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Netgear 802.11b Wireless Access Point

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 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 5/17/2001

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Model: ME102


Pros:

- Supports both USB and SNMP/Ethernet administration
- Shows wireless and Ethernet statistics
- No throughput hit with WEP enabled
- Performance vs. range seems more robust than average

 
Cons:

- Only 40 bit WEP supported
- Unhelpful indicators
- Can't attach "booster" antennas

 


Review Updates


1/22/02 -- New firmware supports 128-bit WEP, wireless bridge functions, and DHCP client.

 

The Basics

 
Indicators:
  • Power

  • Wireless Link / Activity

  • Ethernet Link / Activity (on rear panel)

  • Ethernet Full / Half duplex (on rear panel)

Connectors:
  • One RJ45 10BaseT Ethernet

  • Power

  • One USB Type B (square) Console

Comes with:
  • printed Quick Installation guide

  • Resource CD

  • 10 foot UTP Normal cable

  • 5 foot USB cable

  • 100-120V Power supply

Chipset:
  • Intersil PRISM II

Other:
  • Two external non-removable dipole antennas

   

Introduction


NETGEAR recently joined the 802.11b wireless parade with an Access Point, PC Card, and PCI adapter.  This review focuses on the ME102 Access Point which seems to perform a little better than your average AP and doesn't give you a throughput hit when you enable WEP encryption.  

 

Setting up


The 102 supports both USB "console" and SNMP over Ethernet administration methods.  Both require the use of different Windows based programs, so if you're using any other OS, you're out of luck.  The NETGEAR spec sheets say that USB is supported on Win98, 2000 and Me, and that the SNMP utility is supported only on Win98 and Me.  I did my testing on good old Win98 and took a shot at the SNMP/Ethernet method first.

The good news is that the 102 seems to come with a default "real" IP of 192.168.0.5, so if your network runs on the 192.168.0.X subnet and you don't have any conflicting clients, your setup should go relatively smoothly.  Note that the 102 does not act as a DHCP client.  Maybe NETGEAR has seen the problems that other AP's have with feature and decided to take a different approach.  At any rate, I didn't find that the lack of this capability hindered my setup.

Since my lab network uses a 192.168.3.X subnet, I had to use the arp -s method outlined, no...not in the Installation Guide poster, but in the Reference Guide supplied both in PDF and Word form on the Reference CD.

Tip: The arp -s instructions can be a little confusing if you haven't done an arp before.  Don't use quotes around the IP and MAC addresses and make sure you put a dash (-) between each pair of characters in the MAC address, i.e. 00AB23334544 must be entered as 00-AB-23-33-45-44.

Tip: If your PC is not on the 192.168.0.X subnet and you click on the Configure button, you'll get a confusing message about moving to the same domain.  The program's trying to tell you to match up your computer and the 102's subnets.

The AP's default settings are Channel 6, ESSID of "Wireless" and Encryption off. The screenshots below (click on 'em for a closer look) show a few of the basic controls.

NETGEAR ME102 SNMP manager

NETGEAR ME102 SNMP manager- General tab  NETGEAR ME102 SNMP manager - Settings Tab

You should leave most of the settings in Operational Setting tab alone, except possibly the Preamble Type. See this page for more info.

If you choose to go the USB route for your setup, you get the one window shown below, and no network statistics monitoring.

NETGEAR ME102 USB manager

My experience with the USB application was a little funky.  Windows never recognized the device or asked for the drivers no matter how many times or how I plugged the 102 in.  But when I installed and ran the program, it looked like it talked to the 102 just fine.  Smarter than I am, I guess!

By the way, the Reference Manual is clearly written and clearly defines each of the wireless settings and in most cases gives further explanation and tells you how to use it.  I would have liked to see the printed Installation Guide include info on setting up using the SNMP/Ethernet method, though.  Heck, why not just supply the Reference Manual in printed form?

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