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Archive for May, 2012

Extending Wifi Range in a Rural Area: Post-Implementation

Overall, the project was a huge success. We were able to successfully combine two buildings into a single network across a span of approximately Rural Network Setup350 feet of wooded area as seen below in the drawing of buildings A and B (descriptive eh?). However, it did not end up the way I had expected.

Problem 1: The routers do not see each other.

First, we had severe problems with securing the network. Part of the problem was that the routers could see each other but not connect to each other. To remedy this situation, I turned off the security on the routers. Once the security was disabled the routers were able to both see each other AND connect to each other. Since it is in a rural area, people jumping onto the network is not a high concern and therefore the security has been left off until I am able to journey back to the woods to do more testing and figure out the security settings that might work. For the time being, the wireless security settings are disabled and the routers are connected just fine.

Problem 2: The signal from the receiving wireless router in house B is not strong enough to push through the entire house.

This was more difficult to solve and luckily was not solved by me because I would have made it way more complicated. There happened to be an extra router laying around, a D-Link WBR-2310, and the occupants in building B decided to connect this router to the receiving router to see if it would re-broadcast the wireless signal resulting in a setup of a router behind a router.router behind a router When the occupants called to tell me what they had done my immediate response was “that won’t work.” However they duly informed that they had already connected it and that it was, in fact, working. After doing some thinking about it I understood that what was occurring was that Router B was passing the internet connection to Router C and Router C was using its own DHCP to create a “new” network. While the goal of this entire plan was for both House A and B to share a common network, Router C prevented this from happening. Unfortunately, the WBR-2310 is unable to be modded with DD-WRT to make configuring it easer to possibly still share a common network, the D-Link normal firmware may be able to obtain a DHCP number from Router B, which is receiving a DHCP address from Router A, ergo any computer connected to Router C will receive an IP address from Router A. This has not yet been tested and I can provide an update when I can confirm the failure of this plan.

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Developing a “beyond-local-network” remote access solution using Remote Desktop Connection (RDC)

First of all, if you are reading this little article and you’re not sure exactly what “remote desktop connection” is… this will probably be too advanced and you should use a commercial tool such as LogMeIn.  LogMeIn is an excellent tool and I use it myself as well and there are even some features that LogMeIn does that RDC cannot do, namely RDC cannot reset or shut down the host computer unless you know DOS commands (hint: the command’s are “shutdown -r” for restart and “shutdown -s” for shutdown)

Step 1: Enable remote access on your host computer

In Windows 7, click on the Start menu icon and right-click on “Computer” and then from the menu that appears, click on “Properties”.  In the window that pops up, on the left side click on “Remote Settings”.  This will then open the System Properties window to the Remote Settings tab and allow you to enable remote access using RDC to your computer.  I personally like the third option, “Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication.”  Per Windows, this is a more secure option that provides a higher level of security than the other option.  However, in order to use this setting, you must be sure that the client computer (accessing computer) will have this NLA installed on the RDC application.  To check on this, on the client computer, open up Remote Desktop Connection (in the Accessories part of the menu) and then click on the upper left icon and imageclick “About” and in the dialog box that appears to explain the version of RDC, it will also say “Network Level Authentication supported” as seen to the right.

Once you check the respective box, again, my preference is the third radio button, click “Ok”.

Step 2: Enable Dynamic DNS

Unfortunately and fortunately, most home internet connection have dynamic IP addresses assigned to them.  When I explain to people what exactly this means, I tell them to imagine if you had your home address changed every couple of days, how would you tell people to enter in their GPS how to get to your house?  The address wouldn’t be the same so the GPS would never be able to help the person get to your house!  There is a solution to this problem and it exists with using a combination of Dynamic DNS as well as your router.  Dynamic DNS is a free way to help give direction to your home’s IP address.  HOWEVER, in order for this to also work, you must have a “beacon” of some kind to let Dynamic DNS know where you are.  Most routers, namely Linksys routers, have this inside their router software.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves however, first lets create a Dynamic DNS account.
dyndns

Hostname is the address name you want to give yourself, it can be anything!  Make it something easy to remember however and something not embarrassing and essentially this will be what you type into RDC to access your computer:

your-chosen-address.dyndns.org

I like to choose from the drop-down to the right of the Hostname “dyndns.org” because that was what it originally was, however, it doesn’t really matter which one your choose as it is only a reflection of your preference in address naming.

