I Am Router, Hear Me Roar
Posted on May 5, 2006 Posted by John Scalzi 11 Comments
Behold the new router, a Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router With 4-Port Switch (I’m reading off the label in front). I determined that the former router had, in fact, fried its litle routing brain out, and took the opportunity to upgrade. The old router was 802.11b capable and this one is 802.11g capable, and that’s six letters better. And I’m not entirely sure how you can beat that. I don’t think you can. Well, there’s always 802.11n, but they haven’t finalized that standard yet, and anyway, it’s not like I’m streaming hi-def movies from my PC to my laptop. I just want to be able to see teh Intarweebs on all my computers. 802.11g is just fine, thanks.
I do feel marginally competent that I was able to install the router and a couple of additional adapter with almost no pain, but it really has more to do with the set-up software doing all the heavy lifting and me clicking a button here and there (and even hardly that on the Mac). It’s come to a point where there’s no geek pride in doing this stuff. And you know what? I’m good with that. No headaches, it just works. That’s progress.
Routers, especially personal ones, go bad all the time. When I did phone support, I used to have conversations like this every hour or so.
Customer: “My Internet won’t work. Bastard!”
Me: “Try plugging your modem directly into the computer.”
Customer: (much grumbling and grunting) “Hey…it works!”
Me: “Routers sometimes go bad.”
Customer: “Those bastards!”
Nowadays, the things are almost cheap enough to be disposable.
This particular router lasted for three years, so I won’t complain.
If that’s a WRT54G v5, I’m sorry.
If it’s a V4 or earlier, check out http://www.dd-wrt.com for a much-improved replacement firmware to replace the factory Linksys stuff.
(look on the bottom to see the version number)
As a consumer, I’ve found 2 or 3 years to be the lifetime of a router, and I’m OK with that. But the electrical engineer in me wonders why they don’t work indefinitely. I suspect there’s some really marginal design in most of these things, with the goal of reducing the cost to the absolute minimum while producing a product that outlasts the warranty period.
Speaking as a current WRT-45G v5 owner, per Bill’s post I’ve definitely had the occasional gripe with mine… every so often, the thing just decides it doesn’t like communicating wirelessly and drops anybody connected over the air. I’ve found that rebooting the router and reconnecting things in a particular sequence is the best fix:
Unplug router power
Unplug network cable between router and cable/DSL modem from the router
Plug router power back in
Wait until ‘WLAN’ light on router lights back up. If light stays steadily on, start over from step 1.; if light blinks rapidly, continue to next step
Plug network cable back into the router
Check network connection on any wirelessly connected computer
Usually works, though sometimes getting the computers to realize they’re back on the network takes a minute or two of coaxing.
And yes, I bought the WRT-45G without Googling for reviews because it was cheap, and there was a $10 rebate. Blinded by greed and convenience, I suppose.
I’ve been unable to find the answer elsewhere, so since we’re on the subject…what is the difference between a router with 1 antenna and one with 2?
4 years on my last Linksys, which died only a couple or three weeks ago. Actually, I went through the whole experience for my own readers.
I got the newer Linksys (WRT54GX2), which offers better range and signal strength. A few settling in difficulties, but OK now, and the signal strength and connect speed are a quantum leap over that 802.11b Linksys. Especially if get the adapter with the battle-droid antenna…
I believe the double antenna is supposed to boost reception/signal strength, but I haven’t a clue if it actually does help.
Since you own such a big piece of land you don’t even have to worry about going crypto. You can just plug it in and go.
I usually recommend to people in tighter living conditions (neighbors within 100′ of their house) to take the extra step of turning on encryption and turning off broadcasting. I wouldn’t mind someone ‘borrowing’ my bandwidth from time to time, but not at the expense of having my computer open to the world…
The dual antenna is primarily to allow you to shape the signal; you can sometimes extend range by wiggling around the bunny ears. It’s exactly as scientific as it used to be on your TV set.
The best way to boost your signal is to boost the signal strength — one way is with a pricey external antenna. Another is with a 3rd-party firmware hack. FCC regulations limit the maximum power you can pump through your router, but most commercial hardware is way below this ceiling.
Or you can Google for “yagi Pringles antenna” and build your own for about 10 bucks.
I recommend running encryption even if you are on a huge tract of land (apologies to Monty Python) — with a directional antenna, you can tap a wifi network at a distance of 20 miles if you have line of sight. Sure, you probably don’t need to be paranoid, but why take chances? (On the other hand — advance bootleg copies of The Lost Colony. Woo hoo!)
I sure wish they’d standardize that 802.11n… I saw the newest Linksys interpertation of “draft n” in a Circuit City (wrt300n) – and it looks like it should be mounted atop a lobster boat.