Die Linksys, Die!

Warning: Long, technical entry with frustration venting ahead.

I spent most of yesterday trying to set up the new network configuration: A wireless router in the hallway and a wireless repeater connected to a switch in the living room. First I connected my trusty 3COM wireless router to the DSL modem in the hallway and got a basic SMC switch and a Linksys WAP54G wireless access point for the living room. The idea was that the access point should be used as a repeater in the living room, a plan my local hardware pusher also supported.

Connecting the 3COM router to the DSL modem and getting a connection was a breeze. Even if I’m supposed to use a static IP (my new ISP has failed to send me the necessary information), the 3COM router connected using DHCP, got an IP address and internet access. But as soon as I touched the god damn Linksys access point, the trouble started.

I was a bit reluctant to buy the Linksys WAP54G in the first place because we have been using a Linksys access point at work that fails and needs to be restarted once a day. How it’s possible for such a fairly uncomplicated piece of hardware to fail once a day is beyond me. Route this packet here, route that packet there. How hard can it possibly be? Still, it requires a daily restart. Unfortunately, the Linksys was the only AP the store had in stock yesterday.

The Linksys WAP54G has a “repeater”-mode that does exactly what I want. It will pick up the wireless signal of another device and repeat it, at the same time allowing a switch to hook on to the LAN. Excellent, except for one thing: It will only work together with other Linksys equipment. That meant that I had to replace the old 3COM router with a Linksys WRT54GL.

I had to take another trip down town and I bought a Linksys WRT54GL. With the new router I’d spent about the same amount of money getting someone to run a TP cable from the hallway to the living room would cost me. The pro of getting the wireless equipment is that I can take it with me when I eventually move out of the apartment.

Anyway. I connected the WRT54G to the DSL modem and nothing happened. It was not able to connect using DHCP. Even though it was annoying, I was not surprised. Why it didn’t work I have no idea. Since the 3COM router was able to do it, you would guess that the Linksys router should be able to do exactly the same, but that was not the case. I got the 3COM router online again, scribbled down the IP, gateway and DNS information and manually configured the Linksys router, which gave me an internet connection.

Now it was time to get the WAP54G in the living room configured as a repeater. Since both the router and the access point were Linksys equipment now, that operation should be a walk in the park, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! I’m using WPA encryption on my wireless network because basic WEP can be hacked with paper clips. As it turns out, the WAP54G will not work as a repeater if WPA encryption is used. This, in turn, means that the repeater will not work.

Does Linksys tell you? No. Not on the box, not in the documentation, not anywhere on their website. Did the guy in the store tell me this even if I explained to him exactly what I was going to do? No. Is it fucking annoying? Yes.

In case you found this entry while searching for information regarding Linksys equipment, let me emphasis that WPA encryption will not work with the WPA54G configured as a repeater. You have to use WEP encryption on turn it off completely and both options will give you an unsecured network. This means that the Linksys WAP54G is useless.

A possible workaround is to configure the WPA54G as an access point, set the SSID to the same as the router and to configure the wireless security to use exactly the same protocol and password. This will, in some mysterious way, make the WPA54G work as a repeater and it makes it possible to use WPA encryption. But not flawlessly, of course. Every now and then - several times a day in fact - the access point just stops working and have to be - you guessed it - restarted to work again.

Lesson learned: Stay clear of Linksys unless you have a hammer.


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