How can I lose the wireless AP?

  • Hi,

    Ok that may very well be an utterly stupid and overly asked question but I'm gonna go ahead and ask anyway.

    I'm considering replacing the Tomato WRT54GL Wireless AP for a pfSense based solution. The main reason being that no Tomato-able router offers gigabit ethernet, making any HD movie transfer from the fileserver painfully slow.

    Now, I would like to know if adding any WiFi PCI card to the pfSense box will turn it into a WiFi AP filling in for the WRT54GL? Are there any specific cards to do this or will any card do?

    Thanks for your answers!

  • There are various wireless network cards supporting access point mode in FreeBSD, though only up to 802.11a/802.11g speeds at the moment.  If you want faster than that, you will need to wait or use a separate wireless access point.  There are some 802.11n cards that work now, but only at a/g rates.  Some people have been buying those cards instead of a/g cards with hopes of 802.11n being supported on them in the future.

    The common ones I know of that have FreeBSD drivers supporting access point mode have chipsets from Atheros, Ralink, or Marvell.

    Some chipset models I know of for Atheros are 5212 (802.11b/g), 5213 (similar to 5212, but I think supports 802.11a as well), 5416 (802.11b/g/n), and 5418 (similar to 5416, but I think also supports 802.11a and 5 GHz 802.11n).  802.11n support is not yet implemented in the FreeBSD driver for Atheros chipsets.

    I don't know which Ralink chipsets are supported in access point mode.

    As for Marvell, there is one specific chipset I know of that is supported in access point mode - the 88W8363.  It is an 802.11n chipset with support for 802.11a/b/g/n, but the driver doesn't seem to support 802.11n rates yet and was just added in FreeBSD 8.0, so it is not possible to use the card in anything before pfSense 2.0 beta.  I've only seen one model of card that I know uses it, a mini PCI card (though converters to regular PCI are available), and it only seems to be available on eBay from around 2 to 4 different sellers in China.

    The cards I have experience with are based on the Atheros 5212, Atheros 5416, and Marvell 88W8363.  Of those, the one with the Marvell 88W8363 has worked best for me overall, though your results may vary depending on the specific card.  I currently run it in 802.11g mode, because the rest of my equipment does not support 802.11a and the 802.11n modes are not faster yet in the driver.  One thing I haven't seen happen with it is the "stuck beacon" problem that some people have had trouble with on Atheros-based cards and that I've always seen when I first start using one of those Atheros-based cards (but for me it basically seems to go away after a little time).

  • ISTR that Tomato runs on the Netgear WNR3500L, which has Gbit LAN and WAN interfaces, see the MyOpenRouter forums.  I know there are a number of DD-WRT compatible devices with Gbit interfaces and I'd suspect that Tomato should run on many of them.

    That said, given that 802.11g can't saturate a 100 Mb link, I don't think that the 100 Mb interface is your problem.  Switching to another 802.11g device is unlikely to make any significant difference to your situation.

  • Thanks for the info.

    WiFi is just for the internet, the file transfers are all done via ethernet hence the need for gigabit eth.
    I'll probably keep the WRT54G as the WiFi AP anyways because it seems it will do a much better job than a WiFi card in the pfSense box.

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