It flies through the air with the greatest of ease.
By Arthur Bleich
you want to share a cable or DSL connection between two or more
computers at different locations inside your home, wireless can
make it virtually effortless. And then, of course, thereās the convenience
of taking your laptop anywhere within wireless range without losing
Internet access. Since the web is such an integral part of our lives
these days, thereās a great need (some might describe it as a compulsion)
to stay connected wherever we are.
decided to go wireless when my wife set up her new PC several rooms
away from where my internet modem was located and wanted to use
our DSL service. After checking out a hard-wired router that would
allow us to share the connection, it became apparent that running
a cable from the router to her computer would be a major undertaking.
And since I also wanted to use my Mac laptop outside when the weather
was nice and be able check my email from time to time, wireless
seemed like the perfect solution.
routers today usually use one of two standards, both of which are
compatible. The granddaddy is is 802.11b while the other is the
newer and more powerful 802.11g with faster data transfer (54Mbps
vs. 11Mbps) and longer range (up to 1,800 feet under optimal conditions).
router takes your internet signal öafter it passes through your
modemö and directs it to multiple computers, wherever they may be.
You simply remove the cable that connects your modem to your computer
and plug it into the router insteadö itās a no brainer. You then
have to configure the router; that can be a little dicey but, as
it turned out, the whole network was a lot easier to set up than
I thought. Hereās the best (and simplest) way to do it.
Buy a router with good manufacturer tech support. There are many
possible settings (depending on how your cable or DSL modem is configured)
and even a well-written manual can be hard to decipher. I chose
Belkin equipment because it comes with toll-free, 24/7 phone support.
When I ran into a problem on the Sunday afternoon I chose to do
my installation, I called them. Sure enough, someone on the other
end was immediately available to cheerfully walk me through it,
step by step, and in less than ten minutes I was up and running.
The router I chose, the 802.11g Wireless DSL/Cable Gateway Router
(MSRP US$80) has both wired and wireless capabilities so I could
easily run the existing cable from my nearby desktop computer to
it while using its wireless capabilities for my wifeās distant computer
and our laptops..
This particular router can serve as many as four computers at a
time. But each computer you want to use has to be capable of receiving
its signal. You can accomplish that in several ways.
I popped a Belkin 802.11g Wireless Desktop Network Card (MSRP US$20)
into my wifeās PC, a ten-minute job, including installing the software
drivers. As soon as the computer rebooted, it immediately recognized
the signal that was being sent from the router and she had Internet
If you donāt want to dig around in the guts of your machine to install
a wireless card, you can get a Belkin Wireless G USB Network Adapter
(MSRP US$67). Plug it into any USB port on your desktop computer
or laptop, install the drivers, and youāll be in business..
My wife also has a PC laptop with built in wireless capability.
When she booted it up, it automatically received the wireless routerās
signal and she was able to use it anywhere inside or outside the
Not to be outdone, I then fired up my Mac iBook which has an older
802.11b wireless Airport card installed and it recognized the Belkin
router, too. I took it outside and received a super-strong signal
from the router at 70 feet away, which is smack in the middle of
your wireless network is set up, your computers can share files,
printers, and scanners, and your laptop will be able to connect
wirelessly to the Internet at various hotspots in hotels, airports,
coffee houses, and other locations. (Check out: www.wi-fihotspotslist.com).
Itās great way to go!
802 should I get?
it didnāt start with 802.11a, and 802.11b isnāt better than 802.11a.
802.11b just so happened to be the WiFi standard that caught on.
These days, 802.11b equipment is dirt cheap because it is slower
than some of the newer and faster standards. 802.11a is much faster,
but it isnāt compatible with 802.11b equipment. 802.11a has one
big advantage: It uses the 5-GHz spectrum where there is none of
the interference from cordless phones and other household gizmos
that occasionally bedevils 802.11b connections. 802.11g is faster
and uses the same 2.4 GHz frequency as 802.11b. It suffers from
interference like 802.11b, but its compatibility with existing equipment
means that the 802.11g standard is winning. There are some (rather
expensive) products that offer all three standards, and thus the
best of all worlds. Such products can be configured so that they
switch to the interference-free 802.11a protocol for certain operations
where speed matters, such as transferring large files between certain
devices, while using 802.11b or g for less demanding chores. Our
advice: go with 802.11g. It is fast and inexpensive.
H. Bleich (email@example.com) is a photographer, writer, and educator
who lives in Miami. He does assignments for major publications both
in the U.S. and abroad, and conducts digital photography workshop
cruises. Visit his Digital PhotoCorner at www.dpcorner.com.