1g, let me download and flash that... no joy. More strangeness. At this point I decide to call the router broken.

Today I swing by CompUSA and get a straight access point (WAP54G). I picked the Linksys so that I could transfer the high gain antennas from the WRT54G (+9 db Antennas, purchased from FMADirect. Best price out there) and CompUSA over NewEgg since I NEVER have had issues with warranty returns through them. Sure they bitch and whine, but they take care of it.

Take it home, plug it in, setup the security and things are back to normal. Since it is not a router, none of the routing mess needs to be done. I'll play around with the WRT54G and see if it is truely dead or not, but ultimately this is a neater config with less parts.

God, I hope I am done with the home LAN for another year.