1. Quick Navigation
- Quick Navigation
- Types of Senao Wireless 802.11b Cards
- Official Technical & Performance Information
- Access Point Operation Mode
- Drivers & Technical Support
- Freeware software that works with Senao cards
- Card Sellers
- Antenna Types
- Wishlist of future driver features
- FAQ - Questions and Answers Section
- Curious George Section
October 26th 2005
1. Is there Prism 3 support yet?
Answer: Prism 3 is cheaper and unfortunately also inferior to Prism 2/2.5 chipsets. I don't know a single reason why you should even consider Prism 3 cards.
2. Is there 802.11G support yet or only B? combo card?
Answer: NO. Only 802.11b, if you need a high power 802.11g/combo card check out the new 8602 400mW models!
3. Does anyone like the internal antenna card?
An answer: No cables to snag, card is easily portable between systems, and is convenient wherever there is clear AP access.
4. Anything new with this card - SMC2532W?
Yes! The SMC2532w cards (XI-330HP Prism 3) with the serial numbers in the range S33HP56NU0xxxx do not properly support hostAP's "auto" power mode. If you attempt to enable "auto" power, the card instead reports "-43 db" and completely turns off any TX output. The earlier batch with serial numbers in the range S33HP55NU0xxxx work properly. We have contacted Xcomax regarding this problem.
All you need to do is downgrade the firmware to fix this. See linux.junsun.net intersil-prism. However, this breaks WDS because you have to downgrade to before 1.4.7. Tom Sharples
Qorvus Systems, Inc.
5. How about comparing it to the Cisco card and an update comparison to the ORiNOCO as well? Thanks and much appreciated. Again, Thank you.
An answer: Do a search at such as NetStumbler.org Wi-Fi Forums.
3. Types of Senao Wireless 802.11b Cards
3.1. Senao Models
This unofficial support webpage refers primarily to the 802.11b Senao wireless cards with "2511" in the model number. Although the cards with "2011" are not specifically covered here (they have lower output power), most of the info and links here are also usable for these cards. A SeattleWireless member's review of the Senao 2511 card is available at maokhian review.
The main claim to fame of the Senao that these PCMCIA cards have both higher output power and better receive sensitivity than the great majority of cards (including ORiNOCO, WaveLAN, and D-Link brands). The Senao officially has 200mW of transmit power, as opposed to the 30mW of the ORiNOCO/WaveLAN. A 100mW version is also available (for UK, Spain, NL and other countries where 100mW is the max power allowed, is it possible to differentiate them?). The Senao also has a few more dB of receiver sensitivity than the ORiNOCO/WaveLAN. A HardwareComparison is available between the general features of wireless cards whereas FreeNetworks:ReceiveSensitivity is dedicated to comparing the receiver sensitivity of these cards.
Note that the 2511 cards are capable of going to 250mW. I've been able to get both the 2511CD PLUS and the 2511CD PLUS EXT2 up to 249mW
The comparison page doesn't list the mini-PCI version as being capable of 249mW, has anyone tested this? Can I assume that the mini-PCI can reach the same power?
The Senao cards have been rebadged and rebranded under various labels. EnGenius Technologies is a wholly-owned subsidary of Senao based in the US. They are the master distributor for Senao in the US, and they also manufacture wireless phone switches. If sold under the Senao label, the card model number will typically have an "SL", and if it is rebadged or OEM whitebox, the prefix might be "NL". Engenius will have an "EL" prefix. The Senao corporation is headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan. Interestingly, it has two research labs, one of which is located here in the Seattle area; maybe we should visit it for the latest literature or sales discount for Seattle Wireless members in a group purchase... Senao is also the parent company of Engenius and the Senao wireless Internet products are marketed under the Engenius brand name in North America.
As of mid-2002 and 2003, the 802.11b cards of interest are the SL-2511 (integral internal antennae) and the SL-2511 EXT2 (two jacks, external antenna needed). Senao cards are based on the IntersilPrism2 chipset. Currently, the 2511 series uses the Prism 2.5 chipset.
Transmit power: 200 mW (23 dBm) variable from 10mW to 200mW. Senao models have a default transmit power of 200mW which is adjustable in Windows and under Linux (in HostAP it is an experimental feature), depending on what utility programs you use. It is possible to command the power up to 249mW.
Update - 16Jul2004- Possible utility to change power in Windows I was googling around last night and came across a program called Prism25Regulsetup. It's in the Czech language so I don't understand it at all. I understand the pictures but that's it. You can find it at jdr.cz PRISM. It should be able to change your TX power in Windows. firstname.lastname@example.org Update : I haven't had any success using this program. There's also a page reporting that: " Všechny díky za vytvoøení programu patøí komunitì CZFree.Net a hlavnì uživateli Stay-d. Program byl odzkoušen a testován, avšak jeho POUŽITÍ je naprosto BEZ jakékoli ZÁRUKY." means "We reserve the right to backdoor your box(es) and launch as many DDoS' as we see fit. All your Winblows are belong to us".
Update - 09Jul2004 - Beware of the Prism3 chipset Some of the new Senao 2511 cards are now built around the Prism3 chipset; this one, though newer, has less sensitivity (weaker than an ORiNOCO card/Hermes chipset). Furthemore, some of the Linux drivers may be fooled by the new chipset and won't let your run Kismet. - I own both Prism 2.5 and 3 cards. For the prism3 I had to add an entry for "manfid: 0x000b, 0x7100" in hostap_cs.conf, then hostap driver worked fine in all modes.
Look for yourself at the specs (only true for the Mercury version): senao product
Note: The Mercury version is for non-US markets where only 100mW power is allowed, and will be branded Senao. Engenius dealers will be selling the 200mW versions for use in the US.
