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Upgrading Wi-Fi — What, When, and Why 206

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the still-no-macbook-support dept.
lessthan0 writes "Wi-Fi (802.11x) networks have been around long enough that many businesses and home users run their own. The first widely deployed standard was 802.11b, while most new hardware uses 802.11g. The latest 802.11n hardware is just around the corner. If you run an existing wireless network, is it time to upgrade?"
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Upgrading Wi-Fi — What, When, and Why

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  • by StringBlade (557322) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:36AM (#15943982) Journal
    Upgrading Wi-Fi: What, When, and Wi?
    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@nOSpaM.barbara-hudson.com> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @10:38AM (#15944164) Journal

      It should read "move on, nothing to see here ..." since you can't upgrade to something that isn't available yet.

      Besides, why would you want to upgrade when nobody can use it? Wait until its been out a few years.

      After all, gigbit ethernet has been out for a couple of years now, and look at how many people get along just fine with 100mb.

      • by lcohiomatty86 (985176) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @11:35AM (#15944332)
        most people get along just fine with 100mb because 1. the internet is the primary use of the network.. which comes nowhere near 100mb of bandwith.. and im sure gigabit is pretty widely used in very high bandwith environments.. its just.. why use a more expensive technology when there is no need for it (as in most home and small office environments)
        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@nOSpaM.barbara-hudson.com> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @11:46AM (#15944369) Journal

          Well, gigabit ethernet is no longer "much more expensive." I saw a 5-port gigabit switch at a retailer yesterday for under $12/port. Cards are equally cheap. The problem is that for most users, they won't notice the difference, or they'd have to change the cabling fro cat5 to cat6, or they have one or more boxes that are still runing 100mb, so there is zero point in upgrading.

          Give it 5 years ...

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by eipgam (945201)
            Do I get a prize for still running coax? :)
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by kjs3 (601225)
              Do I get a prize for still running coax? :)

              Like you're the only one....

          • No way. (Score:5, Informative)

            by Inoshiro (71693) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:53PM (#15944827) Homepage
            "I saw a 5-port gigabit switch at a retailer yesterday for under $12/port. Cards are equally cheap. The problem is that for most users, they won't notice the difference,"

            I think the problem is that it's unlikely that switch supports JUMBO frames. 1500 bytes don't cut it at gigE speeds. Even on a Barton XP 2500+, you get 100% CPU saturation around 250MBps with 1500 byte ethernet packets. My very high quality Intel gigE NICs support jumbo frames of 9000 mtu (and up), but this cheap Airlink switch (the only one I could find in town) is broken past 1500 MTU, meaning it's garbage (don't buy Airlink gear).

            I'm sure the Airlink would be fine if you had garbage gigE nics, though, which is probably their target market.

            " or they'd have to change the cabling fro cat5 to cat6, or they have one or more boxes that are still runing 100mb, so there is zero point in upgrading."

            All of these are bunk. Most cat5 that's properly wired has 4 conductors in it (which is what you need for gigE) and are shielded well enough. You mentioned a switch; you should know that a switch allows for mixed speed devices with no general speed drop (unlike the old hubs that used to exist).

            If you have a fileserver in your house serving up to 3-4 client machines like I do, gigE is well worth it, since the network is no longer the bottleneck.
            • Airlink (OT) (Score:2, Informative)

              by PayPaI (733999)
              I've purchased several Airlink gigE switches. All of them use Broadcom chipsets, and the chipset technically supports jumbo frames. Typically I payed $5/port for the 8port and $6/port for the 5port.
              I'm running a mix of Airlink (rt8169), nFORCE4 onboard, Marvell, etc. on the NIC side. All cheap cards (the rt8169 is now $6 at frys).
              I can typically push 350Mbps (all machines are running with an MTU of 1500). CPU utilization on my Athlon64 is maybe 20%. Same on my friend's computer (sempron barton 2800).
              I ha
            • by tomhudson (43916)

              "you should know that a switch allows for mixed speed devices with no general speed drop (unlike the old hubs that used to exist)."

              I'm well aware of it - I used to work for a switch manufacturer. A switch isn't going to fix the situation where one of the devices in the conversation is slower, so it doesn't matter if you stick a 1gig nic on your server - your 100mp client card is going to force the server to talk to it at 100mpbs.

