Wireless Home Networking for Dummies

Wireless Home Networking for Dummies
spine=.768”
Computers/Networking/General
™
The world’s going wireless! A wireless network is for more
than just computers; appliances, game consoles, and even
your thermostat may have wireless capabilities. This fully
updated version of the number one book on wireless home
networking is packed cover to cover with everything you
need to know to plan, install, and use a wireless network in
your home.
Open the book and find:
• How to wirelessly control your
home
• Instructions for Windows® 7 and
Mac OS® X Snow Leopard®
• When you do want to use wires
• Suggestions for devices to connect
• The shopping list — find out what equipment you’ll need and
what to look for when shopping
• Where you should (and shouldn’t)
install your access point
• You have standards — understand industry standards and how
802.11n affects you
• Important advice on securing your
network
• It’s in the plan — plan your network with an eye to security,
the types of devices you’ll be connecting, your Internet provider,
and more
• Things you can do with Bluetooth®
• Ten troubleshooting tips
• Roll up your sleeves — follow step-by-step instructions to install
your network
Wireless
g
n
i
k
r
o
w
Home Net
• Oh, the things you can do — share peripherals, use your network
for storage, exchange files between Macs and PCs, and more
Learn to:
• Now the fun stuff — configure your network for gaming or
connect devices into a knockout home entertainment system
• Get going — explore mobile networking, Bluetooth, and how to
find hot spots away from home
Go to Dummies.com®
• Consider financial and logistical issues
when planning a wireless network
for videos, step-by-step examples,
how-to articles, or to shop!
• Design, install, and use a wireless LAN
• Keep your network security up to date
• Plan for the Wi-Fi capability of your
mobile devices
$24.99 US / $29.99 CN / £17.99 UK
Danny Briere is CEO and founder of TeleChoice, Inc., which provides
strategic consulting services to businesses. Pat Hurley is a TeleChoice
consultant specializing in emerging telecommunications technologies.
They are coauthors of Smart Homes For Dummies, Home Theater For
Dummies, and HDTV For Dummies.
4th Edition
4th Edition
Wireless Home Networking
Do you need a wireless network?
Sure you do, and here’s the
easy way to get one
g Easier!
Making Everythin
ISBN 978-0-470-87725-8
Danny Briere
Pat Hurley
Briere
Hurley
Coauthors of Smart Homes
For Dummies, 3rd Edition
spine=.768”
Get More and Do More at Dummies.com ®
Start with FREE Cheat Sheets
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• And Other Good Stuff!
To access the Cheat Sheet created specifically for this book, go to
s
p
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Wireless
Home Networking
FOR
DUMmIES
4TH
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‰
EDITION
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Wireless
Home Networking
FOR
DUMmIES
4TH
‰
EDITION
by Danny Briere and Pat Hurley
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies ®, 4th Edition
Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
www.wiley.com
Copyright © 2011 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published simultaneously in Canada
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written
permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the
Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 646-8600.
Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley
& Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008, or online at http://
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Trademarks: Wiley, the Wiley Publishing logo, For Dummies, the Dummies Man logo, A Reference for the
Rest of Us!, The Dummies Way, Dummies Daily, The Fun and Easy Way, Dummies.com, Making Everything
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All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Wiley Publishing, Inc., is not associated
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REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT TO THE ACCURACY OR COMPLETENESS OF
THE CONTENTS OF THIS WORK AND SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION WARRANTIES OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. NO WARRANTY MAY BE
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2010938828
ISBN: 978-0-470-87725-8
Manufactured in the United States of America
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About the Authors
Danny Briere founded TeleChoice, Inc., a telecommunications consulting
company, in 1985 and now serves as CEO of the company. Widely known
throughout the telecommunications and networking industry, Danny has
written more than 1,000 articles about telecommunications topics and has
authored or edited eight books, including Smart Homes For Dummies, 3rd
Edition; HDTV For Dummies, 2nd Edition; Windows XP Media Center Edition
2004 PC For Dummies; Wireless Network Hacks & Mods For Dummies; and
Home Theater For Dummies, 2nd Edition (all published by Wiley). He is frequently quoted by leading publications on telecommunications and technology topics and can often be seen on major TV networks providing analysis on
the latest communications news and breakthroughs. Danny lives in Mansfield
Center, Connecticut, with his wife and four children.
Pat Hurley is director of research with TeleChoice, Inc., specializing in
emerging telecommunications technologies, including all the latest access
and home technologies: wireless LANs, DSL, cable modems, satellite services,
and home networking services. Pat frequently consults with the leading telecommunications carriers, equipment vendors, consumer goods manufacturers, and other players in the telecommunications and consumer electronics
industries. Pat is the co-author of Smart Homes For Dummies, 3rd Edition;
HDTV For Dummies, 2nd Edition; Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004
PC For Dummies; Wireless Network Hacks & Mods For Dummies; and Home
Theater For Dummies, 2nd Edition (all published by Wiley). He lives in San
Diego, California, with his wife, beautiful daughter, and two smelly and
unruly dogs.
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Authors’ Acknowledgments
Danny wants to thank his wife, Holly, and kids, for their infinite patience
while he constantly tested new wireless technologies in the house, especially
since it usually meant taking something that was (finally) working and replacing it with something that was newer but didn’t work at all. At least it looked
good! Pat, as always, thanks his wife, Christine, for providing her impeccable
judgment when he asks, “Can I write this wisecrack and not offend half the
people in the world?” and for her ability to restrain her desire to knock him
over the head with a big frying pan when deadlines and late-night writing
intrude on their domestic tranquility. He also wants to thank his daughter
Annabel, who let him borrow her DSi, Wii, and other gizmos to play with on
the network, and for generally being the best first grader ever.
Now that we’re on our fourth edition, we have a large and historically significant (to us, at least) list of people to thank, including: Bill Bullock, at
Witopia; Melody Chalaban and Jonathan Bettino at Belkin; Shira Frantzich
from Sterling PR (for NETGEAR); David Henry at NETGEAR; Karl Stetson at
Edelman (for the Wi-Fi Alliance); Mindy Whittington and Ana Corea at Red
Consultancy (for Eye-Fi); Doug Hagan and Mehrshad Mansouri, formerly of
NETGEAR; Dana Brzozkiewicz, at Lages & Associates, for ZyXEL; Trisha King,
at NetPR, for SMC Networks; Fred Bargetzi, at Crestron; Shawn Gusz, at G-NET
Canada (still waiting to try Auroras in our cars!); Karen Sohl, at Linksys; Keith
Smith, at Siemon; Darek Connole and Michael Scott, at D-Link; Jeff Singer, at
Crestron; Amy K Schiska-Lombard, at Sprint; Brad Shewmake, at Kyocera
Wireless; James Cortese, at A&R Partners, for Roku; Bryan McLeod, at
Intrigue Technologies (now part of Logitech); Stu Elefant, at Wireless Security
Corporation (now part of McAfee); Craig Slawson, at CorAccess (good luck,
too!); and others who helped get the content correct for our readers.
Our team at Wiley was awesome as always: Amy Fandrei, our “suit” on
the corporate side of the house and our project editor Kim Darosett, who
deserves a medal, a raise, and perhaps sainthood for putting up with us as we
tried to write to deadlines and keep our day jobs at the same time. We’d also
like to thank our technical editor, Dan DiNicolo, for helping us look smart.
Finally, we always have to thank Melody Layne, who’s moved on to a different
and exciting job at Wiley, but who has always been our champion at Wiley.
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Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at http://dummies.custhelp.com.
For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974,
outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions and Editorial
Composition Services
Project Editor: Kim Darosett
Project Coordinator: Kristie Rees
Acquisitions Editor: Amy Fandrei
Copy Editor: Virginia Sanders
Layout and Graphics: Christin Swinford,
Laura Westhuis
Technical Editor: Dan DiNicolo
Proofreader: Sossity R. Smith
Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron
Indexer: Ty Koontz
Editorial Assistant: Amanda Graham
Sr. Editorial Assistant: Cherie Case
Cartoons: Rich Tennant
(www.the5thwave.com)
Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies
Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher
Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher
Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director
Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director
Publishing for Consumer Dummies
Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher
Composition Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services
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Contents at a Glance
Introduction ................................................................ 1
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals .................... 7
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking ...................................................... 9
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond ................................................................................ 27
Chapter 3: Exploring Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks ................................. 51
Part II: Making Plans ................................................ 67
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network ........................................................... 69
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment.................................... 91
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network ...................... 107
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows ........................................ 109
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network ................................................ 125
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network ......................................................... 143
Chapter 9: Securing Your Home Network................................................................... 161
Part IV: Using Your Wireless Network ....................... 183
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Network to Work ............................................... 185
Chapter 11: Gaming Over Your Wireless Network ....................................................... 205
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center .................................................... 225
Chapter 13: Extending Your Mobile Network............................................................. 245
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network ...................................................... 257
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network...................................................................... 273
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home ........................................................... 285
Part V: The Part of Tens ........................................... 297
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks............................................ 299
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance ...................... 309
Chapter 19: Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network in the Future...... 319
Chapter 20: Ten Sources for More Information ......................................................... 339
Index ...................................................................... 347
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Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................. 1
About This Book .............................................................................................. 1
System Requirements ..................................................................................... 2
How This Book Is Organized .......................................................................... 2
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals......................................... 3
Part II: Making Plans .............................................................................. 3
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network ................................................. 3
Part IV: Using Your Wireless Network................................................. 3
Part V: The Part of Tens ........................................................................ 4
Icons Used in This Book ................................................................................. 4
Where to Go from Here ................................................................................... 5
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals ..................... 7
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Nothing but Net(work): Why You Need One.............................................. 10
File sharing ........................................................................................... 10
Printer and peripheral sharing........................................................... 11
Internet connection sharing ............................................................... 12
Phone calling for free .......................................................................... 14
Home arcades and wireless to go ...................................................... 15
Wired versus Wireless .................................................................................. 16
Installing wired home networks ......................................................... 16
Installing wireless home networks .................................................... 17
Choosing a Wireless Standard ..................................................................... 19
Introducing the 802.11s: a, b, g, and n ............................................... 19
Comparing the standards ................................................................... 21
Planning Your Wireless Home Network...................................................... 22
Choosing Wireless Networking Equipment ................................................ 23
Access point ......................................................................................... 23
Network interface adapters ................................................................ 24
Wireless network interface adapters ................................................ 25
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
Networking Buzzwords You Need to Know ............................................... 28
Workstations and servers ................................................................... 28
Network infrastructure ....................................................................... 30
Network interface adapters ................................................................ 33
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
Getting the (Access) Point ........................................................................... 36
Setting parameters to create your own personal network ............. 37
Comparing infrastructure mode and ad hoc mode ......................... 39
Your Wireless Network’s Power Station: The Antenna ............................ 40
Exploring Industry Standards ...................................................................... 42
Wi-Fi history: 802.11b and 802.11a..................................................... 44
The outgoing standard: 802.11g ......................................................... 45
The next big thing: 802.11n ................................................................. 46
Understanding Wi-Fi Certifications ............................................................. 48
The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)........ 49
The Wi-Fi Alliance ................................................................................ 49
Chapter 3: Exploring Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks. . . . . .51
Who or What Is Bluetooth? .......................................................................... 52
Comparing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth................................................................... 53
Communicating with Bluetooth Devices: Piconets, Masters,
and Slaves ................................................................................................... 55
Understanding Bluetooth connections ............................................. 55
Transmitting data via Bluetooth ........................................................ 56
Securing data in a Bluetooth network ............................................... 58
Integrating Bluetooth into Your Wireless Network ................................... 58
Bluetoothing your mobile phone ....................................................... 59
Wirelessly printing and transferring data ........................................ 60
Extending Your Wireless Home Network with “No New Wires”
Solutions .................................................................................................... 61
Controlling Your Home without Wires ....................................................... 64
Understanding how home control networks work .......................... 64
Exploring wireless networking standards: ZigBee and Z-Wave ..... 65
Part II: Making Plans ................................................. 67
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69
Deciding What to Connect to the Network................................................. 70
Counting network devices .................................................................. 70
Deciding what devices to connect with wires and what
to connect wirelessly ....................................................................... 71
Selecting a wireless technology ......................................................... 72
Choosing an access point ................................................................... 73
Deciding where to install the access point....................................... 75
Adding printers to the network ......................................................... 81
Adding entertainment and more ........................................................ 84
Connecting to the Internet ........................................................................... 85
Budgeting for Your Wireless Network ........................................................ 89
Pricing access points........................................................................... 89
Pricing wireless network adapters .................................................... 90
Looking at a sample budget................................................................ 90
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Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment . . . . . . .91
Choosing an Access Point ............................................................................ 92
Understanding Certification and Standards ............................................... 93
Considering Compatibility and Form Factor.............................................. 95
Looking for Bundled Functionality: Servers, Gateways, Routers,
and Switches ............................................................................................... 97
DHCP servers........................................................................................ 97
NAT and broadband routers .............................................................. 98
Switches ................................................................................................ 99
Print servers ....................................................................................... 100
Exploring Operational Features ................................................................. 100
Knowing What Security Features You Need ............................................ 101
Examining Range and Coverage Issues ..................................................... 102
Controlling and Managing Your Device .................................................... 103
Web-based configuration .................................................................. 104
Software programming ...................................................................... 104
Upgradeable firmware ....................................................................... 104
Taking Price into Account .......................................................................... 105
Checking Out Warranties............................................................................ 105
Finding Out about Customer and Technical Support ............................. 106
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network ....................... 107
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows . . . . . . . .109
Before Getting Started, Get Prepared ....................................................... 109
Setting Up the Access Point ....................................................................... 111
Preparing to install a wireless AP .................................................... 111
Installing the AP ................................................................................. 113
Configuring AP parameters............................................................... 117
Changing the AP Configuration .................................................................. 121
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network. . . . . . . . . . . . .125
Setting Up Wireless Network Interface Adapters .................................... 126
Installing device drivers and client software ................................. 126
PC Cards and mini-PCI cards ............................................................ 129
PCI and PCIx cards ............................................................................. 131
USB adapters ...................................................................................... 132
Connecting to a Wireless Network with Windows XP ............................ 133
Connecting to a Wireless Network with Windows Vista ....................... 135
Connecting to a Wireless Network with Windows 7 ............................... 138
Tracking Your Network’s Performance .................................................... 140
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143
Exploring Your AirPort Hardware Options .............................................. 144
Getting to know the AirPort card..................................................... 144
Apple AirPort Extreme–ready computers ...................................... 145
“Come in, AirPort base station. Over.”............................................ 146
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
Getting aboard the AirPort Express ................................................ 148
Backing up with Time Capsule ......................................................... 150
Using AirPort with OS X Macs .................................................................... 151
Configuring the AirPort base station on OS X ................................ 151
Upgrading AirPort base station firmware on OS X ........................ 156
Connecting another Mac to your AirPort network on OS X ......... 157
Adding a Non-Apple Computer to Your AirPort Network ...................... 158
Connecting to Non-Apple-Based Wireless Networks .............................. 159
Chapter 9: Securing Your Home Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .161
Assessing the Risks ..................................................................................... 162
General Internet security .................................................................. 162
Airlink security ................................................................................... 164
Getting into Encryption and Authentication ............................................ 165
Introducing Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) ................................ 167
Opting for a better way: WPA ........................................................... 170
Clamping Down on Your Wireless Home Network’s Security................ 171
Getting rid of the defaults ................................................................. 172
Enabling encryption .......................................................................... 173
Closing your network ........................................................................ 176
Taking the Easy Road .................................................................................. 178
Going for the Ultimate in Security ............................................................. 179
Part IV: Using Your Wireless Network ........................ 183
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Network to Work . . . . . . . . . . . . .185
A Networking Review .................................................................................. 186
Getting to Know the Windows 7 Network and Sharing Center .............. 187
Sharing in Windows 7 — I Can Do That! ................................................... 190
Choosing what to share .................................................................... 191
Setting up a homegroup in Windows 7 ........................................... 192
Sharing specific libraries .................................................................. 194
Adding users ....................................................................................... 196
Accessing shared files ....................................................................... 197
Be Economical: Share Your Printer ........................................................... 197
Installing a printer in Windows XP .................................................. 198
Installing a printer in Vista and Windows 7.................................... 199
Accessing your shared printers ....................................................... 200
Sharing Other Peripherals .......................................................................... 201
Sharing Files between Macs and Windows-Based PCs ........................... 201
Getting on a Windows network ........................................................ 202
Letting Windows users on your Mac network ............................... 202
Chapter 11: Gaming Over Your Wireless Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205
PC Gaming over a Wireless Home Network ............................................. 206
Getting the right hardware ............................................................... 206
Examining networking requirements ............................................. 207
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Getting Your Gaming Console on Your Wireless Home Network.......... 208
Exploring the advantages to using a console over a PC ............... 208
Connecting your console to your network ..................................... 209
Signing up for console online gaming services ................................ 212
Dealing with Router Configurations to Get a PC or Console Online ..... 216
Getting an IP address ........................................................................ 217
Getting through your router’s firewall ............................................ 219
Setting Up a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) .................................................... 222
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .225
Understanding How Wireless Networking Can Fit Into Your
Entertainment System ............................................................................. 225
Wirelessly Enabling the Gear in Your Home Entertainment System .... 226
Understanding bandwidth requirements for audio and video ...... 227
Exploring your equipment options.................................................. 228
Getting Media from Computers to Traditional (Non-Networked)
A/V Equipment ......................................................................................... 231
Choosing Networked Entertainment Gear................................................ 234
Adding Wi-Fi to Ethernet A/V gear ................................................... 235
Choosing equipment with built-in Wi-Fi .......................................... 236
Putting a Networked PC in Your Home Theater ...................................... 238
Wirelessly Connecting Inside Your Home Theater ................................. 241
Unwiring speakers ............................................................................. 241
Cutting the video cable ..................................................................... 242
Chapter 13: Extending Your Mobile Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .245
Building Your Own Hot Spots with 3G ...................................................... 246
Exploring wireless WAN services .................................................... 246
Getting multiple devices online without buying multiple
service plans ................................................................................... 248
Boosting Your Mobile Network at Home with a Femtocell .................... 252
Exploring the pros and cons of femtocells ..................................... 253
Setting up a femtocell ........................................................................ 255
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .257
“Look, Ma, I’m on TV” — Video Monitoring over Wireless LANs .......... 258
Finding the right wireless network camera for you ...................... 258
Setting up the camera ....................................................................... 261
Controlling Your Home over Your Wireless LAN .................................... 261
Controlling your home-automation system with a touch
panel ................................................................................................ 262
Doing your wireless control less expensively ................................ 264
Storing Your (Digital) Stuff on Your Wireless Network .......................... 265
Exploring your server options ......................................................... 266
Comparing features when buying a server ..................................... 267
Having Your Very Own Wi-Fi Robot .......................................................... 269
Wirelessly Connecting Your Digital Cameras .......................................... 271
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Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .273
Discovering Bluetooth Basics .................................................................... 274
Taking a Look at Bluetooth Mobile Phones ............................................. 276
Exploring Other Bluetooth Devices........................................................... 278
Printers................................................................................................ 279
Audio systems .................................................................................... 279
Keyboards and meeses (that’s plural for mouse!) .............................280
Bluetooth adapters ............................................................................ 281
Communicating with Another Bluetooth Device: Pairing
and Discovery ........................................................................................... 282
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .285
Discovering Public Hot Spots..................................................................... 286
Exploring Different Types of Hot Spots .................................................... 288
Freenets and open access points..................................................... 288
For-pay services ................................................................................. 289
Tools for Finding Hot Spots........................................................................ 291
Staying Secure in a Hot Spot Environment............................................... 293
Using a VPN ........................................................................................ 293
Practicing safe browsing ................................................................... 294
Dealing with Hot Spots on Mobile Devices............................................... 296
Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................ 297
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks . . . . . . . . . . .299
Which Standard Is Right for Me? ............................................................... 300
Are Dual-Band Routers Worth The Extra Money? ................................... 300
I Can Connect to the Internet with an Ethernet Cable But Not
with My Wireless LAN. What Am I Doing Wrong? ................................ 302
How Do I Get My Video Games to Work on My Wireless LAN? ............. 303
My Videoconferencing Application Doesn’t Work. What Do I Do? ....... 303
How Do I Secure My Network from Hackers? .......................................... 304
What Is Firmware, and Why Might I Need to Upgrade It?......................... 305
Is NAT the Same as a Firewall? .................................................................. 306
How Can I Find Out My IP Address? .......................................................... 306
If Everything Stops Working, What Can I Do? .......................................... 307
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless
LAN Performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .309
Check the Obvious ...................................................................................... 310
Move the Access Point................................................................................ 312
Move the Antenna ....................................................................................... 312
Change Channels ......................................................................................... 313
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Check for Dual-Band Interference ............................................................. 313
Check for New Obstacles ............................................................................ 314
Install Another Antenna .............................................................................. 315
Add an Access Point.................................................................................... 316
Add a Repeater or Bridge ........................................................................... 317
Check Your Cordless Phone Frequencies ................................................ 318
Chapter 19: Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
in the Future. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .319
Your Bike ...................................................................................................... 320
Your Car ........................................................................................................ 321
Your Home Appliances ............................................................................... 323
Your Entertainment System ....................................................................... 325
Wi-Fi networking will be built into receivers, Blu-ray disc
players, and TVs.................................................................................... 325
Cables? Who needs them? ................................................................ 327
Your Musical Instruments .......................................................................... 328
Your Pets ...................................................................................................... 329
Your Robots ................................................................................................. 331
Your Apparel ................................................................................................ 332
Understanding the technology behind wearables......................... 333
Wearing personal tracking devices ................................................. 333
Going wireless with jewelry and accessories ................................. 335
Everything in Your Home ........................................................................... 335
Where to ZigBee and Z-Wave ........................................................... 336
Introducing Bluetooth 4.0 ................................................................. 337
Chapter 20: Ten Sources for More Information. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .339
CNET.com ..................................................................................................... 340
Amazon.com, Shopping.com, Pricegrabber.com, and More.................. 341
Wi-Fi Planet, Wifi-Forum, and More ........................................................... 341
PC Magazine and PC World ........................................................................ 342
Electronic House Magazine ........................................................................ 343
Practically Networked................................................................................. 343
ExtremeTech.com........................................................................................ 344
Network World ............................................................................................. 344
Wikipedia ...................................................................................................... 344
Other Cool Sites ........................................................................................... 345
Tech and wireless news sites ........................................................... 345
Industry organizations ...................................................................... 345
Roaming services and Wi-Finder organizations ............................. 345
Manufacturers .................................................................................... 346
Index ....................................................................... 347
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
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Introduction
W
elcome to Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition.
Wireless networking for personal computers isn’t a new idea; it has
been around since the late 1990s. Two big developments have made wireless
go from an expensive niche for geeks to something that just about everyone
is familiar with and has used: first the development of industry-wide standards
(that ensured that wireless equipment would work regardless of who made
it) and then the incorporation of wireless networking capabilities into all
sorts of consumer electronics devices (PCs and laptops, netbook computers,
smart phones, printers, cameras, even TVs). Now . . . well, wireless is
everywhere.
One of the most appealing things about the current crop of wireless networking
equipment is the ease with which you can set up a home network, although
its reasonable price may be its most attractive aspect. In some cases, setting
up a wireless home network is almost as simple as opening the box and
plugging in the equipment; however, you can avoid many “gotchas” by doing
a little reading beforehand. That’s where this book comes in handy.
About This Book
If you’re thinking about purchasing a wireless computer network and installing
it in your home — or if you have an installed network and want to make sure
it’s operating correctly or want to expand it — this is the book for you. Even
if you’ve already purchased the equipment for a wireless network, this book
will help you install and configure the network. What’s more, this book will
help you get the most out of your investment after it’s up and running.
With Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition, in hand, you have
all the information you need to know about the following topics (and more):
✓ Planning your wireless home network
✓ Evaluating and selecting wireless networking equipment for installation
in your home
✓ Installing and configuring wireless networking equipment in your home
✓ Sharing an Internet connection over your wireless network
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
✓ Sharing files, printers, and other peripherals over your wireless network
✓ Playing computer games over your wireless network
✓ Connecting your audiovisual gear to your wireless network
✓ Securing your wireless network against prying eyes
✓ Finding and connecting to wireless hot spots away from home
✓ Creating your own on-the-go wireless networks with 3G wireless
✓ Discovering devices that you can connect to your wireless home network
System Requirements
Virtually any personal computer can be added to a wireless home network,
although some computers are easier to add than others. This book focuses
on building a wireless network that connects PCs running the Windows
operating system (Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7) or Mac OS X. You can
operate a wireless network with Windows 98, Me, or 2000 or with Mac OS 9,
but these systems are less and less able to handle the rapidly increasing
requirements of applications and the Internet. As a result, we focus mostly
on the most recent operating systems — the ones that have been launched
within the past five years or so. Wireless networking is also popular among
Linux users, but we don’t cover Linux in this book.
Because wireless networking is a relatively new phenomenon, the newest
versions of Windows and the Mac OS do the best job of helping you quickly
and painlessly set up a wireless network. However, because the primary
reason for networking your home computers is to make it possible for all the
computers (and peripherals) in your house to communicate, Wireless Home
Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition, gives you information about connecting
computers that run the latest versions of Windows and the most widely used
version of the Mac OS. We also tell you how to connect computers that run
some of the older versions of these two operating systems.
How This Book Is Organized
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition, is organized into 20
chapters that are grouped into five parts. The chapters are presented in a
logical order — flowing from planning to installing to using your wireless
home network — but feel free to use the book as a reference and read the
chapters in any order you want.
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Introduction
3
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Part I is a primer on networking and wireless networking. In case you’ve
never used a networked computer — much less attempted to install a
network — this part of the book provides background information and
technogeek lingo that you need to feel comfortable. Chapter 1 presents
general networking concepts; Chapter 2 discusses the most popular wireless
networking technology and familiarizes you with wireless networking
terminology; and Chapter 3 introduces you to several popular complementary
and alternative technologies to wireless networking, like Bluetooth and
technologies that help you extend the reach of your wired home network.
Part II: Making Plans
Part II helps you plan for installing your wireless home network. Chapter 4
helps you decide what to connect to the network and where to install wireless
networking equipment in your home, and Chapter 5 provides guidance on
making buying decisions.
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network
Part III discusses how to install a wireless network in your home and get the
network up and running. Whether your have Apple Macintosh computers
running the Mac OS (see Chapter 8) or PCs running a Windows operating
system (see Chapters 6 and 7), this part of the book explains how to install
and configure your wireless networking equipment. In addition, Part III
includes a chapter that explains how to secure your wireless home network
(see Chapter 9). Too many people don’t secure their wireless network, and
we want to make sure you’re not one of them!
Part IV: Using Your Wireless Network
After you get your wireless home network installed and running, you’ll
certainly want to use it. Part IV starts by showing you the basics of putting
your wireless network to good use: sharing files, folders, printers, and other
peripherals (see Chapter 10). We discuss everything you want to know about
playing multiuser computer games wirelessly (see Chapter 11), connecting
your audiovisual equipment (see Chapter 12), using broadband mobile services
(3G) to connect when you’re away from home (see Chapter 13), and doing
other cool things over a wireless network (see Chapter 14).
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
Bluetooth-enabled devices are becoming more prevalent these days, so
you don’t want to miss Chapter 15. For that matter, don’t miss Chapter 16,
where we describe how to use wireless networking to connect to the Internet
through wireless hot spots (wireless networks you can connect to for free or
a small cost when you’re on the road) in coffee shops, hotels, airports, and
other public places. How cool is that?
Part V: The Part of Tens
Part V provides three top-ten lists that we think you’ll find interesting — ten
frequently asked questions about wireless home networking (Chapter 17);
ten troubleshooting tips for improving your wireless home network’s
performance (Chapter 18); ten devices to connect to your wireless home
network — sometime in the future (Chapter 19). Finally, we tell you where to
go for even more information in Chapter 20, where we list our top ten (well,
more than ten) places to find out more about the world of wireless.
Icons Used in This Book
All of us these days are hyperbusy people, with no time to waste. To help you
find the especially useful nuggets of information in this book, we’ve marked
the information with little icons in the margin.
As you can probably guess, the Tip icon calls your attention to information
that saves you time or maybe even money. If your time is really crunched, you
may try just skimming through the book and reading the tips.
This icon is your clue that you should take special note of the advice you find
there — or that the paragraph reinforces information provided elsewhere in
the book. Bottom line: You will accomplish the task more effectively if you
remember this information.
Face it, computers and wireless networks are high-tech toys, er tools, that
make use of some complicated technology. For the most part, however, you
don’t need to know how it all works. The Technical Stuff icon identifies the
paragraphs you can skip if you’re in a hurry or just don’t care to know.
The little bomb in the margin should alert you to pay close attention and tread
softly. You don’t want to waste time or money fixing a problem that you could
have avoided in the first place.
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Introduction
5
Where to Go from Here
Where you should go next in this book depends on where you are in the
process of planning, buying, installing, configuring, or using your wireless
home network. If networking in general and wireless networking in particular
are new to you, we recommend that you start at the beginning, with Part I.
When you feel comfortable with networking terminology or get bored with
the lingo, move on to the chapters in Part II about planning your network
and selecting equipment. If you already have your equipment in hand, head
to Part III to get it installed — and secured (unless you like the idea of your
neighbor or even a hacker being able to access your network).
If you were thinking of skipping Part I, please make sure that you’re up to
speed on the latest and greatest version of Wi-Fi wireless networking. —
802.11n — which will dramatically affect your planning. If you aren’t up to
speed on this new standard, we recommend that you at least take a quick view
of Chapter 2 first.
The wireless industry is changing fast. We provide regular updates for this
book at www.digitaldummies.com.
Happy wireless networking!
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6
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
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Part I
Wireless
Networking
Fundamentals
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I
In this part . . .
f you’ve never used a networked computer or you’re
installing a network in your home for the first time, this
part of the book provides all the background info and
down-and-dirty basics that will have you in the swing of
things in no time. Here you can find general networking
concepts, the most popular wireless networking technology, wireless networking terminology, and the latest alternatives in wireless networking. We also delve into cool
new options for complementing your wireless network
with peripherals networking and home control and home
automation standards. Now that’s whole-home networking
the wireless way!
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Chapter 1
Introducing Wireless
Home Networking
In This Chapter
▶ Jump-starting your wireless revolution at home
▶ Comparing wired and wireless networks — and why wireless wins!
▶ Deciding which wireless standard meets your needs
▶ Planning for your wireless home network
▶ Choosing the right wireless equipment
W
elcome to the wireless age! Nope, we’re not talking about your grandfather’s radio — we’re talking about almost everything under the sun.
What’s not going wireless? Wanna say your refrigerator? Wrong — it is. How
about your stereo? Yup, that too. Watches, key chains, baby video monitors,
high-end projectors — even your thermostat is going wireless and digital. It’s
not just about computers any more. Your entire world is going wireless, and
in buying this book, you’re determined not to get left behind. Kudos to you!
A driving force behind the growing popularity of wireless networking is its
reasonable cost: You can save money by not running network wiring all over
your house, by sharing peripherals (such as printers and scanners), and by
using your wireless network to drive other applications around your home,
such as your home entertainment center. This book makes it easier for you
to spend your money wisely by helping you decide what you need to buy and
then helping you choose between the vast array of products on the market.
Wireless networks are not only less expensive than more traditional wired
networks but also much easier to install (no drilling and no pulling wires
through the wall!). An important goal of this book is to give you “the skinny”
on how to install a wireless network in your home.
Whether you have 1 computer or 20 (like Danny), you have several good reasons to want a personal computer network. The plummeting cost of wireless
technologies, combined with their fast-paced technical development, has
meant that more and more manufacturers are getting on the home networking bandwagon and including wireless networking in all sorts of products.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
That means that more applications around your house will try to ride your
wireless backbone — by talking among themselves and to the Internet. So,
wireless is here to stay and is critical for any future-proofed home.
Nothing but Net(work):
Why You Need One
Wireless home networking isn’t just about linking computers to the Internet.
Although that task is important — nay, critical — in today’s network-focused
environment, it’s not the whole enchilada. Of the many benefits of having
wireless in the home, most have one thing in common: sharing. When you
connect the computers in your house through a network, you can share files,
printers, scanners, and high-speed Internet connections between them. In
addition, you can play multiuser games over your network, access public
wireless networks while you’re away from home, check wireless security
cameras, connect your mobile phone to your wireless network, or even enjoy
your MP3s from your home stereo system while you’re at work — really!
Reading Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition, helps you
understand how to create a whole-home wireless network to reach all the
nooks and crannies of your house. Of course, the primary reason that people
have wanted to put wireless networks in their homes has been to “unwire”
their PCs, especially laptops (which, these days, come with wireless standard), to enable more freedom of access in the home. But just about every
major consumer goods manufacturer is hard at work wirelessly enabling its
devices so that they too can talk to other devices in the home — you can find
home theater receivers, Blu-ray disc players, gaming consoles, music players,
and even flat-panel TVs with wireless capabilities built right in.
File sharing
As you probably know, computer files are created whenever 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 Quicken
from Intuit, this software saves your financial data on the computer’s drive in
an electronic file.
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 up
the same document on his or her computer over the network. With the right
programs, you can even view the same documents at the same time! And that’s
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Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
11
not even getting into online services like Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)
that let you store your shared files on a computer in the cloud (in other
words, on the Internet) so you can access these files whenever and wherever
you have an Internet connection.
But here’s where we 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 onboard computing capabilities. What’s more
is that all these devices have files and information that need to be shared.
The old way of moving files between computers and computing devices
involved copying the files to a floppy disk (or, nowadays, a USB thumb drive)
and then carrying the disk to the other computer. Computer geeks call this
method of copying and transferring files the sneakernet approach. In contrast, copying files between computers is easy to do over a home network
and with no need for floppy disks (or sneakers).
What’s interesting is that more computers and devices are getting used to talking to one another over networks in an automated fashion. A common application is synchronization, where two devices talk to one another and make the
appropriate updates to each other’s stored information so that they’re current
with one another. For example, Microsoft’s Zune portable media player (www.
zune.net) is in many ways similar to Apple’s iPod, with one big exception:
Zune’s wireless capabilities. Whenever you put your Zune in its charger base,
it connects to your wireless network and automatically syncs new content
(music, audiobooks, podcasts, and videos) from your PC. This means you
always have that new content at your fingertips — literally — without having
to lift a finger.
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 is located in an area 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 in 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.
