Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Sony BDP-S185 BluRay Player WiFi Bridge Setup
The BDP-S185 is a pretty good BluRay player made by Sony that I bought for my dad after his old progressive scan DVD player randomly stopped working. Since it was around ~$90 for that BluRay player with streaming video features and an HDMI cable to go along with it on Amazon I thought it was a more sensible purchase than a replacement DVD player. The one real compromise with this BluRay player compared to higher end set-top boxes like the Sony BDP-S580 is the lack of built-in wifi. However, since the BDP-S185 has an Ethernet jack and I happened to have a Linksys WGA54G wireless Ethernet bridge adapter around, I was (eventually) able to connect it to the wifi network and access the streaming features like Pandora, YouTube, and Netflix.
Ways To Connect An Ethernet-equipped Device to a WiFi Network
There are a few different ways you can connect a device to your network if it doesn't have wifi and requires a wired network connection but you don't want to run long Cat5 cables through your house. There's tech like powerline networking, which I've setup once for a Dish Network DVR that needed to connect to a phone jack for data transmission, but I haven't used personally for anything myself. And then there are a couple of different ways to connect a wired Ethernet-only device to a wifi hotspot as though the wifi hotspot were a wired router with a long cable running directly to the device you want to connect, in my case the BDP-S185 BluRay player that I really wanted to test out YouTube on. The two ways I know of are using a WET bridge like the Linksys WET54G and other products or a modded router like a WRT54GL in WET mode, or using a (usually cheaper) wireless bridge adapter like the Linksys WGA54G, which I've got working with the BluRay player now after some initial headaches getting it configured correctly.
I've been using Linksys WRT54GL routers running modified Linux-based firmware like Tomato for years, and one of the uses of those modded routers I've relied on is the WET bridge mode. When a router is placed in this mode it becomes a client connecting to another wireless access point but it connects any wired devices plugged in to it directly to the access point, as though those devices were plugged in to the access point with a really long Ethernet cable. The wired devices and the router are configured as though they really are connected to each other with a wired Ethernet connection, the existence of the WET bridge is transparent to them. This is basically what the Linksys WGA54G bridge does, except it's limited to connecting a single wired device to a wireless access point, while a modded WRT54GL or other WET capable router or adapter lets you connect multiple wired devices.
When you're using an adapter like the old WGA54G I had laying around or any of the other much newer and faster 802.11N wireless bridge adapters on the market these days, the wired device you're connecting to the adapter won't know about it typically. You'll setup the adapter and connect it to your WiFi access point before you connect it to the wired device you want to use it for by first plugging the adapter to your computer and configuring it. Then, once it's connecting to your WiFi correctly you can plug it into the wired device (the BDP-S185 BluRay player in my case) and configure that device with it's own network settings.
I have had the WGA54G for years now, and I originally bought it for an original Xbox which connected to it in the exact same way as this new BluRay player does. Neither the Xbox or the BluRay player can tell they're hooked up to a bridge, they think they're wired straight into the router. But the Xbox 360 works better with this particular Ethernet bridge at least, and I'd guess with other models as well. When I hooked up the WGA54G to a 360 I didn't have to set it up first by using a computer, I could do that directly from within the 360 network configuration interface. It was a while ago when I did this though, so I may be misremembering some details.
However, I do remember the process for configuring the Linksys WGA54G wireless bridge adapter to work with a Sony BDP-S185 BluRay player much more clearly, since I did it just a few hours before I started writing this. Since it had been a long time since I'd last had to configure the WGA54G to work with a device other than an Xbox 360, I had some trouble with re-learning how to get it connected to a computer and access its settings, which you have to do before you can plug it into the BDP-S185.
Configuring A Linksys WGA54G WiFi Bridge With The Sony BDP-S185
Since this is running long, I'll retell the missteps I took later. What you want to do when setting up a Linksys WGA54G wireless adapter to work with a wired device that doesn't let you alter its setting directly the way a 360 does, is to first get a paper clip and push the reset button while the adapter is powered on for around 30 seconds to be sure it's reset to default settings. Then plug it in to your computer with a known good Ethernet cable and turn off your WiFi or other network connections on that computer until you're done setting up the adapter. Set your Ethernet connection to use a static IP in the 192.168.1.x range, because the WGA54G will by default be set to use 192.168.1.250 and I had trouble accessing the damn thing when my computer was set to just use DHCP. Well, obviously the wireless adapter isn't running a DHCP server, so how is the computer going to know what range it's IP should be in to be able to talk to the adapter?
