this morning my roommate told me in an e-mail that his mother passed away sunday night while undergoing chemotherapy for a type of blood cancer. he flew back to italy the first chance he got and won't be back until the first week of november. he almost initially didn't take his MIT research appointment because he knew his mother was about to go through her treatment back in september and wanted to be there for her. and now she's gone. while he was out of the country. i can't even imagine how marco must be feeling right now. he has a big family (he's the youngest in a family with 3 other sisters) so hopefully there's a large support group. it took me a while to write a response e-mail; i had to go online and research the proper thing to say to someone who's lost a parent.

all day long i couldn't stop thinking about the death of marco's mother. the bleak weather amplified the mournful mood, cold and wet, with a non-stop rain.

i was supposed to go back to my great uncle's place this morning and wait for the comcast repairman to arrive. since it was raining, my father told me he'd wait for the technician instead, and fed me updates of the situation. comcast ended up making 2 visits (in the morning and the afternoon) and fixed the problem by patching a dedicated coaxial cable line just for the modem itself. connected directly to the modem via ethernet cable, my father saw speeds upwards of 20Mbps. using the wireless netgear router however, speed drops down to 5Mbps. still not super fast, but not as bad as before (less than 1Mbps).

i spent most of the day shopping for a new wireless router. i've always been a proponent of IEEE 802.11b, because that seems to be the most compatible standard, even though it's the slowest. nowadays, 802.11g might be considered the standard (it's been out since 2003). currently the fastest ratified standard is 802.11n (correct me if i'm wrong), a speed which can only be achieved if wireless devices can support 802.11n. so i focused on a wireless N router, primarily searching craig's list looking for a good deal, but also amazon and newegg in case i need to buy new. there was a bunch of options: belkin, d-link, medialink.

then i started thinking: would a faster more-far-reaching wireless router be any better? what i needed was somehow the ability to boost the current signal from the first floor up to the second floor. that's when i started thinking about wireless range extenders and repeater bridges. not sure what the difference is, but a range extender cost money while a repeater bridge is something i could "build" myself by modifying a cheap compatible wireless router. the keyword is "compatible," a router that can be flashed with a 3rd party firmware. the linksys WRT54G is the holy grail of flashable router, provided you have a serviceable version. what i didn't realize since the last time i did this sort of research (trying to create a captive portal for the cafe) is the supported devices list for the firmware has grown. another option: an asus brand router.

i knew asus made computers - but routers? and would they be any good? the price for a new wireless N router wasn't that bad, just $40 (although that version might not be modifiable). but by coincidence there was somebody on craig's list selling an asus WL-520GU. it's only a G router but it's 100% flashable and only cost $15 ($35 brand new). so i got in touch with him, who wrote me back later, and we're still in the process of negotiating a time and place for the exchange (hopefully tomorrow).

i figured if it doesn't work out, i can still keep this router and use it as a wireless plaything. the good news is not only is it compatible with DD-WRT, but with tomato as well (with its better GUI).

once more, i fell asleep on the couch after watching the local news in the early evening. i woke up around 8:00, fixed myself some pizza rolls and vanilla ice cream for dinner.

it was still raining by late evening, with the crackle of rain drops on the windows and the rush of water in the gutters the only sounds.

spent the late evening hours doing more wireless router research. it may turn out that a "repeater bridge" might not be the best option, despite its inherent coolness factor. one problem is signal degradation (something about a loss of 50%), which was the problem we're trying to solve in the first place. a better solution might be to snake an ethernet cable from one side of the house to the other, and then attach a wireless access point (a WAP, which in this case would be a modified wireless router acting as the WAP).

i also changed my wireless security password from WEP to WPA, after watching a youtube video showing how easy it was to crack a WEP password. even WPA is crackable, but requires a brute force attack using a dictionary file. as long as the password is something that isn't found in a dictionary, it should be relatively safe.