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Wireless Home Local Area Network (LAN)

  • Introduction
  • Current Configuration
  • Basic Components (not wireless)
  • Broadband Connection
  • Ethernet Cables
  • Firewall/Proxy
  • Bridge, WLAN Extension
  • Server and Server OS
  • Clients
  • Wireless: WAP, etc
  • Recommendations
  • Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station
  • WAP Location
  • 802.11b Security
  • D-Link 10/100 switch
  • Hawkings Print Server, Apple LaserWriter Select 360 and HP 882C
  • Links
  • Legacy Notes
  • History
  • rev: 06 Nov 2005


    This document summarizes my experience building my mixed-mode wireless/fixed multi-platform home LAN with net connection. It includes discussions of @1999 pen-oriented client machines and my current (Sept. 2002) setup as well as notes on possible alternatives. See also a later web page: Backing up a mixed OS X and Windows 2000 Home Network

    Current Configuration

    Basic Components (including alternatives)

    (The Wireless part of the LAN has its own section.)

    Net Link - US West EZ-DSL

    See notes on my experiences with DSL, Network Address Translation, NetBIOS, and routing. Despite some rough spots, this is working quite well. The DSL traffic runs over my voice line, I'm able to run my 33K modem on this DSL/voice line with good throughput even while DSL traffic is active.

    Ethernet Cables

    There are two kinds, patch or straight-through (standard) and crossover cables. You can tell which is which by putting the ends next to one another. If the colors are identical from left to right you have a standard UTP cable; if they are not identical you have a crossover cable. (Analogous to a null modem serial cable in the old world.)

    You can use a cross-over cable to connect two machines to each other without a hub, or you can use it to connect a standard 10-base-T port to the uplink port of a hub. My Cisco 675 router was connected with a cross-over cable to the uplink port of my hub; I could have also connected it with a straight-through patch cable to a regular port on the same hub.

    The ethernet (LAN) port from the Cisco router and the WAN port on the SMC router are both standard ports. So I'm connected by a crossover cable from the Cisco ethernet port to the SMC WAN port. A standard straight-through cable connects from a regular port on the SMC router to the Uplink port on my hub.

    This is all pretty confusing, but when in doubt look at the little lights on your PC, switch, hub, etc. If they're green at both ends you have the right cable.

    See also

    Proxy Server/Router/Firewall

    Cisco 675

    I thought I'd need to run an internal firewall or proxy-server, but my Cisco 675 (see experiences with DSL ...) connects to my ISP in PPP mode, not bridged mode. It has significant firewall properties, though it's certainly not corporate-level security. So, for now, I'm not planning to run a separate proxy server or firewall. I disable all external services, change/add passwords, allow access only via physical serial cable, change port addresses, keep my ROM updated, etc.

    The Cisco 675 connects to my voice line, and then uses a crossover cable to connect to my AirPort Extreme router/WAP. The AirPort provides wireless service and connects to the uplink port of my

    My other machines likewise connect to the hub. I have up to 253 internal IP addresses that can be assigned to machines on the home LAN. My ISP gives my router a fixed IP address, so I could run a web server if I set up the address translation/port redirection on the router.

    Apple AirPort

    See also Current Configuration and Recommendations. The AirPort is discussed below.

    Server and Server OS

    I'd like to have a secured server that's away from the kids and that can handle Mac files and PC files. One I can turn on, remove the monitor, and forget about. I need to be able to back it up and maybe reboot it every month or two.

    Windows 2000 Workstation (SMB share)

    This is my current arrangement. I know I had some early problems, but I can't recall them. It's been very reliable. My backup solution uses Retrospect on a Win2K workstation. That works ok, but it leaves "dot" files all over the directory tree (DAVE stored Mac metadata and resource forks in the NTFS alternate file stream, but the OS X client stores them in the "dot" directories and files. The DAVE implementation was a lot cleaner, I could manipulate files using the Win 2K file browser without breaking the relationship between a resource fork and a file. NTBackup can backup and restore alternate file streams transparently.

