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Another silly laptop question for the geeks
Old 01-08-2006, 03:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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OK, so I still haven't solved the other question (I'll be calling Sony on that one I guess), but here's something I know they're going to tell me isn't their problem. I've never used wireless before (my home systems are hard-wire networked and I'm fine with that, I only plan on using wireless on the road). Obviously, not having a wireless network at home, and not having a laptop until now, I've had no need to learn about wireless, so I took my laptop to a friend's house in Las Vegas for a little test drive. He has an Airlink wireless router (attached at the end of a couple other routers - he has a lot of computers in his house) and his assistant uses it all the time. They said all they did was plug it in, turned on the laptop (a MAC ibook I think) and it found the signal and worked from the get-go. My experience was not so good.

First, I couldn't find the physical "switch" to turn on the wireless device, then I did an it almost immediately sensed the network, and said my signal strength was excellent (5 out of 5 bars), but no matter what we tried, I could not get any browser or email client to actually work with it, I kept getting an error message saying (I wish I'd written this down) something about the DNS not being recognized. I ran a repair utility, I turned off firewalls, and security and everything. We even tried plugging the ethernet cable that was feeding the Airlink, directly into my laptop, which did work fine.

I know from setting up my home router that I need to set the IP address of the unit into the computer, but that is supposed to be done automatically these days, and besides, no one knew what the Airlink's IP address was, or why is wasn't setting it by itself. So we never got it to work, and when I came home and turned on the laptop to transfer some data, it automatically found two networks it could latch onto (illegally of course, but hey, I don't intend to use it) but could not actually connect to either, even though it said they were unprotected. Does this sound familiar enough to anyone? I really was hoping I could just turn it on and have it work, I don't need another device that I have to do a custom setup on. If anyone wants to ask me specifica questions to solve this, post it here or by PM.

BTW, the wireless card is an Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection (802.11b/g), in a Sony Vaio FJ series, and in Vegas said I was communicating at 54Mpbs.

Andy Pearlman
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Re: Another silly laptop question for the geeks
Old 01-08-2006, 04:52 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi Andy,
On my laptop I had to find the little switch to turn on the wireless card just as you did. Then it found the signal but I could not get IE to work so I had to first right click on the icon for the wireless card over by the clock. And select repair network. Then I had to go to IE and go to the tools section and go down to internet options. Then find the connections tab. Go to the bottom and click on Lan setup. And then it worked like a charm. I had to do this on a few other new laptops for friends.. I hope that helps..

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Re: Another silly laptop question for the geeks
Old 01-08-2006, 10:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
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He might have a security enabled network, which might appear to allow you to connect but not pass traffic through it unless a) he configured it to allow you to pass traffic, b) you put in the password/WEP key/WPA/whatever, or c) all of the above.

Of course, I've never tried to connect to an apple wireless network before, so I don't know what all hoops you have to jump through to get a PC on one. I just know that the above can make it look like you have a connection, but you don't really.

Also, are you sure you were actually connecting to your friend's and not someone else's? Occasionally, my computer will somehow wind up connecting to my neighbor's wireless and I don't even realize it has happened until I notice my Internet going so dang slow.
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Re: Another silly laptop question for the geeks
Old 01-08-2006, 01:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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If you are getting the DNS message, it almost always means you aren't getting the correct IP connection.

Just because it find the "wireless" network, doesn't mean you are passing data (but that is a good sign because it means the computer and the wireless router are in fact communicating).

The first reason could be that wireless router wants a WEP/WPA code. If you go to one of the computers that is wired to the network and bring up a dos box (go to Run and type CMD and hit enter) and then type "ipconfig" and hit will tell you the IP address (a number like

Write that number down.

On one of the wired computers, go to internet explore and enter that number in the address box.

You will normally get prompted for the router password, which is almost always "admin" by default. Check with your guy to see if he put a different password into the router when he set it up.

It should take you to the router set up page.

Look for the "wireless" tab, or the security tab.

If wireless security is "ON" then there will be a WPA/WEP code that you can write down.

If it is "off" check to see what it is handing out as IP addresses. Often the router will show that it is handing out I.P. addresses say from Write that number down.

Go back to your laptop and turn it on.

You should get an incon on your bottom status bar that looks like a computer icon and some status bars.

Hover over that and it should give the option of "viewing all available wireless networks" or something like that.

Click that, at it should bring a screen up that shows one or more wireless networks.

If you "click" on one of the available wireless networks, it should give you the option to "connect" and if it is wanting a WEP/WPA code, it will normally prompt you for the code at that point.

If it asks for the code and you enter it, you should get a "connected" message and you should be good to go.

If it doesn't ask for a WEP/WPA code and shows conntected but when you try to turn on internet explorer you still get NOTHING, then the issue is the ip. address it is handing out and not the WEP/WPA code.

If so, you can go to "my computer" and right click on the wireless network connections icon (if you computer is seeing the router but not connecting it should be there).