Other peripherals, such as extra hard drive storage for backing up your computers or for all those MP3s that someone in the household might be downloading,
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12
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
also are great to share. Anything connected to your PCs or that has a network
port (we talk about these in great detail throughout the book) can be shared
anywhere on your wireless network.
Network
PC
PC
Figure 1-1:
Share and
share alike:
Share one
printer via
your home
network.
PC
Printer
Internet connection sharing
Another driving reason behind many homeowners’ interest in wireless home
networking is a desire to share an Internet connection. Let’s face it: The
Internet is a critical part of day-to-day living — from kids doing their homework to you managing your bank account — so it’s only natural that more
than one person in the household wants to get online at the same time. And,
with the proliferation of broadband Internet connections — cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), fiber optics, and satellite modems — the demand at home
has only soared.
Modem types
Your wireless network helps you distribute information throughout the
home. It’s independent of the method you use to access your outside-ofhome networks, like the Internet. Whether you use a dial-up connection or
broadband, you can create a wireless home network. Here’s a rundown of the
different types of modems:
✓ Dial-up modem: This device connects to the Internet by dialing an
Internet service provider (ISP), such as America Online (AOL) or
EarthLink, over a standard phone line.
Fewer and fewer wireless networking equipment manufacturers support
a dial-up connection on their equipment, because the majority of homes
(and the vast majority of networked homes) use broadband these days.
We mention dial-up here only for completeness; not because we recommend that you use it.
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Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
13
✓ Cable modem: This type of modem connects to the Internet through the
same cable as cable TV. Cable modems connect to the Internet at much
higher speeds than dial-up modems and can be left connected to the
Internet all day, every day.
✓ DSL modem: Digital subscriber line modems use your phone line, but
they permit the phone to be free for other purposes — voice calls and
faxes, for example — even while the DSL modem is in use. DSL modems
also connect to the Internet at much higher speeds than dial-up modems
and can be left connected 24/7.
✓ Broadband wireless modem: The same wireless airwaves that are great for
around-the-house communications are great for connecting to the Internet
as well. Although the frequency may be different and the bandwidth much
less, broadband wireless modems give you connectivity to your home’s
wireless network, in a similar fashion as DSL and cable modems.
✓ 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’re better than dial-up and available just about anywhere in the continental United States.
✓ Fiber-optic modem: We’re in the midst of the fiber-fed revolution as the
telephone and cable companies push to outdo each other by installing
extremely high-capacity lines in homes to allow all sorts of cool applications. (The biggest example of this in the U.S. is Verizon’s FiOS system —
www.verizon.com — which connects tens of millions of homes to the
Internet by using fiber-optic connections.) Until now, the broadband
access link has been the limiting bottleneck when wireless networks
communicate with the Internet. With fiber optics, you could see broadband access capacity equal to that of your wireless network.
Network (very!) basics
When configuring your PCs on a network, you can buy equipment that lets
you connect multiple computers to an Internet modem using radio waves with
no wires (our focus here, obviously); through special network cables; or even
through regular phone lines, the coaxial wiring (cable TV wires), or the power
lines in your house. No matter what the physical connection is among your
networked devices, the most popular language (or protocol) used in connecting
computers to a broadband modem is a network technology known as Ethernet.
Ethernet is an industry standard protocol used in virtually every corporation
and institution; consequently, Ethernet equipment is plentiful and inexpensive. The most common form of Ethernet networking uses special cables
known as Category 5e/6 UTP (or unshielded twisted pair). These networks are
named after their speed — most are 100 Mbps (much faster than alternative
networks that run over powerlines or phone lines) and are called 100BaseT.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
You also find 1000BaseT (gigabit Ethernet) networks, which run at 1 gigabit
per second. Figure 1-2 illustrates a network that enables three personal computers to connect to the Internet through a DSL or cable modem. (This network model works the same for a satellite or fiber-optic connection.)
See Chapter 4 for more information about planning and budgeting for your network and Chapter 5 for help in selecting your wireless networking equipment.
Network
PC
PC
Figure 1-2:
Internet for
all: Set up
a network
that enables
many PCs to
connect to
the Internet
through
a DSL
or cable
modem.
PC
Printer
Internet
Cable/DSL
modem
Cable/DSL
router
Phone calling for free
With some new wireless phone capabilities, you can get rid of the static of
your cordless phone and move digital over your wireless home network, thus
saving money on calls by using less-expensive, Internet-based phone calling
options (Voice over IP, or VoIP). What started as a hobbyist error-prone service has grown into a full-fledged worldwide phenomenon. Phone calling over
the Internet is now ready for prime time:
✓ Free and for-fee services are available. Services such as Vonage (www.
vonage.com) and Skype (www.skype.com) allow you to use your regular phones to call over the Internet for free or for a low monthly cost.
✓ Add-ons to popular software programs are available. Internet calling
and even videoconferencing have been added to instant messaging programs such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) so that you can talk to the
people you used to only IM.
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Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
15
✓ New devices make it simple. New devices, such as the Olympia
DualPhone (http://dualphone.net), ease access to these Internet
calling services — so you don’t have to don a headset every time you
want to make a phone call.
The best part is that VoIP services are all moving toward wireless too. Throw
away that old cordless phone and replace it with a new wireless handset or
a neat Wi-Fi phone that you can take on the road to make free calls from any
Wi-Fi network you have access to.
The convergence of wireless and Voice over IP is one of the major megatrends going on in the telecommunications and Internet markets today — you
can bet that you want it in your home too!
Home arcades and wireless to go
If you aren’t convinced yet that a wireless home network is for you, we have
four more points that may change your mind. Check them out:
✓ Multiuser games over the network: If you’re into video games, multiplayer card games, or role-playing games, you may find multiuser games
over the network or even over the Internet fascinating. Chapter 11 discusses how to use your wireless network to play multiuser games.
✓ 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 12 for more info on how
to use your wireless network to send audio and video signals around the
house.
✓ Home wireless cam accessibility: You can check out your house from
anywhere in the house — or the world — with new wireless cameras
that hop on your home network and broadcast images privately or publicly 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, “Mom has eyes in the back of her head”; our kids probably think that Mom is omniscient!)
✓ Wireless on the go: This concept is great if you have a portable computer. Many airports, hotels, malls, and coffee shops have installed
public wireless networks that enable you to connect to the Internet
(for a small fee, of course) via hot spots. See Chapter 16 for more about
using wireless networking when you’re away from home.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Wired versus Wireless
Ethernet is the most-often-used method of connecting personal computers 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 equipment. Most new
computers have an Ethernet connection built in, ready for you to plug in a
network cable. The most popular wireless networking equipment transmits a
form of Ethernet by using radio waves rather than Category 5e/6 cables.
Installing wired home networks
Even though we’re talking mostly about wireless networks and how great
they are, we would be misleading you if we told you that wireless is the only
way to go. Wireless and wired homes each have advantages.
Wired homes are:
✓ Faster: Wired lines can reach speeds of 1000 Mbps, whereas wireless
homes tend to be in the 20 Mbps to 300 Mbps range. Both wireless and
wired technologies are getting faster and faster, but for as far as our
crystal balls can see, wired will always be ahead.
✓ More reliable: Wireless signals are prone to interference and fluctuations and degrade quickly over short distances; wired connections typically are more stable and reliable all over your home.
✓ More secure: You don’t have to worry about your signals traveling
through the air and being intercepted by snoopers, as you do with unsecured wireless systems.
✓ Economical over the long term: The incremental cost of adding CAT-5e/6
voice and data cabling and RG-6 coaxial cabling into your house — over a
30-year mortgage — will be almost nothing each month. That is, as long as
you’re building or remodeling your home — when your walls aren’t open,
getting network cables inside of them is a lot more difficult and expensive.
✓ Salable: More and more home buyers are not only looking for well-wired
homes but also discounting homes without the infrastructure. As good
as wireless is, it isn’t affixed to the house and is carried with you when
you leave. Most new homes have structured wiring in the walls.
If you’re building a new home or renovating an old one, we absolutely recommend that you consider running the latest wiring in the walls to each of your
rooms. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have a wireless network in your
home — you will. It just will be different than if you were wholly reliant on
wireless for your networking.
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If you choose to use network cable, it should ideally be installed in the walls,
just like electrical and phone wiring. Network jacks (outlets) are installed in
the walls in rooms where you would expect to use a computer. Connecting
your computer to a wired network is as easy as plugging a phone into a
phone jack — after the wiring is in place, that is.
Without question, the most economical time to install network cable in a
home is during the home’s initial construction. In upscale neighborhoods,
especially in communities near high-tech businesses, builders often wire new
homes with network cable as a matter of course. In most cases, however, the
installation of network cable in a new home is an option or upgrade that’s
installed only if the new owner orders it and pays a premium. Installing a
structured wiring solution for a home can cost at least $2,000–$3,000, and
that’s for starters.
Although the installation of network cable in an existing home certainly is
possible, it’s much more difficult and expensive than installing cable during
construction. If you hire an electrician to run the cable, you can easily spend
thousands of dollars to do what would have cost a few hundred dollars
during your home’s construction. If you’re comfortable drilling holes in your
walls and working in attics and crawl spaces, you can install the cabling yourself for the cost of the cable and outlets.
The reality is that no home will ever be purely wireless or wireline (wired).
Each approach has benefits and costs, and they coexist in any house. If you’re
building a new house, most experts tell you to spend the extra money on a
structured wiring solution because it adds value to your house and you can
better manage all the wiring in your home. We agree. But no wiring solution
can be everywhere you want it to be. Thus, wireless is a great complement
to your home, which is why we advocate a whole-home wireless network for
your entire home to use.
Installing wireless home networks
If you’re networking an existing home or are renting your home, wireless has
fabulous benefits:
✓ Portable: You can take your computing device anywhere in the house
and be on the network. Even if you have a huge house, you can interconnect wireless access points to have a whole-home wireless network.
✓ Flexible: You’re not limited to where a jack is on the wall; you can network anywhere.
✓ Cost effective: You can start wireless networking for under a hundred
dollars. Your wiring contractor can’t do much with that!
✓ Clean: You don’t have to tear down walls or trip over wires when they
come out from underneath the carpeting.
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What’s more, there’s really no difference in how you use your networked
computer, whether it’s connected to the network by a cable or by a wireless
networking device. Whether you’re sharing files, a printer, your entertainment system, or the Internet over the network, the procedures are the same
on a wireless network as on a wired network. In fact, you can mix wired and
wireless network equipment on the same network with no change in how
you use a computer on the network — your computers don’t care whether
they’re talking over a wire or over a wireless system.
Now for the fine print. We would be remiss if we weren’t candid and didn’t
mention any potential drawbacks to wireless networks compared with wired
networks. The possible drawbacks fall into four categories:
✓ Data speed: Wireless networking equipment transmits data at slower
speeds than wired networking equipment. Wired networks are already
networking at gigabit speeds, although the fastest current wireless networking standards (in theoretical situations) top out at 300 Mbps. (The
real-world top speed you can expect will probably be under 100 Mbps.)
But, for almost all the uses we can think of now, this rate is plenty fast.
Your Internet connection probably doesn’t exceed 20 Mbps (though
lucky folks who have fiber-optic lines running to their homes may
exceed this rate by a big margin!), so your wireless connection should
be more than fast enough.
✓ Radio signal range: Wireless signals fade when you move away from the
source. Some homes, especially older homes, may be built from materials that tend to block the radio signals used by wireless networking
equipment, which causes even faster signal degradation. If your home
has plaster walls that contain a wire mesh, the wireless networking
equipment’s radio signal may not reach all points in your home. Most
modern construction, however, uses drywall materials that reduce the
radio signal only slightly. As a result, most homeowners can reach all
points in their home with one centralized wireless access point (also
called a base station) and one wireless device in or attached to each personal computer.
If you need better coverage, you can just add another access point — we
show you how in Chapter 18 — or you can upgrade an older wireless
network to a newer technology, such as 802.11n, which provides farther
coverage within your home.
✓ Radio signal interference: The most common type of wireless networking technology uses a radio frequency that’s also used by other
home devices, such as microwave ovens and portable telephones.
Consequently, some wireless home network users experience network
problems (the network slows down or the signal is dropped) caused by
radio signal interference.
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✓ Security: The radio signal from a wireless network doesn’t stop at the
outside wall of your home. A neighbor or even a total stranger could
access your network from an adjoining property or from the street
unless you implement some type of security technology to prevent
unauthorized access. You can safeguard yourself with security technology that comes standard with the most popular wireless home networking technology. However, it’s not bulletproof, and it certainly doesn’t
work if you don’t turn it on. For more information on wireless security,
go to Chapter 9.
Wireless networks compare favorably with wired networks for most homeowners who didn’t have network wiring installed when their houses were
built or remodeled. As we mention earlier in this chapter, even if you do have
network wires in your walls, you probably want wireless just to provide the
untethered access it brings to laptops and handheld computers.
Choosing a Wireless Standard
The good news about wireless networks is that they come in multiple flavors,
each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The bad news is that trying
to decide which version to get when buying a system can get confusing. The
even better news is that the dropping prices of wireless systems and fastpaced development are creating dual- and tri-mode systems on the market
that can speak many different wireless languages.
Introducing the 802.11s: a, b, g, and n
You may run into gear using one of two older standards: 802.11 a and b. For
the most part, manufacturers aren’t making gear using these systems anymore (at least not for the home — some industrial and commercial network
gear still on the market use these systems), but you will still hear about these
systems as you explore wireless networking:
✓ 802.11a: Wireless networks that use the Institute for Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11a standard use the 5 GHz radio frequency band. Equipment of this type is among the fastest wireless networking equipment widely available to consumers.
✓ 802.11b: Wireless home networks that use the 802.11b standard use
the 2.4 GHz radio band. This standard is the most popular in terms of
number of installed networks and number of users.
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Following are the two major wireless systems that have pretty much replaced
802.11b and 802.11a:
✓ 802.11g: The outgoing default version of the 802.11 wireless family,
802.11g was the primary form of wireless networking from 2003 until
2009. In many ways, 802.11g offered the best of both worlds — backward
compatibility with the older 802.11b networks we just mentioned (they
too operate over the 2.4 GHz radio frequency band) and the speed of the
older 802.11a networks also discussed in that section. And the cost of
802.11g has dropped precipitously, so it’s now less expensive than the
older and slower 802.11b. (You can buy an 802.11g network adapter for
less than $20 and a home router for less than $40.)
✓ 802.11n: In late 2009, the IEEE finalized and ratified a newer and faster
system called 802.11n. The 802.11n system (like 802.11g before it) is
backward compatible, which means that older 802.11b and 802.11g
systems can work just fine on an 802.11n network. 802.11n systems can
also support the 5 GHz frequencies (though not all do; more on this in
Chapter 3), and may therefore be backward compatible with 802.11a as
well. A lot of new technology in 802.11n extends the range of the network and increases the speed as well — 802.11n can be as much as five
times faster than 802.11g or 802.11a networks. Draft versions of 802.11n
gear have been on sale since 2007; now that the final version is being
sold, 802.11n should be your default choice for a new wireless network.
Equipment supporting all four of these finalized standards — 802.11a, 802.11b,
802.11g, and 802.11n — can carry the Wi-Fi logo that’s licensed for use by the
Wi-Fi Alliance trade group based on equipment that passes interoperability
testing. You absolutely want to buy only equipment that has been Wi-Fi certified, regardless of which 802.11 standard you’re choosing.
The terms surrounding wireless networking can get complex. First, the
order of lettering isn’t really easily understandable because 802.11b was
approved and hit the market before 802.11a. Also, you see the term Wi-Fi used
frequently. (In fact, we thought about calling this book Wi-Fi For Dummies
because the term is used so much.) Wi-Fi refers to the collective group of
802.11 specifications: 802.11a, b, g, and n. You may sometimes see this group
also named 802.11x networking, where x can equal a, b, g, or n. To make matters more confusing, a higher-level parent standard named 802.11 predates
802.11a, b, g, and n and is also used to talk about the group of the four standards. Technically, IEEE 802.11 is a standards group responsible for several
other networking specifications as well. For simplicity in this book, we use
802.11 and Wi-Fi synonymously to talk about the four standards as a group.
We could have used 802.11x, but we want to save a lot of xs (for our wives).
For the most part, 802.11a and 802.11b equipment is being phased out. If
you’re buying all-new gear, 802.11g or 802.11n are your real choices — and
we’re already starting to see 802.11g gear discontinued in favor of 802.11n.
You can still find a few bits of 802.11a or b gear, but it’s mostly sold to fit into
older networks. If you already have some gear that’s 802.11b, don’t despair —
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it still works fine in most cases, and you can upgrade your network to 802.11g
or 802.11n bit by bit (pun intended!) without worrying about compatibility. In
this section, we still discuss 802.11a and b, even though they’re increasingly
not something you’re likely to consider.
Comparing the standards
The differences between these four standards fall into five main categories:
✓ Data speed: 802.11a and 802.11g networks are almost five times faster
than the original 802.11b networks — 802.11n is five times faster still! For
the most part, any current Wi-Fi gear (whether it be 802.11g or 802.11n)
will be faster than the Internet connection into your house, but the extra
speed of 802.11n may be worthwhile if you’re trying to do things such as
transfer real-time video signals around your home wirelessly.
✓ Price: 802.11g networking gear (the standard system today) has been on
the market since the mid-2000s — accordingly, the price for this gear is
quite low (less than $20 for an adapter). The new 802.11n adapters can
cost about twice as much.
✓ Radio signal range: 802.11a wireless networks tend to have a shorter
maximum signal range than 802.11b and g networks. The actual distances vary depending on the size and construction of your home. In
most modern homes, however, all three of the older standards should
provide adequate range. Because it uses a new technology called MIMO,
802.11n can have two or more times the range in your home, so if you
have a big house, you might gravitate toward 802.11n.
✓ Radio signal interference: The radio frequency band used by both
802.11b and 802.11g equipment is used also by other home devices, such
as microwave ovens and portable telephones, resulting sometimes in
network problems caused by radio signal interference. Few other types
of devices now use the radio frequency band employed by the 802.11a
standard. 802.11n gear can use either frequency band (though not all
gear does — some uses only the more crowded 2.4 GHz frequency
range).
✓ Interoperability: Because 802.11a and 802.11b/g use different frequency
bands, they can’t communicate over the same radio frequency band.
Several manufacturers, however, have products that can operate with
both 802.11a and IEEE 802.11b/g equipment simultaneously. By contrast,
802.11g equipment is designed to be backward compatible with 802.11b
equipment — both operating on the same frequency band. 802.11n is
backward compatible with all three previous standards, though the
802.11a backward compatibility is available only on 802.11n gear that
operates in the 5 GHz frequency range.
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Think of dual-mode, multistandard devices as being in the same vein as AM/
FM radios. AM and FM stations transmit their signals in different ways, but
hardly anyone buys a radio that’s only AM because almost all the receiving
units are AM/FM. Users select which band they want to listen to at any
particular time. With an 802.11a/b/g (or 2.4/5 GHz 802.11n) device, you can
also choose the band that you want to transmit and receive in.
For a long time, wireless networks operating at the 2.4 GHz frequency range
were most popular in the home, but the advent of 5 GHz capable 802.11n
devices (such as Apple’s popular AirPort Extreme with Gigabit Ethernet)
have finally brought 5 GHz networks into lots of homes.
If you’re starting your home wireless network from scratch, there’s no
compelling reason not to go with 802.11n. 802.11n gear doesn’t cost that much
more than the older 802.11g gear, and it provides a lot more networking
capability. That said, if you have an existing 802.11g network in place, there’s
no reason to throw it away and move to 802.11n right away — unless you have
some high bandwidth requirements like video.
Planning Your Wireless Home Network
Installing and setting up a wireless home network can be ridiculously easy.
In some cases, after you unpack and install the equipment, you’re up and
running in a matter of minutes. To ensure that you don’t have a negative
experience, however, you should do a little planning. The issues you need to
consider during the planning stage include the ones in this list:
✓ 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 — 802.11n or 802.11g — will you use?
✓ Which type of wireless adapter will you use to connect each computer
to the network? And which of your computers already have one built-in?
✓ 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
connection (cable or DSL) or dial-up? If you’re sharing an Internet
connection, will you do so with a cable/DSL/satellite/dial-up router or
with Internet connection-sharing software?
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✓ 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 ensure the privacy
of the information stored on the computers connected to your network?
We discuss all these issues and the entire planning process in more detail in
Chapter 4.
Choosing Wireless Networking Equipment
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.
Before you can decide which equipment to buy, take a look at Chapter 4 for more
information about planning a wireless home network. Chapter 5 provides a more
detailed discussion of the different types of wireless networking equipment.
The following sections give you a quick rundown of what equipment you
need, including an access point, network interface adapters, and wireless network interface adapters.
Access point
At the top of the list is at least one wireless access point (AP), also sometimes
called a base station. An AP acts like a wireless 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 a wireless home network. They range
in price from about $30 to $200, with prices continually coming down. (Prices
predominantly are in the $40–$60 range for 802.11g and in the $50–$175
range for 802.11n.) You can get APs from many leading vendors in the marketplace, including Apple (www.apple.com), D-Link (www.d-link.com),
Cisco (http://home.cisco.com/en-us/wireless/), NETGEAR (www.
netgear.com), and Belkin (www.belkin.com). We give you a long list of
vendors in Chapter 20, so check that out when you buy your AP.
For wireless home networks, the best AP value is often an AP that’s bundled
with other features. The most popular APs for home use also come with one
or more of these features:
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
✓ 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 network; these
addresses are required for the computers to communicate.
✓ 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 network
rather than attach a printer to each computer on the network.
In Figure 1-3, you can see an AP that also bundles in a network router, switch,
and DHCP server. You may increasingly see more features added that include
support for VoIP routing as well. We talk about more features for your AP in
Chapter 5.
Figure 1-3:
Look for
an AP that
bundles 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, doesn’t 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 communications 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
$30, and most new computers come with one at no additional cost.
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A network interface adapter that’s installed inside a computer is usually called
a network interface card (NIC). Virtually all computer manufacturers now
include Ethernet capabilities, built right onto the PC motherboard as a standard feature with each personal computer.
Wireless network interface adapters
To wirelessly connect a computer to the network, you must obtain a wireless network interface adapter for each computer. Prices range between $10
and $100. Most portable computers (laptops, netbooks, iPads, and so on)
now come with a wireless network interface built in, as do many (but not
all!) desktop computers. If your computer doesn’t have a wireless NIC, don’t
worry. They’re easy to install; most are adapters that just plug in.
The three most common types of wireless network interface adapters are
✓ PC or Express 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.
✓ USB: A Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter connects to one of your computer’s USB ports; these USB ports have been standard in just about
every PC built since the turn of the millennium.
✓ ISA or PCI adapter: If your computer doesn’t have a PC Card slot, or
USB port, you have to install either a network interface card or a USB
card (for a USB wireless network interface adapter) in one of the computer’s internal peripheral expansion receptacles (slots). The internal
expansion slots in modern PCs and Apple Macintosh computers follow
the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) standard.
Almost all smartphones, netbooks, laptops, and other portable devices are
shipping with wireless already onboard, so you don’t need an adapter of
any sort. These devices just come with the wireless installed in them. We
tell you how to get your wireless-enabled devices onto your wireless backbone in Part II.
Figure 1-4:
A PC Card
wireless
network
interface
adapter.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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Chapter 2
From a to n and b-yond
In This Chapter
▶ Networking terms you need to know
▶ Understanding the access point, the center of your wireless network
▶ Finding out more about antennas
▶ Knowing the industry standards
▶ Learning your abg’s
I
n the not-so-distant past, 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, but we’re getting closer, with more
people asking to have a home wired from the start. That’s a different one of
our books: Smart Homes For Dummies (also from Wiley and which we hope
you consider when you’re buying a new home). 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 much less hassle. As a result, because more and
more people are beginning to see the benefits of having a computer network
at home, they’re turning to wireless networks. Just as most people can no
longer recall life without wireless mobile phones, similarly, wireless computer networking has become the standard way to network a home.
That’s not to say that it’s easy, though. Face it: Life can sometimes seem a bit
complicated. The average Joe or Jane can’t even order a cup of java any more
without having to choose between an endless array of options: regular, decaf,
half-caf, mocha, cappuccino, latté, low fat, no fat, foam, no foam, and so on.
You know what you want, but you don’t know how to say it in a way that will
get you what you want! Of course, after you get the hang of the lingo, you can
order coffee like a pro. That’s where this chapter comes in: to help you get
used to the networking lingo that’s 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
the names 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and now 802.11n; employ devices such as
APs and Express cards; and make use of technologies with cryptic abbreviations
(TCP/IP, DHCP, NAT, MIMO, WEP, and WPA). Pshew. Whether you’re shopping
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for, installing, or configuring a wireless network, you will 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.
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
chapter whenever you run into some wireless networking terminology that
throws you. If you like knowing a little bit about the language that the locals
speak before visiting a new place, read on.
Networking Buzzwords You Need to Know
A computer network is composed of 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 well over 20 years, but with
the advent of reasonably priced wireless networks, computer networks are
now commonplace in homes. Now, we mere mortals can share printers, surf
the Internet, play multiplayer video games, and stream video like the corporate gods have been doing for years.
A computer network that connects devices in a particular physical location,
such as in a home or in a single office site, is sometimes called a local area network (LAN). Conversely, the network outside your home that connects you to
the Internet and beyond is called a wide area network (WAN).
In a nutshell, computer networks help people and devices share information
(files and e-mail) and expensive resources (printers and Internet connections)
more efficiently.
Workstations and servers
Each computer in your home that’s attached to a network is a workstation,
also sometimes referred to as a client computer. The Windows operating
system (OS) refers to the computers residing together on the same local
area network as a homegroup. A Windows-based computer network enables
the workstations in a workgroup to share files and printers visible through
Network (or My Network Places if you’re using Windows XP). Home networks
based on the Apple Macintosh OS offer the same capability. On a Mac, just
use Finder to navigate to Network.
Some networks also have servers, which are special-purpose computers or
other devices that provide one or more services to other computers and
devices on a network. Examples of typical servers include:
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29
✓ Windows Home Server: Microsoft and its hardware partners (companies
such as HP) have created a new specification for hardware and software
known as Windows Home Server. Essentially, Windows Home Server is
a stripped-down version of the Windows OS that is designed to run on a
small device that sits in your network and provides file and media storage
for all the computers in your home (and remote access to your stuff over
the Internet while you’re out of the house). Windows Home Servers are a
lot like the NAS (network attached storage) devices discussed in the next
bullet point, but use a special Windows OS. You can read more at www.
microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshome
server/default.mspx.
✓ Network Attached Storage (NAS) Server: A specialized kind of file
server, an NAS device is basically a small, headless (it doesn’t have a
monitor or keyboard) computing appliance that uses a big hard drive
and a special operating system (usually Linux) to create an easy-touse file server for a home or office network. The Buffalo Technology
LinkStation Network Storage Center (www.buffalotech.com) is a good
example of an NAS device appropriate for a home network.
✓ Print server: A print server is a computer or another device that makes
it possible for the computers on the network to share one or more printers. Traditionally, print servers were part of corporate — not home —
networks, but many wireless networking access points now come with a
print server feature built in, which turns out to be very handy.
✓ E-mail server: An e-mail server is a computer that provides a system for
sending e-mail to users on the network. You may never see an e-mail
server on a home network. Most often, home users send e-mail through
a third-party service, such as America Online (AOL), Gmail, MSN
Hotmail, and Yahoo!.
✓ DHCP server: Every computer on a network, even a home network, must
have its own, unique network address to communicate with the other
computers on the network. A Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
(DHCP) server automatically assigns a network address to every computer on a network. You most often find DHCP servers built into another
device, such as a router or an AP.
You can find many types of client computers — network-aware devices — on
your network, too. Some examples include:
✓ Gaming consoles: The Microsoft Xbox 360 (www.xbox.com), Sony
PlayStation 3 (www.playstation.com), and Nintendo Wii (www.
nintendo.com) have adapters for network connections or multiplayer gaming and talking to other players while gaming. Cool! Read
more about online gaming in Chapter 11.
✓ Wireless network cameras: The D-Link DCS-5300G (www.dlink.com/
products/?pid=342) lets you not only view your home when you’re
away but also pan, tilt, scan, and zoom your way around the home.
That’s a nanny-cam.
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✓ Entertainment systems: NETGEAR’s EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite
enables you to use wireless technology to stream music, video, movies,
photos, and Internet radio stations from your computer or file server to
your home stereo system. The system uses a computer on your home
network as a source, which stores your CDs in the MP3 (or other) electronic format, and attaches just like a CD or DVD player to your home
entertainment system.
Most consumer manufacturers are trying to network-enable their devices, so
expect to see everything from your washer and dryer to your vacuum cleaner
network-enabled at some point. Why? Because after such appliances are on a
network, they can be monitored for breakdowns, software upgrades, and so
on without your having to manually monitor them. Even power utilities are
getting into the wireless game, installing wireless “smart meters” on the sides
of people’s homes to make meter reading faster and more accurate.
Network infrastructure
Workstations must be electronically interconnected to communicate. The
equipment over which the network traffic (electronic signals) travels between
computers on the network is the network infrastructure.
Network hubs
In a typical office network, a strand of wiring similar to phone cable is run
from each computer to a central location, such as a phone closet, where each
wire is connected to a network hub. The network hub, similar conceptually to
the hub of a wheel, receives signals transmitted by each computer on the network and sends the signals out to all other computers on the network.
Figure 2-1 illustrates a network with a star-shaped topology (the physical design
of a network). Other network topologies include ring and bus. Home networks
typically use a star topology because it’s the simplest to install and troubleshoot.
PC
PC
PC
Figure 2-1:
It’s all in the
stars —
a typical
network
star-shaped
topology.
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PC
PC
Network switch
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Bridges
A network bridge provides a pathway for network traffic between networks
or segments of networks. A device that connects a wireless network segment
to a wired network segment is a type of network bridge. In larger networks,
network bridges are sometimes used to connect networks on different floors
in the same building or in different buildings. In a wireless home network,
the device that manages the wireless network, the access point, often acts as
a bridge between a wireless segment of the network and a wired segment —
even if the wired segment is simply a single wire running from a DSL or cable
modem into the back of the access point.
Hubs and switches
Networks transmit data in bundles called packets. Along with the raw information being transmitted, each packet also contains the network address of
the computer that sent it and the network address of the recipient computer.
Network hubs send packets indiscriminately to all ports of all computers connected to the hub — which is why you very rarely see them used any longer.
A special type of hub called a switched hub examines each packet, determines the addressee and port, and forwards the packet only to the computer
and port to which it is addressed. Most often, switched hubs are just called
switches. A switch reads the addressee information in each packet and sends
the packet directly to the segment of the network to which the addressee is
connected. Packets that aren’t addressed to a particular network segment
are never transmitted over that segment, and the switch acts as a filter to
eliminate unnecessary network traffic. Switches make more efficient use of
the available transmission bandwidth than standard hubs, and therefore
offer higher aggregate throughput to the devices on the switched network.
Routers
Over a large network and on the Internet, a router is analogous to a superefficient postal service — it reads the addressee information in each data packet
and communicates with other routers over the network or Internet to determine the best route for each packet to take. In the home, a home or broadband
router uses a capability called Network Address Translation (NAT) to enable
all the computers on a home network to share a single Internet address on the
cable or DSL network. The home router sits between your broadband modem
and all the computers and networked devices in your house, and directs traffic
to and from devices both within the network and out on the Internet.
So, the local area network in your home connects to the wide area network,
which takes signals out of the home and on to the Internet.
The vast majority of wireless access points sold for the home market incorporate a router and a switch along with the access point — an all-in-one solution.
Unless you already have a separate router and/or switch, you don’t want to
buy just an access point for your home wireless network, you’ll want a wireless
router or Internet gateway, as discussed in the next section.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is the most
common protocol for transmitting packets around a network. Every computer
on a TCP/IP network must have its own IP address, which is a 32-bit numeric
address that’s written as four groups of numbers separated by periods (for
example, 192.168.1.100). Each number of these four sets of numbers is known
as an octet, which can have a value from 0 to 255. The Internet transmits
packets by using the TCP/IP protocol. When you use the Internet, the Internet
service provider (ISP) — such as AOL, EarthLink, or your cable or DSL
provider — assigns a unique TCP/IP number to your computer. For the period
that your computer is connected, your computer “leases” this unique address
and uses it like a postal address to send and receive information over the
Internet to and from other computers.
A router with the Network Address Translation (NAT) feature also helps to
protect the data on your computers from intruders. The NAT feature acts
as a protection because it hides the real network addresses of networked
computers from computers outside the network. Many WAN routers also
have additional security features that more actively prevent intruders from
gaining unauthorized access to your network through the Internet. This type
of protection is sometimes described generically as a firewall. Good firewall
software usually offers a suite of tools that not only block unauthorized
access but also help you to detect and monitor suspicious computer activity.
In addition, these tools provide you with ways to safely permit computers on
your network to access the Internet.
Internet gateways
These days, you can get a device that really does it all: a wireless Internet
gateway. These devices combine all the features of an access point, a router,
and a broadband modem (typically, cable or DSL, but this could also be a
fiber-optic connection such as Verizon’s FiOS or even another wireless connection). Some wireless Internet gateways even include a print server (which
enables you to connect a printer directly to the gateway and use it from any
networked PC), a dial-up modem, and even some Ethernet ports for computers and devices that connect to your network with wires.
For example, the 2Wire HomePortal 2000 series Internet gateways
(www.2wire.com) include a built-in DSL modem, a router, a wireless access
point, and other networking features such as a firewall and an easy-to-use
graphical user interface (GUI) for configuring and setting up the gateway.
Generally, you can’t buy these devices off-the-shelf at your local Best Buy,
but you can get them directly from your broadband service provider.
The term gateway gets used a lot by different folks with different ideas about
what such a device is. Although our definition is the most common (and, in
our opinion, correct), you may see some vendors selling devices that they call
Internet gateways that don’t have all the functions we describe. For example,
some access points and routers that don’t have built-in broadband modems
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are also called gateways. We don’t consider them to be Internet gateways
because they link to the broadband modem. They’re more of a modem gateway, but no one uses that term — it just isn’t as catchy as an Internet gateway.
We call them wireless gateways to keep everyone honest. Keep these subtle
differences in mind when you’re shopping.
Network interface adapters
Wireless networking is based on radio signals. Each computer, or station, on a
wireless network has its own radio that sends and receives data over the network. As in wired networks, a station can be a client or a server. Most stations
on a wireless home network are personal computers with a wireless network
adapter, but increasingly non-PC devices such as phones, entertainment systems, gaming consoles, and cameras have wireless networking capabilities too.
