If you use a Pocket PC handheld computer, the folks at Netstumbler.com have
a program for you: Mini Stumbler, available at the same Web site (www.net
stumbler.com). Thereâ™s also a similar program available for Mac OS X com-
puters, called MacStumbler (www.macstumbler.com).
In fact, a growing number of these network sniffer programs are available,
and most of them free to download. You can find a list at the Personal Telco
Project at www.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/WirelessSniffer.
Boingoâ™s client software (available at www.boingo.com) can also be used as a
network sniffer program (as long as youâ™re using a compatible operating
system and network adapter). The primary purpose of this software, of
course, is to manage your connections to Boingoâ™s network, but Boingo has
also designed the software (and encourages the use of it) as a means of find-
ing and connecting to freenets and other public open networks.
You can even use the Boingo software as a manager for all your Wi-Fi network
connections. If youâ™ve got a wireless network at home, one or more in the
office, plus some public networks that you want to connect to, try out
Boingoâ™s software. Itâ™s really pretty cool.
The Part of Tens
In this part . . .
This is the part youâ™ve been waiting for, right? Weâ™ve
included four top-ten lists here that we hope youâ™ll ď¬nd
interesting as well as helpful â” ten frequently asked ques-
tions about wireless home networking; ten ways to
improve the performance of your wireless home network;
ten way-cool devices that youâ™ll (eventually) connect to
your wireless home network; and the top ten sources for
more information about wireless networking.
Ten FAQs about Wireless
In This Chapter
Picking the right standard
Dealing with dead Internet connections
Getting games going
Keeping things secure
Finding out about firmware
B uilding a wireless network is getting a lot easier, but it still can be tough
to figure things out. One of the toughest things about a wireless network
is that when it breaks, itâ™s not like you can go see where itâ™s not plugged in,
like you often can with a wired network. With the advent of new security and
other logical layer configurations, itâ™s easy for things to get out of sync . . .
and yes, it can take a while to debug things.
As a starting point for issues, we asked vendors what questions pop up over
and over. The following lists those most frequently asked questions that
reflect some of the things that vendors felt users could benefit from knowing
more about (we spend the rest of the chapter providing the answers):
1. What standard is right for me?
2. I can connect to the Internet by using an Ethernet cable but not by using
my wireless local area network (LAN). What am I doing wrong?
3. How do I get my video games to work on my wireless LAN?
4. My videoconferencing application doesnâ™t work. What do I do?
5. How do I secure my network from hackers?
6. How do I check to make sure that Iâ™m secure?
306 Part V: The Part of Tens
7. What is firmware, and why might I need to upgrade it?
8. Isnâ™t Network Address Translation (NAT) the same as a firewall?
9. How can I find out my Internet Protocol (IP) address?
10. If everything stops working, what can I do?
If you donâ™t see the particular question that youâ™re asking in the preceding
list, we recommend that you at least skim through this chapter anyway. You
never know; you might find your answer lurking where you least expect it, or
you might come across a tidbit of information that will later come in handy.
And throughout this chapter, we also steer you to where in the book we fur-
ther discuss various topics â” which might in turn lead you to your answer
(or to other tidbits of information that will later come in handy). What weâ™re
saying is that reading this chapter can only help you. And also check out
Chapter 18, where we give you some troubleshooting tips.
If youâ™re new to Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, this chapter is a
great place to start because you get a good overview to the things that a lot
of people ask (when they havenâ™t read the manual or this book!), and you can
get to some meat (hope youâ™re not vegetarian!) of the issues surrounding
wireless. So donâ™t feel bad if you feel like youâ™re reading the book backward.
(Just donâ™t read it upside down.)
We firmly believe in the power of the Web and of using vendor Web sites for
all theyâ™re worth. Support is a critical part of this process. When youâ™re
deciding on a particular piece of equipment for your home network, take a
look at the support area on the vendor site for that device. Look at the fre-
quently asked questions (FAQs) for the device. This is where you might find
some of those hidden gotchas that you wish you knew before buying the gear.
Q. What standard is right for me?
This is probably the most-asked question, and you probably wonâ™t like our
answer. No, itâ™s not, âIt depends,â (we hate that answer, too); itâ™s, âBuy an
802.11a/g device as your core access point (AP) so that you can figure this out
down the road.â If you have some 802.11b gear in your house, no problem â”
802.11g will support it, albeit at the lower 802.11b speeds. As the g hardware
comes down in price, you might find that you move your older b equipment
to that vacation home or use it elsewhere.
Also, some of the cable industry companies are moving to implement 802.11a
in their set top boxes, as are some specialty A/V companies. So youâ™ll want
some 802.11a around the house.
If we thought that you could get an a/g/Bluetooth device, we would say to grab
that, too, but thatâ™s likely to be well down the pike. (Head over to Chapter 15
for the skinny on Bluetooth.)
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks
Think of it this way: In the early days of radio, there were a lot of similar
debates over whether to buy an AM or FM radio. In fact, both have perfectly
valid uses and coexist nicely in AM/FM radios today. For the near term,
802.11a and 802.11b/g will both have their proponents, and both will likely be
needed in your household at some point regardless of which standard you
prefer. We think that by the end of 2003, a/g devices will be the standard
offering by the equipment manufacturers.
If youâ™re determined to pick one specific version, say 802.11b (after all, both
the 802.11a and g technologies are still relatively early in their lifecycle), we
respect that and feel that 802.11b will work great for almost all applications
with the exception of the high-bandwidth requirements of high-quality
streaming video. If you anticipate accessing video over your wireless net-
work, such as for streaming MovieLink movies-on-demand through your PC
over wireless to your home entertainment center, youâ™ll probably want to
boost this to an a or g connection. If you have a couple of microwaves and
lots of 2.4 GHz cordless phones around, 802.11a might be better for your envi-
ronment. Likewise, if your house is spread out and/or youâ™ve got 5 GHz
phones, 802.11g could be your answer.
