How to choose and setup wireless router for TX.

Discussion in 'Palm' started by dwayne123, Jan 17, 2006.

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  1. dwayne123

    dwayne123 PDA Xrayguy

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    Hello all... I have seen several threads on this board regarding which wireless router to choose and how to configure it for wireless access for your Palm TX. I have had a fair bit of experience setting up wireless routers and there are several pitfalls in the choice of router and in their configuration. So, I will start this new thread so that all can add their input regarding the selection and configuration of wireless router for use with your Palm TX!

    CHOICE OF ROUTER:
    I have had extensive experience installing Dlink, Linksys and Netgear routers. From that experience I can say, I would not recommend Dlink OR Linksys at this time. Until these companies fix some major bugs, there are serious connectivity issues with these brands of routers. Following are links to one tech board regarding Dlink and Linksys. Browse these boards and you'll see what I mean:

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/linksys
    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/dlink

    That being said, the only router I have had FLAWLESS operation from every time has been NETGEAR. I have the Netgear WGR614, Version 4:

    http://kbserver.netgear.com/products/wgr614v4.asp

    Drawbacks to the Netgear router is that it can be a bit more expensive, and, the setup interface is a bit less user friendly than Linksys or Dlink. To be fair to Linksys and Dlink, others have had success with these routers. It just hasn't been my experience.

    The Palm TX is a Wireless "B" device. Most laptop computers and WiFi cards for desktop computers run in Wireless "G" mode. That being said, one needs to choose a router that has the correct mode for your device(s). Personally, I would ensure that you get a router that supports BOTH G and B modes. MOST routers out there support BOTH modes. My router for example has 3 modes: G, B, and MIXED. Mixed mode allows both G and B devices to connect simultaneously.

    SETUP OF ROUTER:

    First of all, a bit of background information. Your router is a COMPUTER. It acts like a computer on your network (even though you dont actually "see" it as a PC on the network). That being said, your router is connected to your modem which is then connected to your internet service provider (ISP).

    Typically, when your router is turned on, it AUTOMATICALLY "talks" to your ISP and obtains 2 things: an IP address for itself and DNS server addresses. The IP address is the unique number (format: 123.123.123.123) that identifies your ROUTER (not your PC) to the internet. DNS (Domain Name Server) numbers (there are usually 2: a primary DNS and secondary DNS) are servers that run at your ISP that provide your device with domain name information. So, when you type in "www.brighthand.com" in your browser, your computer does not know where to actually find this website without an IP address for brighthand. The DNS server will look up www.brighthand.com and tell your device that it actually resides at IP address 66.240.133.115. If you want to prove this, start internet explorer and type in http://66.240.133.115/ into your browser, it will go to the brighthand website.

    Now, your PC or Palm device connects to your ROUTER either wirelessly or hard wired. When this happens, your PC or Palm requests an IP address from the ROUTER. The ROUTER then gives a NETWORK IP address to your device. This is DIFFERENT from the IP address that the router has with the internet. Your router uses NAT (Network Address Translation) addressing to create its own internal network of IP addresses. This is what allows you to connect several PC's to the internet with only ONE IP address from your service provider! :) Your router gets the single IP address from your ISP and then it creates subnet addresses for all the PC's connected to it. Your router then "routes" the incoming information to each PC so that the information gets to the right place! Cool eh? So, if your ISP tells you that you have to buy more IP addresses if you want to connect more than one PC to the internet, dont do it. Just buy a router! Anyway, enough background information.

    In your wireless router setup section, there will be several options. I would recommend configuring your router to AUTOMATICALLY obtain IP and DNS addresses from your ISP. Some people have spoken about manually entering in addresses, but, this is problematic most ISPs can change these numbers at any time without notice. In turn, setup your Palm TX to automatically obtain its IP address and DNS sever information from your ROUTER. Set the IP addressing and DNS options to "automatic" (sometimes referred to as "Get Dynamically From ISP").

    SSID: This is the name of your wireless router network. Select a name for your wireless network that you will use to connect to it. Most routers also give you the option to broadcast the SSID or not. If you choose NOT to broadcast the SSID, when you "Scan for Networks" with your Palm, it will NOT find your network. You would have to go into your Palm wifi options and enter the network name (SSID) manually. If you have SSID broadcast ON, your Palm will "find" your wireless network when you scan for networks. I leave my SSID broadcast on because its just easier. If you dont want your neighbour to see your wireless network however, then you can turn SSID broadcast OFF. There are other security features discussed later that obviate the need to turn SSID broadcast off.

