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The March 25, 2004 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Another Networking Project -- It's Easy If You Update Firmware

On our way to EH Expo, we visited with our daughter in Jacksonville. Dave never seems to learn -- he had offered to install a network for our daughter, even after his distressing experience installing a simple network at his brother's house (which took two days and 20 hours). This time it went almost without a glitch.

We installed an SMC2804WBRP-G, a new 802.11g router with a built-in print server. Installation was straight-forward and would have been flawless except for an Ethernet cable that we didn't seat quite right in the cable modem far under the desk. Once we got a solid "click" we were surfing the Web from our portable PCs in less than an hour after getting home with the router.

The problem occurred when we tried to set up security. We had wanted to use WPA, the newest and most secure Wi-Fi security mechanism, but we didn't think one of our PCs could handle it properly without an updated driver. So we enabled the older WEP security in the router and set up 128-bit keys in both PCs. We connected to the router with no trouble, but couldn't connect to the Internet. A little detective work found that we weren't getting DHCP from the router when WEP was turned on - we got it immediately when we turned WEP off.

We looked at the router status page, and found that it had shipped with firmware version 1.000. On the Web, we found the latest version was 1.002. We followed the directions for updating the firmware, and soon had the new software version running. And now DHCP was working properly - we had no trouble getting on the Internet from that point on.

Moral of the story (we've said it before): Always update the firmware (in routers and access points) and drivers (in LAN cards) to avoid problems.

It's probably a good idea in any firmware-based device -- like it or not, there are a lot of those in our future.