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Wireless Reviews

The Product, Continued

I went ahead and installed Buffalo's Client Manager 2 (CM2) mainly to see if had improved from the last time I looked at it, about a year ago. First, though, I just have to show you the CM2's approach to software license acceptance.

At last an honest License Agreement confirmation!

Figure 2: At last, an honest License Agreement confirmation!

Figure 2 (slightly reduced from actual size) shows that Buffalo gets the prize for the tiniest type in a software agreement confirmation window, bar none. But I also have to give them a prize (sorta) for not wasting effort on optimizing something that most of us gave up reading a long time ago!

Anyway, CM2 has acquired a new blue look (instead of the previous CM's red color scheme), but I still found it somewhat clunky compared to other manufacturers' client utilities.

Buffalo's CM2 Status screen

Figure 3: CM2 Status screen

The good news is that Buffalo has integrated a WPA supplicant into CM2 so that non-XP users can still take advantage of WPA's improved security. The bad is that the interface has a number of quirks such as:

  • The misleading coloring of the signal strength area that makes it look "grayed out"
  • Lack of scanning-in-progress indication on the Survey tab
  • Unnecessary drop-down selections on the Edit and Add buttons on the Profiles Tab

But its greater failings are its lack of controls for common network adapter properties such as transmit rate, power save mode and even adapter disable and lack of time-based plots of speed or signal strength, which are very helpful in doing site surveys.

If you still decide to use CM2 - which you'll have to do in order to use Buffalo's AOSS WLAN auto-setup feature - be warned that it lacks finesse when dealing with WinXP's Wireless Zero Configuration. Once launched, it doesn't ask for permission before not only stopping, but disabling the Zero Config service, nor does it tell you that what it's done. CM2 also doesn't enable and re-start ZeroConfig when you exit it.

I also found that WinXP SP2's "improved" wireless capabilities weren't as much help as they could be in recovering from CM2's heavy-handed approach to dealing with Wireless Zero Config. Figure 4 shows the semi-helpful screen you'll get when you attempt to view active networks after quitting CM2.

WinXP SP2's not much help

Figure 4: WinXP SP2's not much help
(click on the image for a larger view)

Hard to believe that this is the best that the brain trust in Redmond could come up with, but I fault Buffalo just as much for not automatically interacting with Zero Config and not telling the user what it's doing.

With this discovery behind me, I tried linking up with a Linksys WRT54G router with both CM2 and with Windows Zero Config. As quirky as CM2 might be, I found it much better than dealing with the "improved" wireless capabilities provided by XP SP2. The new wireless interface is so bad that I'm beginning to wonder whether Bill's boys (and girls) are losing it, or just think they don't have to care since millions of people will use whatever they come up with anyway.

At any rate, both methods got the job done whether I used no security, WEP or either flavor (TKIP or AES) of WPA-PSK. I didn't try an AOSS connection, since I didn't have a Buffalo AP or wireless router on hand, but had previously checked that feature on on Buffalo's WBR2-G54.

My final complaint is that CM2 doesn't automatically quit when the adapter is removed, even when I dutifully went through the "Safely Remove Hardware" process.

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