Leave Wildcard unchecked because you are doing this using the free version and don’t want to pay… besides it won’t let you check it anyways.  Leave “Host with IP Address” checked.  For your IP address, the website is taking the IP address of your current IP address where you are at that moment.  Simply click on the link and it will put your IP address in the field for you.  Leave IPv6 blank and leave Mail Routing unchecked.  You have done the nitty-gritty work for getting your Dynamic DNS account set up so just finish up the process by clicking “Add to Cart” and then finish the checkout process.

Step 3: Enable Dynamic DNS access on your router

Now that we have the “directions” to your IP address done, we have to tell the “directions” where to go!  And to do that we have to configure your router to let Dynamic DNS know where you are at so it can follow you when your internet provider changes your IP address.  Linksys routers are most commonly used in homes per my own experiences though most routers have something very similar as they all like to compete with each other (consumer FTW!).  To set up your router, open up Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, or whatever and type in 192.168.1.1   …. if that doesn’t work type in 192.168.0.1 …. if that doesn’t work then look up your router to try to figure out how to get into the router’s software or get out the CD that came with your router.

Once in the router by typing in the correct username and password (typically a combination of admin and administrator or “blank”) you will be at the Setup screen with several tabs, one of which is DDNS.  Click on DDNS and you will go to a screen showing a drop-down list and from this list, choose DynDSN.org.  In the username field type in the username to your Dynamic DNS account, in the password field type in your Dynamic DNS password, and in the Host Name field, type in the address that you previously gave yourself: your-chose-address.dyndns.org.  Don’t forget the dyndns.org part on your address!!!  After you do that, Save your settings and now your router will serve as your home’s IP address beacon.

What will happen now, is your router will report to Dynamic DNS what your IP address is that your internet provider has given you.  When you type in your Dynamic DNS hostname address in RDC, what it is doing is asking Dynamic DNS where your home is located.  So Dynamic DNS is giving your RDC application directions to get to your home’s IP address that was given to it by your router, thus enabling you to access your home computer from anywhere in the world with an active internet connection.

Step 4: Tell your router where your computer is on your network

The function of your home router is to not only let several computers in your home access the internet at the same time, but it is also to protect your from outside intrusions such as hacking, viruses, etc using its built-in firewall.  Routers don’t always succeed at this but it is better than connecting your computer directly to your cable/DSL modem.  What you want to do now is tell your router which computer you want it to look for when you want to use RDC to connect to your computer.

On the Setup tab

Still in your Linksys router software, click on the “Applications and Gaming” and then you should already be on the “Port Range Forwarding” tab.  In the first blank box under Applications, type in something descriptive such as RDC.  Then type in both the external port and internal port boxes “3389” without the quotes.  Under the protocol column, I selected both.  Remote desktop protocol technically uses TCP, but I selected both because that’s what I do, I try and satisfy every scenario.  Then check the checkbox for “enabled” and hit the button “Save Settings” at the bottom of the screen.

Step 4: Log in!

Once you have all of these things done, the only thing left to do is to open up your Remote Desktop Connection application on your client computer and type in the address “your-chosen-name.dyndns.org” but don’t include the quotes.  You don’t need to type in the port addresses because RDC knows to use 3389.  You should have a login screen asking for your username, password, and domain.  Type in your Windows username and your password and hit “ok”.  If you have a domain configured on your home network (most don’t have this advanced setup done), then you can type it in otherwise it should work fine.  Alright, that should do it and now you can access your home computer from anywhere you have an active internet connection and the Remote Desktop Connection ability!  You can use it on your iPad, Android Phone, undoubtedly your Windows phone, Mac’s, or PC’s.  I use PocketCloud on my iPad and it does well, though it seems a bit laggy (Disclaimer: Pocketcloud does not pay me to say that nor am I generating revenue… just telling you what I use).  I haven’t tried hard enough to see if its my home network speed, iPad speed, or computer… but it works for me.  Enjoy!