Intel 802.11b 2100 3B finally working with 3Com OfficeConnect 3CRWE454G72

A wordy title, to be sure, but I figured I would post my "news" here, after struggling with this for so long. If you’ve read my previous post(s), you’ll know that I’ve experienced tremendous difficulty and aggravation with my 3Com OfficeConnect Wireless 11g Access Point (3CRWE454G72). The most recent round of fun I had with this AP was after buying my IBM (Lenovo) ThinkPad T41 2373-5U2 (pics), which includes an installed mPCI Intel 802.11b (2100 3B "Intel Pro Wireless LAN 2100 3b Mini PCI") wireless client adapter. Of course I eagerly set up the laptop and try to connect to the network/internet through my AP. Apparently 3Com thinks that’s a silly idea, and gave me a big NOYUO (well, not quite, but I pretty much couldn’t get the laptop to associate with the access point, pick up an IP via DHCP, or any of that fun stuff). After only a few months earlier going through a similar experience with my Fujitsu LifeBook P-1035 (Prism II) and the same access point, only to later find out that 3Com acknowledged this was a problem with their firmware (in the sense that they fixed it, and listed it as such in the changelog), I didn’t put too much more effort into what I assumed was a lost cause (since I can’t fix the proprietary 3Com firmware, and they were already tired of me whining about a handful of problems from before their previous firmware fix).

It wasn’t until today … a couple months after buying this laptop, that I stumbled across this enlightening article on Intel’s site, noting that "PSP (Power Save Polling) Causes Connection Issues With Some Access Points." Durrr… After seeing the title, I was already fairly sure what the solution was, but I read through the article anyway, which notes:

If the wireless access point / wireless gateway does not properly support the PSP feature, intermittent loss of wireless connection, inability to initiate a wireless connection, or poor wireless connection data performance could result. The symptoms may be more pronounced when on battery power.

Contact the access point vendor for an updated software which corrects the problem. [Heh, yeah, I won’t hold my breath.]

As a temporary workaround, manually set the adapter to CAM (continually aware mode), which disables the PSP capability. To do this, in either Intel® PROSet for Wireless Software or the Network Control Panel Applet (NCPA), in the power management section, uncheck the DEFAULT / AUTO selection and set the slider for HIGHEST / MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE.

Battery life be damned, I guess, if I need to use my laptop with my own access point. I suppose it’s better that it worked out this way … that I could connect to every other AP I’ve ever tried, except the one I own, rather than only being able to connect to mine, and no one else’s (for instance, in class, at the coffee shop, at a friend’s place, etc.). I’ll probably send 3Com another email, and link them to the Intel page noted above, but if they haven’t fixed it already, it seems somewhat improbable that one email is going to weigh very heavily on their minds. That said, I am surprised that such a conflict has not arisen more frequently. The ThinkPad line seems moderately popular, as does the Intel 2100 mPCI card. I’m not sure why I would be the first person with this particular combination of hardware (and IBM does set the power save level to medium by default (this is where I experienced problems)), nor does it seem like 3Com would neglect to test such a popular card (from my observations, anyhow) with their hardware. I’m sure the reasons behind this will remain a mystery to me, but there something worth pondering. I hope this can help at least someone else out there on THE INTERNET! from some of the frustration that I’ve experienced. Enjoy. G’night.

Edit: [2006-02-06T03:28-0600]
Perhaps my jubilation was premature. Although I successfully used my wireless network for several hours the night this was posted, I was right back where I started, when I tried using my laptop a couple nights ago. I connected up to the AP right after starting up my laptop, signed onto my captive portal, and WiFi was working … then about ten minutes later, there was approximately no connectivity (no pinging the AP, or the device behind it … nothing even appearing in the ARP cache. I’ll keep this updated if I find out anything else useful.

2 Responses to “Intel 802.11b 2100 3B finally working with 3Com OfficeConnect 3CRWE454G72”

  1. Georg Says:

    Now, almost 3 years later… Did you get this to work, I have the same problem but with a Buffalo-access point and an Intel 2100 mPCI-card?

  2. p14nd4 Says:

    Sadly, the short answer is “not really.” I ended up stumbling across a deal on some bargains site for an ipw2200bg mPCI card for very little money, so I just bit the bullet and swapped that card into my Thinkpad[1], which I do believe remedied my problem. Sorry I don’t have a better answer :(.

    [1] Beware, though, that if you’re attempting to use a non-whitelisted part on a Thinkpad (at least of that generation) that the BIOS will try to lock you out of booting. There’s information on the problem here, along with the code snippet that I successfully used to work around the problem. As always, ymmv, hacking your BIOS is dangerous, and all that disclaimer jazz.

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