Trouble in TP-Link land!

Some time back I wrote a post about how my D-Link DSL router’s Wifi broke down leaving me with no way to access critically important sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. So, I had to hunt down an old TP-Link MR3020 router and create a hideous looking wireless network that had more wires than I would have loved to have around. Thanks to all the goofing around I did back then (and recorded meticulously in that blog post), I have been able to browse the Interwebs and consume all the knowledge that is out there (e.g. mother kitteh’s love their little kitteh’s, doggeh’s love to chase their own tails, etc).

A few days back a strange and interesting phenomenon happened. I live in a small apartment that is probably not more than 30 ft in length and not more than 20 ft in width. This house would have been a great loft, if the builder hadn’t decided to provide “privacy” to the bedroom. So, there’s one big wall that separates the bedroom from the rest of the house.

The Wifi signal from the TP-Link MR-3020 router reaches most parts of the house, but, there’s a section of cupboards in the bedroom where it does not reach. I would not have detected that dead-zone had it not been for a tiny little Samsung N150 netbook that I am converting (at snail’s pace) into a simple home server. To keep things manageable, I put the Samsung N150 netbook, an external monitor and a Canon scanner+printer into one of the cupboards. But, with that setup in the cupboard, I was not able to access the Interwebs from the Samsung. And even worse, I was not able to access the Samsung N150 netbook and its connected printer/scanner from the other computers in my house. A quick check revealed what I was scared of: the Sammy had no Wifi connectivity!

Pulling the Sammy 2 feet out of the cupboard and into the open enabled it to connect to my home Wifi network. Hmm! What’s a human to do in such a situation? There’s only one thing: get more networking equipment. So, I quickly logged onto a local online retailer and ordered the cheapest Wifi box I could find, which incidentally happened to be a TP-Link WR702-N wireless device. This box is a tiny Wifi device that can be configured in various ways … if you can get to it!

So, the box arrived today (mid May 2014) afternoon, but, this being the peak summer season in India, I decided to ignore it till evening. Then, in the evening, I pulled the TP-Link WR702-N out of the box and decided to configure it in “repeater mode” with the hope of extending my current Wifi network’s range deep into the cupboards.

As with all TP-Link products, the router came packed in a neat little box. The device itself is very small in size, if you care about that aspect of it. The most shocking part of the whole package was a seemingly well written “Quick User Guide” (QUG) that was inside the package. Now … I like to live dangerously, so I don’t RTFM (read the fine manuals) that accompany the devices I buy. But, considering all the trouble I had earlier in configuring the TP-Link MR3020 router, I figured it would help to RTFM this time through. At first impression,  was I impressed with the beautifully done, poster size “Quick User Guide” that came with my new TP-Link WR702-N Wifi device? Yes I was!

According to the QUG all I had to do was connect to the “default/preconfigured” Wifi network on the TP-Link WR702-N Wifi device, configure it using a simple menu and I would be in networking heaven. Then reality hit me

Here is my suggestion if you get yourself the TP-Link WR702-N Wifi device: shred the freakin’ QUG and throw away the pieces so that you never mess your mind. God save the world! That TP-Link WR702-N Quick User Guide is not only utterly useless, it is completely wrong. Why do I say that: because you CANNOT connect to the “default, preconfigured” Wifi network on the TP-Link WR702-N. Since there’s no obvious way to get into the box, there’s no obvious way to configure the box! But, I figured out a way! Here’s what I did:

The TP-Link WR702-N has two ports: a tiny USB port and an Ethernet port. Cables for both the ports are provided with the box. So, connect the cables to the TP-Link WR702-N  appropriately. Then, connect the other ends of those cables to your computer. Now starts the fun part. Your computer/laptop/netbook/whatever is going to spin round and round to get an IP address from the TP-Link WR702-N, but, the TP-Link WR702-N is NOT going to give any IP address to your computer. Why? I don’t know! I really don’t! So, what should you do? Irrespective of whether you are on Windows, or Linux or Mac OS X, you gotta do these steps:

  • disable DHCP on your computer’s Ethernet port
  • configure a static IP address on your computer’s Ethernet port – anything in the 192.168.0/24 range would do, but, 192.168.0.254 is the TP-Link WR702-N device’s default address, so, I chose 192.168.0.200/24

In my specific case, my laptop runs Xubuntu 13.10, so I had to do all those things (disable DHCP and configure an IP address manuall) from the Network Manager configuration utility. VERY IMPORTANT: do NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT, try to configure the IP address for your computer’s Ethernet port from the shell. I tried being a smart whatever, but quickly realized that Network Manager continuously ran DHCP client on my Ethernet port. So, even if I configured the IP address manually (sudo ifconfig eth0 192.168.0.200/24 up), NM would undo that configuration within the next few moments and then go into a loop requesting IP address from the TP-Link WR702-N.

So, your best bet is to edit your network connections and add a new Ethernet interface that would have a manually configured IP address, in stead of a dynamically acquired IP address.

Network Connections shows two Ethernet interfaces: Eth0-1 and Eth0.

Setup two interfaces on your Linux box. Eth0-1 has a manually configured IP address that lets it connect to the TP-Link WR702-N device. Eth0 is the default Ethernet interface that fetches its IP address dynamically using DHCP.

Here is how my Eth0-1 is setup:

Eth0-1 configuration

Setup Eth0-1 with a manual IP address, 192.168.200.200/24 in this case. (NOTE that i had changed the IP address of the TP-Link WR702-N router to be 192.168.200.254 earlier.)

Once you have done that, login to the TP-Link WR702-N Wifi device and start setting it up. To do that you need to start your browser and point it to 192.168.0.254 (or 192.168.200.254 in my case). Assuming you haven’t done any changes yet, the login and password are both set to admin by default. Now, you would be tempted to get into the “Quick Setup” option provided by TP-Link WR702-N configuration utility/web page. But, don’t do that. In stead go through the process manually.

In my case, I wanted to configure the TP-Link WR702-N box as a Wifi Repeater. So, I had to setup the following:

In “Working Mode” I chose the “Repeater” mode as shown here and saved it.

Setting the TP-Link WR702-N in Wifi Repeater Mode

Setting the TP-Link WR702-N in Wifi Repeater Mode

In “Wireless Settings” I configured the Wifi network that I wanted to “repeat”. For this example, assume that the network name is “abracadabra” and the security password for the network is “bogusPassword”. Also, assume that the MAC address of the TP-Link MR3020 is “”64:70:02:55:55:55” which in TP-Link case translates as “64-70-02-55-55-55”. (Seriously! Who in his right mind uses dashes in stead of the universally accepted colons to write a MAC address? TP-Link does!) Don’t forget to save all that info once you have configured your TP-Link WR702-N device. So, here’s how the whole configuration looks in my case:

The wireless settings on my TP-Link WR702-N box setup as a Wifi Repeater

The wireless settings on my TP-Link WR702-N box setup as a Wifi Repeater.

In “DHCP Settings” I chose to disable DHCP because my TP-Link MR3020 issues appropriate, preconfigured, IP addresses to my notebooks, tablets, and phones.

Disable DHCP on the TP-Link WR702-N

Disable DHCP on the TP-Link WR702-N

Once all that was done, I chose to reboot!

Just reboot, already!

Just reboot, already!

Then, when the  TP-Link WR702-N came back up, it was ready to play its role in my network: that of a Wifi repeater.

Bottom line: never RTFM … especially TP-Link manuals and their online help. (JK)

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