Thursday, August 27, 2009

An 802.11n workaround for TiVo Series 2 boxes

A not-so-well-known fact about the 802.11n wireless standard is that if you want to maximize the range and speed of your 802.11n router, the router needs to be set internally to only accept wireless connections from 802.11n wireless adapters (this is usually a setting in the router called N-only mode). If the router is set to allow 802.11g adapters to connect (usually called Mixed N/G/B modes) the performance of the whole network drops. By factory default, most 802.11n routers are going to be set to mixed mode.

With the price of 802.11n equipment dropping, it is not expensive to get 802.11n adapters for all computers in your home. But what happens if you have a device such as the TiVo Series 2 DVR, for which there are no compatible 802.11n USB adapters (at the time of this writing)? Sure you can hardwire the TiVo directly to your router, but if your TiVo is on the other side of the house, that is not a good option.

There are two workarounds you can deploy so that your TiVo can continue to get wireless connectivity without bringing down the performance of your 802.11n network.

Option 1: Use your old G router (or buy a new one) as an access point connected to your N router. You will likely need to search Google or another search engine for your router model number to figure out how to change the router to AP mode (most routers have an AP mode, but some do not). You can then connect the Internet port on your G router to an ethernet port on your N router using a standard ethernet cable, and then broadcast a wireless signal from the G router. This signal is completely separate from your 802.11n signal and will have its own SSID (signal name). You can use this signal to connect your G devices, such as the TiVo, to the Internet. And your 802.11n router can be set to only accept connections from 802.11n devices.

Option 2: The other workaround is to buy a wireless adapter that has an AP mode function, such as the RokAir which is compatible with Macs and Windows, and install it to a computer that will be hardwired to your 802.11n router. Using the AP mode feature of the RokAir, you can share your wired Internet connection wirelessly with other devices. Doing so will create a new wireless signal that is separate from your 802.11n signal, and then you can connect to this new signal with your G devices, like the TiVo. Meanwhile, just as with option 1, your 802.11n router can be set to only accept connections from 802.11n devices. The main difference between this option and option 1 is that you will have to leave the computer that has the AP mode device powered on when you want the TiVo to be able to connect to the Internet. If you turn that computer off, the TiVo will not be able to connect.

You could also wait to see if TiVo introduces an 802.11n wireless device (which would be awesome), but it appears a lot of the new software based features they are adding only work with Series 3/TiVo HD boxes. So there is some speculation that a new 802.11n adapter for TiVos may not be supported on Series 2 boxes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Rokland n3 is plug and play with Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty

We have confirmed the Rokland n3 wireless USB adapter is plug and play with Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop Edition (Jaunty Jackalope). We have run tests on multiple computers to be sure. On one system we ran the Live CD version of Jaunty, and on another we installed it to the hard drive. On both systems the adapter did not require driver installation and was immediately able to connect to access points using the wireless connection utility located on the top menu bar of the desktop. The process was very simple- just boot up the system, connect the n3 to the USB port, click on the wireless connection utility and select your network.

If you are not able to get your Rokland n3 working on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, open a terminal window and run iwconfig to see if the device is listed there. If it is not, confirm that your USB ports are recognized by Jaunty. If no other USB device (such as a mouse or keyboard) works with your computer, that means the problem is your USB bus is not working right in Ubuntu. If your USB ports work fine, please report the issue to our support department.

How to disable/enable your internal WiFi card in Windows Vista

If you want to use a long range WiFi USB adapter such as the Alfa AWUS036H or the Rokland n3 with your laptop, and you have a WiFi card built in, you will need to disable that card in order to use the USB adapter for Internet access. Likewise, when you want to go back to using your internal card, you need to enable it.

Doing this is a simple process in Windows Vista. If your laptop has an external on/off switch for the internal WiFi card, it is pretty self explanatory. But if not, what you want to do is click on Start and go to Control Panel. Change to icon view and double click the Network and Sharing Center icon. On the window that comes up, click on Manage Network Connections. There you should see your internal ethernet adapter displayed in icon format as Local Area Connection. Then you should see your internal WiFi adapter as Wireless Network Connection. Your external USB WiFi adapter should appear as Wireless Network Connection 2. To be sure which icon corresponds to which device, just mouse over the respective icon and a little box will appear telling you to what hardware device the Wireless Network Connection icon corresponds.

Once you have located the icon that corresponds to your internal WiFi card, right click on it and select Disable. To re-enable the card, repeat the same steps and select Enable. You can also mouse over the Wireless Network Connection icon that corresponds to your external USB WiFi adapter and select the Connect/Disconnect option to connect to available access points.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Alfa AWUS050NH version 2 is here...

The Alfa AWUS050NH version 2 is here...and it works better than the version 1, but in terms of 802.11g performance it is still not as good as the AWUS036H 802.11g 500mW adapter from Alfa.

We did multiple tests in Windows and Linux with multiple units to be sure. We will have a video test up on our blog shortly which compares the AWUS050NH to both the AWUS036H and the n3 USB adapter.

The AWUS050NH picked up a similar number of APs vs. the AWUS036H, but the signal strengths were quite a bit weaker. In Windows they had fewer bars, whereas in Linux the percentage numbers were lower.

