In an effort to perhaps save people the seven hours I wasted this weekend, I share these two secrets with you:

Let’s back up a little bit. Shannon and I went down to New York City this weekend, to watch Alaina (and Dave and Meg!) run the Marathon, and to help my brother and sister-in-law get settled into their new apartment. One of my jobs was to get their wireless network set up, and since they needed to extend the range of the network a little bit, to figure out the best way to do this. While I’m comfortable enough hacking my way around Linksys access points and getting them to serve as repeaters, I figured that I shouldn’t subject them to alternative firmwares and dodgy power boosting, so I read a little bit about the options and settled on the WRE54G as an extender for their Linksys 802.11g access point.

Now, to set up a WRE54G, you have to run a proprietary application on a Windows machine that is connected (wirelessly) to the access point you want to extend. This seemed simple enough, so I powered up one of their laptops, verified that the Linksys PC card could talk to and use the access point, and then ran the setup app. It immediately complained that it couldn’t find the wireless card; oddly, I could then open up Internet Explorer and surf the net with reckless abandon, so I knew that there wasn’t really a problem with the wireless card. As a result, I figured that the issue had to be related to running an older version of the PC card drivers, and headed over to the Linksys website for the latest version. After installing them, though, the computer wouldn’t use the wireless card at all, and kept throwing up weird error messages (some new application, ODHOST, could not stop bitching and moaning). They also wouldn’t uninstall, crashing during the uninstallation process.

I spent a LOT of time trying to debug this, including spending 45 minutes on the phone with two Linksys tech support agents who couldn’t grasp that their uninstaller was crashing. (Them: “But why don’t you just uninstall them?” Me: *whacks head against marble countertop repeatedly*) The agents ended up concluding that there was nothing they could do to help, and that the best they could do was have someone else call me back at a later, unknown date. (*whack whack whack*) I finally tracked down this Broadband Reports thread in which someone else wasn’t ever able to get them working on Windows ME, and a lightbulb went off; I asked my brother if he had held onto the original CD that came with the card, and when he dug it out of a box, I reinstalled the drivers on it and everything went back to working fine. Of course, I was still unable to run the WRE54G setup application, the problem that got everything rolling in the first place.

I decided to try their other laptop, which runs on Windows XP. This time, the setup application ran fine through the first few steps, but when it got to the place where it scanned to see if it could find the WRE54G, it crashed every time and left me without a wireless connection at all. The connection came back when I rebooted, but the crash was reproducible every time. I again decided to give a driver update a chance, and made some progress — after that, the setup application was able to scan all visible wireless networks to try to find the WRE54G, but it claimed that it was unable to find it. I reset the device, to no avail, and then just gave up.

The whole time I was working on the equipment, my brother kept asking how Linksys expects normal customers to be able to set this stuff up. And after my experience, I can honestly say that I haven’t a clue — between their drivers and setup applications being incompatible, their drivers plain not working, and their buggy setup and uninstallation utilities, it’s impossible for even a seasoned network professional to get everything working, much less a casual home user. It’s a shame; Linksys is owned by one of the best networking companies in the world, and I’d expect better of them.

Comments

First problem - Windows ME. Nobody supported it for very long. I’m not even sure if its still an officially-supported OS from Microsoft itself.

Second problem: You need to read NO COMPLY. :)

• Posted by: Bill Bradford on Nov 8, 2004, 11:10 PM

Linksys’ tech support line is useless. I recently had the displeasure of getting into a 3-way call with a friend of mine with a Linksys router problem. He called their techs, which were just a bunch of script readers in a boiler room in India. They refused to help because they don’t support MacOS X. I told him to call back and get me on a second line using his cel headset, so they couldn’t hear me translating the Windows commands into Mac, and pretend he had a Windows box. It worked ok, but was very tedious.
Unfortunately, a few days later his router died of a hardware defect. He lived within a short distance of the main Linksys offices (Irvine, IIRC) so he just drove it down to them for a replacement. He told their techs his tale of woe with the Indian script readers, and they said he should just call their offices directly and they’d help out, and they admitted the Indian telemarketer people were basically useless unless you were trying to fix something moronically stupid (like you forgot to plug it in). So if you have serious tech issues, and are a serious tech, there are ways around the system.

