WiFi 2009

Last week I had my laptop in the living room and it was getting miserable wireless performance. This was outrageous and unacceptable because my laptop has a 802.11n card and the Time Capsule that plugs right into the DSL modem has 802.11n as well and it was less than ten feet away, in the same room. This made me decide to make the plunge and set up tiered WiFi in my house. I had the Time Capsule, the Airport Extreme, and the Airport Express all participating in a single 802.11b/g/n network which meant I had great coverage throughout the house and yard, but performance was pretty sub-par.

The first thing to do was to make the Time Capsule run a separate 802.11n only network. This has a much lower range - it only reaches about half of my office, but that's OK, because if my laptop is in my office I usually plug it into the LAN with a cable. This was pretty easy, configuring Airport stuff has gotten a lot easier since the last time I tried it.

The next trick was to make take the Aiport Extreme (which was in my office for coverage) and make it the main base station of a new 802.11g only network. I also moved it to Karin's office for a more central location. I suppose in practice I could put it in the living room, but since it can reach the Airport Express in the kitchen as extender putting those on either side of the center of the house is good. Once I got the Extreme running 802.11g then I connected the Airport Express up to that and we're off to the races.

The Wii is happy to talk to the 802.11g network, and it's the most primitive home device I had. The iPhones all all of the laptops talk to g without a hassle. Lorax (my Macbook Pro) can connect to N through a large chunk of the house and will gracefully degrade onto the G network at the extreme edges.

There are two devices that won't talk to the G network: the PSP and the DS. I'm not sure what the PSP's issue is, a lot of people online claim it will connect to a G network and it does try, but it fails. It used to talk to the exact same hardware when it was running b/g mode, so it almost has to be a G issue. The DS won't even TRY to connect to the G network.

The solution for that is pretty simple: plug Lorax into the wired LAN, and run internet sharing on it. Set up a basic poor-man's b/g network and you're off to the races with the PSP. The DS is odd, it complains about not being able to find DHCP. The solution is to give it a manual IP address, which is a minor pain to configure but it works. For the record, Lorax sets up a subnet on 10.0.2.x and becomes I gave the DS for an address (since I had just been messing with the PSP and figured it might have taken, for the gateway, and then gave it my ISP DNS servers and it works. A hat tip to Tony who told me how he had configured his DS to work with Mac internet sharing.

Speaking anecdotally, the performance of the g-only network seems better than the b/g one. Since the only reasons I was keeping the b network alive were the portable gaming systems and I can't tell you the last time I actually USEED either system online this seems like a win. Plus I have the fancypants n-only network with the "wide channels" for super-plus-fast WiFi for the newer hardware in the house.

Of course this means if you've set up your computer or phone to use my WiFi you'll have to redo that on your next visit. :-) Keeping everyone on their toes!