Each workstation on the network has a network interface card or adapter
that links the workstation to the network (we discuss these in Chapter 1).
This is true for wireless and wireline (wired) networks. In many instances the
wireless functionality is embedded in the device, meaning the network interface adapter is internal and preinstalled in the machine. In other instances,
these internal and external adapters are either ordered with your workstation or device or you add them during the installation process. We describe
these options in the following subsections.
Figure 2-2 shows an external wireless networking adapter designed for attachment
to a computer’s Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, and Figure 2-3 shows an internal
wireless networking adapter designed for installation in a desktop computer.
Figure 2-2:
A wireless
network
adapter that
attaches
to a
computer’s
USB port.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Figure 2-3:
A wireless
network
adapter for
installation
inside a
desktop
computer.
PC and Express Cards
When you want to add wireless networking capability to a laptop computer,
your first choice for a wireless network interface should probably be a
PC Card (see Figure 2-4). Nearly all Windows and some Mac laptops have
PCMCIA ports that are compatible with these cards.
Figure 2-4:
A PC Card
wireless
network
adapter.
A newer type of card called the ExpressCard has been slowly taking over
the role of the PC Card. The ExpressCard (www.expresscard.org/web/
site) is a slightly smaller and more capable version of the PC Card. The
ExpressCard uses less power, takes up less space, and provides faster connections to the internal circuitry of the device in which it is installed.
All wireless PC Cards must have an antenna so that the built-in radio can
communicate with an access point. Most have a built-in patch antenna
enclosed in a plastic casing that protrudes from the PC while the card is fully
inserted. You should always take care with this type of card because it’s
likely to get damaged if it’s not stored properly when not in use (or if your
dog knocks your laptop off the coffee table — don’t ask!).
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Many laptop computers use an internal Express card for wireless networking
functionality. These cards don’t slide into a slot on the side of the computer,
but rather are installed at the factory and use an antenna built into the case of
the computer.
PCI adapters
Nearly all desktop PCs have at least one Peripheral Component Interconnect
(PCI) slot. This PCI slot is used to install all sorts of add-in cards, including
network connectivity. Most wireless NIC manufacturers offer a wireless PCI
adapter — a version of their product that can be installed in a PCI slot (see
Figure 2-5).
Some wireless PCI adapters are cards that adapt a PC Card for use in a PCI slot.
The newest designs, however, mount the electronics from the PC Card on a fullsize PCI card with a removable dipole antenna attached to the back of the card.
USB adapters
The USB standard has, over the past several years, become the most widely
used method of connecting peripherals to a personal computer. First popularized in the Apple iMac, USB supports a data transfer rate many times
faster than a typical network connection, and is therefore a good candidate
for connecting an external wireless network adapter to either a laptop or a
desktop computer. Several wireless networking hardware vendors offer USB
wireless network adapters. They’re easy to connect, transport, and reposition for better reception.
Figure 2-5:
A wireless
PCI adapter.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Most computers built in the past ten years have at least two (and some have
as many as eight) USB ports. If your computer has a USB port and you purchased a wireless USB network interface adapter, see Chapter 7 for more on
setting up that adapter.
USB wireless NICs are sometimes a better choice than PC Cards or PCI cards
because you can more easily move the device around to get a better signal,
kinda like adjusting the rabbit ears on an old TV. If a desktop computer
doesn’t have a PC Card slot — most don’t — but does have a USB port, you
need to either install a PCI adapter or select a USB wireless network adapter.
If you’re connecting an older computer via a USB NIC, check to see that
that computer has a USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) connection. The older, original, 1.0
version of USB has a much slower data transfer rate, and will potentially
bog down your network connection. You can still use a USB 1.0 connection
for a USB wireless NIC, but it’s not an optimal method of connecting to your
wireless network.
Memory card wireless adapters
Most popular handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) computers and
smartphones now come with wireless built right into them. If you still have
an older PDA, you may be able to get it on your wireless network with a flash
memory card wireless adapter. Many different kinds of flash memory cards
are on the market (ask anyone who’s shopping for a digital camera, and you’ll
be told more about SD, Micro SD, CF, Memory Stick, and the like than you’d
ever want to hear). Most PDAs or smartphones use Compact Flash (CF) or
Secure Digital (SD) cards, and you may be able to use that memory card slot
to add wireless networking to your device.
Because wireless networking is being built into many of these devices, the
market for memory card–style wireless adapters has shrunk, and many of the
big manufacturers (such as Linksys) no longer make these products. You can
still find CF or SD card wireless adapters from smaller specialty manufacturers, but they’re typically a lot more expensive than the mainstream PC Card or
USB adapters that you buy for a PC.
Getting the (Access) Point
We want to talk some more about the central pivot point in your wireless
network: the access point. Somewhat similar in function to a network hub,
an access point in a wireless network is a special type of wireless station that
receives radio transmissions from other stations on the wireless LAN and forwards them to the rest of the network. An access point can be a standalone
device or even a computer that contains a wireless network adapter along
with special access-point management software. Most home networks use a
standalone AP, such as shown in Figure 2-6.
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37
Figure 2-6:
A standalone
access
point.
Setting parameters to create
your own personal network
Because many homes and businesses use wireless networking, a method is
needed to distinguish one wireless network from another. Otherwise, your
neighbor may accidentally send a page to the printer on your network. (That
could be fun or that could be a little scary.) Three parameters can be used to
uniquely identify each segment of a wireless network:
✓ Network name: When you set up your wireless network, you should
assign a unique name to the network. Some manufacturers refer to the
network name by one of its technical monikers — service set identifier
(SSID) or perhaps extended service set identifier (ESSID). This can be confusing and comes up most often if you’re using equipment from different
manufacturers. Rest assured, however, that network name, SSID, and
ESSID all mean the same thing.
If the AP manufacturer assigns a network name at the factory, it assigns
the same name to every AP it manufactures. Consequently, you should
assign a different network name to avoid confusion with other APs that
may be nearby (like your neighbor’s). Note: All stations and the AP on
a given wireless network must have the same network name to ensure
that they can communicate.
Assigning a unique network name is good practice, but don’t think of the
network name as a security feature. Most APs broadcast their network
name, so it’s easy for a hacker to change the network name on his or her
computer to match yours. Changing the network name from the factory
setting to a new name simply reduces the chance that you and your neighbor accidentally have wireless networks with the same network name.
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✓ Channel: When you set up your wireless network, you have the option
of selecting a radio channel. All stations and the access point must
broadcast on the same radio channel to communicate. Multiple radio
channels are available for use by wireless networks, and some of the
newer wireless APs use multiple channels at once to increase the speed
of the network. The number of channels available varies according to
the type of wireless network you’re using and the country in which you
install the wireless network (due to differing regulations in each country). Wireless stations normally scan all available channels to look for a
signal from an AP. When a station detects an AP signal, the station negotiates a connection to the AP.
✓ Encryption key: Because it’s relatively easy for a hacker to determine
a wireless network’s name and the channel on which it’s broadcasting,
every wireless network should be protected by a secret encryption
key unless the network is intended for use by the general public. Only
someone who knows the secret key code can connect to the wireless
network.
The most popular wireless network technology, Wi-Fi, comes with two types
of security: Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access
(WPA). WEP uses the RC4 encryption algorithm and a private key phrase or
series of characters to encrypt all data transmitted over the wireless network.
For this type of security to work, all stations must have the private key. Any
station without this key cannot get on the network. WPA, which is now built
into all new Wi-Fi equipment and is a free upgrade on most older Wi-Fi equipment, is far more secure than WEP, and we recommend that you use it. WPA
uses either Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) or Advanced Encryption
Standard (AES) encryption, which dynamically changes the security key as
the connection is used. We talk about using both types of systems in Chapter
9, with our primary emphasis on WPA, and we promise we won’t test you on
these acronyms at all!
In the home, you’ll most likely get your access point functionality through a
wireless home router or a wireless Internet gateway. These devices combine
the access point with a router, a wired Ethernet network switch, and (in the
case of the gateway) a broadband modem. Similar devices may even throw
in a print server. This Swiss Army knife–like approach is often a real bargain
for use in a wireless home network. A standalone access point may be part
of your network when you’re adding a second wireless network to the mix (it
would attach to one of the wired Ethernet ports on your router) or if you have
some kind of fancy wired router in place (this isn’t common, but some folks
who telecommute from home may have a special router supplied by their
company for accessing the corporate network).
We use the term AP throughout this chapter to mean either a standalone AP
or the AP built into a wireless home router or gateway.
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Comparing infrastructure
mode and ad hoc mode
Wireless networking devices can operate in one of two modes: infrastructure
mode or ad hoc mode. The next two subsections describe the differences
between these two modes.
Infrastructure mode
When a wireless station (such as a PC or a Mac) communicates with other
computers or devices through an AP, the wireless station is operating in
infrastructure mode. The station uses the network infrastructure to reach
another computer or device rather than communicate directly with the other
computer or device. Figure 2-7 shows a network that consists of a wireless
network segment with two wireless personal computers, and a wired network
segment with three computers. These five computers communicate through
the AP and the network infrastructure. The wireless computers in this network are communicating in infrastructure mode.
Wired
network
Wireless
PC
PC
PC
Ethernet cable
Figure 2-7:
The two
wireless
computers
in this
network
communicate through
the AP in
infrastructure mode.
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Access
point
PC
Wireless
PC
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Ad hoc mode
Whenever two wireless stations are close enough to communicate with each
other, they’re capable of establishing an ad hoc network: that is, a wireless
network that doesn’t use an AP. Theoretically, you could create a home network out of wireless stations without the need for an AP. It’s more practical,
however, to use an AP because it facilitates communication between many
stations at once (as many as hundreds of stations simultaneously in a single
wireless network segment, depending upon a particular AP’s limitations). In
addition, an AP can create a connection, or bridge, between a wireless network segment and a wired segment.
Ad hoc mode isn’t often used in wireless home networks, but it could be used
on occasion to connect two computers to transfer files where no AP is in the
vicinity to create a wireless infrastructure.
We don’t see any real advantage to using an ad hoc network in your home just
to save a few bucks. You can buy a perfectly good wireless home router for
under $50 (and even less when the sales are on!); the capabilities and ease-ofuse you gain from this approach are well worth the minimal cost. And it’s a
heck of a lot easier to connect all of your computers to your Internet connection using the Infrastructure versus the ad hoc approach.
Your Wireless Network’s Power
Station: The Antenna
The main interface between your access point or network interface card and
the network is the antenna. Signals generated and received by your wireless
gear are dependent on a high-quality antenna interface. To be smart in wireless networking, you need to know the basics about antennas. If you know
how they work, you can better optimize your network.
The newest APs, which use the 802.11n standard (discussed in the later section titled “Exploring Industry Standards”), use a special technology called
MIMO that uses advanced signal processing to “shape” the beam coming out
of your antennas. These systems have a special antenna configuration optimized for this MIMO system; MIMO systems aren’t designed to be modified
with different antennas.
Access point antennas vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Many APs
have a single external antenna about 5 inches long. This type of antenna is a
dipole antenna. Some APs have two external dipole antennas. Dual external
antenna models should provide better signal coverage throughout the house.
APs with dual antennas may transmit from only one of the antennas but
receive through both antennas by sampling the signal and using whichever
antenna is getting the strongest signal — a diversity antenna system.
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41
Typical omnidirectional dipole antennas attach to the AP with a connector
that enables you to position the antenna at many different angles; however,
omnidirectional dipole radio antennas send and receive best in the vertical
position.
The range and coverage of a Wi-Fi wireless AP used indoors is determined by
these factors:
✓ AP transmission output power: This is the power output of the AP’s
radio, usually referred to as transmission power, or TX power. Higher
power output produces a longer range. Wi-Fi APs transmit at a power
output of less than 30 dBm (one watt). Government agencies around the
world regulate the maximum power output allowed. APs for home use
generally have power outputs in the range of 13 dBm (20 mW) to 15 dBm
(31.6 mW). The higher the power rating, the stronger the signal and the
better range your wireless network will have. Some wireless networking
equipment manufacturers offer add-on amplifiers that boost the standard signal of the AP to achieve a longer range. We talk about boosters
in Chapter 18.
✓ Antenna gain: The AP’s antenna and the antennas on the other devices
on the network improve the capability of the devices to send and
receive radio signals. This type of signal improvement is gain. Antenna
specifications vary depending on vendor, type, and materials. Adding
a higher-gain antenna at either end of the connection can increase the
effective range.
✓ Antenna type: Radio antennas both send and receive signals. Different
types of antennas transmit signals in different patterns or shapes. The
most common type of antenna used in wireless home networks, the
dipole antenna, is described as omnidirectional because it transmits its
signal in all directions equally. In fact, the signal from a dipole antenna
radiates 360° in the horizontal plane and 75° in the vertical plane, to
create a doughnut-shaped pattern. Consequently, the area directly
above or below the antenna gets a very weak signal.
Some types of antenna focus the signal in a particular direction and
are referred to as directional antennas. In special applications where
you want an AP to send its signal only in a specific direction, you could
replace the omnidirectional antenna with a directional antenna. In a
home, omnidirectional is usually the best choice, but that also depends
on the shape of the home; some antennas are better for brownstones
and multifloor buildings because they have a more spherical signal footprint rather than the standard flatish one.
✓ Receive sensitivity: The receive sensitivity of an AP or other wireless
networking device is a measurement of how strong a signal is required
from another radio before the device can make a reliable connection
and receive data.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
✓ Signal attenuation: A radio signal can get weaker as a result of interference caused by other radio signals because of objects that lie in the
radio wave path between radios and because of the distance between
the radios. The reduction in signal is attenuation. Read through Chapter
4 for a discussion of how to plan the installation of your wireless network to deal with signal attenuation.
To replace or add an antenna to an AP or other wireless device, you need
to have a place to plug it in — as obvious a statement as that is, many antennas aren’t detachable, and you can’t add another antenna. Some access
points use reverse TNC connectors that let optional antennas be used in
802.11b/g products.
Most 802.11n products handle the whole antenna situation differently than
older 802.11g/b/a APs. That’s because the 802.11n standard includes some
new technologies that use multiple transmitters and antennas to increase
range and speed. As a result, all the consumer-grade 802.11n APs we’ve seen
do not include the ability to add on your own external antennas.
Exploring Industry Standards
One of the most significant factors that has led to the explosive growth of
personal computers and their effect on our daily lives has been the emergence of industry standards. Although many millions of personal computers
are in use now around the world, only three families of operating system
software run virtually all these computers: Windows, Mac OS, and Unix
(including Linux). Most personal computers used in the home employ one of
the Microsoft Windows or Apple Macintosh operating systems. The existence
of this huge installed base of potential customers has enabled hundreds
of hardware and software companies to thrive by producing products that
interoperate with one or more of these industry-standard operating systems.
Understanding antenna gain
Antenna gain is usually expressed in dBi units
(which indicate, in decibels, the amount of gain
an antenna has). An antenna with a 4 dBi gain
increases the output power (the effective isotropic radiated power, or EIRP) of the radio by 4
dBm. The FCC permits IEEE 802.11 radios to have
a maximum EIRP of 36 dBm when the device is
using an omnidirectional antenna. The antennas
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included with wireless home networking equipment are typically omnidirectional detachable
dipole antennas with gains of 2 dBi to 5 dBi.
Some manufacturers offer optional high-gain
antennas. (Note: The maximum EIRP output
permitted in Japan is 20 dBm; and the maximum
output in Europe is only 10 dBm.)
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Understanding Wi-Fi channels
Now for a little talk about frequency bands used
by the various Wi-Fi standards. In 1985, the FCC
made changes to the radio spectrum regulation
and assigned three bands designated as the
industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) bands.
These frequency bands are
✓ 902 MHz–928 MHz: A 26 MHz bandwidth
✓ 2.4 GHz–2.4835 GHz: An 83.5 MHz bandwidth
✓ 5.15–5.35 GHz and 5.725 GHz–5.825 GHz: A
300 MHz bandwidth
The FCC also opened some additional frequencies, known as Unlicensed National Information
Infrastructure (U-NII), in the lower reaches of
the five GHz frequencies.
The purpose of the FCC change was to encourage the development and use of wireless
networking technology. The new regulation
permits a user to operate, within certain guidelines, radio equipment that transmits a signal
within each of these three ISM bands without
obtaining an FCC license.
Wireless networks use radio waves to send
data around the network. 802.11a uses part of
the U-NII frequencies, and IEEE 802.11b and
g use the ISM 2.4 GHz band. 802.11n can use
either band, though not all 802.11n systems do
(many use only the 2.4 GHz band).
An important concept when talking about frequencies is the idea of overlapping and nonoverlapping channels. As we discuss in Chapter
18, signals from other APs can cause interference and poor performance of your wireless
network. This happens specifically when the
APs’ signals are transmitting on the same (or
sometimes nearby) channels. Recall that the
standards call for a number of channels within
a specified frequency range.
The frequency range of 802.11g, for example, is
between 2.4 GHz and 2.4835 GHz, and it’s broken
up into fourteen equal-sized channels. (Only
eleven can be used in the United States —
any equipment sold for use here allows you
to access only these eleven channels.) The
problem is that these channels are defined in
such a way that many of the channels overlap
with one another — and with 802.11g, there are
only three nonoverlapping channels. Thus, you
wouldn’t want to have channels 10 and 11 operating side by side because you would get signal
degradation. You want noninterfering, nonoverlapping channels. So you find that people tend
to use Channels 1, 6, and 11, or something similar. 802.11a doesn’t have this problem because
its eight channels, in the 5 GHz frequency band,
don’t overlap; therefore, you can use contiguous channels. As with 802.11b and g, however,
you don’t want to be on the same channel.
Computer hardware manufacturers recognize the benefits of building their
products to industry standards. To encourage the adoption and growth of
wireless networking, many companies that are otherwise competitors have
worked together to develop a family of wireless networking industry standards that build on and interoperate with existing networking standards. As
a result, reasonably priced wireless networking equipment is widely available
from many manufacturers. You can feel safe buying equipment from any of
these manufacturers because they’re all designed to work together, with one
important caveat: You need to make sure your gear can all “speak” using the
same version of Wi-Fi.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
The four major flavors of this wireless networking technology for LAN
applications are IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n — two of these,
802.11g and n are currently widely available. You just have to choose the
flavor that best fits your needs and budget. (Note: There are other wireless
standards, such as Bluetooth for short-range communications, for other
applications in the home. We talk about these standards in Chapter 3 and
elsewhere wherever their discussion is appropriate.)
Wi-Fi history: 802.11b and 802.11a
In 1990, the IEEE adopted the document “IEEE Standards for Local and
Metropolitan Area Networks,” which provides an overview of the networking
technology standards used in virtually all computer networks now in prevalent use. The great majority of computer networks use one or more of the
standards included in IEEE 802; the most widely adopted is IEEE 802.3, which
covers Ethernet.
IEEE 802.11 is the section that defines wireless networking standards and is
often called wireless Ethernet. The first edition of the IEEE 802.11 standard,
adopted in 1997, specified two wireless networking protocols that can transmit at either 1 or 2 megabits per second (Mbps) using the 2.4 GHz radio
frequency band, broken into fourteen 5 MHz channels (eleven in the United
States). IEEE 802.11b-1999 is a supplement to IEEE 802.11 that added subsections to IEEE 802.11 that specify the protocol used by Wi-Fi certified wireless
networking devices.
The 802.11b protocol is backward compatible with the IEEE 802.11 protocols
adopted in 1997, using the same 2.4 GHz band and channels as the slower
protocol. The primary improvement of the IEEE 802.11b protocol was a technique that enabled data transmission at either 5.5 Mbps or 11 Mbps.
802.11b is an old standard. Most vendors no longer sell 802.11b equipment (or
they sell one single line of products for customers who want to replace old
gear). 802.11g, which we discuss in a moment, is compatible with 802.11b, but
is much faster and not a penny more expensive. It has pretty much replaced
802.11b, particularly in the home networking market.
IEEE adopted 802.11a at the same time it adopted 802.11b. 802.11a specifies
a wireless protocol that operates at higher frequencies than the 802.11b protocol and uses a variety of techniques to provide data transmission rates of
6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 54 Mbps. 802.11a has 12 nonoverlapping channels
in the United States and Canada, but most deployed products use only 8 of
these channels.
Because it uses a different set of frequencies, 802.11a offers the following
advantages over IEEE 802.11b:
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✓ Capacity: 802.11a has about four times as many available channels,
resulting in about eight times the network capacity: that is, the number
of wireless stations that can be connected to the AP at one time and still
be able to communicate.
✓ Less competition: Portable phones, Bluetooth, and residential microwave ovens use portions of the same 2.4 GHz radio frequency band used
by 802.11b, which sometimes results in interference. By contrast, few
devices other than IEEE 802.11a devices use the 5 GHz radio frequency
band. Note: A growing number of cordless phones are starting to use
this same frequency range, so the relative uncrowdedness of the 5 GHz
spectrum isn’t likely to last forever.
✓ Improved throughput: Tests show as much as four to five times the
data link rate and throughput of 802.11b in a typical office environment.
Throughput is the amount of data that can be transferred over the connection in a given period. (See the nearby sidebar, “Gauging your network’s throughput.”)
Like 802.11b, 802.11a has pretty much been superseded by newer technologies.
(802.11n is significantly faster and can also use those higher frequencies used
by 802.11a.) It’s hard to find 802.11a wireless home routers or 802.11a network
adapters on the market these days, with one exception. Some manufacturers
carry dual-band, dual-mode networking gear that supports 802.11a and 802.11g
in a single device — this equipment is often labeled 802.11a/b/g because it also
supports 802.11b equipment on the network. The idea behind this dual-band
gear is that you can use the 802.11a frequencies for a fast channel for a specific
purpose (such as sending audio and video from your PC to home theater)
while using the 802.11g frequencies for all the normal Internet traffic in your
network. 802.11n supports the same usage, with higher speeds, so many manufacturers have discontinued their a/b/g equipment. As we write in 2010, a few
manufacturers (such as NETGEAR) still offer such wireless equipment.
The outgoing standard: 802.11g
The third generation of IEEE standards-based products, which hit the streets
2003, is 802.11g. 802.11g is backward compatible with 802.11b wireless networking technology, but delivers the same transmission speeds as 802.11a —
up to 54 Mbps — thus effectively combining the best of both worlds.
802.11g networking equipment is still widely available and can be considered
a low-end approach to wireless networking. It’s a bit cheaper than the newer
802.11n gear and is often included as standard in inexpensive new computers, netbooks, and so on.
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Gauging your network’s throughput
Wi-Fi standards call for different speeds, up
to 11 Mbps for 802.11b right on up to 300 Mbps
for 802.11n. Radios attempt to communicate at
the highest speed they can. If they encounter
too many errors (dropped bits), the radio steps
down to the next fastest speed and repeats the
process until a strong connection is achieved.
So, although we talk about 802.11n, for example,
being up to 300 Mbps in speed, the reality is that
unless you’re very close to the AP, you’re not
likely to get that maximum rate. Signal fade
and interference cut into your speeds, and the
negotiated rate between the two devices drops.
That discussion represents just the speed. The
actual throughput is another, related, matter.
Throughput represents the rate at which the
validated data flows from one point to another.
It may take some retransmissions for that to
occur, so your throughput is less than the negotiated speed of the connection. It may not be
unusual for you to get only 40 to 50 percent of
your maximum connection speed. In fact, that’s
rather normal.
Although 802.11g works great, if you’re considering doing more than just share
Internet connections on your wireless network, you should consider investing
in the newer 802.11n technology discussed in the next section. This newer
standard provides speeds up to five times as fast as 802.11g or 802.11a, and
can support both frequency ranges (the 2.4 GHz frequency supported by
802.11g as well as the 5 GHz frequency supported by 802.11a) — opening up
more channels and decreasing the possibility that your neighbor’s network will
interfere with yours (a potential problem in urban and even suburban areas).
The next big thing: 802.11n
After several years of deliberations (and to great cheering from us Wi-Fi
geeks), the 802.11n was finalized in late 2009. But even before this standard
was ratified, the folks at the Wi-Fi Alliance were busy certifying 802.11n gear.
As we’ve mentioned before, certification is vitally important so that you can
buy an 802.11n router from company X and an 802.11n network adapter from
company Y and have full confidence that they’ll work together. Figure 2-8
shows the Wi-Fi Alliance certification logo you’ll find on 802.11n–compliant
gear. (In this case, this gear is also compliant with 802.11b, a, and g.)
Here are a few key points to keep in mind about 802.11n:
✓ Speed: The theoretical maximum speed of 802.11n is 300 Mbps — five
times faster than 802.11g. Real-world speeds have been measured in
test centers at about 100 Mbps (still five times faster than 802.11g). With
802.11n, wireless can be a real alternative to wired networks, even for
high-performance applications such as sending video around the home.
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The 802.11n standard allows for a configuration that reaches a theoretical maximum speed of 600 Mbps! (Wow!) This is done by utilizing wider
radio channels (for the geek-friendly among us, 40 MHz channels instead
of the standard 20 MHz), while simultaneously using four antennas at
once. As we write, there’s no 600 Mbps gear on the market, but we probably won’t have to wait too long to see it appear. We can’t wait, as you
might imagine.
✓ Distance: 802.11n uses a special technology called MIMO (multiple
inputs, multiple outputs) that modifies how signals are sent and
received across your system’s antennas. A MIMO system can send
and receive data across more than one antenna at a time, and can use
special signal processing to actually beam form the signal to extend its
range and power in a certain direction. Although no one wants to quantify it exactly (or, to be more exact, everyone has a different figure),
you can expect MIMO to extend the range of your wireless network by a
factor of 2 or more.
The number of signals in use in an 802.11n MIMO system depends on the
number of antennas in both the AP and the client device’s 802.11n NIC.
This is typically represented as a ratio like 3x2 (three antennas on the
AP and 2 on the client). The fastest 802.11n systems in use today incorporate a 3x2 configuration; the potential 600 Mbps systems we discuss
earlier will use a 4x4 configuration.
✓ Channels: 802.11n gear can use either the 2.4 or the 5 GHz channels,
providing it with a considerably larger number of channels to choose
from when looking for the best connection between stations on your
wireless network (something 802.11n gear does automatically). The
highest speeds of 802.11n also use something called channel bonding,
where more than one channel is used at the same time (40 MHz of the
radio airwaves instead of 20 MHz), to increase the amount of data sent
across the network.
Figure 2-8:
Look for this
logo on the
box of your
new 802.11n
gear.
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As a cost-saving measure, some 802.11n gear uses only 2.4 GHz frequencies. This equipment won’t be able to use those relatively wide open 5
GHz channels but can still use the channel bonding feature for faster
connections. Note that 802.11n gear that uses only the 2.4 GHz frequencies is not backward compatible with 802.11a (see the next bullet for
more on this).
✓ Backward compatibility: 802.11n gear is backward compatible with any
802.11b or 802.11g gear, so your older network adapters will still work
on a new 802.11n network. If your 802.11n router or access point works
on the 5 GHz frequency range, it will also be backward compatible with
802.11a gear.
Adding 802.11a/b/g gear to an 802.11n network will slow down the whole
network to a degree, but your network will still be faster than an 802.11a, b,
or g network.
✓ Cost: Because it’s a new technology, 802.11n equipment is about 50
percent more expensive than 802.11g equipment. The least expensive
802.11n gear available as we write is about $50 for a router supporting
only the 2.4 GHz band — and closer to $100 for dual-band APs. You can
expect these prices to drop rapidly as 802.11n becomes more mainstream, but 802.11n will still have a price premium over 802.11g for the
next year or so.
As you shop for new wireless networking equipment, you’ll have to make a
decision between 802.11g and 802.11n. In general, we recommend that you
strongly consider the 802.11n gear (the speed improvements are well worth
the additional expense, in our minds). Regardless of the choice you make
between 802.11g and n for your wireless infrastructure (routers and access
points), we highly recommend that you select the 802.11n option when you’re
buying new computers (particularly laptops). There’s not a big price difference here, and changing the internal networking cards on many computers
(especially many laptops) isn’t always a walk in the park — if you can get
802.11n put inside at the factory, so much the better. If you can’t, well your
device will be a bit slower than it can be on the network, but you can rest
assured that it will definitely work — which is a very good thing.
Understanding Wi-Fi Certifications
It’s highly unlikely that every device on your network will be from the same manufacturer. Even if you’re the world’s biggest Apple fanatic or a major stockholder
in HP, you’re probably going to have something on your wireless network from
another manufacturer, which means you can’t rely on any single manufacturer
to make sure that everything in your network works together properly. That’s
where standards and certifications fit into the wireless networking picture —
they ensure that wirelessly outfitted devices work in the same way and can interoperate within a wireless home network no matter who makes them.
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Two major groups do this for wireless home networks: the IEEE, who develop
the technical standards that manufacturers follow when they design and
build wireless gear, and the Wi-Fi Alliance, who test and certify interoperability of equipment within those technical standards. We discuss both groups in
the following sections.
The Institute for Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a standardsmaking industry group that has for many years been developing industry
standards that affect the electrical products we use in our homes and businesses. At present, products using the IEEE 802.11g and newer 802.11n standards are the overwhelming market leader in terms of deployed wireless
networking products. Products that comply with this standard weren’t the
first wireless networking technology on the market — but they are now, by
far, the dominant market-installed base.
The Wi-Fi Alliance
In 1999, several leading wireless networking companies formed the Wireless
Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), a nonprofit organization (www.weca.
net). This group has recently renamed itself the Wi-Fi Alliance and is now
a voluntary organization of more than 200 companies that make or support
wireless networking products. The primary purpose of the Wi-Fi Alliance is
to certify that IEEE 802.11 products from different vendors interoperate (work
together). These companies recognize the value of building a high level of consumer confidence in the interoperability of wireless networking products.
The Wi-Fi Alliance organization has established a test suite that defines how
member products will be tested by an independent test lab. Products that
pass these tests are entitled to display the Wi-Fi trademark, which is a seal
of interoperability. Although no technical requirement in the IEEE specifications states that a product must pass these tests, Wi-Fi certification encourages consumer confidence that products from different vendors will work
together.
The Wi-Fi interoperability tests are designed to ensure that hardware from
different vendors can successfully establish a communication session with
an acceptable level of functionality. The test plan includes a list of necessary
features. The features themselves are defined in detail in the IEEE 802.11
standards, but the test plan specifies an expected implementation.
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Chapter 3
Exploring Bluetooth and Other
Wireless Networks
In This Chapter
▶ Finding out about Bluetooth
▶ Understanding the difference between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
▶ Integrating Bluetooth into your home network
▶ Extending your wireless home network with “no new wires” networking products
▶ Wirelessly controlling your home
G
etting the most from computer technology is all about selecting the
best and most dominant technology standards. The most dominant
technology for wireless home networks is clearly the 802.11 (Wi-Fi) family of
technologies defined by the 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n standards
(which we describe in Chapter 2). Wi-Fi is, simply, the reason why you’re
reading this book. It’s the technology that has made wireless networks such a
huge hit in the home.
But, Wi-Fi isn’t the only game in town. You run into other home networking
standards when you buy and install your Wi-Fi gear — standards that make it
easier to get Wi-Fi where you want it.
Another popular wireless technology, which we discuss in this chapter, is
Bluetooth (a short-range wireless networking system that’s built into many
cellular phones, cars, and those ubiquitous cordless headsets). Even if you
intend to purchase and use only Wi-Fi wireless networking equipment, you
should still be aware of Bluetooth. Who knows? It may come in handy.
In this chapter, we also talk about a few other key wired home networking
standards (oops, did we say a dreaded word: wired?) such as MoCA, which
builds networks over cable TV lines, and HomePlug AV, the standard for
networking over your electrical power cables in your home. As surprising as
it may seem, you can actually connect your computers, access points, and
other devices over these existing in-wall cables. What’s more, some wireless
home routers come with these interfaces onboard to make it easier for you to
install that AP wherever you want it. Isn’t that nice? You betcha.
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Finally, we talk about a few wireless networking standards that are designed
not for data networking in the home, but rather for control networks. These
standards, lead by ZigBee and Z-Wave, send signals around your home that
let you automate and remotely control devices in the home. For example, you
could use a ZigBee or Z-Wave system to turn on lights in remote locations,
raise or lower drapes, or adjust your central heat or air conditioning. These
are things that adventurous homeowners have been able to do for a long
time by using wired solutions or unreliable powerline solutions such as X10;
with these new wireless systems, anyone can get into home control and
automation without a big wiring job and without the headaches of dealing
with the AC powerlines.
Who or What Is Bluetooth?
One of the most often talked about wireless standards, besides Wi-Fi, is
Bluetooth. The Bluetooth wireless technology, named for the tenth-century
Danish King Harald Blatand “Bluetooth,” was invented by the L. M. Ericsson
company of Sweden in 1994. King Harald helped unite his part of the world
during a conflict around A.D. 960. Ericsson intended for Bluetooth technology
to unite the mobile world. In 1998, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba
founded Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Inc., to develop an open
specification for always-on, short-range wireless connectivity based on the
Ericsson Bluetooth technology. Its specification was publicly released on July
26, 1999. In case you wonder how significant Bluetooth really is, take in this
fact: Over 2 billion Bluetooth-equipped devices have been shipped since the
technology hit the market about ten years ago. That ain’t insignificant!
Sometimes a network of devices communicating via Bluetooth is described as
a personal area network (PAN) to distinguish it from a network of computers
often called a local area network (LAN).
The most common use of Bluetooth these days is in the world of mobile
phones (and the geeky or cool — we’ll leave the distinction up to you —
Bluetooth hands-free headsets hanging off millions of ears out there). But
there’s more to Bluetooth than just phones. The following is a small sampling
of existing Bluetooth products:
✓ Any of the thousands of mobile phones including Bluetooth
✓ Bluetooth wireless PC/Mac keyboards and mice
✓ Bluetooth hands-free headsets for mobile phones
✓ Bluetooth printers
✓ Bluetooth hands-free car kits that act as speakerphones in the car
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Chapter 3: Exploring Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
53
Although intended as a wireless replacement for cables, Bluetooth is being
applied to make it possible for a wide range of devices to communicate with
each other wirelessly with minimal user intervention. The technology is
designed to be low-cost and low-power to appeal to a broad audience and to
conserve a device’s battery life.
Comparing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are designed to coexist in the network, and although they
certainly have overlapping applications, each has its distinct zones of advantage.
