About wireless and routers

It’s not like my main interest in the IT field is networking hardware. Actually, albeit I like taking care of it on smaller environment, I don’t know much about large scale networking, and I feel “n00b” every time I hear some fellow devs talking about their work in that area.

Unfortunately it seems like lately I need to take care of a few networking issues for myself. Since the kernel 2.6.26 was released I was unable to use madwifi (as I wrote about); I admit I haven’t tested in the past weeks so it might be fixed now, I just didn’t have time/will to check again. In the mean time I’m using the ath5k driver, that seems to work but not as much as I’d need, so I cannot use iSCSI via wireless anymore, which sucks quite a bit when using the laptop.

There is then the problem with my router that created me a few problems. As I wrote, the table for mac address access control has only 32 entries. I thought it was just a limitation of the interface, but as it turns out, 3Com advertise all their routers as capable of supporting up to 32 clients. This mean that it’s quite unlikely that there’s a way to get around that limit in the table, and even less likely that the same class of routers would work for me.

At this point, I have to find a solution. The obvious one would be to use a Fonera to handle the Wireless connection; this way I could just leave wifi open and be done with it. The problem here is that I’d rather not use WPA2 (or, as someone also noted on my blog) the Nintendo DS won’t connect to WiFi, and that I’d like to have at least some sort of access control. An alternative would be to use a Linux-based access point. I do have the WRT54GL that I used to use when the office had not just Enterprise bug also Prakesh, Klothos and Farragut. The problem is that I’d have to update OpenWRT on it almost surely, and I have no clue how the support is nowadays.

The Linux support for Wireless networking in the past years has been quite in flux, but it started to become quite interesting in the past months. The b43 drivers that finally made possible to use at least a small subset of Broadcom wireless cards could probably allow OpenWRT to use a 2.6 kernel on the WRT54GL sooner or later, but I wonder how its access point mode support would be with that driver. For what I gathered, the ath5k is far from being an alterantive for the job.

Talking about wireless problems, it seems like there are problems even with identifying the correct region. Luckily the channel I’m using is available on all regions, so I’m fine for now. Hopefully, Atheros drivers improvements will follow soon, and ath5k will be able to work with iSCSI and all the rest, maybe even with AP mode so that Linux-based wireless routers would become much easier to manage. Of course the best would be if I could get one of them to run Gentoo directly.

See, the embedded part of the networking game is something I actually am interested about 😉

In the mean time I’m considering the option of resuming the WRT54GL with the same function it had before, and passing a shielded ethernet cable between my office and my bedroom, so I could get the PS3, the AppleTV and the laptop (while I’m there) to talk with enterprise through ethernet directly, and leaving the WRT54GL to connect them to the Wireless. It would probably also be healthier as it means less radio waves in general. The problem of this solution is that I’m not sure I have enough space in the cabling areas, and that I’d need two gigabit switches to make sure that the PlayStation3 and the laptop can communicate at the highest speed possible (I’d need one switch in the office, to join the “backbone” cable with Enterprise and the WRT54GL… the internal switch of the WRT is 10/100Mbit, so it would block Gigabit, and one in the bedroom to join PS3, AppleTV and the laptop).

It’s something I should consider, at any rate.