Living the Wireless Life: Wireless Home Networking

Tired of the jumbled mess of cables attached to the back of your computer? Daydreaming about computing in the kitchen? Get ready to cut the cord on your Internet connection and start surfing the wireless way.

Establishing your own wireless network is relatively straightforward. Depending on your setup, you can buy the equipment you need, set everything up and begin surfing in one afternoon.

What is Wi-Fi?
Before we get started, let's cover the basics: Wi-Fi is short for "wireless fidelity," and is used synonymously with "wireless" and "wireless network."

When you set up Wi-Fi in your home, you can access your high-speed Internet connection cord-free and access your Wi-Fi network through a desktop, laptop and/or PDA. (PDA stands for "personal digital assistant." Common brands include Palm, HP and Sony.)

Once you're Wi-Fi enabled, you'll be able to take advantage of the ever-growing list of Wi-Fi hotspots when you're out and about. Coffee shops, hotels and sometimes even whole swaths of Main Street are now broadcasting a wireless Internet connection that anyone with an enabled laptop or PDA can access. To find Wi-Fi hotspots in your area, visit www.wififreespot.com.

What you'll need
The recipe for Wi-Fi calls for only three ingredients:
  • A high-speed Internet connection, whether it's a cable modem or DSL
  • A cable/DSL wireless router: a small device that connects to your high-speed modem and broadcasts the Internet connection over radio frequencies and into the air (common cable/DSL wireless router name brands include Linksys, NetGear and D-Link)
  • A wireless card: a device that you insert into your computer to pick up the signal your wireless router is broadcasting
That's it. Chances are you already have the high-speed Internet connection. For the other two items, you'll have to go shopping. (Note: In home use, the two standard protocols for wireless routers and wireless cards are 802.11b and 802.11g. For a comparison of the protocols and to decide which one is best for you, see the chart at the end of this article.)

 

Doing the tech work
Establishing your Wi-Fi isn't rocket science, but it does require a dose of technical confidence. We turned to Jesse Randall, president of Randall Consulting in New York, NY, for step-by-step installation processes, which will have you up and running (without tripping over wires!) in just a short time.

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