Linksys RE1000 Wireless-N Range Extender

I picked up a Linksys Wireless Extender from Target on a closeout deal recently. I wanted to further extend my wireless coverage. I thought it would work as a bridge and was initially confused because it included an Ethernet jack, but apparently this is just to add another wired device to the network.

To setup the device you run the CD from a computer with wireless networking close enough to the extender. The instructions say the same room but as long as your wireless NIC can see the extender, it will work. I had trouble with the setup because I plugged a cable from a switch into the jack on the extender which prevented me from setting up the device. Once I unplugged the cable the setup application found the extender and added it to the nearest wireless network.

The nice thing about this device is that it shows up as the same wireless network as another router or bridge. Before I was creating multiple networks with a bridge device. The extender works well, although you can’t put it too far away like a bridge because it is communicating only wirelessly. But I am satisfied with the device extending my wireless network.

NETGEAR – 1-port Powerline Adapter Kit

I had the chance to finally try power line networking when my dad needed a network connection to his TiVo but didn’t have any Ethernet connections in the house. We could have hooked up wireless, but then he would have had to purchase a wireless adapter for the TiVo. He already had bought a USB modem for the TiVo, but the phone line connection was acting flaky and he couldn’t download guide updates. So I bought the Netgear Powerline Adapter Kit Model XAVB2101-100NAS for $79.99. Each adapter had 1 Ethernet port so they basically acted as a bridge.

Setup was plug and play. I plugged in one adapter in an electrical outlet in the room where the TiVo is located. I plugged an Ethernet cable from the adapter to the back of the TiVo. In the office where my dad’s router is located I plugged in the other adapter in an electrical outlet and connected an Ethernet cable from the adapter to his router. After changing the settings on the TiVo to use a network connection for updates, the TiVo picked upan IP address and connected successfully.

I don’t know how this could have gone any easier. I had always wondered about powerline adapters, and I had recently read an article reviewing several of them including the Netgear I bought. This experience has made me into a believer. Powerline adapters can definitely provide an alternative to wireless in certain circumstances. Keep this option in mind if you have to network a room with no Ethernet connection.

More dead routers

I had two Dlink DFL-700s die on me recently – one a few months ago and one a couple of weeks ago. I had one spare DFL-700 so 1 office was ok, but the other was not. Unfortunately, Dlink does not make the DFL-700 anymore. I setup 2 Dlink DFL-210s for a customer about a year ago, but they were a big pain in the butt to configure – way too complicated. I did not want to spend about $300 and then have to configure one again (I have detailed instructions on what I did here).

Luckily, I found the Dlink DIR-330. It is a VPN router with an 8-port switch. One thing that was always a pain with the DFL-700 was that you could not plug a PC straight into it for configuring it – you had to plug it into a switch. So that’s one problem gone. The DIR-330 was very easy to setup. I downloaded the manual from Dlink before I received it and the manual hadextensive instructions on configuring a PPTP VPN. It was a lot easier even than the DFL-700, which I had some problems with the first time I tried to configure it. I just setup the admin password and Internet conenction like a normal router. For the VPN, I had to create a VPN server and a DHCP range of addresses to use for incoming connections. Then I created the necssary users for connecting and put them in a group which I set the VPN server to use for authentication. That was it. I did not even have to configure any firewall rules. One little thing I think Dlink screwed up on that I changed is they left the WAN side open to respond to pings – big no no. So always check all the settings for little things like this that are major security problems.

Anyway, the DIR-330 router has been working great, and at $90 from instead of $300+ for a DFL-210, I am a happy camper.

First dead router

Well, I experienced my first loss of Internet because of a dead router tonight.  My son alerted me to the fact that the Internet was not working.  A quick check of the cable modem should all green lights lit up but no PC or activity lights on.  I checked the router and all lights were off.  I plugged it into a different outlet, but nobody was home.  It was 4 to 5 years old, so I did not think that was a bad run.

Luckily, I had a Dlink DIR-615 laying around.  I had used it at an office, but had too much trouble with the wireless connections dropping so I ended up running cables (or, in this case, paying someone to do it).  Fortunately I had already configured it as a backup so all I had to do was plug it in and do some minor configuring.  I went ahead and checked for a firmware update, found one, and prepared to install it.  Dlink was nice enough to suggest backing up my configuration in case the update reset the router, so I did this.  The firmware update did reset the router settings, so I restored my backup file (thanks Dlink) and I was ready to go.  All in all I probably spent no more than 10 minutes or so on this.  It sure does pay to be prepared.

