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  Internet Anywhere, Compex Wireless Networking 
  Oct 29, 2002, 07:30am EST 

Exploring the Hardware

By: Dan Mepham

Before we go into greater detail, here is a brief overview of the NetPassage 16ís features:
  • RJ45 WAN Interface (supports Static and Dynamic IPs)
  • 4 x RJ45 LAN Interface (built-in 10/100Mbps Ethernet Switch)
  • Supports Up to 253 Users
  • Parallel Broadband and Fail-Over Redundancy Support
  • Built in DHCP Server
  • Packet Filtering & IP Forwarding Capability
  • Fully User-Configurable
  • 802.11b Wireless Ready
The NetPassage 16 is a fairly standard 4-port broadband router. Connect your broadband modem to the NP16, and up to four computers can be connected directly to the NP16 to gain access to the internet connection. In fact, the NP16 does support up to 253 users, so more than 4 users can be accommodated by using additional switches or hubs behind the NP16.

For small office, or other situations where 100% up-time may be important, the NP16 also features an RS232 (Serial port) connector. A standard external dialup modem can be connected as well as the broadband connection, and the NP16 can be configured to connect, and begin using the dialup connection in the event of a broadband failures. Naturally if you have potentially tens of users connected, a dialup connection will be horribly inadequate, however it would be sufficient for office email, at least temporarily until the broadband connection is restored.

NetPassage 16 Wireless Broadband Router
Fig 1 - Compex's NetPassage 16 Broadband Router

The NetPassage 16 also features a fully-configurable set of server features, including a built-in DHCP server, the ability to block certain packets and ports (even depending on the day and time), and built-in IP forwarding to any IP and port on the network behind the NP16. A built-in firewall also helps to protect the network (although the mere presence of a router between your PC and the internet, firewall or no, is sufficient to stop many types of attacks).

Easily the NetPassage 16ís most compelling feature, though, is its ability to be upgraded to be fully wireless-capable. The NP16 features a single PCMCIA expansion slot -- populating the slot with any 802.11b wireless PCMCIA network card will make the NP16 fully accessible to wireless devices as well. The big advantage to Compexís design is flexibility. Most other manufacturers simply offer two different products -- a wireless, and non-wireless router. The price of the former is typically at least $50 more than the latter. Consumers are left with a decision to make, and should they wish to upgrade later, they have to purchase an entirely new unit. With Compexís design, those who donít need wireless now, but may at a later date, can simply upgrade at that time by purchasing a relatively inexpensive PCMCIA card. Because of the wide adoption of 802.11b, network cards based on the standard are widely available, and any brand of network card could be used with the NP16 (although Compex does offer a kit, including both the NP16 and its WL11A wireless network card at a slightly discounted price).

1. Introduction
2. Setting the Standards
3. Exploring the Hardware
4. In Use - Lab Notes
5. Configuration Utility
6. Summary

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