No Open Ports

It started out with me not being able to remote in properly to multiple devices on my home network while I was traveling for work. I got home a week and a half later, thinking I’d probably just need to reboot my DSL router and perhaps a few other network devices and everything would quickly be back to normal.

Well, not so fast. It seems that my trusty and heretofore reliable telephone-company-provided Siemens Speedstream 4200 DSL router had somehow lost it’s configuration data – things like the phone number, the username and the password. I put all of that back in, and everything seemed to return to normal. That is, until I decided to see what would happen if I pulled the power plug. To my chagrin, it suffered yet another total identity crisis. Something must be wrong with it.

Hummm. The DSL installer had given me a second modem just in case the first one didn’t work when he initially got the DSL installed a couple of years ago, a unit designated as Sagem Fast 1704. I pulled it off the shelf and plugged it in to my system. This one is not nearly as user-friendly as the Siemens Speedstream 4200. After an extended amount of wrangling with it I got it working, but I still couldn’t get my remote IP camera, a Loftek CXS 2200 (an excellent inexpensive IP camera by the way) to work. I was doing everything exactly right, and it was still no go. The Loftek IP camera could not connect to the outgoing email server, and no matter what I did I couldn’t remote in to the camera itself from outside of my home network.

After wasting hours trying to determine what I might be doing wrong, I finally got the idea of going to a website where I could scan my home network IP address for open ports, and I immediately discovered what the problem was. Even though I was enabling port forwarding in the Sagem Fast 1704 DSL router, virtually ALL ports were closed. No matter what I did, unless I’m missing something, the ports cannot be opened on this router.

The moral of the story is if you are having problems with your router and port forwarding, potentially save yourself a bunch of time and go to a site such as http://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/open-ports/ and find out if the ports you are working with are actually open or not.

Additionally, I took advantage of Geek News Central’s DynDNS discount offer and quickly set up an inexpensive account that enables me to easily view my Loftek IP camera without messing around with finding what my dynamic IP home IP address has switched to.  With a camera app on my phone and other mobile devices, I can simply open up the app and always get a live view without having to go through any additional steps.

D-Link Shipping 1,750Mbps Router

If you follow tech news then you may have already heard that there is a new WiFi standard coming.   Today, router maker D-Link began shipping their first product using the 802.11ac standard.  The company claims a staggering 1,750Mbps speed for The Cloud Router 5700 (DIR-865L).

According to reports, the router is “capable of reaching speeds of up to 1,750Mbps speeds when operating in this dual mode, which is made up of 1,300Mbps wireless-AC and 450Mbps wireless-N speeds.”  The router also contains a cloud app that makes it accessible from anywhere in the world.  In addition, there is also an app that allows users to connect a mobile device to the USB port and share data across it.  Finally, there are also four 10/100/1000 ethernet ports for gigabit wired connections.

The new router carries an MSRP of $190 U.S. and is available from various online retailers such as Amazon.  Of course, the router is backwards compatible for all of your current devices.

D-Link Systems, Inc. Amplifi Cloud Router 5700 (DIR-865L)

TP-Link Mini Wireless Routers at The Gadget Show

TP-Link WR702N wireless-n routerTP-Link had a large stand at The Gadget Show Live with a huge range of different products on show. Switches, ADSL modems, wireless routers, IP cameras, Powerline adaptors; you could easily build a complete home IT infrastructure using only TP-Link products.

What caught my eye was a range of portable mini wireless routers, “nano routers”, that were smaller than paperback books. Three different models were on show; the first was the TL-WR702N, a relatively standard 11n wireless router but only 57 mm square and 18 mm deep – it’s the one shown in the picture left.

Second was the TL-MR3020, a bit bigger at 74 x 67 x 22 mm but offering 3G connectivity via a dongle as well.

Finally, a brand new wireless router was on display, the TL-MR3040, that included a rechargeable battery giving several hours of use. More rectangular than square, it uses a 3G dongle (rather than integrated SIM tray), to get mobile connectivity. Price is expected to be less than £50.

