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Ask Max: Joining Non-Apple Wireless WEP Networks

Asked on 10/13/2008:

I’ve got a PowerBook G4, OS X 10.4.

I've had this experience in two different public places, the Munich airport, and a little cafe in Sigtuna, Sweden. In Munich, all I noticed was that I seemed to get connected to the free airport WiFi net, but I was assigned no router. I did not notice what IP address I was assigned, but based on what I learned later, I certainly will notice if it happens again.

At the cafe, a password was required, which I entered. First attempt, I got "There was an error..." So I tried again, and apparently got connected. But things didn't seem to work just right, and when I tried and was told it wasn't available, I knew something had gone wrong. System Prefs / Network / TCP/IP appeared to show that I had an IP address but no router, just as I had seen at the airport. The owner was able to get his Vista PC to connect w/o problem. I later found out that the IP address showing in the TCP/IP dialog was the one that means "this is not a real IP address" -- 169.254.x.x.

I returned the next day with my brother and his Mac (he has a MacBook, also running 10.4). Though the owner's machine still worked, neither of our machines did, despite a reboot of the router (a D-Link). We tried WEP-Password and WEP-ASCII, neither one worked. The owner opened the network, we tried again (set TCP/IP to Manual, then back to DHCP), and everything worked.

In summary, the symptom is that the WEP authorization fails without complaint and we get no DCHP info. Doing a "Renew DCHP Lease" results in no change, nor any error message. Does this make any sense to you, and do you have any idea what to do about it? It sounds to me as if either the auth or the DHCP, on either the Mac side or the D-Link side is deviating from the protocol. I can get the owner of that cafe to remove the password, but the Munich airport is a little more of a hard case.

I'll feel a *little* better if it turns out to be the D-Link, but it'd still be nice to be able to adapt in some way. A debug mode might be helpful, but I don't know if there is one.


I cannot be certain but I would suspect this is related to WEP's sometimes use of hexadecimal equivalents on some access points.

Here is Apple's tech notes on joining non Apple WEP networks.

The main point being that you may need to add a "$" if a hexadecimal password was required to get the other computer on the network, use the same hex code, but add a "$" in front of it. Also if it is a standard password, use quotes.

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