The Mercury version has Prism 3 chipset. Senao/Engenius 2511CD PLUS EXT2 cards which are not labelled as "Mercury" or "M" have Prism 2.5 chipset.
3.2. Rebadged Versions of Senao
Senao type cards are typically sold under the following brand names:
- Senao SL-2511CD PLUS, SL-2511CD PLUS EXT2
- Engenius EL-2511CD, EL-2511CD EXT
Macsense AeroCard Plus (model WPE-700)
Surf & Sip
- SonicWALL Long Range Wireless Card
3.3. Competing Wireless Cards
A competitor to the Senao with fairly close performance statistics is the SMC SMC2532W-B EliteConnect 2.4GHz 802.11b High-Power Wireless PC Card, which is a 200mW card with RP-MMCX connectors. Its User Manual (pdf) has more technical details. One advantage of this card is that the included diversity antenna is detachable so that you can connect your choice of external antenna. Note that the connectors are RP-MMCX, so antennae used with the Senao will not work with the SMC2532W-B and vice versa. As of November 24th, 2003, it is selling for as low as $55 at one on-line seller. See HardwareComparison for more info. Update: Some of the SMC2532W-B cards, do not have the prism 2/2.5 chipset. Instead they have the prism 3 chipsets which are not compatable with kismet and other popular Linux wireless tools. As of January 2004, Dell sells it for $60.56 at their on-line wireless store. Of course the SMC card is made by Zcom and has the same FCC ID as the XI-325H. The Zcom card puts out 222mw (actual) while the Senao puts out 170mw (actual); however, in tests the Senao outperformed the Zcom due to its better receiver sensitivity. Senao rocks!
The 3E Technologies 3e-110 PC Card seems to be identical to the Senao. However, this card can have a RF Manager utility to let you directly set TX Power levels (among other things). Can this utility run with other Prism cards such as Senao? Well, you can find a place to download it and try it out. (I bought the card and it does come with an RF manager, I don't know if it'll work with other cards, though)
*** Can someone please upload the driver and RF-Manager to test and that way give an alternative to users who use the defaut drivers from Senao -- Thank you ***
It works, first install and reinstall the Senao driver, then install the 3e driver. TX Power levels can be changed from 1 to 8 (1 is 30mW, 8 is 200mW). Look at "PRISM Driver Programmers Manual", actual transmitted power level can be seen in CR58 using Prism Test Utility.
Did anyone find the RF-Manager yet and have a link to download it? If someone could upload it I would be happy to host it.
4. Official Technical & Performance Information
Official performance statements and performance test results are reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the US government. These results are available to the public, courtesy of the US taxpayer. It is assumed that the European Union has its own registration and information database, but I don't know how to access it at this time. Additional info is available via the USA Patent Office and I might include that here later on.
Items below include internal and external photos, performance statements, test performance reports, a copy of the official user manual, and other technical information. I think Senao was a little sloppy in how they filed their FCC applications. The FCC ID printed on my Senao cards does not match the FCC ID that Senao filed with the FCC. The printed label of the 2511CD Plus card has an FCC ID of
"NI3-2511CD-PLUS", but the official FCC ID is actually
"NI3-2511CD-PLUS2". The printed label of the 2511CD Plus EXT2 card has an FCC ID of
"NI3-2511CD-PLUS2" but the official FCC ID is actually
"NI3-2511CD-PLUS3". Hrmm. This info was checked for availability on May 4th, 2003 by StartideRising.
Senao 2511CD Plus Official FCC Documentation
Senao 2511CD Plus EXT2 Official FCC Documentation
[ data NF ]
[ data NF ]
- Product patent information may be added here when found.
5. Access Point Operation Mode
Have you ever wondered if some of the wireless cards could also be used as an access point? This would certainly save money if you only need the most basic AP features and don't use a lot of the features that a dedicated AP would have. This concept of using a regular wireless card as an access point is called "Host AP mode".
Since 2002, there has been a third-party freeware driver for Prism2 chipsets available, which supports the essential (and even some of the optional) functions for AP Mode. In this way, you can use your Senao by itself to behave like an access point. It runs under Linux, so no love for those of you who use Windows. If you wish to find out more check out HostApMode. The latest driver by Jouni Malinen is fully featured and is constantly updated with new features.
If you don't have Linux, you can still use Senao as a replacement for the card in some brands of access points. In this way, your Senao has improved the ability of an existing AP by moving up from the typical 30mW of the access point to the 200mW goodness of the Senao. In addition, the Senao can be similarly used in some PcmciaBridges which would certainly improve the range and overall performance.
HostAP for Windows: AmbiCom has drivers for Prism 2 based cards that apparently support HostAP mode under Windows XP. (Thanks bcwireless.net!) This opens a lot of possiblities, even RF management.
***Does anyone have a copy of the PCTel / Segue SoftAP software for putting the Prism-based cards into Access Point Mode under Windows. Kindly upload or provide a link to download.
A particular advantage of the Senao card is that two MMCX connectors are available so that you can support a diversity antenna. Note that one is primary, cf. "Which jack is favored" below for ID.
6. Drivers & Technical Support
Driver version 5.00 was released in April 2002 and included on CD-ROM with purchased cards. That still seems to be essentially the current version as of December 2002. A January 2003 version was for a time mentioned at the Senao website, but its download URL pointed to the older April 2002 version. They fixed that mistake by simply removing mention of the driver and waiting five more months to announce that new drivers are available for Summer 2003. A new November 2003 version of the driver is available at the Senao site, but the firmware download seems to have disappeared. The new driver supports WPA with WinXP.
