So, for this client install we’ve been working on, we procured a pile of network gear to extend their existing setup in order to accommodate our equipment. This is standard operating procedure.
What wasn’t standard was the minimal nature of this client’s infrastructure, and the distance to the desired work site from the office implied cable runs in excess of the limits of ethernet (for the record, about 100m). We thought about fiber — which was, until recently, the only real option — but the costs were high, and throwing that kind of tech at a small firm with no IT employees sounds like a pretty bad idea. But there’s wifi, right?
Right, so we went that route. Knowing they needed a new router anyway, we included some network refitting in the deal, and bought a fancy pre-N Linksys we figured would reach to where we needed to be plus an access point (essentially a wireless ethernet jack) and an 8-port switch. We planned to drop in the router in as a direct replacement for theirs and hang all our gear off either the network in the office or the “extension” network in the work area, connected via the aforementioned access point. Easy!
Well, no. In the interim, they opted to acquire some replacement gear of their own, none of which from identifiable manufacturers. (Seriously: in a world of commodity Linksys/Netgear/DLink gear available in every electronics and office supply shop, whoever they hired to do IT went off-brand.) And they had some ports forwarded to internal resources, none of which was documented, and their IT consultant guy was incommunicado on vacation, both of which mean we couldn’t possibly just do the “drop in our router” plan. Further complicating the picture was the presence of more brick than we initially realized, which shortened the already meager range of the off-brand wireless gear.
Fine. We tried to rejigger our gear into the new world order, but with no success. Finally, we hit upon getting a range extender, and the of using our fancy router (Linksys WRT54GX4) as just an access point (disable its DHCP, etc.). We dropped by Fry’s en route to dinner, and planned on regaining lost time in the morning.
The next day, the “use the Linksys as a wireless only device” plan went off more or less without a hitch. Using the extender — a WRE54G, also from Linksys — however, was a major problem. We could get a much better signal in the far location than before, but we still needed a bit of a boost; the only resource that could connect was my Powerbook. However, no matter what the configuration, the network went south as soon as we powered on the extender. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?
I called Linksys. After being on hold for half an hour and getting bounced around a bit, I finally got an answer: The extender isn’t compatible with the router.
Right. Two pieces of Linksys kit from the same model year, the same shelf, the same store, will not interoperate despite notionally supporting the same protocols. Now, we acknolwedge that the router is a bit of a hot rot; we assume that they’ve made the call to sacrifice compatibility — even with their own gear — in favor of range and bandwidth. Fine. But it would be a really good idea to note this on the box of the router, which they didn’t bother to do.
So, Linksys? Kiss my ass. You’re jackasses. We do give some recognition to your tech support drone, though. He actually had the stones to start a sentence about “returning the router and getting instead a Linksys blah blah blah….”, whereupon we asked “If we have to go back to the shop and return this, do you really think we’re going to buy MORE Linksys gear after this experience?”