Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector
The Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector is a wireless game adapter, developed jointly by Nintendo and Buffalo Technology, which allows Nintendo DSi and Wii users without a Wi-Fi connection or compatible Wi-Fi network to establish one via a broadband-connected PC. Inserted into the host PC's USB port, the connector functions with the Nintendo DS, Wii, and DSi, permitting the user to connect to the Internet to play Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection games and access various other online functionality. The product was the best selling Nintendo accessory to date, according to the official Nintendo site on 15 November 2007, but was discontinued in the same month until further notice. On September 8, 2008, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Wi-Fi Network Adapter, an 802.11g wireless router/bridge which serves a similar purpose.
The Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector is a rebranded Buffalo WLI-U2-KG54-YB (although this is often confused for the Buffalo WLI-U2-KG54-AI - the two adapters are almost identical, and only differ in that the latter features flash memory to allow for auto installation) which is based on the Ralink RT2570 chipset and as such is different from most other Wi-Fi adapters in that it can operate as a software access point (also referred to as a soft AP). Few adapters could do this under Windows at the time of the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector's release; Windows lacked both the software necessary to configure a soft AP and capable drivers for natively supported hardware. By bundling a soft AP compatible device with their own proprietary software, Nintendo was able to overcome this and at the same time greatly simplify the otherwise complicated process of putting a supported device into soft AP mode, configuring it, and routing Internet traffic over it.
In addition, a number of community developed tools and drivers exist which expand the functionality of the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector beyond its initial design. While not officially supported by Nintendo, the USB Connector can function as a standard wireless adapter by using modified Ralink or Buffalo Technology drivers, and can be used to send official game demos and homebrew software to the Nintendo DS through the Wireless Multi Boot (WMB) protocol.
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There have been a number of complaints and criticisms made of the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector since its release. While the device works as advertised for the majority of users, there have been some complaints brought up about its design and functionality. These users often fall outside of the target audience for the Wi-Fi USB Connector (namely Microsoft Windows users without a pre-existing wireless network or the technical expertise to configure one.)
One criticism[by whom?] of the Wi-Fi USB Connector is that it uses a proprietary authentication mechanism. Because of this, the Wi-Fi USB Connector works only with approved devices, which at this time is limited to the DS and Wii consoles. This behavior was an intentional design decision on the part of Nintendo, as it prevents outside parties from connecting to the Wi-Fi USB Connector with their computers and accessing the user's Internet connection or computer.
While the Wi-Fi USB Connector can be modified to circumvent this, the modification is beyond the capability of most users and is naturally unsupported by Nintendo.
Operating system support
Initially, the Wi-Fi USB Connector only supported Microsoft Windows XP. A main concern at that time was the lack of support for older versions of Windows, principally Windows 2000. After the introduction of the Windows Vista operating system, however, criticism shifted to lack of support for the new platform. Though Vista drivers were eventually released by Nintendo of Europe and Nintendo of America, it was two years after the first Windows XP drivers were available and several months after Vista's launch. There is no official support for Windows 7 (although it is possible to install working drivers when under compatibility mode).
It is possible to use the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector as a USB Wi-Fi NIC to connect to other access points under Linux and BSD when using the appropriate drivers. Notably, Debian and Debian-based systems such as Ubuntu have out of the box support for the chipset in the device.
Additionally, there is currently no official support for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, or driver for the 64-bit versions of Windows XP or Windows Vista; there are only drivers for 32-bit versions of these operating systems.
Internet connection sharing
The core functionality of the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector is provided by Windows' Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) feature, which allows a Windows computer to act as a router and automatically configure client devices for Internet access. Unfortunately, due to limitations in ICS, there are a number of caveats with this method.
Like the Wi-Fi USB Connector software itself, ICS offers the user no configurable options. This means that ICS may not function as expected, or at all, in complex network environments. In addition, Windows cannot handle multiple ICS configurations simultaneously, or in other words, only a single application or network device can use and configure ICS at one time. This means that if your network is currently relying on ICS or you use software that utilizes it (such as Windows Media Center Extender for the Xbox 360), you may not be able to use the Wi-Fi USB Connector at all.
Software firewall compatibility
Though not an innate fault with the Wi-Fi USB Connector itself, due to the nature of the device, a software firewall like those commonly installed on Microsoft Windows computers hosting the Wi-Fi USB Connector will interfere with its operation. To alleviate this issue, the user must allow the software full access to the Internet, or manually specify acceptable port ranges to allow through the firewall; depending on how that particular firewall is configured.
Unfortunately, some firewall products (like ZoneAlarm, and Windows Live OneCare) are incompatible with the Wi-Fi USB Connector software and must be either uninstalled or disabled, leaving the computer open to possible attack from external sources. The user's only option in this scenario is to risk connecting to the Internet unprotected, or install a different firewall product.
A common complaint from more advanced users is the complete lack of user-configurable options in the Wi-Fi USB Connector software and installer. For the novice user this is seen as a much-welcomed advantage of the Wi-Fi USB Connector over a traditional wireless router, but for those users who wish to use the device in a more complicated network environment, it can be an insurmountable obstacle.
For example, the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector will cause an IP conflict if an existing network is using the 192.168.0.x or 192.168.1.x IP schemes, both common IP ranges used in consumer routers.
The Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector includes a USB extension cable, a manual, and a software CD. It is recommended that the latest version of the Wi-Fi USB Connector software should be downloaded and installed rather than using the version on the CD, as important updates have been made in the newer versions. Devices shipped with software driver versions below 1.05 are incompatible with Windows Vista until updated.
While Nintendo hasn't come forward explaining the reason for the discontinuation of the device, manufacturers Buffalo Technology are reportedly no longer licensed to distribute it due to a successful recent lawsuit by the Australian Government's technology research agency CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). As a result, the company has been prevented from trading in any products adhering to the 802.11a/g standards in the US, including the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB connector.
Nintendo, however, only states on their website that the device is discontinued and says that a standard wireless router should work with the Wii. Here is their official statement:
"Please note: The Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector has been discontinued until further notice. As an alternative for on-line access, Wii owners can use a standard wireless router, or the Wii LAN Adapter."
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