Senao has on-line technical support via e-mail (and a toll-free number). Senao welcomes ideas and comments about their drivers. They responded quickly to my e-mail. Their technical e-mail contact is listed at the Senao Technical Contact webpage. Note carefully that if you click on the e-mail address, you end up sending e-mail to various addresses other than the one listed on the webpage (which is what I did).
There is an excellent free driver that you can get from Intersil, the manufacturer of the Prism2 chipset on which the Senao card is based. There are also several useful utilities on this page. Some are free, others are not. *Update* It seems that Intersil has removed open access to most of its files unless you are a designated licensee. Also, some of their updated programs also check for a license. **Update** As of August 28th, 2003 Intesil has been acquired by GlobespanVirata and the access to Prism 2 driver and other software including Prism Test Utility has been removed. All the links to Intersil website provided in this page will be automatically forwarded to Intersil/Globespan Virata. There is very limited information available to the Prism Application Notes and Driver. Intersil Prism2 Software Page
The Senao card drivers don't seem to have been submitted for Windows XP qualification, so you will need to install them in order to use Senao cards under WinXP. Of course, the cards work under WinXP. Many companies don't spend the extra effort (and cost) to submit products to Microsoft for WinXP qualification. As of September 2003, the only known Senao cards submitted for WinXP qualification is the Red Inalambrica Local 802.11b WLAN PC Card. I suggest using these, as they are automatically downloaded off the Internet by XP and give better wardriving support.
MacOS X users will have to purchase the IOXperts driver in order to get the 2511CD card to work. http://www.ioxperts.com For Prism 2 based Senao cards, the open source sourceforge WirelessDriver should work fine. Keep an eye on the MacOS page for updates. -Chris
MacOS 9 users should note that IOXperts has a MacOS 9 driver for the Senao cards. Again, see MacOS page for details.
7. Freeware software that works with Senao cards
NetStumbler may work with Senao if you use the Windows XP or Windows 2000 OS with NDIS 5.1 drivers. This, however, is not guarenteed as the card is not supported. Your results will vary and the card may stop working at any time. For best results buy a supported card: one running the Hermes chipset (older ORiNOCO models). Older Windows versions such as Windows 98 will not work for the NetStumbler and Senao combination because the OS does not feature NDIS drivers.
7.2. WLAN Expert
WLAN Expert is a nice but not well-known tool for the Prism-based cards. This program only works with Win9x. It takes advantage of the ability of the Prism chipset to perform settings and measurements including link errors, interference (in dBm), signal Strength (in dBm), changing of Tx power in 10 mW steps, testing VSWR, and more. What's interesting is that the program shows the Senao card can go up to 249mW of power. If you are building your own antennae, you can make use of the SWR measurement feature.
The download files include a "pcandis3.vxd" and "w32n50.dll" so if you are experienced at debugging, you can possibly make use of these for more functions with the Prism chipset.
7.3. Intersil Prism Test Utilities
Intersil has a Prism Test Utilities suite. You can use it to check out your Prism card or to observe communication between cards. This software is for technical users.
Unfortunately it is no longer available at Intersil. Use a search engine for the term "prismtestutil322" and you will find several sites that still make a download available. For your convenience, click Google Search to perform a search for download sites for the Prism Test Utility.
7.4. RF Manager
The RF Manager ships with the 3E Technologies 3e-110 PC Card, with more info in the Competing Cards section. One feature is that it lets you adjust TX power. I have not been able to find a copy of this program to try it. (I bought the card and it comes with the RF manager, again I don't know if it'll work with another card.)
*** Can someone please upload the driver and RF-Manager to test, and that way give an alternative to users who use the defaut drivers from Senao -- Thank you ***
Contacted Tech Support, not sure how to upload files here. Their instructions go to ftp://ftp.3eti.com/download/ username: user password: aeptec3eti
Someone please upload this file on a different server! Be nice, no leeching.
Try this link: 3e_010_Client_v2.03.00.zip
2005/10/09: Tested 3eti drivers/manager with the Senao EXT2 card under Windows XP SP2: no go. RF-manager doesn't find a compatible card and therefore won't start, drivers are protected and won't even install (have not tried hacking .INF files). On uninstall the package removes all installed drivers for Prism 2.5 cards, be sure to have your old drivers handy!
8. Card Sellers
These cards cannot be bought from most conventional on-line and brick-and-mortar stores.
NOTE: engenius has stoped making the 2511-cd plus cards however keenan systems still has stock here
Wlanparts.com Pasadena Networks
WLANmall - Card and antenna bundle
Wirelesslan-Italia EU/Italy Resller
Diswire EU Reseller
DataMind EU/UK Resller
http://www.thewifishop.net EU/UK Reseller - International Sales
Solwise EU/UK Reseller
ComputerGuy EU/UK Reseller
9. Antenna Types
9.1. Internal Diversity antenna
Senao SL-2511CD PLUS has dual integral internal diversity antennae. The antenna body is not removable from the main body of the PCMCIA card. Unlike the ORiNOCO, you cannot hack it to attach an external antenna. Thankfully, the Senao has a sensitive receiver as indicated by the receiver sensitivity URL at the HardwareComparison page.
The construction of the internal antennae is that of the usual "C" shape used for 2.4Ghz 802.11 PCMCIA cards. Each of the two antennae is essentially an exposed foil trace on epoxy-filled fiberglass pcboard. Inadvertent transmission is prevented by using a groundplane on the pcboard leading up to the antenna element. I have not found any information about the increase of noise due to reflections of the high-power signal from this type of internal antenna.
Note that the version using external antennae has no internal antenna of its own. So, if you were used to ORiNOCO cards that had an external antenna connector, but yet had its own internal antenna, note that this is not the case with Senao. If you want the performance of an external antenna, but yearn for the unobtrusiveness of an internal antenna, take a look at the blade antenna option described below.
