Large House - Terrible Network

Discussion in 'Networking Issues' started by sbrager, Sep 21, 2005.

  1. sbrager

    sbrager Network Guru Member

    A friend has a large house and needs to connect 4 PCs. The primary PC is in a small room in the front left of the house - that's where the DSL enters the home, goes into a WRT45G V2.2 and is connected by wire to the PC.

    The 3 other PCs are clustered in the back of the home and have wireless connections going to a WAP11 acting as a repeater to another WAP11 high in a closet in the same room as the primary PC. This AP is wired to the WRT45g.

    The house is well-built and the signals from the 3 other PCs have to go through 2 or 3 walls to get to the repeater AP. This AP has to go through 2 walls to get to the first AP.

    The problem is that the the 3 other PCs are getting signals strength which varies during the day and night from barely seeing the network to good. I'd like to improve the signal strength and reliability to the 3 other PC's.

    I've setup channel 1 on everything which has made a difference. I think it was because there is a 2.4gH phone system in the house. The 2 APs are using diversity antenna setting.

    I was thinking of replacing the first AP in the closet with the WRT45G and using the other AP as an access point. I was also thinking of using a 3rd party firmware for the router to increase the antenna power.

    The prime goal is to have a reliable steady signal to the 3 other PCs.

    Any suggestions???


    Stan Brager - network noob
  2. jkburns

    jkburns Network Guru Member


    I'll take a quick stab at it, since I just got through doing a temporary point to point WDS link in my 2 story until I could get hard links in. :thumb:

    The 2.4ghz phones? I hate to say it, but switch to 5.8's or 900's. It's cleaned things up immensely for me, and the current batch of 900's are inexpensive and seem to sound fine.

    Since the WAP in the closet is hardwired to the WRT, I'd change it's channel to say 11 to avoid it and the WRT interfering with one another, *or* turning the WRT' wireless off altogether if you aren't actually using it. I will say that WAP11's don't leave much margin of error for bandwidth and repeating. Something in the 54 range would be better for multihops like this.

    Boosted rubber duckie antenna's (+8's) and 3rd party firmware to boost TX power on both ends will help, as will placing the antenna as high as possible. In fact that will improve things a lot. I used this technique at a friend's ranch. It broke through his "faraday cages" (stucco walls) that all the buildings were surrounded in. Up to that point, he couldn't get any reliable wireless links outside the buildings at all. Now they're all linked to the main building.

    The PC's on the other end of the house are clustered? If so, plug them all into a switch and the WAP into the switch so that you just have a bridge. That will markedly improve the speed.

    To sum it up, if cost is no object, and running wire is objectionable:
    1) Buy 3 more WRT's to use as a WDS repeaters and the last as a bridge.
    2) Get three +7 or 8dbi rubber ducky antennas for the two new WRT's
    3) Install 3rd party firmware and setup for WDS. (DD-WRT v23 beta and HyperWRT are two of the ones that will run on the new WRT boxes in stores currently)
    4) Boost the TX power on the 3 new WRT's. On the existing router, turn off it's wireless, or if it's wireless is still needed for some reason, change it's channel to something out of the way, or turn down its TX power to not interfere with signal strength of the new ones
    5) plug the clustered 3 machines on the other side of the house directly into the WRT on that side of the house. With them being hardwired into the WRT, the number of wireless hops is the same, but the WRT has better range and signal strength to make it to the next one.

    Will this work and accomplish your stated goal of "reliable steady signal" to the other side of the house? Yes, but every hop drops the BW by half, although doing the above would still increase the BW to the back 3 PC's based on your description. It gets messy. Those three machines will have very slow links, although still faster than the WAP11's are currently providing. If there is any way that some network cabling can be run in the house to reduce WDS hops it would help this scenario out quite a bit.

    Theoretically the new "X" models of the WRT's and WAP's would punch through the obstructions far better, but I've no experience with either of those. :neutral:

    It ain't perfect, but hopefully this made sense. If not, ping and hopefully I'll either clarify, or one of the guru's on the list will straighten me out. :D

  3. sbrager

    sbrager Network Guru Member

    Thanks for the informative reply.