              And a lot of cat5 is marginal because of the way its installed - people st

            • by SendBot (29932)
              Good point about the jumbo frames, although I want to nitpick this:
              All of these are bunk. Most cat5 that's properly wired has 4 conductors in it (which is what you need for gigE) and are shielded well enough. You mentioned a switch; you should know that a switch allows for mixed speed devices with no general speed drop (unlike the old hubs that used to exist).

              Cat5e (enhanced) is required for gigE, which has 8 wires (conductors?) or 4 pairs, all of which are required. As for being shielded well enough, UTP -
          • by mobby_6kl (668092)
            >I saw a 5-port gigabit switch at a retailer yesterday for under $12/port.

            That's still pretty damn expensive, considering that there are (admittedly rather shitty) 100MB switches for $2.5 (8 ports) to $3 (3 ports) per port.

            Of course, it's relatively cheap if you need to move a lot of data often, so it's more of a time=money equation.
    • Re:Wifi Woes (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sillygates (967271) *
      Instead of spending $100s so get the the newest "wifi" standard, make the real upgrade, the one that actually makes your network faster, the one that operates almost at advertised speed, rather than 1/6th of it, the one that doesn't require you behind your computer aligning your antenna to transmit on the same plane as your AP's antenna to squeeze out that extra 10 ft of connectivity. Good ol' 802.3ab [wikipedia.org]
  • by Reducer2001 (197985) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:36AM (#15943984) Homepage
    The summary says that 802.11n is just around this corner...what about this article [slashdot.org] yesterday that says it's been delayed to 2008?????
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Derlum (216320)
      More troubling is this:

      Both 802.11b and 802.11g use the 2.4 Megahertz frequency...
      The 802.11a standard runs at 5 Megahertz...

      Either the author is running equipment that's operating ridiculously out of frequency spec, or he's woefully unfamiliar with SI unit prefixes. I'm betting the latter.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275)
        Damn -- and I really thought I was going to get that new shortwave WiFi setup that I wanted, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ryanduff (948159)
      Well Vista has been "just around the corner" since 2002 and we haven't seen that yet.

      Unfortunately, it seems everything in the technology world is "just around the corner."

      I'm still baffled as to how people can buy something that isn't fully standarized. You know its going to change. Its like shelling out cash for a beta program. Would you buy a development model car with a 6 cylinder engine that curently only runs on 4 cylinders? No!
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      Did not you know that CmdrTaco and CowboyNeal are new pirates and ninjas?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:39AM (#15943991)
    Even 802.11b is still faster than the DSL or cable connections that these places use.
    • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis&gmail,com> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:40AM (#15943997) Homepage
      Not if you have more than one user. Hint: think about wifi deployed at a school or airport...

      As for the general question, the answer is: Upgrade if you have to. If your users are bitching that the net is too slow, upgrade.

      If you just want to be hip and spout the latest and greatest ... wait for n.

      Tom
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)
        If your users are bitching that the net is too slow, upgrade.

        Or, you could just allow standard port access and remove all the crap, its a wireless web interface not a bittorrent seeding point.
        (Note, I'm talking about public shared access connections, what you do with your home connection is up to you)
      • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:57AM (#15944042) Homepage

        No, if your users are bitching that the net is too slow then you should schedule a three day long upgrade window during their peak usage times, wander around the site changing all of the patch cables on the access points from blue to yellow, and then turn it back on again five days later without changing anything else.

        They'll be raving about the increased speed for at least a week and then forget that anything ever happened.

        • by rts008 (812749)
          Evil, truly evil genius type thinking there! You get to keep your BOFH badge another week.
          Congrat's on that lofty acomplishment! ;)
        • My god, you went to my school!!!

          Don't forget the gold plated wall jacks [only 25% of which are allowed to work].

          I was the type of person to bring an AP with me. Screw the lousy 802.11b. So I brought a bg with me. Plugged it into the ethernet jacks and gave all the people around me decent network access. Loads of fun.

          Tom
        • by asuffield (111848)
          If you keep doing that then the users eventually notice. The trick is to put a traffic shaper on all the bottleneck links, and decrease the maximum throughput by 100bytes/sec every day (or more if your bottlenecks are faster than DSL). Then, whenever you change the cable colours, reset the shaper to its maximum speed. The few users who were paying attention will notice a small but significant jump in the rate reported by their bittorrent client; that will be convincing enough to suppress any rumours that yo
    • by slughead (592713)
      Even 802.11b is still faster than the DSL or cable connections that these places use.