    I have quite a few of my OS X files on the SMB share using the built-in OS X 10.3.4 SAMBA client. It works fine with iTunes (my entire iTunes library is on the SMB share -- in fact two of them are on the SMB share, one manaped from iTunes/PC and the main one managed by iTunes/Mac -- the way I share and move data between the two is out of scope for this page). It doesn't work at all for iPhoto -- something to do with string handling I think (Unicode strings, legal characters, etc). I think DAVE would handle those well. For now I created a "growing" OS X disk image and configured it (command line) to grow in large chunks (otherwise file fragmentation is severe). OS X 10.3 and beyond mounts these images very well (10.2 could not). It's a problem for Retrospect Backup, however -- changing a single byte causes a 2GB image to be backed up! (I back them up separately and restart the backup when it grows too much -- not ideal.)

    Windows 98

    Oddly enough, Windows 98 is a pretty good server for home and SOHO -- if you don't mind restarting it every day. It's surprisingly reliable (daily restart), simple to use, etc. I use MacLAN on a separate Win95 box for Mac file sharing, but that software is old and barely supported any longer. I end up running AppleTalk and TCP/IP, but I think NetBEUI may sneak in there on occasion.

    MacOS X 10.2 and Mac Classic/DAVE

    An OS X 10.2 Mac (unlike 10.1) can be a server for SMB (windows) clients out of the box but my experience with OS X SMB support has been iffy.

    DAVE is really a great solution, and not too expensive at about $150. With it installed on a Mac you can either be a client of a Windows file server (stores Mac resource forks in NTFS alternate data stream) or a server for Windows clients. DAVE has an uncertain future since Apple now bundles an inferior but workable SMB client/server support with OS X (esp. 10.2). It works for either Mac Classic or OS X.


    Linux is the least costly solution. The server will probably be stored in a closet and will run Samba (IP/SMP) and AppleTalk over the LAN. It will serve up files to my PC and Macs. See Linux Links.


    I used to want a slate device, and in 2000 I was sure an inexpensive Linux/BeOS device was right around the corner. I even handled some prototypes from very well known hardware vendors. Alas, the market crashed. Maybe by 2005 we'll have Microsoft Mira clients with XP servers, but the potential revenue disruption of that solution for Microsoft is enormous -- so they have to go slow. (Which is why big companies appropriately try to avoid disruptive technologies.) I'm more hopeful that OS X Panther will in 2004 incorporate a multi-user thin client solution.

    After trying several slate devices, I became disenchanted with the whole idea. Even if they worked perfectly, I don't like using them. I love my Palm (too bad about the #@$ reliability problems!), but the Sony PictureBook Vaio PCG-C1XE or Apple iBook are better form factors for a mobile home client.

    As of mid-2002 my main home client is an Apple iBook

    Apple iBook

    I paid about $1000 for an Apple iBook that was being discontinued in favor of a somewhat better product. I chose the slightly smaller display size because I wanted longer battery life and a smaller form factor. I brought the memory up to 256MB, one should not ever buy an OS X machine with less than 256. Performance has been reasonable for my uses; the 256MB works better than I thought it would. It comes with a slowish G3 CPU, but the slow speed is compensated by low power consumption.

    This is such a fabulous machine I wish now I'd paid the higher price for the very slightly better version :-).

    There's no laptop by any vendor with any OS that has a comparable price/value ratio. The bundled software packages are extremely good; once OpenOffice is fully working on the iBook there will be little need for much more for most uses. If one does need additional software, there are many superb vendors providing low cost net-distributed software for OS X. Not to mention all the UNIX packages ...

    The iBook is running OS/X 10.2.2. It has an Airport card. It works perfectly with the SMC Barricade, no problems setting the network ID or the 128bit encryption. Okay, there's one little problem. OS X has at least 3 different ways to set the SSID name/password. I find the best approach is to pick the wirless network name (SSID) from the apple menu AirPort drop down, then enter the username and passoword there. From this UI one can specify that the password string is a hex string. From other UIs one must precede the string with a $ character so that OS X interprets it as hex.

