A while back, I tried to wirelessly extend my home network from one basement room to another, using my Linksys WRT54G and the modded Linksys firmware from Sveasoft (tutorials here and here, firmware here). My goal was not to extend wireless coverage, but to extend my cabled network using a wireless link between two wireless routers. In one room, I have a Topcom WBR 254g, which is connected to my cable modem. In another room, I have a couple of machines connected to the switch of the WRT54G.
I could not get it to work with the Sveasoft software. Probably because of some error on my part, but the WRT54G just never showed up on the radar of the other router.
A few days ago, I decided to give it another go and so I looked around for more information on the subject. The search led me to DD-WRT, another modification of the Linksys firmware. In addition to the WDS way of extending a wireless network (which is what the Sveasoft firmware does), the DD-WRT firmware also enables you to bridge a network using the WRT54G. The two approaches are similar, but the ‘Wireless Bridge’ (or ‘client-bridge’) mode of DD-WRT appears to be less complicated to configure, since it is completely transparent. If you look over the Sveasoft tutorials mentioned above, you will notice the discussions about network segmentation etc. Problems, such as these are absent with DD-WRT in bridge mode, which was why I was immediately interested.
The ‘client-bridge’ mode of DD-WRT is available in both version 2.2 (stable) and version 2.3 (beta). Version 2.3 supports setting and configuring the ‘client-bridge’ mode via the web based administration interface. In version 2.2 this can only be done by telnet’ing into the router and issuing commands.I downloaded the standard edition of the v2.3 firmware and followed this guide:
- Reset router to factory defaults
- Updated firmware
- Reset to factory defaults again
- Added WRT54G WAN MAC to main router MAC access list.
- Set WRT54G LAN IP to something outside the main router’s DHCP range. I.e. if the main router assigne IP adresses in the range between 192.168.2.100 and 192.168.2.200, you should assign the WRT54G an adresse like 192.168.2.50. The wireless bridge is completely transparent and the WRT54G will not be visible anywhere, so this step is necessary to keep the WRT54G from interfering with the rest of the network. Note: this step is not mentioned in the guide referenced above.
- Set WRT54G wireless settings, set SSID and channel to match main router.
- Rebooted the WRT54G.
Note that the web based admin interface of DD-WRT v2.3 appears to have some issues with Firefox (the preferred browser experience of connoisseurs worldwide). Maybe these are just issues in general, and not specific to Firefox. The web interface supports multiple layouts (which can be selected in the ‘Administration’ tab) and with the default layout - ‘Kromo’ - some functionalities like text fields, pull down menues etc. were dimmed out, and thus not available to me. I switched to the ‘Brainslayer’ (!) layout, which made everything ok.
I enabled encryption on the wireless network yesterday and was a bit anxious as to how the wireless bridge would play a long. As it turned out, there were no problems at all.
What did turn out to be a problem though, were the issues between Firefox and the administration interface of the Topcom WBR 254g router. Using Firefox, I was not able to set the encryption keys, regardless of whether I copy-pasted them or typed them in manually. No matter what I did, the router would complain about “Key 1 is wrong, the legal key length is 10″ (as reported here). A switch to Internet Explorer fixed this.
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