The biggest differences between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are
✓ Distance: Bluetooth is lower powered, which means that its signal can
go only short distances (up to 10 meters, or a bit more than 30 feet).
802.11 technologies can cover your home, and in some cases more,
depending on the antenna you use. Some Bluetooth devices operate
under a high-powered scheme (called Class 1 Bluetooth devices), which
can reach up to 100 meters. Most home Bluetooth devices don’t have
this kind of range, mainly because they’re designed to be battery
powered, and the shorter Class 2 range of 10 meters provides a better
trade-off between battery life and range.
✓ Speed: The latest versions of Wi-Fi can carry data at rates in the hundreds
of megabits per second; the fastest existing Bluetooth implementations
have a maximum data rate of 3 Mbps. So think of Wi-Fi as a networking
technology that can handle high-speed transfers of the biggest files, and
Bluetooth as something designed for lower speed connections (such as
carrying voice or audio signals) or for the transfer or synchronization
of smaller chunks of data (such as transferring pictures from a camera
phone to a PC).
The current 3.0 version of Bluetooth incorporates a mode that allows
data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mbps. It does this by using a Wi-Fi radio
built into a Bluetooth 3.0 device, so the Bluetooth radio controls the
transfer of the data, but the actual transfer occurs over Wi-Fi radio. We
haven’t seen any products hit the market with this feature (it was ratified
in mid-2009), but we’re keeping our eyes out.
✓ Application: Bluetooth is designed as a replacement for cables: that is, to
get rid of that huge tangle of cables that link your mouse, printer, monitor,
scanner, and other devices on your desk and around your home. In fact,
the first Bluetooth device was a Bluetooth headset, which eliminated that
annoying cable to the telephone that got in the way of typing. Many new
cars are also outfitted with Bluetooth so that you can use your cellphone
in your car, with your car’s stereo speakers and an onboard microphone
serving as your hands-free capability. Pretty neat, huh?
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Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth are similar in certain respects: They both
enable wireless communication between electronic devices, but they’re more
complementary than direct competitors. Wi-Fi technology is most often used
to create a wireless network of personal computers that can be located
anywhere in a home or business. Bluetooth devices usually communicate
with other Bluetooth devices in relatively close proximity.
The easiest way to distinguish Wi-Fi from Bluetooth is to focus on what each
one replaces:
✓ Wi-Fi is wireless Ethernet. Wi-Fi is a wireless version of the Ethernet
communication protocol and is intended to replace networking cable
that would otherwise be run through walls and ceilings to connect
computers in multiple rooms or even on multiple floors of a building.
✓ Bluetooth replaces peripheral cables. Bluetooth wireless technology
operates at short distances — usually about 10 meters — and most
often replaces cables that connect peripheral devices such as a printer,
keyboard, mouse, or personal digital assistant (PDA) to your computer.
✓ Bluetooth replaces IrDA. Bluetooth can also be used to replace another
wireless technology — Infrared Data Association (IrDA) wireless
technology — that’s already found in most laptop computers, PDAs, and
even many printers. Although IR signals are secure and aren’t bothered
with radio frequency (RF) interference, IrDA’s usefulness is hindered
by infrared’s requirement for line-of-sight proximity of devices. Just like
the way your TV’s remote control must be pointed directly at your TV
to work, the infrared ports on two PDAs must be lined up to trade data,
and your laptop has to be “pointing” at the printer to print over the
infrared connection. Because Bluetooth uses radio waves rather than
light waves, line-of-sight proximity isn’t required.
Like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth can offer wireless access to LANs, including Internet
access. Bluetooth devices can potentially access the Public Switched
Telephone Network (PSTN: you know, the phone system) and mobile
telephone networks. Bluetooth is able to thrive alongside Wi-Fi by making
possible such innovative solutions as a hands-free mobile phone headset,
print-to-fax, and automatic PDA, laptop, and cellphone/address book
synchronization.
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55
Communicating with Bluetooth Devices:
Piconets, Masters, and Slaves
Communication between Bluetooth devices is similar in concept to the ad
hoc mode of Wi-Fi wireless networks (which we describe in Chapter 2). A
Bluetooth device automatically and spontaneously forms informal WPANs,
called piconets, with one to seven other Bluetooth devices that have the
same Bluetooth profile. (A Bluetooth profile is simply a specific Bluetooth
application — like a headset profile for attaching a wireless headset to a
phone, or an audio profile for playing music over a wireless Bluetooth
connection.) A capability called unconscious connectivity enables these
devices to connect and disconnect almost without any user intervention.
Piconets get their name from merging the prefix pico (probably from the
Italian word piccolo, which means small) and network.
Understanding Bluetooth connections
A particular Bluetooth device can be a member of any number of piconets at
any moment in time (see Figure 3-1). Each piconet has one master, the device
that first initiates the connection. Other participants in a piconet are slaves.
Figure 3-1:
Piconets
have one
master and
at least
one slave.
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Master
Slave
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The three types of Bluetooth connections are
✓ Data only: When communicating data, a master can manage connections
with as many as seven slaves.
✓ Voice only: When the Bluetooth piconet is used for voice communication
(for example, a wireless phone connection), the master can handle no
more than three slaves.
✓ Data and voice: A piconet transmitting both data and voice can exist
between only two Bluetooth devices at a time.
Each Bluetooth device can join more than one piconet at a time. A group of
more than one piconet with one or more devices in common is a scatternet.
Figure 3-2 depicts a scatternet made up of several piconets.
Figure 3-2:
A Bluetooth
scatternet is
composed
of several
piconets.
Master
Slave
Transmitting data via Bluetooth
Two things determine the data rate a connection can deliver: the amount of
information sent in each packet over a Bluetooth connection and the type of
error correction that’s used. Bluetooth devices can send data over a piconet
by using 16 types of packets. Sending more information in each packet (that is,
sending longer packets) causes a faster data rate. Conversely, more robust error
correction causes a slower data rate. Any application that uses a Bluetooth
connection determines the type of packet used and, therefore, the data rate.
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Chapter 3: Exploring Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
57
As mentioned, Bluetooth isn’t nearly as fast as Wi-Fi — many Bluetooth
devices reach a maximum data rate of 723 Kbps (compare that with 248 Mbps
for 802.11n), but that’s not usually important because Bluetooth is typically
not used for transferring huge files and the like. The most common version
of Bluetooth (Bluetooth 2.1) includes something called EDR (Enhanced Data
Rate) that allows data transfers at speeds of up to 2.1 Mbps. (The raw speed
is 3 Mbps; 2.1 is the actual data throughput rate.)
Both Wi-Fi (the 802.11b, g, and n versions) and Bluetooth use the 2.4 GHz
frequency radio band, but note the significant differences in how these
technologies use the band. Bluetooth radios transmit a signal strength that
complies with transmission regulations in most countries and is designed
to connect at distances from 10 centimeters to 10 meters through walls and
other obstacles — although like any radio wave, Bluetooth transmissions can
be weakened by certain kinds of construction material, such as steel or heavy
concrete. Although Bluetooth devices can employ a transmission power
that produces a range in excess of 100 meters, you can assume that most
Bluetooth devices are designed for use within 10 meters of other compatible
devices, which is fine for the applications for which Bluetooth is intended,
such as replacing short-run cables.
Understanding Bluetooth versions
Bluetooth has been around for a few years now
and, like most technologies, has undergone
some growing pains and revisions. In fact, multiple versions of Bluetooth-certified equipment
are available, as newer and more capable variants of Bluetooth arrive on the market.
A common variant of Bluetooth is known as
Bluetooth 1.2. This is basically a version of
Bluetooth with all the bugs removed. Bluetooth
1.2 devices (most currently available devices,
in other words) are backward compatible with
earlier Bluetooth 1.0 and 1.1 devices. So, they
work the same way, at the same speeds — just
better. (Some technical advances in 1.2 allow
most devices to have better real-world speeds.)
A growing number of Bluetooth devices support the Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (extended data
rate) standard. You can think of Bluetooth
2.1 + EDR versus the 1.x variants as being
07_9780470877258-ch03.indd 57
similar to 802.11g versus 802.11b. It’s faster
(with a maximum speed three times as high —
2.1 Mbps versus around 700 Kbps for the EDR,
or enhanced data rate), is better at resisting
interference, and just basically works better all
around. If you’re shopping for something that
may be sending larger files or requiring faster
data transfers, such as a Bluetooth-equipped
laptop (or a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone that
can be used as a modem for your laptop), consider insisting on Bluetooth 2.1 and EDR.
Coming down the pike is the recently adopted
Bluetooth 3.0 standard with potentially faster
data transfer speeds — and the Bluetooth folks
have adopted a new technology from Nokia
called Wibree for the yet-to-be-ratified 4.0 version, which allows ultra-low-power implementations of Bluetooth for devices with limited
battery or power supplies.
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To make full use of the 2.4 GHz frequency radio band and to reduce the
likelihood of interference, Bluetooth uses a transmission protocol that hops
1,600 times per second between 79 discrete 1 MHz-wide channels from 2.402
GHz to 2.484 GHz. Each piconet establishes its own random hopping pattern
so that you can have many piconets in the same vicinity without mutual
interference. If interference does occur, each piconet switches to a different
channel and tries again. Even though Wi-Fi (802.11b, g, and n) and Bluetooth
both use the 2.4 GHz band, both protocols use hopping schemes that should
result in little, if any, mutual interference.
Securing data in a Bluetooth network
To maintain the security of the data you send over a Bluetooth link, the
Bluetooth standard includes several layers of security. First, the two
Bluetooth devices that are connecting use authentication to identify each
other. After the authentication process (sometimes called pairing in the
Bluetooth world), the devices can begin sharing information. The data being
sent across the radio link is encrypted (scrambled) so that only other
authenticated devices have the key that can decrypt (unscramble) the data.
Integrating Bluetooth into
Your Wireless Network
Products that are the first to take advantage of Bluetooth technology include
the following:
✓ Mobile phones
✓ Cordless phones
✓ PDAs
✓ Bluetooth adapters for PCs
✓ Bluetooth hands-free car kits
✓ Videocameras
✓ Videogaming consoles and controllers (the Nintendo Wii, for example)
✓ Digital still cameras
✓ Data projectors
✓ Scanners
✓ Printers
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You can get a great idea of all the various ways that Bluetooth can be used in
your network by going to the official Bluetooth products Web site at www.
bluetooth.com/products, which lists over 10,000 products. We also go
into great detail in Chapter 15 about some of the more common ways you use
Bluetooth.
The current versions of Microsoft Windows, XP, Vista, and Windows 7, offer
built-in support for Bluetooth devices, as do all versions of Mac OS (from
10.2 Jaguar on). And, of course, all the major smartphone OSs (iPhone OS,
Windows Mobile, Nokia Symbian and Google Android) support Bluetooth.
In the following sections, we discuss how you can integrate Bluetooth into
your wireless home network.
Bluetoothing your mobile phone
One of the more interesting and most widely used applications of Bluetooth
technology is for cellphones. In fact, nowadays it’s hard to find a mobile
phone that doesn’t support Bluetooth. The most common use of Bluetooth in
phones is providing hands-free operation, either using a Bluetooth headset or
a hands-free Bluetooth system inside a car.
However, there’s more to Bluetooth and your phone than just hands-free
operation. Here are a few other ways that you can use Bluetooth in your
wireless home network:
✓ Synchronizing your phone with your PC or Mac. Most smartphones
(except the Apple iPhone, unfortunately) and many regular mobile
phones (those in the industry call these feature phones) can use their
Bluetooth connections to synchronize data from their PC. Bring your
Bluetooth-enabled phone home, dock it in a power station near your PC,
and it instantly logs on to your wireless home network via a Bluetooth
connection to a nearby PC or Mac. Smartphones can update their
address books, calendars, photos, music, and more with a Bluetooth
PC — no cables required. All your events, to-do lists, grocery lists,
and birthday reminders can be kept current just by bringing your
Bluetooth-enabled product in range.
All you need is a Bluetooth adapter, like the one shown in Figure 3-3, for
your PC (if it doesn’t have Bluetooth built in already), some software
from your phone manufacturer, and a few minutes of configuration,
which we talk about in Chapter 15.
✓ Tethering: Another use of Bluetooth and mobile phones comes into play
when your mobile phone includes a fast data plan (usually called 3G
networking, such as EV-DO, EDGE, or HSDPA, discussed in Chapter 13).
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Most of these services can be used on your laptop computer when it’s
tethered to your mobile phone using Bluetooth (except, again unfortunately, the Apple iPhone — the phone supports it, but AT&T does not).
The specifics on how this works vary from phone to phone and from
mobile phone carrier to carrier, so we can’t tell you exactly how to set
this up for your particular situation, but your mobile phone carrier will
provide instructions.
Many mobile phone providers charge an extra monthly fee (on top of
your probably already high mobile data service fee) for tethering. Check
your carrier’s Web page for details before you do this.
Figure 3-3:
Use a USB
adapter
to add
Bluetooth
capability to
a desktop or
laptop PC.
Wirelessly printing and transferring data
Hewlett-Packard and other companies manufacture printers that have built-in
Bluetooth wireless capability, which enables a computer that also has Bluetooth
wireless capability to print sans printer cables. Bluetooth is used in other PC
applications, such as wireless keyboards and wireless computer mice.
Another great use of Bluetooth wireless technology is to wirelessly transfer
your digital photographs from your Bluetooth-enabled digital camera to your
Bluetooth-enabled PC or Bluetooth-enabled printer — or even directly to
your Bluetooth-enabled PDA. The newest wave of smartphones from several
manufacturers includes wireless-enhanced models that have both Bluetooth
and Wi-Fi built in. Wouldn’t it be cool to carry your family photo album
around on your Treo or iPhone to show off at the office?
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Extending Your Wireless Home Network
with “No New Wires” Solutions
Wireless networking is great — so great that we wrote a book about it. But
in many instances, wireless is just one way to do what you want; and often,
wireless solutions need a hand from wireline (that is, wired) solutions to give
you a solid, reliable connection into your home network.
A common application of wireline and wireless networking is a remote access
point that you want to link back into your home network. Suppose that your
cable modem is in your office in the basement, and that’s where you have
your main wireless router or access point. Now suppose that you want
wireless access to your PC for your TV, stereo, and laptop surfing in the
master bedroom on the third floor. Go for it! But don’t be surprised to find
that your AP’s signal isn’t strong enough for that application up there. How
do you link one AP to the other?
You could install a wired Ethernet solution, which would entail running new
CAT-5e/6 cables through your walls up to your bedroom. It’s pretty messy
if you ask us, but this approach certainly provides as much as 1,000 Mbps if
you need it.
If you can run CAT-5e/6 cable and create an Ethernet network in your walls,
you should, so by all means do so! But most folks can’t do this, so these other
solutions are the way to go.
A more practical way to get your cable modem up to the third floor is to run
a powerline link between the two points. Think of this as one long extension
cord between your router or AP in the first floor home office and your AP in
your bedroom. Although not all of these powerline technology links can carry
data as fast as an 802.11n Wi-Fi connection, they will likely exceed the speed
of your Internet connection. If that’s your primary goal, these are great,
clean, and easy options for you.
The powerline networking concept takes a little getting used to. Most people
are used to plugging an AC adapter or electrical cable into the wall and then
another Ethernet cable into some other networking outlet for the power and
data connections. With powerline networking, those two cables are reduced
to one — the power cable! That electrical cord is your LAN connection —
along with all the rest of the electrical cabling in your house. Cool, huh? To
connect to your computer, you run an Ethernet cable from the powerline
networking device (router, AP, and so on) to your computer, hub, or switch.
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Going hands-free in your car
Bluetooth technology is advancing into the
arena of autos, too. Hands-free operation of
mobile phones can be handy (pun intended)
whenever you’re talking on your phone,
but when you’re in a car it can be not only
convenient but legally mandated. A number of
cities and states in the U.S. (and beyond) ban
cellphone use in a car unless a hands-free
system is in place.
In response to interest by the automotive
industry, the Bluetooth SIG formed the Car
Profile Working Group in December 1999. This
working group has defined how Bluetooth
wireless technology will enable hands-free use
of mobile phones in automobiles. Almost all car
manufacturers now offer hands-free Bluetooth
in their cars today. Using the Bluetooth in this
car, you can pair your mobile phone and then
use the steering wheel controls, navigation
system screen and controller, and the car’s
audio system to control and make phone calls.
Very cool. We talk about this topic more in
Chapter 15.
If your car doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth
capabilities and you just can’t imagine seeing
yourself in the rear-view mirror with a Bluetooth
headset jutting off your ear, you can install a
hands-free kit in most cars without too much
work. An even easier option is to consider a
GPS navigation system; many aftermarket GPS
systems now include Bluetooth and can use the
speaker built into the GPS or connect to your
car’s stereo system for hands-free calling.
Networking on powerlines is no easy task. Powerlines are noisy, electrically
speaking, with surges in voltage level and electrical interferences introduced
by all sorts of devices both inside and outside the home. The state of the
electrical network in a home is constantly changing, as well, when devices
are plugged in and turned on. Because of this, powerline networking systems
adopt a sophisticated and adaptive signal-processing algorithm, which is a
technique used to convert data into electrical signals on the power wiring.
Powerline networking equipment is based on a standard called HomePlug.
Most equipment available today, such as the NETGEAR XETB1001 Powerline
Networking Kit (www.netgear.com, $120 retail), uses the original HomePlug
standard (HomePlug 1.0), which offers speeds of 14 Mbps. (The WGX102
actually uses a proprietary version of HomePlug that is faster, offering speeds
up to 85 Mbps.)
The HomePlug folks have developed a newer version, called HomePlug A/V,
which supports speeds of over 200 Mbps, and products have started hitting
the market using this faster standard. For example, the ZyXEL PLA450
(www.zyxel.com, about $120) is a wireless access point that uses this new
HomePlug AV standard and can, under ideal conditions, reach this full 200
Mbps speed.
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Chapter 3: Exploring Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
63
Using other existing wires
Besides powerlines, your home will probably
also have a number of phone lines and coaxial
(cable TV) cables running through your walls.
These wires can also potentially be used to
extend the reach of your wireless network
without installing new Ethernet cables in your
home. We say potentially because although
these wires definitely can do this job, no
companies are currently shipping products to
consumers that would let you use the wires
this way.
In the past, a system called HomePNA (for
Home Phoneline Networking Alliance) was
widely available and did much the same thing
that HomePlug and other powerline networking
systems did, only leveraging the phone lines in
your walls. Since the last edition of this book,
HomePNA networking solutions have become
unavailable in the consumer marketplace.
That’s too bad, because the technology has
been greatly improved and works well. The
companies behind the technology have,
however, focused on the phone company
market, rather than the consumer home
networking market. HomePNA gear is found in
many of the TV set-top boxes provided where
phone companies offer television services —
the technology is used to carry TV programming
from a master set-top box to satellite set-top
boxes throughout the home.
A similar technology, called MoCA (Multimedia
over Coax) is used to carry TV programming
and other data over the coaxial cables used
for cable and satellite TV distribution. Again,
like the current version of HomePNA, MoCA is
a telephone (or cable) company technology —
it’s installed inside set-top boxes and not sold
in the form of consumer equipment that can be
purchased at the local Best Buy.
We think that this will change over time, and
we hope that it does because phone lines and
coaxial cables are better suited for carrying
data than are powerlines. Keep your eyes
peeled on these group’s Web sites (www.
homepna.org and www.mocalliance.
org) to see when consumer products become
available.
Although you can also buy powerline Ethernet bridge devices, which require
a network cable connection to your PC or Mac, we highly recommend that
you choose a powerline AP instead. In such a scenario, you connect one
powerline Ethernet adapter to your main home wireless router (using an
Ethernet cable) and plug that adapter into the wall. On the far end, you plug
the powerline AP into the wall. And — voilà! — you have a fresh and nearby
Wi-Fi signal in parts of your house that were previously out of reach from
your main Wi-Fi access point.
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Controlling Your Home without Wires
Throughout this book, we talk about using wireless networks to send data
around your home. This data could be what you traditionally think of as data
(Web pages, e-mail, Word documents, and so on), or it could be different
kinds of data (such as music MP3 files, digital photos, or video), but in the
end it’s all about getting one hunk of bits and bytes from one place in your
home to another. The bits and the bytes — the payload of your networked
communications — are the key here.
A completely different kind of wireless networking is control networking.
In a control network, you aren’t setting out to move data around the house;
instead you are using a wireless network to send commands to devices in
your home. In this instance you aren’t sharing a data file with someone
(or some device in your home) so much as telling it what to do (you bossy
person you!).
Understanding how home
control networks work
Home control has been around a long time (we’ve been writing about it for
over a decade, and it existed for decades before that), but traditional home
control systems used complicated (and expensive) proprietary wiring
systems or an old powerline networking system called X10.
The big news in home control, however, is the introduction of wireless
networking into the mix. Wireless home control networks are designed
around extremely low-power and low-cost chips that can (eventually) be
built right into all sorts of appliances and electrical devices in the home.
Home control networks are low-speed networks. Because home control
networks don’t need to be concerned with carrying a big fat stream of highdefinition data or the 80 megabyte Windows update du jour, they can get
away with relatively puny data rates in the name of cost savings. (It doesn’t
take a lot of bandwidth to say “dim the lights in the hall.”)
In another effort to trim expenses, home control networks are short range.
(The chips can be smaller and cheaper if they don’t transmit as much power
as, for example, an 802.11n chip.) This may seem a bit counterintuitive —
after all, home control systems won’t work well if you can’t reach the devices
in your home that you want to control — but these networks overcome the
issue of short range by using a mesh topology. Mesh means that each radio in
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Chapter 3: Exploring Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
65
the system can talk to every other radio, and in doing so they can retransmit
the commands you send throughout the home. The most common metaphor
here is the frog in the lily pond — the frog can’t jump all the way across the
pond in one fell swoop, but he can bounce from pad to pad until he finds his
way across. A wireless home control network does the same thing, “organizing”
itself and providing a route throughout the home for your control signals.
The network effect is in full effect in mesh networks like this. In case you’re
not familiar with it, the network effect states that the value of networked
devices is exponentially related to the number of those devices. (For example,
if only one fax machine existed in the world, it would be useless; if millions
exist, they can be very useful.) A similar thing is true for mesh networked
home control devices (called modules). One or two would work okay, if they
were near each other, but when a home has dozens (or even hundreds), all
sorts of devices can communicate with each other, and the whole network will
perform significantly better.
Exploring wireless networking standards:
ZigBee and Z-Wave
The two main technology competitors for this marketplace are
✓ ZigBee: ZigBee is a wireless automation networking standard based on
an international standard (called IEEE 802.15.4 — similar to the 802.11
standards used for Wi-Fi networks). As we mention earlier, ZigBee
systems use a peer-to-peer networking infrastructure, called mesh
networking, to reach throughout the home. ZigBee provides a data rate
of 250 Kbps, while using chips that are inexpensive to manufacture. A
group called the ZigBee Alliance (www.zigbee.org) — similar to the
Wi-Fi Alliance — is helping manufacturers bring ZigBee products to
market and helping ensure that the products work well together. As we
write, only a few dozen ZigBee products are on the market, but dozens
of manufacturers have joined the alliance.
✓ Z-Wave: A Danish semiconductor company called Zensys (www.
zen-sys.com) has developed a competitor to ZigBee called Z-Wave.
Z-Wave is a wireless, mesh, peer-to-peer automation networking protocol that’s similar to ZigBee. Z-Wave systems operate at speeds of up to
9.6 Kbps (slower than ZigBee but still more than fast enough for home
automation and control). Z-Wave products are still new to the market,
but several major manufacturers, such as Leviton (www.leviton.com)
and Wayne Dalton (www.wayne-dalton.com), are shipping products
using Z-Wave.
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ZigBee and Z-Wave are similar systems that do not work together. That is to
say, a ZigBee chip and a Z-Wave chip can’t talk to each other and work
together in a home control network. But they can both be installed in the
same home without causing interference nightmares. So while your ZigBee
and Z-Wave networks can’t directly interoperate, there’s no problem with
having both in your home (if you choose to do so) — for example, you could
have a Z-Wave lighting control system and use ZigBee to control your heating
and air-conditioning systems.
ZigBee and Z-Wave chips can be integrated directly into an appliance or
electrical device (this will be more common in the future), or they can be
integrated into a control module (a device that sits between your control
network and the thing you want to control, and translates network commands
into commands that the end device understands, such as on or off). In
Chapter 14 we talk about some common ZigBee and Z-Wave devices, how
they work, and how you can integrate them into your home.
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Part II
Making Plans
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T
In this part . . .
his part of the book helps you plan for installing your
wireless home network — from deciding what you will
connect to the network to making buying decisions and
planning the installation of wireless networking equipment in your home. It used to be easy when there were
only a few products on the market and only a few ways to
get wireless into your house. Now, you can outfit your
home in a myriad of ways, from devices that attach to
your TV (or the TV itself!) to Wi-Fi–enabled cellphones to
trusty old access points. We’ll help you figure out a good,
solid plan based on what you need — not what happens
to be on sale at your local electronics store.
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Chapter 4
Planning a Wireless
Home Network
In This Chapter
▶ Determining what to connect to your network and where to put it
▶ Getting connected to the Internet
▶ Putting together a wireless home network budget
W
e’re sure that you’ve heard this sage advice: “He who fails to plan,
plans to fail.” On the other hand, management guru and author Peter
Drucker says, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately
degenerate into hard work.” Because you’re going to be spending your
hard-earned money to buy the equipment necessary for your wireless network,
we assume that you want to do a little planning before you start building
your network. But, if you prefer to shoot first and aim later, feel free to skip
this chapter and move on to Chapter 5.
In this chapter, we show you how to plan a wireless home network — from
selecting the right wireless technology (there are several variants), to
deciding what things to connect and where to connect them, to the allimportant act of budgeting. You also find out about other issues you should
consider when planning your home network, including connecting to the
Internet; sharing printers, other peripherals, and fun, noncomputer devices;
and security.
When you’re ready to begin buying the wireless home networking parts (if
you haven’t done so already), head to Chapter 5, where we give detailed
advice about buying exactly the equipment you need. In Part III, we show you
how to set up and install your wireless home network.
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Part II: Making Plans
Deciding What to Connect
to the Network
Believe it or not, some technogeeks have a computer in every room of their
house. We have some close friends who fit into that category (including, well,
ourselves). You may not own as many computers as we do (Danny has more
than 20 in his house, and Pat lags behind with only 6, but for three people,
how many do you really need?), but you probably own more than one, and
we’re guessing that you have at least one printer and some other peripherals.
You’re wirelessly networking your home for a reason, no matter whether
it’s to share that cool, new color inkjet printer (or scanner or digital video
recorder), to play your computer-based video files on your new widescreen
TV, or to give every computer in the house always-on access to the Internet.
Whatever your reason, the first thing you must do when planning a wireless
home network is to determine what you want connected to the network.
Counting network devices
The first step to take in planning a network is to count the number of devices
you want to attach to your network — that means any computer or device
that you want attached to your broadband Internet connection, to your file
servers, or to shared resources, such as printers. You almost certainly will
connect to your network each of the computers you use regularly.
Next, consider devices that aren’t necessarily computers in the traditional
sense but that can benefit from a network connection — for example, the
printers we mention in the preceding paragraph. You don’t need to connect
a printer directly to a single PC in a networked environment — you can
connect it to a device known as a print server and let all your networked PCs
access it. Similarly, you can connect devices such as NAS (Network Attached
Storage), which let you store big files in a centralized location (or even do PC
backups over the network). In Chapter 14, we talk about a whole big bunch of
networkable devices that can go on your wireless LAN.
If you’re an audiophile or just enjoy digital media, you should consider
adding your home entertainment system to your network so that you can
share MP3 files, play video games, and watch DVDs from anywhere in your
house, wirelessly! (These cool gadgets are covered in Chapters 11 and 12.)
Many portable/mobile devices have built-in Wi-Fi these days, too.
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71
As you plan out your network and count devices, consider that some devices
already have all the wireless network capabilities they need built in. For
example, most laptop computers and some printers support at least 802.11g
wireless networking — so you should put them on your list, but you don’t
need to spend any money to add them to your network.
Don’t forget to count all the devices you’re going to be connecting, even if
a lot of them already have Wi-Fi built-in. You may not need to buy network
adapters for these devices, but you’re going to need to make sure that your
AP (access point) can handle that many connections. You may be thinking,
“Heck, there’s no way I can get past the 30 or 40 (or higher) device limit on
most APs.” Well think again. Did you add in all of your networked gaming
devices? Your networked Blu-ray disc player? That new LCD flat panel TV with
built-in Wi-Fi? Oh yeah? Well, did you add in all of the iPhones, Blackberries,
Android phones, Zunes, iPod touches, Nintendo DSs, iPads, and every other
portable device under the sun? You should! A few otherwise great little APs
(like Apple’s very cost-effective Airport Express) have relatively low limits on
the number of devices they can connect at once, and you could find yourself
running out of room on the AP without really trying.
Deciding what devices to connect with
wires and what to connect wirelessly
After you know what you’re networking, you need to choose how to network
it. By that, we mean that you have to decide what to connect to your home’s
network with wires and what you should use wireless networking for. At
first glance, this decision may seem obvious. You would expect us to always
recommend using wireless because this book talks about wireless networks;
however, using both wired and wireless connections can sometimes make
the most sense.
Wireless network devices and wired network devices can be used on the
same network. Both talk to the network and to each other by using a protocol
known as Ethernet. (You should be getting used to that term by now if you’ve
been reading from the beginning of the book. If not, read through Chapters 1
and 2 for more information about networking technology.)
The obvious and primary benefit of connecting to a network wirelessly is that
you eliminate wires running all over the place. But, if two devices are sitting
on the same desk or table — or are within a few feet of each other — connecting
them wirelessly may be pointless. You can get Ethernet cables for $5 or less;
an equivalent wireless capability for two devices may top $100 when everything
is said and done.
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Part II: Making Plans
Selecting a wireless technology
After you know what you’re networking and what will be on your wireless
network, you have to decide how to network wirelessly. As we discuss
extensively in Chapter 2, four main variants of wireless networking technologies
exist: 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n.
Collectively, all these technologies are usually referred to as Wi-Fi, which
isn’t a generic term, but, rather, refers to a certification of interoperability.
The folks at the Wi-Fi Alliance (www.wi-fi.org) do extensive testing of new
wireless gear to make sure that it works seamlessly with wireless equipment
from different manufacturers. When it works, it gets the Wi-Fi logo on the
box, so you can rest assured that it will work in your network.
Wi-Fi certified gear works together — as long as it’s of a compatible type. That
means that any 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n Wi-Fi certified gear works with any
other equipment of that type; similarly, any 802.11a Wi-Fi certified gear works
with any other 802.11a and 5 GHz capable 802.11n gear that has been certified.
(Note that not all 802.11n gear is 5 GHz capable — if a particular piece of
equipment supports this, it will say so and will also be 802.11a certified.) The
802.11b and g gear does not work with 802.11a gear, even if it has all been
certified, because they work on different radio frequencies and cannot
communicate with each other.
The discussion of wireless technology quickly degenerates into a sea of
acronyms and technospeak. If you need a refresher on this alphabet soup —
or to begin from square one — Chapter 2 is a primer on jargon, abbreviations,
and other nuts-and-bolts issues.
For home users, the three most important practical differences among
802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n networks are speed, price, and
compatibility:
✓ 802.11b is an older standard that is no longer used. You would be hard
pressed to find any 802.11b in your network, and only if you have been
buying legacy equipment at flea markets or electronic junk yards.
✓ 802.11g equipment has been the dominant standard in use for about
seven years.
✓ 802.11a can still be found in some special-use corporate environments,
but it’s no longer used in the home. It is as fast as 802.11g, costs much
more, and has a shorter range.
✓ 802.11n is five times faster than 802.11a and 802.11g and is 22 times
faster than 802.11b.
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Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
73
✓ 802.11a and 802.11b are not compatible.
✓ 802.11a and 802.11g are not compatible.
✓ 802.11b and 802.11g are compatible.
✓ 802.11n is compatible with all other standards but at the cost of its
higher speed — when you add 802.11a, b, or g gear to an 802.11n network,
you slow down the ultimate throughput or speed of that network.
The 802.11n standard is compatible with all other standards, but not all
802.11n equipment supports both the 2.4 GHz (802.11b and g) and 5 GHz
(802.11a) frequencies — many support only 2.4 GHz. An AP that includes
802.11n should work with any other device as well. So if you’ve got some
legacy 802.11g gear around the house, you can confidently install an 802.11n AP.
Although 802.11g is fast enough (that is, faster than most Internet services),
it’s not as good at in-home services like sending video from place to place. So
while you still can buy 802.11g APs, we recommend that you don’t. The speed,
range, and compatibility of 802.11n are more than worth the (only slightly
larger) price tag.
Choosing an access point
The most important and typically most expensive device in a wireless network
is the access point (AP; also sometimes called a base station). An AP acts like
a wireless switchboard that connects wireless devices on the network to
each other and to the rest of the wired network; it’s required to create a
wireless home network. Figure 4-1 depicts three PCs connected wirelessly to
each other through an AP.
Figure 4-1:
Three PCs
connected
wirelessly to
each other
through
an AP.
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Wireless PCs
AP
Wireless PC
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Part II: Making Plans
The vast majority of APs now available aren’t just access points. Instead,
most incorporate the functionality of a broadband router (which connects
multiple computers to an Internet connection), a network switch (which
connects multiple wired computers together), and even a firewall (which
helps keep “bad guys” off your network). We call such APs wireless routers.
The most popular wireless routers for use in home networks are those that
can do one or more of the following:
✓ Connect wired PCs: A switch is an enhanced version of a network hub
that operates more efficiently and quickly than a simple hub. By building
a switch inside the AP, you can use that one device to connect PCs to
your network by using either wired network adapters or wireless
adapters. We cover hubs and switches in more detail in Chapter 1.
✓ Assign network addresses: Every computer on a network or on
the Internet has its own address: its Internet Protocol (IP) address.
Computers on the Internet communicate — they forward e-mail, Web
pages, and the like — by sending data back and forth from IP address
to IP address. A Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server
dynamically assigns private IP addresses to the computers on your
home network so that they can communicate. You could use a software
utility in Windows (or Mac OS) to manually assign an IP address to each
computer, but that process is tedious and much less flexible than
automatic address assignment.
✓ Connect to the Internet: With a wireless router between a broadband
modem and your home network, all computers on the network can
access the Internet directly. (See the “Connecting to the Internet”
section, later in this chapter, for more about the Network Address
Translation feature that makes Internet sharing possible and for more
on Internet connectivity.)