    Cost is an issue which is why I want to use existing equipment as much as possible.

    To answer and amplify:

    1: I turned off the WRT's wireless when I installed the WAP11.

    2: The "clustered" PCs are actually 1 in each of 3 bedrooms - the bedrooms are clustered in the rear of the house.

    3: I've told my friends that the 2.4gh phones are causing many of the problems. To date they've done little about the problem except to move some of the phones away from the computers. Perhaps a bit more research and a good presentation would help to convince them.

    4: I changed the channel to 1 on the advice of Linksys support and some reading. Do you think that 11 would be better than 1? If so, would you tell my why?

    5: Is there any 3rd party firmware for the WAP11s which would provide increased power?

    6: Would I gain anything by replacing the first AP with the WRT45G and using the 2nd AP as a wireless access point?

    Thanks again;

    Stan Brager - noob
  4. jkburns

    jkburns Network Guru Member

    1) Good, that works. Ch 6 or 11 works too to get it out of the way.

    2) bad, is there any way to run cabling on that side of the house? It sure would simplify things, and cut the costs overall. If it's kids, they're probably always on the phone, magnifying the 2.4 issue.

    3) If the 2.4's don't go away, then it's their problem ultimately, and they see the consequences pretty clearly. I tell you, for me it was last week dialing into a meeting while needing my laptop to view the presentation, and THUMP. All of the sudden, no network. Looking around I realized the phone was in between the laptop and the upstairs WRT, AND my desk was in between both the WRT's that were talking. OOPS, triple whammy on one phone call. Had to switch over to the cell phone real quick, and then promptly decomm'd the 2.4.

    4) Actually, after much expermentation, channel 1 is what I went to as well to escape the 2.4 phone issue in my old house, so that advice seems to bear out what I saw there. It didn't used to be a real problem, until the new house. I think it's the addition of that 3rd dimension that really killing me now. Now I'm back with a 900mhz phone. 11 was just something I was tossing out for that router to get it clear of channel 1 which was in use repeating, and channel 6 which is the default. Based on my limited experience with one vendor's 2.4 phone, if you get a 2.4 phone in between two AP's talking, SPLAT, regardless of what channel the AP's are on.

    5) No 3rd party firmware on WAP11's. There are WAP54's, but the WRT54GS's are running at the same price now, and have more memory to better work with 3rd party firmware.

    6) Possibly, but not likely, given you need to boost the TX power at BOTH ends. Range boosted antennas on the 2 WAP's might be the only shot at it, but that will still cost money. There are homemade directional antennas, but with the second WAP being used as a repeater, that won't work without it being wired into another AP to service the other three bedrooms.

    Sorry, the easiest solution is to run *some* cable and use the AP's to take up the slack in the areas that are harder to reach. disclaimer - unless you aren't savvy with wiring your house, and then it's cheaper to buy more WRT's than to pay the electrician :)

    Here's a couple of good sites for those on a network budget:

    Along with the info available here, there are several good network articles at Hometoys, and then there are directions for creating different antenna's at Freeantenna's.

    There is another option, of move the DSL line, mostly kidding there. :) There is an option of putting another WAP11 into the mix wired into the the existing second one and putting it on another channel so it has more signal strength into those rooms, while hopefully placing it CLOSER to those rooms. I hate to recommend anything less than 54, but I suspect old WAP11's can be had pretty cheap.

