I've got DSL running into a Netgear ME102 (802.11b) WAP, direct from the DSL modem. Directly across the hall (about about 10-15 feet and 4 layers of drywall), a Windows 2003 Server sits in a closet with the following 3 NIC's:
The MA301 model is a PCI to PCMCIA adapter - a PCI 'sheath' into which you slide in a PCMCIA NIC to give functionality. I have a Netgear MA401 (802.11b) inserted into the MA301. This device works fine with, or without, WEP enabled.
Windows 2003 server does not realize that the MA301+401 combo NIC is a wireless device - it is treated by windows as a standard, wired ethernet NIC - so there is no 'select a wireless network' dialog for this device, nor an option to allow windows to handle the wireless network, etc. While looking at the properties for the NIC if you hit 'configure' and goto the 'advanced' tab (similar to where you go if you wanted to specify 10/100/Auto on a regular ethernet NIC) the wireless settings such as WEP, etc are found there, and this is where the NIC must be configured for wireless network access. You specify SSID & WEP passphrase, connection rate, infastructure, shared/open, etc.
The other wireless NIC, the MA311, is a standard PCI 802.11b NIC. It is correctly recognized by windows as being a wireless NIC and as such the expected windows dialog properties for 2003/XP. It has no passphrase property in it's advanced configuration, but, on the tab to configure the detected wirless networks, it allows the entry of a key value (and ordinal1-4) for each network and a checkbox for whether or not it is shared/open, etc.
Because the MA301+401 only allows for a passphrase to be entered, within the ME102 WAP I used a passphrase to generate the same key for all 4 keys. I assigned the same passphrase to the MA301+401 NIC's passphrase property, and copied the resulting key into the key prompt for the MA311. The WAP, MA301+401, and MA311 are all using the same key and/or passphrase, with direct cut & paste from the WAP config interface so that there are no typos (esp. with the key). Both NICs were set to use shared-key, infastructure,128 bit WEP.
Without WEP enabled, this setup works as expected. I established the above WEP changes yesterday. The MA301+401 is working perfectly across the WEP connection, without error. The MA311 refuses to establish connection using WEP. Windows produces 2 messages:
The first message is that of wireless network discovery, and this repeats now and then. This is caused by the ME102 WAP becomming 'visible' to the MA311, and then 'disappear', intermittantly. Each time it becomes available, windows produces a bubble-message at the taskbar indicating that "new" wireless networks have become available.
The second message occurs when the wireless network is accessed. "Wireless network unavailable". The signal strength is supposedly 61%, according to the netgear utility for the MA311. There is no netgear utility installed for the MA301+401 interface. If I attempt to allow the Netgear Utility to manage the connection for me (un-checking the windows management from the NIC properties), there is no change in success. The Netgear utility indicates that the card is scanning different channels and can't seem to make up it's mind which one it would like to use. I believe 6 is the correct channel it should be discovering.
The MA311 NIC is behaving as if enabling WEP has severely degraded it's connectivity, so much so that it can barely see the WAP, and only for a brief moment before it falls from view completely - only to appear briefly again, and repeat. It is not consistant - it can go for long periods of time where the WAP is simply 100% unavailable to the MA311 NIC. Obviously it cannot establish or maintain a connection in this state.
The failure of the MA311 is unclear to me. What about the MA301+401, why is the MA311 failing if the MA301+401 connecting ok? Why does this discrepency in performance only appear now that WEP is enabled? I am considering replacing the MA311 with an MA301+401 eBay or something, since they don't make those anymore and the server / WAP seems to like them (despite it not quite being recognized properly by windows as a wireless NIC).