Reviews & Musings on Software and IT in general

Writing the wrongs in the IT world of software, networks and hardware as I stumble through them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wireless... fireless!

Whilst setting up a wireless network for a client last week I had the misfortune to run into an older machine that didn't believe in the concept of wireless networking - well almost! The machine was a Pentium 3 model with nothing out of the ordinary in terms of components on an ASUS P3V133 Motherboard.

Despite installing the Netgear WG111 wireless card as I have done numerous times before this Windows 98 machine just would not boot afterwards. I tried removing the all networking components and re-adding them. Searched wide and far on Netgear's site and the Net. Nada. So I tried a USB Wifi NIC. It would at least boot, but nothing I did would get it to actually see and connect to the Wifi Network. By this time I was getting a little cranky...

So I went and borrowed a different brand of card from my friends at the local computer shop. After installing that card we still had the same problem as the USB WiFi NIC. The system said it was operational... but it wasn't!

Okaaayy... After fiddling and tweaking some more I discussed it with the client and they gave the all clear to re-install Win98SE to try and deal with these odd Wireless networking problems. That done, I hoped at least one of the 3 WiFi devices I had on hand would work, right?

Uh-uh, no go. Still the same result. I was just a little red faced at this point so retired to the safety of the office to ponder on this some more. More searching and researching landed me back at Leo's as he just didn't believe this was happening. He reached for yet another brand of WiFi card and did the install himself only to see the same result - no connection. What to do next?

All up we spent a couple of hours trying different wireless cards and USB NICs. Out of the 7 we tried only two would actually work correctly. Remember, this was on a completely clean Windows 98 install. The end result was that a noname clone USB NIC from Cabac worked without problems as did a Wireless NIC from CNet - Wireless-G PCI adaptor model CWP-854. I ended up going with CNet one as it had an external arial and that was important for this network.

Both of the NETGEAR WG111 and WG111T PCI Wireless cards and USB NICs all had similar problems - obviously a driver issue. Unfortunately I can't recall the other brands/models of Wireless card/USB we tried. My recommendation is that if you are having trouble getting one particular NIC to work to try a generic noname/clone device instead, it might just work - it did for me on this job. Needless to say I now carry a couple of different brands (including that clone Cabac USB NIC) with me in my toolbox, although I still always go for the Netgear devices first as I like how they (usually) install and operate. YMMV.