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I have a complicated situation due to my goals and network structure. I have in mind a potential solution, a bridge, but I do not know whether it is feasible or what hardware it will require.

The network:

  • My apartment community provides residents with free Internet access through an ancient T1 line.
  • We do not have the option of other Internet providers, so having a router and modem in the home are not an option.
  • The T1 line is split among some 24 switches, one for each building, and each switch has one port per floor.
  • At each floor, there is a D-link WAP, and each has a separate SSID and WEP key.
  • Additionally, they control access at the switch level using Access Control.

My goals:

  • I'm used to being in control of my networked environment.
  • I like to have friends over often, and most of them have a laptop, a smart phone, or both, which makes Access Control a pain. I don't want to have to think ahead and get their MAC addresses to the IT consultant while he's here during business hours.
  • My wife and I have 6 devices, two of which require an Ethernet connection.
  • I use a few applications for streaming that utilize UDP (I'm not sure if the WAPs are smart enough to even handle this) and I don't like having my traffic muddled with my neighbors.

I should note that I tried extending the network with my Airport Extreme router, which apparently only works with other Apple devices. I've also looked into WDS, but that seems to require an unlikely amount of cooperation from the IT consultant on site.

The potential solution: a Linux server that acts as a router. Ideally, it could act as a webserver for a small static site as well, but let's focus on the routing. I'd like to bridge two NICs and use masquerading (Internet Connection Sharing). The public interface would connect to the WAP using WEP. The private interface would allow up to 8 devices to connect to the server.

It seems easy enough to configure the public interface, and even to bridge the connections. What I've never done before is purchase a wireless card that can accept multiple clients. Maybe they can all do this?

Is this solution feasible? Can you offer a better solution?

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migrated from serverfault.com Aug 19 '11 at 16:23

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

1  
Why not just buy a Linksys router compatible with DD-WRT and use that as a wireless client? That's how I have my desktop set up, since I don't have a WLAN card in it. I just setup the router as a client to my home wireless network, and then I can just connect any device I want to the router's LAN ports, and it's good to go. –  Breakthrough Aug 19 '11 at 17:33
    
Thanks for the suggestion, Breakthrough. I actually did go with a DD-WRT router and am pleased with the firmware. Combined this with the suggestion from @Daniel and daisy-chained it with my old Airport Extreme. This made the most sense, since it allowed me to use wireless printing, and didn't require purchasing a router with two wireless interfaces. –  jrhorn424 Aug 23 '11 at 23:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Your situation is basically the same as all home users, ie: the ISP/Telco has a complex network of ACLs etc. connected to a modem/router which the end user plugs into and is seamlessly integrated into the ISPs network.

Similarly your solution can be quite simple -- you just need to funnel your local network into the Buildings' network via some sort of modem analog, which in your case is an 802.11 connection.

You have three options:

  1. Purchase a router/WAP with two wireless interfaces. For instance, Mikrotik's line of products such as the RB400 -- two 802.11a/b/g and three 10/100 ports. Connect one to the Buildings WiFi as a client, configure the second as a local WAP for your room.

  2. Use two separate devices to do the above. Configure one device as a wireless client of the Buildings' network, and plug the second into the LAN ports of the first device. This second device would be your local WAP.

  3. Use a desktop as you suggest with two wireless cards (re-creating the option 1 scenario).

I have never encountered issues with a reputable wireless card supporting connections from multiple clients assuming the card supports master mode ( that is, being the AP ) ... to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I understand what that question even means as 802.11 as part of the definition is for multiple clients to connect to the same AP ... just be aware that not all 802.11 cards support master mode and thus can not be an AP. Which is perhaps what your question really is??

Consider looking at cards built with Atheros 802.11 chips.

Option 1 will require a smallish router OS learning curve and have the fewest long term problems. Option 2 is the most "hackerish" with the least configuration issues. Option 3 will require a smallish "linux interface configuration/routing" learning curve and have the burden of cost/hardware storage.

hope this gives you some ideas.

-daniel

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thanks for your answer. This does give me a lot to think about. In truth, I didn't know about the subtleties of 802.11 and "master mode". I'll edit the question title to reflect this. I have two routers I can daisy chain, but I'm not sure how to connect one of them to the WAP. The public-facing router would be a Belkin Wireless N f5d8236-3, and I didn't note any way to connect to another access point in the web configuration page. If that wouldn't work, I can always purchase a different router, as you suggest. –  jrhorn424 Aug 19 '11 at 18:23

Have a look at m0n0wall features. There are quite a few BSD and Linux projects aimed at creating a router for your exact situation. Most standard hardware will be supported by most if not all of the solutions, each project will have it's own limitations and advantages.

I suggested m0n0wall because it's what I use, no problems in over five years of continuous operation.

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I just spent a few mintues looking over the m0n0wall documentation, and I'm not entirely sure it will connect as a client to another access point. If I'm missing something, it's because I don't know what to search for in the docs. Any pointers? –  jrhorn424 Aug 20 '11 at 3:04
    
Just to clarify, you will need a total of 2 wireless interfaces in the router. First one to connect as a client to the provided wireless link, the second to act as the access point for your clients. The routing then takes place between the 2. –  tagram Aug 20 '11 at 14:57
    
Right, I'm just not sure how to do that in the software. –  jrhorn424 Aug 21 '11 at 20:38

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