Daily Archives: 12/28/2003

Hello NETGEAR, Goodbye Linksys

I set up a NetGear WGR614 wireless router (802.11 b and g) on my home network yesterday. So far, things have gone very smoothly. The biggest problem was reacquiring valid IP addresses on the Mac, Linux, and Windows boxes. I previously used a Linksys BEFSR41 as a router and a DHCP server. It uses a 192.168.1.x subnet, while the NetGear router uses a 192.168.0.x subnet. Therefore, when I switched out the routers, I had to force all my computers to release their previous IP addresses and request new ones.

In hindsight, I now wonder why I wasted so much time and money on Linksys gear before. When all I had was the Linksys BEFSR41, a Power Mac G3 desktop, and an IBM ThinkPad T23, everything was fine. Then I added a Dell Dimension PC running Windows XP. If the Dell and the Mac were connected to the Linksys router (not necessarily even turned on; just connected by Ethernet cables), then in anywhere from a few seconds to about thirty minutes, the Linksys router would lockup. Even after powering it off and back on, it might take 20-30 minutes before the router would respond. I could use the ThinkPad and the Mac together with no problem. I could use the Dell and the ThinkPad together with no problem. But, if the Dell and the Mac were connected at the same time, the Linksys router would try to commit suicide.

I sent email to Linksys customer support describing the problem in great detail. No response. I tried again. no response. I guess that’s their strategy for saving money on customer support.

Despite this painful experience, I bought a Linksys WAP11 access point. When used with the ThinkPad, it worked great. Then, we bought a Powerbook G4. After hours and hours of tweaking the network configuration for the PowerBook, I finally got it to connect to the WAP11.

But, the signal strength sucked. Our house isn’t very big, but I couldn’t even sit in the living room (about 40 feet, albeit through lath and plaster walls) from the WAP11. Sure, the titanium cased Powerbook is known for poor wireless range, but this was ridiculous. Even worse, the WAP11 would randomly lock up after anywhere from a few minutes to a few days after using the Powerbook. Fixing it required unplugging and replugging the power cable for the WAP11.

Then I read about the Linksys Wireless Signal Booster. Despite my nightmarish experiences so far with Linksys networking gear, I foolishly bought the Linksys WSB24. Of the three pieces of Linksys gear, this one was actually the most reliable. That is, it didn’t crash several times per week. However, it added only about 15 feet to the distance I could wirelessly roam from the WAP11. That additional distance was definitely not worth the $80 I paid for it.

The NetGear WGR614 is an absolute dream compared to my pile of Linksys junk. Not only is it far more reliable, but the signal strength is as good or better than the combo of the WAP11 and the signal booster. Also, web browsing with the Powerbook is 2-3 times faster. I always wondered why the PowerBook was so slow when connected wirelessly instead of wired. I thought it was a problem with the Airport card. No, as I should have known all along, it was yet another indication of how crappy the Linksys products are. Also, instead of hours of fighting with the Linksys and Mac OS X networking configurations to get the Powerbook to connect to the WAP11, it took me less than a minute to get the Powerbook to connect reliably and securely to the WGR614.

Reminder for later: to get a new DHCP allocated IP address on Red Hat 9 Linux (assuming eth0 is the primary network interface) without having to reboot, do the following as root:

#killall dhcpd

/sbin/dhclient eth0