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Apple Airport Vs. Orinoco RG-1000? 16

Posted by Cliff
from the apples-and-orinocos dept.
Ted Pham asks: "I want to purchase an 802.11b wireless base station for my house. My top two candidates are the Apple Airport and the Orinoco RG-1000, and I have a few questions about how these products compare." Anyone care to give comments on any experiences they have had with these pieces of hardware. Read on for more specifics.

Ted's Questions:

  1. How does the coverage of the two compare? Are the wireless transmitters essentially the same? (Both seem to use Orinoco Silver cards, though the RG-1000's card isn't removable.)
  2. I've seen the stories about extending coverage by hooking an external antenna to the Apple Airports. Can an external antenna be attached to the RG-1000? If so, with or without hacking?
  3. The Orinoco FAQ says that about 30 clients can be supported by a single RG-1000. Apple's specs suggests 10 clients max. Has anyone used more then 10 clients with an Apple Airport and if so how well did it work?
  4. Both products can do NAT. Can you configure filters or open up ports with the utilities provided with either?
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Apple Airport vs. Orinoco RG-1000?

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  • I've got a couple. One for work and one for home. Pretty easy to set up and get running.

    As for the range, the house isn't big enough to worry about. I need to play with it more at work (spend most of the time in my cube) but it seems to work fine all over the building (less than 150' away.)

    Configuration wise it's pretty simple. One the ethernet side you can set it up with a static IP or tell it to use the DHCP client. You can even run the DHCP server on the ethernet side. (Not sure why you'd want to, but it's pretty cool that you can do that.)

    On the wireless side you can turn the NAT on and off and have it bridge to the ethernet. Also has DHCP of course. Nothing provided for forwarding ports or anything like that.

    All this was done using the windows configuration utility. I've done an SNMP walk across the MIB and will probably start hacking on it, but nothing useful so far.

  • The Apple Airport is a low-cost version of, I believe, the Aironet, but it's not nearly as robust. I actually bought an Orinoco, but returned it, because I couldn't get it working and Lucent tech support will only talk to dealers.

    The Aironet won me over with the following features:

    - True 802.11b
    - 11 Mb/sec
    - Diversity antennas for better reception at the edge
    - Availability of several external antennas for the Access Point
    - Great support from Cisco
    - Much better-written, smoother-installing drivers
    - Full control of the access point (config, logs, help text) via HTTP/telnet/console
    - Feels better-built and -designed in general

    One caution: You will want an external antenna on the access point, so do NOT get the "captured antennas" (e.g. AP342EC) - you cannot remove them, and it's a $300 repair to replace them with TNC connectors.
  • I've been looking at adding wireless ethernet to my home as well, and from what research I've done, I think I'm going with the Orinoco RG-1000. But I do have a couple questions about this that maybe someone can help me with.

    First, what kind of drivers are there for linux?? Are they opensource drivers??

    And second, I have a Zyxel Prestige 310 hooked up to my cable modem that I use for NAT/Firewall/etc. Can I use the RG-1000 with my existing ethernet and still have the Zyxel handle all the router stuff?? Basically, I just want to add some wireless nodes to my network without changing anything else.
  • Acording to a brochure on the web [bachert.de], the RG-1000 has a jack that can be used to connect to an existing ethernet.

    Support for the Orinoco DS-11 cards (also sold as the Cabletron/Eterasys RoamAbout 802 is included as the wvlan_cs driver in the standard Linux PCMCIA [sourceforge.net] package. Information about this driver is contained in the Linux Wireless LAN Howto [hp.com]. The wvlan_cs driver is opensource. There is also a driver based on a binary library provided by Lucent/Enterasys.

    I have used both the open source driver and the binary driver. The binary driver is supposed to be more stable and full featured, although my laptop has crashed while using the binary driver and I have had no problems with the open source driver.

    If you use the open source driver, make sure you use at least version 3.1.18 of the PCMCIA package to be compatible with the latest firmware in the cards.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The interesting thing about AirPort, and the reason it's so low cost, is that it's really just a 486 stapled to a Lucent WaveLAN silver card, (Actually, it's an Orinoco, now, lucent changed the name). I'm pretty sure the AirPort and the Lucent Orinoco product are almost identical: you can use as many users as you want on a Wireless hub (there are no fixed ports to plug into, so you don't have to worry about that part) but you run into bandwidth issues, since it's shared. Up to about thirty, and the unit is still useable (both AirPort and Orinoco), but after ten you will notice performance lags. Something I would like to point out, though: Aironet is NOT fully 802.11b compliant. They cheated in order to boost their bandwidth to 11 Mbit, and it shows up when you try to use anyone else's card with their base units. We discovered this at Cornell University - Unless you turned off "AiroNet specific extensions" in the base unit, other cards could not send large packets through, making web browsing (actually, anything more than telnet) impossible. Turn off the Aironet extensions, and everyone played just fine, but throughput was cut drastically.
  • 1.How does the coverage of the two compare? Are the wireless transmitters essentially the same? (Both seem to use Orinoco Silver cards, though the RG-1000's card isn't removable.)