      For downloading, maybe, however I find that there's much higher packet loss and ping while using wireless... it's not a big deal for web browsing, but gaming is pretty annoying.
    • by compwizrd (166184)
      Standard cable around here is 10mbit, and for 25 more a month i can get 16mbit.
  • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:39AM (#15943994)
    Obviously that depends on what you need the wireless LAN for. If your applications work with 802.11b, why would you upgrade? If you want to do something which needs more bandwidth, then upgrade. Duh.
  • by loonicks (807801) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:40AM (#15943995)
    If 802.11b/g works for me, why would I upgrade? Don't be a consumer whore just because some shiny new wireless protocol comes out... stick with what you have unless it sucks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by debilo (612116)
      If 802.11b/g works for me, why would I upgrade? Don't be a consumer whore just because some shiny new wireless protocol comes out... stick with what you have unless it sucks.

      Most comments seem to indicate upgrading is useless because speed improvements don't matter as long as the slowest wifi protocol is still faster than your internet connection, but speed is not the only concern. Future protocols are said to offer better/easier security and more reliabality, which if true is a good enough reason to me
      • by the_quark (101253) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @11:40AM (#15944345) Homepage
        I had one of the first in-home 802.11b networks. I plunked down like $700 for a Cisco WAP back in 2000 or 2001 because I had a really challenging home network solution that would've cost a lot more than that to run wiring where I needed it. The WAP kept chugging along - those old Cisco units were really reliable - and I finally retired it about a month ago.

        My DSL is (supposedly) 6Mbps downstream, so I could've justified it just on that grounds. My wireless was definitely slower than my network connection. But, at the end of the day, the fact that I process video and (now very large RAW) pictures on my laptop caused me to pull the trigger. After I'm done processing, I generally want to copy my files up to a server for backup. On a recent trip, I shot 8 GB of photos. Copying that on b would take about 18 hours. Copying it on g would take about 20 minutes. Obviously, even bigger video files would be worse.

        As for security - I certainly don't trust ANY wireless (or wired, for that matter) system for security. I depend on application level security whenever I can get it (SSL, SSH) and VPNs when that's not an option. It's hard for me to imagine upgrading to g or n just for security - anything that does need to be secure in my world already is. Trusting ANY network is a good way to get caught with your pants down.

        So, don't dismiss the performance gains from b to g. I increased my Internet download speed from 1Mbps to 6Mbps, and that was certainly worth the (compared to 2001) cheap cost of my new WAP. Even if your Internet connection is 1Mbps or slower, you may still have significant benefits if you copy large files around inside your network.
        • As for security - I certainly don't trust ANY wireless (or wired, for that matter) system for security. I depend on application level security whenever I can get it (SSL, SSH) and VPNs when that's not an option.

          Properly configured WPA and WPA2 are just as secure as your application-level security or VPN (and more secure than some crappy VPNs). Although the weakness of WEP was a major problem, its failure ensured that its successors would get very heavy scrutiny, and the WPA variants have stood up very well. If you really want to be careful, use both wireless network security and end-to-end security. If you don't need to be that paranoid, WPA is just as good as and more convenient than using a home VPN.

          OTOH, if you're like me, I like to leave my WLAN open so that passersby can use it if they need it. I appreciate all of the open WLANs I make use of, so I like to return the favor. In that case, a VPN is critical.

          • by the_quark (101253)
            OTOH, if you're like me, I like to leave my WLAN open so that passersby can use it if they need it. I appreciate all of the open WLANs I make use of, so I like to return the favor. In that case, a VPN is critical.

            Well, there is that, and I do that at home, as well, as much for friends who come over as for strangers. But, in general, I find there is little that I would ever need to be secure from just one place - I'll need to access it from another place (e.g., work), even if the physical network it's conne
        • Just out of curiosity, where was your 2000/2001-era Cisco WAP made?

          I saw an aritcle (which has since gone offline: Manufacturing: Probably made in China, by someone else [crmbuyer.com]) that said Intel made motherboards in Silicon Valley until 1999 or so. The massive movement to Chinese factories was triggered by the need to cut costs at the tail end of the dot-com bubble.