Eric from TP-Link took me through their range in more detail.

Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Router with DD-WRT

On review here is Buffalo’s AirStation Nfiniti HighPower dual band wireless-n router and access point with DD-WRT pre-installed, aka WZR-HP-AG300H. I’ve had the AirStation on loan from Buffalo for a couple of months and it’s really rather good.

Buffalo Nfiniti Router

As you can see from the pictures, it’s black and about 18 cm tall, excluding the antennae which swivel and tilt to give the best Wi-fi coverage. The unit can support two 300 Mb/s networks, one in the 2.4 GHz band, the other in the 5 GHz range.

Buffalo Nfiniti Router - rear

Round the back, there a four Gigabit Ethernet ports and as this a router, there’s the extra WAN port (the blue one) for connecting to an Ethernet modem (or hotel network port). There’s a single USB socket too that can used either by a storage device or by a 3G modem. In a nice touch, a USB extension lead is supplied, presumably to get the 3G modem positioned away from the high power antennas.

The supplied AirStation Navigator CD gets the AirStation router up-and-running with the minimum of fuss via a straightforward setup wizard. However, it’s largely superfluous as all the configuration of the AirStation can be done through the web interface. A handy tool on the CD that will find the AirStation on your network and provide the IP address. Once you’ve got that pasted into your web browser, you can access a whole plethora of settings.

DD-WRT Interface

Seriously, there are an awful lot of settings in here, from the usual IP setup through to setting up an advert supported Wi-Fi hotspot. I counted no less than 41 pages of settings and frankly, some of the stuff I had to look up to find out what it was about. Fortunately, you can leave the vast majority of the settings at their defaults and there is a setup assistant to start you off. All the usual features of a wireless router are here and then some. If you do find it all too intimidating, it is possible to flash the firmware back to more typical Buffalo wireless router software.

In use, the AirStation was fire-and-forget. I setup the router a few weeks before Christmas and since then I’ve only had power-cycle the device once, which in my experience is very good. Performance was also good with no problems streaming HD media from a network NAS and QoS settings can prioritise video and gaming traffic over other packets. I had a wide range of devices connected to the AirStation including laptops, Android smartphones, an HP TouchPad and a Nintendo Wii, with no lock-ups or unexpected drops apart from the one mentioned previously.

Using the Android app Wifi Analyzer, the AirStation’s range was a few metres better than my other 11n wireless access point, but whether that was attributable to the “HighPower” or the directional antennas is hard to tell. Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as the extra distance is there.

Overall, this is an excellent wireless router that should be seriously considered by anyone who wants to tweak performance to the max.

The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Router is available from the usual retailers for around £80. Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the WZR-HP-AG300H.

UPnP Forum and How Your Gadgets Stream Music

UPnP Forum LogoIf you’ve ever wondered how your gadgets talk amongst themselves to successfully play music from your PC through a media streamer, you’ll be interested in this interview with Dr Alan Messer, President of the UPnP Forum.

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is the standard by which IP networked gadgets advertise their services and intercommunicate. Formed in 1999, nearly all the big vendors are signed up with over 1000 members, the notable exception being Apple who tend to do their own thing. Think Intel, Samsung, Nokia, Philips.

The most common example of UPnP (AV spec) is DLNA-certification which governs media management, discovery and control and this effectively determines how music is streamed from one device to another. Set-top boxes know how to use different router ports based on UPnP techniques. Almost any consumer device attached to the network in the home will have some element of UPnP built-in.

(No, Andy, it’s not the ISA PnP but thanks for the trip down memory lane.)

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Netgear Unveil New Router and More

Netgear has remained a favorite in the tech world thanks to their great routers and innovative TV boxes, along with various other offerings.  This year’s CES didn’t change that as they introduced such products as a new version of the N900 Router that has been integrated with media storage to create the new Netgear Media Storage Router.

The new router takes backups of all of your media, whether it’s on a PC or Mac.  You can then use this central location to stream all of your media to any other device in your home.  The new device is geared towards cord-cutters, and there are more of those every single day.  The Netgear router takes the speed of the N900 and combines it with this storage to make a solution that will work with multiple home devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones.