    Channel: The channel number is an arbitrary number that selects slightly different frequencies for your connection. Basically, select any channel number. If your wireless connection works well, dont change it. If you lose your connection to the internet frequently or have other connection problems, your router may be getting wireless interference from another wireless device (ie: a 2.4GHz wireless telephone in your house) on the same channel. If this is the case, try changing the channel to something else until there is an improvement in your connection.

    Mode: Typically, most routers have 3 modes: G, B, and Mixed. Your Palm TX is a wireless B device, therefore, you MUST have a wireless router that supports and is set to accept a wireless B connection. Most laptop computers and PC wifi cards use wireless G mode. In my house, I have a wireless G laptop computer and a wireless B Palm TX. Therefore, my router is set to "Mixed" mode which allows for both B and G connections. So, pretty simple: if you want ONLY wireless G connections, select G. If you want ONLY wireless B connections, select B. If you want both, select Mixed. ;)

    Security: There are typically 2 types of security on most routers: MAC Address filtering (sometimes called "Wireless Card Access List") and Encryption (WEP or WPA-PSK).

    - MAC (Media Access Control ) filtering is about WHO can connect and use your wireles network. By default, most routers out of the box are setup to allow ANY wireless device to connect to and use your network. This is great if you are using your router as a public access point (ie: in a coffee shop for anyone to connect). However, if you are using your router for a PRIVATE home network that you do NOT want other people using, you should enable and use MAC filtering. Every computer (including your Palm) has a unique MAC address. This is NOT an IP address, but rather it is a unique physical address of your ethernet card or wireless transmitter. To find the MAC address on your Palm TX, look on the label on the back of your unit. It will say MAC: followed by a series of letters and numbers. You can also verify your Palm MAC address by tapping: Prefs>WiFi>Info. To find the MAC address of your PC or laptop, look for a similar label on the computer. If you cant find it on a label, you can locate the MAC address in Windows XP as follows: Start>Run> type "command" [Enter] and this will give you a DOS prompt. At the DOS prompt, type "ipconfig /all" [Enter] and you will get a display of your internet information. There will be an item listed called "Physical Address" followed by a series of numbers and letters. This is the MAC address of the PC/laptop. Type "exit" [Enter] to leave the DOS window. With MAC filtering enabled on your router, this tells the router to only accept the specific devices with the MAC addresses you provide access to your wireless network. If you enable MAC filtering, you must enter the MAC address of each Palm TX/PC/laptop etc that you want to have access to your network. When entering the MAC address, you usually only enter the numbers and letters. Do not enter the : or - separating the numbers. Here is a website with a more detailed description of MAC filtering, what it does and why it is important:

    http://firewalling.com/concepts/MACfiltering.htm

    Also, while on the topic of MAC addresses, your router has a MAC address as well. It can be found on the label on your router. An important note here: SOME ISPs require you to provide them with the MAC address of the device you are connecting to their modem. So if you originally had your PC directly connected to your modem, then you go out and buy your new router and connect IT to your modem, the modem may NOT talk to your router. Call your ISP to find out if this is the case. If your ISP does not "allow" a router or they want to charge you to change your MAC address to the router, some routers allow you the option of using the computer's MAC address. If this is the case, just setup your router to use the MAC address of your PC rather than its own.

    - Encryption (WEP or WPA-PSK). This is related to HOW information is transmitted across the wireless network. Having one of these security features enabled encrypts your data so that it makes it much more difficult for someone to see the information you are transmitting wirelessly. This is especially important if you are using online banking or transmitting other sensitive information wirelessly. The downside of using encryption is speed. If you enable WEP or WPA-PSK, your connection will be a fraction slower, but, the decrease in speed is so minimal that it is well worth it. Now, the two types of encryption are WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA-PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access Pre-Shared Key). Without going into great detail about each type, either is better than none at all. However, WPA-PSK is better than WEP as it was designed to REPLACE WEP. WPA-PSK is easier to setup. You just enable it and enter a password and your done. You must then configure each of your wireless devices with the SAME type of encryption. So, if your router is setup for WPA-PSK with a password, then all your wireless devices must also be set to WPA-PSK and the passwords must match. Quite simple really. Also, try to select a password that would be hard for someone to guess. And for goodness sake, dont set your password to your SSID! I recommend selecting a random series of numbers and letters as your password. This makes it virtually impossible for hackers to crack your password before the key is regenerated. Other than a password, the key generation time is the only other sub option to set for WPA-PSK. Most routers are set to a default of 60 minutes for key generation which is just fine. If you select a random string of characters and numbers as your password (at least 10 characters long) it is virtually impossible for any decryption cypher to crack your password in 60 minutes, unless the hacker has a super-computer in the trunk of their car!

