I recently bought the WL-330gE_M from Asus. It is a pair of access points pre-configured to bridge 2 LAN networks via wireless, all you have to do is take them out of the box and plug them in, straightforward and simple, no configuration needed. They are intended to enable hooking up devices to the internet that don’t have wireless and without pulling cables through the house (e.g. dvd player, TV, cable box, …).
The package arrived last week and it was a matter of minutes plugging the devices in and having everything working. Everything worked without any setup, took me longer to get them out of the box than to hook them up.
Unfortunately our network storage (NAS) is also on the other end of this wireless bridge, and I noticed that when I move large files around (>2GB) or while streaming video/audio off the NAS the connection was dropping out. I don’t mean “ups and downs in the speeed” that is to be expected over wireless, I mean “connections resetting, copy actions aborting with error messages”. Not fun. Unfortunately since the devices are geared toward the “no configuration necessary, just unpack and hook up” crowd, there is no webinterface to see a syslog of what is happening or changing settings. Nada.
After this happening a few times it got really frustrating. I can live with slow, but connections dropping is out of the question. My original plan was to just reset the devices, flash them with a WL-330gE firmware and reconfigure the bridging (the only difference I could find was that the WL-330gE_M is black and not white, and comes preconfigured, and probably has a slightly different firmware without management capabilities). While I was looking at different options and possibilities I went over to dd-wrt and happily saw that the WL-330gE was supported in the router database. So I decided if I was going to mess around with firmware, I could just as well throw dd-wrt on it.
Even though I am a system administrator, I don’t have the urge to have every device in the house running on Linux with a shell I can ssh in to. I’m perfectly fine with a simple interface that does what I want it to. But the wireless settings I can fine tune in dd-wrt are priceless (especially since I wanted to debug and fix the connection dropouts), normally you only get these options with cisco grade hardware.
The firmware upgrade process of the devices is simple and straightforward. Pull and reapply power with the reset button pressed until the power LED starts flashing, then shove the new firmware onto the device via tftp. Either with the “Firmware Restoration” tool from asus, or with a normal tftp client. I used later. Since this is so straightforward I guess I could also switch over to the official firmware if I wanted to, making two WL-330gE out of the WL-330gE_M pair (saves money since the pair is cheaper that buying two separately).
When in recovery mode (waiting for someone to tftp a new firmware onto it), the device has the IP 192.168.1.220 by default. This is just a rough summary of the steps, anyone wanting to do this should really read through the whole process of deploying dd-wrt with asus, there is important information there (even if the example is a WL500, the WL330 is similar). Just because it worked for my hardware,firmware,setup doesn’t mean you have the same hardware or are deploying the same version I did. Read the dd-wrt documentation before you brick your device.
Clear current settings from the nvram:
# tftp 192.168.1.220
tftp> mode binary
tftp> put wl500g-clear-nvram.trx
Wait 5 min, reboot into recovery, throw a dd-wrt firmware on the device ( I used DD-WRT v24-sp2 (08/12/10) mini – build 14929, standard works fine too).
# tftp 192.168.1.220
tftp> mode binary
tftp> put dd-wrt.v24_mini_generic.bin
Wait 5 mins, reboot and open http://192.168.1.1 To be on the safe side feel free to navigate to Administration -> Factory Defaults to make sure no junk was left behind. To get bridging configured there are multiple possibilites depending on your needs. For plain LAN bridging you will probably want WDS or one device setup as a AP and the second as a Client Bridge (I used the latter option). One thing you will want to do is go to Setup -> Networking and set the WAN port to “disabled” since the device only has LAN and Wireless.
The rest is fairly ease, set up one device as an AP, chose WPA2 with a good long strong PSK. After testing if the AP works with e.g. a laptop, you can set up the 2nd device as a Client Bridge, just make sure you are on the same channel, same SSID, same security settings. After everything is up and running now would be a good time to pull backups from the configuration. Might as well tweak around in the wireless advanced settings. If you mess up anything badly enough that it won’t connect again … well that is why you made the configuration backups 😉
As you probably guessed by now, the connection drops are gone, connection is smooth and stable. Peak speed is not quite as fast as before because I throttled some things and tweaked settings for stability, but still good. Turning the TX antenna output power from 71 down to 65 helped a lot and got the maximum out of the connection (probably less crap pulling my SNR down). And now I can see what the access point is doing and where problems are when they arise 😉