Wireless LAN Question

I’m a neophyte when it comes to networking (never had more than one PC in the house before) but, since my wife bought a new notebook last week – Toshiba Satellite A100-0FH – I figured it was time to learn.

When I hook up her notebook to my D-Link DSL-604+ modem/router via direct ethernet cable, I get a reported connection of 100 mbps and pretty impressive speed. When I disconnect from the ethernet cable and rely on the notebook’s built-in wireless card (802.11a/b/g), I get a reported connection of 11 mbps and dirt slow performance (even when the notebook is mere feet from the modem). The math seems pretty straightforward here but how do other people manage wireless home networks without this sort of radical slowdown?

A) Your router only supports b, which is 11 mpbs
B) This is sounding like a broken record, but, using Netstumbler, check what channel everyone else in your area is using, then switch to the least crowded channel, either 1, 6, or 11.
C) 11 mbps is really misleading. Overhead, in terms of all the extra packet crap that comes with 802.11b, will lower the true throughput down to about 6-7 mbps. This shouldn’t matter terribly for the Internet, as that is pretty much the fastest connection you’re going to get, but if you are trying a computer to computer file transfer, it isn’t going to be fast. At all.

A) See if there is a less used 802.11 channel, and switch to it to avoid interference.
B) Shell out some money for an 802.11g router, which will bump up the speed to 54 mbps.

So, if I get an 802.11g router like this one (after scanning for the best local channel), I should see a significant speed increase? How close will it be to a wired connection?

802.11g should be a little under half as fast (lower 40 mpbs realistically) than a wired connection. Again, as said above, if you are downloading things off the Net, this shouldn’t matter, as any 802.11 connection should be faster than your connection. You should see speed increases if you are going from machine to machine on the local network.

The only caveat to this is that if you have any client on the wireless LAN that are 802.11b, they will throttle the 802.11g connections into the mid teens (~15 mbps).

Also note that any wireless connection is shared, meaning that the bandwidth must be divided amongst all of the clients using the network. Two clients, each gets half the bandwidth, etc.

If I was only concerned with downloading things off the Internet, I would fiddle with my channel settings on my existing router before going out and buying something new. Any speed increase by going to 802.11g will be mitigated by the speed of your Internet connection.

Basic security - disable Wireless SSID Broadcast, set security mode to to WPA Personal, WPA algorithm to TKIP, and put a password in as your WPA Shared Key.

Unfortunately, different router BIOSes will define this stuff differently… but you should get the gist of it.

On your client, you’ll have to enter the SSID (network name), configure it for WPA Pre-shared Key, and then enter the password.

This will make your wireless lan more then secure enough.

Edit - I’ve found that older “b” routers don’t support some of this stuff. YMMV

Cool. Thanks for the info guys. The basic question I still have is… even with an “optimum” setup, will I experience a significant slowdown with a wireless versus wired connection? My wife bought the notebook primarily to remote desktop to her office downtown so she can work from home one day a week (and I got tired of sharing my PC with her on those days). I’ve set up a VPN connection to permit this but it’s slower than molasses on wireless (and, truth be told, not blindingly fast on an ethernet connection either). If I can set it up so she can work from anywhere in the house (e.g. wireless) then I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do.

Assuming you don’t live in an area where there are billions and billions of people using wireless routers, the speed of your Internet connection should be the bottleneck, not the wireless connection. So you should be able to get approximately the same performance over Wireless-G (or pre-N or whatever) as you do with the wired connection.

In theory the above should also be true for wireless-b, but in practice (for me, anyway), it wasn’t.

YMMV, but when I moved up to g from b the real-world speed improvement was enormous. Wireless b was always annoyingly laggy and had serious issues working at certain distances (that were well within the spec distances). All of those issues went away with wireless-g and from anywhere in my house (or even close by outside the house) the wireless connection now feels as stable and fast as when wired in, including when gaming and such. Of course, the VPN connection will probably still be a bit annoyingly sluggish, but in my experience they always are, even when on a fully wired link.

This thing Rocks:

Good to know. On a related note, are there any tweaks or massages I can apply to the existing VPN connection to my wife’s office to speed things up (wired and wireless), or is that directly tied to my DSL bandwith (currently about 2000 kbps down and 800 kbps up)?

So, after springing for a new wireless router (Netgear’s 802.11g 108Mbps WGT624); and promptly returning it when it wouldn’t connect to the Net; replacing it with a D-Link DI-524 802.11g 54Mbps model and encountering the same problem – I talked to a network specialist from my ISP (Telus) who informed me that it is simply not possible to have two routers in the same network.

If I want to improve on the 802.11b performance of Telus’s DSL modem-slash-router, I have to replace it with a modem-only unit before my new DI-524 can work. I’m currently waiting for them to send a replacement (non-router) modem.

Never knew that.

Huh? I’m not sure why they’re telling you that. It’s perfectly possible to have two routers on the same network.

Perhaps it is not with their in-house router/modem. That’s probably what they meant.

It’s perfectly possible. What it is, is a pain in the arse, as you have to disable certain routing and network services on one device.

I’m not sure why but the tech was adamant it couldn’t be done. The Telus-provided router/ADSL modem (a D-Link DSL-604) will no longer connect to the Internet once it detects another router (wired or wireless) in the system.

Perhaps that’s because Telus requires you to register a router’s MAC number with them before they grant you a connection (and two into one won’t go)?

You can have 2 routers on the same ethernet network (messy, complicated and overkill for a 2 computer home network) but can’t have 2 modems hooked on a single phone line. The easiest would be just using something like the D-Link DI-624 Wireless Router which does the DSL modem/router/wireless thing all by itself instead of having two boxes , the modem and the router/wireless and an extra cable to trip over while you try to guess where to plug it.
Networking can be daunting for a newcomer.