    If you want the DETAILED dirt on these types of encryption, see the following websites:

    WEP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wired_Equivalent_Privacy

    WPA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi_Protected_Access

    One final note on security. Even with MAC filtering AND an encryption security feature enabled, it is still possible for an experienced hacker to gain access to your network or see the information you are transmitting wirelessly. MAC addresses can be duped and WEP/WPA-PSK can be decoded. However, this is the case with ALL computer security. There is NEVER a 100% guarantee that information cant be obtained. However, with MAC filtering and WEP/WPA-PSK combined, it is extremely difficult for someone to access your information.

    I hope this information is helpful and not confusing. I encourage you all to add more information if you have it or ask questions if you have them. Good luck setting up your wireless router!!
     
  2. PDA Bach

    PDA Bach Dunsel

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    Dwayne,
    Thanks for this. It's very informative and useful.
    For my T5 brethren, you won't have a label telling you the MAC address on the back of your PDA. You have to check your MAC address as described above (by tapping: Prefs>WiFi>Info). However, be aware that you have to have the Wi-Fi card in the SD slot when you do this.
     
  3. efra

    efra Mobile Consultant

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    Thank you Dwayne for your great contribution,

    I have a netgeat router and have not had a problem with it, I have a couple of questions in seting up the TX:
    1. I notice that takes several seconds for the TX to request a dynamic ip address every time a connection is initiated, so what I did is to change the settings in the router and assign a fixed ip address to the TX (using it's MAC address), then I went to the advanced options in the TX and assign manually that fixed ip address. After doing this it greate to see that it takes a lot less time to connect at home, now what I did is to assign the internal router ip as the DNS, in this way the TX will talk to the router to resolve urls and then the router in turn use whatever dns address was sent dynamically from the ISP. this configuration works just fine. my question is that there is a check box in the advanced configuration to use short preamble and I have no clue what is that about, I have that unchecked for now an it seems to work fine any thoughts?
    2. I have noticed recently (last two weeks) that some times my TX can not connect to my wireless network, it does the initialization then it tries to connect and after a while comes back with a no connection message. what I do is to turn the wireless off and on again and then it connects with no problem on the first try. I can connect wirelessly with my laptop when this happens so the problem is not the router, Any thoughts here? Do you think that this might have something to do with my manual configuration?
    I think is a great idea to share with everyone our findings in this area, so please add your 2 cents.
    thanks.
    Efra
     
  4. ken.chang

    ken.chang PDA what?

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    Thank you dwayne123. Very helpful. This should be a sticky in this forum!

    Ken.
     
  5. dwayne123

    dwayne123 PDA Xrayguy

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    Hey Efra..

    1. What do you mean when you say it takes "several" seconds to initiate connection? If your talking 5-6 seconds, I think thats pretty normal. If your talking 15-20 seconds, then thats a bit slow. If you have a strong WiFi signal, it is more than likely just your ISP is slow in handing out IP addresses.

    As far as the preamble is concerned: The preamble is an data that starts the header of every frame or packet of data that is transmitted to your device. The preamble data is used to syncronize the radio transmittion between your TX and the router. When WiFi first came out, there was only long preamble (128 bits). As the demand for higher network traffic increased due to streaming video and voice over internet, the short preamble (56bits) was introduced. With short preamble, the syncronization time for each packet was essentially reduced in half. This improved wireless devices ability to stream large amounts of data by cutting down on the preamble time of each packet. The downside to short preamble is stability. With less than half the number of bits than the long preamble, the short preamble is less reliable. So, its a trade off. With the TX, I would leave it set to the default (use short preamble UNCHECKED). Because most people are not using their TX for high volume internet data aquisition (ie: streaming video, audio, gaming, etc) the long preamble ensures that you get more stable data with no noticable reduction in speed. Not to mention, that with the advent of buffering, it is unlikely that you are going to "miss" any packets during streaming video/etc anyway. The only time I would use the short preamble is if you are doing something that has a very high demand for data (ie: streaming video/audio) and you are getting "choppy" results. In this case, the short preamble might reduce the network overhead enough to make your video/audio flow more smoothly. But, again, if the short preamble reduces the stability of the connection, you might get way more repeat requests for "missed" packets. In this case, the short preamble would only make things worse! So, the bottom line is if your using streaming video/audio on your TX and your signal is skipping, try switching to short preamble to see if there is an improvement.