The bottom line is while the AWUS050NH version 2 seems to work a little better than the version 1, if you are primarily trying to pick up and connect to 802.11g standard wireless networks, the AWUS036H from Alfa and the n3 both did a better job.

We are going to carry the Alfa AWUS050NH due to high demand and relatively good reviews from places like Lifehacker. It works fine and when used with an 802.11n router, you will get good range and speed. But for those of you hoping the AWUS050NH version 2 was going to work as good as the AWUS036H but with added N capabilities, at least where we are located that does not seem to be the case.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The n3 from Rokland and Windows 7

A quick post to say the n3 works great in Windows 7 release candidate.

Windows 7 drivers are now available for the n3 from Rokland

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The RAID WiFi adapter and BackTrack 4

We've got a brand new product called the RAID, which stands for Rokland Auditing/Injecting Device.


The RAID is designed for use in BackTrack 3 and BackTrack 4 Linux and takes its shape and chipset from the popular (but discontinued) Alfa AWUS036S wireless USB adapter. The AWUS036S was highly recommended for use in BackTrack 3 Linux, primarily because it was a low-cost, good-range adapter with an RP-SMA port, and was compatible with programs like Aircrack. The AWUS036S is no longer being made, but the RAID was designed with the same chipset in order to offer the same functionality.

We have done some testing of Rokland RAID in the Backtrack 4 pre-release final edition. Here are some notes:

1. BT4 has been designed so that by default the networking services do not load at startup. If you have BT4 installed to a disk drive, you can make some changes to that they will load at startup. If you are using a bootable CD version of BT4 and running the OS entirely from CD, you will need to set aside some disk space on your hard drive so that any settings changes you make will be saved. Otherwise remember that any settings changes or package installs you do will be gone the next time you boot. This blog post is not a tutorial on how to do this, but you can find this info easily by searching the forums.

2. If you are planning to use BackTrack 4 for injection/cracking, you probably do not need to enable networking services. For the most part you will only need to enable networking services when you want to connect to an AP.

3. The RAID will automatically be recognized in BackTrack 4 pre-release final, but because the networking services are not loaded, the adapter is not plug and play in the sense that you will not be able to open a web browser right away and go online.

4. To use the device to scan for networks, you will need to start networking services.

  • /etc/init.d/networking start
  • /etc/init.d/networkmanager start

On our version run from CD, we did not have networkmanager, the client utility was called Wicd Network Manager, however the program (located in the Internet folder) did not load when selected. The fix is to run this command:

  • /usr/bin/start-network

Then you can go to Internet and select Wicd Network Manager and the GUI will load.

With Wicd Network Manager running, you will see available networks. Connecting is straightforward, but if you attempt to connect to an encrypted network, you may get an error that "this network requires encryption to be enabled". To enabled encryption, follow these instructions:

  • click on the name of the network to which you want to connect. Then click the Advanced Settings button that appears. Make sure the 'use encryption' box is checked, then enter in the network key. Now you can go back and connect to that network.

Note that the steps above are not specific to the RAID, they are just helpful hints when using any compatible wireless adapter with BackTrack 4.

We connected to some APs and went online just to ensure the driver was working properly, then rebooted and ran some tests in Aircrack. We created several test networks for injection purposes. The tests were designed to show the vulnerabilities of WEP encryption. Each AP set up for this purpose was encrypted with WEP encryption. One model had 64-bit and the other model 128-bit. On one computer we used BackTrack3 and SPoonWep (a program that comes with BT3) and were able to recover the 64-bit and 128-bit keys relatively quickly using the RAID. On another computer we loaded BT4 pre-release final edition and hooked up the RAID. SPoonWep does not come with BT4 pre-release final edition, and as far as we could find out, will not work on BT4 if you try to install it manually. This may change on future versions of BT4 or SPoonWep, but for now if you want to do injection with BT4 you can use a program like Aircrack. We used Aircrack on BT4 with the RAID and successfully recovered the WEP keys from both test APs.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

n3, RokN, and BT4 pre-release final

A quick note to let you know that we have completed more testing in the BackTrack 4 pre-release final edition and are not going to advertise the n3 and RokN as BT4 compatible at this time. The devices are recognized on BT4 pre-release final, and can even detect networks in Wicd Network Manager, but cannot connect to them. We did no further testing on any of the apps, because we figured even if they worked with programs like Aircrack, we could not really say they work in BT4 if you can't use them for basic Internet access. However for people that just want to use the n3 for Aircrack or other apps, we may do some more testing in the coming weeks. Both adapters use a pretty highly recommended chip for Linux from Ralink, so we hope that these issues which appear to be driver related might be cleared up in the final release of BT4. For now, as 802.11n devices from other Linux-friendly chipset makers like Realtek are just coming to market in early August, we would say that using 802.11n in BT4 pre-release final might be a bit of a chore.

If you are looking for a device that will work great in BT4 pre-release final, we are launching later today in fact a new 802.11g adapter with RP-SMA connector called the RAID (stands for Rokland Auditing/Injection Device) that is very similar to the Alfa AWUS036S model. We will of course have a post on it when it is online and ready for purchase.