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way, which is a device that bundles a wireless AP and a cable/DSL router into
a single unit. In this case, the wireless Internet gateway also has a connection
for a printer and acts as a print server. Read through Chapters 1 and 5 for
more information about these devices, what they do, and how to choose
between them.



Wireless
Internet
gateway
& printer
server
Figure 4-3:
A wireless
Wireless
home
PCs
network
with
wireless
Printer
Internet
gateway
and bundled
Printer
print server.



Connecting your printer to the wireless Internet gateway device is advanta-
geous because a print server permits the printer to stand alone on the net-
work, untethered from any specific computer. When you want to print to a
printer that™s connected directly to a computer on the network, that com-
puter must be present and turned on; and, in many cases, you must have a
user account and appropriate permission to access the shared printer. A
print server makes its printers always available to any computer on the
network ” even from poolside.



Adding entertainment and more
When you™re planning your wireless network, don™t forget to plan to add a few
gadgets for fun and relaxation. The wildly popular video-game consoles from
Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all offer network connectivity and Internet con-
nectively as well. Don™t forget to consult with the gamers in your household
when planning where you will need network coverage in your home. And
don™t forget to take a look at Chapter 12 for the skinny about connecting your
favorite console to your wireless network, as well as info on network-based,
multi-user PC gaming.
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Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network

An increasing number of consumer electronics devices, such as digital home
entertainment systems, are network aware. Feature-packed home media
servers can store thousands of your favorite MP3s and digital videos and
make them available over the network to all the computers in your house.
Several even include optional wireless networking connectivity. Connecting
the sound and video from your PC to your home theater is even possible ”
really. Imagine surfing the Internet on a wide-screen TV! Jump to Chapter 13
for the details about connecting your A/V gear to your wireless home network.

Some of the coolest home electronic technology in recent years enables you
to control the lights, heating, cooling, security system, home entertainment
system, pool, and so on, right from your computer. Equally exciting technol-
ogy enables you to use a home network to set up a highly affordable home
video monitoring system. By hooking these systems to your wireless network
and hooking the network to the Internet, you can make it possible to monitor
and control your home™s utilities and systems, even while away from home.
Check out Chapter 14 for more about these smart home technologies as well
as additional cool things that you can network, such as connecting to your
car or using your network to connect to the world.




Connecting to the Internet
When you get right down to it, the reason why most people build a wireless
network in their home is to share their Internet connection with multiple
computers or devices that they™ve got around the house. That™s why we did
it ” and we bet that™s why you™re doing it. We™ve reached the point in our
lives where a computer that™s not constantly connected to a network and to
the Internet is just about useless. We™re not really even exaggerating too
much here. Even things that you do locally (use a spreadsheet program, for
example) can be enhanced by an Internet connection; in that spreadsheet
program, you can link to the Internet to do real-time currency conversions.

What a wireless network brings to the table is true whole-home Internet
access. Particularly when combined with an always-on Internet connection
(which we discuss in just a second) ” but even with a regular dialup modem
connection ” a wireless network lets you access the Internet from just about
every nook and cranny of the house. Take the laptop out to the back patio,
let a visitor connect from the guest room, or do some work in bed. Whatever
you want to do and wherever you want to do it, a wireless network can
support you.

A wireless home network (or any home network, for that matter) provides
one key element. It uses a NAT router (we describe this later in this section)
to provide Internet access to multiple devices over a single Internet connec-
tion coming into the home. With a NAT router (which will typically be built
into your access point or in a separate home network router), you cannot
80 Part II: Making Plans

only connect more than one computer to the Internet, but you can simultane-
ously connect multiple computers (and other devices like game consoles) to
the Internet over a single connection. The NAT router has the brains to figure
out which Web page or e-mail or online gaming information is going to which
client (PC/device) on the network.

Not surprisingly, in order to take advantage of this Internet-from-anywhere
access in your home, you™ll need some sort of Internet service and modem.
We™re not going to get into great detail about this topic, but we do want to
make sure that you keep it in mind when you plan your network.

Most people access the Internet from a home computer in these ways:

Dialup telephone connection
Digital subscriber line (DSL)
Cable Internet
Satellite broadband

DSL, cable, and satellite Internet service are often called broadband Internet
service, which is a term that gets defined differently by just about everyone
in the industry. For our purposes, we define it as a connection that™s faster
than a dialup modem connection (sometimes called narrowband) and which
is always on. That is, you don™t have to use a dialer to get connected, but
instead you have a persistent connection that™s available immediately with-
out any set-up steps necessary for the users (at least after the first time
you™ve set up your connection).

Broadband Internet service providers are busily wiring neighborhoods all
over the United States, but none of the services are available everywhere.
(Satellite is available almost everywhere, but like satellite TV, you need to
meet certain criteria such as having a view to the south: that is, facing the
satellites, which orbit over the equator.) Where it is available, however, grow-
ing numbers of families are experiencing the benefits of always-on and very
fast Internet connectivity.