          $700 sounds like a price you'd have to charge if you were paying Americans to put your industrial-grade wireless widget together... (I'm assuming your
          • by the_quark (101253)
            I'm not sure how representative of Cisco in general this is because I'm pretty sure Cisco got into the wireless business the way they've gotten into basically every other business: They bought someone. Aironet, in this case, and not long before mine was made. The PCMCIA cards I had for it were marked Aironet, and the WAP is marked as "Cisco Aironet 340." It was MUCH more capable than the consumer WAPs are - it can be a bridge, or mesh, or repeater. I suspect that a factor in cutting the price from $700
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @10:17AM (#15944103) Homepage Journal
      My understanding is that "n" provides longer range and better link stability. I think that might be a reason to upgrade. If you move files a lot between local computers, the speed might help too.

      That said, given that there isn't a finalized standard, I think it may generally be best to hold off on upgrades. If you need speed for your local network and can't wait, then buy matched sets of network devices, then for elsewhere, you can fall back to b/g which should be a lot more than enough for Internet stuff.
    • by MoogMan (442253)
      802.11n promises 100MBit/s+ speeds... bringing it up to 100baseT Ethernet speeds. This is a big reason to upgrade. But I agree, if b/g works for you, then don't bother upgrading.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jerryasher (151512)
      Wifi is broken, at least for apartment dwellers. Qwest gives out dsl routers with built-in wifi, which means that EVERY apartment now runs its own wifi on the few channels that there are. As a result, wifi is completely unreliable as channel interference occurs. Oh you can connect, but how long until you are knocked off?

    • Want a faster network? Run your own DNS and webcache, your users will notice the difference. Throw in SMTP and anyhing else you can pull off, too.
    • Don't be a consumer whore just because some shiny new wireless protocol comes out... stick with what you have unless it sucks.


      Lookee here, boa... I wouldn't want to see yew git yourself strung up for talkin' all Communist like that.

      One man's Consumer Whore is another man's Early Adopter with high Consumer Confidence driving the Upward Economic Trend and generating wholesome, virtuous Profits that good Corporate Citizens reinvest in your community.

    • by antdude (79039)
      I am still using 802.11b as well. However, my WAP only supports WEP for security. I still use cat5 network cables for realiabilty, speed, and security. Most of the times, I have the WAP turned off (sleeping, out, etc.). I would have to replace/upgrade most of my network cards if I want WPA, speed, etc. for wireless. It is not worth spending. I will just wait for my WAP and others to break. I just don't have the money and free time even if I had them at this time.
    • Do you still pay $25+ a month for you cell phone? You know that's about $300 a year right plus a new phone is $300 or so and you upgrade based on their plan.

      Translation: You need n...

      Besides no one trusts the idea of a mesh network yet, we need to develop n or i quickly for the 1,000,000 laptop project and to scare the telecoms into 100Mbit...
  • Time to upgrade? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fishbowl (7759) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:46AM (#15944011)
    It will be "time to upgrade" when the card manufacturers start being able to tell me which device to buy reliably for linux installations.

    I have *never* been able to find an 802.11g PCI card that I could put on a purchase order by vendor and part number. The few devices I have found (b and g) that worked, have been changed by the vendors into incompatable devices without notice.

    The linux wi-fi community routinely points questions on this matter to a compatability chart that doesn't answer the question. I know about NDISWrapper. I know to avoid Broadcom chips. That knowledge helps for my personal computing, but it doesn't help when the professional task involves making a purchase order for a device that can be reliably, consistently obtained, or even identified.

    On the end of the spectrum we'd like to be on, several competing vendors would warranty the merchandise as being compatable with linux, and would provide source-code compatable drivers (for kernel independence). We're at the extreme far other end of that spectrum, as far as I can tell.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by IBeatUpNerds (827376)
      My company works in software for embedded wifi devices and we routinely need to buy specific hardware.
      I/we have never had a problem finding what we were looking for and the vast majority of it works
      great with Linux (WPA, WPA2 + RADIUS). We've achieved this by purchasing products we've used before
      and are familiar with. Aside from a couple obvious examples, most vendors remain relatively consistent
      if you're referring to the correct product + hw_rev + version. Not sure what your problem is....

