Individual Entry

Home Away Networking

A recent discussion on comp.os.vms about networking an OpenVMS system in a home network environment brought out a number of proponents for Linksys routers. I've never had any experience with one; my router experiences have all been with Cisco routers and their IOS. So, when it came time to get my son who just went off to college a wireless router, I popped into the local Best Buy and picked up a Linksys wireless router for his use. Since he's not very computer and or network savvy, I was left with the task of not only providing the purchasing decision for this device, but also its technical and configuration support. Herein is my assessment of the process and the product.

I brought the Linksys router a few days prior to returning to my son's apartment to install it. The local cable company wouldn't be installing cable TV and internet for a few days, so I had time to obtain the router and play around with it before it had to be put into actual use. I arrived home with the purchase and released it from its shrink-wrapped cardboard cocoon. There inside the box I found: the router, wall wart, a cheap ethernet cable, a CD, and a brief four pages of useless documentation. Much to my chagrin, the CD was for WEENDOZE with a Setup Wizard. Seeing this, I didn't hold out much hope for finding any documentation on this CD in a non-WEENDOZE format, but I plugged it into my Ubuntu Laptop's optical drive and mounted it. Much to my surprise and delight, there was documentation and it was in PDF format! I copied the manual to the desktop, and dismounted and ejected the CD. It's now another polycarbonate and aluminum drink coaster in my monotonically non-decreasing collection of useless optical media.

I startup to peruse the documentation which I copied to the Ubuntu Laptop's desktop. I read through all the vastly unimportant and unimpressive legalese disclaimer bullshit and I made it all the way to page four where it discussed accessing the router's default web configuration utility. I plugged the Linksys's wall wart into a socket and then I plugged the DC power concentric barrel connector plug into the Linksys's power jack. Progress! The unit's LEDs lit. Its power icon lit first and then its wireless icon began to flash. After a brief bit, the flashing subsided to a constant steady on condition. I clicked on my Ubuntu Laptop's Network Manager Applet icon to look for the default linksys SSID to appear. It did not. However, after about two minutes of checking repeatedly, I did finally see the linksys SSID.

The documentation said that the router's default address was So, I opened a Firefox window and entered that IP into its navigation toolbar's URL window. Firefox connected and I received a popup window asking for a username and password. I'd read through enough of the manual to learn that the Linksys's default access is no username and a password of admin. As sure as eggs is eggs, I was connected to the Linksys Web Management page after entering that password. I took a couple of minutes to look around at the various menus and submenus available from the main web page of the router. It all looked fairly straight-forward.

The first order of business was to decide on an SSID. I certainly wasn't going to leave the default linksys SSID in place. Considering that my son is living in an apartment complex with many other college students and some are probably quite savvy at hacking networks, I thought it a good idea to change the SSID for several reasons. Mainly, so as not to have any collision with other Linksys wireless in the area that might not have had the default SSID changed. I wanted to make it something my son would recognize and yet be obscure enough not to identify the network as his. Back when I worked for GE Astro Space, the folks there couldn't spell my surname. Makes you wonder how people could be smart enough to build orbiting space junk but not bright enough to correctly spell my surname on internal documents. Anyway, the gang there chose to call me S14 — fourteen because of the fourteen characters in my surname. The gang at GE couldn't spell but they could count. Anyhow, I used this in the SSID along with my son's other initials and the suffix net. (eg. xxS14net)

The next thing, of course, would be to secure this wireless. I decided to use WPA2 Personal encryption and I chose a sufficiently long passphrase that only my son would likely know, at least, until he tells it to his new college friends. If it was I, I would have made it extremely cryptic to enhance the chances of it not being hacked; however, there are certain realities here that I needed to consider; one being how many times I might be called upon when he can't recall the access passphrase. I entered the new encryption security scheme and the passphrase, and clicked on the Save Settings button. The screen showed that the page was trying to load but it could not. Of course it could not, I'd changed the wireless security. I clicked on my Ubuntu Laptop's Network Manager Applet icon once again. This time, it showed the newly established SSID with an icon denoting it was secure. I clicked on this and a popup window appeared asking me for the WPA2 passphrase. I entered it and I was reconnected to the Linksys Web Management page.

Lastly, I went to the Administration page of the Linksys Web Management functions and I changed the administration password from the default admin to something only I know. I logged out and back in just to test the new administrator password. Apparently, there is no way to establish a username on the Linksys. A bit lame but what would you expect for than $50?

I decided now, since my son has a MacBook, to try the Linksys wireless with my MacBookPro. I clicked on the 17" MacBookPro's Airport icon in the menu bar and clicked on the Join Other Network... option. I clicked on the Show Networks button and the MacBookPro did, indeed, see the Linksys's SSID I'd established. I highlighted this SSID by clicking on it. When I submitted that, I was prompted for the WPA2 passphrase. I entered it and I was connected to the Linksys wireless network. All's well and good.

Now, with nowhere else to go, I entered the IP address of the Linksys router into the Safari navigation bar URL window. I was prompted for the administrator password. I entered it and I was presented with the Linksys Web Management pages. One thing I did notice was that some of the pages do not always load properly when using Safari. I don't know why but then, I'd expect that from a company that only provides configuration software for WEENDOZE and it probably doesn't care if there's a problem with Apple's Safari. C'est la vie.

Anyway, the basics of this Linksys router's configuration have been establish, tested and verified. I should now be able to plug it in straight-away on my son's cable internet and have internet access. I'll setup some further protections once that has been verified as functional. In the interim, I'm off to setup the Canon wireless printer on this new Linksys wireless network so that my son will be able to print out his college papers and assignments.

In conclusion, it was a fairly painless operation. This Linksys router isn't highly robust but I believe is will certainly be sufficient for my son's collegiate needs. I wouldn't purchase one to run a business on it. I didn't see anywhere where one would be able to map multiple WAN IP addresses (address block) to internal NATted LAN IP addresses, so I believe this router is useful for NATting only a single WAN IP address to the LAN. Not very useful for networking things such as my subnetted fibre.

Also, I simply do NOT see the need — any need at all — for the CD which shipped with the Linksys save for, perhaps, its documentation. Of course, who knows what kludges Billzebub Gates and Company have employed in their WEENDOZE product which requires some extraneous other software in order to communicate with a wireless router. I was able to communicate with it using Ubuntu Linux and Mac OS X without any special software installation, so why does WEENDOZE need special dispensation? I don't know; nor do I care!

WEENDOZE: I never had it; I never will.


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