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The Netgear Rangemax Dual-band Wireless-N Router WNDR3300 - phew, there, I've said it.
In reality, it's a smart gloss black and silver slab about the size of a paperback with lots of pretty lights, the more of these that flash the cleverer you are - a maxim I've stuck by ever since dial-up modems!.
What, you mean you want more? Give me strength - it's only a bit of computer kit, get a grip.
OK, OK, here goes.
My existing Linksys wireless-g router has given sterling service for several years, although just lately the mains unit has started smelling funny (or is it 'cos I use it to warm my bare feet?).
A friend mentioned that she'd bought this 'Netgear thingy' by mistake, and being a perfick gennelmun, I offered to buy it off her, and before you ask, no, not for a knock-down fee. So why was it the wrong bit of kit for her broadband? Well, like a lot of people, she's got ADSL via her telephone line, and in theory at least, this router would have sufficed if only and she'd had a 'proper' modem, not one of those cheap nasty USB affairs that they post to you with that letter that claims that the 'exchange is ready'.
Unfortunately the latter applied so what she needed was a wi-fi router with an in-built modem which this 'Netgear thingy' didn't have.
So why does it suit me? Well, I'm on cable TV broadband which, as far as I know always comes with what might be termed a proper modem, i.e. one with an Ethernet connection. This then means that your home network and wi-fi needs are taken care of by a router alone - you already have a modem.
Being a smooth box with none of the usual rubber antennae protruding means that you can use the two brackets supplied to hoist it onto one end, and thence take up less desk space.
If starting from scratch, you unplug the network cable that runs from your modem to your PC and divert the latter end to the single input of the router. Then, using the extra cable they've supplied you, you attach your PC to one of four hard-wired Ethernet sockets on the router - it matters not a jot which one. Irrespective of how many wi-fi devices I've got in the house, and there are now five, I always like to have at least one with a tangible link to the router, and so as a matter of policy, I connect my main desk-top PC by wire to the router. This also puts the router on the first floor, and I've always had a sneaking suspicion that wi-fi radio reception is improved by this.
My 'plain brown' generic package did not come with a CD-ROM for installation, but it turns out it wasn't needed. Given the default values set within the router, I suspect that just 'daisy-chaining' it within your existing cabling from modem to PC should work every time.
This is where the going (might) get tough. Having established that your internet connection still works as far as your PC by loading a browser, you can them access the router by typing either its IP address (192.168.1.1) or the URL www.routerlogin.net into the browser. This accesses the 'embedded web pages' in the router from whence you can make alterations to the standard configuration. One change you must make is to alter the SSID (that's the station name of your wi-fi transmitter) from NETGEAR to something more meaningful to you. If you don't, there'll no doubt be someone out there who knows that if it's still called NETGEAR, then it's '10p to a bag of horse ordure' that its logon\password is still 'Admin' and 'Password', the upshot of which is to give a stranger access to your wi-fi encryption, or worse still, lets them hi-jack it so you can't even use it yourself! Of course, changing the latter pair also makes a whole shed-load of sense since Netgear, Belkin and Linksys are the most common routers, so it's almost a one in three chance which one you've got.
Setting up wi-fi on this router now has the complication of operating on two sets of frequencies. One for the more established wireless b/g formats and another for wireless 'n', a much faster system. You even need a different SSID for both, although 'billynibbles' and 'billynibbles-n' didn't exactly overtax my literary muse.
Password setting for the encryption (you ARE going to set a password, aren't you? Tell me you are!) needs a bit of thought to make it as near to uncrackable as possible. One good way, is to think up a phrase that only you know the answer to, like "I write really boring technical reviews on ciao and dooyoo" and use its initials, 'iwrbtrocad'. Come to think of it though, lots of people know that; better choose another!
There are many other aspects of the 'config' that may or not be of interest to you.
For example, you can ban certain web-sites. A friend has put a stop to www.limewire.com so that her partner's grandson can't cock-up their PC for the n-th time, with a morass of spyware and the like, and the delightful possibility of getting them the blame for illegal downloads.
Personally, I like to concentrate on strapping down the security of my wi-fi beyond merely being encrypted. The router will allow you to restrict access to known MAC numbers - that's like the serial number of specific bits of kit that connect directly to the router. This could be a network card or a whole wi-fi laptop, and many other things besides. That way, anyone else trying it on won't get far. Also, you can limit the range of internal IP addresses that can be handed out, say down from 253 to 20. I wouldn't limit it to the strict amount of addresses required by the system. For example, let's say you have 5 devices connected to your router. Ok, so you'd think that a range of 192.168.1.2 through to 192.168.1.6 is enough? Think again. In my experience, for every session of the router being on, you only have to have occasion to reboot some recalcitrant bit of kit (network drive or wi-fi printer for example) for it to try to allocate 192.168.1.7 only to find it can't. It's only when the router reboots that it reverts to the original '2>6' sequence.
If you're looking for a router to connect to cable broadband or any other Ethernet modem that's 'futureproof' enough to handle the latest wi-fi speeds, look no further, especially as it cost £35 new from e-Bay.
It's highly configurable through a comprehensive but logical menu system, easily accessed through a URL of www.routerlogin.net.
It's smart and sleek, with bookends to hold it upright if you so desire.
You certainly can't lay it flat with anything on top of it, which brings me neatly to......
WHY OH WHY OH WHY............
..........is easily enough letters to spell YOYO. It's also a plea from me.
Netgear, if you're going to put a damned great domed push button on top of the router, which then flickers with bright blue LEDs like a Dinky Toy ambulance all the time to show activity on one or more of its eight internal antennae, at least give me a permanent means of leaving it turned OFF! Since my router and modem get turned on and off with my PC, I don't find pressing the button every time an acceptable alternative at boot-up.
This button also operates something called the WPS system for simplifying the wi-fi set up, but it needs 'WPS-compatible' extras at the other end. This makes it doubly annoying since you only use it once in a blue moon, which coincidentally is not unlike how it looks when it's running!