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Wireless Networking Basics

January 1, 2007

in All Articles,Wi-Fi

Wireless networking setup for your laptop, desktop or home may seem daunting. Honestly, it’s not that bad. Take advantage of your home’s high-speed Internet connection and all the free wireless Internet hotspots in coffee houses, airports and hotels. All you need is your laptop computer and a little know-how, and you can be happily browsing the Internet through wireless devices.

For every computer that you want to give wireless capability, you need a wireless network adapter. For laptops with an open PC Card plug, get the $60 Linksys WPC54G. For desktops and laptops with an open USB plug, get the $60 Linksys WUSB54G.

These wireless network adapters allow your computer to talk with most wireless networks. Perfect if you’re taking your laptop to the nearest wireless-enabled Panera Bread, but we’re still missing one ingredient if we want wireless at home.

For those with high-speed home internet like Cable or DSL, you’ll need a Wireless Access Point. The WAP takes your wired internet signal and broadcasts it as a wireless signal.

The $65 Linksys WRT54G allows you to share your high-speed Internet connection with multiple PCs, both wired and wireless. It also acts as a firewall to protect your computers from Internet bad guys.

With this equipment, you can create a home network for your desktop and laptop computers. Installation is usually pretty easy, and anyone who has installed printers, scanners and other peripherals can probably figure it out. For a little more coaching, Linksys offers good documentation and free tech support.

But as we learned from the Chevrolet Corvair, New Coke and the movie “Gigli”, nothing is perfect. Be aware of the following potential issues.

  • USB Wireless Network Adapters get grumpy if you plug them into a USB splitter or a USB hub. Plug these directly into an internal USB port to prevent problems.
  • Wireless signals broadcast at 2.4 gHz. This could interfere with some cordless phones using the same frequency. The solution is to tweak your WAP settings or to buy a new phone. Check your cordless phone before purchasing anything.
  • Now that you have basic wireless networking, don’t forget about security. Your network will be completely unprotected and visible to everyone until you change security settings.

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