    The iBook mas much better pickup than my PC PCMCIA 802.11b card, presumably because the antenna is the entire display! (Apple's high end laptop did the same thing, but the titanium shell ruins reception. The tough plastic iBook does far better.)

    The power saving is brilliant. It's easy to turn off the Airport Card to save power (note that no other device I know of does this.) Close the lid and it sleeps instantly -- in the middle of playing a game! Open the lid and it wakes up. There's no stupid antenna sticking out.

    Apple designs and makes the best laptops in the industry. The iBook is the equal of the famed PowerBook 165. I put it in the same neoprene case I used for my PB many years ago; it fits with a bit of room to spare.

    Wireless Hardware and Software


    Current Configuration lists what I currently do. If I were to do it again I'd not use an integrated WAP/router/firewall/switch combination. Here's my 8/03 recommendation, based on too much experience to detail:

    Why a separate WAP?

    One problem with the combination setup is that if you use the switch/router (and esp. print server!) functionality, then the device has a very constrained location. It has to be near the printer, and it has to accommodate all the cables coming in and out. That location is usually not the correct location for optimal wireless coverage.

    Another problem is reliability. Price competition is fierce in 802.11b devices and quality is poor. At least if you have multiple devices you can replace the one that fails. I wonder too if single purpose devices are more reliable. The downside of multiple devices is all those darned bricks.

    Then there's debugging, upgrading (need to upgrade everything in an integrated unit), etc.

    I recommend buying an integrated router/switch, a separate print server, and a separate WAP that acts as a bridge to the wired LAN. It usually does not have an IP address of its own, and it has a single cable running from the WAP to the hub. In that case you can then optimally locate the WAP, and move it away from interfering metal cabinets. (Remember, PC cases are designed to block RF emissions!)

    Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station

    After far too many hours spent dealing with my failing SMC WAP and my flaky NetGear integrated device (wireless was okay, had defect in switch), I bought an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station: an integrated WAP/router/USB-print server (no switch - which for me is a feature), which I use locked to 802.11b only (since the only clients are 802.11b). It's worked very well. A few notes:

    My AirPort router gets its external address from my Cisco 675. It's single ethernet port connects to my D-Link 10/100 switch. The AirPort is a DHCP server for my LAN clients, save that my PrintServer has a fixed IP address.

    Print Serving from the AEBS

    The AEBS supports sharing a USB printer. It works very well sharing my old HP 882C to OS X machines, but I can't get the usual hacks (pretend it's an HP JetDirect print server, basically a raw LPR dump to port 9100) to work. I'm still playing around. See notes on the Hawkings.

    WAP Location

    See also Recommendations, an integrated WAP/switch/router is often very hard to locate properly.

    802.11b Security

    For an introduction and overview see Extreme Tech's Wireless LAN Deployment and Security Basics and Exploiting and Protecting 802.11b Wireless Networks. I think, however, they were overly optimistic. Here are some recommendations based on my discussions with some people I respect.

    The basic problem is that anyone with a $200 Linux box, a $60 wireless card, and AirSnort (free) can hack into a generic  encrypted WLAN. If encryption is 40 bit and network traffic is very heavy, this takes about 30-60 minutes. Heavy traffic and 128 bit takes 1-6 days to crack. Light traffic (home use) and 128 bit takes 6-12 months for enough packets to pass through (and who would bother?).

    'AirSnort requires approximately 5-10 million encrypted packets to be gathered. Once enough packets have been gathered, AirSnort can guess the encryption password in under a second."

    Effective Strategy I

    1. Buy a proprietary solution that provides better security. The most standard of these "non-standard" solutions basically use Public Key standards (Kerberos) to update the WEP clients with new 128 bit WEP encryption passwords every few minutes.