In some areas of the country, wireless systems are beginning to become avail-
able as a means of connecting to the Internet. Most of these systems use spe-
cial radio systems proprietary to their manufacturers. That is, you buy a
transceiver and an antenna and hook it up on your roof or in a window. But a
few are actually using modified versions of Wi-Fi to provide Internet access to
people™s homes. In either case, you™ll have some sort of modem device that
connects to your AP via a standard Ethernet cable, just like you™d use for a
DSL or cable modem connection.
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Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network

For the purpose of this discussion of home wireless networks, DSL and cable
Internet are equivalent. If you can get both at your house, shop around for
price and talk to your neighbors about their experiences. You might also
check out www.broadbandreports.com, which is a Web site where cus-
tomers of a variety of broadband services discuss and compare their experi-
ences. As soon as you splurge for a DSL or cable Internet connection, the PC
that happens to be situated nearest the spot where the installer placed the
DSL or cable modem is at a distinct advantage because it will be the easiest
computer to connect to the modem ” and therefore to the Internet. Most
DSL and cable modems connect to the PC through a wired network adapter
card. The best way, therefore, to connect any computer in the home to the
Internet is through a home network.

You have two ways to share an Internet connection over a home network:

Software-based Internet connection sharing: Windows 98 (and later
versions of Windows) and Mac OS X enable sharing of an Internet con-
nection. Each computer in the network must be set up to connect to the
Internet through the computer that™s connected to the broadband
modem. The disadvantage with this system is that you can™t turn off or
remove the computer that™s connected to the modem without discon-
necting all computers from the Internet. In other words, the computer
that™s connected to the modem must be on for other networked comput-
ers to access the Internet through it.
Cable/DSL router: By connecting a cable/DSL router between the broad-
band modem and your home network, all computers on the network can
access the Internet without going through another computer. The
Internet connection no longer depends on any computer on the network.
Cable/DSL routers are also DHCP servers and typically include switches.
In fact, the AP and/or the modem can also include a built-in router that
provides instant Internet sharing all in one device.

Read through Chapter 9 for the details on how to set up Internet sharing.

Given the fact that you can buy a router (either as part of an access point or
a separate router) for well under $100 these days (and prices continue to
plummet), we think that it™s really a false economy to skip the router and use
a software-based Internet connection sharing setup. In our minds, at least,
the advantage of the software-based approach (very slightly less money up
front) is outweighed by the disadvantages (requiring the PC to always be on,
lower reliability, and lower performance).
82 Part II: Making Plans

Both software-based Internet connection sharing and cable/DSL routers
enable all the computers in your home network to share the same network
(IP) address on the Internet. This capability uses network address translation
(NAT). A device that uses the NAT feature is often called a NAT router. The
NAT feature communicates with each computer on the network by using a
private IP address assigned to that local computer, but the router uses a
single public IP address in data that it sends to computers on the Internet. In
other words, no matter how many computers you have in your house sharing
the Internet, they look like only one computer to all the other computers on
the Internet.

Whenever your computer is connected to the Internet, beware the potential
that some malicious hacker will try to attack your computer with a virus or
try to break into your computer to trash your hard drive or steal your per-
sonal information. Because NAT technology hides your computer behind the
NAT server, it adds a measure of protection against hackers, but you should-
n™t rely on it solely for protection against malicious users. You should also
consider purchasing full-featured firewall software that actively looks for and
blocks hacking attempts, unless the AP or router that you purchase provides
that added protection. We talk about these items in more detail in Chapter 10.

As we recommend earlier in the section “Choosing an access point,” try to
choose an AP that also performs several other network-oriented services.
Figure 4-4 depicts a wireless home network using an AP that also provides
DHCP, NAT, a printer server, and switched hub functions in a single stand-
alone unit. This wireless Internet gateway device then connects to the DSL or
cable modem, which in turn connects to the Internet. Such a configuration
provides you with connectivity, sharing, and a little peace of mind, too.

If you already have a wired network and you™ve purchased a cable/DSL router
Internet gateway device without the AP function, you don™t have to replace
the existing device. Just purchase a wireless access point. Figure 4-5 depicts
the network design of a typical wired home network with an AP and wireless
stations added. Each PC in the wired network is connected to the cable/DSL
router, which is also a switch. By connecting the AP to the router, the AP acts
as a bridge between the wireless network segment and the existing wired
network.
83
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network



Wireless
Internet Internet
Figure 4-4:
gateway
Go for a & print
wireless server Wired PC
gateway
that
Wireless
combines
PCs
AP, DHCP, Cable/DSL
NAT, a print modem
server, and
switched Printer
hub
functions
Printer
into one unit.




Wired
network


Wireless
PCs Wired
Wired
PC
PC




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