Extending the network

You may remember I was unhappy with the coverage of the new 11N wireless network; but there is not such a large choice of PoE 11N signal repeaters (actually couldn’t find any), which means I purchased a second AP, the Linksys WAP4400N; getting it to work was a bit cumbersome, so I’ll post here the full procedure, just in case someone finds it useful.

  1. unboxing the WAP, connected it to the mains (I had hoped to re-use my old 802.3af injector but no luck so far; I have n0t yet searched in depth, but it looks like the POE standard isn’t so standard after all – might have to fork an extra EUR35 for a more modern Linksys WAPPOE)
  2. connect it to a PC (Mirella’s iMac in this case)
  3. configure the Ethernet (=wired) connection on the PC to use an IP address in the same subnet (e.g. 192.168.1.10, mask 255.255.255.0)
  4. access the web based configuration utility by browsing to 192.168.1.245 (default IP for all Linksys APs)
  5. update the firmware to the latest version 1.2.17 (this was a nightmare: the U.S. Linksys site has a non working firmware image, but luckily some other poor bastard found a working image on the UK Linksys site –> here)
  6. configure the WAP with the same SSID as the Time Capsule (BTW, some guy says the SSID better be all lowercase letter) and a difference channel than the TC to avoid interference (say #6 for one and #11 for the other)
  7. (optional) assign it a static IP address in the router’s range (router: 192.168.1.1, TC: 192.168.1.6, WAP: 192.168.1.xxx)
  8. configure the same security settings as in the TC (WPA2 Personal with AES encryption, same access password)
  9. save all changes (on EACH screen !!!) reboot the WAP
  10. disconnect from iMac, reconnect to router, power cycle

At that point the WAP4400N became invisible; a post on the Linksys forums gave no answer – after playing with most parameters without joy, I left it there for a couple of weeks; tonight I noticed both my iPod Touch and Nokia N95 were getting weird IP addresses, most definitely out of range from my current subnet and therefore were unable to connect to the Internet. I suspected DHCP problems.

The DHCP server stays (as in most cases) on the router, in my case a pretty old but reliable Siemens Santis 50 I never tampered with; after a little searching I found that the configuration panel can be accessed on http://192.168.1.1/vendor/index.html; username is “Telecomitalia” and the password is the second part of the SSID printed under the chassis in reverse order (watch caps !!).

There I discovered that the DHCP server ranged only from 192.168.1.2. to 192.168.1.6: as soon as the five addresses were distributed, nothing else could connect to my network and – obviously – a device that defaults to 192.168.1.245 could not be seen. I changed the end range to 192.168.1.255 but got an error message as the subnet mask was set at 255.255.255.248. Changing this to 255.255.255.0 allowed me to extend the DHCP range and BANG! all problems fixed.

So this is the trick ISPs (Telecom Italia in my case) use to cut hardware platform to the needs of each type of contract – I am a “home” user, so I get the ability to connect up to 5 terminals – which made sense with an 802.11b network and a 512 kbps ADSL, but is nowadays ridiculous; had I been a “small business” user I’d get the same router, but configured differently.

Tomorrow I’ll test the old injector again, but in the meanwhile, I am your network God!

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