To date, my wireless setup at home consists of 2 linksys WRT54Gs modded with the OpenWRT firmware + x-wrt (webif2) for a better web ui. One of these routers serves as my gateway/firewall and the other connects my upper floors to the gateway via WDS (basically, its only there so my Series-1 Tivo can get online as the only mod I have for it is a wired ethernet card :) I also have a server (mythtv) which connects to my gateway via an ethernet cable cleverly hidden under a rug between the living room and study. Something my wife isn't too happy with! :)

Since my macbook pro has wireless N, I wanted to make use of it transferring files to/from my home server. Since my home server is a mythtv box, the files I transfer are usually large video ones, and it would be nice to have 802.11n networking for the speed. Also, my photo printer (HP photosmart 8250) sits above my myth box in the living room, and I haven't had much luck getting it to work from OSX -> myth box (CUPS) - it prints ok, but I can't get OS X to select the 4x6 paper feed when printing photos.

Enter the famed $100 iphone rebate, and I have a recipe for buying the Airport Extreme 802.11N wireless router which has a usb port for printer/storage sharing. My hope is to use it for a WDS link between my myth box and gateway thereby eliminating the cabling, allow a better experience using my printer, and allow me to have a high speed connection to my myth box from my macbook.

Setting it up was fairly painless once I chose the manual setup option - I disabled all the stuff that my gateway already provides (DHCP, etc). I'm happy to report that the printer sharing works really well - basically no different than if the printer is connected via usb! I'm also able to get good speed between my macbook and myth box. My only unsolved issue so far has to do with connecting the airport to my linksys using WDS.

The only way I can get WDS to work between the airport <-> linksys is if I disable encryption on the link. Normally, I use WPA+AES for my wireless and WDS connections, and that works fine for both my wireless connections from my macbook as well as for WDS between the routers. However, no matter which encryption settings I tried (all combinations of WPA1/2, AES, TKIP - didn't try WEP), I was unable to get the airport to connect via WDS to the linksys.

Things left to try:

  • My Openwrt version is about 6 months old, so maybe an upgrade would help.

  • WEP - airport wouldn't accept the key I generated from the linksys size, not sure whats up there, but I'm not keen on using something as insecure as WEP anyway.

Until I get encrypted WDS working between airport/linksys, I'm sticking with the ethernet cable.
If anyone has gotten this to work, I'd appreciate some pointers so that I can keep my wife happy (not those kind of pointers! ;)

As a side note, I did notice something interesting with the working (but unencrypted) WDS connection between the airport/linksys. If I configured the airport to have the same SSID as the linksys, my macbook only achieved 802.11g speeds when connected to that SSID. However, if I gave it its own SSID different from the linksys' own, and connected my macbook using that SSID, I was able to achieve N speeds. The WDS link was up and functioning in both directions in either case. Anyone trying to use WDS in a mixed N/G/B setup take note if you care about speed!


As another side note, my primitive benchmarks (scping a large file from macbook to myth box) yielded the following:

Speed (MB/s)Configuration
1.5Connecting to airport with Shared G SSID, WDS, no encryption
3.1Connecting to airport with Split N/G SSID, WDS, no encryption
5.1Connecting to airport with no WDS, Radio in n/b/g compatibility mode
9.1Connecting to airport with no WDS, Radio in only (5GHz) mode

Looks like my wife is going to have to live with that cable for now :)