Now you can open up your browser and type in 192.168.1.250 and login with the default password "admin" and configure the wireless bridge with the correct settings to connect to your WiFi network. This particular device can be a bit finicky in my experience so you may need to do things like mess with the advanced settings and turn off cloning or set it to G-only mode, depending on what your network is like. Keep in mind that the 1.0 version of the WGA54G does NOT support WPA, so if you've got one of those and your network is using WPA as it should be, you'll want to buy a newer device instead. Fortunately mine happened to be a v2, lucky me. Once you know the adapter is able to connect to your WiFi network and maintain the connection you're done with the annoying part.
Then you can just plug it in to the wired device, the BDP-S185 in my situation, and use the network config settings in that device to connect to the network. For the BDP-S185 I decided to set a static IP, just to be clear of what devices on my network were located where, since I'd gotten fed up with the whole process earlier. You shouldn't have any issues with just using DHCP, but try setting a static address if you do.
And that's it. For the BDP-S185, I then went to the "Register Device" option and had to type a code into a Sony website along with some other information in order to be able to access all the Internet streaming video functions the device is capable of, and register my Pandora account with the device as well. I don't have Amazon Prime or Netflix or Hulu Plus but those are all options available on this thing now that I've got it connected to the network. I then happily wasted an hour watching some great TED talks I've already seen before through the YouTube app on the player.
Mistakes Made Before I Got WiFi To Work
Here's the stuff I did wrong when I first started trying to get the WGA54G to work. My first and largest mistake was trying to use the CD that came with the device. Instead of simply using Google and rediscovering the fact that the WGA54G has a web interface you can access directly by plugging it in to your computer and going to 192.168.1.250 in your web browser, something I'd forgotten years ago, I decided to spend at least half an hour messing around with the Linksys CD setup utility which only works in Windows (and so required me to reboot out of Linux, since I wasn't sure it'd work with WINE) and the software couldn't detect the adapter anyways! Yes, I did set the Windows firewall to unblock it.
The next mistake I made was to not notice that I had a device on my wireless network using the 192.168.1.250 address already, so when I did use the web interface to try to connect the adapter to my WiFi it would either light up the green WiFi light for a few seconds and then drop it, or just not connect at all. I then set the adapter to use DHCP to get assigned an address by the WiFi router, forgetting that I still wanted to mess with the settings and wouldn't know which address the adapter would have once it had changed. The adapter isn't like a router that has an external and internal IP. So I had to reset the device again, for the third time in the night, input all the settings again, and this time I manually set the adapter's IP to 192.168.1.251, and that was (finally) the end of that. Then I just plugged it into the BluRay player, configured that player, and enjoyed some TED talks off YouTube.
Streaming Features Review
As for what I think of the streaming features on the Sony BDP-S185, which is what I spent so much time trying to access, well they're not bad. Not great either. The YouTube app doesn't seem to support anything higher than standard definition video from what I could see, so that's a real disappointment. The podcast directory on the player is extremely limited and doesn't seem to feature any way to add new podcast feeds or search for more content. That's a huge waste of potential. I don't have a Netflix or other paid streaming video subscription right now, so I didn't test those. It's clear that the main intended use of the Internet video streaming option on this thing is for commercial stuff like Amazon's streaming video service, Netflix, VUDU and Hulu Plus. Which is fine, I imagine that the two main uses of this device for most people will be playing actual BluRay discs and Netflix streaming. The other stuff (podcasts, etc.,) will hardly get used, if at all. The remote actually has a very noticeable red Netflix button, to take you directly to that service with one click!
Some BluRay players on the market don't have wifi built in but do support USB wifi adapters like the various cheap sticks using ZyDas chipsets that I've got in my pile of networking gear. While the Sony BDP-S185 does have a USB port, it's only for displaying media off removable storage. The darn set-top box is running Linux, as the little GPL notice that I found with the other documentation in the box says, so support for that could have been added in but wasn't. It just displays a message saying the USB device plugged in is not supported. Darn. Oh well, the USB port is in the front so it would have looked terrible to have a USB WiFi adapter sticking out of it.
Also, if you happen to have a Linksys WGA11B wifi bridge still around, throw it out. The damn thing sucks, it's slow and it only supports WEP anyway.