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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [02.18.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson
Manufactured by: D-Link

Dual-Mode PC Card NIC: $129
Dual-Mode PCI Card: $129
Dual-Mode Router: $270

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If you're not using XP, or if you want the proprietary D-Link features, or if you just don't like Wireless Zero in general, there's D-Link's utility.  It's fairly simple, with 3 useful tabs, and the usual "About" tab with a logo and D-Link's website.  The first tab is for general configuration.

This is where you see a list of all wireless networks your computer has ever seen, or sees now.  You can add as many networks as you want to the preferred list, and these will be the networks that your computer automatically attempts to connect to.  Highlighting a network and hitting Properties brings up some of the important stuff.

This is where the always-critical encryption is configured on the card.  But it's also where there's a big problem.  The router allows the admin to input ASCII words as encryption keys, even though they must be of a specific length.  But here in the NIC configuration, it will ONLY accept hexadecimal.  Even if you input an ASCII sequence in the router, it can't be used here.  Basically there ARE no passphrases here; no generating an encryption key from a word.  And you may as well enter them into the router in hex anyway, since the NIC utility won't accept the ASCII keys at all.  This makes the encryption pretty hard to use; so hard, that a lot of people might not bother.  It would be a HUGE headache for an administrator to get everyone's NIC set up for the same encryption code.  The use of some sort of passphrase-based system would make administration a lot easier.  It's understandable if pure HEX needs to be entered if a router and NIC are from different companies and use a different conversion from ASCII to HEX, but devices from the same company should use the same conversion, and therefore make key entry much more feasible.  Hopefully D-Link will address this issue in a driver update.

The Status DIalog is very useful, giving signal strength, and status of Turbo mode, as well as wireless network mode (Infrastructure or Ad-Hoc), network SSID, and your NIC's MAC address.

The Option dialog is where the radio can be disabled (though simply disabling the NIC will perform the same function), and the fragmentation and RTS thresholds can be adjusted here as well (Think of Fragmentation Threshold as similar to MTU size for wireless).  Turbo is enabled here, as well as specific encryption type, whether WEP or AES, and specific frequency, if you don’t' want to autodetect between 2.4 and 5 GHz, or wish to restrict to only 5 GHz instead of chancing accidentally picking up an 802.11b instead of the preferred 802.11a.

A curious thing we noticed during testing was that, when Turbo mode was enabled on both sides, the speed of the wireless adapter as reported by Windows was 108 Mbps, and not 72 or 94.  The NICs do not appear operate on both bands simultaneously, so this might be a flaw within Windows or the drivers.

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