You can get more comprehensive information on the latest offerings from Netgear, including this and other products, by visiting Netgear, or by checking out the video below. TPN’s own Andy McCaskey chats with Netgear about this new router and gets the scoop on exactly what you can expect.

Connect and See Your Devices with DLink Products

http://images.dlink.com/new/products/DIR-645/DIR-645_front.pngIf you live in a large house or have an office that has a lot of concrete barriers or pillars you may have deadzones where it is difficult to get a wi-fi signal, then you may want to take a look at the D-Link Amplifi WholeHome Router 1000 (DIR-645). It helps to eliminate wireless dead spots and delivers a signal to all your devices at once by the use of the SmartBeam. You can connect devices directly to it using the SharePort Plus for streaming USB devices. There are also 4 Ethernet ports to connect your favorite gaming or entertainment devices also. It will give them up to 300 Mbps speed and advanced QoS bandwidth prioritization for great HD video streaming and clear lag free VoIP calling. Not only does it work with multiple devices but the setup is simple. The Whole Home Router 1000 has Wireless G backward capability, is IPV6 capable and has 128 bit security encryption.

http://images.dlink.com/new/products/DCS-932L/DCS-932L_front.png

One thing you can connect to the Whole Home Router 1000 is the mydlink-enabled Wireless N Network Camera (DCS-932L). The DCS-932L is easy to view and manage through the mydlink.com website. You simply log into the website and choose your device and start viewing. You don’t have to configure the router to open up a port, or remember some internet address either. It also comes with night vision so you can view your home or business 24/7. Not only can you see what is happening but with the built-in microphone you can also hear what is happening. It is plug-play for novice users, but for more advance users it has some great features, including the ability to set recording schedules,email alert notifications and trigger motion detection. The website can handle up to 32 cameras and you can upload a floor plan of your house or business so you know exactly what you are looking at. You can record directly to a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device or a computer. It works with the mydlink app for both the iPhone or Android.

To be able use all those device you plan to get for the holidays no matter where you put them in your house or business take a look at the D-Link Whole Home Router 1000 and to make sure they are safe the mydlink-enabled Wireless N Network Camera (DCS-932L).

Edimax 3G-6200n 3G Wireless Router

Taiwanese Edimax has been making steady inroads at the cheaper end of the market with a range of products which typically undercut the market leaders on price. As with its Chinese sibling TP-Link, I’ve always been a bit wary of their products but recently I had the opportunity to try out the Edimax 3G-6200n, a 3G 11n wireless router and I was pleasantly surprised by the build standard and the features on offer.

To start with, the 3G-6200n cost £40 from Amazon. For comparison, the equivalent Netgear (MBRN3000) costs about twice as much. The Edimax device is quite an old device released in mid-2009 so the 11n is only of the 150 Mb/s variety and the LAN ports are only 100 Mb/s. The Netgear’s 11n runs to 300 Mb/s but still only has 100 Mb/s LAN ports. If you are only routing internet traffic, 150 Mb/s is going to be perfectly adequate.

On opening the box, there was the router itself, a PSU that usefully has an on/off switch, a short USB lead, various manuals and a CD. The router itself is plastic but it’s not really plasticky, if you follow. I’ve had Belkin devices that were worse. Interestingly, there’s a switch on the back that turns off the wifi – that’s not something I’d ever seen before.

Getting the basic router up and running was straightforward. Turn it on, plug one end of a network cable into a LAN port and connect the other to a PC or laptop.  Open a web browser with http://192.168.2.1/ and login into the router using the provided username and password.

As with all routers, there’s a plethora of sections to go through and configure – basic setup, WAN, LAN, wireless and so on. I’d say the device was well featured without being advanced. For example, the wifi only allows you to setup one SSID and there was no auto setting on the channels, but port forwarding and virtual servers are there too. After I’d set up the wifi, I was able to disconnect the cable and work wirelessly.