✓ Add a print server: A print server enables you to connect a printer
directly to the network rather than connect it to one of the computers
on the network. See the “Adding printers to the network” section, later
in this chapter. Some wireless routers also let you use that same USB
connector for other purposes, such as attaching an external hard drive
as shared file storage on your network.
✓ Provide firewall security: A firewall is a device that basically keeps the
bad guys off your network and out of your computers. We talk much
more about firewalls in Chapters 9 and 10, but for now just know that
a firewall is typically included in your access point to provide network
security.
✓ Be combined with a modem: If you’re a cable Internet or DSL subscriber,
you may be able to use your own modem rather than lease one from
your Internet service provider (ISP). In that case, consider purchasing a
modem that’s also a wireless AP. A cable or DSL modem combined with
a wireless Internet gateway is the ultimate solution in terms of installation
convenience and equipment cost savings.
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You typically can’t buy a modem/AP/router combination off the shelf (or at
most Internet retailers) like you can buy a nonmodem AP/router. You get
these all-in-one devices directly from your broadband service provider in
almost all cases. It’s worth noting, however, that broadband service providers
don’t want to have to support you if you need help configuring your wireless
network (it costs them a lot of money to provide technical customer support),
so the wireless devices they offer are usually very simple to set up, but also
don’t typically provide as much functionality (like print servers or guest
networks) as separate AP devices. In fact, service provider–provided (say that
fast three times) wireless devices will typically be set up to allow you as little
flexibility as possible in terms of configuration and set up, so don’t expect to
be able to set them up in any way besides the factory default.
Deciding where to install the access point
If you’ve ever experienced that dreaded dead zone while talking on a cellular
phone, you know how frustrating poor wireless coverage can be. To avoid
this situation within your wireless home network, you should strive to install
your wireless network equipment in a way that eliminates dead wireless
network zones in your house. Ideally, you determine the best placement of
your AP so that no spot in your house is left uncovered. If that isn’t possible,
you should at least find any dead zones in your house to optimize your signal
coverage.
To achieve optimum signal coverage, the best place to install an AP is near
the center of your home. Think about where you will place the AP when you
make your buying decision. All APs can sit on a shelf or table, but some APs
can also be mounted to a wall or ceiling. When making your AP selection,
ensure that it can be installed where it works best for the configuration of
your house as well as stays out of reach of your little ones or curious pets.
The position of the access point is critical because your entire signal footprint
emanates from the AP in a known way, centered from the AP’s antennas.
Sometimes, not enough consideration is given to the positioning of the
access point because it so often works well out of the box, just sitting on a
table.
Other people install the AP wrong in the first place. For example, probably one
of the worst manufacturing decisions was to put mounting brackets on access
points. People get the impression that you should then — duh — mount them
on the wall. That’s great except for the fact that, depending on the antenna,
you may just kill most of your throughput. You see, when an antenna is flush
up against a wall, as is typical in a wall-mount situation, the signals of the
antenna reflect off the wall back at the antenna, causing interference and driving
down throughput precipitously. Yech. (But you see, customers want a wall-mount
bracket, so product managers at wireless LAN companies decided that they had
to give it to them.) The best mounting is 6 or more inches off the wall.
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The vertical positioning of the mounting point is important as well. Generally,
you have more interference lower to the ground. If you did a cross section
of your house in 1-foot intervals, when you get higher and higher, you would
see less on your map. Thus, signals from an access point located on a shelf
low to the ground will find more to run into than the ones that are mounted
higher. Although this may sound like common sense, consider that most DSL
and cable modems are installed by technicians who are used to installing
phone and cable TV lines. How many of these are generally located 5 feet off
the floor? They’re not; they tend to be along the floorboards and low to the
ground or in the basement. It’s not surprising that a combined DSL access
point router would be plugged in low to the ground, too.
See where we’re going with this? You don’t care where your cable modem is,
but you should care where your AP is located. And, if you have an integrated
product, you’re probably tempted to swap out the cable modem for the cable
modem access point. Simply moving that unit higher almost always does a
world of good.
Moving an AP out of the line of sight of microwaves, cordless phones,
refrigerators, and other devices is a good idea, too. Mounting the AP in the
laundry room off the kitchen doesn’t make a great deal of sense if you plan
to use the AP primarily in rooms on the other side of the kitchen. Passing
through commonly used interferers (all those metal appliances and especially
that microwave oven when it’s in use) generally isn’t a smart move.
Factors that affect signal strength
Many variables affect whether you get an adequate signal at any given point
in your house, including these factors:
✓ The distance from the AP: The farther away from the AP, the weaker the
signal. Wi-Fi 802.11g networks, for example, promise a maximum operating
range of 100 feet at 54 Mbps to 300 feet at 1 Mbps. Indoors, a realistic
range at 54 Mbps is about 60 feet. 802.11n networks have a significantly
longer range outdoors of up to 750 feet and an indoor range up to 210
feet at 300 Mbps. The range differs from vendor to vendor as well.
✓ The power of the transmitter: Wi-Fi APs transmit at a power output
of less than 30 dBm (one watt). So there’s not much difference here
between different vendors, but if you want to get out your slide rule and
do some calculations, well . . . now you know what number to plug in.
✓ The directivity or gain of the antennas attached to the AP and to
wireless network adapters: Different antennas are designed to provide
different radiation patterns. That’s a fancy way of saying that some
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are designed to send radio waves in all directions equally, but others
concentrate their strength in certain directions. We talk more about this
topic in Chapter 6, but the thing to keep in mind here is that different
brands and models of access points have different kinds of antennas
designed for different applications. Check out the specifications of the
ones you’re looking at before you buy them.
With MIMO-based 802.11n APs, you probably won’t have an antenna that
you can aim or even see, but many 802.11n APs use some highfalutin
beam forming technologies to aim signals around your house. And even
if your particular model doesn’t do this, other characteristics of 802.11n
(like the fact that most units use multiple antennas that each carry their
own data stream over a physically separate signal path) mean you’re
likely to get significantly better range.
✓ The construction materials used in the walls, floors, and ceilings:
Some construction materials are relatively transparent to radio signals,
but other materials — such as marble, brick, water, paper, bulletproof
glass, concrete, and especially metal — tend to reflect some of the
signal, thus reducing signal strength.
✓ Your house plan: The physical layout of your house may not only
determine where it’s practical to position an AP but also affect signal
strength, because the position of walls and the number of floors, brick
fireplaces, basements, and so on can partially or even completely block
the wireless network’s radio signal.
✓ Client locations: Reception is affected by the distance from the AP to the
rooms in your house where someone will need wireless network access.
✓ Stationary physical objects: Objects permanently installed in your
home — such as metal doors, heating ducts, and brick fireplaces — can
block some, or all, of the signal to particular spots in your house.
✓ Movable physical objects: Other types of objects, including furniture,
appliances, plants, and even people, can block enough of the signal to
cause the network to slow down or even to lose a good connection.
✓ APs: Interference can also be caused by the presence of other APs. In
other words, if you have a big house (too big for a single AP to cover),
you have to keep in mind that in parts of the house — like in the area
that’s pretty much directly between the two APs — you find that the
radio waves from each AP can interfere with the other. The same is true
if you live in a close-packed neighborhood in which a lot of people have
APs for their home networks. Check out the following subsection for
more information regarding this phenomenon.
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Wireless interference in the home
Probably the single biggest performance killer
in your wireless home network is interference
in the home. The Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) set aside certain unlicensed
frequencies that could be used for low-power
wireless applications. In specific frequency
bands, manufacturers can make (and you can
use) equipment that doesn’t require a license
from the FCC for the user to operate. This is
different from, for example, buying a 50,000watt radio transmitter and blasting it over your
favorite FM radio frequency band, which would
be a major no-no because those bands are
licensed for certain power levels.
As a result, all sorts of companies have created
products (including cordless phones, wireless
radio frequency [RF] remote controls, wireless
speakers, TV set extenders, and walkie-talkies)
that make use of these frequency bands. If
you have lots of wireless devices already in
your home, they may use some of the same
frequency bands as your wireless home network.
Another form of wireless interference comes
from devices that emit energy in the same
bands, such as microwave ovens. If you have
a cordless phone with its base station near a
microwave and you notice that the voice quality
degrades every time you use the microwave,
that’s because the micro (radio) waves are
in the same radiation band as your cordless
phone. Motors, refrigerators, and other home
consumer devices do the same thing.
What’s the answer? The good news is that you
can deal with almost all these by knowing what
to look for and being smart about where you
place your equipment. If your access point is
in the back office and you want to frequently
work in the living room with your laptop — but
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your kitchen is in the middle — you may want
to look at adding a second access point in the
living room and linking it with the office via any
of a number of alternative connections options
(which we talk about in Chapter 3) that are
immune to the problems we mention here.
Remember these specific things to look for
when shopping. You see cordless phones
operating primarily in the 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and
5 GHz frequencies. The 900 MHz phones pose
no problems — but are also almost impossible
to find these days — and the 2.4 GHz and
5 GHz phones interfere with your wireless
network signals (in the 802.11b/g and 802.11a
frequency ranges, respectively). Just know that
cordless phones and wireless home networks
really don’t like each other much. You can find
cordless phones that are designed not to
interfere with your wireless network. These
phones are usually labeled clearly that they’re
designed to work within and around wireless
networks. We have tested a few, and while they
do work much better — your network connection
doesn’t drop out when you answer the phone —
they still cause enough interference that
your connection will slow down a noticeable
amount.
If you have problems with your cordless phone
interfering with your wireless network (and not
everyone does, so we don’t want to overstate
the issue), consider buying a cordless phone
that uses the DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless
Telecommunications) system. These phones
use completely different radio frequencies
than any version of Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth, for that
matter) and they’re also — by the way — the
longest range, best-sounding cordless phones
that we’ve ever used.
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You should attempt to keep a direct line between APs, residential gateways, and
the wireless devices on your network. A wall that’s 1.5 feet thick, at a 45 degree
angle, appears to be almost 3 feet thick. At a 2 degree angle, it looks more than
42 feet thick. Try to make sure that the AP and wireless adapters are positioned
so that the signal travels straight through a wall or ceiling for better reception.
RF interference
Nowadays, many devices that once required wires are now wireless, and this
situation is becoming more prevalent all the time. Some wireless devices use
infrared technology, but many wireless devices, including your wireless
network, communicate by using radio frequency (RF) waves. As a consequence,
the network can be disrupted by RF interference from other devices sharing
the same frequencies used by your wireless network.
Among the devices most likely to interfere with 802.11g and 802.11n networks
are microwave ovens and cordless telephones that use the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz
band. The best way to avoid this interference is to place APs and computers
with wireless adapters at least 6 feet away from the microwave and the base
station of any portable phone that uses either band.
Bluetooth devices also use the 2.4 GHz band, but the hop pattern of the
Bluetooth modulation protocol all but ensures that any interference is short
enough in duration to be negligible.
Because relatively few devices are trying to share the 5 GHz frequencies
used by some 802.11n devices, your network is less likely to experience RF
interference if it’s using 802.11n. If the 5 GHz frequency is the only clear band,
802.11n will work but at the cost of absolute distance.
You should also try to keep all electric motors and electrical devices that
generate RF noise through their normal operation — such as monitors, refrigerators, electric motors, and universal power supply (UPS) units — at least 3
and preferably 6 feet away from a wireless network device.
Signal obstacles
Wireless technologies are susceptible to physical obstacles. When deciding
where best to place your APs, look at Table 4-1, which lists obstacles that can
affect the strength of your wireless signals. The table lists common household obstacles (although often overlooked) as well as the degree to which
the obstacle is a hindrance to your wireless network signals.
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Table 4-1
How Common Household Items Affect a Wi-Fi Signal
Obstruction
Degree of
Attenuation
Example
Open space
Low
Backyard
Wood
Low
Inner wall; door; floor
Plaster
Low
Inner wall (older plaster has a lower
degree of attenuation than newer plaster)
Synthetic materials
Low
Partitions; home theater treatments
Cinder block
Low
Inner wall; outer wall
Asbestos
Low
Ceiling (older buildings)
Glass
Low
Nontinted window
Wire mesh in glass
Medium
Door; window
Metal tinted glass
Medium
Tinted window
Body
Medium
Groupings of people (dinner table)
Water
Medium
Damp wood; aquarium; in-home water
treatments
Bricks
Medium
Inner wall; outer wall; floor
Marble
Medium
Inner wall; outer wall; floor
Ceramic (metal
content or backing)
High
Ceramic tile; ceiling; floor
Paper
High
Stack of paper stock, such as newspaper
piles
Concrete
High
Floor; outer wall; support pillar
Bulletproof glass
High
Windows; door
Silvering
Very high
Mirror
Metal
Very high
Inner wall; air conditioning; filing
cabinets; reinforced concrete walls
and floors
You may want to consider reading Chapter 18 on troubleshooting before you
finish your planning. Some good tips in that chapter talk about setting up and
tweaking your network.
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The RF doughnut
The shape of the radio signal transmitted to
the rooms in your home is determined by the
type of antenna you have attached to the
AP. The standard antenna on any AP is an
omnidirectional antenna, which broadcasts its
signal in a spherical shape. The signal pattern
that radiates from a typical omnidirectional
dipole antenna is shaped like a fat doughnut
with a tiny hole in the middle. The hole is directly
above and below the antenna.
The signal goes from the antenna to the floor
above and the floor below, as well as to the
floor on which the AP is located. If your house
has multiple floors, try putting your AP on the
second floor first. Most AP manufacturers claim
a range of 200 feet indoors (at up to 300 Mbps
for 802.11n and 54 Mbps for 802.11g). To be
conservative, assume a range of 80 feet
laterally and one floor above and below the AP.
Keep in mind that the signal at the edges of the
“doughnut” and on the floors below or above
the AP are weaker than the signal nearer the
center and on the same floor as the AP.
Because of this signal pattern, you should try
to place the AP as close to the center of your
house as is practically possible. Use a drawing
of your house plan to locate the center of the
house. This spot is your first trial AP location.
Draw a circle with an 80-foot radius on your
house plan, with the trial AP location as the
center of the circle. If your entire house falls
inside the circle, one AP will probably do the
job. Conversely, if some portion of the house is
outside the circle, coverage may be weaker in
that area. You need to experiment to determine
whether you get an adequate signal there.
If you determine that one AP can’t cover your
house, you need to decide how best to place
two APs (or even three, if necessary). The
design of your house determines the best
placement. For a one-level design, start at
one end of the house and determine the best
location for an 80-foot radius circle that covers
all the way to the walls. The center of this circle
is the location of the first AP. Then move toward
the other end of the house, drawing 80-foot
radius circles until the house is covered. The
center of each circle is a trial location of an AP.
If possible, don’t leave any area in the house
uncovered.
Adding printers to the network
In addition to connecting your computers, you may want to connect your
printers to the network. Next to sharing an Internet connection, printer
sharing is perhaps the biggest cost-saving reason for building a network of
home computers. Rather than buy a printer for every PC, everyone in the
house can share one printer. Or maybe you have one color inkjet printer
and one black-and-white laser printer. If both printers are connected to the
network, all computers on the network can potentially print to either printer.
Or perhaps you just want to sit by the pool with your wireless laptop and still
be able to print to the printer up in your bedroom; it’s easy with a networkattached printer.
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You can also share other peripherals, such as network-aware scanners and fax
machines. Leading manufacturers of digital imaging equipment (such as
Hewlett-Packard) offer feature-rich, multiple-function peripherals that combine
an inkjet or laser printer with a scanner, copier, telephone, answering
machine, and fax machine. HP and Brother both offer wireless printers that
make adding a shared printer to your network simple and quick. If you already
have a printer, you can find wireless print servers such as the HP Jetdirect
ew2500 802.11g Wireless Print Server to convert your wired printer to a
wireless printer. These devices aren’t cheap (about $300 list price for the HP),
so they make more sense if you’ve got an expensive laser printer or graphics
printer you want to set up wirelessly. If you’ve just got a plain old inkjet, it’s
probably cheaper to just buy a whole new printer with built-in wireless.
Here are three ways to share printers over a wired or wireless network:
✓ Connect to a computer: The easiest and cheapest way to connect a
printer to the network is to connect a printer to one of the computers
on the network. Windows enables you to share any printer connected
to any Windows computer on the network. (For more on this topic, read
Chapter 10.) The computer to which the printer is connected has to
be running for any other computers on the network to use the printer.
Similarly, if you’re using Apple computers, any computer connected to
the network can print to a printer that’s connected to one of the computers
on the network.
✓ Use a wireless printer: Many high-end printers even have print server
options installed inside the printer cabinet. The cost for a home use,
standalone network print server has come down a lot in the past few
years, but printers with Wi-Fi built in tend to be at the high end of the
price range. Although you can’t expect wireless to be built-into the $89
special you found, don’t be surprised to find printers and AIOs (All-in-One
units that include a scanner and copier functionality) at prices starting
around $150. And as long as you’re going wireless with your printer,
you might look for a model that also includes Bluetooth connectivity for
smartphones, cameras, and other devices that can print via Bluetooth.
✓ Use a print server: Another way to add a printer is through a print
server. As we mention earlier, several hardware manufacturers produce
print server devices that enable you to connect one or more printers
directly to the network. Some of these devices connect via a network
cable, and others are wireless. Surprisingly, some manufacturers bundle
a print server with their wireless router at little or no additional cost
(meaning you plug the printer directly into a USB port on your wireless
router). If you shop around, you can easily find a wireless AP, cable, or
DSL router and print server bundled in one device.
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You should be able to get your home network printer connections for free.
Obviously, it doesn’t cost anything to connect a printer to a computer that’s
already connected to the network. Several manufacturers also include a print
server for free with other network devices. If you don’t need one of those
devices, just connect the printer you want to share to one of the computers on
your home network.
Figure 4-2 depicts a home network with one printer connected to one of the
PCs on the network and another printer connected to a wireless Internet
gateway, which is a device that bundles a wireless AP and an Ethernet/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
& print
server
Figure 4-2:
A wireless
home network with
a wireless
Internet
gateway
and a bundled print
server.
Wireless
PCs
Printer
Printer
Connecting your printer to the wireless Internet gateway device is advantageous
because a print server permits the printer to stand alone on the network,
untethered from any specific computer. When you want to print to a printer
that’s connected directly to a computer on the network, that computer 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.
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Most folks don’t mind having their printer connected to a computer or to a
wireless router in their home — meaning that the computer is connected via
peripheral cables to one of these devices. You may, however, want to make
your printer itself wireless — so you can stick it anywhere in your house, even
if that means that it’s far away from any PCs or gateway devices. In this case,
consider buying a wireless print server that can either be an internal part of
your printer (in some cases, this is an optional module from the printer
manufacturer) or sit next to your printer. In this case, your printer is completely
decoupled from your wired network — the server is a wireless network
client — as well as the hardware and software to run the printer itself.
Why would you spring for the extra money (about $80 to $100)? Here’s an
example. Pat had a spot (a closet) right in the middle of his house (literally!)
where he wanted to hide a printer — but no wires and no PCs nearby. A
wireless print server solved the problem and got his printer out of the way
(and still in a convenient location).
Adding entertainment and more
When you’re planning your wireless network, don’t forget to include a few
gadgets for fun and relaxation. The wildly popular videogame consoles and
handhelds from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all offer network connectivity
and Internet connectivity. Don’t forget to consult with the gamers in your
household when planning where you need network coverage in your home.
And don’t forget to take a look at Chapter 11 for the skinny about connecting
your favorite console to your wireless network, as well as info on network-based,
multiuser PC gaming.
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 12
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, and pool right from your computer. Equally exciting technology
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 you can network, such as connecting to your car or
using your network to connect to the world.
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Connecting to the Internet
When you get right down to it, the reason why most people build wireless
networks in their homes is to share their Internet connection with multiple
computers or devices that they have around the house. That’s why we first
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 seriously handicapped. We’re not exaggerating much
here. Even things you do locally (use a spreadsheet program, for example)
can be enhanced by an Internet connection; for example, in that spreadsheet
program, you can link to the Internet to do real-time currency conversions.
These days it’s not uncommon to be using an online application such as
Google Docs, working simultaneously with a handful of other people on a
spreadsheet through your browser and Internet connection.
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 dial-up modem
connection (yes, some people still use modems) — 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 (which we describe later in this section)
to provide Internet access to multiple devices over a single Internet connection
coming into the home. With a NAT router (which typically is built into your
access point or a separate home network router), you can not only connect
more than one computer to the Internet but also simultaneously connect
multiple computers (and other devices, such as 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 or device) on the network.
Not surprisingly, to take advantage of this Internet-from-anywhere access in
your home, you need some sort of Internet service and modem. We don’t 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 one of these ways:
✓ Dial-up telephone connection
✓ Digital subscriber line (DSL)
✓ Cable Internet
✓ Fiber-optic service (such as Verizon’s FiOS service)
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✓ Broadband wireless services (like Clearwire, www.clearwire.com)
✓ Satellite broadband
DSL, cable, fiber-optic, broadband wireless and satellite Internet services are
often called broadband Internet services, 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 dial-up modem connection
(sometimes called narrowband) and is always on. That is, you don’t have to
use a dialer to get connected, but instead you have a persistent connection
available immediately without any setup steps necessary for the users (at
least after the first time you 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, as with 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’s available, however,
growing numbers of families are experiencing the benefits of always-on and
very fast Internet connectivity.
In some areas of the country, broadband wireless systems are beginning to
become available as a means of connecting to the Internet. Most of these
systems use special radio systems that are 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 using modified versions of Wi-Fi to provide
Internet access to people’s homes. In either case, you have some sort of
modem device that connects to your AP via a standard Ethernet cable, just
like you would use for a DSL, fiber-optic, cable modem, or satellite connection.
For the purpose of this discussion of wireless home networks, DSL, fiber-optic,
broadband wireless, and cable Internet are equivalent. If you can get more
than one of these connections at your house, shop around for the best price
and talk to your neighbors about their experiences. You might also want to
check out www.broadbandreports.com, which is a Web site where customers
of a variety of broadband services discuss and compare their experiences.
As soon as you splurge for a broadband Internet connection, the PC that
happens to be situated nearest the spot where the installer places the DSL,
fiber-optic, or cable modem is at a distinct advantage because it is 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. FiOS uses a device called a router to connect to the PC via the
same wired network adapter card. The best way, therefore, to connect any
computer in the home to the Internet is through a home network.
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You have two ways to share an Internet connection over a home network:
✓ Software-based Internet connection sharing: Windows XP, Windows
Vista, and Mac OS X enable sharing of an Internet connection. Each
computer in the network must be set up to connect to the Internet
through the computer connected to the broadband modem. The
disadvantage with this system is that you can’t turn off or remove the
computer connected to the modem without disconnecting all computers
from the Internet. In other words, the computer connected to the
modem must be on for other networked computers to access the
Internet through it. This connected computer also needs to have two
network cards installed — one card to connect to the cable/DSL modem
or FiOS router and one to connect to the rest of the computer on your
network via an AP or switch.
✓ Broadband router: A broadband router that is connected between the
broadband modem and your home network allows all the computers
on the network to access the Internet without going through another
computer. The Internet connection no longer depends on any computer
on the network. If the broadband router has Wi-Fi built in, it’s a wireless
router.
As we mention earlier in the chapter, nearly all APs now available for home
networks have a built-in broadband router.
Read through Chapter 10 for 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 $60 these days (and prices continue to plummet),
we think it’s 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, lower
performance, and a much bigger electric bill each month).
Both software-based, Internet connection sharing and cable or 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 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.
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Whenever your computer is connected to the Internet, beware the potential
that some malicious hacker may try to attack your computer with a virus or
try to break into your computer to trash your hard drive or steal your
personal information. Because NAT technology hides your computer behind
the NAT server, it adds a measure of protection against hackers, but you
shouldn’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 you purchase provides
that added protection. We talk about these items in more detail in Chapter 9.
As we recommend in the “Choosing an access point” section, earlier in this
chapter, try to choose an AP that also performs several other networkoriented services. Figure 4-3 depicts a wireless home network using an AP
that provides DHCP, NAT, a print server, and switched hub functions in a
single standalone unit. This wireless router 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.
Figure 4-3:
Go for a
wireless
router that
combines
AP, DHCP,
NAT, print
server, and
switched
hub
functions in
one unit.
Wireless
router
with print
server
Internet
Wired PC
Wireless
PCs
Cable/DSL
modem
Printer
Printer
If you already have a wired network and have purchased a cable or DSL
router Internet gateway device without the AP function, you don’t have to
replace the existing device. Just purchase a plain old wireless access point.
Figure 4-4 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 or 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.
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89
Wired
network
Wireless
PCs
Figure 4-4:
A wired
home
network
with an
AP and
wireless
stations
added.
Wired
PC
Wired
PC
Wired
PC
Printer
AP
Internet
Broadband
modem
Broadband
router
Budgeting for Your Wireless Network
Assuming that you already own at least one computer (and probably more)
and one or more printers that you intend to add to the network, we don’t
include the cost of computers and printers in this section. In addition, the
cost of subscribing to an ISP isn’t included in the following networking cost
estimates.
Wireless networking hardware — essentially APs and wireless network
adapters — is available at a wide range of prices. With a little planning, you
won’t be tempted to bite on the first product you see. You can use the
following guidelines when budgeting for an AP and wireless network adapters.
Keep in mind, however, that the prices for this equipment will certainly
change over time, perhaps rapidly. Don’t use this information as a substitute
for due diligence and market research on your part.
Pricing access points
At the time this chapter was written, wireless access points for home use
ranged in price from about $35 (street price) to around $100.
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Street price is the price at which you can purchase the product from a retail
outlet, such as a computer-electronics retail store or an online retailer. The
dreaded suggested retail price is often higher.
Multifunction access points that facilitate connecting multiple computers to
the Internet — wireless Internet gateways if they contain modem functionality
and wireless gateways or routers if they don’t — range in price from about
$50 to $200 for an 802.11n model (a bit less for one using the older 802.11g
technology).
The differences in price between the cheapest APs and the more expensive
models generally correspond to differences in features. For example, 802.11n
APs that support both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio frequencies cost more than
2.4 GHz-only models — and models that let you use both frequency ranges
at once (called simultaneous dual band APs) cost even more. We dig into this
topic in Chapter 5.
Pricing wireless network adapters
Wireless network adapters range from $25 to $125, depending on whether
you purchase 802.11g or n technology and whether you purchase a PC Card,
USB, or internal variety of adapter.
Most notebook computers sold are equipped with at least 802.11g wireless
built into them, with 802.11n as an upgrade option. If you can get an upgrade
to 802.11n when you’re buying new PCs, you should do so.
Looking at a sample budget
Table 4-2 shows a reasonable hardware budget to connect a laptop computer,
and a home desktop computer, and a cable Internet connection to an 802.11n
wireless home network.
Table 4-2 A Hypothetical 802.11g Wireless Home Network Budget
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Item
Price Range
Quantity
Needed
Access point/wireless router
$35–$200
1
Wireless network adapters
$25–$100
2
Network cable
$5
1
Cable or DSL modem (optional)
$75–$100 (or rented from your ISP)
1
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Chapter 5
Choosing Wireless Home
Networking Equipment
In This Chapter
▶ Choosing your access point
▶ Getting certified and sticking with standards
▶ Being compatible is very important!
▶ Finding out about bundled networking features
▶ Understanding the rest of the “options list”
▶ Locking down your network with security features
▶ Covering the whole house with wireless
▶ Managing your network
▶ Staying within budget
▶ Protecting your investment
W
hen you’re building something — in this case, a wireless home
network — the time comes when you have to decide which building
supplies to buy. To set up a wireless home network, you need, at minimum,
an access point (AP) and a wireless networking adapter for each computer
or other network-enabled device you want to have on the network. Getting
this network online means you also need a router, which is typically part of
a combined AP/router device (the wireless router). This chapter helps you
evaluate and choose from among the growing number of APs and wireless
networking adapters on the market.
Almost all computers sold today offer built-in wireless networking. In the
case of laptop and netbook computers (portables, in other words), the figure
is so close to 100% that it would be splitting hairs to discuss it. When it
comes to desktop computers, wireless networking is almost always available
and often standard, but the cheaper desktop computers will usually have
wireless as an option rather than a standard feature. Most other computing/
smartphone devices that you’ll want to connect to your network have built-in
Wi-Fi capabilities. The only devices that you’ll probably have to buy separate
network adapters for are older (say pre-1996) computers and peripheral
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devices like printers or gaming consoles. Otherwise, you’ll probably find that
everything you want to connect wirelessly is ready to go. These days, Wi-Fi is
just about standard.
The advice in this chapter applies equally to PCs and Macs. You can use any
access point for a Mac as long as it has a Web interface (that is, it doesn’t
require a Windows-only program to configure it). Despite that statement, if
you have a Mac, you may want to consider using the Apple AirPort Extreme
wireless router because it’s easier to set up and use — in fact, we can recommend
this wireless router for Windows users too, though it costs a bit more than
equivalent routers from other manufacturers.
In this chapter, we use the term AP (access point) generically to refer to the
base station of your wireless network. In most cases, it will be a part of a
wireless router, but in some cases it will be a standalone AP. When it doesn’t
matter whether the AP is stand-alone or part of the router, we use the term AP
or access point. When we’re specifically talking about an AP that’s integrated
with a router, we use the term wireless router. Just to repeat ourselves, you’ll
probably be installing an AP that’s part of a wireless router in your home,
unless you’ve already got a home router in place. (Most people don’t.)
Choosing an Access Point
At the heart of each wireless home network is the access point (AP), also
known as a base station. Depending on an AP’s manufacturer and included
features, the price of an AP suitable for home use ranges from about $35 to
$175. Differences exist from model to model, but even the lowest-price units
are surprisingly capable.
For most wireless home networks, the most important requirements for a
wireless access point are as follows (sort of in order of importance):
✓ Certification and standards support (Wi-Fi certification)
✓ Security
✓ Performance (range and coverage) issues
✓ Manageability
✓ Compatibility and form factor
✓ Bundled server and router functionality
✓ Operational features
✓ Price
✓ Warranties
✓ Customer and technical support
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With the exception of pricing (which we cover in Chapter 4), we explore the
selection of access point products in depth in terms of these requirements
throughout the following sections of this chapter.
In Chapter 4, we describe how to plan the installation of a wireless home
network, including how to use your AP to determine the best location in your
house as well as the number of APs you need. If you can determine a location
that gives an adequate signal throughout your entire house, a single AP
obviously is adequate. If some areas of your home aren’t covered, you need
one or more additional APs or a more powerful AP (and we tell you how to
extend your network coverage in Chapter 18). Fortunately, most residences
can be covered by the signal from a single AP, particularly when that AP uses
the further-reaching 802.11n standard (discussed in Chapter 3).
Understanding Certification
and Standards
We talk in Chapter 2 about the Wi-Fi Alliance and its certification process for
devices. At a minimum, you should ensure that your devices are Wi-Fi certified.
(You can see the logo right on the box and in the product’s data sheet.) This
certification provides you with the assurance that your wireless LAN equipment
has been through the wringer of interoperability and compliance testing and
meets all the standards of 802.11b, g, a, or n.
In fact, there’s even more to Wi-Fi certification than just meeting the 802.11b,
g, a, and n standards. Wi-Fi certification means that a piece of equipment has
been thoroughly tested to work with other similar Wi-Fi equipment, regardless
of brand. This is the interoperability part of the certification, and it means
that you can plug a D-Link adapter into your desktop computer, use a built-in
Intel adapter in your notebook, and install a NETGEAR AP as the hub of your
network, and everything will work.
Back in the early days of wireless networking, this interoperability was not
assured, and you needed to buy all your equipment from the same vendor —
and then you were locked in to that vendor. Wi-Fi certification frees you from
this concern.
The Wi-Fi Alliance certifies the following:
✓ General Wi-Fi certification: For 802.11a, b, g, and n equipment (as well
as multimode equipment that supports more than one standard at a
time — such as 802.11n gear that also supports 802.11a, b, and g), this
certification simply lets you know that a given piece of Wi-Fi certified
gear will connect to another piece of gear using the same standard.
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This certification is the bottom-line “must have” that you should look for
when you buy a wireless LAN system. We recommend that you choose
products certified 802.11n unless you have a tight budget (in which case
you should feel just fine about choosing an older 802.11g system).
✓ Security certification: This certification ensures the equipment can
work with the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2 security systems.
(See Chapter 9 for more on this topic.) WPA-certified equipment can be
certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance for any of these types of WPA:
• WPA and WPA2 Personal: This is the minimum you should look
for — equipment that has been certified to work with the WPA
Personal (or WPA-PSK) system described in Chapter 9.
If you can help it, don’t buy any Wi-Fi gear that isn’t certified for
at least WPA2 Personal. We think that this is the minimum level of
security you should insist on with a Wi-Fi network.
• WPA/WPA2 Enterprise: This business-oriented variant of WPA
provides the ability to use a special 802.1x or RADIUS server
(explained in Chapter 9) to manage users on the network. For the
vast majority of wireless home networkers, this capability is
overkill, but it doesn’t hurt to have it. (Any WPA/WPA2 Enterprise
certified system also supports WPA/WPA2 Personal.)
• WPS: Wi-Fi Protected Setup certification is increasingly common on
new equipment, but still rather new as we write this. WPS, which
we discuss in detail in Chapter 9, is a user-friendly front end to
WPA2 Personal and allows you to set up network security simply
by pushing buttons (or entering preassigned PIN codes) on your
AP/router and network clients.
• EAP: Extensible Authentication Protocol is part of the WPA
Enterprise/802.1x system used in business wireless LANs. EAP
provides the mechanism for authenticating users (or confirming
that they are who they say they are). A number of different EAP
types can be used with WPA Enterprise — each type can be
certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. You don’t need to worry about this
unless you’re building a WPA Enterprise security system for your
network.
✓ WMM: Wi-Fi Multimedia certification can be found on a number of audio/
video and voice Wi-Fi equipment (these items are discussed in Chapters
12 and 13, respectively). WMM-certified equipment can provide on your
wireless LAN some Quality of Service (QoS), which can give your voice,
video, or audio data priority over other data being sent across your
vnetwork. We talk about WMM where appropriate in Chapters 12 and 13.
Back around 2006, WMM was the “next big thing” in Wi-Fi, but as the raw
speed of wireless networks has gone through the roof with the advent of
802.11n, we’ve heard less and less about WMM. If you have a device that
you know could use WMM (like a Wi-Fi phone), look for a WMM-certified
AP. Otherwise, WMM is probably not that important to you.
