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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.
Recently I bought a new router.

My existing Linksys Wireless B router (a nearly vintage BEFW11S4 v.4) was up to 4 reboots a day. Those of you who have experienced this fun little ritual know what I'm referring to:

One minute you're working just fine and then all of a sudden, no internet connection. Doesn't matter if you're wired or wireless.

So, being the thrifty (cheap bastard) type, I put off replacing it as long as possible. I also hate hate hate dealing with networking stuff, so that was another incentive to wait.

Eventually, I (and my family) couldn't stand it any longer, so I went to Best Buy and picked up a new WRT54G2. I'm always a sucker for pretty packaging with words like "Easy Installation" and "Award Winning."  Come to think of it, this may explain numerous past failed relationships. Seriously, when will I learn?

that last part was foreshadowing, by the way...

So, inside the box, there is a big warning message that says RUN CD FIRST, BEFORE CONNECTING CABLES. Seems pretty simple. I pop the CD in and wait. Nothing. Hmm no autoplay? Well my laptop CD drive can be a little weird, so I go to My Computer and start the disk. The software pops up and I get a screen asking if I want to start setup or look at the user guide.

I figure, why not do both? I click "Start Setup" and grab the box so I can read the user guide. Uhoh... there's no user guide in the box. Oh well.

Next I click through a couple of welcome screens and a License Agreement. Then the setup wizard checks my connection, so far so good, except for that user guide thing. It says my network adapter is enabled and the status check is complete.

Next I get a series of screens prompting me to unplug the old router's power cord, then unplug the power cord from the wall,  then move the internet cable from my old router to my new router, then move all the other cables, then plug in the new router... Hey I like this. Seems pretty idiot proof so far.

So, just when I'm feeling good about things, I get this screen that says "waiting for router."  Hmmm... ok, yeah, me too. So I wait for a couple minutes. Finally I get an error that says my network cable can't possible be plugged into my router because the software can't see it.

I check the cable. Yep, it's plugged in.

I know just enough to be dangerous.

Remembering a little bit about the old router, I punch in the default IP address (192.168.1.1) and the default password. Sure enough, I'm in the configuration screen for my router. Which means... anyone?  Obviously the cable is plugged into the router.

So I stare at the software some more. I click "Retry" and run through the screens again. and again. and again. I try rebooting things. I try cycling power to the router. I recheck all the cables. Nothing.

At this point, I consider purchasing a firearm on my way back to Best Buy.

I pause and think. Maybe, just maybe I should try from a different machine. So I pop the disk into another computer that has a physical connection to the new router. Still no autoplay. Oh well. The software comes up... I know the screens by heart now.  NEXT, NEXT, I ACCEPT, NEXT, NEXT, NEXT, NEXT, NEXT... I am a man possessed. I am IN the ZONE.

Then I see "Waiting for router........." but suddenly the screen changes. It's doing stuff. progress bars are updating, lights are blinking, life is good.

Unable to find internet, do you want to continue?

My joy comes crashing down like a big pile of heavy things that crash down when things go wrong.  Can't find the internet? Seriously? Like the guy in that printer commercial, I point at my cable modem... IT'S RIGHT THERE!! RIGHT THERE!

So I click continue. More updatey things. Lights flicker. things blink. icons animate. Eventually I get to a nice happy screen that says SUCCESS!! YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE INSTALLATION. WE STILL CAN'T FIND THE INTERNET BUT YOUR ROUTER IS SET UP PROPERLY. SERIOUSLY, WE REALLY MEAN IT.

ok, I may have added that last sentence.

Still not one to give up hope, no matter how futile things may seem... I try hitting the internet. Maybe, just maybe, my router was confused and the internet really was still here waiting for me. clickety typey... and wait for it... nothing. No internets.

I rebooted everything I could find. both laptops. the router. my xbox360. the microwave. No Luck.

