To keep from being left behind in the fast-growing wireless market, even the biggest players in this field haven’t been able to rest on their laurels. Instead they have been ironing out every wrinkle they can find to help their products succeed in the cutthroat market. Thankfully, ORiNOCO has not been immune from this pressure and has taken the initiative to work out problems with its product implementation processes. In this review, we’ll see if ORiNOCO has fixed the wrinkles in its setup software or if it needs to go back to the ironing board.

Past reviews
In 2001, we examined a number of ORiNOCO wireless products. In our first review, “ORiNOCO’s wireless network: Avoid its sticky setup problems,” we were disappointed that the company had not done a better job with its setup software. We referred to the setup software as “quirky” and complained that the documentation was too light.

A few months later, when we reviewed an ORiNOCO wireless gateway product, the installation software for the access point side of the equation had been much improved over the client-side installation software. Check out that review, “Installing ORiNOCO wireless gateway is a snap,” to see how simple the installation was.

Once both of our installations were complete, the ORiNOCO equipment worked as well as advertised. Getting to that point on the client side was the problem.

Improved installation comes to the client side
Given the struggle that we had when previously reviewing the client-side setup software, we were eager to test the new improvements in the client side of ORiNOCO’s wireless LAN installation process.

We already had the ORiNOCO Residential Gateway set up on TechRepublic’s test network for our previous review, so we decided to install the ORiNOCO USB Client (see Figure A), a combination that could be used for either home or small office environments.

Figure A
For this review, we used the ORiNOCO Residential Gateway and USB client, center and right in the photo.

Our client machine runs Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional operating system, which has USB compatibility built in. Check your operating system to see if it supports USB. If it doesn’t, ORiNOCO offers a PCI card that accepts PCMCIA cards.

It helps to view the installation of the wireless technology on the client side as a four-part process:

  1. Install the client manager program.
  2. Install the appropriate drivers to connect the wireless client equipment to your operating system.
  3. Set the wireless client properties.
  4. Set the network properties for your wireless card connection.

Make it all speak the same language
Before connecting your USB or PCI card client hardware to the computer, you will need to insert the installation CD. Once the main menu appears, select Install Software. The software will then take you step-by-step through the process of installing the client manager software.

Next, physically connect the PCI or USB client hardware to your computer and, after you start up again or plug in the USB client, Windows will take you through the Add New Hardware process of loading the appropriate drivers.

This is where we hit the only snag in the process, and that was because we were installing on a Windows 2000 Pro system. When we told the Windows Wizard to get the drivers off the CD, it wanted to install the Windows 98 drivers.

When we forced the Wizard to browse the CD for the Windows 2000 drivers, nothing appeared in the window for those drivers on the CD. Stopping the Wizard, we took a look in the CD and found that most drivers were available in the appropriate directories for other operating systems. However, the Windows 2000 driver wasn’t in the Windows 2000 directory. Instead, there was a Setup file that allowed us to install the appropriate drivers on our client machine’s hard drive. (See Figure B.)

Figure B
Here is what is in the CD’s Windows 2000 directory that did not appear in the Add New Hardware browser.

After putting all the drivers in a Drivers directory in the ORiNOCO directory where we could easily find them, we unplugged the USB client and then plugged it back in, and when the Add New Hardware process started again, we whipped through it without a problem.

After completing the Add New Hardware process, the Add/Edit Configuration Profile will automatically open to set the properties of your wireless connection. We selected the Residential Gateway access point. For that profile, you type in the Network Name that is printed on the bottom of the access point. After you click OK, you are prompted to restart the computer.

After restarting, when we right-clicked on My Network Places, we had another network connection to configure. For simplicity’s sake, we just selected DHCP.

The client manager program places an icon in the system tray that shows the strength of the signal from the access point. Ours was very strong, and when we launched Internet Explorer, we were zooming around the Internet in no time. In our Network Places, other local computers showed up.

The bottom line
If the documentation had told us to use the Setup program in the Drivers folder for Windows 2000 on the ORiNOCO installation CD before plugging in the USB client, the entire process would have taken even less time than it did. As it stands, it was still a fast and simple installation, bringing the client-side implementation up to the high level of ORiNOCO’s access-point-side installation. In this case, the fix to the install problem was worth the wait.

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.