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View Full Version : OT: extending wifi via WDS vs. simple access point



aubuti
2010-09-19, 17:55
I'm invoking "the kitchen sink" subtitle of this forum to ask a question about networking that is only tangentially about SBs, because I know a lot of the folks here will know the answers.

I have a Linksys WRT54GL running Tomato firmware as my router. I also have a Netgear WGR614v3 router that has been repurposed as an access point. For this I've connected the Linksys to the Netgear via ethernet using one of the Netgear's LAN ports, turning off DHCP on the Netgear, etc. etc. This setup connects a mixture of computers, SBs, internet tablets, etc. Most of the devices are "G" devices, but we do have a couple N-capable laptops, which are currently connecting via G.

The Netgear is starting to flake out, so I'm going to replace it. I see two options. Option 1 is to replace it with another router that can run Tomato or DD-WRT, and use Wireless Distribution System to use the second router as an AP, though I'm not clear yet whether it would be bridging or repeating. Given that I have the ethernet in place to wire the two together, I'm not sure of the advantages of WDS to me in this setting, since I understand that for wifi devices WDS effectively halves the bandwidth.

Option 2 is basically to replicate the setup I have now, using the second router as a simple access point. In fact, for this option I could buy an AP, except they usually cost more and are useless as backup routers in case my router suddenly dies.

For either option, I would seriously look at getting an N-capable router so that my current -- and no doubt future -- N devices can take advantage of it. It appears that there is at least one N-capable router out there (WRT160NL) that supports DD-WRT, so Option 1 would still be a possibility.

Any advice? Thanks.

jean2
2010-09-19, 20:57
I'm invoking "the kitchen sink" subtitle of this forum to ask a question about networking that is only tangentially about SBs, because I know a lot of the folks here will know the answers.


There is no "right" answer, it's only about options ;-)


Option 1 is to replace it with another router that can run Tomato or DD-WRT, and use Wireless Distribution System to use the second router as an AP, though I'm not clear yet whether it would be bridging or repeating. Given that I have the ethernet in place to wire the two together, I'm not sure of the advantages of WDS to me in this setting, since I understand that for wifi devices WDS effectively halves the bandwidth.


I don't see any point in using WDS if you already went through the trouble of laying out an Ethernet cable. WDS is more complicated, more brittle and lower performance, and you may potentially run into compatibility issues.


Option 2 is basically to replicate the setup I have now, using the second router as a simple access point. In fact, for this option I could buy an AP, except they usually cost more and are useless as backup routers in case my router suddenly dies.


If you find something compatible with OpenWRT/DD-WRT/Tomato, any router can be configured as an Access Point trivially. The difference between an router and an access point is only in the software running on top of it.

I have not tried that, but if you configure your two router with the same ESSID on different channel, your clients should be able to roam between the two. It used to work with 802.11b and WEP, but WPA may get in the way.


For either option, I would seriously look at getting an N-capable router so that the current -- and now doubt future -- N devices can take advantage of it. It appears that there is at least one N-capable router out there (WRT160NL) that supports DD-WRT, so Option 1 would still be a possibility.

Any advice? Thanks.

If I were to buy a device, I would pick one of the two options. I'm not overall impressed by the quality of the hardware out there, no point in paying 802.11n money to get 802.11g performance and range.

First option is another WRT54GL, because it's cheap and very well supported by all the alternate firmware, and I could swap it trivially with all my other WRT54GL.

Second option is a NETGEAR WNDR3700, because it's one of the few 802.11n routers to get very good review, because it support 5GHz, has good range, and because it's supported by OpenWRT.

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-reviews/30925-start-your-buying-netgear-wndr3700-reviewed
http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/netgear/wndr3700

At then end, it really depend on *your* usage patterns. If your usage is mostly toward the Internet, your broadband provider (DSL, Cable...) is likely the bottleneck so no point in getting beyond 802.11g. If you have lot's or internal traffic (file sharing, backup...), then install CAT6 Ethernet cable or get the best 802.11n router you can get.

Personally, I'm a cheap guy and I salvaged another WRT54GS in the trash. But I promised myself to install CAT6 one day.

Have fun...

Jean

rgro
2010-09-19, 22:19
+1 on the Netgear. The signal strength on my Duet went from 40-50% to 90-100% with the switch from my old D-Link (how I hated that thing!) and I didn't change the location of anything by even a millimeter. And, the router's downstairs and my SB stuff is upstairs. For $150 and about 10 minutes to install it, days of Duet frustration evaporated.

The N-band works great with my new laptop while the SB stuff continues to run flawlessly on G. I actually have the SB set up on the guest network and our laptops run on the primary.

YMMV, I'm sure, but my experience was that the Netgear solved all my vexing Duet connection/dropout, etc. issues that I had experienced (and we read so much about in these forums). Even using MySB.com, I can listen for hours and hours with not so much as a hiccup.

Soulkeeper
2010-09-20, 00:45
It appears that there is at least one N-capable router out there (WRT160NL) that supports DD-WRT, so Option 1 would still be a possibility.

I use WRT160N myself (with DD-WRT). It supports 802.11n but it's not the fastest. Although you might reach 270-300 mbps if there is little interference, short range, few obstacles, and some tweaking. It only has 100 mbit Ethernet, though. Kind of a downer.

WRT320N is much better than WRT160N in my experience. It also supports 5GHz, but you'll have to choose between 2.4GHz and 5GHz in the setup. Still much better than WRT160N even at 2.4 GHz. It also has gigabit Ethernet switch, which IMO is reason enough to choose it instead of the WRT160N. Versions 1.0, 1.1 and 3.0 work fine with DD-WRT. Avoid version 2.0.

WRT610N is possibly even better: It supports 2.4 and 5 GHz simultaneously, but IDK, I haven't tried it myself. Older versions of DD-WRT had some bugs related to simultaneous use of the 2.4 and 5 GHz radios, which I think may be fixed now.

ajkidle
2010-09-20, 07:42
For what it's worth, I'm very happy with my Netgear 3500L. Great coverage and it supports DD-WRT and Tomato.

I've also used one of the Linksys N routers with internal antennas, can't remember if it was the 160 or what, but the range sucked. (It wasn't the 160NL, so my criticism may not apply.)

aubuti
2010-09-20, 09:31
There is no "right" answer, it's only about options ;-)

I don't see any point in using WDS if you already went through the trouble of laying out an Ethernet cable. WDS is more complicated, more brittle and lower performance, and you may potentially run into compatibility issues.
See, now there's a "right answer" right there. ;o) I had heard a lot of buzz about WDS, but now you've confirmed my suspicion that there's no advantage in my setting where I have ethernet running between the locations for the two routers. So that means my Option 1 is a non-starter. Thanks also for the pointer on the WNDR3700, and to rgro, soulkeeper, and ajkidle for their input on this and other routers.

I'm still interested in hearing reports from others about their N-router success/failures. Support for alternate/open source firmware is high on my priority list, just on general principles. And gigabit ports are also a big plus, even if that means more $ to replace a couple 100Mbs switches on my network. And for future-proofing I like the idea of simultaneous dual-band. But none of these features matter if the router can't keep a connection, so it's good to hear how they've performed in real life.