Empirical Observations About Wireless Access Points
Some observations based on nothing but experience on installing wireless networks:
Which Access Point to Buy
Access points are most commonly built into routers. I favor stand alone routers connected to stand alone access points. Both routers and access points are non-trivial devices capable of interacting with networks in subtle and mysterious ways. Keeping the devices separated tends to ease debugging. Also, dedicated access points tend to have more wireless options.
I use Linksys WAP11 access points with good success. The WAP11’s operate in one of four modes.
- Access Point Most commonly used. A portable computer with a wireless adapter can access the WAP11 the network the WAP11 is connected to.
- Access Point Client Allows you to use the WAP11 as a wireless adapter. Buy one WAP11 and connect it to your network. Buy a second WAP11 and connect it to a non networked PC with an ethernet card. Set this WAP11 as an access point client and access the WAP11 connected to the network.
- Wireless Bridge Use when you have two WAP11’s, both set to Wireless Bridge. In this mode the two WAP11’s function as a wireless ethernet connection between two networks. The networks may be on the the same, or different network segments.
- Wireless Bridge Point to Multi-Point Functions like a wireless bridge but allows a third WAP11 to connect to the network.
No other consumer grade access point has this flexibility.
The WAP11 has standard antenna connectors. This is a critical feature. The cure for bad reception is usually a more powerful antenna. Antennas are available for as little as $25 or free if homemade, but you need to screw them into the access point.
MAC Address Routing
WAP11’s, when used in bridge mode, cache the MAC address of the machines which are local to the bridge. If a machine is moved from one end of the bridge to the other, the local cache is not updated with this information and it is likely that the machine will not be seen by the network. The cache is not renewed. When machines are moved from one segment of the network to another, the WAP11’s must be turned off and on.