Bye-Bye Disco

october 13, 2007

Just a few days past a year ago, I bought and installed a Netgear WPN-824. It was a refurbished unit and cost half of what it cost (even now) to buy a new one. The thing worked brilliantly. With seven internal antennas, it covered most all of the whole house with wifi. It was fast as hell and it had some cool blue LEDs that turned the home office into a disco. It had some issues with Bittorrent, but I don't use Bittorrent all that much (only to get Linux ISOs) -- and I could always lower the number of simultaneous connections in order to get around this problem. The other night, I was doing a backup of Eileen's new PC and noticed the wired network was really slow. I tried to do some data transfers over the air and they were slow also. I unplugged the WPN-824 and plugged it back in. I was greeted with a single blue LED that was not flashing and all the front status lights were stuck on. Yikes. I tried again and was greeted with the same thing. The half-price refurbished WPN-824 had given up on life a few days after its first birthday! Grr. After some research, I went to Fry's to pick up another router. There were the expensive ones with neat gimmicks, like the Belkin N1 Vision that comes with a cool LCD for looking at your network. There were expensive ones with no gimmicks, but cool paint jobs like the Linksys WRT300N. And there were the el cheapo Fry's only ones like the Airlink AR680W. I had only two things in mind for a new AP. I wanted an AP that had a Gigabit Ethernet switch because I wanted the extra speed for my NAS and Powerbook. I wanted an AP that would provide decent coverage throughout the house. The first was easy to spot. The second not so easy. I ended up getting a D-Link DIR-655. Which, so far has met both of my requirements (and more). The DIR-655 has awesome reach with its three antennas. I get 54Mbps coverage out in the dining-room, which was something even the WPN-824 could not provide. The DIR-655 has Draft 802.11n support, but that really doesn't matter to me because none of my machines at home support 802.11n. I was running speed tests and this thing is blazing fast as an 802.11g AP and I am quite impressed. So far, I have had no dropped connections. It comes with some neat features in the firmware (something that is worth a lot more than a disco ball strapped onto the top of an AP). There is a QoS engine built-in and it can be customized to prioritize traffic based on my taste -- for instance, I put ssh traffic at the very top and Bittorrent traffic at the very bottom. There are a gah-zillion configuration options in the firmware for things like Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling, website filtering, incoming traffic filtering, port forwarding, DMZ server, and more. The DIR-655 does have its quirks though. It uses bright blue LEDs, just like the WPN824. But, thankfully they are used in a more subdued way. There's a USB port on the back of the DIR-655, but it can't be used for storage or print sharing. Rather, it is there for a USB mass storage device. Apparently, you can plug one it, grab the wireless settings and go to Windows XP and Vista boxes for easy setup. Whatever. So far, so good.  Hopefully, the D-Link will last longer than the Netgear.