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Letters, Addenda, Errata

If you have any comments regarding articles or tips in this or any previous issue of the VOICE Newsletter, please send them to editor@os2voice.org. We are always interested in what our readers have to say.

WLAN and encryption
June 1, 2006

T. Guilbert wrote the following regarding Mark Dodel's article OS/2 and Wireless "g":

Good article, and I agree we should encourage the Willibald Meyers of the software writing world.

However (you knew there would be a "however," didn't you?), the number one reason to move from 802.11b to 802.11g is WPA encryption. (As you point out, transfer speed is rarely an issue.) I never dreamed of using my computer with its sensitive data wirelessly until I could get WPA encryption. WEP, even nominally 128-bit WEP, is very easily cracked; there are hacker tools out there that make it ridiculously easy. WPA can be cracked, of course, as can any encryption, but it is orders of magnitude more secure than WEP.

And how I do get WPA encryption under eComStation? I get 802.11g transfer speeds [54 Mbps] and WPA (PSK) encryption. (Incidentally, my router, like yours, is a Netgear 624.)

The solution is simple: do it in hardware. My two OS/2 machines are hard-wired respectively to the Netgear router and to an ASUS WL-330G AP/Bridge. The WPA pre-shared key is stored in the two pieces of hardware. Although I used the browser to enter the password (which is very long **), the password is not stored on either computer, but inside the router and the AP/Bridge.

The ASUS WL-330G is almost exactly the size of a pack of cigarettes [8.6cm x 6.2cm x 1.7cm], and gets its power either from mains current (via a transformer) or through a USB connection. As both my computers are desktops, I use the mains power option. Its data connection is plain Ethernet CAT-5 [100 Mbps], hooked at the other end (that is, the computer) to a standard OS/2 compatible Ethernet LAN card. (I have an Allied Telesyn AT-2700TX on the computer attached to the router, and an Intel Pro 100 on the remote computer; either LAN card could be used on either computer.) OS/2-eComStation sees the wireless connection as a hard-wired Ethernet LAN, and need not know that there is a wireless hop in the middle of the LAN connection.

I purchased the ASUS a year ago for $60 [€47.75] from Newegg. However, the first two units I received had radio transmitters that were DOA; thanks to Newegg's liberal return policy, I finally got one that worked. And it does work: slick as a greased frog.

** If you want, I will share with you Guilbert's Foolproof Method to Generate Uncrackable Long Passwords that Nevertheless are Easy to Remember.

Mark Dodel answered:

Yes, I considered addressing WPA a little further, but since I have never used encryption I just didn't feel qualified to comment beyond what I knew GenMAC supports currently. I believe that WPA is on the list of things to work on, but I read so many things on the subject I may be mistaken.

Do you ever have periods where the [Netgear] 624 just seems to lose the internet connection? Here I have to release and renew the DHCP lease to get it back. That is something I never experienced with my older Netgear MR314 wireless router. It only happens on occasion but there is no warning, its just something I learned to do if the Internet stops working and my cable modem is still functioning. Also have you noticed that the 624 tends to run rather warm? When I searched on the net about problems with loss of Internet I encountered quite a few hits about these things having thermal lockup problems. I don't think that is my problem since the router is accessible and I can get the Internet connection reset without powering down the unit.

Providing the encryption via the hardware is a good solution and I did mention it in my article pointing out Daniela's article on that wireless bridge. In fact, I actually have an ASUS WL-330 (non-G), but even though it is diminutive, it still is a bit cumbersome with a laptop. A mini-PCI wireless card is still the ideal solution for convenience and especially if someone has already paid for the one builtin.

How about an article a bit more specific about wireless security in general covering all the current options and how to build the keys? ;-)

Newsletter layout and phantom floppies
June 9, 2006

Richard Hussey gave us a virtual pat on the back:

First of all, many thanks for such a useful, well-presented publication! It's a real boon having so much useful stuff in one place. Two things I'd like to comment on:

Like Jürgen Gaida, I too have noticed that Mozilla runs a lot slower with the "new" format, but then my machine is nearly ten years old! Whatever the speed, the layout is certainly professional, without being "whizzy" and full of distractions that don't actually add anything (like that other OS). I'm quite happy with it as it is.

Secondly, I've just got round to getting a copy of eCS and have the 1.2R release. I have been really bugged by the "phantom" floppy disk that appeared in the Drives folder, one letter above the last hard disk partition. And what do I find—Lon Hooker's article in the June issue reveals the cause and the cure: that the USBMSD.ADD setup defaults to one removeable and one floppy disk drive. I wonder how many other seasoned Warp 4 users have been suffering in silence about this one? Perhaps there is a "tip" here: prune CONFIG.SYS after installation, to eliminate extraneous drives that have been added by default.

Keep up the good work!

Formatting: Christian Hennecke
Editing: James Moe