9.2. External Antenna Sellers
Senao SL-2511CD PLUS EXT2 has dual female MMCX connectors. You must use at least one external antenna as it has no antenna of its own.
Many use PigTails for external antennae, but if you buy one of the Range Extender antenna line from Hyperlinktech.com, you can avoid using a PigTail by ordering the antenna with a connector of your choice. Except for the Samsung, range extender antennae come with connector choices of MC, RP-TNC, RP-SMA, Rev Thread SMA, MMCX, RP-MMCX, RP-BNC, or MCX for the Airport Extreme. In this way, you don't have to buy a PigTail to adapt the MMCX connector to a typical N-connector. Some people may still prefer the traditional approach of ordering an antenna with an N-connector because it can be used with other devices or loaned out to other people who already have N-connector pigtails. However, the person just starting out in wireless might prefer to avoid using pigtails and just get the antenna with an MMCX connector. Of course, such an antenna is harder to loan out because no one else will have an appropriate MMCX PigTail (since it is unheard of for a pigtail to have a female MMCX on one end).
And yes, although the EXT2 also has diversity, the Senao 2511 favours one of the MMCX connections over the other. Which jack is favored? Hold the card with LED indicator right-side up (LED is visible) and with the PCMCIA connector to the right side. (The face label will be in the normal position for reading.) The primary jack is the one closest to you. Connect your best antenna to the favored jack and your optional 2nd antenna to the other jack. A useful picture for clarity is at 200mw.pdf.
The secondary connector doesn’t work if the primary connector has not been connected to an antenna 200mw.pdf].
MMCX Range Extender antennae for use with the SenaoCard are:
- Pacific Wireless RE-05U Omnidirectional (reviewed below), and
many other antenna sellers can be found on the WirelessHardwareLinks page.
Startide's Comment: I chose to buy antennae with MMCX connectors since I plan to stay with those cards using MMCX connectors. For me, avoiding signal loss and weight of the PigTail N-connectors was worth it (as well as the cost savings). By the way, I saw a laptop on a newscast using the blade antenna velcroed onto the lid (a fairly inobtrusive antenna). It's interesting how wireless laptops are used as teleprompters and status displays on newscasts.
Note that the small MMCX connectors are somewhat delicate. Be careful of pulling on the cable because repeated stress can damage the connection between the cable and the male MMCX plug. To relieve stress, you may choose to leave enough slack so that the cable is never pulled taut at the connector. Another plus of not having a pigtail with heavy N-connectors is that the weight of the pigtail doesn't tug at the MMCX connector jack. [Cf. Connectors on the ConnectorsAndCable page.]
Many other antenna sellers can be found in WirelessHardwareLinks.
9.3. RE-05U Omnidirectional Antenna Review
I purchased the Hyperlink brand RE-05U omni (part #RE05E-MM) with MMCX as described at the URL above for $29.95 plus shipping. This is an excellent price for what you get. I am using it with my Senao and no pigtail is needed. It has a total height of about six inches (including the base). It is also quite lightweight (3.5 ounces). It comes with a six-foot thin coax cable terminated with whatever connector was requested on the order page. The coax is integral (cannot be removed from the antenna base) and is not printed with any identifiers as to maker or type. This same antenna is advertised as 5.5dB (before cable loss) at FAB-Corp for $18 with a five-foot coax.
The MMCX connector is a "right-angle" type and seems to be sturdily built with a stiff [shrink tube] strain relief. I wish that the MMCX connector had a big nub on it for easy grabbing as the MMCX connector is somewhat tricky to pull off the Senao. It's important to carefully remove the connection without tugging on the coax and loosening it from the tiny MMCX connector. I remove it by holding the card such that I can put my thumbnail right against the inner corner of the right-angled connector. The thumbnail thus pushes against the metal part of the connector body instead of against the strain relief shrink-wrap section. The other benefit is that the removal force is essentially along the axis of the connection. I push hard and the connector will pop out of the socket without damage. [Cf. Connectors on the ConnectorsAndCable page.]
The black magnetic base has the shape of a Hershey's Kiss chocolate candy. This base is approximately 1-1/16 inches tall and 1-3/16 inches in diameter. At the top of the "kiss", the center-loaded whip antenna extends out 4-15/16 inches. From tip to base, the entire antenna assembly is 6 inches tall (not nine as indicated at the seller's website). I suppose that if you uncoiled the center-load coil, the antenna would be nine inches long. The antenna and base are both finished in black powdercoat. The antenna tip has a thin soft plastic covering which is nicer (less visible) than if it just ended in a hard metal nub. Unlike some omnis, this one doesn't come with a ground plane, so its performance may be a bit less if placed on a non-metallic surface. Of course, a big circular ground plane collar would reduce versatility and be inconvenient, so I consider it a plus that this antenna has no built-in ground plane. If you had to have a ground plane, you could take a five-inch diameter steel plate and put the antenna on it. Then, you could put velcro on the other side and stick that plate up to a lot of things as desired.
As for the base, it is smooth and black underneath. The base is not weighted. While some people may prefer weighted bases, I don't. Having a lightweight base increases the versatility for me. The magnet is integral to the base and is quite strong. If you use it on your car's exterior, be sure to place it slowly or else the strong magnet will slam that base down on your painted surface. I carefully remove the dust from the surface before putting the antenna down to reduce the chance of scratching my car's paint. So far, no scratches. With a diameter of 19/16 inches, the base is adequate for use indoors on a table or other surface. The nice thing about this antenna is how inobtrusive it is.
