Wireless Networks

Quirks of the D-Link DAP-1160

The D-Link DAP-1160 is no spring chicken. The original v1.1 firmware dates back to 2007, so why bother with this rather long-in-the-tooth wireless access point?

If I’m brutally honest, I’m a hoarder, even if that over simplifies matters to a degree. I guess I just resent ditching perfectly good hardware. Some might take me to task for referring to an access point from the Wireless G generation running at 54 mbps as ‘good hardware’ but hey, it works and it’s not that unusual to find far slower WiFi signals.

There’s more to it than that though. The DAP-1160 can turn a few tricks. Two or more units working together can act as a dedicated wireless bridge. In the bridge configuration, one or more bridging devices can be configured to perform as an access point as well as performing in the bridging role. They can even work as wireless client devices to add wireless functionality to hardware equipped with only Ethernet ports . What’s not to like? They even run Linux with open source firmware. I know, the 2007 firmware vintage isn’t encouraging – so I had a dig around on D-Link’s website and found the newest firmware. I upgraded my units to the latest edition – a super-modern 2011 vintage! The upgraded devices work fine but all was not entirely straightforward on the upgrade path, for the strangest of reasons.

Using Firefox on my Windows 10 laptop I logged into my DAP-1160 and tried to upload the v1.41 firmware. I was rebuked with an alert along the lines of “File is wrong” so I downloaded an older firmware variant and eventually worked through all available versions. On each occasion I was similarly chastised. I turned to Opera and tried the v1.2 firmware. The upload started this time but crashed. I could no longer log in. The wireless signal was still there but my device was sick. I had an idea and dug out an old laptop running Windows XP. I reset the sick device to factory defaults  (thankfully I had not bricked the unit) and had the D-Link configuration tool working in no time. I set up the unit again and ran the firmware upgrade with v1.41 (the latest). Thankfully all went to plan this time.

I then discovered that the firmware upgrade had induced total amnesia. Everything on the DAP-1160 was back at factory defaults – again! I ran the upgrade on a second unit and all went to plan on this unit too – albeit with the induced amnesia. Earlier in the day I had upgraded the firmware on a Dratek router although being a higher end unit, it remembered all of my configuration settings even after the firmware upgrade. No such luck here.

This should serve as another reminder of the consequences of the drive to perpetually release new operating system versions. This is not just a Windows problem. Linux is at it all the time too. It is understandable to a degree. Hardware is coming on in leaps and bounds. It does mean, however, that I have to keep at least one desktop PC running Windows XP so that I can continue to run an old but perfectly functional A3 flat bed scanner. I have another device with an embedded USB to serial converter. That won’t work on Windows 8.1 and above without a firmware upgrade at the factory. I am coming to dread OS upgrades. They nearly always break at least one hardware driver or software tool.

Is it worth keeping old hardware running? That depends. In many cases yes but inevitably one ends up pensioning off an increasing quantity of old hardware. Oh dear – that reminds me – one day we’re going to be ‘old hardware’ too….