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Victory!

After having fought with my Linksys router and wireless access point for three weekends I can finally declare victory. I’ve got the wireless repeater bridge working with WPA encryption! Not thanks to Linksys, but thanks to dd-wrt.

There is one challenge left, though: Because of the fuse box right next to the router, quite a lot of network capacity is lost because of interference. In the living room the download speed ranges from 3 to 5 megabits per second – it doesn’t matter if I connect to the wireless repeater in the living room or the router in the hallway – right next to the router in the hallway the download speed is between 10 and 13 megabits per second.

Right now I consider it a small annoyance because what matters is that I have a wireless repeater bridge that works. It might be possible to move the router so that the fuse box is not interfering that much with the signal and it might even be some tweaks I can activate in the dd-wrt firmware that will help.

Since I struggled for so long to get it to work, the remainder of this post will contain a guide of sorts on how you can set up a wireless repeater bridge yourself. Yes, it’s going to be technical.

What is a wireless repeater bridge anyway? It’s a setup that will enable you to expand a wireless network, allowing wireless clients to connect to all access points you use to expand the network and at the same time allowing ethernet clients to connect to the ethernet ports of the access points if any.

Consider the following network “diagram” that shows what a wireless repeater bridge can do for you:

internet <---> router <-------------> repeater <---> Xbox
              (hallway)             (living room)
                /|\                     /|\
                 |                       |
          wireless client           wireless client

Personally I had two devices in the living room without a wireless network card and setting one of them up with a wireless network card with WPA encryption would be a lot of work. The devices is the VBOX, a Debian Mini-ITX box with no PCI slot and I can only imagine how much work it would be to get a USB dongle wireless network device to work properly with WPA encryption. I’ve tried in Ubuntu and it was a total nightmare I never really recovered from.

I had two devices I wanted to use for the new network setup, a Linksys WRT54GL and a Linksys WAP54G. Linksys will tell you that you can set up a wireless repeater bridge with these two devices, but don’t get fooled: You will not be able to set up a wireless repeater bridge with any encryption that matters. WPA personal will not work, for instance, so in terms of network security, they’re useless.

But with dd-wrt installed, they are just what you want. From this point on, I will assume that you have two devices with dd-wrt version 2.4 RC3. I will not tell you how to install dd-wrt because there is plenty of detailed information on the dd-wrt site that tells you how to do that. If you are using another version than 2.4 RC3 on your devices, you might also be able to use the below configuration, but you’re on your own. I also assume that you are able to connect to and log in to both of them.

If you see a setting that is not listed, leave it at its default value. Sometimes the value listed below might be the default value. Whenever you are done with the settings on a page, click “Apply Settings”. This will save the settings and apply them. Some of the changes might cause the device to reboot.

On the wireless router, in my case the Linksys WRT54GL, use the following configuration.

Setup -> Basic Setup:
Local IP Adress: 192.168.1.1
DHCP Server: Enable

Wireless -> Basic Settings
Wireless mode: AP
Wireless Network Name (SSID): A name identifying your network, for instance “wireless1” (without the quotes of course).

Wireless -> Wireless Security
Security Mode: WPA Personal
WPA Algorithms: TKIP+AES
WPA Shared Key: The long password you can think of and remember

The wireless security settings are really something you should decide on yourself, the above are only recommendations. But make sure you secure your network with something safer than WEP.

On the wireless repeater side, in my case a Linksys WAP54G, use the following configuration:

Setup -> Basic Setup
Local IP Address: 192.168.1.2

Wireless -> Basic Settings
Wireless Mode: Repeater Bridge
Wireless Network Name: The same one as you used on the router, in our case “wireless1” (once again without the quotes).

Wireless -> Wireless Security
Use exactly the same wireless security settings as you used on the router.

Now, here’s the trick that I missed out on that kept me having problems for a long time. To get the router and the repeater to communicate, you have to do the following on the repeater:

Security -> Firewall
SPI Firewall: Disable

And that should be it, your wireless repeater bridge should now be up and running. You should be able to connect to the wireless network using the SSID and the network encryption you used in the above configuration.

Good luck! I suspect you’ll need it.

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  1. I have existing D-Link624 wireless router and I was thinking to add WRT54GL as wireless repeater. From your experience it will work with Linksys router. Do you think with dd-WRT installed on WRT54GL will that work with d-Link? TIA