I am actually glad that it didn't come with a larger base. I might make a small steel "L" bracket (one inch on each leg) with velcro to fasten to the laptop lid. The magnetic base would then stick to the bracket in case there's no flat surface to sit the antenna upon.
Performance is amazingly good; well, at least compared to the Senao using an internal antenna. I am well pleased with this antenna and versatility. Despite the signal losses from the long cable length of six feet, the performance is definitely there. Another plus is the lack of signal losses from using PigTail connectors. The SWR for my antenna was measured at 1.4. In comparison, a Senao card with internal antennae with a Poor 13% signal will be at 46% with the external antenna. With internal antenna, the Link Quality signal indicator usually has a lower value than the Signal Strength value. But when I use the external antenna, the opposite is usually true. I have noticed that signals that I had never received during a drive by are now possible and quite a few signals now "peg" my signal strength meter. If you are looking for a general purpose weather-resistant inobtrusive desktop/automobile/mobile antenna, I recommend this one. Surely, at the $30 price, it is a bargain. I would buy this again if I had need of another 5 dB omni.
I was too excited at getting a new antenna for merely $30 and forgot about the discount that Hyperlinktech gives to SeattleWireless members.
The antenna holds on tight to the car. The small size is a big plus in that it doesn't catch the wind or rain whilst driving. At 70MPH, it doesn't let go, slide around, or make a whistling noise in the airstream. I positioned the antenna so that the cable is at the trailing edge of the base. I recommend this approach to keep rain from being forced into the base via the cable opening when driving at speed.
The antenna seems to be manufactured by Pacific Wireless and resold by various other on-line retailers such as Fab-corp, Hyperlink and Pasadena Networks. More antenna info is available here. Their website recommends a ground plane of one meter in diameter so putting it on your car roof should be just fine. Pacific Wireless has a pdf data sheet and info on theantenna radiation pattern. The radiation pattern is not perfectly circular, so it is possible that having two of these antennae for diversity might be a useful approach for receiving marginal signals. -- review from StartideRising
Cf. the HyperLinkTech page for another review of the antenna.
2006/03/14 The RE-05U Omni is no longer available, [ http://www.pacwireless.com/html/mobile_2_4ghz.html mobile_2_4ghz] found removed. Replacement mobile_2_4ghz models MA24-5-XX or MA24-7-XX have "been discontinued. Once available stock has been exhausted, they will no longer be available." MA24-5-RPMMCX, $15 + shipping. More info on the antenna is in the PAWMA24_Data_Sheet (pdf), July '05.
FAB-Corp shows newmmant1, $9 + sh.
Hyperlink has the hg2405unmo 5dB mobile omni (data sheet), $20 + sh.
All are monopole collinear of similar length and performance, of which the widely sold Mobile Mark (.pdf) is a stumbling relative standard. Cf. homebrew antennae. Manufacturer model IMAG5-2400, 2400-2485 MHz, 5 dBi gain, IMAG-2400.pdf (registration required).
10. Wishlist of future driver features
While the Senao-supplied software works for the most part (only a niggling blue-screen on occasion), there are some areas that would benefit from improvements. The Prism 2.5 chipset has a number of interesting or useful features that have been ignored by the existing Senao driver. Some of the Prism 2.5 features have been accessed by 3rd party Linux software, though not by the Senao Win32 software.
a. Have the driver display the version number of the driver that matches the version of the software load. Currently, the April 2002 version 5.0 driver is being used, but the information displayed by the driver software shows a different version number. Isn't this an error?
b. Have better explanation on the MEANING of Senao-specific versions of "Link Quality" versus "Signal Strength" displays and the rationale of "Percentage" in their signal measurements. This could be provided in the on CD-ROM documentation as well as the printed user guide sheet.
Added by Haudy Kazemi on 11/11/2003:
Link Quality The bar shows the measured signal level and connection status. The higher blue bar is, the better the radio signal received by the PC card.
Signal Strength The bar shows signal strength level. The higher blue bar is, the more powerful radio signal is received by the PC Card.
[From the SL-2511CD+_EXT2_USER_GUIDE.pdf inside the SL2511CDplusExt2UserManual.zip]
I think what this amounts to is that link quality is a measure of how clean and pure the radio signal is, i.e. how much interference, multipath effects, and signal smearing you are getting. I think as your link quality drops, your retransmission rate will increase as packets are corrupted or lost.
As far as signal strength goes, I presume that is just a measure of how much signal you are getting out of the maximum the radio can "see" before it is "saturated". A low signal strength is not going to necessarily require extra retransmissions, unlike a poor quality signal that has periodic packet corruption.
The difference between the two lets you describe situations that range from strong but dirty (noisy) signals vs. weak but clean signals. An example of a weak but clean signal could be the frequencies that NASA has to communicate with the SOHO, Voyager, and Pioneer spacecraft. These are just my interpretations of the limited information Senao has on the two parameters, i.e. they might not be 100% correct but they make sense to me.
c. Provide explanation of the USAGE and BEHAVIOUR of the Power Save Mode options of "off", "on", and "auto". This is otherwise a mysterious feature.
d. Unify the driver performance between the cards using an internal versus external antenna. The driver display for my external/internal antenna cards varies in what it displays. Currently, using an external antenna will result in the card:
- (i) Automatically connecting to an AP. When using the card with an internal antenna, it doesn't automatically connect to an AP.
