Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gee (802.11 version)

A couple of weeks ago Best Buy offered a deal on D-Link DI-524 802.11g wireless routers and D-Link DWL-510 wireless PCI adapters -- $19.95 each, after rebate. I'd wanted to upgrade our home wireless system for some time, as we'd previously been using 802.11b routers, which only have the capability Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption as opposed to the stronger Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption offered by the 802.11g protocol.

Now, Linux lovers, if you want me to tell you how to get the DWL-510 working, don't look any further, because I haven't the slightest idea. This box is jacked straight in to the back of the DWL-510 (Note added later: Oops! I meant the DI-524), there isn't a wireless internet card on it. This is a saga of getting things to work on an XP box and a Mac.

Well, OK, I did set up the router itself from here. You go to, run the setup Wizard, and change the default "admin" password (there isn't one). Also change the default name of the network from "D-Link" to whatever you choose.

But you're not finished here, yet. Go to Home ==> Wireless and change the security settings so that you are running with:

  • Wireless enabled
  • A new name for the network, if you didn't already change it
  • Whatever channel you want to run on -- I've heard that practically only 1, 6, and 11 are useful, since the channels are very close together and so there is a lot of cross-talk between, say, Channels 4 and 5. The default channel is usually 6.
  • Set Mode Setting to G Mode. The on-board documentation (click on "Help") doesn't tell you about it, but "Mixed mode" would seem to enable both 802.11b and 802.11g protocols, and you don't want that.
  • Turn SSID broadcast (which sends your network name out to the world at large) to disabled.
  • For security select WPA-PSK, "Personal Mode". As I understand it, the stronger pure WPA mode secures each connection individually. That looked to be a pain, so I started, at least, with PSK, which allows you to type in one passphrase which is used by everyone wanting to make a connection to your system.
  • Hit the Apply button and wait for everything to reset.

OK, now the router is configured, and the hard-wired connection to the outside works fine.

Connecting the Mac via wireless was easy. I just temporarily disabled the SSID broadcast on the router, and the Mac found the network right away. Enter the passphrase and we're off and running.

Getting the Windows machine connected was a bit more complicated, since I had to get rid of the old wireless card and install the new DWL-510. OK, unplug everything. Bring the box out where I can open it up. Good God, it's full of dust: the air intake is completely blocked. It's a wonder the whole thing didn't just melt down. Clean it all up, uninstall the old card, open up the box for the new card. See directions that say "Install Drivers Before you install this card." Oops. Ordinarily you can ignore this, but this time installing the drivers first turns out to be a Good Idea.

So plug everything except the old wireless card back into the computer, turn it on, and install the drivers. Ignore the warning about the software not being certified as XP compatible. Turn everything back off, and install the new wireless card.

Turn the computer back on, and let it find the new hardware and finish the software installation. Now here's the important part: in the tray at the bottom right of your screen there will be a little "D". Always use this to work with the card. When you bring up the window associated with the "D", click tabs until you find a box that says something like "Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings". Uncheck this box!! Your interface will change from Window's version to D-Links. Now click on "Configuration" and enter all the stuff needed to match the information you entered for the router. I wish I could help you with this, but the manual provided, like the on-line help for the browser, doesn't seem to know about the WPA and WPA-PSK abilities of the system. So keep clicking buttons that look logical until you find the right setup, and then hit the Apply button. If you need more help, email me and I'll tell you how to send me a plane ticket so that I can help you out.

I do note that the XP is still at Service Pack 1. If we were at SP2 it might be easier to do all of this stuff.

Anyway, the connection now works.

Maybe it's a security issue, but the login connection works a bit strangely under XP. If the first user to log on has the phasephrase set, then everyone logging onto the machine afterward can also use the connection. So if I set up Bob's account to use the D-Link, Mary can use it as well if she logs in after Bob, and, in fact, I can't change Mary's account information at that time. However, if Mary logs in first, she can't use the D-Link until she sets up her account. I suppose this almost makes sense, as it lets different users of the same machine use different wireless networks. What kind of setup would need this is beyond me.

The new system has been installed since Saturday morning, and we've had no signal drops since then. With the old 802.11b system we'd get dropped connections every few hours, so I'd say that the installation is a roaring success. Now I just have to send in those rebate forms.