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What to look for in 802.11n gear
The 802.11n standard has a bit more variation
in its specifications than previous 802.11
standards such as 802.11g. What this means
is that although all 802.11n gear can work at a
certain (very high) baseline of performance,
some gear may be more capable than others.
The biggest variation in the category of 802.11n
gear revolves around the frequencies used. All
802.11n gear works within the 2.4 GHz band that
was also used by 802.11b and 802.11g. Some —
but far from all — 802.11n equipment also
works in the 5 GHz frequency range that was
previously the sole domain of the 802.11a
standard. This higher frequency range is less
crowded with other wireless gear (such as
cordless phones and Bluetooth devices),
so you’re less likely to face interference.
Additionally, the 5 GHz band has more channels
(the frequency band is divided into a number
of channels), making it even easier to find an
uncrowded frequency.
Most of this dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) 802.11n
gear today works in either one or another of the
frequency bands at a time. What this means
is that if you have any legacy 802.11b or g
equipment on your network, the 5 GHz capability
of your AP or router will not come into play.
Some of the more expensive wireless routers
on the market have the capability to operate
in both bands simultaneously. This is a great
capability to have in a mixed 802.11g/802.11n
network, because your old gear can
happily hum along at 802.11g speeds by using
the 2.4 GHz radio in your router, while your
fancy new 802.11n gear can reach maximum
802.11n speeds in the 5 GHz band.
The final thing to look for when choosing 802.11n
systems is the capability of the equipment to
perform channel bonding. All Wi-Fi systems use
20 MHz wide channels to transmit and receive
data across the network airlink; many 802.11n
systems can bond two adjacent channels
together to form one bigger 40 MHz channel.
(For this reason, channel bonding is sometimes
referred to as 40 MHz channel width.) This
bigger, bonded channel can carry more data
and allow your system to reach the higher (200+
Mbps) speeds promised by 802.11n.
By the way, significantly more channels are
available for bonding in the 5 GHz frequency
range, which is another reason to choose a
dual-band system.
Considering Compatibility
and Form Factor
When choosing an AP, make sure that the AP and its setup program are
compatible with your existing components, check its form factor, and
determine whether wall-mountability and outdoor use are important to you:
✓ Hardware and software platform: Make sure that the device you’re
buying supports the hardware and software platform you have. Certain
wireless devices support only Macs or only PCs — it’s not that they
won’t work with different computer platforms, but that their configuration
software requires a particular operating system (OS). And some devices
support only certain versions of system software. Luckily, most APs use
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a Web browser for configuration, so they can work with any PC type and
any operating system that supports 802.11 and Web browsing (which is
to say all current operating systems).
✓ Setup program and your computer’s operating system: Make sure that
the setup program for the AP you plan to buy runs on your computer’s
operating system and on the next version of that operating system (if
it’s available — meaning if you’re using Vista, look for Windows 7 support
too, should you ever decide to upgrade). Setup programs run only on
the type of computer for which they were written. A setup program
designed to run on Windows doesn’t run on the Mac OS, and vice versa.
Again, most vendors are moving toward browser-based configuration
programs, which are much easier to support than standalone
configuration utilities.
✓ Form factor: Make sure you’re buying the correct form factor (that is, the
shape and form of the device, such as whether it’s external or a card).
For example, don’t assume that if you have a tower PC, you should
install a PCI card. It’s nice to have the more external and portable form
factors, such as a Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter, because you can
take it off if you need to borrow it for something or someone else, or if
you just want to reposition it for better reception.
USB comes in two versions: USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 (also known as High
Speed USB). If your computer has a USB 1.1 port, it has a maximum
data-transfer speed of 12 Mbps. USB 2.0 ports can transfer data at 480
Mbps, which is 40 times faster than USB 1.1. If you plan to connect an
802.11g or n device to a USB port, it must be USB 2.0.
Many brands of PC Cards include antennas enclosed in a casing that is
thicker than the rest of the card. The card still fits in the PC Card slot,
but the antenna can block the other slot. For most users, this shouldn’t
pose a serious problem; however, several manufacturers offer wireless PC
Cards that have antenna casings no thicker than the rest of the card. If
you actively use both PC Card slots (perhaps you use one for a FireWire
card for your camcorder), make sure that the form of the PC Card you’re
buying doesn’t impede the use of your other card slot.
✓ Wall-mountability: If you plan to mount the device on the wall or ceiling,
make sure that the unit is wall mountable, because many are not. We
don’t necessarily recommend that wall mount your AP, but a lot of
people make this choice for aesthetic reasons, and who are we to judge?
✓ Outdoor versus indoor use: Some devices are designed for outdoor —
not indoor — use. If you’re thinking about installing it outside, look for
devices hardened for environmental extremes.
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Looking for Bundled Functionality:
Servers, Gateways, Routers, and
Switches
You can find and buy wireless APs that perform only the AP function; but
for home use, APs that bundle additional features are much more popular,
for good reason. In most cases, you should shop for an AP that’s also a
network router and a network switch — a wireless home router like the one
we describe in Chapter 2. To efficiently connect multiple computers and to
easily share an Internet connection, you need devices to perform all these
functions, and purchasing one multipurpose device is the most economical
way to accomplish that.
DHCP servers
To create an easy-to-use home network, your network should have a Dynamic
Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server. A DHCP server dynamically
assigns an IP address to each computer or other device on your network.
This function relieves you from having to keep track of all the devices on the
network and assign addresses to each one manually.
Network addresses are necessary for the computers and other devices on your
network to communicate. Because most networks now use a set of protocols
(Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP) with network
addresses (Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses), we refer to network addresses
as IP addresses in this book. In fact, the Internet uses the TCP/IP protocols, and
every computer connected to the Internet must be identified by an IP address.
When your computer is connected to the Internet, your Internet service
provider (ISP), such as Time Warner Road Runner or Verizon FiOS, assigns
your computer an IP address. However, even when your computer isn’t
connected to the Internet, it needs an IP address to communicate with other
computers on your home network.
The DHCP server can be a standalone device, but it’s typically a service
provided by either a computer on the network or a network router. The
DHCP server maintains a database of all the current DHCP clients — the
computers and other devices to which it has assigned IP addresses —
issuing new addresses as each device’s software requests an address.
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Bring your network back to life in the right order
Your home network is comprised of many
parts. If you’re smart, you’ve consolidated
them as much as possible, because having
fewer devices means easier installation and
troubleshooting. But suppose that you have a
cable modem, a router, a switch, and an access
point — not an unusual situation if you grew
your network over time. Now suppose that the
power goes out. Each of these devices resets at
different rates. The switch will probably come
back fairly quickly because it’s a simple device.
The cable modem will probably take the longest
to resync with the network, and the AP and
router will come back up probably somewhere
in-between.
The problem that you, as a client of the DHCP
server (which is likely in the router in this
instance), have is that not all the elements
are in place for a clean IP assignment to flow
back to your system. For example, the router
needs to know the IP address assigned to
your cable modem for you to have a good
connection to the Internet. If the cable modem
hasn’t renegotiated its connection, it cannot
provide that to the router. If the AP comes back
online before the router, it cannot get its DHCP
from the router to provide connectivity to the
client. Different devices react differently when
something isn’t as it should be on startup.
Our advice: If you have a problem with your
connectivity that you didn’t have before the
electricity went out and came back on, follow
these simple steps. Turn everything off, start
at the farthest point from the client (usually
this is your broadband modem), and work back
toward the client, to let each device get its full
start-up cycle complete before moving to the
next device in line — ending with rebooting
your PC or other wirelessly enabled device.
NAT and broadband routers
A wireless router is a wireless AP that enables multiple computers to share
the same IP address on the Internet. This fact would seem to be a contradiction
because every computer on the Internet needs its own IP address. The magic
that makes an Internet gateway possible is Network Address Translation
(NAT). Most access points you buy now are wireless gateways — you actually
need to seek out those that have only AP functionality.
Vendors sometimes call these wireless routers wireless broadband routers or
perhaps wireless cable/DSL routers. What you’re looking for is the word router
somewhere in the name or description of the device itself. Standalone access
points (without the router functionality) usually are called just an access
point, so sometimes it’s easier to look for something not called that!
In addition to providing NAT services, the wireless routers used in home
networks also provide the DHCP service. The router communicates with each
computer or other device on your home network via private IP addresses —
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the IP addresses assigned by the DHCP server. (See the section “DHCP servers,”
earlier in this chapter.) However, the router uses a single IP address — the
one assigned by your ISP’s DHCP server — in packets of data intended for the
Internet.
In addition to providing a method for sharing an Internet connection, the
NAT service provided by a broadband router also adds a measure of security
because the computers on your network aren’t directly exposed to the
Internet. The only computer visible to the Internet is the broadband router.
This protection can also be a disadvantage for certain types of Internet
gaming and computer-to-computer file transfer applications. If you find that
you need to use one of these applications, look for a router with DMZ (for
demilitarized zone) and port forwarding features, which expose just enough
of your system to the Internet to play Internet games and transfer files. (Read
more about this topic in Chapter 11.)
A wireless Internet gateway is an AP that’s bundled with a cable, fiber-optic, or
DSL modem or router. By hooking this single device to a cable connection or
DSL line (or to the termination of your fiber-optic connection), you can share
an Internet connection with all the computers connected to the network,
wirelessly. By definition, all wireless Internet gateway devices also include
one (and typically, several) wired Ethernet port that enables you to add
wired devices to your network as well as wireless devices.
Switches
Wireless routers, available from nearly any manufacturer, include from one
to eight (most commonly, four) Ethernet ports with which you can connect
computers or other devices via Ethernet cables. These routers are not only
wireless APs but are also wired switches that efficiently enable all the computers
on your network to communicate either wirelessly or over Ethernet cables.
Make sure that the switch ports support at least 100BaseT Ethernet — which
is the 100 Mbps variant of Ethernet. You should also ensure that the switch
supports the full-duplex variant of 100BaseT — meaning that it supports 100
Mbps of data in both directions at the same time. If you’re looking for the
ultimate in performance, you should strongly consider paying a bit more for a
router that supports Gigabit Ethernet (1000BaseT).
Even though you may intend to create a wireless home network, sometimes
you may want to attach a device to the network through a more traditional
network cable. For example, we highly recommend that when you configure a
router for the first time, you attach the router to your computer by a network
cable (rather than via a wireless connection).
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Print servers
A few multifunction wireless routers have a feature that enables you to add a
printer to the network: a print server. Next to sharing an Internet connection,
printer sharing is one of the most convenient (and cost-effective) reasons
to network home computers because everyone in the house can share one
printer. Wireless print servers have become much more economical in the
past few years. However, when the print server is included with the wireless
router, it’s suddenly very cost effective.
The disadvantage of using the print server bundled with the AP, however, is
apparent if you locate your AP in a room or location other than where you
would like to place your printer. Consider a standalone print server device
(discussed in Chapter 10) if you want to have your printer wirelessly enabled
but not near your AP.
Exploring Operational Features
Most APs share a common list of features, and most of them don’t vary from
one device to the next. Here are some unique, onboard features that we look
for when buying wireless devices — and you should, too:
✓ Wired Ethernet port: Okay, this one seems basic, but having a port like
this saves you time. We tell you time and again to first install your AP
on your wired network (as opposed to trying to configure the AP via a
wireless client card connection) and then add the wireless layer (like the
aforementioned client card). You can save yourself lots of grief if you
can get your AP configured on a direct connection to your PC because
you reduce the things that can go wrong when you add the wireless
clients.
✓ Auto channel select: Some access points, typically more expensive
models designed for office use, offer an automatic channel-selection
feature. That’s nice because, as you read in Chapter 6 and in the
troubleshooting areas of Chapter 18, channel selection can try your
patience. (You may wonder why professional users pay more for more
business-class access points — this feature, which adds to the expense
of an AP, is a good reason.)
✓ Detachable antennas: In most cases, the antenna or antennas that come
installed on an AP are adequate for good signal coverage throughout
your house. However, your house may be large enough or may be
configured in such a way that signal coverage of a particular AP could
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be significantly improved by replacing a stock antenna with an upgraded
version. Also, if your AP has an internal antenna and you decide that the
signal strength and coverage in your house are inadequate, an external
antenna jack allows you to add one or two external antennas. Several
manufacturers sell optional antennas that extend the range of the standard
antennae; they attach to the AP to supplement or replace the existing
antennae.
The FCC requires that antennas and radios be certified as a system.
Adding a third-party, non-FCC-certified antenna to your AP violates FCC
regulations and runs the risk of causing interference with other radio
devices, such as certain portable telephones.
Detachable antennas are a potentially big benefit for 802.11g (and earlier
802.11a and b) systems, but not so much for 802.11n. Because of the
very tight integration between hardware and antenna in a MIMO 802.11n
system, most 802.11n routers don’t offer detachable antennas and
wouldn’t benefit from them if they did.
✓ Uplink port: APs equipped with internal three- and four-port hub and
switch devices are also coming with a built-in, extra uplink port. The
uplink port — also called the crossover port — adds even more wired
ports to your network by uplinking the AP with another hub or switch.
This special port is normally an extra connection next to the last available
wired port on the device, but it can look like a regular Ethernet jack
(with a little toggle switch next to it). You want an uplink port —
especially if you have an integral router or DSL or cable modem — so
that you can add more ports to your network while it grows. (And it will
grow.)
Knowing What Security
Features You Need
Unless you work for the government or handle sensitive data on your
computer, you probably aren’t overly concerned about the privacy of the
information stored on your home network. Usually it’s not an issue anyway
because someone would have to break into your house to access your network.
But if you have a wireless network, the radio signals transmitted by your
network don’t automatically stop at the outside walls of your house. In fact,
a neighbor or even someone driving by on the street in front of your house
can use a computer and a wireless networking adapter to grab information
right off your computer, including deleting your files, inserting viruses, and
using your computer to send spam — unless you take steps to protect your
network.
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The original security technology for Wi-Fi equipment was Wired Equivalent
Privacy (WEP). Perhaps the most well-publicized aspect of Wi-Fi wireless
networking is the fact that the WEP security feature of Wi-Fi networks can
be hacked (broken into electronically). Hackers have successfully retrieved
secret WEP keys used to encrypt data on Wi-Fi networks. With these keys, the
hacker can decrypt the packets of data transmitted over a wireless network.
Since 2003, the Wi-Fi Alliance has been certifying and promoting a replacement
security technology for WEP: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and the newer but
closely related WPA2). WPA/WPA2 is based on an IEEE standard effort known
as 802.11i (so many 802.11s huh?). This technology makes cracking a network’s
encryption key much more difficult and is standard in just about all Wi-Fi
access points and network adapters available now. As discussed earlier in
this chapter, in the section “Understanding Certification and Standards,” look
for Wi-Fi Alliance certifications for WPA equipment.
Any Wi-Fi gear that you buy should support the latest security certification —
WPA2. Don’t accept any less and don’t forget to turn on your network’s security.
Other useful security features to look for when buying an AP include
✓ Network Address Translation (NAT), which we discuss earlier in this
chapter
✓ Virtual Private Network (VPN) pass-through that allows wireless
network users secure access to corporate networks
✓ Monitoring software that logs and alerts you to computers from the
Internet attempting to access your network
✓ Logging and blocking utilities that enable you to log content transmitted
over the network as well as to block access to given Web sites
We talk much more about security in Chapter 9. We encourage you to read
that chapter so that you can be well prepared when you’re ready to install
your equipment.
Examining Range and Coverage Issues
An AP’s functional range (the maximum distance from the access point at
which a device on the wireless network can receive a useable signal) and
coverage (the breadth of areas in your home where you have an adequate
radio signal) are important criteria when selecting an AP. Wi-Fi equipment is
designed to have a range of hundreds of meters when used outdoors without
any obstructions between the two radios. Coverage depends on the type of
antenna used.
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Just like it’s hard to know how good a book is until you read it, it’s hard to
know how good an AP is until you install it. Do your research before buying an
AP, and then hope that you make the right choice. Buying ten APs and returning
the nine you don’t want is simply impractical. (Well, maybe not impractical,
but rather rude.) The key range and coverage issues, such as power output,
antenna gain, or receive sensitivity (which we cover in Chapter 2), aren’t well
labeled on retail boxes. Nor are these issues truly comparable among devices
because of the same lack of consistent information. Because many of these
devices are manufactured using the same chipsets, performance usually
doesn’t vary extensively from one AP to another. However, that is a broad
generalization, and some APs do perform badly. Our advice: Read the reviews
and be forewarned! Most reviews of APs and wireless routers do extensive
range and throughput (speed) testing — look at sites such as CNET (www.
cnet.com) or ZDNet (www.zdnet.com).
In Chapter 2, we talk about the differences between the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency
bands that different Wi-Fi systems use (802.11b and g use 2.4 GHz, 802.11a
uses 5 GHz, and 802.11n can use either). In that chapter, we also talk about the
fact that higher frequencies (that is, 5 GHz compared to 2.4 GHz) tend to have
shorter ranges than lower frequencies (all things equal, which they’re not in
the case of 802.11n; more on that in a moment). In general, 2.4 GHz systems
have a longer reach, but they also operate in a more crowded set of frequencies
and are therefore more prone to interference from other systems (other Wi-Fi
networks and other devices such as phones and microwaves). In an urban
environment, you may very well find that a 5 GHz system has a better range
simply due to this lack of interference.
The 802.11n systems on the market use multiple antennas and special
techniques to boost, or focus, the antenna power and greatly increase the
range of the AP versus a standard 802.11g model. Even when operating in the
5 GHz frequency range, you should find that an 802.11n system has a range
several times greater than that of an 802.11g system.
Controlling and Managing Your Device
When it comes to installing, setting up, and maintaining your wireless network,
you rely a great deal on your device’s user interface, so check reviews for
this aspect of the product. In this section, we discuss the many different
ways to control and manage your devices.
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Web-based configuration
APs, wireless clients, and other wireless devices from all vendors ship with
several utility software programs that help you set up and configure the
device. An important selling feature of any wireless device is its setup process.
The ideal setup procedure can be accomplished quickly and efficiently.
Most available APs and devices can be configured through either the wired
Ethernet port or a USB port.
Our favorite setup programs enable you to configure the device by connecting
through the Ethernet port and accessing an embedded set of Web (HTML)
pages. Look for an AP with one of these. This type of setup program — often
described as Web-based — can be run from any computer that is connected
to the device’s Ethernet port and has a Web browser. Whether you’re using
Windows, the Mac OS, or Linux, you can access any device that uses a
Web-based configuration program.
Software programming
If you think that using a Web configuration program might be difficult for you,
look for an AP with an automated setup program.
Several AP manufacturers provide setup software that walks you step by step
through the process of setting up the AP and connecting to your network.
Windows automated setup programs are typically called wizards. If you’re
new to wireless technology, a setup wizard or other variety of automated
setup program can help you get up and running with minimum effort.
Even if an AP comes with a setup wizard, it also ships with configuration
software that permits you to manually configure all the available AP settings.
For maximum flexibility, this configuration software should be Web based
(refer to the preceding section).
Upgradeable firmware
Wireless networking technology is constantly evolving. As a result, many
features of Wi-Fi access points are implemented in updateable software
programs known as firmware. Before you decide which AP to buy, determine
whether you can get feature updates and fixes from the vendor and whether
you can perform the updates by upgrading the firmware. (See the nearby
sidebar, “Performing firmware updates,” for some pointers.) Check also for
updated management software to match up with the new or improved
features included in the updated firmware.
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105
Performing firmware updates
Most firmware updates come in the form of a
downloadable program you run on a computer
connected to the AP (or other device) by a cable
(usually Ethernet, but sometimes USB). Make
sure that you carefully read and follow the
instructions that accompany the downloadable
file. Updating the firmware incorrectly can lead
to real headaches. Here are a few tips:
✓ Make sure that you make a backup of your
current firmware before performing the
update.
✓ Never turn off the computer or the AP while
the firmware update is in progress.
✓ If something goes wrong, look through the
AP documentation for instructions on how
to reset the modem to its factory settings.
You may feel that frequent firmware updates are evidence of faulty product
design. However, acknowledging that wireless technology will continue to be
improved, buying a product that can be upgraded to keep pace with these
changes without the need to purchase new equipment can save you money in
the long run.
Taking Price into Account
Although we can’t say much directly about price (except that the least
expensive item is rarely the one you want), we should mention other things
that can add to the price of an item. Check out which cables are provided.
(Yes, wireless devices need cables, too!) In an effort to trim costs, some
companies don’t provide the Ethernet cable for your AP that you need for
initial setup.
Also, before you buy, check out some of the online price comparison sites,
such as CNET (http://shopper.cnet.com), Retrevo (www.retrevo.
com), and Yahoo! Shopping (http://shopping.yahoo.com). Internet
specials pop up all the time.
Checking Out Warranties
There’s nothing worse than a device that dies one day after the warranty
expires. The good news is that because most of these devices are solid state,
they work for a long time unless you abuse them by dropping them on the
floor or something drastic. In our experience, if your device is going to fail
because of some manufacturing defect, it generally does so within the first
30 days or so.
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You encounter a rather large variance of warranty schedules among vendors.
Some vendors offer a one-year warranty; others offer a lifetime warranty.
Most are limited in some fashion, such as covering parts and labor but not
shipping.
When purchasing from a store, be sure to ask about its return policy for the
first month or so. Many stores give you 14 days to return items, and after that,
purchases have to be returned to the manufacturer directly, which is a huge
pain in the hind end, as Pat would say. If you only have 14 days, get the device
installed quickly so that you can find any problems right away.
Extended service warranties are also often available through computer
retailers. (We never buy these because by the time the period of the extended
warranty expires, they’re simply not worth their price given the plummeting
cost of the items.) If you purchase one of these warranties, however, make
sure that you have a clear understanding of the types of problems covered as
well as how and when you can contact the service provider if problems arise.
As we mention earlier in this chapter, if you don’t purchase a warranty, you
probably need to contact the product manufacturer for support and warranty
service rather than the store or online outlet where you purchased the product.
Finding Out about Customer
and Technical Support
Good technical support is one of those things you don’t appreciate until you
can’t get it. For support, check whether the manufacturer has toll-free or
direct-dial numbers for support as well as its hours of availability. Ticklish
technical problems seem to occur at the most inopportune times — nights,
weekends, holidays. If you’re like us, you usually install this stuff late at
night and on weekends. (We refuse to buy anything from anyone with only
9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday hours for technical support.) Traditionally,
only high-end (that is to say, expensive) hardware products came with 24/7
technical support. However, an increasing number of consumer-priced
computer products, including wireless home networking products, offer
toll-free, around-the-clock, technical phone support.
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Part III
Installing a
Wireless Network
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N
In this part . . .
ow comes the work: installing a wireless network in
your home and getting it up and running. Whether
you’re a Mac user or have PCs running a Windows operating system — or both — this part of the book explains
how to install and configure your wireless networking
equipment. No doubt you’re also interested in sharing a
single Internet connection and, of course, making your
home network as secure as possible. (You don’t want
your nosy neighbors getting on your network, do you?)
This part helps you get the most out of your home’s
wireless network — by getting it installed right, the first
time.
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Chapter 6
Installing Wireless Access
Points in Windows
In This Chapter
▶ Doing proper planning
▶ Installing a wireless network access point (AP)
▶ Modifying AP configuration
I
n this chapter, we describe the installation and configuration of your
wireless home network’s access point (AP). We explain how to set up and
configure the access point so that it’s ready to communicate with any and all
wireless devices in your home network. In Chapter 7, we describe the process
for installing and configuring wireless network adapters.
Chapters 6 and 7 deal solely with Windows-based PCs. For specifics on setting
up and installing wireless home networking devices on a Mac, see Chapter 8.
Before Getting Started, Get Prepared
Setting up an AP does have some complicated steps where things can go
wrong. You want to reduce the variables to as few as possible to make
debugging any problems as easy as possible. Don’t try to do lots of different
things all at once, such as buying a new PC, installing Windows 7, and adding
a router, an AP, and wireless clients. (Go ahead and laugh, but lots of people
try this.)
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We recommend that you follow these general steps when setting up an AP:
1. Get your PC set up first on a standalone basis.
If you have a new computer system, it probably shouldn’t need much
setup because it should be preconfigured when you buy it. If you have
an older system, make sure that no major software problems exist
before you begin. If you have to install a new operating system (OS), do
it now. Bottom line: Get the PC working fine on its own so that you have
no problems when you add functionality.
2. Add a broadband Internet connection for that one PC.
Ensure that everything is working on your wired connection first. If you
have a broadband modem, get it working on a direct connection to your
PC. Make sure you can surf the Web (go to a number of sites that you
know work) to ascertain that the information is current (as opposed to
coming from cache memory from earlier visits to the site).
3. Share the broadband connection with your router and add your home
network routing option.
This step entails shifting your connection from your PC to your router;
your router will have instructions for doing that. When that’s working,
make sure you can add another PC or other device, if you have one, by
using the same instructions for your router. Make sure that your PC can
connect to the Internet and that the two devices can see each other
on the local area network. This action establishes that your logical
connectivity among all your devices and the Internet is working.
Because you may be installing an AP on an existing broadband network,
we’re covering the AP installation first; we cover the installation of the
router and Internet sharing in Chapter 10.
4. Try adding wireless to the equation: Install your wireless AP and
wireless NICs (if they’re not built-in) and disconnect the Ethernet
cable from each computer to see whether they work — one at a time is
always simpler.
By now, any problems that occur can be isolated to your wireless
connection. If you need to fall back on logging on to your manufacturer’s
Web site, you can always plug the wired connection in and do so.
If your AP is in an all-in-one cable modem/router/AP combo, that’s okay.
Think about turning on the elements one at a time. If a wizard forces you to
do it all at once, go ahead and follow the wizard’s steps; just recognize that
if all goes wrong, you can reset the device to the factory settings and start
over. (It’s extreme, but it usually saves time.)
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111
Setting Up the Access Point
Before you install and set up a wireless network interface adapter in one of
your computers, you should first set up the wireless access point (also called
a base station) that will facilitate communication between the various wireless
devices on your network. In the following sections, we describe how to set up
a typical AP.
Preparing to install a wireless AP
The procedure for installing and configuring most wireless APs is similar
from one manufacturer to the next . . . but not exactly the same. You’re most
likely to be successful if you locate the documentation for the AP you’ve
chosen and follow its installation and configuration instructions carefully.
As we discuss in Chapter 5, when deciding which AP to purchase, consider
ease of setup. By far, the easiest network configurations we have experienced
have been with those APs that support WPS (or Wi-Fi Protected Setup,
discussed in more detail in Chapter 9). Many WPS APs/routers support
pushbutton configuration, where you literally push a physical button on the AP
and click a virtual software button on your PC; in doing so, you associate the
computer with the AP, complete with security in place. The WPS PIN method,
where you find the PIN number printed on a label on your AP and enter it in
a software program on your PC, does the trick equally well. If you’re using a
WPS setup, you can follow the quick setup instructions that came with your
AP and pretty much ignore what we’re saying in this chapter. Apple’s AirPort
Extreme wireless routers have a similarly simple setup for Mac users (and
include software for Windows-only users).
Because having a network makes it easy to share an Internet connection, the
best time to set up the AP for that purpose is during initial setup. In terms
of setting up a shared Internet connection, you will already have a wired
computer on your broadband (cable or DSL). This is very helpful as a starting
place for most AP installations because most of the information you need
to set up your AP is already available on your computer. If you don’t have a
wired computer on your Internet connection — that is, if this is the first
computer you’re connecting — first collect any information (special login
information, such as username or password) that your Internet service
provider (ISP) has given you regarding using its services.
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Before you begin plugging things in, make sure that you’ve done your
research:
✓ Ensure that your computer has a standard wired Ethernet connection.
Most AP configurations require wired access for their initial setup. An
Ethernet port is normally found on the back of your computer; this port
looks like a typical telephone jack, only a little bit wider.
✓ Collect your ISP’s network information. You need to know the following
information; if you have a hard time figuring the following things out,
ask the tech support folks at your ISP or check the support pages of the
ISP’s Web site:
• Your Internet protocol (IP) address: This is the equivalent of your
network’s phone number. Your IP address identifies your network
on the Internet and enables communications. It’s always four 1- to
3-digit numbers separated by periods (125.65.24.129, for example).
• Your Domain Name System (DNS) or service, or server: This special
service within your ISP’s network translates domain names into IP
addresses. Domain names are the (relatively) plain English names
for computers attached to the Internet. The Internet however,
is based on IP addresses. For example, www.wiley.com is the
domain name of the Web server computers of our publisher. When
you type www.wiley.com into your Web browser address bar, the
DNS system sends back the proper IP address for your browser to
connect to.
• Whether your ISP is delivering all this to you via Dynamic Host
Configuration Protocol (DHCP): In almost all cases, the Internet
service you get at home uses DHCP, which means that a server (or
computer) at your ISP’s network center automatically provides all
the information listed in the preceding bullet, without you needing
to enter anything manually. It’s a great thing!
In the vast majority of cases, your ISP does use DHCP, and you
don’t have to worry about any of this information. If your service
is Verizon’s FiOS, your ISP is delivering an Ethernet connection
to a firewall box that may or may not have wireless already built
in. Verizon gives you the access information to this box when it’s
installed, and you can find all the information about your network
connection from this box.
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✓ Collect the physical address of the network card used in your computer
only if you’re already connected directly to a cable/DSL modem.
Many ISPs used to use the physical address as a security check to
ensure that the computer connecting to its network was the one paying
for the service. Because of this security check, many AP manufacturers
have added a feature called MAC address cloning to their routers. MAC
address cloning allows home users to pay for only one connection from
their ISP while having many devices able to get to the Internet. Most AP
and Internet access devices available today permit you to change their
physical addresses (Media Access Control [MAC] addresses) to match
the physical address of your computer’s existing network card. How you
do this varies from system to system, but typically you’ll see a list of
MAC addresses (in a pull-down menu) for all devices connected to your
AP. Simply select the MAC address you’re looking to clone and click the
button labeled Clone MAC address (or something similar).
Because some providers still track individual machines by MAC address,
it’s best to be prepared by writing down the MAC address of your
computer’s NIC in case you need it. How will you know that your ISP is
tracking MAC addresses? Well, unfortunately, it’s not always obvious —
you might not see a big banner on the ISP’s Web site telling you that
MAC address tracking is in effect. But if you switch from a direct
connection to your PC to a Wi-Fi router connection and you can’t get
online, MAC address tracking may indeed be the issue. The first step
in troubleshooting such a problem is to unplug everything from the
power supply (router/AP, broadband modem, and PC), and then turn
everything back on starting with the modem and slowly working your
way back to the PC(s). If you’re still not getting online, call your ISP’s
technical support line. If MAC tracking is the issue, you can get around
it by cloning your PC’s MAC address in your router as discussed in the
preceding paragraph.
Installing the AP
If you’re connecting your first computer with your ISP, the ISP should have
supplied you with all the information we list in the preceding section except
for the physical address of the network card (which you don’t need if you
aren’t already connected).
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Before you install your wireless gear, buy a 100-foot Ethernet cable. If you’re
installing your AP at a distance farther than that from your router or Internetsharing PC, get a longer cable. Trust us: This advice comes with having done
this a lot. You need a wired backup to your system to test devices and debug
problems. To do that (unless you want to keep moving your gear around,
which we don’t recommend), you need a long cable. Or two. Anyone with a
home network should have extra cables, just like you have electrical extension
cords around the house. You can get good-quality 100-foot CAT-5e/6 patch
cables online at places like Deep Surplus (www.deepsurplus.com) or a host
of other online retailers for around $15.
When you’re ready to do the AP installation, follow these steps:
1. Gather the necessary information for installing the AP (see the
preceding bulleted list) by following these steps:
In Windows XP:
a. Choose Start➪Programs➪Accessories➪Command Prompt.
This step brings up the command prompt window, which is a DOS
screen.
b. Type IPCONFIG /ALL and then press Enter.
The information scrolls down the screen. Use the scroll bar to
slide up to the top and write down the networking information we
list earlier in this chapter (physical address, IP address, default
gateway, subnet mask, DNS servers) and whether DHCP is enabled.
In Windows Vista/Windows 7:
a. Choose Start➪Network➪Network and Sharing Center.
The Network and Sharing Center appears, which gives you access
to all network adapters and their properties.
b. From the Network and Sharing Center, click the View Status link.
A pop-up status window appears with all the information you need.
Write this down on a piece of paper in case your AP configuration
program asks for it as you move forward.
2. Run the setup software that accompanies the AP or device containing
your AP, like a wireless router.
The software probably starts when you insert its CD-ROM into the CD
drive. In many cases, this software detects your Internet settings, which
makes it much easier to configure the AP for Internet sharing and to
configure the first computer on the network. For example, Figure 6-1
shows the Linksys Wireless-G Setup Wizard that accompanies the
Linksys WAP54G Wireless-G Access Point, which is a wireless gateway
from Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, Inc.
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Figure 6-1:
The Linksys
Wireless-G
Access
Point Setup
Wizard.
If your computer is using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you will see a
lot of security dialog box pop-ups. The enhanced security in Vista/7 asks
for your permission every time the installation software tries to do
anything. As long as you have administration rights on your user
account, you can keep saying yes to these security pop-ups and move
through your AP setup. Be sure to look at the top left of the pop-up
window so you know when you are saying yes to a security warning and
when you are saying yes to the install. Even though Vista/7 dims the rest
of the screen when a security warning pops up, it’s confusing with the
number of pop-ups you can run into. Just read the top left of the window
and you’ll always know what you’re working in.
3. When you’re prompted by the setup software to connect the AP (see
Figure 6-2), unplug the network cable that connects the broadband
modem to your computer’s Ethernet port and plug this cable into the
Ethernet port that’s marked WAN or Modem on your network’s cable
or DSL router or Internet gateway.
If you’re using an Internet or wireless gateway, run a CAT-5e/6 cable
from one of its Ethernet ports to the computer on which you’re running
the setup software. (CAT-5e/6 cable is a standard Ethernet cable or
patch cord with what look like oversized phone jacks on each end. You
can pick one up at any computer store or Radio Shack, if one didn’t
come with your AP.)
If you’re using a separate AP and router (in other words, if your AP is
not your router), you need to connect a CAT-5e/6 cable between the AP
and one of the router’s Ethernet ports. Then connect another cable from
another one of the router’s Ethernet ports to the computer on which
you’re running the setup software.
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Figure 6-2:
It’s time to
connect the
AP or wireless router.
