Dreaming of a PC desktop with less clutter? Thinking maybe wireless is the way to go? I’ll try to answer some of your most frequent questions about wireless networking in this week’s column.
First of all, the most valid reason to go wireless on your home network is convenience. Ethernet networks (using cable connections) are still the fastest and most secure. That said, today’s wireless equipment and standards are plenty fast and they can be made adequately secure.
Like to be able to take your laptop into the den or even to bed with you? Enjoy reading the New York Times from your Kindle out on the deck on a warm spring day? Want to do your printing from someplace other than a cluttered desk; or even be able to move the printer just by carrying it to another room and plugging into a different wall outlet? These are just a few of the conveniences you can enjoy if you set up your wireless network properly.
Basic requirements for a wireless network include Internet access through some kind of modem; usually from a phone company or a cable company, a router with a wireless access point and PCs and other peripherals that have wireless adaptors. A typical home network could include one desktop PC (hard wired to the router), two or more laptops (Windows and Mac OK), a wireless printer serving all computers, one or more e-Book readers (like Kindle), a gaming device for the kids and one or more wireless enabled TV sets.
The key device in the network is the router which provides either directly connected Interment access or wireless access to the Internet. Not only are devices connected to the Internet as required, but they are connected to each other which allows you to share files and printers. Don’t just choose the cheapest router as your house may have multi-floors, lots of walls between rooms and construction interferences like plastered walls, firewalls, metal piping runs, etc.
It is easier to setup a wireless network when all the computers use the same brand (or compatible) networking components and the same operating system, like all Windows 7 for example. PCs of a similar age are easier to setup because you won’t run into updated driver issues and the like. Not to say these issues can’t be overcome; it’s just easier when you plan ahead for compatibility. At one time my home/office network had Windows 98, Win Vista, Win XP, Win 7, Mac and Linux PCs on it: but it took me awhile to get them all talking.
Almost all laptops purchased today come with wireless adaptors, but if you want a desktop to connect wirelessly, you’ll need to buy a portable adaptor (connects via a USB Port).
The last question was what brand of networking equipment do I recommend? Cisco is to networking like Kleenex is to tissues. That’s not to say other brands are not OK. Cisco sells networking equipment for personal use under the Linksys label and the newer, sexier, user friendly Valet label.