Sunday, July 08, 2007

Botched Technology: Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander WRE54G: Electronics

The Vaio is having difficulty connecting to the wireless network. My Lenovo/IBM has no problem but $80 for a range extender is cheaper than $1,500 for a new laptop. Although given the unreliability of the Vaio in thing WiFi I suspect that replacement will be necessary in the near future.

So I get myself a Linksys wireless range expander. The manual sucks. How bad does it suck? Well I have stopped trying to get it to work to write this post.

Trying the automated configuration failed, I suspected it would as I have the network encrypted using WPA. Strike one against the cretin who wrote the manual: no statement as to when to expect the automatic configuration to work and when it may not.

I then try the setup wizard which refuses to accept the fact that I have a NAT box set to net 10.x.x.x. The setup wizard will only accept an IP address in 192.168.x.x.

Why the device requires a hardwired address is beyond me. Either the device is passive and should not require configuration at all, or it is active in which case it can DHCP like everything else.

Update: finaly got the wireless extender configured using a hardwire ethernet conection. Not without difficulty though. The basic wireless settings are entered in one form, the encryption options in another. Setting the encryption options causes the device to perform a hard reboot and the unsaved wireless settings are lost without warning.

This is beyond amateur. The device has clearly not seen any competent usability testing. Instead of trying the system out on real users they simply assumed that real users are idiots and tried to insulate them from the information they need to configure the device.

There is no possibility that the auto configure button could have worked. Not telling the user the circmstances in which it will work is not helping them. If giving them necessary information might confuse its a sign that the automated configuration architecture is bogus. Automatic configuration must work in every possible circumstance or it is bogus.

The way to make automatic configuration work is to make use of USB. Put a USB socket on every device that does not already have one. Use a standard USB memory stick to exchange the necessary configuration information as declarative XML specifications. Web based configuration of network appliances is always going to be a bogus approach: the only reason the appliance needs to be configured is the network is out.

Update 2 I am planning vlog this once I get the axe out of the basement.

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