Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Fun with a legacy wireless bridge ...

A long time ago, more or less ten years ago, I bought myself a Linksys WET54G wireless bridge which let me connect an old mac (running linux) and a couple of home made linux servers cobbled out of scrap machines that I had in the garage to our home network.

The setup was fairly simple, linux boxes, a $20 white box unmanaged switch and the wreless bridge. Performance was fairly impressive given that the garage was built of corrugated iron and did a nice imitation of a faraday cage. Putting the bridge next the sole window gave me a reasonable signal.

Fast forward to 2017.

I no longer have any homemade servers - they died horribly in a flood, and I now live in a wooden house nicely lined with metallized sarking - hello Faraday age.

We also have a studio, which is a separate building, and is in fact a converted garage, and is lined with guess what ? metallized sarking.

The net result is that getting a network signal in the studio is a big ask. I bought one of these no name $15 repeaters, which managed to get a decent signal onto the back deck and a weak but stable one into the studio.

Machines are usable with the current signal  but I wanted to move my old imac into the studio and set up a second desk in there for a book scanning project I have in mind which would involve shoving some large files about.

Now the linksys is quite good with weak signals so I thought I could use it to get a better signal and then use an old wireless router to drive a local network, or indeed a local wired network.

I still had the bridge, but of course no configuration manual, but about twenty minutes with google told me all I needed to know. A little bit of network jiggery pokery and I could both see the home network and the wireless repeater and get a better signal than by relying on my old imac’s hardware alone.

I could connect, but not really. The linksys doesn’t support WPA2 even though you can run WPA with AES encryption, which mean that to authenticate I’d have to lower security on my home network. The linksys lets you apparently reauthenticate but actually fails silently. I had the same problem with my old Asus Internet Radio, which is why it’s now plugged into the wired network at home.

Wireless bridges of course need a wireless connection.

During testing I even managed to fool myself into thinking that I’d got it to work - I hadn’t, after changing the encryption from TKIP to AES I’d forgotten to turn off wireless networking on my laptop after rebooting it for testing, but that wasted an hour while I worked out I’d been an idiot, rather than having broken something.

So, basically the Linksys is useless, or more or less useless. A hunt for firmware updates that support wpa2 drew a blank. Still I had fun playing with hardware for the first time in years, so the time wasn't wasted, even if I did spend almost a day playing with it.

I’ve now admitted defeat and ordered myself a second no name whitebox wifi repeater. The studio has a decently large glass door and the home repeater for the back deck is next the door so hopefully I can daisy chain the two ...

No comments: