Last updated: 2002.12.17

SMC Wireless Access Point and PC Card

The number one reason for setting up a wireless network at home is to be able to play my gigabytes of MP3 around the house. Being able to serve the net and do work in the kitchen or while watching TV in the media room is a plus. This review describes Wireless Access Point SMC2655W and the SMC2632W PC Card. The reason I picked the SMC setup is that it is relatively cheap (US$ 300 for both as of 2001.7.27 from PC Connection) and that it has a Linux driver.

Access Point

The access point, AP, fits easily in a home network, especially if you have a DHCP server on the network. The AP acts as a transparent device linking any wireless PCs onto your LAN. Think of having a virtual LAN cable between your wireless PC and the AP.

PC Card

The SMC supports all versions of Windows, including NT and W2000, and Linux. I have used it on both NT and W2000. As always, you should download the latest drivers from SMC. The card works well. The two things I don't like about it are 1) The antenna is fixed, hence in the worst position, and 2) the indicator light does not show activity nor signal quality.

Range

I tested the system both at work and at home. At work, the range is so-so, probably because of the industrial (steel framed) walls in the office and the large number of walls/doors in the layout. To cover our 9000 s.f. office, we probably need to setup three AP, one in each section of our horse shoe shaped office.

At home I have much better luck. I placed the AP on the floor of the second level of the 3000 s.f. house almost right in the middle of the floor plan. It sits on top of the stairs which is in the middle of the house. At that location I can get to the AP from every corner of the home. The home is relatively open planned with wood construction. I get a "fair" rating on signal quality and link quality at the corners.

Software

The software that comes with the SMC is not very fancy. The PC Card configuration and monitor software shows signal quality and link quality with a bar graph. The AP Management software does not show any information on connected clients except how many clients are connected.

Optional Configuration

If you want to further configure the AP, you need to use the Windows based manager software. In that case you need to make a connection from a PC running the manager software to the AP. My AP comes with a older version of firmware that requires a wired connection between the manager PC and the AP. In other words, you need to have the PC and the AP on a wired LAN. You cannot use the radio connection. The latest firmware for the AP supports configuration over the wireless network. To upgrade the firmware, you need to connect to the AP. Chicken and egg problem!

If you use DHCP in your network, configuration is easy. The AP, out of the box, uses DHCP on power up to get an IP address. So as long as your manager PC is on the network, you can connect and upgrade the firmware. If you do not use DHCP, you need to temporary configure your manager PC to use the same LAN parameters as the AP. The default IP of the AP, when DHCP is not available, is listed in the manuals.

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