    Generally Effective Strategy II

    1. Enable WEP, and insist on 128-bit WEP capability.  Nearly all Wi-Fi certified product ships with at least basic (crummy, 40 bit) encryption capabilities, but they're disabled by default. You need 128 bit.

    2. Only purchase access points that have flashable firmware -- in case fixes ever emerge.

    3. Don't do backups over a WLAN, in fact, don't do heavy traffic. (WLAN's are too slow for heavy traffic anyway.)

    4. Change your WEP passwords every 2-3 months (so traffic sampling won't build up enough data).

    5. Tighten up all your shares with solid passwords and don't use any software that would pass those passwords over the LAN. Assume, in other words, that your LAN is public.

    6. Change the default password on your access point or wireless router.

    7. Consider moving your WAP into a "DMZ" or limiting WAP access to Internet services only. This makes the WAP less useful (can't access wired LAN assets from your wireless client), but it's much safer.

    Known Ineffective Strategies

    These probably only work against a very naive attacker, and they'd be defeated by the WEP encryption anyway.

    1. You need to change the WLAN  SSID to something distinctive to enable users to easily move between WLANs. Since WAPs usually broadcast the SSID, others will see it - so don't give it a name you don't want others to see. If your access point can disable SSID broadcast (mine cannot) you can make it a kind of cheap, crummy, easily defeated password. If you want to do that don't change the SSID to reflect your company's main names, divisions, or products. Don't change the SSID to your street address. If you try this feeble method, the client SSID must be manually set to match the WLAN SSID. I don't think it's worthwhile.

    2. Many access points allow you to control access based on the MAC address of the client NIC attempting to associate with it. Enable this. (But packet analysis will pick up MAC addresses, so this is probably pointless unless one doesn't even use WEP. It's probably more bother than it's worth.

    3. If you're deploying a wireless router, think about assigning static IP addresses for your wireless NICs and turn off DHCP.

    4. If you're using a wireless router and have decided to turn off DHCP, also consider changing the IP subnet. Many wireless routers default to the network and use as the default router, if hackers guess this configuration they can connect with a fixed IP.

    5. Consider using an additional level of authentication, such as RADIUS, before you permit an association with your access points, or if you need only one AP (home) disable association if possible. Orinoco access points, for example, can enforce RADIUS authentication of MAC addresses to an external RADIUS server. Intermec access points include a built-in RADIUS server for up to 128 MAC addresses.

    6. Look for products that support additional security features that are either not defined by the 802.11b standard, or not mandated by the standard. For example Agere Systems' Orinoco access points include a feature called "closed network". With Orinoco's closed network, the AP doesn't broadcast the SSID, so someone using NetStumbler won't see it. The client workstation must be configured with a matching SSID to associate with the AP. The default "ANY" configuration wouldn't associate with a closed network.

    7. Locate access points toward the center of your building rather than near the windows to reduce external emissions.

    Configuration of my LAN

    Internet ->  DSL/Cisco router (external IP/ -> (crossover cable) -> NetGear (

    From the NetGear there are two cables:

    -> (straight/patch cable) -> uplink port of 10/100 switch --> Win2K wired clients, one OS X wireless client.
    ->  (straight/patch cable) -> a LAN port on SMC switch/print server ( -> parallel port connection to my Apple LaserWriter 360.

    General Setup: (see also 802.11b Security Issues)


    D-Link 10/100 switch

    It's a bad habit to mix products from too many vendors on a LAN, but in my case I have bits and pieces. The 10/100 switch is from D-Link. It's worked pretty smoothly. The AirPort connects to the switch as do all my other devices. There's no uplink port, this type of switch will adjust appropriately. It's a "dumb" switch -- it cannot be programmed, ports cannot be locked, etc. I'd recommend buying at least an 8 port switch, a 5 port switch doesn't leave much room for growth.

    Hawkings PS12U Print Server, Apple LaserWriter Select 360 and HP 882C

    See Hawking Technologies PS12U 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Print Server.

