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Wireless Reviews

Setup and Administration

There are three ways to set up the Expander, one of which is easy, one of which I found to be frustrating and a third that is pretty straightforward once you know how to do it, and also lets you use the Expander with non-Linksys products.

My skeptic alarm usually goes off as soon as I hear any networking manufacturer touting auto-configuration, auto-setup or setup "wizard" capabilities. But in the WRE54G's case, it turns out that the auto-configuration feature is actually the easiest way to go - if you have the supported Linksys products with the supported firmware, that is.

The Expander comes set to factory defaults out of the box, which means that its Link light should be red instead of blue. All you need to do to run auto configuration is to push the button on the side of the Expander and hold it until the Link light starts blinking.

After about 30 seconds or so if all goes well, the Link light should turn a steady blue, which is supposed to mean that you're ready to rock. However, in my testing I found that it's prudent to wait another 30 seconds or so, and also maybe try a DHCP release/ renew on your wireless adapter (or a Repair if you're using WinXP) before things are really ready to go.

The second method I tried was the Setup Wizard, which turned out to be not so wizardly. To make a long story short, the Wizard failed to complete its magic after numerous tries and I turned to Linksys for help. They responded with a new wizard and new firmware that was much better and that I strongly recommend you download as soon as Linksys posts it.

Tip! Tip: The new firmware and wizard weren't up when I posted this review. So make sure the date on the Linksys download page is sometime after 8/25/2004. I also found that manually entering valid IP address information into the wireless client used to run the Setup Wizard helped the original 1.02.3 version of the Wizard that came with the product to run to completion.

Even the new version of the Wizard has a few quirks that bear noting, however. First, if you answer no the Step 2 Confirm Your Wireless Settings screen, you'll launch a site survey that should result in the screen shown in Figure 4.

Linksys WRE54G - Site Survey result screen

Figure 4: Site Survey result screen

The problem with this screen is that it shows you all in-range 802.11b and 11g access points and wireless routers, including products that the Wizard won't connect to. It also shows in-range WRE54Gs, which appear with their default SSIDs that consists of "linksys" plus the last 6 characters of their MAC address.

The survey results should show only APs / wireless routers that the WRE54G wizard can actually connect to and not show WRE54Gs, since telling the Wizard to use one will make it do the equivalent of chasing its tail. At minimum, the screen text and User Guide should be clearer on what this screen is actually showing and instruct the user on how to make a correct choice.

A more minor, but still potentially confusing, problem is that the User Guide and Quick Installation sheet should explain that the Wizard's Security screen won't appear unless the AP that you choose to connect to has WEP enabled. I should note that the new 1.04.11 firmware that Linksys sent me adds WPA-PSK to the existing WEP 64 and 128 wireless security options - an addition that I applaud.

The third setup method is the Manual method that Linksys doesn't really describe in the WRE54G's documentation. The documentation does walk you through the Expander's web interface, but tells you that web interface access requires that the WRE54G is already working by using either the Auto configuration button or Setup Wizard.

The Manual method can enable the use of the WRE54G with any 802.11b or g product that supports WDS-based bridging and/or repeating. But given the range of WDS implementations out there, I have to insert my own weasel-words and warn you that you may not be successful in getting the WRE54G talking to your particular product.

You'll probably have the best chance with products based on Broadcom chipsets (and firmware), since that's what the WRE54G uses. In my testing, I was able to get the WRE54G and a Broadcom-based ASUS WL300g successfully bridged. If you're still interested in spite of this caveat, see this separate How To article.

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