Does 802.11b use a lot of resources?

Christopher Kelley bsd at
Fri Feb 25 05:06:58 GMT 2005

Have I tried too hard to squeeze usability out of an old computer?

I have a Pentium-166 that has been a faithful router & firewall (FreeBSD 
5.3 and pf) for a couple years now.  It has no trouble with the 3 to 4 
Mbps I get from my broadband connection, at least not with ethernet.

I wanted wireless, so I could use my laptop around the house.  I 
dutifully read the section in the manual about setting up FreeBSD as an 
access point. I'm using a Netgear MA311 802.11b card (Prism 2.5 
chipset).  And it does work, except it's very slow.  Now I know that I 
can only expect about 50% of the rated speed with wireless, but I 
figured even if I got only 4Mbps, I'd be fine.  But I get less than 
1Mbps.  I've updated the firmware, added a signal booster and hi-gain 
antenna, and I have "excellent" signal strength throughout my house.

So my question is, is there more overhead with wireless than with 
ethernet?  TOP doesn't seem to show that I'm taxing it too hard, idle 
never goes below about 70% with polling enabled (Hz=1000), and never 
below about 80% with polling disabled.  Am I expecting too much out of 
an old Pentium-166?

Thanks for your help.


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