Pimp My Wireless Network
December 19, 2008 2:33 PM   Subscribe

WirelessNeworkFilter: Please help me set up my home wireless network using two routers. Despite all the particulars of my situation, there must be an easy solution.

I have a cold and my brain might be a little fuzzy. I have two routers, a WRT54G running DD-WRT v23 and a brand new WRT54GL that I haven't taken out of the box.

Here's my current setup:
In the back room of the apartment are the main computer, the cable modem, and the DD-WRT router, all hardwired.
On the other side of the apartment, in the living room, are a TV, a first generation TIVO, an XBOX that will soon run XBMC, and several wireless devices that are struggling to reach the signal being broadcast by the router in the back room, often failing.
There is an external hard drive housing the media connection. It can be put anywhere on the network.
The cable modem can be kept in the back room or moved to the living room by the TV.

How should I optimally set up my network, minding the following facts:
1. The most important connection in the house is the main computer. This is why it is the one that is hardwired.
2. The TIVO has no ethernet out capability. It's using a USB wireless thingamajig. The TIVO also will only recognize WEP. If possible, I'd like to work around that to increase security for the computers.
3. I have very basic cable, and the tivo isn't really capturing anything that can't be streamed over hulu.com or the basic channel websites.
4. I would like to watch said streamed videos on the TV in the living room.
5. I would like to access the external hard drive from any computer in the house, and watch its movies and listen to its music through the television.
posted by billtron to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does the Tivo support a wired connection?

You could take the DD-WRT device, place it near your Tivo and whatnot and configure it for bridge mode. This is exactly how I've gotten internet connectivity into my office for devices that don't do wireless (most of it test equipment on a workbench).

I bought a new wireless router which is attached to the main family Mac in the next room; my hacked up dd-wrt WRT is simple a bridged client. It took just about ten minutes to set up, according to the instructions here. The whole network is secured via WPA and it just worked great on the first run through.
posted by jquinby at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2008

Response by poster: jquinby, that is the basic, default option. but it doesn't improve the wireless condition in the living room, and the tivo, which can only connect via a USB wireless router, still insists that it connect to a WEP protected (or unprotected) network.

Is there a way to set up the router in the living room so that it simultaneously extends my wireless signal and provides cat-5 connections to the network?
posted by billtron at 2:45 PM on December 19, 2008

Response by poster: For example, could I set up the current router with WPA2, then put the new router in the living room as a repeater, with WEP security? Or does having a WEP repeater completely undermine having WPA2 on the main router?
posted by billtron at 3:02 PM on December 19, 2008

Apart from the tivo, your setup is freakishly similar to mine. That said, the tivo is the thing causing the problem, and I can't think of a way around using WEP which will let that work. I used to have a G3 which wouldn't do WPA (analogous to your tivo/wifi adapter), and my answer was to move it to a wired connection.

Unless you can physically wire the two routers together, and run two differently secured wireless networks, (which seems near-pointless to me, see below) it's not going to happen. The problem with:

For example, could I set up the current router with WPA2, then put the new router in the living room as a repeater, with WEP security? Or does having a WEP repeater completely undermine having WPA2 on the main router?

is that it's only a dumb AP. It will do one of the two security schemes. It won't listen on a WPA network, and yet host a WEP network, and even if it did, what's the point?

If it were me (and I couldn't find a way to have the tivo used a wired connection) I'd use WEP for all of the wireless, and then lock everything down some other way. Think about what services are being run on your network and ensure you have strong passwords, have the main (dd-wrt) router only allow access to a particular MAC address whitelist and so on. It's not enterprise-grade security, but then neither is WPA, really. The question to ask is: 'what are you securing against?' WEP may suck, but it'll still stop a drive-by browser, if that's what you're worried about. If you're worried about a writeable network share being erased by a malicious neighbour with time on their hands, then WPA probably isn't good enough either, and you shouldn't have a writeable network share accessible by wireless.

Security aside, stick OpenWRT or dd-wrt or whatever on the client (loungeroom) WAP as per jquinby's suggestion, and it'll serve anything plugged into it, which includes the Xbox (and thus tv).
posted by pompomtom at 4:40 PM on December 19, 2008

If your USB thingamajig is a USB wireless access point, you might also be able to swap it out for a USB-ethernet adapter and make a wired connection to the new router or a wireless bridge. Alternatively, if you're prepared to throw money and time at a hack, the ethernet-enabling CacheCard works.
posted by holgate at 4:43 PM on December 19, 2008

Have you tried using a bigger antenna, perhaps directional, to improve wireless reception? Worked wonders for me.
posted by knave at 7:06 PM on December 19, 2008

Response by poster: So I ended up turning the second router into a DD-WRT powered wireless repeater bridge in the room with the tv. the whole system is WEP because of the TiVo, and the xbmc-loaded xbox streams things off of the computer in the bedroom.

Thanks for the help!
posted by billtron at 3:41 PM on January 13, 2009

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