Hardware for AP mode

  • Hi there,
    I'm going to buy a Soekris 4801-60 for personal use since my 4521 is already very much outdated.
    Nevertheless I would like to offer the 4521 to a friend of mine and so that he can use it with either with pfS or m0n0 running in AP mode only since he already has a wired ADSL router.
    So that means no routing or firewalling activated any longer.
    Just AP mode activated and maybe captive portal.
    I know that the 4521 has a internal miniPCI slot to install the WiFi card (maybe a Winstrom CM9 as hoba suggested :)) but unfortunately no matter how hard I try I just can't find these wonderful WiFi toys for sale here in Portugal :(.
    But (and there's always a but in these things…) I took a look at the 4521 specs and I found this:

    • 133 Mhz AMD ElanSC520
    • 64 Mbyte SDRAM, soldered on board
    • 2 x 10/100 Mbit Ethernet ports, RJ-45
    • 1 x Mini-PCI type III socket. (t.ex for optional hardware encryption.)
      - 2 x PC-Card/Cardbus slots, for wireless adapters
      Take a look at the line in bold. It says "for wireless adapters".
      Does this mean that I can go buy a PC-Card/WiFi adapter, install it on the 4521 and pfS will recognize it and allow AP mode with WPA2 (tkip) etc just as if it was a Winstrom CM9 miniPCI?
      If this is do-able, how would I connect an external antenna on a PC-Card adapter?
      I don't know any brand/model with a pigtail connector for external antenna :(.
      I'm just asking about the PC-Cards because those I can find on any hardware store where opposed to miniPCI ;).
      Thanks in advance.

  • Those cards are available with different chipsets as well, I recommend using atheros as you know already. The madwifi list ( http://madwifi.org/wiki/Compatibility ) has cardbus cards listed as well (see Interface in the carddescription boxes). The cardbuscards have usually built in antennas, so you don't really need an external antenna as long as you want to make use of it for a point to point link with a special antenna for example.

    However, you should be aware that 64 MB RAM will only be suitable for very basic configurations. Captive Portal might already be too much to handle with that amount of RAM. Randomly killing of processes can be expected if you push it too hard. Also the 133 MHz CPU won't push too much bandwidth.  All traffic has to pass the CPU as it flows from one interface to another.

  • Hi hoba,
    Thanks for the input and for the links.
    Also thanks to KiFFuSeR for his link to a portuguese wifi site that sells CM9 http://wifisys.net/ .
    I borrowed a PC-Card from a friend of mine that is based on the atheros.
    I installed it and I gotta say that it took me only a couple of minutes to figure out what I had to do, i.e. add a new OPT choosing the PC-Card MAC address from the dropdown menu.
    Then I opened that interface and I setted it up for AP mode with WPA on.
    Man! that was slow! lool
    It took the SBC 5 minutes to load the WiFi config.
    Then when it finally start I noticed that I could hardly do as much as 1MB throughput with it.
    I know, I know. You warned me lol.
    Anyway this clearly prooves that the net4521 is not a player any longer when it comes to pfSense more advanced features.
    It runs ok on m0n0wall but it crawls on pfSense even though I gotta admit you guys have done a wonderful work on the last 6 months of development.
    In the early days of PfSense my box would take 7 to 10 minutes to finish boot up depending on the kind of config I would use.
    Now it takes 4 to 7 which is quite an effort from you guys.
    Thanks for this wonderful toy.

  • A wrap is booting up in about 1:20 minutes with factory default config and dhcp at wan (which takes some time too).

  • I had already marked this topic as "Solved" when I found this one at the Wireless section :-[ [url]http://forum.pfsense.org/index.php/topic,1792.0.html.
    I understand that Ralink is the chipset used in MIMO and MIMO XR miniPCI adapters.
    Taking into consideration that:

    • I have droped the idea of re-using my old net4521 as an AP
    • I am thinking about buying probably a net4801 or a WRAP to replace the net4521
    • I want my future box to run as a nice Wireless Access Point
    • I am more concerned about WiFi coverage than with speed
      what do you think?
      Should I consider buying a Ralink wifi adapter or should I stick to a good old atheros based like the CM9?
      If I buy the Ralink based will I experience problems with it and pfSense?
      I'm sorry for bugging you guys so much with this silly subject but I really don't know who else to ask :-.

  • Can't say anything about the ralink as I don't have one but I'm pretty satisfied with my CM9's. If you need good range you need good antennas, no matter if you have the one or the other card. You even can have better range with a card with less transmitpower and a good antenna compared to a highpower card as those usually add more noise to the signal. Try to get an antenna with good characteristics for your application (sector coverage, omnidirectional, point to point link, …).

  • Just FYI: MIMO is a technology, not a chipset.
    And Atheros is imo by far the best supported chipset you can get your hands on. Atheros, Broadcom, Ralin and others, all make chips supporting MIMO.

  • Hi lsf,
    Yep, I didn't express myself correctly before.
    Like, MIMO and MIMO XR products use Ralink chipsets.
    Maybe not all of them but at least all that I can find in the Portuguese market.
    BTW, all Linksys products are now coming with 802.11N which is said to cope with up to 240MB/s.
    Any Atheros miniPCI capable of 802.11N?
    Is FreeBSD 6.1 compliant with 802.11N already? What about pfSense and 802.11N adapters?
    Yep, I know: I'm just a big pain in the butt  :-[  ;D

  • Atheros is launching their new chipset these days. It's called  AR5008V.

    Previous implementations of Atheros' X-Span 802.11n chip sets (example: Belkin's N1 products) had a 3x3 MIMO design. The new chip sets (AR5008V), uses a cheaper 2x2 design. With two embedded radios, the AR5008V line includes both dual-band and 2.4GHz-only models.

    And afaik, there are no opensource drivers to support them as of yet, and not many available products either (if any).
    But there will be minipci cards soon. And I can tell you from my tests that 802.11n on 5.x is pretty damn impressive. Problem is still to find a clean 40Mhz channel tho. But even with 2x cloaking (20mhz channel) it does 100mbit +.

  • @lsf:

    But even with 2x cloaking (20mhz channel) it does 100mbit +.

    Now that's impressive  :o.
    Thanks for clarifying the Atheros 802.11N ;).
    Anyways I've made up my mind.
    I'm going for a net4801-60 and a CM9.
    Maybe it's not THE mean machine but it sure will do the dirty work here at home.
    In the future I may look out for 802.11N.

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