• Posted by: Charles on Nov 9, 2004, 12:44 PM

Like some other people, I did have trouble with the WPC54GS adapter and Windows ME. It just would not connect to the wireless access point. Every time I restarted the computer I got an error: CoCreateInstance Fail. And Linksys technical support, although friendly, was not able to help. Yet, they swore that the product worked with Windows ME and they are correct.

After poking around the system with a tool from Microsoft (depends), I concluded that the problem was related to some DLLs on my system. At some point in patching Windows ME with updates from Microsoft, a file related to Internet Explorer 6.1 was updated on my system. The file was SHLWAPI.DLL version 6.0.2800.1552 dated 7/7/2004. This DLL is making a call to OLE32.DLL where the CoCreateInstance is located. This file appears to be the cause of the problem.

Because Linksys said that the product works with Windows ME and out of pure frustration, I rebuilt my laptop with the OEM version of Windows ME. After reinstalling the Linksys card and software at this point, the card worked fine. Not wanting to be on the Internet without some security patches, I then used Microsoft Update and updated with all the critical patches except the upgrade to Internet Explorer 6 SP1; thus I avoided updated SHLWAPI.DLL. Again, the card worked fine, but I was running IE 5.5 at that point.

I then used Microsoft Update again and installed the critical patch “Internet Explorer 6 SP1 (Windows 98, Windows ME). SHLWAPI.DLL was changed to version 6.0.3800.1106 dated 8/29/2002 at this point as the update installed IE 6 with service pack 1 along with Outlook Express 6. And just like Linksys said, the whole thing is working just fine.

I hope this helps someone who is looking how to fix this problem. By the way, although this is extream, the whole laptop runs better now.

• Posted by: John McGregor on Nov 16, 2004, 11:52 PM

For what it’s worth, I have win98se, and I did the following: Installed the IE6 sp1 and then upgraded all of the security updates. It was still no dice with the 1.3.1 driver set downloaded from Linksys. I’d still get the CoCreateInstance issue.

I uninstalled everything, removed the card, rebooted, found the original CD, installed that, rebooted, inserted the card, let it do it’s install routine, rebooted, and now all is fine. I

• Posted by: dave on Nov 20, 2004, 9:04 PM

In response to those herein, who are having problems with the Linksys range extender WRE54G, I may perhaps be of help…
I am an advanced home user and was stymied for a day and a night with the usual red light debacle…
Because the US site had no firmware upgrade for the device, I went to the international sites, and to the UK site specifically, thinking that it would also be in English…
I found an firmware upgrade posted in Sept. 04 and, after upgrading the firmware with same, it began to cooperate and now functions well…
I also had the “Indian” help and it was essentially useless after long hold times…
Linksys should be ashamed…
AJI

• Posted by: Stormbringer on Jan 1, 2005, 5:15 AM

I may also be of help on this. I’m a sys admin and this thing drove me bugsh** . The basic problem is that you _cannot_ use the software that comes with the device. The CD in the box is useless. Save yourself the pain and throw it out immediately. Download the version from the Linksys website.
http://www.linksys.com/download/firmware.asp?fwid=218
This is a setup wizard, not really frimware, although it may boost that as it loads - who can tell, and it will actually work.
I had a little success with the “Auto setup” button on the side of the thing. It sets the card to the correct SSID but doesn’t handle the network settings. So if you’re network is running anthing other than the 192.168.1.* LAN addresses you need the setup wizard to make changes. The annoying this is that you need at least one Win machine that is already running wireless to get anywhere. It would be nice if there was a standard RJ45 jack in the back of the unit. Not much of a fallback, other that the recessed reset button.
D.

• Posted by: Dave on Jan 6, 2005, 9:57 PM
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