WDS: confusing, powerful, and waiting for a champion

WDS: confusing, powerful, and waiting for a champion.

After quite a bit of WiFi wrangling, around a month ago I begrudgingly admitted to myself that there was really no good way to boost the signal from my 802.11g router enough to provide any access worth a damn in the back of our apartment. And given that the root of the problem was the presence of thick, century-old plaster and lathe walls, the last solution I was interested in considering was drilling holes and running an ethernet cable all the way back. The only other option I could really think of was to set up wireless repeaters, but until just recently, they were either too expensive, too limited, or completely unreliable. Once I saw that the latest firmware for the Linksys 802.11g access point included the ability to serve as a repeater, though, my interest perked back up in the idea — we already own a Linksys wireless router (the WRT54G), so if all we needed was one of their access points (the WAP54G), then we were willing to give it a go.

Yesterday, Shannon and I went to Best Buy to pick up the access point, and learned that despite it having less inherent functionality than Linksys's corresponding wireless router, it costs more ($20 more, at least at Best Buy). And while the stock firmware for the router doesn't include the ability to use it as a repeater, I remembered that there is a flourishing community of alternate firmwares for the box (given that, underneath the pretty blue exterior, it just runs Linux!), and that some of those alternatives provide the repeater functionality. We made a quick decision to give it a try, and after getting home and doing a little research, I settled on Sveasoft's latest firmware. I put around two hours of work into the configuration last night, ended up sleeping on the last remaining obstacle, and then awoke this morning to finish the setup — and it works!

The fancy name for the standard that provides wireless repeater activity is WDS, which stands for Wireless Distribution System. Setting WDS up in Sveasoft's firmware is as confusing as it gets, hence needing two hours and an overnight of dream-based contemplation in order to get it working; that being said, now that it's set up, our apartment is virtually bathed in WiFi goodness, and Shannon's office computer is happily churning away on the network. (After personally hitting most of the potential stumbling blocks full-on, I plan to write up a how-to for what I did to get it working, and generally, what anyone needs to do to get WDS enabled on a Linksys WRT54G.) This all makes me realize, though, that once a company gets WDS distilled down to a single-click interface, it'll make home wiring nearly obsolete.  [Q Daily News]

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