For longevity and investment protection, we advocate 802.11 a/g dual-mode
Q. I can connect to the Internet by using an Ethernet cable but not
by using my wireless LAN. What am I doing wrong?
In actuality, you are almost there. The fact that everything works for one con-
figuration and not for another actually rules out many potentialities. As long as
your AP and router are the same device (which is most common), you know
that the AP can talk to your Internet gateway (whether itâ™s your cable modem,
digital subscriber line [DSL] model, dialup routers, and so on). You know that
because when youâ™re connected via Ethernet, there is no problem. So the prob-
lem is relegated to being between your AP and your client on your PC.
Most of the time, this is a configuration issue dealing with your Service Set
Identifier (SSID) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) configurations. Your
SSID denotes your service area ID for your LAN, and your WEP controls your
encryption keys for your data packets. Without both, you canâ™t decode the
signals traveling through the air.
Bring up your wireless configuration program, as we discuss in Chapter 6 and
recheck that your SSID is set correctly and that your WEP is likewise correct.
Try typing the word any into the SSID to see whether it finds the AP at that
If neither of those is the problem, borrow a friendâ™s laptop with a compatible
wireless connection to see whether his card can find and sign onto your LAN
when empowered with the right SSID and WEP codes. If it can, you know that
it might be your client card. It could have gone bad.
308 Part V: The Part of Tens
Most cards (or any electronics, generally speaking) have technical problems
within the first 30 days if theyâ™re going to go bad.
If your friendâ™s PC cannot log on, the problem might be with your AP. At this
point, we have to say, âCheck out the vendorâ™s Web site for more specific
problem-solving ideas and call its tech support for further help.â
Q. How do I get my video games to work on my wireless LAN?
This question has an easy answer and a not-so-easy answer. The easy answer
is that you can get your Xbox, PlayStation 2, or GameCube onto your wireless
LAN by linking the Ethernet port on your gaming device (if necessary, pur-
chasing a network adapter kit to add an Ethernet port on your system) with a
wireless bridge â” which gets your gaming gear onto your wireless network in
a very easy fashion. You just need to be sure to set your bridge to the same
SSID and WEP as your LAN.
Thatâ™s the easy part, and you should now be able to access the Internet from
The tough part is allowing the Internet to access you and your gaming
system. This is required for certain games, two-way voice, and aspects of
multiplayer gaming. For this, you might need to open up certain ports in your
router to enable those packets bound for your gaming system to get there.
This is port forwarding (or something like that; vendors love to call things dif-
ferently amongst themselves). Port forwarding basically says to the router
that it should block all packets from accessing your system except those with
certain characteristics that you identify (these types of data packets can be
let through to your gaming server). We talk a lot about this in Chapter 11, so
be sure to read up on that before tinkering with your router configuration.
If this is too complex to pull off with your present router, you might consider
just setting up a demilitarized zone (DMZ) for your gaming application, where
this sits fairly open to the network. This is not a preferred setup, however, for
security reasons, and we recommend that you try to get port forwarding to
work. We discuss setting up a DMZ in Chapter 12.
Q. My videoconferencing application doesnâ™t work. What do I do?
In some ways, videoconferencing is its own animal in its own world.
Videoconferencing has its own set of standards that it follows, typically has
specialized hardware and software, and until very recently, has required spe-
cial telephone lines to work.
The success of the Internet and its related protocols has opened this up to a
more mass market with IP standards-based Web cameras and other software-
based systems becoming popular.
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks
Still, if youâ™ve installed a router with the appropriate protection from the
Internet bad guys, videoconferencing can be problematic for all the same rea-
sons as gaming that we mention earlier. You need to have packets coming into
your application just as much as you are sending packets out to someone.
Now wait a minute. You might be thinking, âData packets come into my
machine all the time (like when I download Web pages), so what are you
saying?â Well, those packets are requested, and the router in your AP (or
your separate router, if thatâ™s how your network is set up) knows that theyâ™re
coming and lets them through. Videoconferencing packets are often unre-
quested, which makes the whole getting-through-the-router thing a bit
As such, the answer is the same as with gaming. You need to open ports in
your router (port forwarding) or to set up your video application in a DMZ.
Again, Chapter 12 can be a world of help here.
Q. How do I secure my network from hackers?
Nothing is totally secure from anything. âWhere thereâ™s a will, thereâ™s a way,â
tends to govern most discussions about someone hacking into your LAN. So
we tend to fall back on, âUnless you have some major, super-secret hidden
trove of something on your LAN that a lot of people would simply kill to have
access to, the chances of a hacker spending a lot of time to get on your LAN
is minimal.â This means that as long as you do the basic security enhance-
ments that we recommend in Chapter 10, you should be covered.
These basic enhancements cover
Securing your Internet connection: At a minimum, you should turn on
whatever firewall protection that your router offers. If you can, choose a
router thatâ™s got Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI). You should also use
antivirus software and seriously consider using personal firewall soft-
ware on your PCs. Itâ™s defense in depth â” after the bad guys get by your
router firewallâ™s Maginot line, youâ™ve got extra guns to protect your PCs.
(For a little historical perspective on defense strategies, read up on
Maginot and his fortification.)
Securing your airwaves: Because wireless LAN signals can travel right
through your walls and out the door, you should strongly consider turn-
ing on WEP (and taking other measures that we discuss in Chapter 10)
to keep the next-door neighbors from snooping on your network.
Q. How do I check to make sure that Iâ™m secure?
Itâ™s often easy to determine whether youâ™ve opened up your ports because