alfresco_300

Signal strength: Excellent

| A while ago Costco sent a flyer with a special deal for July, $30 off on the Hawking Hi-Gain™ Wireless-N Dual Radio Smart Repeater, advertised as "an advanced Wi-Fi connectivity solution that receives the signal of any 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi network and rebroadcasts it locally within your home or office." The product data sheet says it "Redistributes extended home/office wireless connection at 300Mbps using Hi-Gain™ Wireless-300N Technology," and the quick installation guide says that one of the ways to use the HW2r1 is to "eliminate wireless dead spots within your hoome or repeat the wireless signal from one area of your home to another." Sounded like just what I needed to get a good connection on the patio. I ordered one.

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Hawking HW2r1

Of course, I did my homework first. A lot of reviews lauded the product, and many user comments were glowing. There were also the dissenting voices that said the product "doesn't work," that tech support stinks, and the manual is "useless." You can find similar comments about almost any hi-tech product, and I'm confident enough in my ability to figure stuff out that I was not dissuaded.

Friday it arrived. I eagerly unpacked it and followed the installation instructions, which were very clear and took just a minute or two. This is great! I thought to myself.

Then I realized that what it really had done was create another new LAN that used my existing connection to get to the internet. However, to use it I would have to disconnect from my normal connection and reconnect to the new one, called SmartRepeater by default. Which was all well and good, except that then my laptop couldn't "talk to" any of the other devices on my existing network; you know, like printers, servers, storage devices, etc. Furthermore, every time I connected to it, I would have to enter a security key. Argh!

Thinking I must have missed something, I went through the installation procedure again, and this time I noted a checkbox to use the HW2r1 in "pass through mode." Maybe that's what I need, said I still confidently to myself. I'll research it a bit further. Neither the 134 page user manual, nor the Hawking website, had any mention of "pass through mode." You know, helpful info, like when you might want to use this and how to configure it if you did. Argh! Argh!

I put it all away and had a cocktail.

Saturday I spent a great part of the day reading everything I could find on the web. Googling for "HW2r1 configuration" yielded nothing useful. So then I looked for configuration of other repeaters and extenders, thinking I could then translate it to the Hawking.

Several hours later, I had developed a paltry list of configuration musts:

I first tried to use the Support Utility program to configure the Hawking. You must understand that after every change in configuration you have to reboot the Hawking and then reconnect to it, processes that consume at least a minute and a half each time. Then it became obvious that the Support Utility was a piece of crap: once the configuation had been changed in minor ways, it could no longer connect to the device.

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Note the difference in signal strength between the boosted one (chezpaul) and the unboosted one (chezpaul_media)

I went back to the online configuration program. Went through a gazillion pages of choices and at one point pushed a button for Wi-Fi Protected Setup. To my astonishment, it seemed to work. When I moved it out into the great room, I could get an excellent signal to my regular LAN while out on the patio. No separate logon was required, and my laptop could talk to everything else in the network.

The frustrating thing to me is that no where in all that manual configuration was there any checkbox for "pass through mode" and as a result of the black-box Wi-Fi Protected Setup, I have no idea of how the damned thing is actually set up. All I know is, it seems to work.

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"Other Network" is the Hawking

The results of telling the Hawking not to broadcast its SSID were interesting. In the list of networks found by my laptop appeared "Other Network," which turned out to be the Hawking. True enough, it wasn't broadcasting its SSID, chezpaul, but it was still announcing its presence. I experimented with connecting to it to discover that it first requested that I provide its SSID and then that I provide the security passphrase. OK, not the ideal situation from my point of view, but no casual hacker or neighbor would be able to get in.

 
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Discretely in position atop the upper kitchen cabinets

This morning I tested whether it would work in the intended position perched atop the upper kitchen cabinets. Works fine.

On the downside:

Last updated on Jun 21, 2016

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