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upgrade your firmware every once in a while to take advantage of bug fixes
and new functionality.

Planning Your Wireless Home Network
Installing and setting up a wireless home network can be very ridiculously
easy. In some cases, after you unpack and install the equipment, you™re up
20 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

and running in a matter of minutes. To assure yourself that you don™t have a
negative experience, however, you should do a little planning. The issues that
you™ll need to consider during the planning stage include the following:

Which of your computers will you connect to the network (and will you
be connecting Macs and PCs or just one or the other)?
Will all the computers be connected via wireless connections, or will one
or more computers be connected by a network cable to the network?
Which wireless technology ” IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, or IEEE
802.11g ” will you use? (Or will you use all of them?)
Which type of wireless adapter will you use to connect each computer
to the network?
How many printers will you connect to the network?
How will each printer be connected to the network ” by connecting it
to a computer on the network or by connecting it to a print server?
Will you connect the network to the Internet through a broadband con-
nection (cable or DSL) or dialup? If so, will you share the Internet con-
nection through a cable/DSL/satellite/dialup router or by using Internet
connection-sharing software?
What other devices might you want to include in your initial wireless
network? Do you plan on listening to MP3s on your stereo? How about
downloading movies from the Internet (instead of running out in the rain
to the movie rental store!)?
How much money should you budget for your wireless network?
What do you need to do to plan for adequate security to assure the pri-
vacy of the information stored on the computers connected to your

We discuss all these issues and the entire planning process in more detail in
Chapter 4.

Choosing Wireless Networking
For those of us big kids who are enamored with technology, shopping for
high-tech toys can be therapeutic. Whether you™re a closet geek or (cough)
normal, a critical step in building a useful wireless home network is choosing
the proper equipment.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking

Connecting to your wireless home network
via your PDA
One of the few areas of personal computing PC with your desktop computer from any-
where Microsoft and Windows has not been the where in your house without needing to
dominant software is the area of handheld com- plug into the docking station.
puters. The PDA devices from Palm became the
Access the Internet from your Pocket PC,
first big success story in handheld computers in
both over your wireless home network and
the early ™90s and have maintained their leader-
at wireless hot spots, such as in Starbucks
ship position ever since. Handhelds from
coffee shops and in many airports and
Hewlett-Packard (formerly Compaq) and other
manufacturers based on Microsoft™s Pocket PC
2002 are finally giving Palm a run for its money. Connect to other Pocket PC devices. For
Even though Pocket PCs are still (on the aver- example, mobile businesspeople can exch-
age) more expensive than Palm PDAs, they ange files or even electronic business cards
boast computing power more akin to a full-sized via a wireless connection.
PC, running scaled-down versions of the most
Download MP3 files to play on your
popular Windows-based application software.
Pocket PC.
Handheld computers, such as computers that
The thought of being able to access your e-mail
run the Windows Pocket PC 2002 operating
or browse the Internet on your HP iPAQ while
system (and later versions of the Microsoft
sipping a latt© in Starbucks is compelling. After
operating system for handheld computers), are
you get your Pocket PC set up with a wireless
perfect candidates for wireless network con-
connection, synchronizing your calendar and
nectivity. By definition, handheld computers are
phone list becomes a snap. But you™ll need a CF
highly portable.
card to do it. See Chapter 2 for more details
Here are a couple of reasons why going wire- about this new category of wireless network
less with Pocket PC 2002 might be worth the adapter. Chapter 7 walks you through installing
trouble. You will be able to wireless network adapters and getting your
PDA ready for Internet access.
Wirelessly synchronize your address book,
calendar, inbox, and so forth on your Pocket

Before you can decide which equipment to buy, take a look at Chapter 4 for
more about planning a wireless home network. And read Chapter 5 for a more
detailed discussion of the different types of wireless networking equipment.
Here™s a quick list of what you™ll need:

Access point: At the top of the list will be at least one wireless access
point (AP), also sometimes called a base station. An AP acts like a wire-
less switchboard that connects wireless devices on the network to each
other and to the rest of the network. You gotta have one of these to create
22 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