I considered pulling the plug on my cable modem, but it has built in battery backup because it's also my phone service. But... wait... there's this tiny little recessed black on black button, hidden on the back of the cable modem. looks like it says: reset.  Will this reset the cable modem? Will this reset all the settings IN my cable modem? Will I still have phone service? I was paralyzed by uncertainty and doubt.

Screw it. Push the damn button already.

I pushed it. Lights flashed, Cats yawned, the Iguana stared in rapt fascination. I waited for all the little lights to reappear. Reluctantly, I fired up FireFox... and the most beautiful, glorious site (no that's not a typo... more foreshadowing) appeared before my eyes.

http://www.msn.com
- I swear I'll never take you for granted again.

Now that the 3 wired connections were all working, it was time to tackle the rest of the house. There are 6 other devices in the house that use my wireless. Two more computers upstairs, a wireless printer, an xbox 360, a Nintendo Wii and another computer downstairs.

Wireless desktop #1 - This machine uses a USB wireless thingy. Should be a simple case of updating the WEP key to point to the new router, right? Wrong. Apparently the new router is using some weird WPA2 TKIP/AES thingy that the existing wireless thingy's software doesn't recognize. So I go back to the router and switch it to WEP. Generate a new passphrase and I'm all set. (I'm glossing over the details at this point... it actually took me nearly half an hour and several trips between thingys before I got it working.

Wireless Printer - the configuration for the wireless printer consisted of entering the new WEP key. Test page printed no problem. Piece of cake.

The rest of the house should be cake, right?

I haven't actually gotten up the nerve to tackle the rest of the house. The other two workstations use routers that have been reconfigured to run in slave mode to the original router, so there's some MAC address info I need to type in, and I need to figure out how to access the slave routers. Shouldn't be too bad, but I have other stuff to work on so those may have to wait.

I'll post an update to this post once everything is done. Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 11:34 AM General Interest | Back to top


Comments on this post: my new router (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love MSN.COM)

# re: my new router (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love MSN.COM)
Requesting Gravatar...
the slave routers are basically for giving me something that I can plug a network cable into, but then uses wireless to talk to my wireless network. the device thinks its on a wired connection. works pretty well.
Left by Blogus Maximus on Jun 23, 2008 1:32 PM

# re: my new router (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love MSN.COM)
Requesting Gravatar...
So weird. I picked up a WRT54G2 last Wednesday. My Internet, phone and TV services are FIOS, and the Actiontec modem/router that Verizon provides at installation has a habit of dropping wireless connections like third period French. I need that router as my primary, however, because that's how the TV gets its "on demand" video and program guides. So I got the new router just for wireless, intending to connect it to a port on the old router, and use a different subnet.

My networking kung fu is by no means badass, but I know the fundamentals. Since I hadn't done this particular configuration before, I expected some trial and error frustrations, and was not disappointed. I never follow installation instructions on the first shot, but if ever I were to write them, Step 1 would read, "Be sober." It was the first evening of a short vacation, however, so (true to habit) I ignored that step, too. In hindsight it went surprisingly well, though I confess that I didn't get it 100% right until the following morning, after I had a cup of coffee in me.

The WRT54G2 is apparently brand-new. I'm not sure how I feel about the (allegedly) sleek black clamshell design, sans external antennae. I like my networking hardware ugly.
Left by MrPikes on Jun 24, 2008 4:14 AM

# re: my new router (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love MSN.COM)
Requesting Gravatar...
I've been accused of MS fanboyism plenty of times and even I don't have MSN set to the homepage. ew.

Anyways,
1) obtain on older wrt54g (v1.2 are nice) from ebay
2) load ddwrt firmware
3) profit
Left by stevenc on Jun 24, 2008 2:18 PM

# re: my new router (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love MSN.COM)
Requesting Gravatar...
There's a reason it's set up with WPA2, WEP can be cracked by a several year old laptop in less than 2 minutes. WEP is pretty much identical to an unsecured network from a delibrate attack POV. The more you know and all...
Left by Simon Buchan on Jul 02, 2008 1:05 AM

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