As you might guess, the main reason for getting this router was for its 3G functionality. Round the back of the router is a USB port into which a 3G modem dongle can be plugged in. Once connected, the router can share the 3G connection wirelessly. Helpfully, there’s a short USB cable included that can be used to position the dongle for the best reception.

How is this different from a “Mifi” or similar device? First, the Edimax is not battery powered, secondly it has LAN ports and finally it doesn’t have to use 3G all the time. It can be configured to use a DSL or cable modem normally and only fall back to the 3G modem when the modem connections fails.

In this instance I was only interested in a 3G connection. Unfortunately, you can’t plug any old 3G dongle into the 3G-6200n but Edimax provides a compatibility list (zipped pdf). I was using an Huawei E1550 which was listed as being supported and sure enough, it was.  To get the connection to work, I had to configure the APN, username and password for the mobile provider that I was using within the router’s web interface. These details are easily available from the internet via a Google search or the mobile providers website.

I was able to connect using both Three and Vodafone SIMs in the Huawei E1550. Download speeds were usually over 1 Mb/s and less than 2 Mb/s but it varied a good deal depending on how the dongle was positioned. I noticed that the router started and stopped the 3G connection as required so it wasn’t constantly connected. One minor issue with that was that sometimes an initial request for a web page was met with a timeout as the connection hadn’t been made fast enough. Upon refreshing the page, it would be served successfully. This only happened a couple of times and I suspect the problem is more with the mobile phone network being slow to respond than the router.

Overall, I was impressed by the Edimax 3G-6200n and at £40 I think it’s excellent value. If you do need to share a 3G connection, particularly when you need both wired and wireless connections, then this is a good solution. The only downside is that it’s not a portable solution. And finally, remember to check that your 3G dongle is compatible.

Up Close with D-Link’s Boxee Box

Steve Stanzione of D-Link shows off a couple of their latest products to Andy McCaskey, including the Boxee Box.

First up is the Whole Home Router 1000, an 11n wireless router with an interesting design – it’s a black cylinder. The design isn’t just a pretty face, it encapsulates six aerials that create a steerable array that can focus the wireless beam on the location of the receiving wireless device. Out in the second quarter of 2011.

Next is a wireless-n IP camera with IR LED ring for night-viewing. As with many of these devices, you can view the camera image via D-Link’s personal web portal and there are the usual smartphone apps as well for Android and iOS. Apparently IP cameras are selling well and surprisingly, aren’t being used for home security. Many are being used to keep an eye on the interior of homes, keeping track of children and pets or watching over babies.

Finally, Andy looks at the Boxee, D-Link’s flagship product. He reckons the Boxee’s best feature is the on/off button so that it’s not necessary to unplug the device to reboot it. This in some ways reflects the immaturity of all the media streamer products, not just the Boxee – I had an Archos device which was forever hanging on certain media and you had to unplug to restart. Anyway, the Boxee’s range of codecs and the innovative remote control generally set it apart from the competition.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Netgear New Routers, Wireless and Powerline Products

Andy and Esby get the latest on Netgear from David Henry, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Netgear consumer products. There’s a range of Netgear products on show including their flagship wireless router, an N600 dual band wireless router with gigabit ports – the WNDR3700 ($169).

David covers some recent advances in router technology and how Netgear is making it easier for consumers to use what are now much more advanced products, whether it’s wifi, firewalls or routers. Frankly even I don’t understand some of the options on the more complex devices. The WNDR3700 uses push-button WPS to the get the wireless all paired up.

Many of you have wireless dead spots in your home, often because of the fabric of the building or else simply because of the location of the inbound cable or telephone connection. You also may not be able to replace your main router if that’s provided by your cable supplier. If you are in this situation, check out their wireless range extenders.

If wireless isn’t for you, David also covers the new 500 Mb/s Powerline (Homeplug) products and how to get your connected TV or media streamer wired up with network connectivity. For HD video, you need fast data rates and these will deliver the data rates you need.

Lots of great info here on what’s new from Netgear so give it a watch.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and  Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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