Anyway, on to the main point of my post.
We had technology failure, and then success over the past couple of days. atara commented on the weekend that it would be nice to sit out back in the afternoon with her notebook computer so that she could browse sites like Reddit, Boing Boing and Videosift without having to endure the oven-like heat of our computer room. The problem is that due to the layout of our house, the thickness of the walls, and many layers of lead-based paint on various surfaces in the house, the signal from our wireless router does not reach to the back yard.
To me this sounded like an invitation to buy one of the ranger extenders I have been thinking about buying for some time. I wandered up to Staples yesterday and grabbed one from D-Link; that is the brand of our router, so it seemed like a good fit. They were selling it for the same price as everyone else, and it had been getting middling to decent reviews. I hooked it up to my notebook last night, configured it to connect to our router, and then atara found a space for it in the back change room where it could do some good.
Unfortunate, even though our mobile devices could see it, none of them would connect. I finally decided that I must have configured it wrong, and I brought it back to the front of the house to redo its settings. Somewhere between the back room and the front room, it quit working entirely. It went from being a wireless range extender to being a paper weight. My hunch is that the power brick was defective, but regardless of the cause, the device was stone dead.
I returned it this morning, informing them that it was DOA (much to the mirth of the girl at the return counter who had never heard that term used to describe a piece of electronics) and I asked to swap it for one that worked. They did a bit of searching in the front and back of the store before concluding that I had completely cleaned out their stock of D-Link range extenders. Hmph. They offered two alternatives; a Linksys for about the same price (if the answer "no" does not work for you, I can offer up a hearty "fuck off") and a Netgear one for a few dollars more.
I hesitated over the Netgear extender because I was not sure how much I wanted to spend on this little project, but after reading a few ragingly tepid on-line reviews ("It works. After a fashion. I suppose.") I decided to pay the difference and brought home a new extender today. The main external difference between the D-Link and the Netgear extenders was that the Netgear device lacked external antennas, and had way more blinky lights.
In terms of configuring though, it was much easier than the D-Link. Both our router and the extender support WPS, so it was just a matter of powering up the extender and pressing a button on each device. While there is a puerile little part of me that wants to remote into the extender and change its SSID to something like "Free Porn", I have decided to leave it be because I don't want to mess with something that is working - and it is working pretty well. We now have a nice, strong signal through the entire house.
There were a couple of minor snags, mind you. When I first set up WPS, the extender connected to the router, but the globe light on the router (which indicates that it is connected to the Internet) began flashing different colours in a manner that I assume would probably be more meaningful if I had a copy of my router's manual kicking around somewhere. We had Internet connection on our wired computers, but not on the wireless ones. I finally power cycled the router and that seemed to fix its issues. Alas, we still could not connect to the Internet via the extender on our laptops - that is, until atara suggested rebooting them.
Is there anything a reboot can't fix? Look at what it did for Star Trek and My Little Pony. What's good for stale franchises should also work for computers too, right? Apparently so. Everything works now, and it works further than ever before.