    Yes, they are essentially the same. As you alluded to, you can replace the Silver card in the AirPort with a Gold for 128bit encryption. (As a hack previously mentioned on Slashdot, not supported by Apple.) With Line-of-Sight I get probably close to the 300 feet mark. I got much less when cutting a corner down the hall in my apartment building, but you're talking 10 walls and 5 apartment's worth of radio interference. I walked around the parking lot with no problems.

    2.I've seen the stories about extending coverage by hooking an external antenna to the Apple Airports. Can an external antenna be attached to the RG-1000? If so, with or without hacking?

    The AirPort antenna hack used an Orinoco antenna, so I sould assume the antenna's intended use is for with other Orinoco products. Check to be sure.

    3.The Orinoco FAQ says that about 30 clients can be supported by a single RG-1000. Apple's specs suggests 10 clients max. Has anyone used more then 10 clients with an Apple Airport and if so how well did it work?

    Who knows if this is a licensing thing or what. I would assume you can support whatever 802.11b under these cards support, but if it's limited by the software then I can't say. I only have one wireless device myself. If it's a problem, buy three AirPorts. :) You'd pay the same price and could extend the coverage using what Apple calls Roaming (each base station must be wired to the ethernet though.)

    4.Both products can do NAT. Can you configure filters or open up ports with the utilities provided with either?

    The AirPort does provide port mapping (redirecting ports on the external public IP to internal machines) but does not do packet filtering. It does have access control but this is for controlling which wireless devices may use the network (Using MAC addresses.) You should be doing packet filtering on your router (You run OpenBSD right? :) anyway.

    Now for my own notes. I got an AirPort because my wife got an iBook for college (Those biologists tend to use Macs so she wanted to be compatible.) It's easier to get our LAN into her office using wireless than it is for me to string CAT5 up all over (It's an apartment so I can't go through the walls.) I also intend to get my own laptop soon and working (I work at home) from the balcony just sounds sweet.

    At the time, the only way to configure the AirPort base station was to use Apple's configurator. At the heart of it though, it's just an SNMP device, and so of course someone has written a Java configurator that'll let you config it from anywhere. It works wonderfully. Grab it here. [drexel.edu] (It's also in the FreeBSD Ports collection if you happen to run that. :) One thing that I'm not sure of is if you can configure the AirPort from scratch using this. A quick note to the author could determine that.

    I couldn't be happier with the thing, especially considering that it's some $500 cheaper than everything else out there. You can't beat that. V.90 modem and Ethernet. NAT or Bridge. It'll even do NAT for your ethernet if you connnect using it's modem. It's damned cute too. I think the only problem I have with it is lack of diagnostics when connecting using the modem.
  • The Lucent/Orinoco cards are supported under FreeBSD as well using the wi(4) driver.

    You won't have a problem connecting any access point do an existing ethernet. I think they all support wireless->ethernet bridging.
  • You can create your own access point using a machine with a wavelan and a ethernet card. Then you'd have the full capabilities of the OS you ran on it and would not be limited by whatever Apple/Lucent/3Com/Cisco puts in their access points.

    An old laptop or even an old 486 would work for this (You can get ISA adapters for the wavelan cards and they just slide into the back of the machine.)

    Much cheaper than the already cheap AirPort.
  • I'm using an Airport with an existing network that coincidentally goes through a Prestige 310 to a DSL bridge (only call it a modem when you want tech support; the phone reps don't understand what a bridge is).

    Works great. I use OS drivers from Lucent and a Java configuration program. No Macs on my network (yet), but this works just fine.
  • bug
  • > How does the coverage of the two compare? Are
    > the wireless transmitters essentially the same?
    > (Both seem to use Orinoco Silver cards, though
    > the RG-1000's card isn't removable.)

    The cards are the same, so they probably have the same range, but the 1.2 version of the AirPort software seemed to increase the range quite a bit, so software may be a factor. I get plenty of range from AirPort. I have a big apartment, but the signal is strong throughout. I take an iBook into the backyard all the time and no problem.

    > 3. The Orinoco FAQ says that about 30 clients
    > can be supported by a single RG-1000. Apple's
    > specs suggests 10 clients max. Has anyone used
    > more then 10 clients with an Apple Airport and if
    > so how well did it work?

    Apple installed 18 or so AirPort Base Stations in the Marcone Conference Center for their World Wide Developer Conference, and were able to serve 400 simultaneous users. There was an article about this on their Web site (may still be there).

    The 10 per station number is just a low guarantee. Under the worst conditons, you could still run 10 notebooks off one base station. Under decent conditions you can put more on there.
  • They've got the same card. guaranteed.

    If this is just for your house, go for the airport. It's got plenty of range and it is a _lot_ cheaper.

    If you're in Seattle or want a ton of wireless links, check out http://seattlewireless.net/ [seattlewireless.net]

  • FYI - I've got a review of the Lucent WaveLAN (Orinoco) system running under Linux at my homepage:
    NullDevice.Net [nulldevice.net]

  • I've installed quite a few of the Lucent systems, and can answer most of your questions.

