[Sussex] My Home WiFi Network
steve.dobson at krasnegar.demon.co.uk
Sat Nov 2 16:26:01 UTC 2002
The history of this little project goes something like this:
* Three years ago (and last June) I had used a WiFi network on my first
Linux laptop and like the thought of one at home.
* SLUG held that WiFi meeting a few months back but I was feeling poor at the
* Some time between Jun and Oct I down-loaded, built and installed 2.4.17.
* Most of October I spent on a client site where they have a Symbol RF
* Last Monday I manage to get a loan of a Symbol RF Spectrum24 WiFi NIC. The
work network if of on loan itself so I can't try it out at work on the work's
laptop [Win2K :-(]. But I do plug the card in and the Win2K installer pulls the
driver from the web; which I have to say is the correct thing to do for an
OS which is claimed to be easy to manage.
* Wednesday - get the pay slip - not feeling so poor at the moment - will be
* Last Thursday there was the SLUG meeting at Nik's place with bear and WiFi.
The Symbol card did not plug and play, but I was lent a card (thanks) and
that did. Pulled the latest (stable) Linux kernel (2.4.19) in case I needed
to up grade that.
* Friday - decided to get a WiFi set up for home. Thanks for all the advice
guys. So on the way home on I popped into a PC World and bought:
1 x NetGear MA401 PCMCIA NIC (£100)
1 x Belkin Wireless Cable/DSL Gateway Router (£130)
The MA401 is listed in the kernel docs (2.4.17) as a supported device and was
recommended by Neil so that looked like a good choice.
Neil had also said that most base stations needed a Windoz box to configure
them, which was going to be a problem as my home network is a Windoz Free Zone.
I do use the work's laptop but only stand-a-lone or dialled into work, it never
get connected to my home network (well almost never). So (although more
expensive [~£250]) the Apple Airport Airport was better as it could be
configured using its Java based config tool.
With that in mind I took a close look at the base stations they had. I selected
the Belkin for three reasons:
1). Price - cheapest in store (but not the only one at that price)
2). HTTPS configuration (My home network is still a Windoz Free Zone :-)
3). It as 3 (plus an up-link) 100BaseTx connections.
Back home to try my new toys out :-)
The MA401 turned out to me a MA401RA and my Linux setup (as of Thursday when
I plugged in to Nik's network at the SLUG Meet) didn't supported it. While
I was at the meet I down-loaded thE 2.4.19 kernel. I like to keep track and
as I have been hacking the kernel source so I needed to pull a whole new
kernel source tree.
After 3 hours of trying to get 2.4.17 and pcmcia_cs 3.1.33 to work I gave
up trying. I was somewhat put of by cardctl identifig it as:
"NETGEAR MA401RA Wireless PC", "Card", "ISL37300P", "Eval-RevA"
An Eval first revision - don't like the sound of that.
But during that time I had plugged the laptop into the Belkin WiFi base-station
with a CAT-5 cable. Configured the internal NIC to 192.168.2.2/24 (The Belkin
can only be configure as a class C network device. It's hard code - no changes
allowed! Don't like that. I can't configure it correctly.
The following morning I bit the bulit and decide to upgrade. First the OS, now
running 2.4.19, but without success. Then I pulled pcmcia-cs 3.1.34 copy over the
config file but still it doesn't recognise the card. So there's nothing for it.
I pull pcmcia_cs 3.2.1 and find that there are some major change. Well it didn't
take long to compile and install it.
Hay presto; it works!!!! Goes out and does the DHCP discover (which I had
switched on the router) and I can talk to my old laptop which is plugged into
the base station now using Cat-5.
Next I just had to try out the Symbol card. It plug; it played; no problem.
Plugged the Symbol back into the work's laptop and it didn't. Checked that it
was doing DHCP - it wasn't. Changed it. Was told to reboot - I though you
didn't have to do that with Win2K these days. Rebooted. Still didn't work!?!
Change the config to a static IP address. Reboots. Still it doesn't work.
So I can now officially declare - in a Court of Law if needed - that I found
the Linux was easier to use with WiFi once you have the right version of the
tool set and the DHCP config set up for _all_ PCMCIA NICs.
So how does my new wireless network perform? - more testing required.
I then installed the base-station in the computer room (what the non-geeks
would call the spare bedroom). I also powered by old workstation up (since
I moved to laptops I found I just haven't needed the work station so much).
This machine is slow by todays standards - a Celeron 333MHZ. But fast enough
for what I want it to do: backups, firewall and ISP dialler.
The workstation was running 2.2.17 (is it really that long since I've used this
thing? Must be). So how to upgrade it. Well I have a (Debian) Woody DVD but
only the laptop has a DVD drive! This is not a problem from Debian!
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