Buffalo Air-Station WYR-G54 -Wireless router, firewall, gateway
I've had a broadband internet connection for about 4 years now, that makes me an early adopter! This was from before the time when BY saw the light and decided broadband was neither a threat to their ISDN business, or somethat for which customers had no use. As such it's a cable-modem based solution from NTL. They've improved a lot in those four years as well!
Why give you this little history of domestic networking? Well - way back then there weren't a lot of broadband connectivity options. NTL provided a cable-modem that on one site connected to their wall socket, and the other to an Ethernet connection. No firewall - and not much else. There were products available, each performing a specific task and for the most part expensive and aimed at business.
Being something of a techie, and with a friend that was even more so, I built a Linux PC with two network adaptors. One connecting to the cable modem and the other to an Ethernet repeater. The other house PCs then connected to that repeater. The linux box operated as both a firewall protecting the other Windows machines, and a network address translator that allows more than one PC to share thhe single broadband connection. After a couple of years I installed a simple 802.11b wireless access point, to the glee of my wife that was forever tripping over the long Ethernet cable that regularly got strung around the house as my laptop and I migrated from room to room.
Quick tally! to get my network going I had a Linux box (that I also used for work), an Ethernet repeater and a wireless access point. Time to simplify - and increase the speed of the wireless network.
After hunting around I zeroed in on the Buffalo Air-Station WYR-G54. To summarise what this does:
- Ethernet port to connect directly to the cable-modem
- 4-port Ethernet switch for wired connectivity (in my case the Linux box doesn't have a wireless connection)
- NAT gateway
- IEEE 802.11g/b wireless access point
Plugging the device in was simplicity itself. One laptop with an 802.11g card worked perfectly as did an older machine with an 802.11b card, although I did upgrade that card.
There are a few products around like this - may which include an ADSL connection so you can remove one more box. This one had a couple of nice features which I particularly liked:
- Support for dynamic DNS
Most home broadband connections have 'dynamic' IP address - that is they change regularly, sometimes many times a day. NTL is much better than that, but the addresses do change. This is really frustrating when I want to get to my home server from the office. Dynamic DNS allows you to have a URL that dynammically maps to your dynamic address - you can use 'me.mydomain.co.uk' or whatever to access your server.
- Worked with VoIP
I haven't used ths much but intend to investigate further. I've heard some devices have problems with the VoIP protocols, but this device worked fine for me.
Current price for this product from DABs price is only £32.71, including VAT
- Ease of use
Very simple to set up, including more sophisticated features such as port-forwarding and wireless encryption.
A couple of things have let the product down. One of the biggest is that it doesn't support wireless bridging to a second compatible device. There are no standards for this but I bought a Buffalo G54 wireless bridge/access point which won't interoperate with this product.
A worse one I think is the performance of the wireless connection. Generally the antenae provided by default with these products is not great, but this doesn't excuse loss of connectivity within a single room. Literally I've had a gap of a few feet between AP and laptop and the connection goes. This needs more investigation, but the old 802.11b AP would work from one end of the house to the other through walls with no problems at all.
This needs some investigation - I have read a couple of messages on some boards saying a software upgrade has fixed the problem. The Buffalo support pages have no such software upgrade however so I'm a little stuck.
I think this product has a lot of promise and I'm pretty sure the issues I've had could be fixed through software. If you want a pretty cheap router with a good feature set then this one is worth a closer look.
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