Most new APs try to obtain an IP address automatically and configure
themselves for you by choosing the channel and setting default parameters
for everything else (see Figure 6-3). In most cases, you need to manually
configure the security and some of the other information you collected
in Step 1, so have that information handy.
Figure 6-3:
What the AP
can find on
its own.
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4. Make note of the following access point parameters:
• Service set identifier (SSID)
• Channel — if you’re using an 802.11n AP, this should be set to Auto
• WEP key or WPA2 passphrase (see Chapter 9 for more details on
this subject), if your system doesn’t use WPS
• Router pin, if your system does use WPS (again, see Chapter 9 for
more details on Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
• Admin username and password
• MAC address
• Dynamic or static wide area network (WAN) IP address
• Local IP address
• Subnet mask
• PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) — sometimes found
on DSL connections, and rarely for cable modems
The preceding list covers the AP parameters you most often encounter
and need to configure, but the list isn’t comprehensive. (Read more
about them in the next section.) You need this information if you plan to
follow the steps for modifying AP configuration, which we cover in the
later section “Changing the AP Configuration.” (What did you expect that
section to be called?) Other settings you probably don’t need to change
include the transmission rate (which normally adjusts automatically to
give the best throughput), RTS/CTS protocol settings, the beacon interval,
and the fragmentation threshold.
5. Complete the software installation, and you’re finished.
After you complete the AP setup process, you have a working access
point ready to communicate with another wireless device.
Configuring AP parameters
Here’s a little more meat on each of the access point parameters you captured
in Step 4 of the preceding section:
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✓ Service set identifier (SSID): The SSID (sometimes called the network
name, network ID, or service area) can be any alphanumeric string,
including upper- and lowercase letters, up to 30 characters long. The
AP manufacturer may set a default SSID at the factory, but you should
change this setting. Assigning a unique SSID doesn’t add much security;
nonetheless, establishing an identifier that’s different from the factorysupplied SSID makes it a little more difficult for intruders to access your
wireless network. And, if you have a nearby neighbor with a wireless AP
of the same type, you won’t get the two networks confused.
When you configure wireless stations, you need to use the same SSID
or network name that’s assigned to the AP. It’s also a good idea to turn
off the SSID broadcast, a feature whereby the AP announces itself to the
wireless world in general. Turning this off helps hide your AP from the
bad guys who might want to hang off your network. However, hiding
your SSID by no means absolutely hides your network (think of it as a
mechanism for keeping out casual intruders to your network — dedicated
intruders won’t be stopped by a hidden SSID).
✓ Channel: This is the radio channel over which the AP communicates.
If you plan to use more than one AP in your home, you should assign
a different channel (over which the AP communicates) for each AP to
avoid signal interference. If your network uses the IEEE 802.11g protocols,
11 channels — which are set at 5 MHz intervals — are available in the
United States. However, because the radio signals used by the IEEE
802.11g standard are spread across a 22 MHz-wide spectrum, you can
only use as many as three channels (typically 1, 6, and 11) in a given
wireless network. If you have an 802.11n AP, you will want to have this
set to Auto so that the AP and the wireless network card can switch
between channels and use the ones with the least interference.
You can use other channels besides 1, 6, and 11 in an 802.11g network,
but those three channels are the ones that are noninterfering. In other
words, you could set up three APs near each other that use these
channels and they wouldn’t cause any interference with each other.
If you’re setting up an 802.11n router that supports the 5 MHz frequency
range, you have somewhere between 12 and 23 channels from which
to choose (depending upon which country you live in). These channels
don’t overlap (like the 2.4 GHz channels do), so you can use them all
without interference, while you can use only three without interference
in the 2.4 GHz band. If you operate only one AP, all that matters is that
all wireless devices on your network be set to the same channel. If you
operate several APs, give them as much frequency separation as possible
to reduce the likelihood of mutual interference.
Most 802.11g access points, such as some from Linksys, default to
Channel 6 as a starting point and detect other access points in the area
so that you can determine which channel to use. 802.11n access points
will dynamically switch channels and choose the channels with the least
interference automatically, which is cool.
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A number of less-expensive 802.11n APs available today use only the 2.4
GHz frequency range. They can use multiple channels in this range,
switching dynamically between channels if they find too much interference.
The 2.4 GHz range is also the same frequency as Bluetooth devices. All
new 802.11n APs have the option to work in a default mode, using only
20 MHz of bandwidth inside the 2.4 GHz channel space (a single channel), or they can use a combined pair of channels (providing 40 MHz of
bandwidth). Using combined (or bonded) channels allows your 802.11n
gear to reach greater data speeds and has the fringe benefit of helping
your network avoid interference with Bluetooth devices. If you use a lot
of Bluetooth devices around your computer — such as a Bluetooth
headset, mouse, keyboard, and camera — make sure you are in combined mode so that your 802.11n connection does not affect your
Bluetooth devices and vice versa.
When you have multiple access points set to the same channel, sometimes
roaming doesn’t work when users move about the house, and the
transmission of a single access point blocks all others that are within
range. As a result, performance degrades significantly (you see this
when your throughput, or speed of file and data transfers, decreases
noticeably). Use different, widely separated channels for 802.11g;
because the 5 GHz 802.11n channels are inherently not overlapping, you
don’t have to worry about choosing widely separated channels in this
case.
✓ WPA2: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) is one of the best solutions in
Wi-Fi security. Two versions of WPA are available:
• WPA2 Personal, or Pre-Shared Key (PSK), gives you a choice of
two encryption methods: TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol),
which utilizes a stronger encryption method and incorporates
Message Integrity Code (MIC) to provide protection against
hackers, and AES (Advanced Encryption System), which utilizes a
symmetric 128-bit block data encryption. TKIP was the only system
available in the first version of WPA; WPA2 added the ability to use
AES, a stronger encryption system.
• WPA2 Enterprise, or RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User
Service) utilizes a RADIUS server for authentication and the use
of dynamic TKIP, AES, or WEP. RADIUS servers are specialized
computer devices that do nothing but authenticate users and
provide them with access to networks (or deny unauthorized
users access). If you don’t know what a RADIUS server is all about,
chances are good that you don’t have one.
We talk about both types of WPA2 in much greater detail in Chapter 9.
WPA2 Enterprise is, frankly, overkill for the home environment and
much more difficult to set up. We recommend that you use WPA2
Personal instead — it gets you 99 percent of the way there in terms of
security and is much easier to set up and configure.
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✓ WEP keys: You should always use some security on your wireless
network, and if your network cannot support WPA, you should use, at
minimum, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption. Only a determined
hacker with the proper equipment and software can crack the key. If
you don’t use WEP or some other form of security, any nosy neighbor
with a laptop, wireless PC Card, and range-extender antenna may be
able to see and access your wireless home network. Whenever you use
encryption, all wireless stations in your house attached to the wireless
home network must use the same key. Sometimes the AP manufacturer
assigns a default WEP key. Always assign a new key to avoid a security
breach. Read Chapter 9 for great background info on WEP and WPA2.
✓ WPS: Wi-Fi Protected Security works with WPA2 and makes it considerably
easier to set up WPA2 security on your network by automating the
process. As we discuss in Chapter 9, you can implement WPS in two ways:
• PIN code: You can turn on WPA2 by simply entering a PIN code
printed on your Wi-Fi hardware (usually on a label).
• Pushbutton: You can press a button on your Wi-Fi router (a physical
button or a virtual button on a screen on the router). When you
push the button, your devices can automatically connect to the
router and automatically configure WPA2 in 2 minutes. Simply
push the button(s) and let things set themselves up with no further
intervention.
✓ Router PIN: This is the PIN number used for rapid implementation of
network encryption and security using the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
system that many new APs include — and as we mention at the beginning
of this chapter. Your PIN should also be printed on a label on the side,
back, or bottom of your AP. See Chapter 9 for details.
✓ Username and password: Configuration software may require that you
enter a password to make changes to the AP setup. The manufacturer may
provide a default username and password (see the user documentation).
Use the default password when you first open the configuration pages,
and then immediately change the password to avoid a security breach.
(Note: This isn’t the same as the WPA2 shared key, which is also called
a password by some user interfaces.) Make sure that you use a password
you can remember and that you don’t have to write down. Writing down
a password is the same as putting a sign on the equipment that says
“Here’s how you hack into me.” If you ever lose the password, you can
always reset a device to its factory configuration and get back to the
point where you took it out of the box.
✓ MAC address: The Media Access Control (MAC) address is the physical
address of the radio in the AP. This number is printed on a label attached
to the device. You may need to know this value for troubleshooting, so
write it down. The AP’s Ethernet (RJ-45) connection to the wired network
also has a MAC address that’s different from the MAC address of the
AP’s radio.
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✓ Dynamic or static wide area network (WAN) IP address: If your network
is connected to the Internet, it must have an IP address assigned by
your ISP. Most often, your ISP dynamically assigns this address. Your
router or Internet gateway should be configured to accept an IP address
dynamically assigned by a DHCP server. It’s possible, but unlikely, that
your ISP will require a set (static) IP address.
✓ Local IP address: In addition to a physical address (the MAC address),
the AP also has its own network (IP) address. You need to know this
IP address to access the configuration pages by using a Web browser.
Refer to the product documentation to determine this IP address. In
most cases, the IP address is 192.168.xxx.xxx, where xxx is between 1
and 254. It’s also possible that an AP could choose a default IP that’s in
use by your cable or DSL router (or a computer that got its IP from the
cable or DSL router’s DHCP server). Either way, if an IP conflict arises,
you may have to keep the AP and cable or DSL routers on separate
networks while configuring the AP.
✓ Subnet mask: In most cases, this value is set at the factory to
255.255.255.0. If you’re using an IP addressing scheme of the type
described in the preceding paragraph, 255.255.255.0 is the correct
number to use. This number, together with the IP address, establishes
the subnet on which this AP will reside. Network devices with addresses
on the same subnet can communicate directly without the aid of a
router. You really don’t need to understand how the numbering scheme
works except to know that the AP and all the wireless devices that will
access your wireless network must have the same subnet mask.
✓ PPPoE: Many DSL ISPs still use Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet
(PPPoE). The values you need to record are the username (or user ID)
and password. The DSL provider uses PPPoE as a means of identifying
and authorizing users.
Changing the AP Configuration
Each brand of AP has its own configuration software you can use to modify the
AP’s settings. Some products provide several methods of configuration. The
most common types of configuration tools for home and small-office APs are
✓ Software-based: Some APs come with access point setup software you
run on a workstation to set up the AP over a wireless connection, a USB
cable, or an Ethernet cable. You don’t see this much any longer except
in professional high-end equipment that needs remote management not
meant to work over the local network. One big exception here is Apple’s
AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express (discussed in Chapter 8), which
use software built into Apple’s OS X operating system (or a downloadable
software client for Windows) instead of a Web-based configuration
system.
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✓ Web-based: Most APs intended for home and small-office use have a
series of HTML forms stored in firmware. You can access these forms by
using a Web browser over a wireless connection or over a network cable
to configure each AP. In many cases when you’re setting up your AP,
you simply open the Web browser on the machine you have connected
to the wired port on the AP; the browser automatically takes you to the
AP setup wizard. This is so much simpler than the old days of having to
load software on your machine just to set up your AP.
To access your AP’s management pages with a Web browser, you need to
know the local IP address for the AP. Most APs use the first address available
on the network, such as 192.168.2.1. Note the last digit is almost always 1 to
show the first of a possible 254 addresses in that last position. If you didn’t
note the IP address when you initially set up the AP, refer to the AP’s user
guide to find this address. If you’re using a wireless router/Internet gateway,
you can also run ipconfig (Windows XP) or open the Network and Sharing
Center (Windows Vista or 7), as we describe in Chapter 7. The Internet
gateway’s IP address is the same as the default gateway.
Some APs and wireless routers have their administrative and configuration
Web page IP addresses printed on labels on the back or bottom of the AP. If
yours doesn’t, we recommend that you get a label maker and print your own.
There’s nothing worse than looking for the user manual at an inopportune
time when you need to be online now!
When you know the AP’s IP address, follow these steps to access the AP
management utility:
1. Run your Web browser software.
2. Type the IP address for the AP on the Address line and then press
Enter or click the Go button.
You’ll probably see a screen that requests a password.
3. Enter the password that you established during the initial setup.
This is the password that prevents unauthorized individuals from
making changes to your wireless AP’s configuration.
After you enter the password, the AP utility displays an AP management
screen. If you’re not using a Web-based tool, you need to open the
application that you initially installed to make any changes.
Bookmark your AP’s configuration page in your Web browser for easier access
in the future.
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Within the AP’s management utility, you can modify all the AP’s settings,
such as the SSID, channel, and WEP encryption key. The details of how to
make these changes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Typically, the
AP management utility also enables you to perform other AP management
operations, such as resetting the AP, upgrading its firmware, and configuring
any built-in firewall settings.
AP manufacturers periodically post software on their Web sites that you can
use to update the AP’s firmware, which is stored in the circuitry inside the
device. Many new APs have the ability to automatically update the firmware
directly from the manufacturer’s site. We don’t recommend that you set this
up because most of the time you aren’t going to need it, and upgrading firmware
is serious business. If you decide to install a firmware upgrade, follow the
provided instructions very carefully. Note: Do not turn off the AP or your
computer while the update is taking place.
The best practice is to modify AP settings only from a computer that’s directly
connected to the network or the AP by a network cable. If you must make
changes over a wireless connection, think through the order that you will
make changes; otherwise, you could orphan the client computer. For example,
if you want to change the wireless network’s WPA2 key, change the key on the
AP first and make sure that you write it down. As soon as you save the change
to the AP, the wireless connection is effectively lost. No data passes between
the client and the AP, so you can no longer access the AP over the wireless
connection. To reestablish a useful connection, you must change the key on
the client computer to the same key you entered on the AP.
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Chapter 7
Setting Up a Wireless
Windows Network
In This Chapter
▶ Installing wireless network interface adapters
▶ Modifying your adapter’s settings
▶ Connecting with ease with Windows XP
▶ Setting up your network with Windows Vista
▶ Setting up a Windows 7 network
▶ Keeping track of your network’s performance
I
n this chapter, we describe the installation and configuration of wireless
devices on Windows computers. To that end, we explain how to set up
and configure the wireless network interface adapter in each of your
computers (and other wireless devices) so that they can communicate with
the access point (AP) and with one another. We also include special coverage
for installing and configuring wireless network adapters in computers running
Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (it’s amazingly easy) and in handheld computers
running one of the Microsoft mobile operating systems.
Read through Chapter 6 for information about physically installing APs, and
see Chapter 8 for a discussion of setting up a Mac-based wireless network. If
you find yourself lost in acronyms, check out Chapter 2 for the background
on this equipment.
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Setting Up Wireless Network
Interface Adapters
Unless you have an older Windows computer that didn’t come with built-in
wireless (almost all new computers have wireless built-in and set up from the
factory these days), you can safely ignore this section. These instructions tell
you how to configure Windows to recognize your wireless adapter when you
install it yourself. Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to the individual sections
regarding Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7.
After you have the AP successfully installed and configured (see Chapter 6),
you’re ready to install and set up a wireless network interface adapter in each
client device. Wireless network adapters all require the same information to be
installed, although the installation on different platforms may vary to some
degree. From most manufacturers, the initial setup procedure differs somewhat
depending on the operating system that’s running your computer.
In this section, we walk you through installing device drivers and client
software before addressing the typical setup procedure for various wireless
network interface adapters.
The installation procedure for most types of PC devices consists of installing
the hardware (the device) in your computer and then letting Windows detect
the device and prompt you to supply a driver disc. With most wireless network
adapters, however, you should install the software provided with the wireless
networking hardware before installing the hardware.
Installing device drivers
and client software
Whenever you install an electronic device on your Windows PC, including a
wireless network interface adapter, Windows needs to know certain information about how to communicate with the device. This information is a device
driver. When you install a wireless network adapter, depending on which
version of Windows you’re using, you may be prompted to provide the necessary device driver. Device driver files typically accompany each wireless
networking device on an accompanying CD. Most wireless device manufacturers
also make the most up-to-date device driver files available for free download
from their technical support Web sites.
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127
When you install the wireless adapter into your computer, Windows uses
the device driver files to add the adapter to your computer’s hardware
configuration. The new network adapter’s driver also must be configured
properly for it to communicate with other computers over the Windows network.
Even if you receive a driver CD with your wireless network interface adapter,
we still recommend checking the manufacturer’s Web site for the most recent
software. Check the manufacturer’s Web site and see whether you need to
download the newest driver software as well as the newest firmware, which is
the special software that resides in the flash memory of your network adapter
and enables it to do its job.
The exact procedure for installing the drivers and software for the wireless
network adapters varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so read the
documentation that accompanies the product you’re installing before you
begin. Although the details may differ from the instructions that accompany
your product, the general procedure is in the following set of steps.
Because some antivirus programs often mistake installation activity for virus
activity, shut down any antivirus programs you may have running on your PC
before you begin any installation of software or hardware. (Remember to turn
it back on when you’re done!) In Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, you must
have an account with administrator access to install any software on the
device. Normally this is the default account you set up for yourself when you
first configured the computer.
To install the software, follow these steps:
1. Insert the CD that accompanies the wireless network adapter.
If the CD’s startup program doesn’t automatically begin, choose
Start➪Run or use Windows Explorer to run the Setup.exe program on
the CD.
2. Install the software for configuring the network adapter by following
the instructions on your screen.
Typically, you follow along with an installation wizard program.
Don’t insert the network adapter until you’re prompted to do so by
the installation software, as shown in Figure 7-1. In some cases, you
may be prompted to restart the computer before inserting the adapter.
For some older versions of Windows, you’re prompted to insert your
Windows CD in order for the setup program to copy needed networking
files.
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Figure 7-1:
Don’t
connect
your
wireless
network
adapter
until you’re
prompted
by the setup
software.
Because you installed the wireless network adapter’s drivers and
configuration software before inserting the adapter, the operating
system should be able to automatically locate the driver and enable the
new adapter.
If Windows can’t find the driver, it may start the Found New Hardware
Wizard (or Add/Remove Hardware Wizard or even New Hardware
Wizard — it depends on which OS you’re using). If this does happen,
don’t panic. You can direct Windows to search the CD-ROM for the
drivers it needs, and they should be installed without issues (although
you may have to reboot again).
After you insert or install your wireless network adapter — and restart
the computer, if prompted to do so — the OS might prompt you to
configure the new adapter. In most cases the configuration is handled
through the OS automatically, but if it’s not, keep reading. If you just get
a message that your hardware is installed and ready to use, you can skip
Step 3 and move on.
3. If the software prompts you to configure the new adapter, you need
to make sure that the following settings, at minimum, match those of
your network’s wireless AP:
• SSID (network name or network ID): Most wireless network adapter
configuration programs display a list of wireless networks that are
in range of your adapter. In most instances, you see only one SSID
listed. If you see more than one, it means that one (or more) of
your neighbors also has a wireless network that’s close enough for
your wireless adapter to “see.” Of course, it also means that your
neighbor’s wireless adapter can see your network too. This is one
good reason to give your wireless network a unique SSID (network
name), and it’s also a compelling reason to use encryption.
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129
• WPA2 passphrase (or WEP key): Enter the same key or passphrase
you entered in the AP’s configuration. We discuss this concept in
greater detail in Chapter 9.
• Device PIN: If your Wi-Fi gear supports the new WPS security
configuration system, you can skip entering the passphrase and
just enter the PIN for connecting to your AP. Typically the PIN is
located on a label attached to your network adapter. We discuss
WPS in greater detail in Chapter 9.
After you configure the wireless network adapter, the setup program
may announce that it needs to reboot the computer.
As a bonus, most wireless adapters — as part of their driver installation package — include a bandwidth monitor. This handy tool is used to debug problems and inform you of connection issues. Almost all these tools are graphical
and can help you determine the strength of the signal to your AP device as
well as the distance you can travel away from the device before the signal
becomes too weak to maintain a connection.
PC Cards and mini-PCI cards
Nearly all Windows laptops and some Mac laptop computers have PC Card
ports that are compatible with these cards. Belkin, Linksys, NETGEAR, D-Link,
and others offer an 802.11n/g PC Card wireless network interface adapter.
Most such devices already come preinstalled in portable computers and in
some desktop computers. Many new laptops have DisplayPort adapters that
are similar to PC Card slots. Don’t confuse the two; even though they look the
same, you don’t want to jam a PC Card into a DisplayPort socket.
Most PC Card wireless network adapters require that you install the software
drivers before inserting the PC Card for the first time. This is very important.
Doing so ensures that the correct driver is present on the computer when
the operating system recognizes that you’ve inserted a PC Card. Installing
the drivers first also ensures that you can configure the wireless network
connection when you install the device.
If you’re installing a PC Card in a Windows-based computer with a PC Card
slot, use the following general guidelines and don’t forget to refer to the
documentation that comes with the card for detailed instructions. (See
Chapter 8 if you’re a Mac user.)
Even if you received a CD with the PC Card, check the manufacturer’s Web site
for the most recent drivers and client station software. Wireless networking
technology is continually evolving, so we recommend that you keep up with
the changes.
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To install a wireless PC Card in your computer, follow these steps:
1. Insert the CD that accompanies the PC Card.
If the setup program doesn’t automatically start, choose Start➪Run (in
Windows) or open Windows Explorer to run the Setup.exe program on
the CD.
2. Install the wireless client software.
During this installation, you may be asked to indicate the following:
• Whether you want the PC Card set to infrastructure (AP) mode
or to ad hoc (peer-to-peer) mode. Choose infrastructure mode
to communicate through the AP. We talk about the difference
between infrastructure and ad hoc modes in Chapter 2.
• The SSID (network name).
• Whether you will use a network password (which is the same as
WPA2 encryption).
3. After the wireless client software is installed, restart the computer if
the install tells you to do so.
4. While the computer restarts, insert the PC Card wireless network
adapter into the available PC Card slot.
Windows XP comes with generic drivers for many wireless PC Cards to
make installation simpler than ever. Some PC Cards, which are made
specifically for XP and certified by Microsoft, have no software included
and rely on XP to take care of it. Even so, we recommend that you
follow the directions that come with your PC Card and check whether
your card is compatible with XP. Later in this chapter, we discuss the
Windows XP Wireless Zero Configuration tools, which provide software
for many Windows XP compliant and noncompliant cards.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 don’t have many built-in generic drivers,
but they do have large built-in libraries of device-specific drivers that
will automatically be installed when you connect your network adapter.
To take advantage of these driver libraries, you will want to be sure
that your PC Card has certified Vista drivers. At a minimum, the card
should have a gray box on the package that says “Works with Windows
Vista” and the Microsoft logo for Vista or a blue Microsoft logo saying
“Compatible with Windows 7” for Windows 7.
When Windows finds the driver, it enables the driver for the card, and
you’re finished.
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PCI and PCIx cards
If you purchase a wireless networking adapter that fits inside your PC, you
must make sure that you have the right type for your computer. Most desktop
computers built in the past five years contain PCI slots. The type of slot your
computer has is most likely standard PCI. If you have a newer computer that
uses PCIx, you’re all set because PCIx is fully backward compatible. That
means that you can use standard PCI cards in PCIx slots. The only difference
you see is that the card doesn’t fill the slot — the PCIx card slot is almost
twice the length of the older standard PCI slot. Refer to your computer’s
documentation to determine which type of slot is inside your computer and
then purchase a wireless network interface adapter to match.
Most manufacturers choose to mount a PC Card on a standard PCI adapter.
Some of the newest PCI adapters consist of a mini-PCI adapter mounted to a
full-size PCI adapter. In either of these configurations, a black rubber dipole-type
antenna, or another type of range-extender antenna, is attached to the back
of the PCI adapter.
Most PCI cards come with specific software and instructions for installing and
configuring the card. We can’t tell you exactly what steps you need to take
with the card you buy, but we can give you some generic steps. Don’t forget
to read the manual and follow the onscreen instructions on the CD that comes
with your particular card.
Follow these general guidelines for installing a PCI adapter card:
1. Insert into the CD-ROM drive the CD that accompanied the adapter.
If necessary, choose Start➪Run (in Windows) or open Windows Explorer
to run the Setup.exe program on the CD.
2. Select the option for installing the PCI card driver software.
At this point, the driver is only copied to the computer’s hard drive. The
driver is added to the operating system in Step 4.
3. If you’re prompted to restart the computer, select No, I Will Restart My
Computer Later and then click the Next (or Finish) button.
During the install process, many Windows-based computers prompt
you to restart the computer by displaying a pop-up box with a question
similar to “New drivers have been installed, do you want to restart for
the changes to take effect?” The normal reaction may be to do what it
asks and click OK — but don’t do it! The software installation needs to
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be fully completed before the computer can be restarted. You know
that it’s completed because the installation wizard (not a Windows popup) prompts you for your next step. After the software has completed
its installation process, it prompts you in its own software window to
restart your computer, or it informs you that you need to restart to
complete the installation.
4. While the wireless station software is being installed, you may need to
indicate whether you want the PC Card to be set to infrastructure (AP)
mode or to ad hoc (peer-to-peer) mode. Choose infrastructure mode.
You may also need to provide the SSID (network name) and indicate
whether you’ll use WEP/WPA or WPA2 encryption.
We recommend WPA2 because it’s the most secure encryption for your
wireless network.
5. After the PCI card driver is installed, shut down the computer.
6. Unplug the computer and install the PCI card in an available slot.
7. Plug in the computer and restart it.
Windows recognizes that you have installed new hardware and
automatically searches the hard drive for the driver. When Windows
finds the driver, it enables the driver for the adapter, and you’re
finished.
USB adapters
If you purchased a USB adapter, it’s easy to install in your USB port. All new
PCs and laptops come with at least one USB port (and usually more). Most
USB adapters attach to the USB port via a USB cable. Many come with a base
and an extension cable that allow you to move the USB adapter into a better
position for its antenna. (See Chapter 8 if you’re a Mac user.)
Here are the general guidelines for installing a USB wireless NIC:
1. Insert into the CD-ROM drive the CD that accompanied the USB
adapter.
If the CD’s AutoRun feature doesn’t cause the setup program to start,
use the Run command from the Start button (in Windows) or open
Windows Explorer to run the Setup.exe program on the CD.
2. Install the driver software for the device.
In most cases, the software asks you to attach the USB device as soon
as the drivers are installed. When finished, you see a confirmation in the
notification area in the lower-right corner in Windows letting you know
your USB network card has been installed and configured for use with
Windows.
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3. After the wireless station software is installed, restart the computer if
the installation software requires it.
You see the wireless adapter as a new network adapter in your system,
and you have a new icon in your task tray indicating that the wireless is
working correctly.
Connecting to a Wireless Network
with Windows XP
If you know that you’ll use your computer to connect to several different
wireless networks — perhaps one at home and another at work — Windows
XP enables you to configure the wireless adapter to automatically detect and
connect to each network on-the-fly, without further configuration.
To configure one or more wireless networks for automatic connection, follow
these steps:
1. In the notification area of the status bar, at the bottom of the screen,
click the Network icon to display the Wireless Network Connection
dialog box, and then click the Properties button.
2. In the Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog box that
appears, click the Wireless Networks tab, as shown in Figure 7-2.
Figure 7-2:
The
Wireless
Network
Connection
Properties
dialog box.
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Unless you’ve set it up with the SSID broadcast turned off (which we
don’t recommend because it doesn’t really provide much of a security
benefit — as discussed in Chapter 9), you’ll see your network listed
here. If your computer is in range of other wireless networks, their SSIDs
will also be listed.
3. To add another network to the list, click the Add button on the
Wireless Networks tab.
4. In the Wireless Network Properties dialog box that appears, type the
Network Name in the text box labeled Network Name (SSID).
This is the name of the wireless network AP to which you will connect
your computer.
You may want to enter the network name (SSID) for the wireless network
at your office, for example.
5. If you’re connecting to a wireless network at your office, make sure
that you have appropriate authorization and check with the network
administrator for encryption keys and authorization procedures that
he or she has implemented.
If the network administrator has implemented a system for automatically
providing users with WEP/WPA2 keys, click OK.
If the wireless network to which you plan to connect doesn’t have an
automatic key distribution system in place, do this:
a. Deselect the check box labeled The Key Is Provided for Me
Automatically.
b. Enter the WPA passphrase.
c. Click OK to save this network SSID.
6. Move on to the next network (if any) that you want to configure.
Notice the Key Index scroll box near the bottom of the dialog box. By
default, the key index is set to 1. Your office network administrator
knows whether you need to use the key index. This feature is used if the
system administrator has implemented a rotating key system, which is
a security system used in some office settings. You don’t need to mess
with this feature unless you’re setting up your computer to use at
work — it’s not something you use in your wireless home network.
7. After adding all the necessary wireless networks, click OK on the
Wireless Networks tab of the Wireless Network Connection Properties
dialog box.
Windows XP now has the information it needs to automatically connect
the computer to each wireless network whenever the wireless station
comes into range.
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Connecting to a Wireless Network
with Windows Vista
Windows Vista has wireless networking built right into the OS. Everything
takes place in the Network and Sharing Center. From this one location, you
can work with any of your network connections and get any information
about those connections — from your IP address and your available bandwidth
to troubleshooting connections with problems.
Before you get started, make sure you have the SSID and the WEP/WPA2
passphrase you set up in your AP handy — or your AP’s router PIN if your AP
supports WPS.
To set up a wireless network with the Vista Network and Sharing Center,
follow these steps:
1. Click the Windows Start icon in the lower-left corner of the screen.
Select Network in the right column.
The Network dialog box appears.
2. Click Network and Sharing Center in the links bar (just below the
menu at the top of the screen).
The Network and Sharing Center appears, as shown in Figure 7-3. The
default network you see is your wired network if you’ve previously been
connected to one (such as plugging your computer directly into your
broadband modem).
3. To connect to your wireless network, click the Manage Network
Connections link on the left menu.
The list is blank by default because if have not set up a wireless
connection at this point.
4. Click the Add button to begin the process of creating a wireless
network connection.
5. In the How Do You Want to Add a Network window, select one of the
following options for setting up your network:
• Add a Network That Is in Range of This Computer: Windows
searches for any available wireless networks. Find your network
and double click on its name to select it.
• Manually Create a Network Profile: If you have turned off the broadcast
of the SSID on your AP, you need to use the manual setup in Vista
to add your AP to the list. Vista’s manual Add wizard walks you
through the process to get you connected.
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Figure 7-3:
The
Windows
Vista
Network
and Sharing
Center.
• Create an Ad Hoc Network: An Ad Hoc network is one where two
computers communicate with each other without an access point
in the middle. Typically, you’d choose this option if you were
trying to share files with another person and you were out of range
of an AP-based wireless network (called an Infrastructure network).
For most folks, this is a very rare occurrence. To create an ad hoc
network, click this option and follow the wizard’s steps. (Microsoft
has a good tutorial at http://windows.microsoft.com/
en-US/windows-vista/Set-up-a-computer-to-computerad-hoc-network.)
You can also create an ad hoc network to use Windows Internet
Connection Sharing (ICS), which allows a computer with both a
wired and wireless network adapter to act like an AP for other
wireless computers. This works in a pinch, but given that APs cost
about $35 and have a lot of advantages (easier to set up, better
performance, always-on, and so on), we don’t recommend that you
use this kind of network.
6. Enter the WEP/WPA2 key and then click Connect.
The New Connection Wizard tests the connection. If your AP supports
WPS, the wizard asks for your AP PIN number.
7. To configure the connection, choose whether this is a Public or
Private connection and then click Next.
After your AP has been discovered, or set up, you are asked to configure
the connection to the AP. In Vista, security has been tightened on all
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network connections, so you must choose whether this is a Public
or Private network connection. If you want to share anything from
your Vista machine, choose Private, as shown in Figure 7-4. After you
complete the selection, you return to the Manage Wireless Networks
window, where you see your connection in the list.
Figure 7-4:
Setting the
network
location.
If you’re not sure you want to share anything from your Vista machine,
you can gain a lot more security by choosing Public — you can always
change it to Private later. When the connection is classified as Public,
the Windows firewall is set with its strongest security, and many programs
are restricted from using the connection — all programs to which you
have not specifically granted access to an Internet connection are
blocked from using this network connection. Vista security asks for
permission to do everything, so any virus that’s trying to use the
connection will trigger the security to pop up and alert you.
8. Close the Manage Wireless Networks window.
You return to the Network and Sharing Center, which shows the new
wireless connection. Now that you have added your wireless network
to your system, you can disconnect your Ethernet connection and try
out your network.
You can discover and learn a lot more about your new wireless connection
by using the tools in the Network and Sharing Center. In Figure 7-5, we have
our Belkin AP set up as a Private network. From here, we can click the View
Status link to see all the details of our connection. Clicking the Details button
brings up all the information you might need about the speed, the amount
of data that has been passed over the connection, the IP address, and pretty
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much everything else you may want to know about your connection. If you’re
having problems with your connection, the View Status pop-up also has a
Diagnose button that can help determine the cause of your connection problem.
Figure 7-5:
The
Network
and Sharing
Center
shows
the new
wireless
network.
The Network and Sharing Center includes a helpful Signal Strength meter
(which you can see from the View Status screen). We found in our tests that the
Windows meter is not as fast to respond as some of the vendors’ software that
comes with your wireless network card. But if your vendor does not give you a
signal meter, this one works fine to find weak coverage areas in your house.
Connecting to a Wireless Network
with Windows 7
The latest (and definitely, in our experience) greatest version of Windows is
Windows 7. Like Windows Vista before it, Windows 7 makes connecting to
wireless networks a snap. The built-in wireless networking configuration
system is super slick, and we believe that there’s no reason to ever use the
software that might come with a network adapter when you’re using Windows 7.
The big addition in Windows 7 is the View Available Networks feature. This
feature lets you quickly find all of the available wireless networks in your
location, wherever you may be — at home, in the office, near a wireless hot
spot, and so on.
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To use this feature to set up your network connection in Windows 7, follow
these steps:
1. Click the View Available Networks icon on the far right in the
Windows taskbar.
Windows displays a list of available networks, as shown in Figure 7-6.
Figure 7-6:
Click here
to find your
wireless
network in
Windows 7.
2. Select the network you want to join by clicking its name (SSID) in
the resulting list. If you plan to connect to this network regularly
(for example, if this is your home network), select the Connect
Automatically check box. Then click the Connect button.
3. If you’re connecting to a secured (WEP or WPA) network, Windows
prompts you to enter the password. Enter the WEP or WPA password
in the Security Key box, as shown in Figure 7-7, and then click OK.
