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The Wonders of Wireless

Category: 2003 Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Mike Berman
Dave Berman

Now, while I am not as overburdened with electronic toys -- or blessed with as much free time -- as my my frizzy-haired offspring, I have played with wireless networking products and have gotten a peek at what's on the horizon.

The prolifieration of different wireless conventions may confuse a lot of folks, and the promise of new technology that will leave those now available in the dust may give others a reason to wait until everything sorts itself out.

There's the old, reliable 802.11b standard, which can keep your network humming at a turtle-esque speed of up to 11 megabytes per second at a maximun distance of 150 feet from the wireless transmitter. Expect a "real" transmission speed of about five megabytes per second.

The drawback here is that it operates on the same frequency as microwave ovens and wireless phones.

Then, after years of bantering with the FCC, came 802.11a. A higher frequency range, a promise of faster speeds (54 to 70 megabytes per second) and the ability to handle video files made it extemely attractive.

Unfortunately all of the 802.11a devices have proven to be a bit flakey and tend to lose their signals or slow way down when extended more than 50 feet from the source. And it's incompatible with 802.11b. Plus the folks at Lynksys have run afoul of the FCC and are singing the antenna blues.

The third, which will be hitting store shelves sometime in July, is 802.11g. This one has also been a long time coming and its capabilities differ depending on who you talk to.

Originally, it was rated at a maximum speed of 22 megabytes per second, but some manufacturers are claiming 54. We'll have to wait and see.

A bit more reliable than 802.11a, these wireless devices operate in the same frequency range as 802.11b, which gives them full compatibility with the older units. Also, from what I've seen, there's less deterioration of signal, extending their effective range at 22 mbs to about 150 feet.

But, of course, as with all things geekish, new technologies promise even faster data flow -- some conventions boasting speeds up to one gigabyte per second.

If you just can't wait to imitate cracker-chomping Dave, 802.11g is the way to go.

Also don't expect instant success when creating your wireless wonderland. Notice that Dave didn't tell you how long it took him to get everything up and running.


Don't get excited just yet, we're not talking about bras here.

We're talking networks and wireless is where it's at for homes and small businesses.

Now you can get excited.

I have 10 different components hooked up to my network and six of those devices are wireless. Why? Convenience. I can work from my laptop anywhere in the house. The kitchen, the bathroom, laying on my couch in front of my big screen tv. Anywhere.

I have four computers in the office, one in the living room, two laptops, a PS2, an XBOX and a Tivo all hooked up to the World Wide Web.

How neat is that!?!?!? It's super neat. Have I gone too far? I don't think so.

In case I need to justify my obsession with this, my office computers run various types of operating systems so I can experiment with different programs, databases and the like. The game consoles are, of course, for online gaming which is now very much in its infancy. The laptops are for... well, sitting my butt in front of the TV while writing Berman vs. Berman articles, watching wrestling in my skivies and eating Ritz crackers with peanutbutter (on the crackers, not my skivies).

I'm able to connect the Tivo to a bridge (similiar to how I hook up the game consoles) and download the latest guides, hook up some neat Tivo hacks like caller ID making a connection between my Linux machine and the Tivo -- all over a network without wires.

Beat that Mike!

Two words of advice: Linksys and security.

If you buy any wireless routers (I swear by Linksys products) and hook them up, be sure never to stick with just the defaults. Most routers come with 64 or 128-bit encryption as well as a selection of various channels, the option of using passwords and channel passphrases.

If you just go with the defaults, someone driving by with a laptop and a wireless card could potentially connect to your network, change your router's configuration and connect to other machines in your network.

That would be bad, very bad.

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