    Incoherent documentation, even allowing that it was written by a non-English speaker. It's a mess. Download the document from the web site. A few notes:

    Using the Hawkings PS12U with a legacy LaserWriter Select 360

    My experience with IP/LPR printing with OS X 10.2.6 and the Hawking PrintServer was strange. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn't[2]. Usually it wouldn't. The OS "Print Center" would show a job as starting, then the printer would be "stopped". The LW progress light never flashed, so it wasn't getting anything. The print job appeared to not my iBook. The Hawking Print Server, which is essentially undocumented, did work quite well from Windows. I tried advanced options, such as IPP with no success. I switched to AppleTalk printing via OS X. This requires some obscure configuration in 10.2.6. (PS. I have Gimp-Print installed, I don't know if things look different if has not installed GIMP.)

    (This problem may be fixed in 10.3.4 but I've not retested.)

    1. Using the Windows-only Hawkings configuration utility, be sure Hawkings is setup correctly for AppleTalk. I used no zone name, port name "ATALK_PS", printer type LaserWriter, Data Format TBCP.
    2. Start Print Center.
    3. Hold down option key, select "Printers:Add Printer". Release mouse key while continuing to hold option key.
    4. From the list of protocols choose "Advanced".
    5. In the list of devices you will see AppleTalk Printer Access Protocol (pap). Don't use this directly, because lower down you will see the AppleTalk label associated with the Hawking Print Server: ATALK_PS-.....
    6. Select the correct Hawking Label (they are in order by the 3 Hawking ports, port 1 is the parallel port).
    7. This sets up a device name (which can be changed to something user friendly) and a Device URL of the form: pap://*/ATALK_PS-21B423-1/LaserWriter
      [I suspect if one specifies a zone it would follow pap://, and if one changed the matching string in the Hawking utility then LaserWriter would be replaced by your new string].

    Using the Hawkings PS12U with a non-Networked Hewlett-Packard 882C for Mac OS X CUPS and Windows clients

    I've a few late-June 2004 blog notes on this. I plugged the old 882C into a Hawkings USB port and used the Hawkings PC client to configure it. No problem. I could have also used the standard XP/Win2K internet printing services (see manual); I think the Hawkings client basically acts as a wizard to set up the appropriate port in an Windows printer definition.

    On OS X it was harder -- mostly because of limitations with CUPS support on my 10.3.4 Panther installation. I couldn't get it to work at all using the OS X Print Center configuration. I was able to to make it work using the OS X web interface to the CUPS subsystem. (http://localhost:631) and this url: (address of my AirPort Extreme Base Station, queue name is lp3). I think there's either something generically broken in 10.3.4 CUPS (permissions problem most likely) or my personal configuration is messed up (too much trouble for me to fix at this time). Using the web interface I had a limited choice of generic HP drivers. It did work (I may have been logged in as root to get this to work, my notes are unclear) but the CUPS drivers had some page size problems.

    I can support this printer using my AirPort Express Base Station and HP's own downloadable OS X drivers so for now I move this printers plug from the AEBS to the Hawkings depending on need. I'm hoping I'll either get a CUPS solution (and keep it on the Hawkings) or figure out how to print to it from the PC when the HP is on the AEBS.

    Bridge, WLAN Extension

    I have a Mac 7200/90 running Mac OS 8.6 downstairs. It's a game machine that I might want to connect to my LAN. There are not many wireless solutions for this device, but here are two choices. Both would use this machine's built-in ethernet and a short crossover cable:

    On the other hand, perhaps you want to simply extend your existing wireless LAN with a wireless repeater that rebroadcasts your WAP signal. Tom's Hardware Guide Networking: Wireless Repeating with the D-Link DWL-900AP+ tells you how.



    Related Projects (mine)

    Linux (general and file server)

    Legacy Notes

    These are really archaic, but are retained here for anyone working with ancient items. I doubt any of the links work anymore.