(ii) Not allowing the ability to click on Scan and see a list of AP SSID. The display simply shows "N/A" as the result of the scans. When using the card with an internal antenna, the Scan works as expected and shows a list of AP that can be selected for connection.
e. Provide explanation in the documentation as to which of the two MMCX connectors to connect the primary external antenna. This can be significant where two different antenna are used but both are able to obtain an adequate signal. (Cf. External, third paragraph, "Which jack is favored?", above.)
f. Have the driver show which antenna was selected for use by the card.
g. Have the driver show an estimated SWR level for the antenna in use.
h. Add an option to set the maximum power level to use rather than have the default 200mW used in all cases.
i. Have an option to have the current Site Survey display updated automatically without having to click on the Scan button.
j. Have the driver show the dBm difference between the two external antennae as the card checks both for signal strength.
k. Display the amount of transmit power used versus elapsed time.
11. FAQ - Questions and Answers Section
Does anyone have questions? Post them here! An answer might appear or not --but it is good to have a FAQ section nevertheless.
Q: Is it 16- or 32-bit?
A: The 2511CD PLUS is a 16-bit PCMCIA card. It is therefore compatible with most older laptops as well as the 32-bit Cardbus laptops.
Q: Is the 2511 card able to go beyond 200mW?
A: Yes. There are various windows and particularly Linux utilities which can display the amount of power selected whilst you manually select a power level. (How about some examples / links?)
Q: Will the 2511 PLUS EXT2 work without any external antennae?
A: Well, who knows what the SWR is when you have nothing connected, but yes, it is possible for the card to transmit and receive a very short distance in the same room to your access point. That is possibly due to the short amount of copper foil trace that is exposed (outside of the ground plane shielding) under the blue plastic cover. In fact, the 2511 PLUS dual internal antennae are made from foil traces.
Q: Does the 2511 EXT2 transmit through both of its diversity antennae?
A: Both models of the 2511 seem to be able to receive through either antenna position, but transmit to only one of its antenna positions. This apparently is a limitation of the Prism 2.5 chipset the cards are based upon. The positive point of this approach is that all the power is sent to one antenna instead of being divided between two. For the EXT2 model, you should connect your best positioned antenna to the dominant connector because that is where the transmitter output will be. (Cf. External, third paragraph, "Which jack is favored?", above.)
Q: Does the 2511 PLUS and EXT2 work with the original Windows 98?
I've seen on the various boxes at retail stores, many of the newest client cards want Windows 98 SE, not Windows 98, as the minimum OS.
A: The official Senao website doesn't say, and their user manual has the typical Engrish problems and contradictions (it even says the card can be installed with Windows 95 but other parts indicate that Windows 98 is the oldest OS allowed). StartideRising uses both 2511 PLUS and EXT2 cards with a Windows 98 Dell Inspiron laptop that has the OS service pack 1 installed but not the one that brings it up to Windows 98 SE level. So, it's fair to say that it certainly seems possible to use 2511 cards with an original Windows 98 OS despite the occasional blue screen of happiness. Particularly in the case of driver cost cutting (ie, not bothering to write one), Windows 98 SE is the oldest OS allowed by some companies. This Windows 98 SE "problem" exists especially for external USB devices. For example, as far as I know, the only company to make external USB hard drives drivers compatible with the original Windows 98 was BusLink (everyone else didn't bother writing any new code and wimped out by requiring Windows 98 SE).
Q: What is the communication speed of an unladen wireless card?
A: What do you mean? An African or European wireless card?
Q: Does anyone have any experience with the USB version SL-2511UB? Is it one of the PCMCIA cards (which one?) with a USB interface similar to the ORiNOCO USB? If so, can you slide it in & out? Also, how easily can you add an external antenna?
A: No, it not similar to the ORiNOCO USB, it a mini-USB card. No, it not easy to add external antennae, you have to solder on the antenna.
Q: Where can I get a Senao External cards in the Netherlands? Is it legal to have the 200mW version shipped there without the CE approval?
A: There are several Dutch shops that have Senao cards. For example, zx-yagi.nl. They have the 200mW "for export" as well. It's illegal to use a 200mW in the Netherlands.
Q: Does the Senao co-exist with another onboard wireless card such as the Centrino which is built-in with newer laptops like the Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop? Some people have posted on forums about problems.
A: Yes, it does. For example, the Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop has Centrino and uses XP qualified drivers. The Senao drivers were not submitted to the Microsoft XP qualification program, so you will need to install them on the XP system before you insert the Senao card. During installation, you will see a message indicating that the drivers are not qualified for XP use, but just click "yes" anyways to continue installation.
With unqualified drivers, you often need to reboot to get use out of them, so do this. Now you can insert the Senao card into the PCMCIA slot and use NetStumbler or an Internet client program.
To go back to the Centrino wireless in the 8600 laptop, do a shutdown, eject the Senao card, and power up again. With XP, this is fast, so shutdown is fairly painless.
The main thing to keep in mind is using reboot or shutdown between switching to or from use of a wireless card with unqualified drivers.
*Update* Centrino usually has a keypress to disable wireless. On the 8600 it is Fn+F2. Do this, then insert the Senao card. Because the Centrino was disabled, the Senao now takes over. When done, eject the Senao and press Fn+F2 to re-enable the Centrino.
Q: Does the Senao similarly co-exist with a Viao with built-in Wi-Fi card? --a LAN-express ASIEEE 802.11g mini-PCI adapter.
Q: Is there a time when I don't want to use a Senao high-power card?
A: Certainly. The high power output can interfere with the wireless connectivity of other brands of wireless cards. To a card in the nearby vicinity, the communication between other wireless cards and their respective access points is essentially noise, and if this noise level is sufficient, the effective throughput to the cards may decrease as a result of interference.
Q: Isn't 2.4Ghz a microwave frequency like from a microwave oven? Is this safe?
A: This has been debatable. Recently, some phone companies have been including radiation warnings with even their cordless 2.4GHz telephones. I was in Fry's Electronics and some of the Northwest Bell cordless phone packages had a warning sticker on the outside of each box. More info is in the FAQ at FrequentlyAskedQuestions in the section "Other Questions: How safe is the microwave radiaiton from 802.11 devices?". Time will tell if longterm exposure is a problem.
