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Increasing wireless network range *Updated question... see below

bfickybficky Registered User regular
edited December 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
EDIT: My question is now focused on getting a range extender to work (see below)

I'm having some frustrating wireless-G network issues and come to y'all for help...

I have a Linksys WRT54G router in connected to the DSL modem in the living room, buried inside a very large entertainment center (the router is under the TV to accept wired connections from the PS2 and the TiVo). Not the most optimal place, I know, but moving it is not really an option, since to get behind the unit and move things around would be to move a 300lb TV, something I can't really do at the moment. The wireless network services the laptop (in the same room) and the desktop in the office (3 rooms away). The desktop is in a built-in bookcase so its location is set. I'm on the desktop now, and it's getting a "very low" signal of 11Mbps. Sometimes, it doesn't get a signal at all.

My first idea was to get a wireless range extender, so I bought this:

Linksys Wireless G Range Expander

My parents have one in their house, so how complicated could it be? Well, very, it turns out. After installation, the desktop's signal strength would be much better, but I'd have a constant "IP Conflict" error on the desktop. The expander would move from it's default 192.168.1.240 IP to match the desktop's IP, no matter what I changed it to. Linksys' tech support solution was to buy a new expander, even though googling the issue brought up tons of hits. Strike one.

While reading the woes of others with "IP Conflict" errors, I kept reading about people who bought a new WRT54G and made it a signal repeater. So I brought back the extender and got a new router. When I looked into it, however, you have to install 3rd party firmware from hacker sites onto the routers (something I don't want to mess with). Strike two.

Bringing back the second WRT54G led me to buy this:

Hawking 7DBI Hi-Gain Antenna

I was going for the 13DBI corner antenna but Best Buy didn't have any. I plugged the antenna into the router, and the signal got worse. I then plugged the antenna into the wireless PCI card on the desktop and the signal remained unchained from no booster antenna at all. Strike three.


I have a few options left, and I figure I'd open the floor for suggestions.:

1. Buy a new Linksys range extender (and hope that the "IP Conflict" was a specific hardware issue)
2. Go to hackrouters.com or whatever is was and start messing with the firmware of 2 routers
3. Buy a different signal boosting antenna (maybe the 13DBI one)
4. Buy a different brand range extender (D-Link or Hawking)

Anyone with experience with this and can help me out?

PSN: BFicky | Switch: 1590-9221-4827 | Animal Crossing: Brandon (Waterview) | ACNH Wishlist
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    vonPoonBurGervonPoonBurGer Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I'd love to help you OP, but you're not making it easy, ruling out the best solutions. O_o

    Seriously, get longer cables for the wired systems (CAT5 will run over 300 feet yo) and get the router out from underneath the massive pile of metal, glass and plastic under which it currently resides. You can fiddle around with new antennas all you like, but until you get the antenna away from any major signal impediments, you're fighting the basic laws of physics. Perhaps I'm simply not grasping how "buried" the router is, but it sounds like you can physically reach it, so I don't see why it would be so difficult to pull it out of there. If for some reason it simply has to stay where it is, at least get an antenna with a cable (e.g. like this one), so you can move the antenna out from under the massive pile.

    Also, seriously reconsider installing open source firmware. These people aren't "hackers" in the pejorative sense, they're smart people who understand what the underlying hardware in your router is capable of, and have made software that allows you access the full capabilities of the device that you own. The customer support and stock firmware for consumer-level networking gear is generally atrocious anyway, so you might as well void your warranty in exchange for more useable and feature-rich firmware. I use DD-WRT at home, for example, and I can tell you first-hand that increasing power to the wireless antenna (something DD-WRT lets you do, and Linksys won't let you do) boosts signal range and quality. Just don't go over 70mW (or maybe keep it to 50mW or less in your case, with the router buried where it is) so you don't overheat its wireless chipset. Also, if you want to stick with two routers, DD-WRT has bridging and repeating modes that actually work, which is more than I can say for most of the stock solutions from Linksys and the like.

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    embrikembrik Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    You could buy an access point (not a router) and place that on top. All you'd need for it is power and an ethernet cable down to the router itself. I've got a Netgear AP (this one), which I love. Since I installed it (replacing a much older AP), I've been able to get consistently better reception everywhere in my condo. Previously where I got no signal at all, I now get between 75-90%. The model I linked supposedly has "an advanced Smart MIMO (Multi-In, Multi-Out) technology that incorporates seven “intelligent” internal antennas." I don't know how intelligent it is, but it sure works for me. At any rate, separating the wireless from your other equipment is going to help immensely, so if you can figure out some way to move your router (perhaps get a switch for the equipment in the cabinet and run one ethernet to your router, or just do the AP route, as I'm suggesting), you'll have a much better connection.

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    alcoholic_engineeralcoholic_engineer Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    try this a parabolic antenna thingy if the computer in the room and the others are all in the same direction this may work while saving you a hell of alot of money

    alcoholic_engineer on
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    Nakatomi2010Nakatomi2010 Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I'm going to insert my own wireless question in here since someone has already made a thread on it....

    I own a Lnksys WRT350N, which currently sits in my office on an El Cheapo bookshelf, but in a well enough position. I do not use it in its upright position, I have instead chosen to use it in its playing down position with antennas sticking up. I have my Vonage phone adapter sitting on top of it, and it sits right next to my 5.8GHz cordless phone. It sits right above my old PSC 2510 printer which has a wireless B radio on it that's turned off. It goes through the bathroom walls and comes to rest in the living room about 15Ft to 20ft from where the signal originates from. Now, the Media Center PC uses a WMP300N wireless card, the PC itself sits under a 32" Sony Wega TV on a TV stand which is made of tempered glass. However, the design of this wireless card gives me about 3-4ft of cable to work with on where I can put the antenna.... Obviously the higher in the air the better, so have have it thread from the right side of the stand to the left, where it sits on the about 3ft off the ground on the side closest to the router, and with the TV on the otherside, the cable doesn't get any real interference.