    NetGear MR814 Router/Firewall/Switch/802.11b WAP (returned, defective unit)

    I acquired the NetGear in June 2003 when my SMC 802.11b service became unreliable. Out of the box it didn't work; throughput was very slow and then failed. After a firmware upgrade it started working. Subsequently I had network instability issues. I could never get it working with an external switch; it wouldn't route correctly and network throughput would slow to a crawl. I don't think this is a universal problem, I think mine had a defect. The wireless support was quite good, it has very nice removable antenna, and range is far better than my Apple AirPort's internal antenna.

    SMC was dumping the 802.11b NetGear this June, and there was no tech support. No-one responded to my emails. I'd sent in for a rebate and thus removed the UPC label, but Amazon took it back anyway (!!) and credited me. The rebate never showed up, so either Amazon was able to get that fixed properly or SMC's "rebate" is bogus. (I suspect the latter, if I ever get the rebate I'll donate it to charity since I've returned the unit.)

    The software UI is superior to the SMC and it can be configured by IE or a Mac (Safari). It seems to use Windows style authentication rather than web standards.

    The multi-function device includes:

    SMC Networks SMC7004AWBR Wireless 4-Port Broadband Router with Print Server

    As of June 2003 my 1.5 year old SMC Networks SMC7004AWBR Wireless 4-Port Broadband Router with Print Server's 802.11b service became unreliable, locking up every 2-14 days and requiring a restart. A complete reset, firmware update, etc did nothing. I suspect a hardware problem. Very short lifespan!

    I purchased a NetGear MR814 Router/Firewall/Switch/802.11b WAP to replace the SMC and I tried to turn the SMC into a dedicated print server and switch. It didn't work, probably because I messed up and confused a crossover cable with a regular patch cable (sigh).

    These directions may work for someone else though ..

    To reduce interference from the unrelibable 802.11b service I popped the case off (easily done, pry it from the sides) and pulled out the internal Taiwanese 802.11b PCI card (also easily done, the glutinous material holding it in parts readily) and the associated antennae. With the card removed the device continues to work, the menu system neatly drops the entries for the WAP.

    I set this configuration to cause the SMC to behave like a switch/print server for my iBook and Win2K workstations. I'm not sure how well this will work, the device was not intended for this use. It's easy when doing this to set things so you can't control the SMC at all -- reset to defaults by powering off, push and hold reset switch, power on and hold reset for 10 seconds.:

    The SMC device acts like a switch/print server. It does not route anything, there's nothing connected to the WAN port.

    Print Serving with a Mac Client and the SMC router

    I've used the first three of these methods. The first works best, the next two are cheaper but don't work as well.

    1. Get printer working with a Win2K machine or Win98 machine using the Barricade installation (very modest), then share the printer. Use DAVE (www.thursby.com) to mount the shared PC printer on the Mac. (DAVE is quite magical, but not cheap.)
    2. Mac Classic: See Mac documentation.. Use Apple's desktop printer utility to create a postscript printer. Like you the first time I tried this my machine LOCKED UP big time -- I had to restart without extensions to clear the print job. Then I followed-up on a tip that Asante used the same equipment and found that the secret is to specify a spool of "lp". After that it worked, though I'm not sure it's perfect -- my test page printed but my printer light keeps blinking!
    3. Mac OS X: Using Print Center, setup an IP printer. For the spool you must specify "lp". I had the same printer light blinking problem as with Classic, this is a known OS X bug. I think this may be fixed as of OS X 10.2.6, but I've found that this type of thing tends to break or get fixed from release to release. See Mac OS X Hints - Print via the SMC Barricade print server and this usenet thread
    4. Really adventurous Mac users (Mac OS X Hints - Print to a PC parallel-port-connected HP printer) have used the CUPS system to print to a PC print server, and presumably that server could print to the LPR printer ... (wow, that's complicated).

