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Instead of having outlets or spigots, your connection is in the air floating
around your head. If you have a device that has the right protocols and pass-
words ” and is in range ” it can log onto this wireless backbone in your
home. Over this backbone can ride data, running between computers and the
Internet; MP3s, going from your stereo to your car; videos, from the Internet
to your TV set; and more. As you find more and more consumer devices
sporting wireless interfaces, you can be happy that you™ve got a home wire-
less network for them to log onto and link to your other devices and network
connections . . . and your PC!

File sharing
As you probably know, computer files are created any time that you use a
computer. If you use a word processing program such as Microsoft Word to
write a document, Word saves the document on your computer™s hard drive
as an electronic file. Similarly, if you balance your checkbook by using Intuit
Quicken, this software saves your financial data onto the computer™s drive in
an electronic file.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking

A computer network lets you share those electronic files between two or
more computers. For example, you can create a Word document on your
computer, and your spouse, roommate, child, sibling, or whoever can pull the
same document up on his/her computer screen over the network. With the
right programs, you can even view the same documents at the same time!

But here™s where you get into semantics ” what™s a computer? Your
car has more computing and networking capability than the early moon
rockets. Your stereo is increasingly looking like a computer with a black
matte finish. Even your refrigerator and microwave are getting on-board
computing capabilities ” and they all have files and information that needs
to be shared.

The old way of moving files between computers and computing devices
involved copying the files to a floppy disk and then carrying the disk to the
other computer. Computer geeks call this method of copying/transferring
files the SneakerNet approach. In contrast, copying files between computers
is easy to do over a home network with no need for floppy disks (or sneak-
ers). It™s almost as simple as copying files from your computer™s hard drive to
a floppy disk.

What™s interesting is that more computers and devices are getting used to talk-
ing to one another over networks in an automated fashion. A common applica-
tion is synchronization, where two devices will talk to one another and make
the appropriate updates to each other™s stored information so that they are
current with one another. Rockford Corporation (www.omnifimedia.com), for
instance, offers MP3 servers for cars that have wireless connectivity built in so
that when your car returns home, it can “talk” to your home wireless network
and computers and add any new CDs to its hard drives that your spouse might
have added while you were gone. So you always have your music at your
fingertips ” literally.

Printer and peripheral sharing
Businesses with computer networks have discovered a major benefit: sharing
printers. Companies invest in high-speed, high-capacity printers that are
shared by many employees. Sometimes an entire department shares a single
printer or perhaps a cluster of printers co-located in an area of the office set
aside for printers, copy machines, and fax machines.

Just like in a business network, all the computers on your home network can
share the printers on your network. The cost-benefit of shared printers in a
home network is certainly not as dramatic as it would be for a business, but
the opportunity to save money by sharing printers is clearly one of the real
benefits of setting up a home network. Figure 1-1 depicts a network through
which three personal computers can share the same printer.
10 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

Other peripherals, such as extra storage for your computers or for all those
MP3s that someone in the household might be downloading, also are great to
share. Anything connected to your PCs or which has a network port (we talk
about these in great detail throughout the book) can be shared anywhere on
your wireless network.


Figure 1-1:
Share and
share alike:
Share one
printer via Printer
your home

Internet connection sharing
Another driving reason behind many homeowners™ interest in home network-
ing is a desire to share an Internet connection. As the Internet becomes a crit-
ical part of day-to-day living ” from kids doing their homework to managing
your bank account ” it™s only natural that more than one person in the
household wants to get online at the same time. And with the sudden interest
in broadband connections (cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), and satellite
modems) for Internet connections, we can guess that the demand at home
has only soared.

High-speed (broadband) Internet service is very appealing. Not only is the
connection to the Internet up to 50 times or more faster than a dialup con-
nection, with sharing enabled over your wireless network, all the computers
connected to the network can access the Internet at one time through the
same broadband service for one monthly fee (roughly $50 a month or even
less in some areas). And you can surf and talk on the phone at the same time.
No more having your dialup connection tie up your phone line!

Modem types
Your wireless network helps you distribute information throughout the
home. It™s agnostic as to how you access your outside-of-home networks, like
the Internet. Whether you use a dialup connection or broadband, your wire-
less home network will be applicable.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking

Dialup modem: A device that connects to the Internet by dialing an
Internet service provider (ISP), such as America Online (AOL) or
EarthLink, over a standard phone line.
Cable modem: Modems that connect to the Internet through the same
cable as cable TV. Cable modems connect to the Internet at much higher
speeds than dialup modems and can be left connected to the Internet all
day, every day.
DSL modem: Digital subscriber line modems do use your phone line, but
they permit the phone to be free for other purposes ” voice calls, faxes,
and so on ” even while the DSL modem is in use. DSL modems also con-
nect to the Internet at much higher speeds than dialup modems and can
be left connected 24x7.
Satellite modem: Satellite modems tie into your satellite dish and give
you two-way communications even if you™re in the middle of the woods.
Although they™re typically not as fast as cable modems and DSL links,
they are better than dialup and available just about anywhere in the con-
tinental United States.

