My first home network had to be simple…no cable snaking and no box opening. And it had to allow sharing of a broadband connection.
After a lot of product research, I settled on the Linksys Wireless Access Point + Cable/DSL Router with 4-Port Switch (BEFW11S4) and one Wireless USB Network Adapter (WUSB11). The prices on both of these devices have been steadily dropping over the last month or so and I snagged the BEFW11S4 for $200 at Walmart and the WUSB11 for $100 at Best Buy. I also had to purchase a CAT5/6 cable as well as it is not included with the router ($15 at Best Buy).
The impetus for this buy was my daughter’s recent purchase of a Dell Inspiron WinXP laptop. By networking this new machine to my family’s main desktop PC , I figured the battle for who would be online would be partly solved.
I studied the user manuals for both devices and even for a network novice, it did not sound too hard to set up. I figure a network guru would be able to set this network up in an hour or less. My effort took the better part of two days.
The first and most important lesson learned for those considering this hardware: You must clone the MAC address of your cable modem! This is not an option for the router to work on Mediaone Cable. I cannot speak to other cable or DSL providers.
The other significant lesson is Linksys does not provide WUSB11 driver support for Windows XP yet. So what do you do? The answer turned out to be quite simple. Windows XP by default will allow you to install unsigned drivers after the appropriate dire warnings and I noted it creates a ‘Restore’ point if you insist on proceeding. Not a bad idea if things really get fouled up.
So after getting the router to dynamically receive an IP address from the modem, and the router to in turn dynamically assign an IP to the laptop, we have a network. Of course the laptop was reporting that the wireless connection was not available and was placing a red X through the system tray icon. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait for updated drivers. Or will we?
Being the untrained, ex-Navy puke that I am this was not an acceptable solution. So I fiddled and diddled, and voila! I noticed that I could successfully ping in both directions. Hmmm. What would happen if I just set up file and printer sharing on both boxes and declared the desktop hard drive and printer to be shared devices? In spite of my ignorance, the computers were seeing each other and I could file transfer and print to my shared devices. All of this activity was occurring very quickly so I think I was close to the maximum bandwidth of 11MBs. I also moved the laptop to various locations throughout the house and saw no degradation in performance. My daughter can bring up IE6 and surf at a speed that feels just as fast as the desktop. She also connected to her mail server quite nicely.
I’m pretty happy with the results of this effort and the money spent. Now when I get a new computer an additional WUSB11 or other USB wireless network device is definitely going to be in the mix (the linksys router supports up to 32 wireless clients that do not need to be Linksys hardware).
9 out of 10 for the hardware. It would have been 10 out of 10 if Linksys had lived up to its marketing hype to provide either uPnP or WinXP drivers.
7 out of 10 for the documentation.
Submitted by: Gary Croteau