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The Installation Diaries, Part 1

The Netgear WGX102 Wireless Range Extender looks like a really cool way to boost my wireless network, but if I can't get it installed, how will I ever know?

In one of my former lives I installed PC software and hardware for a living -- I wrote product reviews for computer magazines. It robbed me of years of my life I will never get back, but I'm not bitter. I'm just glad we have technologies like USB so I can finally let go of everything I knew about configuring serial ports and setting jumpers on add-in cards.

Some days, when the sun is shining and my hands aren't shaking so badly, I think maybe I've beaten it. Maybe I could install again. So I just bought a Netgear WGX102 Wireless Range Extender gizmo to pump up my wireless network. It's two modules -- one plugs into my wireless router (not Netgear equipment, by the way) and a wall outlet. The other module plugs into a wall outlet in the part of the house where I need to pump up my wireless signal.

It installed instantly, and when I looked at the wireless connections on my Windows XP laptop there it was. I connected to it, and it worked. And delivered about half again as much signal as my base router where I needed it most. How easy is that!

By default, of course, it's an open connection, unsecured, unencrypted. So I put the Resources CD that came in the box into my PC and fired it up. On the main screen was this paragraph:

After the WGX102 is set up, to change the WGX102 settings, from a wireless computer enter in the browser or click the SETTINGS button to connect to the WGX102. Log in using the user name of admin and the default password of password both in lower case letters. The settings pages will let you change any of the configuration. Note: The computer you use to connect to the WGX102 configuration utility must be configured with an IP address in the range of 192.168.0.x when the WGX102 is in its factory default configuration.

I typed the settings IP address into the desktop PC connected to the router and got nothing. Of course, it says right there, ". . .from a wireless computer." So I shifted to my wireless laptop. Again no joy. Oh, of course. Silly me, I had switched my laptop back to the secure router connection. Unsecured connections give me the willies.

So I reselected the Netgear connection. Great. Oops, not great. Oh, of course, it says right there my laptop "must be configured with an IP address in the range of 192.168.0.x." I check. it's not. It's still configured with the IP address set by the router's DHCP. I don't see any way to change it. I reboot the laptop, thinking that because it's now set to connect to the Netgear gizmo it might automatically get an IP address in the right range. It doesn't.

Well, though I hate to do it, I guess I'll have to go into the network settings, turn off DHCP and assign an IP address in the right range, then reboot. I used to know how to do that in Windows 2000.

But after about half an hour of futzing around I have to admit I can't figure out how to do it in Windows XP. In fact, I don't know if it's even possible in XP.

So here I am, nearly two hours into the installation of a plug-and-play product, and I'm stuck. I don't know who to be madder at, Microsoft or Netgear. But before I bundle the WGX102 up and return it to the big-box electronics retail giant where I bought it, I'll give Netgear a fair shot at cleaning up its mess:

If you work for Netgear, and know how to solve my problem and configure the WGX102, send me e-mail -- you'll find my address under "About Us" on the Desktop Pipeline home page. If I can get it working I'll not only keep it, but I'll say nice things about Netgear in Part 2.

If, on the other hand, the answer is, "Well, every OS handles the assignment of IP addresses differently, and it would take too long to explain, so we just sorta hoped you'd connect it to a Netgear router because they use the same range of IP addresses," I find that unacceptable.

And another unacceptable thing: You offer free phone support. But only if I go through product registration first. But I'm not about to register a product I can't get to work, so you've got me in a Catch 22. Oh, and by the way, just try to find the answer on your Web site.

So that's the challenge, Netgear. Are you up to it?

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