Phone jacks versus a network
Most homes built in the last 20 years have a phone jack (outlet) in the wall in
every room in the house where you™d likely use your computer. Consequently,
connecting your computer to the Internet via a dialup modem over a telephone
line doesn™t require a network. You simply run a phone line from your com-
puter™s modem to the phone jack in the wall and you™re in business.

However, without a network or Internet connection sharing turned on at the
computer, the connection cannot be shared between computers; only one
computer can use a given phone line at any given time. Not good.

With a wireless home network, we can help you extend that modem connec-
tion throughout the home. The same is true with your broadband modem ”
it can be shared throughout the home.

Sure, you could have more than one cable or DSL modem in your house, but
don™t bother. Because of their speed (bandwidth), cable and DSL modems
can easily handle the Internet traffic generated by many individual comput-
ers, just like a 50-lane interstate can handle lots of cars at once. Use a net-
work to connect multiple computers to a cable modem or DSL modem to
share an Internet connection.

When configuring your PCs on a network, you can buy equipment that lets
you connect multiple computers to a regular or high-speed modem through
the phone lines ” or even through the power lines ” in your house. The
most popular method for connecting computers to a broadband modem,
12 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

however, is to use a network technology known as Ethernet. Ethernet is an
industry standard protocol used in virtually every corporation and institu-
tion; consequently, Ethernet equipment is plentiful and inexpensive. What™s
more, Ethernet equipment sends data around the network at much faster
speeds than phone-line or power-line networking equipment. Figure 1-2 illus-
trates a network that enables three personal computers to connect to the
Internet through a DSL or cable modem (works the same for a satellite or
dialup modem).



Figure 1-2:
Internet for
all: Set up a PC
network that Printer
many PCs to
connect to
the Internet
through a
DSL or

Refer to Chapter 4 for more about planning and budgeting for your network
and to Chapter 5 for help in selecting your wireless networking equipment.

Home arcades and wireless to go
If you aren™t convinced yet that a home wireless network is for you, we have
five last points that just might change your mind. Check out these:

Multi-user games over the network: If you™re into video games, multi-
player card games, or role-playing games, you might find multi-user
games over the network or even over the Internet fascinating. Chapter 12
discusses how to use your wireless network to play multi-user games.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking

Audio anywhere in the household: Why spend money on CDs and keep
them stacked next to your stereo? Load them on your PC and make them
wirelessly available to your stereo, your car, your MP3 player that you
take jogging, and lots more. Check out Chapter 13 for more info on how
to use your wireless network to send audio and video signals around the
Phone (your Mom™s) home: With some new wireless phone capabilities,
you can get rid of the static of your cordless phone and move digital
over your home wireless network, thus saving money on calls by using
less-expensive, Internet-based phone calling options.
Check your home wireless cam: You can check out your house from
anywhere in the house ” or in the world ” with new wireless cameras
that hop on your home network and broadcast images privately or pub-
licly over the Internet. Want to see whether your kids are tearing apart
the house while you™re working in your office downstairs? Just call up
your wireless-networked camera and check them out. (In our generation,
we always said that “Mom had eyes in the back of her head;” this genera-
tion will probably think that Mom is omniscient!)
Wireless on-the-go: This is great for those with a portable computer.
Many airports, hotels, malls, and coffee shops have installed public wire-
less networks that enable you via hot spots to connect to the Internet
(for a small fee, of course). Refer to Chapter 16 for more about using
wireless networking while away from home.

Wired versus Wireless
Ethernet is the most-often used method of connecting personal computers
together to form a network because it™s fast and its equipment is relatively
inexpensive. In addition, Ethernet can be transmitted over several types of
network cable or sent through the air by using wireless networking equip-
ment. Many new computers have an Ethernet connection built in, ready for
you to plug in a network cable. The most popular wireless networking equip-
ment transmits a form of Ethernet.

Installing wired home networks
Even though we™re talking mostly about wireless networks in this book and
how great they are, we™d be misleading you if we told you that wireless was
the only way to go. Wireless and wired homes each have advantages.
14 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

Wired homes are


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