Update 2006/03/14. Like other microwave devices, it is now recommended conveniently keeping as far away from live transmitters as practical, rather than, say, using one for a headrest. Or a seat.
Q: Why is it so hard to remove the MMCX connector?
A: In reference to the difficulty in detaching the male MMCX connector from the card's female socket, there is a deliberate reason for this. Despite being small, the connector is also designed able to physically support a mini-antenna, so that's why it is so hard to detach the connector (even though it is easy to insert). If it were too easily detachable, the mini-antenna could fall off and presto, no more connection. The antenna review has an approach for detaching the cable easily. (Second paragraph, RE-05U Omni, above.)
Q: Does the Senao card get very hot under continuous use like some cards do?
A: Empirically checking the card doesn't seem to indicate this. I put in a blank card that draws no power and left it in the slot to give a baseline warmth level of the laptop in operation. I then put an SL-2511EXT in and after awhile of intermittent operation, it was only somewhat hotter than the blank card. This doesn't cover the case where there is continuous traffic at 11MB as you would get if you were using P2P with a large file transfer, so the amount of heat in that case is still unknown until someone decides to try and empirically check if the card gets really hot or not. But my guess so far is that the card doesn't run hot (Startide).
Follow-up: Ran the card continuously at high transfer rate for over an hour and the card didn't get hot. If anything, the laptop heated the card up (Startide).
Q: Is 2611 AP3 firmware interchangable with 2611 CB3?
I purchased a 2611 AP3 and received a 2611 CB3 running the AP3 firmware. Is it interchangable?
According to an eDigital Wireless rep, this is true. I've found one 2611 AP3 / CB3 hacking site that gives you both firmware versions: Senao_AP3_CB3, a 2611 AP3/CB3 hacking page. I have found a 1.9.0 AP3 firmware available on other sites, but I haven't gotten it to work right, 1.8.0 seems to work better.
Q: Can restricted firmware be changed to have 200mW?
I have a Spanish version. Ssome specs are restricted for some countries, limited 100mW. Do you know if I can change the firmware to have 200mW?
All you need is to update the PDA and then reflash secondary firmware (the same version is OK), or load it every time you use the card. The data from PDA is applied to the firmware whenever it's written to the flash or RAM.
You should change items 0x0103 and 0x0104. See this message: shmoo 2003-July/003556
prism2_srec doesn't seem to have support for changing the PDA, so you may want to use linux-wlan-ng and prism2dl for that purpose. -- Update: New version of prism2_srec now has support (and works fine, it generates comments on the pda file so you can know what each register is for).
2004/06/10 I've been told that official Senao distributors for Spain are given a "special" version of the card that has the Prism 2 chipset, not Prism2.5. The guy who told me this says he's tried changing the PDA and so on; the only thing he could manipulate effectively was the channels restriction. The transmit power stayed at 100mW. Can someone confirm this?
2004/06/19 That's correct, items 0x0103 and 0x0104 only belong to the channel restrictions. I know no way to boost the card from 100 to 200mw permanently.
2004/11/30: Found this http://www.ciudadwireless.com/webdoc/senaoregion/ related to this issue. I'll try and report.
2005/04/06: Does anybody really know if the power upgrade works? Hostap 0.2.5 doesn't even report TX power and it's hard to measure with precision.
good link!!==~> http://linux.junsun.net/intersil-prism/
Q: Is there a tool to recover the card from lost PDA data?
I own a NL-2511CD PLUS PC card bought from netgate.com. While performing throughtput tests I found out that the card had very low performance, both on OpenBSD and Windows systems (less than 90 Kbytes/sec) compared to my other cards, LinkSys and Conceptronic.
Moreover it has a very bad signal quality (very noisy) even at short range - which is probably the cause of its bad performance. I decided to download a newer firmware (using Winupdate 0.7) to see if that could make a difference. Unfortunately the download process went wrong (I lost the PDA data).
So I would like to know if there is a tool to recover the card, or at least could you link the PDA file for the NL-2511 CD PLUS. Oh, by the way, I have a full dump of the card firmware, but I can't use it because Winupdate no longer detects the card :<
Thank you for your help and support
2004/12/01 I had the same problem using prism2_srec and hostap drivers. If you flash only the primary firmware, it might overwrite the secondary firmware which is vital for both Windows and hostap drivers. I'm still trying to figure out a solution. I got the card to work with the wlan-ng driver 0.21.1pre23 and Linux 2.6.7: the driver automatically loads a working firmware into RAM. Restoring the flash is a little harder work, since prism2dl is not able to do so because it cannot read the PDA. With a pdafile the location in the memory is needed and I wasn't able to figure out which value I need to use. Update: That value is in fact 0x007f0000 for Senao cards. I was able to reflash the old firmware (using the fwload ifstate of wlan-ng drivers and a PDA dump I had).
Q: What's the difference between the Prism2 and the Prism3 chipsets?
9th July 2004 -= *** Beware *** =-
Some of the new Senao 2511 PC-Cards on the market may be built around the new Prism3 chipset. You would be sorry to purchase this chipset as it has less Sensitivity (weaker than an ORiNOCO/Hermes chipset). The only way to differentiate Senao Prism2.5 vs Prism3 cards is the added "Mercury" in the branded name. Prism3 chipsets are cheaper as the intermediate IF stage is removed for direct frequency demodulation. Also, it seems the Linux drivers which worked correctly with preceding Prism chipsets are fooled with the new one. You've been warned dears...
Q: What about using the more secure WPA mode?"