    2. This sounds like a case of a weak connection OR interference. To improve a weak connection: Check how far you are from the router. How strong is the signal? Is the battery in your TX getting low? Are you on a different horizontal plane than the router (ie: router upstairs, you're downstairs). Are there many solid objects between the TX and the router? All these things can cause connection issues. Another thing is that the connection between your router and modem may not be live at the time. Do you have your router set to "Respond to Ping from Internet"? As far as interference is concerned, do you have other wireless devices transmitting in your home on the same channel (ie: wireless phones, etc)? Perhaps your neighbour has a wireless device that occasionally transmits on the same channel you are using? Solution: try setting the wireless transmitter in your router to a different channel. I spent several days changing the channel on mine until I finally got one that worked well.

    kennethchang: Thanks, glad it helps. I dont think I can make this a sticky. Thats up to the moderator I beleive.
     
  6. efra

    efra Mobile Consultant

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    Dwayne! u tha man.

    I was getting a 5-6 sec delay while my tx was getting a dynamic ip from the router, and now with the manual ip I don't get any delay, it connects right away just after the initialization.

    Thank you for the detail explanation on preamble length, I am not streaming video or music so I will live that option unchecked.

    I am a bit confused when you said (or should I say type) that my ISP might be slow on providing ip addresses, what I think is happening is that the router is the one providing dynamic ips in my internal network, so the fact that the ISP (who is comcast by the way and I think is one of the best) might be or not slow in providing ip addresses is totally irrelevant don't you think?

    lets keep this going!
    thanks
    Efra
     
  7. rrfranczak3

    rrfranczak3 Very Old Senior Member

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    I have my Linksys setup with no problem (Wrt54GS) (ie speedboost)...I also have my T|X setup with a static IP and using the short preamble and have never had an issue...I agree that all conditions are not alike...but short preamble will work in most situations...just my opionion.....Rich
     
  8. dwayne123

    dwayne123 PDA Xrayguy

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    A 5-6 second delay during connection is quite normal and acceptable. You get a faster connection to the ROUTER (not the internet) by using manual IP addresses. However, if you went straight into your browser you would probably notice a delay in getting the first web page to come up (unless it is cached). If this is the case, it may be the communication between your router and your modem. Some modems will drop the connection to your router if there is no network traffic for a period of time. Then, when your connection becomes live again, the router will "reconnect" to the modem which takes a few seconds. This delay can sometimes be avoided by setting your router to "respond to ping". That way, the modem will ping the router occasionally and the router will reply, keeping the connection active. If the router is NOT set to reply to ping, the modem will ping the router and it will get no response, so it will drop the connection after a period of time. Not all ISP's and modems do this, but, I have seen this issue in the past.

    Note: One minor disadvantage to having "respond to ping from internet" enabled is that a hacker using an automated pinging program might find your router. However, with appropriate security in place (MAC filtering and WPA-PSK), no problem.. :)
     
  9. efra

    efra Mobile Consultant

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    Dwayne,

    I will look into my router settings for this respond to ping feature, what you are describing sounds very familiar.

    On the other hand I will start the process to find a channel that behaves for me, it looks like I have an interference problem (having a cordless phone and all that). Signal strength is not an issue since I have almost all the bars in the wifi icon.

    thanks a lot!

    Efra :)
     
  10. Memo-man

    Memo-man Mobile Evangelist

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    Dwayne,

    I also want to thank you for taking the time to write that very informative and easy to understand article on choosing and setting up a router. I agree, that should be made a Sticky, so if votes count for that, you got mine! With help like we are getting on this forum, I may actually come to understand what I'm doing! Scary! :D
     
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