I got tired of getting one bar or next to no signal on my wireless network when I surfed from the far end of my flat (like in the master bedroom toilet). The Linksys WRT54G router was nice when my G4 Powerbook was placed near, like in the study where the router was located. But when I wandered into the kitchen or the master bedroom, the signal got weak.
This is in part the Powerbook's fault. My wife's white Dual USB iBook has strong signals almost everywhere in the house. And my old G3 Powerbook Pismo also had a very receptive antenna. But the G4 Titaniums and Aluminiums have really piss-poor wi-fi range.
So off I went to the Temple of Geeks, SLS. I found a Linksys 7dbi booster antenna kit (Linksys High Gain Antenna Kit for TNC Connectors HGA7T) for S$99 (!!!) and the Linksys WRE54G Range Expander (better known as a Repeater) for S$139.
I decided to try the WRE54G and brought it home to install it. I have to say, when it is set up, it works great. With the WRE54G inside my master bedroom, my Powerbook got 5 bars of signal from inside the master bedroom loo (with all doors in between closed). And I could even stream iTunes from my PC in the study.
But the key here is "when it is set up". Documentation was skimpy, the unit only works with three Linksys products (my WRT54G being one of them), and if you try to set it up without first bringing down all your WRT54G router's defenses (WEP, WPA, MAC address filtering, SSID broadcast), the Range Expander would not be detected.
Also, the Installer did not work with my PC, for some reason (could be the D-Link wireless card in my PC). And in addition, the Range Expander does not support WPA encrpytion out of the box. It was only after I got the updated firmware and flashed the Expander that WPA was supported. And the Expander also kept connecting to someone else's unsecured wireless network, instead of mine, so it was even more frustrating. Too many poorly configured wireless networks around, I feel. There are at least four unsecured ones in my immediate neighbourhood alone.
In the end, I set the whole darn thing up manually, via the web interface, which was not that bad.
While not for the faint of heart, the Ranger Expander works once it is set up correctly (and firmware flashed if you are using WPA), and may be a nice solution for those who need to extend the wireless range of their Access Points, especially in double-storey houses or flats. Or for those who live in single storey flats who need to surf from the loo.
Now if you excuse me, I have to pry my wife off my back, because she just jumped onto me while I was typing this, on account of a red-hooded character appearing in movie, M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, that we are watching on DVD.
(Note to self: when Shift is sticking, do not yank it out in anger. It will take another 20 minutes to figure out how to put it back.)