Give the newest driver a try, November 2003 or newer. It should support WinXP WPA for your NL-2511. I don't know what version of firmware it requires. An overview of the WPA security in WinXP is available from Microsoft at KB815485 and a nice article on how to use WPA is available from PC Magazine at article 107756,00.
Q: I run Windows and want to change the channel restrictions on my Senao (or any other Prism2) card. Do I need to install Linux?
No; Windows users should consult this guide to changing regualatory domains: frars.org.uk pageid 1109
A mirror of the required files exists at: gonzo-wireless.co.uk windows
Q: As I didn't read it anywhere on this page: Is the Senao Card 802.11g compatible ?
Nope, 802.11b only.
Q: Are there short pigtails to reach across a laptop slot?
I tried to install a Senao SL-2511MP-PLUS mini-PCI on a Dell X300 notebook. Due to bad planning, the antenna connectors are on the opposite side of the slot from the antenna receptors on the Senao card, and aren't long enough to reach. Are there small extensions I can buy? Or does it make sense to splice the antenna wires and add longer bits to extend the reach? How about in 3 inch lengths?
There aren't any MMCX "extensions" that small that I know of, at least that are sold commercially; you may need to have them custom-made; for a pair it could end up costing $50 USD. You could splice the cables too, but you should expect a noticeable amount of signal loss unless you really know what you're doing RF-wise. Cf. the caveats at "NB".
Cf., for example, eBay store DataAlliance for short pigtails for MMCX. This cable is modest quality, good but not LMR-100. The good flex could be needed in such a short run.
Q: How to fix SSID that will not open the firmware?
I have programmed the SSID into a Senao 2511 card and I notice when I want to re-program it, it will not open the firmware program. Has anyone experienced this problem and how to fix it?
There isn't enough info here to solve the problem - how did you "program" the SSID into the card? You mean you configured the card, and not actually edited the firmware, right? And what is this "firmware" program? On which platform, and in which computer system?
Q: Is there a high-powered USB version?
Is there a high-powered USB alternative with ~23dBm so that I can have similar performance to the Senao PCMICA but at the end of a convenient USB cable?
Many people wish. Unfortunately, the USB bus is limited to 500mA output, and this seems to be an insufficient amount to run a high-power wireless NIC. I've never seen a USB card with >>17dmb output, and I don't expect to. A workaround for this would be to include an external power brick/power supply with the NIC, but you can imagine the troubles that that would cause.
Correction: The Senao transmits at 18dBm.
Smartbridges has a USB NIC with really good sensitivity, so that's an option if you can only use USB devices, but it's extremely expensive considering its 15dbm output.
Q: Replace the ORiNOCO USB card with a Senao?
Has anyone tried to replace the ORiNOCO USB card with a Senao? --using the USB to PCMCIA Adapter of the ORiNOCO USB with a Senao Card.
That may work--it depends on whether this "USB to PCMCIA Adapter" is a universal one or if it's specifically designed for the ORiNOCO-- but as said above, you would probably need an external 3.3V/5V power supply (and a tighly-regulated one at that) to hack onto the adapter to furnish the Senao's power demands.
Q: For Macintosh, what drivers are available for Senao cards?
The Senao 2511CD cards have the Prism 2.5 chip set. At this time, the only working driver is the IOXperts driver at IOXperts. For Senao cards based on the Prism 2 chip set, you can use either the IOXperts driver or the Open Source Sourceforge WirelessDriver. The IOXperts driver is a good investment. Note that the IOXperts have a driver for both MacOS X and MacOS 9.
Q: Is there a way to re-do the firmware of cards out of Engenius APs to make them more nearly normal?
We salvaged the EnGenius EL-2011CD cards out of Engenius APs. However, the card has only Access Point and Peer-to-Peer modes, no Infrastructure mode.
The Engenius cards you have are probably the same as some Senao cards using the Prism chipset (probably Prism 2 or 2.5). You'll need to do the firmware flashing from a Windows or Linux box, and you'll need to find appropriate firmware versions to load into them. These cards have 2 components to the firmware, a primary (PRI) firmware and secondary (station or STA) firmware, which need to matched to each other and to your card's hardware. A matched pair of primary and secondary firmware will not necessarily have the same version number.
Read up on these pages for more (esp the first link):
http://home.eunet.cz/jt/wifi/Download.pdf (useful Intersil Prism firmware flashing doc)
Pay special attention to which 'NICID' you have and which files you use for firmware flashing. Rread the first link.
-Haudy Kazemi 21 Jul 2005
Q: Senao regular PCI NIC with comparable power and a Prism2 chipset? USB form?
Does Senao make a regular PCI NIC with comparable output power and based on a Prism2 chipset? How about USB-based? If not Senao, what's the best or most-available non-PCMCIA NIC certain to use a Prism2 chipset?
Answer still needed.
An answer: Have you viewed such as the HardwareComparison page?
Are you friends with a good search engine and boolean?
12. Curious George Section
If you remove the labels from the Senao 2511 EXT2 (external antenna model) card, it looks like the picture below:
If you use the Senao 2511 EXT2 card in a SoekrisNet4511 remote access point box (a Seattle Wireless member favorite approach), it looks like the picture below:
The Senao 2511 EXT2 card is inside the Senao brand AP (Senao 2511 AP1 plus). Examples of how the AP was hacked to provide greater range (with pictures) is at senao2511hack
Also the same card is inside the AP: the Senao 2511 AP3 plus. More pictures: sincables.net article 549
And information for hacking the Senao 2511-AP3 / 2511-CB3 by upgrading 100mW AP3's to 200mW, AP3 <=> CB3 conversion and adding an external connector to an AP3 is at guerrilla.net Senao_AP3_CB3