PCI Symphony Network Cards

I have finally found an affordable wireless solution that works with Linux.
Testing and Performance

When on the wireless segment, the notebook has full connectivity to the rest of the local network and to the Internet; it's just a little slower. The Proxim specs state a range of 150 feet. I have had no trouble with the connection anywhere within our house. I've measured FTP performance for a half-megabyte file at about 64Kbps download and about 56Kbps on upload between the notebook and Linux server. I am pleased with this performance, since I don't plan on transferring large amounts of data while on the wireless segment. When I need to do that, I simply take the notebook back down to the office and switch it back to the wired Ethernet interface. During normal Internet browsing and e-mailing, there is no noticeable performance degradation.

Switching from Wireless to Wired and Back

Proxim supplies a handy feature in the Maestro utility for switching back and forth between a wired and wireless Ethernet interface. The Maestro utility is installed as part of the Win9x setup, and normally resides at the bottom right side of the taskbar. If you double-click the Maestro icon, click Configure, then click the Network Profiles tab, you will be there.

Win9x can store only one set of many of the network parameters, even though there may be more than one network interface and environment. Maestro creates a couple of new registry sections, one for the “Original” network settings (profile0) and one for the “Symphony” network settings (profile1). This makes it very easy to switch between a wired Ethernet interface and a wireless Symphony card on your notebook. The alternative is to change settings on several different screens manually when changing interfaces.

After fiddling with it for a bit, I realized it saves the necessary network parameters for profile0 when you change to profile1 and click “OK” and vice versa. This makes it relatively easy to get the settings the way you want them without actually changing the cards and rebooting each time. You can click back and forth as many times as you want. For instance, select the “Symphony” profile, click “OK”, then use the Windows network properties dialogs to make changes. When finished, click the “OK” on the Microsoft dialog, but don't reboot. Then go back to Maestro, click the “Original” profile, then “OK”, and your profile1 settings will be saved. If you don't let it shut down your system, you can go back and forth until you get the settings you want for each profile.

When you actually want to switch cards, run Maestro and select the correct profile for the card to which you want to switch. Click “OK”, then confirm the box that offers to shut down the system. After the system powers down, insert the correct card and power it up. It will have all the appropriate settings for that interface card and environment. If you are curious and want to see everything it saves, use regedit to look in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\ProximSwitch.

Expanding the Concept

Proxim states that you may have up to ten machines on a wireless segment. You may also have several wireless segments within the same physical area by using different Secids for each wireless segment. For some installations, this may be very useful. Dave Koberstein reports that the ten-unit limit is based on limitations of the Proxim Wireless Bridge and Wireless Modem. If you use Linux as the wireless router, you are limited only by what you consider acceptable performance and how many nodes you can fit into a 150-foot radius.

There are some exciting new developments for 2.2.x kernel versions and the later rl2 driver versions. Bridging is reported to work with kernel 2.2.14 and rl2-1.5.3. The configuration is more complex, but you can avoid the need for different names and IP addresses when on wireless. The next driver, rl2-1.6.0, will have improved reporting, improved troubleshooting capability and will show up in the Win9x Symphony tools network map. Subscribe to the mail list to check these out.

Summary

After using my notebook on a wireless segment for a couple of weeks now, I must say I am quite pleased. I have good performance at a reasonable price and am able to configure and operate the wireless network with standard networking tools. I have great expansion capabilities and have avoided purchasing a costly Wireless Bridge. There is a great deal of help available, both from the Proxim documentation and web site and the Linux driver web site and mail list. This solution meets my needs quite nicely.

Acknowledgements

The Good/The Bad

Denny Fox (dennyf@mninter.net) has been active with designing hardware, software and auto test equipment since the late '60s. Linux caught his attention back at kernel 0.97. When not hacking on something, Denny enjoys hiking, sailing, reading and playing guitar. He is the president of Micro Time, Inc.

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Re: Product Review: PCI Symphony Network Cards

Anonymous's picture

Hi, I found it very interesting report, the world become Linux, and wireless Linux, inexpensive wireless Linux, so,
I appreciate a lot this info, thank you Denny

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