      Now if your argum
  • no it is not. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bender Unit 22 (216955) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:48AM (#15944017) Journal
    for me anyway.
    I have 3 problems with WiFi.
    1) Too many people near by with WiFi makes the connectivity suck within my apartment(have tried many channels). How about a new system where base units can figure out the best configuration when there are others nearby and even change them when the radio pattern(/coverage) changes.
    2) My existing devices are not compatible with "New" security standards, fx. Ipaq and wpa2. For every WiFi enabled unit you buy, you have the problem of not being able to upgrade your security unless all devices support it.
    3) My HP notebook drops connection when a cellphone is used in my apartment.

    There are so many things that can break my WiFi net that I still prefer to use cables. Thought about getting a Squeezebox with WiFi, but I think I might as well save the money and just use cable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sancho (17056)
      1) Would be really nice, though I wonder if 802.11n will trounce all over the entire spectrum that 802.11b uses.

      2) This is not true. Aside from high-end units that are out of most consumer's price range, there is an Asus WAP that can broadcast multiple SSIDs and have separate security settings for each. In theory, this would mean you could have WPA-Radius encryption on one SSID and have a WEP encryption SSID for your Nintendo DS. I think the model is WL-500g Deluxe--it's hard to come by right now.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        2) This is not true. Aside from high-end units that are out of most consumer's price range, there is an Asus WAP that can broadcast multiple SSIDs and have separate security settings for each. In theory, this would mean you could have WPA-Radius encryption on one SSID and have a WEP encryption SSID for your Nintendo DS. I think the model is WL-500g Deluxe--it's hard to come by right now.

        What about a hacked Linksys WRT54G/GL? Running open Linux, I suspect that the firmware can be made to go darn near any

    • Quality and coolness (Score:3, Interesting)

      by massysett (910130)
      How good is your router? I have found that the quality of your networking equipment can make a huge difference. I too live in an apartment building with lots of nearby access points--at night if I sit by my window I can catch at least ten signals. I used to have a POS Netgear router that would drop the connection repeatedly. Then I got the DLink DGL 4300, and this thing is rock solid. Drops maybe once a month.

      Keeping the equipment cool also matters. For awhile I had the DGL 4300 on the floor, on its side, b
    • by kjs3 (601225)
      As to 1...I had the same issue so I moved to 802.11a, which is a different frequency. No problems since, though the range is shorter.

      As to 2...valid point.

      As to 3...see 1. Assuming your laptop uses mini-PCI cards, you should be able to find an 11a radio to replace the 11b one in the laptop.

      Just a suggestion.

  • by Bald Wookie (18771) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:54AM (#15944034)
    I don't expect a lot from wireless. It's sort of like plugging a wonky network cable into a hub. You're connected to the network, but everything is delivered at 'best effort' or worse. Most of the time, that's really all that you need.

    Can I open a web page? Check.
    Send an email? Check.
    VNC into a box? With some patience, check.
    SSH into a device? Check.
    IM? Check.
    Can I do 95% of what I do at work over a wireless connection? Check.

    The other five percent? I'm hoping for Gig-E because I'm using all of it.

    The key is having realistic expectations of wireless. If your users don't understand that then they'll probably be disappointed with whatever you rollout.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      To me that is circular reasoning: "wireless is good enough, because it's only used for light duty, because it isn't very good."

      Even at home, I find 802.11g to be better than 802.11b. In particular for streaming video, which is handy if I want to watch a show on my laptop while doing dishes. IMHO wireless is not "good enough" until wires are obsolete.

      • by swillden (191260) *

        IMHO wireless is not "good enough" until wires are obsolete.

        By that standard, wireless will never be good enough.

  • by JayDiggity (70168) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @10:02AM (#15944059) Homepage
    If you are on 802.11b and are happy with the speed it provides, then stay with what you have. If you're unhappy with it, upgrade to 802.11g.
    If you are are unhappy with 802.11g, well, tough luck: as someone else already mentioned, 802.11n isn't coming out until 2008. Start punching holes in the wall and running some Ethernet cable!

    Problem solved.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by portmapper (991533)
      > If you are on 802.11b and are happy with the speed it provides, then stay with what you have.
      > If you're unhappy with it, upgrade to 802.11g. If you are are unhappy with 802.11g, well, tough
      > luck: as someone else already mentioned, 802.11n isn't coming out until 2008.

