From the Kenosha News on 5-8-05

Set up Wireless Network and Relax with Laptop

       If you've ever wanted to sit in your recliner and access the internet from your laptop, or if you have multiple computers in your house, it may be time to set up a wireless home network.  This topic will continue next week.

      To setup wireless in your home, you'll need several things:  1) a broadband connection to the internet (cable or DSL), 2) a wireless router, available at an electronics store, and 3) wireless access from your laptop.  By definition, a router is a device that connects two networks together.  In this case, you'll be creating a home network and connecting it to THE network the internet.  If your laptop does not have wireless built-in, you can purchase a wireless adapter for it.  You can also purchase wireless adapters for desktop computers, but I don't see why you'd want to unless you have a desktop that's located too far from your wireless router to run a cable to it.

      I originally put off installing a wireless network at home because I thought all of the computers I have would need to have wireless to connect.  I found that most wireless routers have several wired ports as well, so I was able to connect two desktop computers and an Xbox gaming system to the wired ports on the router as well as providing wireless access to my IBM laptop and my Mac iBook laptop.   All of the computers share the same internet pipe, so one computer doing a large download slows down the others.

      Before you go to the store to purchase your wireless gear, you should know there are currently two different wireless standards:  802.11b and 802.11g.  In laymen's terms, 11b is slower at 11Mbps and 11g is faster at 42Mbps.  Since you'll be connecting to an internet connection that's slower than either one, the speed difference won't really be noticeable, so don't pay much more to get 11g.  Generally, any wireless gear that supports 11g will also communicate with 11b, but at the slower speed.  So, if you purchase a wireless router that supports 11g, but your laptop only has 11b, the router should still be able to "slow down and talk to it."

      It's important to understand that wireless access is a security issue.  If you install your wireless router using the default configuration (how it installs following the basic instructions), anyone within the range of the router's signal can connect to your network.  They could use your internet connection and even spread viruses to the computers on your network!  That isn't a show-stopper, however, since there are a couple of ways to secure your wireless network that are fairly simple.

      When choosing the brand of wireless router to buy, see if any of your friends or colleagues have set one up already.  For example, one of my work colleagues had already installed a Linksys router, so I figured I could ask him if I needed any help with it!  Some other common, reputable brands include Netgear and D-Link.

      Next week, I'll continue by explaining how to physically install the router and giving some tips about setup.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 5-8-05