    How does the coverage of the two compare? Are the wireless transmitters essentially the same? (Both seem to use Orinoco Silver cards, though the RG-1000's card isn't removable.)
    The coverage of the two is comparable. The RG-1000 and Airport are basically the same, just the RG-1000 is repackaged, AFAIK. I've installed three RG-1000s, and they all exhibit similar range characteristics to the Airport, although I haven't opened up a RG-1000.

    I've seen the stories about extending coverage by hooking an external antenna to the Apple Airports. Can an external antenna be attached to the RG-1000? If so, with or without hacking?
    The RG-1000 basically uses the same Silver card as the Airport. As I said above, the two units are pretty much the same. Silver cards have a little plug on the end of the stub antenna that is removable. This is where the range extender antenna plugs in. If Lucent didn't change the card for the RG-1000, then it's possible to hook a range extender to the RG-1000. Again, I haven't had a RG-1000 open, so I can't say for sure if it's worth it. The design of the RG-1000 appears to have an antenna built into it, but I *haven't* taken one apart, so I don't know for sure.

    The Orinoco FAQ says that about 30 clients can be supported by a single RG-1000. Apple's specs suggests 10 clients max. Has anyone used more then 10 clients with an Apple Airport and if so how well did it work?
    I haven't used more than 10 clients with an Airport, but I've had 70 clients on a single WaveAccess Access Point at one time without adverse effect. I've also had 12 clients on my home machine (LAN party) and my home machine is merely a Linux box with a WaveLAN card jammed in it. Again, no adverse effects, and everyone was fragging wirelessly.

    Both products can do NAT. Can you configure filters or open up ports with the utilities provided with either?
    There are no packet filtering capabilities on the Airport or the RG-1000. If you already have a Linux firewall or some other form of configurable firewall running NAT, you are better off disabling the NAT in the Airport/RG-1000 and running it in bridge mode.

    More info on WaveLAN/Linux is available at my homepage, NullDevice.Net [nulldevice.net]

  • First off, Lucent makes the AirPort for Apple so the RG-1000 and the AirPort are almost exactly the same guts internally. It's not an Aeronet box like "Jay L" said. That being the case, here are some answers to your questions.

    1. How does the coverage of the two compare? Are the wireless transmitters essentially the same? (Both seem to use Orinoco Silver cards, though the RG-1000's card isn't removable.)

    They're both the same basic board design and use exactly the same WaveLAN Silver card in them. You can remove the card in the RG-1000, it just takes a bit more work. There's a bit of a danger in taking an RG-1000 apart because there's a chance you might break some of the plastic pins that hold the thing together.

    2. I've seen the stories about extending coverage by hooking an external antenna to the Apple Airports. Can an external antenna be attached to the RG-1000? If so, with or without hacking?

    Neither housing has an antenna extension connector on the outside so you have to do hacking to put a bigger antenna on either one.

    3. The Orinoco FAQ says that about 30 clients can be supported by a single RG-1000. Apple's specs suggests 10 clients max. Has anyone used more then 10 clients with an Apple Airport and if so how well did it work?

    These are just marketing numbers. I believe that 30 is the absolute max. before you start filling up the airwaves while ten is a good number where you can guarantee a decent connection to all users assuming the all have some rigorous data needs. Lighter use = more concurrent users.

    4. Both products can do NAT. Can you configure filters or open up ports with the utilities provided with either?

    Neither configurator that comes with either box lets you do cool low level geek-type config of the box, but there are a couple of config packages out there that let you tweak more at the low level. I think the idea was that because it's a consumer product, they try to keep advanced config away from most users.

    The bottom line really is that they're both the same board and radio card inside different housings so they're basically the same thing. I think the AirPort 1.2 software load that goes on the box might have some improvements that the current shipping RG-1000 software image doesn't have on them, but I'd keep a look out at the WaveLAN web site [wavelan.com] to watch for new releases of software for all of Lucent's access point products and cards. Lucent makes some cool stuff and they actually control a lot of the underlying technology so I look for new cool things to be coming from them in the future.

    The only downside I see is that Apple seems to be sticking with these goofy IDE cards for their internal card solution where it looks like (from releases by IBM) that the PC manufacturers might be using some sort of smaller mini PCMCIA card. As far as Jay L's list goes, I disagree with all of it except for the antenna issue. I'd like to see Apple and Lucent put a connector on the outside of their residential boxes so we can easily tack on bigger antennae. I had no problems with Lucent support, guess I called a different number than he did. :-)
  • > I've been looking at adding wireless ethernet to my home as well, and from
    > what research I've done, I think I'm going with the Orinoco RG-1000. But I do
    > have a couple questions about this that maybe someone can help me with.
    >
    > First, what kind of drivers are there for linux?? Are they opensource
    > drivers??

    There are Lucent card drivers for Linux out there in the open source community, yes.

    > And second, I have a Zyxel Prestige 310 hooked up to my cable modem that I use
    > for NAT/Firewall/etc. Can I use the RG-1000 with my existing ethernet and
    > still have the Zyxel handle all the router stuff?? Basically, I just want to
    > add some wireless nodes to my network without changing anything else.

    Yeah, just turn NAT off in the RG-1000 and everything will work just fine.

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