    Jupiter Class WinCE Machines (Extinct class of machine, but historically interesting)

    As of Mar 2000 this class of machine is really losing its appeal; Microsoft is likely discontinuing all but the WinCE tablets. I've used the IBM z50 WorkPad and looked at the the quite intriguing Vadem Clio and NEC Mobile Pro 800.

    Chris De Herrera's Windows CE Website is the best source I've found for networking information and Windows CE, including a discussion of the WinCE network client. The HP Jornada has support from Spectrum24 & Proxim RangeLAN but not BreezeNet.

    Fujitsu Point 510

    This is a 1998 device I used for for a work-related project. It's really obsolete, but my experiences are probably noteworthy. It was configured with a BreezeNet PC Card 2nd generation card with the flexible 2.5" retractable thin antennae. It worked well at home even with the antennae retracted. This antenna setup was quite robust.

    The device has an AMD (486 class) CPU, 64MB of DRAM, and an SVGA screen. It runs Windows 95 with Pen Windows 2.0 and a (now discontinued) print recognition engine from CIC. Pen Windows is the most pathetic Microsoft product I've ever used; it's worse than NetBIOS or Outlook (ok, maybe not as bad as NetBIOS). Microsoft's pen extensions were pretty weak in version 1.0 (Windows 3.1), but the 2.0 version introduced with Windows 95 is even worse. In fact Microsoft basically killed Pen Windows in 1995, after they'd achieved their goal of terminating the very promsing PenPoint product (a long story).

    I started out using Internet Explorer 4.01, but the performance was miserable. Pages took forever to render. I switched to Opera 3.60 (I'm a registered user) and, with this browser, the device works pretty well. I found Opera's window management and full-screen view far more pen-friendly that IE.

    This is a first-generation device. It's heavy, slow, and has a 1.5 hour battery life (Microsoft's power management tools are far interior to those that came with my PowerBook 165 about 10 years ago). If you lay it down you can't read the screen (narrow viewing angle and no 'legs' on the device to tilt it), and the screen is unusable in bright light. It's very slow to wake up from sleep mode. Lastly, Windows 95/98/NT are a very poor fit for a pen interface in too many ways to discuss. Still, with Opera and some patient configuration, this does work. It shows the promise of what may come (of course we should have fulfilled that promise 8 years ago, but thanks to Microsoft progress has been a bit slower than that).

    Sony PictureBook Vaio PCG-C1XE

    Dynamism imported the Japanese only Sony PCG-C1XE subnotebook - 2.2 lb. PII 266 running Win98. As of Mar 2000 a similar version, without the camera, was available in the US for $2200.

    The C1XE fills a form-factor gap between the toy-like WinCE clamshell (Jornada handheld) and the very lightweight Win9x portables. It includes a terrific 1024x280 display. Performance is excellent, battery life is feeble with the standard battery (too small); more average with the extended battery. It's great for traveling -- fits very comfortably in the smallest briefcase.

    It's not quite as easy to read the newspaper while sitting in an easy chair as was the Fujitsu Point 510, but it's great at breakfast. I keep it in the kitchen with the wireless card installed (see notes on heat and power in BreezeCom BreezeNet). The integrated camera is amusing but dispensable. Integrated iLink (firewire variant), USB, etc.

    One drawback is that this machine has a number of Sony hardware/software extensions that may make it hard to maintain. Also the USB floppy interface is flaky, it can lock up the system when you try to run an program from the floppy drive.

    More seriously, the Pentium II CPU on this machine runs HOT. The CPU seems to be near the PC card slot; the undersurface of that slot can be uncomfortable to touch. The extended-duration battery acts as a riser, improving air flow over the bottom of the PictureBook and helping a bit. I think the heat may affect the performance of wireless PC cards.

    BreezeCom BreezeNet

    Circa Jan 2000 I used a BreezeCom's BreezeNet Wireless Access Point (WAP Pro.11) and PC Card with7/99 drivers and software.