Under one of the connections tabs you should see a TCP/IP option. Get into that, and it has a box for "obtain IP address automatically".

You can turn that off, and try to manually enter a fixed IP address.

This is where doing the "Ipconfig" check on one of the wired computers will help.

If the router is and the setup screen shows it is handing out IP addresses from, try putting in one of the number it is handing out (like

If that doesn't work, try putting one in that is above the "150" number, but less that 255.

In the sequence "" the "192 and the 168" may actually be "other" numbers.

So just put in whatever those numbers show in the ipconfig box.

You should also see a "sub net mask" number under the IP address, which is normally something like

Normally you can leave that number alone.

In most cases, if it won't "self configure" by setting an IP address that is within the range being handed out by the Router, then it should connect and work.

If not, get a friend over who knows more about it.

It sounds complicated, but if you stumble around a bit, you will normally get it.

If none of this makes sense, get someone who knows what they are doing.

The concept is that the router has a "main number" and all the computers that connect to it have a "sub number".

Normally if you get those numbers right, you will connnect.

Normally, once you set it manually, you don't have to do it ever again.

Last but not least, I recently bought a Lynkis wireless router and was able to "daisy" chain it off of 4 seperate networks. My wireless enabled laptop was able to self configure off of all 4 networks with me doing nothing.

I brought it up to work and it gave me fits as my partners main router just basically didn't want to let it connect.

I spent almost an hour on the tech line before we got it to work, trying all kinds of things.

The lesson to be learned is, you will find that about 90% of the time, the wireless stuff will hook up automatically with no problem, and about 10% of the time, you have to fiddle with it.

Don't get frustrated.

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Re: Another silly laptop question for the geeks
Old 01-08-2006, 02:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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With wireless, there are two parts to getting everything to communicate. There's a radio (wireless) side, and an IP (Internet) side. You have to have the radio side correctly configured before you tackle the IP side. For the wireless side, you need to know the following information before the radio in your network card will communicate with the radio in the router:

1) The name of the wireless network (SSID).
2) The channel used by the radios.
3) The mode that the router is working in.
4) What, if any, security mechanism is in place.
4-a) The security key authentication type
4-b) The security key encryption strength.

Depending on how your friend has the wireless part of his network configured, his router may have been providing you with #1 and #2. If your computer searched for a network and found "bob's network" on channel "4", then that's a start. If your computer simply found " " on channel "4" then his router isn't broadcasting the name of his network and you need to enter that information into your wireless card's configuratoin utility. For #3, the options are 802.11/b, 802.11/g, or both. Most often the router is set to serve both, so that shouldn't have been a problem. But it's something to check if things aren't working.

Once you've got the wireless SSID and channel, you need to handle the encryption part. If your friend's network is not encrypted, you should have been able to connect to it. Some light on the card may have stopped blinking and gone solid, perhaps an icon on your desktop went from red to green, or something similar.

If his network is encrypted, then you need to know the type of encryption used, the length of the key, and the actual key used. The type of encryption is most likely WEP, but could be WPA-PSK if he's really on top of security issues. A WEP key can be one of two lengths, either 64 bit or 128 bit. A WPA-PSK key is generated by entering a pass-phrase (Some routers let you use a pass-phrase for WEP as well). You may have to type in (or select) the encryption type, key length, and key value into your wireless card's configuration utility.

If you've entered all of the information and you still can't connect to his network, then there are a few other things to check on the router side. His router may be configured to only allow wireless network cards with a particular physical address, called a MAC address. Every network card made has a unique address assigned to it. Think of it as a fingerprint. The router may have a list of trusted network cards and only they are allowed access to the network.

If you've reached this point and you're connected to his wireless network, you're half-way home. You still need to fix the IP side of the equation. You need an IP address, subnet mask, network gateway, and a couple of domain-name server addresses. His router is most likely set up to send your computer this information. One way to check this is to open up a console window or command prompt (not sure which version of Windows you're using) and type the command "ipconfig /all". It will list the above information, if it has been provided. In particular, make sure values have been set for: (examples in parentheses)

IP Address..............
Subnet Mask...........
Default Gateway.....
DHCP Server..........
DNS Servers........... (

Make sure the first three sets of digits (192.168.0) for IP Address, Default Gateway, and DHCP Server match the first three sets of digits of your friend's network. Windows sometimes caches these values and uses them even if your computer is trying to use another network. If any of the above information is missing or does not match your friend's network then you've found the problem. Getting things to work at this point depends on what version of Windows you're using.

From your description of the problem, it sounds like the last paragraph is where your problems lie. The wireless part is probably fine. My guess is that the router isn't providing you with domain-name servers, or that your machine is trying to used cached (stale) information from a network that isn't your friend's. Your computer can't find a server to translate domain names ( to physical internet addresses ( That's why you can't get your browser or email client to work.

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