    Anyways... My problem is that my wireless signal in my 2 bedroom apartment varies between 215mbps and 13mbps on my N network. My G devices get a constant 54mbps. N and G can coexist on a network without adversly affecting the other's speed much.....

    I DID just recently install a Wireless G printer, which does have its radio turned on an operational between the computer and router, but I've been having this issue since before then.

    The router is also configured to assign specific IP addresses to all devices on my network (currently 8) so I'm fairly certain its not an IP nogatiation...

    Edit: I've gone ahead and made a picture to show how I've got my stuff setup, it's quick and crappy, but gets the point accross...
    image1.jpg

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    khainkhain Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Are there any other access points that you can detect at either location?

    khain on
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    vonPoonBurGervonPoonBurGer Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    My G devices get a constant 54mbps.
    Not really. They may report a 54mbps data rate, but the actual real-world throughput is going to be far lower. Even in a best case scenario, wireless G is rarely able to sustain more than half of its theoretical maximum throughput, and it's usually more like a quarter of the theoretical maximum. Most wireless G devices just say they're connected at 54mbps, regardless of what their actual throughput would be like.
    N and G can coexist on a network without adversly affecting the other's speed much.....
    If by "much" you mean "reduce N to wireless G speeds or less", then you'd be correct. One of the ways Wireless N works to boost speeds is by bonding unused channels, and operating channels at a width of 40MHz instead of 22MHz. In cases where there's a lot of wireless chatter in the area, Wireless N devices have to either shift to unused, nonoverlapping channels, or throttle down to maintain backward compatibility if there's not enough free channels available. I'd be willing to bet that the times where you're seeing it drop as low as 13 mbps, it's trying to work around a lot of other conflicting traffic. Bust out a wireless sniffer and see how many other wireless APs are in your area.

    Also, note that anything in the 2.4GHz spectrum often take a shit-kicking when someone in your immediate area uses a microwave. The reason microwave ovens work is that energy in that spectrum is readily absorbed by water. That's also the reason that 2.4GHz was considered "junk spectrum" for most applications, and thus a band that could be used for low-cost development of limited-range wireless networks (no need for super high cost bidding on spectrum). I know my wireless connection pretty much dies whenever I heat something up in my microwave, because it's pretty much blasting out interference on the same wavelength used by my AP. That may also be part of what you're experiencing.

    The big win with wireless N is that it actively shifts channels as devices go online and offline. That means that in some cases it may drop to using what is essentially wireless A at 5 GHz because the wireless B/G spectrum (2.4 GHz) is clogged, either with other wireless network traffic, or by somebody's microwave, or somebody's 2.4 GHz cordless phone. When it's stuck using just 5 GHz spectrum, you may see lower throughput because range goes down as frequency goes up. If you've got a lot of stuff between your AP and your device, 5GHz may offer significantly lower throughput compared to 2.4GHz. However, at least it's still working, which is more than I can say for my wireless network whenever my neighbours heat up leftovers.

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    blincolnblincoln Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    If you get the access point (not router) equivalent model (WAP54G? something like that) you can use it as a repeater with the stock firmware. It is a cheaper than buying another router too.

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    bfickybficky Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Thanks for the advice.

    It took forever, but I moved the router on top of the entertainment center, but the signal strength didn't increase at all. I still think getting a repeater/extender is my first choice, and messing with the firmware of the router my second. I'm going to go back and get a different brand of extender and a WAP54G, and try those. If I still get the IP conflict (the solution posted on the internet didn't work for me, btw), I'll attempt the third party firmware. I'm avoiding the firmware route not because I think that I would be installing some immoral code on my router. I just know I'd be over my head, and I don't want to break something that isn't broken (even if it is a little weak).

    bficky on
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    vonPoonBurGervonPoonBurGer Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    bficky wrote: »
    I'm avoiding the firmware route not because I think that I would be installing some immoral code on my router. I just know I'd be over my head, and I don't want to break something that isn't broken (even if it is a little weak).
    Hey, fair enough. There is a slim chance that you could brick your router, but you'd have to be really not paying attention in order to do that. Offhand, I'd say it would require that you a) upload the wrong firmware for your unit or b) turn the unit or your computer off midflash. If you follow the flashing instructions carefully, the chances of a disaster are fairly minimal.

    Edit: You know, if moving the router didn't help matters, maybe you should focus on the other side of the connection. It sounds like your desktop is the problem, and I imagine it's due to the location of the desktop's antenna. Since you definitely can't move the PC from where it is, you might want to consider getting an antenna with a cable that's compatible with the PC's wireless card, so you can at least get that antenna out from inside the desk unit. That would also get it away from the metal case and wires (all of which can create interference) that are running around back there, which could also help the situation. Quite frankly, I feel that cabled antennas ought to be standard for desktop wireless NICs, since often the physical location of your PC is also a terrible place to stick an antenna and expect it to work well.

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    bfickybficky Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    OK, I bought a different extender (Hawking) and I have the exact same problem as before. I get the error, "There is an IP address conflict with another system on the network" whenever the desktop connects to the extender.

    I followed the "solution" posted here. I set static IPs for the extender and the desktop, both outside the range of the DHCP router (router set to start at 192.168.1.111, with 50 available slots, the extender set to 192.168.1.161 and the desktop set to 192.168.1.70. I do the power cycle, but the error continues. Sometimes it's a constant error (as soon as I close the bubble it pops up a new one), sometimes it goes away for a while (I can normally get it back by doing an ipconfig). My internet is fine (no interruption) but I'd like the conflict to be resolved. Any advice?

    bficky on
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