    Setup is very simple; the WAP bridges the wireless LAN and 10Base T LAN, so it doesn't need an IP address. (You can give it an IP address for management purposes, if you do you can ping it.) If you do need to do any configuring you use a serial cable connection and Telnet. There are lots of settings to tweak -- don't touch them unless you know what you're doing.

    I plugged the quite small and well built) WAP into my hub and I was done. Then all you need to do is the usual IP setup on the client side. Of course if you enter your IP address incorrectly you don't get any error messages! So type carefully.

    Performance feels like about ISDN speeds. Downloads go about 100 KB/sec. They claim "3Mb/sec", but those are fantasy numbers (see Wireless Hardware and Software).

    With the latest software I've had problems losing my connection during very large file transfers, however this may be due to overheating in the Sony PCG PC slot I was testing in.


    IEEE 802.11 "2Mb/sec" has moved to the 802.11b "11Mb/sec" standard over the past few years. As of November 2001 vendors are starting to ship higher speed but incompatible 802.11a equipment, hopefully with better security. A high speed 802.11b compatible protocol may also emerge in late 2002, so if the 802.11b security problems can be patched up it's still probably the best way to go.

    Unfortunately in late 2001 the 802.11b encryption protocol was broken. A knowledgeable hacker using available tools can now crack many wireless LANs. Vendors are developing some proprietary fixes, see 802.11b Security Issues.  Note that the 802.11b radio spectrum is unlicensed in the US and claimed in the US and elsewhere by many devices. Bluetooth devices interfere in this range, but they are very rare. Newer wireless phones in the 2.4GHz range may interfere with the LAN slightly; but more often its the phone that has problems. The older 900 MHz digital phones have no interference problems.

    The 802.11b spec defines an 80MHz span around the 2.4GHz domain. Each access point has a 22MHz span, so no more than 3 APs may overlap.

    The throughput of an 802.11b wireless device is less than that of a typical wired client, but it's at least as fast as my DSL line. For most of my purposes performance is adequate.

    Compared to a proprietary 1-2MB/sec BreezeNet device I used to have the 802.11b is faster but seems to have a greater power drain, more fragile PC card antennae and higher power drains. The 802.11b card, even in its low power setting, seems to use more power than the rest of my laptop combined.

    Power consumption is the fundamental problem for wireless LANs with unplugged clients. It's bad enough for laptops, but its very bad for PDAs.  The relationship between power consumption, range, and throughput is complex, but in general analog radio signals seem to suck a lot of power compared to digital work. I feel as though 802.11b uses more power than the older BreezeNet protocols, and 802.11a may be even worse for typical use (there's much argument about this). 

    (Aside: For New Years Eve 1999 I had a Sony PictureBook in the kitchen playing the BBC announcing the turn of the millenium in Greenwich. The signal travelled via the Net to my home DSL connection through the home LAN to the wireless access point to the Sony. A rather complex and costly shortwave radio.)

    Sygate: Win95+

    Sygate 3.0 is cheap, simple, and has worked for friends of mine. It also works with the Zoom Telephonics ZoomAir wireless.

    Linux server wireless

    WinCE Wireless

    Misc and General



    [1] In November 2002 I did another firmware upgrade because of problems using the LPR printing with Mac OS X 10.2.2. I'd heard rumor that the firmware fixed the printing problem (still to be determined). After the upgrade the router was totally unresponsive. I had to reset it to factory specs to make it communicate again. The reset procedure is very odd, you need to read the manual closely. You have to push HARD inside the metal oval "reset" area. It looks like you're pushing on the case! Weird, but it does work. Try several times if need be.
    [2] I think part of the problem may be that the LW does not support bidirectional parallel port interfaces. I suspect most parallel port print servers expect bidirectional messaging.

    Author: John G. Faughnan.  The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. Pages are updated on an irregular schedule; suggestions/fixes are welcome but they may take weeks to years to be incorporated. Anyone may freely link to anything on this site and print any page; no permission is needed for citing, linking,  printing, or distributing printed copies.