Trouble connecting to network printer after reboot

I received a call yesterday from a user who was having problems with a network printer.  She could get the printer to work sometimes, but when she rebooted the computer, the printer would not work at all.  The printer was connected to a Windows 2000 Pro computer and all the computers in the office were in the same workgroup.

I checked the network places and saw a share on the Windows 2000 PC.  When I tried to access it, the PC asked for a username and password.  I checked the Windows 2000 PC and saw three users listed.  I used one of the usernames (user1) with no password and was able to connect to the share.  i tried the printer again and now it worked.  But once I restarted the PC, the printer and share no longer worked without the username.

The first thing I tried was renaming the current username (owner) on the PC to user1.  This did not make a difference (I think internally the username was still being referred to as owner).  So step 2 was to create a new user (user2) and move owner’s files and settings to user2’s profile.  With that done, I restarted and successfully connected to both the share and the printer without the prompt for a username and password.

The biggest thing I felt I learned from this brief adventure is that renaming a username does not change its guts.  If you need a particular username on a PC, create a user with that name.

D-Link DNS 321 NAS

I picked up a D-Link DNS 321 NAS device on Black Friday from for $100.  There is also a DNS 323 model which includes a USB port to act as a print server, but I didn’t need that functionality for the significant increase in price it would have entailed.  Anyway, this was a nice find as I had been thinking of retiring my Windows 2000 home server – less power consumption, one less PC contributing heat in my cramped office.

The DNS 321 supports 2 SATA drives in the enclosure with a gigabit NIC.  The drives are very easy to install;  actually lifting off the front cover proved more difficult.  Once the cover is off, slide the drive into the enclosure until the power and data ports connect.  One thing I had read about this device is that if you only install one drive initially then add another later, you could screw up the labeling of the drives.  In a one drive scenario, the drive is labeled Volume_1 no matter which bay you put it in.  In a two drive scenario, the right drive is Volume_1 and the left drive is Volume_2.  So in order to avoid problems later, always install a single drive in the right side of the enclosure (looking at the front).

The DNS 321 uses a Linux OS with a web interface so it formats the drive(s) with the EXT3 file system (I ‘m pretty sure it’s this and not EXT2).  The device includes a wizard to handle basic setup like IP address, admin password, etc.  From the setup menu you can change workgroup, name, and other network info.  In the advanced menu you can setup user and group access, quotas, shares and permissions.  The DNS 321 also includes several network servers: FTP and DHCP, as well as media servers such as iTunes UPnP AV.

Under the tools menu you can set the admin password, set time properties and a time server to sync with, and restart, shutdown, or restore the system to factory defaults.  You can also update the firmware, setup email alerts and power management, setup Dynamic DNS, and configure RAID settings if you have 2 drives installed.  The DNS 321 supports RAID 0 & 1 as well as JBOD (spanning the drives into one volume), and a standard setting of 2 volumes.

Rounding out the menu is status and support.  Status gives LAN info, device info (including temperature), and hard drive info, including the make, model, and size.  Support provides a help system for different options available from the web interface.

I have been very happy with the function and performance of this device.  The only slowdown noticeable is when the hard drive needs to spin up after being powered down per the power settings, but this is only a very minor 1 to 2 second delay.  I have not had to restart the device or even touch it after the initial setup over a month ago.  I would recommend the DNS 321 to anyone looking for an inexpensive, reliable device to provide basic file server functionality for a home or small business.

Peer to Peer Networks & Firewalls

I finished up a job this week for a company which has a peer-to-peer network which lost their Internet connection after someone jacked with their DSL modem while trying to install a wireless router.  They had a Zoom DSL modem/router with DHCP enabled.  I could not get this router or an identical one working even after talking with Zoom tech support.  The company requested a new modem from AT&T, but began having network issues in the meantime.  All the computers on this network use some kind of commercial firewall – either McAfee, Norton, or AVG.  All three of these products wreaked havok with me changing routers and such.  I had to end up assigning static IPs to each computer and going on many computers’ firewalls to either trust the network and/or specific IP addresses.  So if you run into trouble with a peer-to-peer network not seeing computers, check the firewall settings and make sure the firewall trusts the network and possibly specific IPs if there are still connection issues.