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"One-Touch" Wireless Security - Buffalo Technology's AOSS vs. Linksys' SecureEasySetup

Bumps and Potholes

Both AOSS and SES are great when they work. But both suffer from assorted bugs and problems. For example, we found that the client manager and driver that came with the Buffalo products (which had been shipped to us for our previous review in December 2004) didn't produce a successful AOSS negotiation. But after downloading the latest drivers and Client Manager from Management section, and not linked from the normal Wireless security settings pages is just not good design - especially since normal wireless security settings are "grayed out" when AOSS is engaged.

But SES suffers from its small problems too, such as the error shown in Figure 8 that popped up every time we clicked the Reset Security button, and which never let us actually reset security!

Figure 8: SES Reset Security error

We also discovered that on some occasions when the SES process finished, our client was forced to 11Mbps and other times we'd get error message pop-ups thrown from Microsoft Visual C++. We were also frustrated to find that the Profile Edit function in the Client manager always threw us into a Creating a Profile screen instead.

But the biggest problem for both AOSS and SES is that they don't play well if you attempt to use them in computers that already have Broadcom-based adapters installed. In the case of Buffalo's AOSS client adpater, we tested the latest drivers on three laptops, and discovered that they will wreak havoc with pre-exisiting Broadcom drivers. On one laptop, the Buffalo driver disabled the built-in Ethernet (!) driver and Broadcom WLAN adapter. These problems were resolved by going into Device Manager and re-enabling the disabled drivers.

In SES's case, the conflict with built-in Broadcom wireless adapters didn't manifest itself in any obvious way, but we were unable to get it to work in any of three notebooks with built-in Broadcom WLAN adapters, despite numerous attempts and fresh installs of WinXP SP1. But when the WPC54G was installed on a WinXP SP2 notebook without a built-in wireless adapter, SES worked on the second attempt.

Both Buffalo and Linksys acknowledged the problems we experienced, with Linksys saying that existing wireless users were not part of their intended customer base. Although we have to agree that few people would be installing AOSS or SES client adapters in notebooks that already had built-in WLAN adapters, we feel that both companies should warn of these problems in their printed startup guides and possibly flag users to potential problems during driver and/or client manager installation. In our case, at least, it would have saved days of frustration!

Linksys also needs to train its support personnel in SES troubleshooting, since the support person we contacted via online chat ended up directing us to the online NETSET assistant instead of troubleshooting SES.

Update June 22, 2005 Linksys said that reason that support personnel were not able to properly support SES is that they are not trained on unreleased products.