Wireless networking can be a great option when wiring Cat 5 cable would be difficult or impossible, coverage is limited, or the office is in a historic building that can’t be modified.

Of course, even if you’re not faced with any of these problems, wireless networking can provide employees with the option of moving around the building with their laptops while being connected to the Internet or the local network—an obvious advantage for some industries.

With all this in mind, Lucent’s ORiNOCO Residential Gateway (RG-1000) is worth looking into as a wireless solution. The icing on the cake, especially for small or home office networks, is that the RG-1000 is a snap to install—as long as you are using installation software the company released in Summer 2001 or later.

Here’s what we found when we set this product up on our test network.

Figure A
On the left is the ORiNOCO Residential Gateway Start-Up kit, which comes with a PC Card and access point. On the right is the ORiNOCO USB Client Gold used in this review.

Out of the box and online
Our tests of the ORiNOCO Residential Gateway were done on our test network using the gateway standing alone in one office; the setup of the gateway via the test network from another office; and the client, an ORiNOCO USB Client Gold, plugged into a test machine in an office about 90 feet down the hall of a building notoriously unkind to wireless radio waves.

We have already reviewed several other pieces of ORiNOCO wireless equipment in “ORiNOCO’s wireless network: Avoid its sticky setup problems.” As the title suggests, our biggest complaint about the ORiNOCO wireless solution involved the needless complexity of the software used to get the network up and running.

Since that review, however, ORiNOCO released new setup software that has reduced installation time to mere minutes—as long as it takes to open the box and plug everything in.

As with the other ORiNOCO equipment reviewed before, our test machine had a good 11 Mbps connection between the client and access point, which we tested out by playing a little Counter Strike on the Internet.

What you get in the box
We found the ORiNOCO RG-1000 selling for about $280, and if you get the Start-Up Kit, which is what we tested, you get an ORiNOCO PC Card included in the box for another $90.

The RG-1000 features a number of other handy capabilities, particularly for small or home office use. These include:

  • An onboard 56-K V.90 modem with RJ-11 jack for telephone connections to an ISP
  • A 10BASE-T Ethernet connection through an RJ-45 connector
  • Network address translation (NAT) for allowing up to 10 computers to use the same Internet connection
  • A selection of four frequency channels
  • 64-bit WEP encryption
  • The ability to use a static or DHCP address for the network connection
  • Reset and reload buttons for troubleshooting purposes

Getting it going
Getting the wireless network up and running using the RG-1000 could hardly have been simpler.

Once out of the box, you open the back cover of the access point and plug in the power supply and your connection to either a telephone line via the built-in modem or, as in our case, an RJ-45 Cat 5 cable connected to our test network.

Make sure that your Cat 5 cable plugs in to a switch or hub that will work at 10 Mbps, if you use that option. This is rarely a problem in the home office environment that is using a cable modem or DSL.

As far as software is concerned, you will need to install the setup utility on the machine you will use for that purpose. If you are accessing the access point via wireless connection, you will need to install the client software to access the RG-1000.

In our case, we installed the setup utility on a machine already on the test network and then started the program.

When the program starts, you are prompted for the Network Name of the RG-1000, which is a six-character alphanumeric combination printed on a label at the bottom of the device. (See Figure B.)

Figure B
You can find the six-character alphanumeric code on the label on the base or back of the unit.

When you click on the Continue prompt, the program will search the network for the RG-1000 with that network name as its default.

During our setup, the software not only found the RG-1000, but it detected older firmware on the device and automatically updated the firmware. This took a matter of moments, and then an access point parameters screen appeared. (See Figure C.)

Figure C
Choose the appropriate answers from the drop-down boxes or fill in an IP address in the bottom field.

We only changed the Internet Access Via drop-down box to indicate we were using it over a LAN.

Once the Continue prompt was clicked, a small box opened to allow the setting of the encryption code and password for the access point. The code is the last five characters of the Network Name used on the first screen. (See Figure D.)

Figure D
The Enable Encryption checkbox is selected by default.

After that, it was a matter of clicking a Finish button in the software, and the RG-1000 was ready to function and wait for a wireless signal from a client.

We had the client software set up on a machine with the USB client, and it was simply a matter of changing its preferences to the Network Name of the RG-1000, setting up the correct encryption code, and checking that it was operating on the same radio frequency as the RG-1000.

Once those preferences were configured on the client machine, the connection to the RG-1000 was immediate and strong. The client has a signal-measuring capability that is graphically represented on five vertical bars to indicate strength. We received a strong 11-Mbps signal, with four of the five bars filled on the graphic scale.

Games are notorious bandwidth hogs, and the client test machine happened to have a particularly graphic-rich game installed on it. We used the wireless connection to hop through the test network to a game server on the Internet, where we had among the best ping times of any of the contestants playing the game.

The bottom line
If simple setup is the principle criteria in recommending a wireless solution for the small or home office, the new software for setting up the ORiNOCO Residential Gateway makes this product a strong contender.

The biggest difference we could see between the RG-1000 and ORiNOCO’s corporate wireless solutions was in the limited number of computers that could be in use with the RG-1000 at one time (10 versus 11 to 25 users for the AP-500 or 26 to 50 users for the AP-1000).

Have you set up a wireless network?

If you’ve set up a wireless network, did you have trouble getting all the parts to work together? What was the problem? What did you do about it? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.