    You're a good friend. Tell the guy he owes ya beer, or at least the beverages of your choosing! :thumb:

    Cheers and good luck,
  5. howardp6

    howardp6 Network Guru Member

    If you could wire a WRT54G to the original WRT54G and put the new WRT54G as high as possible on the second floor as an access point only, with Hyperwrt or some other third party firmware to increase the power output, it may help. When on sale you can get one for about forty dollars. To avoid spending any additional dollars put the existing WRT54G on the second floor and see if you get a better connect to the PCs on the other side of the house. About increasing power output, just increase power to the point of getting a reliable connection and no more. When you increase power, you can increase noise levels on your signal at some point you start to over drive the output transistors in the unit, which causes the signal to clip, which drastically increases noise levels. You do not want to cause signal interference with nearby wireless networks either. Those wireless telephones are another issue. I had to replace my 2.4Mhz telephone which died and I got a 5.4Mhz telephone it does not interfere with my wireless network. If money was no object you should try one of the GX series access points or routers, they have much more range. The WAP11 in repeater mode must cut your bandwidth, but your DSL line is probably a limiting factor anyway.
  6. sbrager

    sbrager Network Guru Member

    It seems that most people agree that the 2.4ghz phones are a major factor in home use of wireless computer signals. Do these phones also interfere with the network signals when the phones are not in use?

    The home is a new single-story house with stucco walls both inside and out. Running cable within a room is OK - otherwise it's not.

    I've struggled with this network for many months trying to get it to work properly and lost a bunch of hair in the process.

    I've noticed that Linksys and others now sell antenna stands - how effective are they in improving the signal quality for a desktop computer using a PCI wireless card?

    Another thought is to replace the WAP11s with a single WRE54G expander which would connect to the WRT. It's small footprint would enable me to place it high on a wall. Would the WRE45G be able amplify the signal to punch through walls? Is this a feasible option?


  7. jkburns

    jkburns Network Guru Member

    Here's a story about a Single Story w/wireless trouble

    MMMMMMMMMM, Stucco. :cry: I feel for ya. Yep, that stuff is almost as evil to a wireless signal as the 2.4 phones. :) Sounds like to get good network access, would pretty much require running wire for hardlinks as the quick and cheap solution. But I've gotten around it before like I said. Howard's comments on watching how far you push the amplifier is spot on. It's part science, part luck, and part voodoo for punching through stucco... :thumb:

    The antenna stands can work at the cost of some signal strength, but if using +8 rubber duckies that would offset it. If you can get the antenna's into the attic space it would help with range.

    What I noticed is even with the +8 duckies alone, the WRT's would punch through Stucco even without the amplifier boost, whereas before, there'd barely be signal on the other side of the wall.

    Given what the environment is, I'd recommend purchasing at least 2 more WRT's, getting boosted antenna's for all three and spread them out a little more with no hardlink between 1 and 2, a antenna stand for the existing one to get it's antenna as high as possible, and then using DD-WRT or HyperWRT so you can play with the TX power settings, and probably just scrapping the WAP11's as they are out of their league for this due to their already slow speed, and lack of 3rd party firmware to help compensate. With that said - you COULD always pop boosted antenna on them and see what happens.

    The reason I recommend the WRT's is with the 3rd party firmware available, the faster speeds, and all the different antennas, there are more options for how to compensate for the structure of the building, as well as more bandwidth to burn off for a better margin of error.

    Good Luck.
  8. howardp6

    howardp6 Network Guru Member

    Is the stucco on a metal mesh? If it is, it is a Faraday Cage, where you put radio receiver in in a grounded metal mesh box and it effectively blocks all radio waves and it cannot get a signal. If the stucco is on a wire mesh try Home PNA, where you can network over a telephone line or Homeplug where you network over the power lines.
  9. sbrager

    sbrager Network Guru Member

    At this point, I'd like to thank each of you for your input. I've got many suggestions to evaluate and more information relative to the house to gather. My friends are on vacation now which will give me some time to determine what would be best, better, or, at least, an improvement over their current status.

    One last question: what are rubber duckies (+8)?

  10. jkburns

    jkburns Network Guru Member

    Rubber Duckies

    Sorry bout that. :oops:
    Rubber Duckies == slang for the standard looking Antenna's on the box.
    +8dbi is just the level signal boost they provide, the higher the better. BTW - Hawking sells a corner antenna rated at +15dbi that might do something for you. It's only $40 at newegg. Placed on the first Router aimed at the second (it with boosted antenna), you could probably boost the separation between the two.

    Sounds like you've got what you need to venture forth to the next step.

    Have fun! :rockon:
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