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Travel Routers:
The Ultimate Plan B for Linux Wifi

Copyright (C) 2013 by Steve Litt, All rights reserved. Material provided as-is, now warranty, use at your own risk. 



Wifi compatibility is the toughest Linux compatibility issue for the average Linux laptop business user. The following, in order of best to worst, are your three ways of achieving Wifi compatibility on your laptop:
  1. Built in wifi
  2. (Hopefully) Linux compatible Wifi USB dongle
  3. Travel router
Built in wifi is always the best if you can do it. Built in gives you the best antenna, the most reliable performance, and there's nothing to plug in or keep track of. Wifi dongles are nice, but sometimes drop connections, get weird, or break, and it's hard to find a Linux compatible dongle (although Newegg has several).

A travel router is a small device with an RJ-45 wired Ethernet jack that also has a Wifi transceiver built in.

Travel routers are bulky and inconvenient, , and as far as I know they make changing wifi networks (like first using in the hotel, then in a restaurant) time consuming, but they come with several advantages for the Linux traveller:

When all else fails, the proper travel router will usually succeed.

Needed Features of a Travel Router

When shopping for a travel router whose purpose is to replace or back up your Linux laptop's built in Wifi, you need certain features:

Absence of any of the three preceding features negates a travel router for the purposes of Linux road warrior Wifi.

In addition, extra credit goes to travel routers having Visual indication of an available Wifi transmitter (like an LED), and gigabit Ethernet out its wired connection with 802.11g/n Wifi. You might as well take advantage of any 802.11n you encounter on the road.

This Document's Examples

This document's examples are all performed with my D-Link G730AP travel router, which in my opinion is an excellent travel router for the purpose of a Wifi plan B. Your travel router will obviously have different procedures, but as long as you can configure it from your laptop's wired Ethernet port, your procedure will be somewhat similar.


My D-Link G730AP travel router shipped with one of these Ethernet cables that can't be disconnected from an Ethernet port with human hands. I was forced to push a jeweler's screwdriver between the push-tab and the port in order to push the push tab close enough to the cable to allow removal, and of course I had to first push the plug in to the port to free it up. It would have been handy to have five hands to do this.

Personally, I'm a big fan of testing new cables on an Ethernet port of some busted equipment before trying it on things you value. Personally, when I encounter a cable that can't easily be unplugged from the port by hand, I throw the cable out or return it to the store if I bought the cable separately. Life's too short to break your equipment, and simply yanking it will likely break your port. I know because I yanked one before I learned this.

These days, if I can't unplug an Ethernet cable by hand, I go in a bright area, force a jewelers screwdriver in to move the tab all the way to the cable, push in and then pull out. I often have to try ten times. I then get rid of the cable.

My experience tells me that many of these "snagless" cables which have plastic completely covering the end of the tab cannot be removed by hand. In such cases, I've sometimes had success by cutting away all the plastic or rubber, and converting them to "can snag" cables. I'd rather bust a cable than my laptop.

The Three Modes of Travel Routers

Travel routers have different modes. The good ones have three different modes. They have either a physical switch to designate which mode to work in, or something in the web app configuration. Mine has a physical switch. You should get the proper mode designated before doing the rest of the config (except new password, do that immediately). In order to replace your laptop's Wifi with a travel router, the mode you need is client mode. Here are the three common modes:

Client Mode

Client mode is what you use if you can't get your laptop's Wifi working, and the hotel has wifi. You substitute the Travel Router for your laptop's wifi, and get your networking through your wired Ethernet port:

Client Mode picture

As you can see, Client Mode is the subject of this document.

Router Mode

This is what you do if your hotel room has only wired Internet, and you don't want to confine yourself to the length of a cable, or there are multiple people who need to connect to the Internet. Here's the architecture:

Router Mode picture

With Router Mode, your travel Router can be configured as a firewall also. And, if you have multiple computers sharing the Wifi it transmits, those computers can talk to each other.

Don't user Router Mode if your Travel Router cannot transmit using WPA encryption. WEP encryption can be easily cracked by a knowledgeable person, and is thus a security risk. Also, keep in mind that the ability of a Travel Router to *receive* WPA encrypted networking doesn't imply its ability to *transmit* WPA.

Access Point Mode

This is a lot like Router Mode, but it lacks the ability to route and firewall. Its purpose is to be used with a wired network that already has a firewalling router. Here's the architecture:

Access Point Mode picture


Don't user Router Mode if your Travel Router cannot transmit using WPA encryption. WEP encryption can be easily cracked by a knowledgeable person, and is thus a security risk. Also, keep in mind that the ability of a Travel Router to *receive* WPA encrypted networking doesn't imply its ability to *transmit* WPA.

Gather This Info Before You Begin

Before you try to connect your travel router to your laptop, you need the following information:

Armed with the preceding knowledge, you should be in pretty good shape when configuring your Travel Router to act as a replacement for your laptop's wifi. And now a few words of example concerning the preceding list of prerequisites:

A Few General Principles

Most, but not all wired network equipment has autosensing, such that when connecting two equipment pieces together without using a hub, switch or router, the connection can be made either with a crossover cable or a normal cable. If either equipment piece (that's not a hub, switch or router) doesn't auto sense, you'll need to use a crossover cable. With equipment made in the latter half of the 00's or later, it's hard to find equipment that's not autosensing, so in practice you can usually use normal cables.

There's a huge difference between connecting to the web app config program in your travel router, as opposed to connecting to the Internet through your travel router.  Connecting to the web app requires you to set your computer's wired ethernet interface to an address in the same subnet as the travel router's HTTP server (my travel router defaults to After the Travel Router is configured, accessing the Internet requires setting your computer's wired Ethernet interface to be supplied by DHCP. If you forget this you'll ride the Torment Trolley down the Avenue of Annoyance.

Configuring Your Travel Router

You're using Linux, so it's unlikely the config utility on the CD that came with your travel router or the little "Autoconfig" physical button on the travel router (mine doesn't have one, but some do), will work with Linux. With Linux, your most likely road to success is to use the web app on the  HTTP server at an IP address within your Travel Router.

Always remember, if you ever shut yourself out of your travel router, pressing the reset button for a certain number of seconds (start with 60, and move down if that always works), should put the Travel Router back to its as-shipped factory configured state.

These instructions are for my D-Link G730AP Travel Router. Yours will probably be similar, but of course different.

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