a wireless home network. They range in price from about $100 to $300,
with prices quickly coming down. You can get APs from many leading
vendors in the marketplace, including Apple (www.apple.com), D-Link
(www.d-link.com), Linksys (www.linksys.com), NETGEAR (www.
netgear.com), and Siemens/Efficient Networks (www.speedstream.
com). We give you a long list of vendors in Chapter 20, so check that out
when you go to buy your AP.
For wireless home networks, the best AP value is often an AP that™s bun-
dled with other features. The most popular APs for home use also come
with one or more of the following features:
• Network hub or switch: A hub connects wired PCs to the network.
A switch is a “smarter” version of a hub that speeds up network
traffic. (We talk more about the differences between hubs and
switches in Chapter 2.)
• DHCP server: A Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
server assigns network addresses to each computer on the net-
work; these addresses are required for the computers to communi-
• Network router: A router enables multiple computers to share a
single Internet connection. The network connects each computer
to the router, and the router is connected to the Internet through a
broadband modem.
• Print server: Use a print server to add printers directly to the net-
work instead of attaching a printer to each computer on the
In Figure 1-3, you can see an AP that also bundles in a network router,
switch, and DHCP server.
Network interface adapters: As we mention earlier in this chapter,
home networks use a communication method (protocol) known as
Ethernet. The communication that takes place between the components
of your computer, however, does not use the Ethernet protocol. As a
result, for computers on the network to communicate through the
Ethernet protocol, each of the computers must translate between their
internal communication protocol and Ethernet. The device that handles
this translation is a network interface adapter, and each computer on the
network needs one. Prices for network interface adapters are typically
much less than $50, and most new computers come with one at no addi-
tional cost.
A network interface adapter that installs inside a computer is usually
called a network interface card (NIC). Many computer manufacturers
now include an Ethernet NIC with each personal computer as a standard
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking

Figure 1-3:
Look for an
AP that
bundles a
switch, and

Wireless network interface adapter: To wirelessly connect a computer
to the network, you must obtain a wireless network interface adapter for
each computer. Prices range between $50 and $150. A few portable com-
puters now even come with a wireless network interface built in. These
are very easy to use; most are adapters that just plug in.
The four most common types of wireless network interface adapters are
• PC Card: This type of adapter is often used in laptop computers
because most laptops have one or two PC Card slots. Figure 1-4
shows a PC Card wireless network interface adapter.

Figure 1-4:
A PC Card
24 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

• CF card: A Compact Flash (CF) card adapter is smaller in size than
a PC Card adapter and enables you to link a Pocket PC or other
palm-sized computer to your network. Many high-end personal dig-
ital assistants (PDAs) now even come with wireless capability
built-in, obviating the need for a wireless adapter.
• USB: A Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter connects to one of your
computer™s USB ports; these USB ports have been available in
most computers built in the last four or five years.
• ISA or PCI adapter: If your computer doesn™t have a PC Card slot,
CF card slot, or USB port, you have to either install a network inter-
face card or a USB card (for a USB wireless network interface
adapter) in one of the computer™s internal peripheral expansion
receptacles (slots). The expansion slots in older PCs are Industry
Standard Architecture (ISA) slots. The internal expansion slots in
newer PCs and Apple Macintosh computers follow the Peripheral
Component Interconnect (PCI) standard.

More and more PDAs, laptops, and other devices are shipping with wireless
already onboard so you wouldn™t need an adapter of any sort. It just comes
with the wireless installed in the device. We tell you how to get your wireless-
enabled devices onto your wireless backbone in Part II of this book.
Chapter 2
From a to g and b-yond
In This Chapter
Learning your a, b, g™s
Networking terms you™ve got to know

U ntil very recently, networked computers were connected only by wire: a
special-purpose network cabling. This type of wiring has yet to become
a standard item in new homes. And the cost of installing network cabling after
a house is already built is understandably much higher than doing so during
initial construction. By contrast, the cost of installing a wireless network in a
particular home is a fraction of the cost of wiring the same residence ” and a
lot less hassle. As a result, because more and more people are beginning to
see the benefits of having a computer network at home, they are turning to
wireless networks in growing numbers. Many of us can no longer recall life
without wireless phones; similarly, wireless computer networking is fast
becoming the standard way to network a home.

But that™s not to say that it™s easy. Face it ” life can sometimes seem a bit
complicated. The average Joe or Jane can™t even order a cup of Java anymore
without having to choose between an endless array of options . . . regular,
decaf, half-caf, mocha, cappuccino, latt©, low fat, no fat, foam, no foam, and
so on. Of course, after you get the hang of the lingo, you can order coffee like
a pro. And that™s where this chapter comes in ” to help you get used to the
networking lingo slung about when you™re planning, purchasing, installing,
and using your wireless network.

Like so much alphabet soup, the prevalent wireless network technologies go
by names like 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g, employ devices such as APs and
PC Cards, and make use of technologies with cryptic abbreviations (TCP/IP,
DHCP, NAT, WEP, and WPA). Whether you™re shopping for, installing, or config-
uring a wireless network, you™ll undoubtedly run across some or all of these
not-so-familiar terms and more. This chapter is your handy guide to this
smorgasbord of networking and wireless networking terminology.
26 Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

If you™re not the least bit interested in buzzwords, you can safely skip this
chapter for now and go right to the chapters that cover planning, purchasing,
installing, and using your wireless network. You can always refer to this chap-
ter anytime that you run into some wireless networking terminology that
throws you. But if you like knowing a little bit about the language that the
locals speak before visiting a new place, read on.

Networking Buzzwords That
You Need to Know
A computer network comprises computers or network-accessible devices ”
and sometimes other peripheral devices such as printers ” connected in a
way that they transmit data between participants. Computer networks have
been commonplace in offices for nearly 20 years, but with the advent of rea-


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