      802.11a is generally much less crowded than 802.11 b/g and as fast as 802.11g. Wireless
      in a crowded area can suck quite bad.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        802.11a is generally much less crowded than 802.11 b/g and as fast as 802.11g.

        Also, you don't get cross-interference from 2.4GHz-band phones and microwave ovens. Did I mention that 2.4GHz microwaves are probably the worst for health, since the resonant frequency of water molecules is about 2.4...?

        -b.

      • 802.11a is generally much less crowded than 802.11 b/g and as fast as 802.11g. Wireless in a crowded area can suck quite bad.

        I'm trying to help out some folks with a network in their home office - at the moment there are Ethernet cables strewn everywhere and it's a hazard (not to mention constant cable failures from chair casters, etc.). Wifi seemed to be a likely solution, but when I arrived, I discovered that I can pick up 4, sometimes 5 nearby 802.11b/g signals from many places in the house, on chann

  • Speed vs. Bandwidth (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JPFitting (990912)
    Does it really matter how much bandwidth one needs in terms of consumers? I would rather see improvments be made on how far the signal goes rather than how much it can handle. It never really mattered to me whether I had a B or G router as I only had a few computers using the internet at once. Granted, once FIOS is more widely used in the States the amount of bandwidth will have more of an effect.
  • saturation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Other posters have addressed the compatibility and security issues, and I agree with them. No one has addressed the issue of bandwith saturation and new deployment.

    Take a look at your bandwidth utilization. If you are using less than 50% what would be the point of doubling your LAN speed? If you are using over 80% then I would think about upgrading to whatever suits the situation.

    Another issue is getting a new machine and placing it on your LAN. Can you still easily and cheaply get ahold of an 802.11b/g
  • by cyclocommuter (762131) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @10:22AM (#15944115)
    Reading articles about 802.11n, there seems to be no compeling reason to upgrade to this draft specification for most folks right now... Poor interoperability with other "n" devices, poor backward compatibility with both "b" and "g" devices, more expensive hardware, and buggy firmware. The bottomline is, upgrading to 802.11n today means you are willing to be a beta tester for the hardware manufacturers.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @10:23AM (#15944119)
    1. If you buy 802.11n products, your AP needs to have easy firmware updates, because there is no standard, and you WILL want to update the firmware when the standard is ratified plus three months, meaning the summer of 2008.

    2. 802.11n is faster than 802.11a,b, and g. But you need to buy everything from the same vendor, because that'll ensure it works together as compatibility is iffy. You can't do as nifty antenna tricks with 802.11n as you can with b and g. The 802.11a rules in the US currently prohibit antenna tricks. So, flexibility with standards means 802.11g.

    3. If you use any 802.11 product, use WPA, or upgrade to it, and keep checking for firmware upgrades every few months, then do it.

    4. Currently, the fastest *standardized* method is 802.11g. There are various turbo modes that may or may not allow you faster downloads, but most APs are inhibited by upstream throttle-back anyway. And for this reason, you might like it for home use but don't use it on mobile machines as hotspots sometimes have trouble with cards that are in 'auto-turbo' mode.

    5. Unless you have backhaul that's faster than the WiFi transport, it's useless to buy anything faster because it will make no difference in speed. If you have a crappy DSL connection, the speed will still be crappy DSL speed. It's nice to have your WiFi router speed as the fastest common denominator because DSL and cable and other transports keep getting faster and faster. If you have asymetrical backhaul, that won't change no matter what you do (example: 3MB/s down, 750KB/s up).

    WPA secures at minimum. Using AES with TLS is thought to be the most solid method. Having a temporal key is important as key life had a bearing on breaking the key. Currently, no one will sit around and wait for long keys to be broken unless THEY REALLY WANT YOU. If they do, they'll do something smarter. All WEP can be broken in under 22minutes, period.

    For better paranoia, read WiFoo-- currently the most interesting hacker cookbook I've found.
    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      You can't do as nifty antenna tricks with 802.11n as you can with b and g. The 802.11a rules in the US currently prohibit antenna tricks.

      Just because it's nominally illegal doesn't mean it's impossible. And if you're not in a populated area and don't aim a 5kw cantenna at low-flying aircraft, you'll likely be fine. If a bear shits in the woods...

      -b.

      • Some people need more current and voltage.

        Other people use clever designs.

