Tag Archives: wifi

How To Use A (Real) Router With AT&T U-Verse DSL

AT&T U-Verse DSL is many things: expensive, sub-par, flaky, but the worst part about it (besides the utter contempt they have for their customers and the monopolistic attitude of their executives) is the downright shitty quality of their highly-touted “residential gateways”. These are just glorified DSL modems with (barely) built-in WiFi and a barebones user interface. If you have only a computer and a phone (and maybe a tablet), it will suffice (as long as you stay in the same room), but if you’re going to be streaming to your TV, playing online games, setting up IoT devices, or using any other manner of modern technology (in addition to your phone, tablet, and computer), you absolutely will need a real router. Don’t get taken by the monopoly phone company, make sure they don’t charge you for the gateway, and buy yourself a proper router–it saves so much headache and hassle with just a little extra setup cost and effort!

Assuming you’ve already bought a proper 802.11ac router and at least plugged it in, you’re going to want to connect to the device and make sure the connection type is set to “Dynamic IP (DHCP-Assigned)”. You may need to refer to your router’s instruction manual to reference how to do this. Go ahead and set up the residential gateway by plugging it in to a power source and connecting the DSL (phone) line as the AT&T installer did when he got his muddy footprints all over your carpet. Run an Ethernet cable from the “Broadband” port on your router (it may also be labeled “WAN” or simply “Internet”) to one of the available LAN ports on the back of the gateway. With another Ethernet cable, connect a computer to another open LAN port on the gateway.

This page looks like 1998 threw up all over it. (att.com)

On the computer you just connected, open a browser and point it to 192.168.1.254. This will take you to the residential gateway’s settings interface. For the price that AT&T charges for their horrid little modems, you would think that they might invest a little bit in UI design. Once your eyes stop bleeding, click the “Home Network” link at the top. On the right side of the page, you should see a box labeled “Status At A Glance”. Click the “DISABLE” button next to Wireless.

att.com

The system will ask you if you are sure you want to disable the built-in wireless router, to which you should respond “CONFIRM”.

Now, we need to edit the firewall settings for the new router. In the “Local Devices” box on the left, identify the wireless router from the list (there really should only be two options, and you can easily narrow it down if the gateway is only displaying IP addresses–just confirm the computer’s local address) and click “Edit firewall settings”.

On the next page, make sure the router is selected from the drop-down menu under the “Select a computer” heading. Then, click the radio button next to “Allow all applications (DMZplus mode)” and then the “DONE” button.

Verify all the settings are correct as you put them in (the device is the router, all applications are allowed, all protocols are allowed, all ports are open), then return to the home screen. Close your browser, unplug the Ethernet from the computer, then cycle the power on the router. Once the router is back up and broadcasting, connect a device to the wireless network, open a website, and voilà! Now you can get stronger WiFi signals, better connections, and have more granular control over your network than you could with one of those terrible little AT&T residential gateways alone!

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Optimize your WiFi with AirRadar

I picked up Koingo’s AirRadar utility as part of a bundle of useful utilities that Stack Commerce was selling for a pretty good deal a while back. I don’t normally purchase utilities such as this one, but I look at it as a free bonus for buying a license to Crossover and Paragon. It’s actually pretty useful!

AirRadar scans the airwaves picked up by your wireless card and delivers all kinds of useful information regarding signal strength, noise ratios, encryption, and much more! The average Joe probably won’t use all the features presented, but power users and system administrators will enjoy being able to dial down into the minutiae of WiFi radio engineering.

So far, I’ve used AirRadar to find the clearest channel for my router to broadcast on–which has noticeably improved bandwidth in my crowded apartment complex. Most of the routers–Pace DSL gateways from AT&T (yet another piece of information you can glean from AirRadar)–are clustered around a handful of channels toward the middle of the spectrum, so I just moved my router over to an empty channel and voila! I’ve also learned that there are a lot of unsecured private networks near by–most likely because of a benign ignorance to information security. I’m tempted to access these unsecured networks and drop them a friendly note to let them know how easy it is for an unsavory character to gain access to their computers, but that would technically be illegal (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986). Maybe I should just triangulate the signal and knock on their door instead?

Another cool feature in AirRadar that I haven’t used yet is hotspot mapping. Open the app, start scanning, throw the lappy in the passenger seat, drive around, and soon you’ll have a nice map of all the access points along your route! Granted, only the publicly open hotspots should be disclosed, but a broadcast is a broadcast. Use this feature responsibly!

I’m not entirely sure that an average idiot would want to spend the $10 license fee, especially considering that there are similar applications available for free, but since it was part of a larger deal, it was worth it. If you’re a war driver or a radio aficionado, it might be worth your Hamilton, but I would’ve been just as content letting my router figure out the best channel to broadcast on automatically.

AirRadar 3 by Koingo Software

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