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Linksys falls off Wi-Fi bridge

Breakdown of communication with Netgear, er, gear

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The Wi-Fi Alliance won't like this: a simple compatibility test of two mainstream wireless devices by Computing Which? failed to get a Netgear bridge to talk to a Linksys router.

The current edition of the magazine has a whole section on wireless, at the end of which the editors conclude that a lot of it is "too hard to use". But the test which completely failed was an attempt to set up a games link between a standard Linksys Wireless-G broadband router, and a Netgear WGE101 wireless ethernet bridge.

"The Netgear Bridge's instructions were easy to follow," said the review, but, after that, it all went pear-shaped. "Once installed, the bridge should display your existing wireless network. In our case, this comprised the Linksys router, d-Link Cardbus Adapter, and at times, the Linksys Media Adapter. Unfortunately..."

What went wrong? "Several calls to Netgear's helpline, adjusting our settings - and a replacement device - all failed to solve the problem."

Eventually, says the report, Netgear "admitted that this was 'possibly' the result of incompatibilities between the two products."

The magazine concluded: "Setting up a wireless network is more complex than assembling flat-packed furniture - it shouldn't be."

Editor Jessica Ross summarised: "In one case, we had to download a program from a website, which couldn't be accessed due to the faulty set-up of the product we were testing, and then edit one of its system files to get the device to work as advertised."

For most people, Ross concluded, this kind of solution is simply too hard. "Manufacturers need to do more to ensure their products are easily installed and are interoperable with other WiFi networking equipment."

The report doesn't test a wide range of Wi-Fi gear; it covers a random selection of newish products, including a Bluetooth dongle (moderate success) a Centrex Linkmaster (thumbs down) the Microsoft wireless desktop Elite (approved enthusiastically) and the Viewsonic Tablet PC (qualified approval) with a "Best Buy" award going jointly to a simple PCMCIA standard D-link 11g wireless adapter and the TomTom navigator for the Pilot Tungsten PDA.

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