        That's how the 120mi+ Defcon 13 was done. Not with current, but with legal antennas.

        It's like nuclear weapons: you don't have to be very accurate. However, with single xray pulse, knowing the right spot can be very effective.
    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      3. If you use any 802.11 product, use WPA, or upgrade to it, and keep checking for firmware upgrades every few months, then do it.

      Or tunnel all of your traffic via VPN and set the networked computers to only accept connections from VPNed computers on the local subnet. That way, passers-by will still be able to jump on your WiFi whenever they need a 'net connection without the risk of compromising your network!

      -b.

  • ...until we have a greater bandwidth (LOTS of channels) of a microscopic slice of the microwave spectrum. And use frequency hopping.

    Why are free channels on the radio spectrum so scarce?
  • "Wi-Fi (802.11x) networks

    Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you can't use 802.11x to describe a bunch of different 802.11 protocols. I've recently rejoined the tech field (University HD) while I return to school, and we are rolling out 802.11x authentication support. When "802.11x support" was first mentioned to me, I asked "We already use b & g, so don't we already support 802.11x?" and was summarily pointed to about a billion articles on 802.11x.
  • No (Score:4, Informative)

    by dcam (615646) <david&uberconcept,com> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @11:14AM (#15944264) Homepage
    No it is not time to upgrade.

    At the moment the 802.11n standard is at draft 2 stage. The 802.11n gear available now is based on 802.11n draft 1.

    The manufacturers of this hardware are betting that any changes in the spec between draft 1 and the final version can be fixed by a firmware upgrade. It is by no means certain that this will be the case.

    In addition, it isn't clear whether hardware for the 802.11n draft from different manufacturers will work together.

    So the answer (as with most technology) is to wait and see. In this case, given that this is based on a draft, that has been superceded, waiting is certianly a good idea.
  • Somewhat interesting, but very basic and commonsense. Good for the newbie, not much use for others.
  • by atarione (601740) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:25PM (#15944510)
    if I didn't have VPN over wifi thanx to m0n0wall and my RADIUS server...... as such I guess I will wait for N assume my trusty BEFW11S4 (b router) dosn't crap out.

    if anyone is thinking of going G the WRT54GL [amazon.com] with the dd-wrt [dd-wrt.com] firmware is pretty sweet.

    whatever you do DO NOT buy a WRT54GS or later model WRT54G models..as they suck pretty much http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WRT54G [wikipedia.org]
  • by WimBo (124634) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:40PM (#15944569) Homepage
    When 802.11b first became standardized I bought a PCMCIA card for my laptop and a base station.

    My next laptop had 802.11b built in.

    My next laptop had 802.11a/b/g built in.

    I'm still using the 802.11b bridge that I originally bought. I'll get a new base station eventually, but there's not any hurry, since the bottleneck out of my apartment is the 1.5Mb DSL line, and the 11Mb WiFi is just fine.

    I especially don't see the need to buy some add in card for my laptop that may hang out the side and cause other problems.
  • by v1 (525388)
    It's too bad the original WRT54G is not available. I had to replace my wap because the old trendnet was not able to mac filter and I had a couple neighbors that I wanted to give access to but the entire neighborhood was apparently interested. (can you say.. slow internet? six of them were active on bittorrent all the time!)

    I had a bit of a fight with the new 54g I just got. It decided to stop allowing me into the admin menu. 25 minutes on the phone with some gal (in India, of course) and we finally got
  • by kahrytan (913147)

      You can call me paranoid if you want but I will never use the wireless access on my router. I use the very same router the guy used in the article. WEP, WPA or WPA2 are too insecure for me to use.

    A wireless router I would use is a router that uses at least 256bit encryption but would prefer military strength. And I want routers to containt a SD Memory card so I can use multiple encryption keys.

    Wireless Routers are not ready YET. They are to insecure.
  • I had 802.11b up until 2 weeks ago, when I decided I wanted faster rates. Due to my normal store's stock levels, I got a D-Link DWL-G650M, and a NetGear WPN802 access point (I've already got a perfectly good OpenBSD firewall/router for my ASDL line, so I don't need another router).
    While I'm getting 108Mbps, I haven't noticed any range increase (it seems to be about the same as it was for the back of my house).
    I'm not worried about incompatibility with the final specs, since it works /now/ - and I haven't ha

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