Sunday, August 19, 2007

WiFi Fun

Cranky really enjoys being able to blog, work, surf the net, and goof off anywhere in the house. So when my D-Link Wireless AP's finally died I was very depressed and knew that I finally needed to upgrade the WiFi network. Since I'm a technical guy I did my homework and layed out several requirements for what I needed.

1. There is no hardwired internet upstairs so i needed something with an Ethernet jack that I could plug into my switches so the upstairs desktop computers still worked.
2. The hardwired ethernet in the house is downstairs and is all Gig-E so the BaseStation needed to be gig-e.
3. I really needed WDS so all the AP's and Base Stations could act as one big network.
4. I needed something that would work with my legacy 802.11b/g wireless cards in some of the laptops.
5. I wanted something that also supported 802.11n and MIMO.
6. It needed to be easy to work with and deploy

Based on those requirements I came to two conclusions. Either Apple Airports or linksys WRT300N's. Both seemed reasonable choices, and the Linksys boxes are even hackable which adds all kinds of other neat features.

In the end I went with the Apple setup, the main reason was each Airport Express had and extra feature that the linksys AP's don't have. They have an audio jack that allows you to stream music to them. This sold me, as I have several stereo systems in the house that I could finally stream all my mp3's too.

Nows the part where I bitch about Columbia. I went to go purchase my Airports, since CompuUseless was the closed store, I headed there. What I found was no Airports or Extremes, or even the Linksys devices I scoped out. I also found no staff. This store should be closed down, it never has anything I need. Radio Shack carries more stuff in it's store in the Mall. I want a Fry's, Fry's is way better than CompUseless and Best Buy.

Once I realized that CompUseless was useless I headed to the Apple Store at the mall. Thankfully Columbia just got one of these, it's been open for about 5 months. I really didn't want to drive down to Tysons to the real Apple store that's been there forever..... The Columbia Mall Apple store actually impressed me, it had lots of inventory and also had everything I needed. I also found out that sales associates are called Mac Geniuses, so I tested them with the following question.

Do the Apple Extreme support MIMO and WDS, also since it support 802.11g will performance degrade in mixed 802.11b/g/n environments?

This was met with very blank stares, I realized Geniuses meant sales associate. I returned the nice person to their proper customer greeting location and pointed them to someone with an easier question.

At least they had all my gear. So for the details on cost and setup, read on.


1. Apple Base Station Extreme - ~180.00 US
2. 2 x Apple Express - ~100.00 US ( 200 total )

Total cost roughly $380.00

I also had another Express that I received as a gift from work. So all in all 3 apple expresses and one apple extreme.

The checkout lady thought I must be wiring a warehouse, with all this glories WiFi power.


1. Install the CD that comes with the Extreme First. It contains a utility called Airport Utility, this is the only CD you actually need to install. Don't use the utilities from the Express CD's.

2. Plugin the Extreme and fire up the Airport Utility

3. You'll see the picture of the hardware on the scree, Click on Manual Setup.

4. Under "Wireless" tab set Wireless mode to "Participate in WDS network". This is the most important step.

5. Configure all the other tabs to your liking / network. Make sure the Extreme has a unique name for your network also write down it's Airport ID number.

6. Open all the Express boxes and write down their airport ids

7. On the WDS tab on the Extreme set mode to "Base Station" a little box will show up for all the Client IDS. Add all the Aiport Ids for the Expresses to this box.

8. Save everything and wait for it to reboot.

Setup for the Expresses

1. Plugin in one express at a time for this.

2. The express will show up in the Airport Utility also. Click on Manual Setup.

3. Under Wireless set Wireless mode to "participate in wds network"

4. Go to WDS tab, set it to "remote base", then type in the Airport ID for the extreme in the box.

5. Set the name for the network to something other than what the extreme is. Save and reboot it.

6. Connect to the Expresses network name with your wifi. Browse Internet, if everything is working it's talking to the basestation and the basestation is forwarding it to the internet.

7. Return to Airport Utility and bring the Express back up. Change the network name to the same name as the Extreme. Save reboot.

8. Rinse repeat for the other Expresses.

Once everything is up, i suggest turning on WPA security. The reason for this is that with 3 expresses and 1 base station you are now a wireless hot spot for your entire neighborhood. People two block away will get signal on your gear.