I have had very little interaction with wireless technology lately, but that changed in the last few days.

netopia setup for a friend

A friend of mine had an old PC running windows 98 that they wanted to connect up to the eircom netopia broadband router they had just received. I installed an ethernet card I had lying around in the PC and it connected to the netopia fine. I also needed to rewire the phone socket for connecting the netopia to the phone line, as this was a new house and some muppet had wired it up randomly.

My friend also wanted wireless access to the netopia from a laptop, so I changed the wireless security method on the netopia from WEP to WPA as WEP is very easy to crack. Note one still must be careful to choose appropriately long passphrases (at least 20 chars), and non standard SSIDs.

netopia WEP key crack

As chance would have it, the next day I noticed on the blogosphere that the WEP key configured in the factory by eircom for each netopia is trivial to determine from the broadcast SSID! I.E. it's trivial to leach internet access off 250,000 or so wifi ADSL routers, currently supplied by eircom in Ireland. I can see hundreds of these routers with default settings as I travel to work on the train by running the following in a linux terminal:
watch -t -n1 'nm-tool | grep -E "eircom[0-7]{4} [0-7]{4}"'
There is an online form to determine the WEP key from the supplied SSID, and the logic behind that form is here. Note a small patch is required to get the program running on linux, and also a local program is much more useful as there is the obvious catch-22 situation with an online form.

I'm not going to expand on the many things eircom did wrong here, suffice to say, they're muppets.

zyxel P-660HW-61 adsl modem firmware upgrade

Then my ADSL router started acting up even more than normal. Not serving DHCP correctly, randomly disassociating wireless connections, ... So I bit the bullet and upgraded the firmware from:
ZyNOS F/W Version: V3.40(PE.10) | 10/28/2005
DSL FW Version:TI AR7
ZyNOS F/W Version: V3.40(PE.11) | 05/22/2006
DSL FW Version:TI AR7

The result is much better. Apart from the extra functionality that I won't use (and is fully documented in the download), DHCP addresses are served immediately, and there is better wireless connectivity to my laptop at least. Definitely recommended. I also noticed that there has been some investigation done in porting OpenWrt to this router which would be cool. Previously I used dd-wrt to connect two houses wirelessly.

[Update Nov 20 2007: The zyxel is now sometimes not forwarding packets or responding to pings on the wired LAN interface at least, requiring a power cycle to restore. It seems to correlate to some extent with incomming calls on the telephone line, so perhaps there is a bug in the new DSL firmware that causes the router to become unrespsonsive after noise on the line? Actually this problem was triggered by disabling the wireless interface which I also did at this time. After reenabling it I've had no problems.]

© Oct 2 2007