Figure 7-7:
Enter your
security key
(WPA or
WEP passphrase) in
this box.
Your computer connects to the network, and you’re all set. If you
selected the Connect Automatically option in Step 2, your computer will
always connect to this network whenever it’s within range.
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If you’re having difficulties connecting to the network, click the Open Network
and Sharing Center link at the bottom of Figure 7-6 and follow the steps we
discuss in the preceding section, “Connecting to a Wireless Network with
Windows Vista,” to establish a network connection. But you really should
never need to do this unless you’re dealing with something problematic like a
network with a “hidden” SSID that you need to enter manually.
Tracking Your Network’s Performance
When you have your network adapters and APs installed and up and running,
you may think that you’ve reached the end of the game — wireless network
nirvana! And, in some ways you have, at least after you go through the
steps in Chapter 9 and get your network and all its devices connected to the
Internet. But part of the nature of wireless networks is the fact that they rely
on the transmission of radio waves throughout your home. If you’ve ever
tried to tune in to a station on your radio or TV but had a hard time getting
a signal (who hasn’t had this problem — besides kids who’ve grown up on
cable TV and Internet radio, we suppose), you probably realize that radio
waves can run into interference or just plain peter out at longer distances.
The transmitters used in Wi-Fi systems use very low power levels — at least
compared with commercial radio and television transmitters — so the issues
of interference and range that are inherent to any radio-based system are
even more important for a wireless home network.
Luckily, client software — usually in the form of a link test program — comes
with some wireless network adapters, and signal meters are built into the
Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 system trays. These tools enable you to look
at the performance of your network. With most systems (and client software),
you can view this performance-monitoring equipment in two places:
✓ In your system tray: Most wireless network adapters install a small
signal-strength meter on the Windows system tray (usually found in the
lower-right corner of your screen, although you may have moved it
elsewhere on your screen). This signal-strength meter usually has a
series of bars that light up in response to the strength of your wireless
network’s radio signal. It’s different with each manufacturer, but most
that we’ve seen light up the bars in green to indicate signal strength.
The more bars that light up, the stronger your signal.
✓ Within the client software itself: The client software you installed along
with your network adapter usually has a more elaborate signal-strength
system that graphically (or using a numerical readout) displays several
measures of the quality of your radio signal. This is often called a link
test function, although different manufacturers call it different things.
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(Look in your manual or in the online help system to find it in your
network adapter’s client software.) The link test usually measures
several things:
• Signal strength: Also called signal level in some systems, this is a
measure of the signal’s strength in dBm. The higher this number,
the better, and the more likely that you can get a full-speed
connection from your access point to your PC.
• Noise level: This is a measure of the interference that’s affecting
the wireless network in your home. Remember that electronics in
your home (such as cordless phones and microwaves) can put out
their own radio waves that interfere with the radio waves used by
your home network. Noise level is also measured in dBm, but in
this case, lower is better.
• Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR): This is the key determinant to the
performance of your wireless network. This ratio is a comparison
of the signal (the good radio waves) with the noise (the bad ones).
SNR is measured in dB, and a higher number is better.
Many link test programs not only provide a snapshot of your network
performance, but also give you a moving graph of your performance over
time. This snapshot can be helpful in two ways. First, if you have a laptop
PC, you can move it around the house to see how your network performance
looks. Second, it can let you watch the performance while you turn various
devices on and off. For example, if you suspect that a 2.4 GHz cordless phone
is killing your wireless LAN, turn on your link test and keep an eye on it while
you make a phone call. Figure 7-8 shows the signal meter that is included
with the Intel PROSet wireless adapters included from the factory with many
Windows laptops. (Search in your applications folder for Intel PROSet System
Tools.)
Figure 7-8:
Checking
out your
signal levels
with a signal
meter.
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When you grow more comfortable with your wireless LAN — and start using
it more and more — you can leverage these tools to tweak your network. For
example, you can have your spouse or a friend sit in the living room watching the link test results while you move the access point to different spots in
the home office. Or you can use the link test with a laptop to find portions
of your house that have weak signals and then use these results to decide
where to install a second access point.
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Chapter 8
Setting Up a Wireless
Mac Network
In This Chapter
▶ Understanding the Apple AirPort System
▶ Using AirPort with OS X Macs
▶ Adding a non-Apple PC to your AirPort network
▶ Connecting to non-AirPort networks
I
f you’re an Apple Macintosh user and you’ve just decided to try wireless
networking, this chapter is for you. We talk about wireless networking
equipment as it relates to the Mac and how to set up and configure one of
Apple’s wireless routers (the AirPort Extreme). We focus on Mac OS X versions
10.5 (Leopard) and 10.6 (Snow Leopard) because they’re the most current
versions of the Mac operating system at the time of this writing, but the
advice we offer in this chapter gets you up and running with any version of
OS X. Along the way, Apple has added a few new features to its wireless
networking software (such as, in OS X 10.5, the ability to rapidly see which
networks have encryption turned on), but by and large, the Wi-Fi connectivity
in OS X has been the same in all versions.
Note: Apple stopped developing its previous operating system, OS 9, in 2002
and stopped building computers that supported that OS in 2006, so we don’t
talk about OS 9 here. If you have an older Mac that still runs only OS 9, you’re
not out of luck — OS 9 Macs can support and connect to AirPort and other
Wi-Fi networks, but not all the features we discuss in this chapter apply.
We focus on the Apple AirPort system in this chapter simply because Apple has
its own (robust and easy to use) Wi-Fi home router hardware that’s tightly
integrated into the OS X system software — and many Mac users prefer sticking
with an all-Apple network. However, this doesn’t mean that Apple computers
must use AirPort routers; they can connect to any standards-based Wi-Fi router
using the 802.11b, g, or n standard — both Danny and Pat use Macs with
non-Apple routers every day. Also, other computers and devices can use an
AirPort system as their Wi-Fi router (given a common Wi-Fi standard). Again,
Pat and Danny both use Windows computers on AirPort networks every day.
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Exploring Your AirPort Hardware Options
In 1999, Apple Computer had a product launch for the iBook notebook
(remember the multicolored curvy ones that looked a lot like a toilet seat?),
and part of that big dog-and-pony show (all Apple product launches are
extravaganzas!) was the introduction of the AirPort Wi-Fi wireless networking
system. AirPort was the first mainstream, consumer-friendly, consumer-focused
wireless networking system. Over the years, AirPort (which has gone through
a few name changes and design upgrades, as we discuss) has become an
integral part of the Apple product lineup and is installed (or available) in all
of Apple’s desktop and notebook computers.
The AirPort product line includes
✓ Client adapters — known as AirPort cards — which are installed inside
Apple computers at the factory
✓ Wireless routers — known as AirPort base stations — that act as the
base station for a Wi-Fi network
Apple’s current AirPort products use the newest Wi-Fi 802.11n technology,
which is (as we write) the state of the art in the wireless LAN world. Apple
computers equipped with AirPort Extreme cards can connect to any Wi-Fi
compatible 2.4 GHz 802.11b, g, or n wireless network, as well as 5 GHz 802.11a
and 802.11n networks — regardless of whether the network uses Apple
equipment or wireless equipment from any other Wi-Fi certified vendor.
Apple also includes 802.11g or n networking in all of its iPhones, iPads, and
iPod touch devices.
The current generation of AirPort products (dubbed AirPort Extreme and
AirPort Express) is compatible with the 802.11n standard. You may also run
into some older generations of AirPort equipment (just plain AirPort by name,
as well as earlier editions of the AirPort Extreme) that are compatible with the
older 802.11b or g standards but don’t support 802.11n or a. If you’re buying
an AirPort Extreme router from eBay or some other merchant, make sure that
you’re buying the latest version by looking for the AirPort Extreme Base Station
with simultaneous dual-band support. It’s a mouthful, but it’s the one you want!
Getting to know the AirPort card
The current AirPort Extreme card is a mini-PCI Card (well, it’s the same size
and shape but designed to fit only in AirPort slots in Macs). It fits inside an
Apple computer, such as several recent PowerBook G4s, iBooks, and iMacs,
but doesn’t fit in the original AirPort slot in older Macs — and isn’t required
for any of the Macs built since 2005 (all of which already have Wi-Fi built in).
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Because Apple hasn’t sold any consumer computers (MacBooks, MacBook
Pros, iMacs and Mac Minis) without built-in Wi-Fi since 2005, the AirPort
Extreme card isn’t something you can just pick up at the Apple store. Instead,
if you need one, you need to bring your Mac to a Mac repair store (such as
an Apple Store or another authorized service center) and have them install
one for you. For the vast majority of readers, this is a non-issue because their
Macs are already Wi-Fi equipped.
Apple AirPort Extreme–ready computers
Apple has been including Wi-Fi capability as a standard feature of all its
computers for a few years — so any Mac laptop or desktop purchased since
mid-to-late 2005 has at least 802.11g Wi-Fi capability built in. The only
exceptions are the MacPro desktop machines, which are most often used in
business environments (where wired Ethernet connections are common);
these computers have the AirPort capability as an option in some lower-priced
configurations.
All Apple computers sold since mid-to-late 2006 have been capable of
supporting 802.11n as well, including the following:
✓ iMac with Intel Core 2 Duo (except the 17-inch 1.83 GHz iMac)
✓ MacBook with Intel Core 2 Duo
✓ MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo
✓ Mac Pro with AirPort Extreme card option
Some older Macintosh computers may not have an AirPort Extreme card
installed but can be equipped with one (as discussed in the preceding section).
You can find a list of these computers at http://support.apple.com/kb/
HT3024?viewlocale=en_US. This Web page also includes a link to another
Apple Web page that lists all Macintosh computers that can use the older
AirPort card as well (though, as we mention in the nearby sidebar, good luck
finding one!).
Apple computers that are equipped for installation of an AirPort Extreme
card have an antenna built into the body of the computer. When you install
the AirPort Extreme card, you attach the card to the built-in antenna. (All
radios need an antenna to be able to send and receive radio signals, and
wireless networking cards are no exception.)
If your older Mac doesn’t support AirPort or AirPort Extreme, you can
try using a standard Wi-Fi network adapter with the drivers found at www.
ioxperts.com/devices/devices_80211b.html.
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The amazing disappearing AirPort card
The original AirPort card — the one that fits into
all the older G3 and Titanium G4 PowerBooks,
original iBooks, and original iMacs — has
been discontinued by Apple. Not because they
aren’t good guys and not because they don’t
want to sell such cards to their customers. The
problem is that the 802.11b chips inside these
cards are no longer available. (The chip
vendors are spending all their time building
802.11n chips like those found in the AirPort
Extreme card.)
The result is that cards for these Macs are
extremely rare — the only real source of these
cards is the small number that have been
stockpiled by folks who repair Macs as service
parts. Think back to Econ 101, and you can see
how this situation may drive up prices. We’ve
seen these older cards (which originally cost
about $100) for more than $150 on eBay and on
various reseller Web sites. (They’re nowhere to
be found on Apple’s own site.)
The only other alternative is to find a third-party
Wi-Fi adapter that can work with your older
Mac. For notebook computers such as the
PowerBook, it’s a PC Card adapter (see Chapter 2
for more on this), and for desktop Macs (such
as Power Macs), it’s a PCI card. The AirPort
software built into Mac OS X doesn’t work with
these devices (and almost none of them have
a set of Mac driver software). The solution is
to mate a card with some specialized software
that works with a Macintosh.
The most popular solution here is to find an
802.11b PC or PCI card that works with the
IOXpert 802.11b driver for Mac OS X ($19.95 after
a free trial period). This software works with a
large number of 802.11b cards and all versions
of OS X (including the current Tiger version).
Go to www.ioxperts.com/devices/
devices_80211b.html to find out more,
to see a list of compatible (and incompatible)
cards, and to download the trial version.
Another option for an older Mac without
wireless is to use a USB WI-FI network adapter
(we discuss these in Chapter 4). Although
there are dozens and dozens of such adapters
available on the market, we’ve found that only a
few include software that will let them work on
a Mac. Before you buy such an adapter, verify
on the box (or the manufacturer’s Web site) that
Mac software is indeed included.
“Come in, AirPort base station. Over.”
Apple currently sells two wireless routers, which they call base stations, as
well as two versions of the wireless router with a built-in hard drive (for
computer backups and network-attached storage) called the Time Capsule.
(We discuss the Time Capsule in more detail in the section “Backing up with
Time Capsule,” later in this chapter.)
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The main Apple AirPort product is the AirPort Extreme base station with
simultaneous dual-band support. This $179 base station is fully compatible
with the 802.11n standard (see Chapter 3) and includes the following features:
✓ High-speed networking: Using 802.11n on the wireless side of the house
and full Gigabit (1,000 Kbps) wired Ethernet connections for three
devices, this router provides connections as fast as any on the market.
✓ True dual-band capabilities: The AirPort Extreme has two radios that
let you set up your network to provide 802.11n (or a, b, or g) networks on
both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands at the same time. (See Chapter 5
for more on this.) You can configure your network for maximum
throughput and range no matter what mix of network client devices you
connect to the network.
✓ A USB port: You can configure the USB port to provide
• A printer connection (using the built-in print server). You can share
just about any USB printer over the network, so you can send print
jobs from your Macs or Windows computers to a central printer.
• A shared storage device (called AirPort Disk), using a USB hard
drive. You simply plug in any USB external hard drive and enable
the AirPort Disk feature by using Apple’s software, and Macs and
Windows computers can share the hard drive space for backups,
storage of media files (such as digital music), and more.
• A USB hub feature (you need to provide your own hub), with which
you can “double up” your AirPort Extreme base station’s USB port,
attaching more than one printer and/or hard drive at once.
✓ Up-to-date security support: The AirPort Extreme base station with
Gigabit Ethernet supports WPA and WPA2 encryption, as well as support
for business-grade security standards such as RADIUS and 802.1x.
✓ Guest network support: A very cool feature available on the AirPort
Extreme (and a few other routers) is its guest network feature, which you
set up in the AirPort Utility software on either a Mac or a PC. (See the
later section “Configuring the AirPort base station on OS X” for details
on setting up guest network.) A guest network can be completely separate
(logically) from your primary network (so users on that network can’t
“see” your PCs and other devices), can have its own password for
security purposes, and more. If you have a lot of house guests who want
to get on your wireless network with their laptops, iPhones, and the like,
this is a very handy feature to have.
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Figure 8-1 shows the AirPort Extreme base station with simultaneous
dual-band support.
Figure 8-1:
Going
802.11n
Apple style.
Getting aboard the AirPort Express
The AirPort Extreme isn’t the only Apple entry in the AP space (and, in
fact, it’s not even the most interesting!). Apple also has a small form factor
(about the size of a deck of cards) access point known as the AirPort Express
(shown in Figure 8-2).
Figure 8-2:
The AirPort
Express is
a jack of all
trades.
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This $99 device can fulfill a bunch of different roles in your wireless life,
including the following:
✓ A full-fledged AP and router: The AirPort Express can do pretty much
everything any full-size AP can do — you can build your entire wireless
LAN around an AirPort Express.
✓ A travel router: A cool new category of APs are those designed for use
on the road — travel routers that you can pack up and plug into any
broadband access (like that available in most hotels) and provide yourself
with an instant Wi-Fi hot spot. You might use a travel router if your hotel
doesn’t have Wi-Fi (only wired broadband), or if you’ve got more than one
device you want to get online and you don’t want to have to pay the $14
a day many hotels charge for each Wi-Fi connection. The small size of the
AirPort Express lets you stick it in your laptop bag and bring it wherever
you go. Pat wrote this chapter in a hotel room in Vegas using his AirPort
Express — a pretty sad commentary on his after-hours life these days!
✓ A WDS repeater: The Apple AirPort system supports the WDS (wireless
distribution system) standard, which allows you to extend your network
throughout even a huge house by having your wireless signals hop from
AP to AP until they reach your distant clients.
✓ A USB print server: You can plug a USB printer into the AirPort Express
and get printer access from the entire network.
✓ An AirTunes player: Perhaps our favorite feature of the AirPort Express
is its support for AirTunes. AirTunes is the Apple software system that
lets you listen to the music in your iTunes collection (and from your
iPod) throughout your network. The AirPort Express has analog and
digital audio connectors that you plug into a stereo or home theater.
Although Apple’s fancy AppleTV is an even better way of doing this, it
costs four times as much as the AirPort Express; so if your focus is on
music more than TV, you might consider choosing the AirPort Express.
Like the AirPort Extreme base station, the AirPort Express uses the 802.11n
standard and can work with any type of Wi-Fi certified 802.11a, b, g, or n
client. Note, however, that the AirPort express is not a simultaneous dual-band
router, so it doesn’t work on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands at the
same time. If you choose to use the 5 GHz band, you will be able to connect only
802.11a or n equipment that uses that frequency. Your 802.11 b and g gear
will not be able to connect to the network unless you choose to use the 2.4
GHz frequencies only. (The setting in the AirPort Utility you’ll want to choose
if you’ve got g or b gear is 802.11n [802.11b/g compatible].)
There are three big differences between the AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express:
✓ The Airport Express supports only ten clients at once — which, as we
discuss in Chapter 2, is an easy number to reach when you start adding
wireless-enabled smartphones, iPods, gaming consoles, and entertainment
devices to your network.
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✓ The Airport Express doesn’t support the simultaneous dual-band feature
that the full-sized AirPort Extreme supports. So you can’t have a 5 GHz
and a 2.4 GHz network going at the same time in your home like you can
with an AirPort Extreme.
✓ The AirPort Express USB port doesn’t support attachment of a hard
drive, so you can’t use the AirPort Express for AirPort disk network-based
storage for your home.
If you know that you’re going to have some heavy-duty wireless networking
needs, don’t build your network around an AirPort Express. But if you live
in an apartment or condo or smaller home and don’t have a lot of devices to
attach to the network, it’s a great (and inexpensive) way to get started. And
if your needs grow and you need to update to an AirPort Extreme, you’ll still
find the AirPort Express useful as a WDS repeater, for AirTunes or as a remote
print server (Pat uses his for the latter two purposes and loves it!).
Backing up with Time Capsule
Apple launched some great new backup software with OS 10.5 called Time
Machine. With Time Machine activated, your Mac automatically and continually
backs itself up as you use it. (You do back up your computer don’t you? You
sure as heck should!) Although Time Machine works great with an external
hard drive plugged into your Mac’s USB port, that strategy isn’t all that
convenient for users of laptop computers — and of course, most Macs sold
these days are laptops.
What makes Time Machine really cool is its ability to do automatic, continuous
background backing-up over a wireless connection. And to make this work,
you need a Time Capsule. A Time Capsule is nothing more — and nothing
less — than an AirPort Extreme base station with a built-in hard drive. All the
features of a regular AirPort Extreme base station are included: the simultaneous
dual-band support, the Gigabit Ethernet wired switch, the guest network
support, all of it.
You can buy a Time Capsule for $299 for a 1 terabyte version (1,000 gigabytes,
in other words) and $499 for a 2 terabyte version. And the storage space isn’t
just for Time Machine backups. Any Mac or Windows PC on your network can
access it and use it as shared storage for all computers on the network.
The Time Capsule is the only device that Apple officially supports for Time
Machine backups across a wireless network. Only game in town, in other
words. That having been said, many people successfully use Time Machine on
AirPort Disks and on other Network Attached Storage (NAS — see Chapter 10
for more on this topic) devices. This is not a task for the uninitiated, but you
can find threads discussing this topic on sites such as Mac OS X Hints (www.
macosxhints.com — a great site for Mac geeks) if you want to try!
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The Time Capsule is very cool because it’s all highly integrated and a snap to
set up and it supports Time Machine. But for the $120 premium of a 1 terabyte
version (over a plain AirPort Extreme base station), you can easily buy a 2
terabyte external hard drive and plug it into the AirPort Extreme for use as an
AirPort Disk. And if the hard drive gets too small or, even worse, fails (which
they do tend to do more often than you’d hope, but far less often than you’d
fear), an external drive is much easier to replace, upgrade, or supplement with
a second disk than is the disk built into the Time Machine (which is not user
accessible). Of course, as we mention earlier, Apple doesn’t support Time
Machine backups to an AirPort Disk, so you’ll have to jury rig such a setup.
Using AirPort with OS X Macs
Apple makes it exceptionally easy to configure an AirPort Extreme base
station or an AirPort Express. All Mac OS X computers that are capable of
working with an AirPort system include one or two bits of software installed
in the Utilities folder (found in your Applications folder):
✓ For OS X 10.4 and earlier, you find two bits of software:
• AirPort Setup Assistant and
• AirPort Admin Utility
✓ For OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and 10.6 (Snow Leopard), there’s just a single
program called AirPort Utility that incorporates the two previous apps
in one.
The primary mode of Airport Utility (and Setup Assistant on older versions
of OS X) is a “follow along with the steps” program (like the wizard programs
often used on Windows computers) that guides you through the setup of an
AirPort system by asking you simple questions. The Manual Setup mode of
Airport Utility (or OS X 10.4 and earlier’s Admin Utility) is used for tweaking
and updating your settings later, after you already have everything set up.
Most people can just use the primary mode of Airport Utility (or the Setup
Assistant) for all their configuration needs — though we recommend that you
occasionally run the manual setup mode/Admin Utility program to upgrade
the firmware (the underlying software inside your AirPort), as we discuss
later in the “Upgrading AirPort base station firmware on OS X” section.
Configuring the AirPort base station on OS X
After you’ve purchased a new AirPort Extreme base station or an AirPort
Express that you will use as a base station, you use the Airport Utility to set it
up for use in your wireless home network.
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Before running the AirPort Utility, it’s a good idea to make sure that your
Internet connection is up and running by connecting your Mac directly to your
broadband modem by using an Ethernet cable. Check with your ISP for
instructions on getting connected.
Follow these steps to configure the AirPort base station:
1. Connect your AirPort to your broadband modem by using an Ethernet
cable and plug your AirPort into the wall (power).
2. Click the Applications folder on the Dock.
3. When the Applications folder opens, double-click the Utilities folder
icon.
4. In the Utilities folder, double-click the AirPort Utility icon to display
the AirPort Utility window, shown in Figure 8-3.
The software searches for your new AirPort (and any existing AirPorts
you have in range).
Figure 8-3:
The OS X
AirPort
Utility
window
finds your
AirPort(s).
5. Click the name of the AirPort in the left panel and then click the
Continue button.
Your network will have its name assigned at the factory, similar to Apple
Network xxxxxx, where xxxxxx is a six-digit hexadecimal number.
6. In the next panel (shown in Figure 8-4), fill in the following information
about your AirPort and then click the Continue button:
• AirPort Extreme Name: Enter a name for your network (something
like “Danny’s Network” or “Pat’s Super Secret Wi-Fi Clubhouse” —
any name you can remember). Note that this setting is labeled
AirPort Express Name for an Airport Express.
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• (Optional) AirPort Extreme Password: We recommend that you
put a password on your network so no one can accidentally (or
maliciously) change your settings. Note that this password is not
the password for your network’s WPA security, but rather the
admin password for the AirPort base station itself. Note that this
setting is named AirPort Express Password for an AirPort Express.
Figure 8-4:
Give your
network a
name.
7. Tell your AirPort what you want to do with it by selecting one of the
options shown in Figure 8-5. Then click Continue.
The first time you set up a network, select the I Want to Create a New
Wireless Network option.
Figure 8-5:
Set up a
new
network.
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8. On the wireless security settings screen shown in Figure 8-6, enter a
name for your wireless network and then select one of the following
options for the security level of your network:
• WPA2 Personal: We highly recommend that you choose the WPA2
Personal option and then choose a password combining both
alphabetical and numeric characters. Check the Remember This
Password in My Keychain check box so you don’t have to re-enter
the password each time your computer connects to the network.
• No Security: If you select this option, your network is not
password-protected, and any wireless device can connect to your
network. We don’t recommend selecting this option (see Chapter
9 for the reasons why), but if you feel confident that you don’t
need security on your network — maybe you live miles away from
your neighbors or you’re just not worried if someone gets access
to your broadband connection or network — you can choose this
option.
9. Click Continue to move to the next step.
Figure 8-6:
Set your
wireless
security. Be
sure to use
WPA2!
10. If you want to establish a guest network (as described earlier), fill in
the fields shown in Figure 8-7 and select the Enable Guest Network
check box.
Note: This option is for the AirPort Extreme only and not for the AirPort
Express.
11. Click Continue.
Your AirPort detects your Internet connection and prompts you to
perform any setup required. If you use a standard residential broadband
connection, you see a screen like the one in Figure 8-8.
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Figure 8-7:
Create a
guest network to let
visitors get
access to
the Internet
but stay off
your private
network.
Figure 8-8:
Confirm
your
Internet
connection.
12. Most broadband connections automatically connect to your AirPort
and assign it an IP address via DHCP; in this case, select the I Connect
to the Internet with a DSL or Cable Modem Using DHCP check box.
Then click Continue.
In rare cases (some DSL modems), you need to enter some additional
information that you’ll be prompted for by the AirPort Utility — information
that should have been provided to you by your broadband provider.
13. On the final screen, review your settings and then click Update.
This step writes your settings into the memory of the AirPort and
restarts the AirPort. When the restart is completed, your Mac automatically
connects to the AirPort, and you and your network are all set.
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Upgrading AirPort base station
firmware on OS X
In this section, we explain how to upgrade the firmware of an AirPort base
station. Upgrading the firmware on your AirPort Extreme base station
through a direct Ethernet cable connection is easiest. Use an Ethernet cable
(either a straight-through cable or a crossover cable; the base station
automatically detects the type of cable you’re using) to connect your
computer’s Ethernet port to the base station’s LAN port. You can also
do the upgrade over a wireless connection.
To upgrade the firmware of a new AirPort base station that you’re setting up
for the first time, follow these steps:
1. On the Dock, click the Applications folder.
2. When the Applications folder opens, double-click the Utilities folder.
3. Double-click the AirPort Utility icon to display the Select Base Station
window.
4. Highlight the base station name and then select Upload Firmware
from the Base Station menu.
Your AirPort connects to Apple’s servers and checks for updated firmware. A pop-up window (as shown in Figure 8-9) lists both your current
firmware version and the latest available version.
5. If a newer version of the firmware is available, select it and click OK
to apply it.
Figure 8-9:
Choose
which
firmware
version to
use here.
6. A message pops up, stating that uploading the software will cause the
wireless network to be disconnected. Click OK.
The new firmware is copied to the base station.
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7. When you see a message that says the system is waiting for the base
station to restart and that the base station has been successfully
updated, click OK.
8. When the AirPort Utility indicates that the firmware upgrade is done,
close the application.
Connecting another Mac to your
AirPort network on OS X
When you set up your AirPort base station by following the directions in the
earlier section “Configuring the AirPort base station on OS X,” you also set
up the AirPort card in the computer you used to configure the base station.
However, you need to configure the AirPort cards in the other Mac computers
in your house to enable them to connect to the AirPort network. Follow these
steps:
1. Click the Apple Menu and select System Preferences, and then select
the Network preference pane.
2. When the Network preference pane opens, select AirPort, as shown in
Figure 8-10.
Figure 8-10:
Start making your
connection
here.
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3. Make sure that the AirPort Power is on — if it’s not, click the Turn
AirPort On button.
4. In the Network Name pull-down menu, select the AirPort network you
created.
5. Select the Show AirPort Status in Menu Bar check box.
This step streamlines the process the next time you want to get connected
to this network. If you’ve turned on Encryption for your AirPort network,
you’re prompted to enter a password.
6. Select the appropriate type of encryption and then type your password
in the Password text box. Select the Remember Password in My
Keychain check box to retain the password for future use.
See Chapter 9 for more on encryption.
7. Click OK.
8. When the Network preference pane indicates that you’re connected to
the AirPort network, you can close the window.
After you’ve gone through these steps, you have an AirPort icon on your
menu bar. The next time you want to connect to this AirPort network, simply
go up to the menu bar, click the AirPort icon, and select the network name.
That’s it!
Adding a Non-Apple Computer
to Your AirPort Network
One reason why wireless home networking has become so popular is the
interoperability between wireless networking equipment from different
vendors. Because it adheres to the standards and is Wi-Fi certified, Apple
wireless networking equipment is no exception. You can even use a Windows
or Linux computer to connect to an Apple AirPort base station.
From the user perspective (yours, in other words), the instructions we give
in Chapter 7 for connecting to any wireless network work for connecting
a non-Apple computer to an Apple AirPort network. Use Window’s built-in
wireless configuration software or the software that came with your wireless
network adapter, find your AirPort network, enter your WPA password, and
you’re set. That’s all there is to it. Wi-Fi is truly a cross platform system.
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Connecting to Non-Apple-Based
Wireless Networks
One scenario you may encounter in a home network is the need to connect
a Macintosh computer to a non-Apple-based network. Follow the procedures
outlined in this earlier section titled “Connecting another Mac to your AirPort
network on OS X” for adding a computer to a wireless network — using the
Network preference pane in your Mac’s System Preferences, the procedure
should be identical. If you have any trouble, it almost certainly relates to the
network password. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to resolve password
issues:
✓ Try turning off encryption on the wireless network: If you can
successfully connect your Mac to the network without the need of a
password, you can be sure that the password was the problem. Don’t
leave the network unprotected, however. Read on.
✓ Check the password configuration: When you turn on the access
point’s encryption, determine whether the password is an alphanumeric
value or a hexadecimal number. Some hardware vendors provide
configuration software that has you enter a passphrase, but the software
then generates a hexadecimal number. You have to enter the hexadecimal
number, not the passphrase, in the AirPort software.
✓ Watch for case sensitivity: If the Windows-based access point
configuration software enables you to enter an alphanumeric password,
keep in mind that the password is case sensitive. For WEP, the password
should be either exactly 5 characters (letters and numbers) for 64-bit
encryption or 13 characters for 128-bit encryption. You should then
enter exactly the same characters in the Password text box in the
AirPort pane of Internet Connect.
✓ Use current software: Make sure that you’re using the most current
version of AirPort software. The most up-to-date software makes it
easier to enter passwords connecting to a Windows-based wireless
network. The new software automatically distinguishes between
alphanumeric and hexadecimal passwords. With earlier versions of the
software, to connect to a WEP-encrypted Windows-based network, you
have to type quotation marks around alphanumeric values and type $ in
front of hexadecimal numbers.
These guidelines should help you get your Mac connected to a Windows
wireless network, including the capability to share the Internet. Keep in
mind, however, that other factors determine whether you can also share
files, printers, and other resources over the wireless network.
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Chapter 9
Securing Your Home Network
In This Chapter
▶ Worrying about wireless home network security
▶ Understanding WEP
▶ Saying hooray for WPA
▶ Getting security on your network
▶ Securing your network the easy way with Wi-Fi Protected Setup
▶ Going for bulletproof security
I
f you read the news — well, at least if you read the same networking news
sources that we do — you’ve probably seen and heard a thing or two (or a
hundred) about wireless local area network (LAN) security. In fact, you really
don’t need to read specialized industry news to hear about this topic. Many
major newspapers and media outlets — The New York Times, the San Jose
Mercury News, and USA Today, among others — have run feature articles
documenting the insecurity of wireless LANs. Most of these stories have
focused on wardrivers, folks who park in the lots in front of office buildings,
pull out their laptops, and (way too) easily get onto corporate networks.
In this chapter, we talk a bit about these security threats and how they may
affect you and your wireless home network. We also (helpful types that we
are) give you some advice on how you can make your wireless home network
more secure. We talk about a system called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA),
which can make your network secure to most attacks, and also an older
system called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which doesn’t do such a good
job but may be the best you can do in many cases.
The advice we give in this chapter applies to any 802.11 wireless network,
whether it uses a, b, g, or n, because the steps you take to batten down the
hatches on your network are virtually identical, regardless of which version of
802.11 you choose. (If you missed our discussion on 802.11 basics, jump back
to Chapter 2.)
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No network security system is absolutely secure and foolproof. And, as we
discuss in this chapter, Wi-Fi networks have some inherent flaws in their
security systems, which means that even if you fully implement the security
system in Wi-Fi (WPA or especially WEP), a determined individual could still
get into your network. We’re not trying to scare you off here. In a typical
residential setting, chances are good that your network won’t be subjected to
some sort of determined attacker like this. Follow our tips, and you should be
just fine.
Assessing the Risks
The biggest advantage of wireless networks — the fact that you can connect
to the network just about anywhere within range of the base station (up to
300 feet, or even longer with the new 802.11n technology) — is also the
biggest potential liability. Because the signal is carried over the air via radio
waves, anyone else within range can pick up your network’s signals, too. It’s
sort of like putting an extra RJ-45 jack for a wired LAN out on the sidewalk in
front of your house: You’re no longer in control of who can access it.
One thing to keep in mind is that the bad guys who are trying to get into your
network probably have bigger antennas than you do. Although you may not
pick up a usable signal beyond a few hundred feet with that antenna built into
your laptop PC, someone with a big directional antenna that has much more
gain than your PC’s antenna (gain is a measure of a circuit’s ability to increase
the power of a signal) may be able to pick up your signals — you would never
know it was happening.
General Internet security
Before we get into the security of your wireless LAN, we need to talk for a
moment about Internet security in general. Regardless of what type of LAN
you have — wireless or wired or using powerlines or phone lines or even
none — when you connect a computer to the Internet, some security risks
are involved. Malicious crackers (the bad guys of the hacker community) can
use all sorts of tools and techniques to get into your computers and wreak
havoc.
For example, someone with malicious intent could get into your computer
and steal personal files (such as your bank statements you’ve downloaded by
using Quicken) or mess with your computer’s settings — or even erase your
hard drive or use it to store illicit files. Your computer can even be hijacked
(without your knowing it) as a jumping off point for other people’s nefarious
deeds; as a source of an attack on another computer (the bad guys can
launch these attacks remotely using your computer, which makes them that
much harder to track down); or even as a source for spam e-mailing.
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What we’re getting at here is that you need to take a few steps to secure any
computer attached to the Internet. If you have a broadband (DSL, satellite,
fiber-optic, or cable modem) connection, you really need to secure your
computers. The high-speed, always-on connections that these services offer
make it easier for a cracker to get into your computer. We recommend that
you take three steps to secure your computers from Internet-based security
risks:
✓ Use and maintain antivirus software. Many attacks on computers
don’t come from someone sitting in a dark room, in front of a computer
screen, actively cracking into your computer. They come from viruses
(often scripts embedded in e-mails or other downloaded files) that take
over parts of your computer’s operating system and do things you don’t
want your computer doing (such as sending a copy of the virus to
everyone in your e-mail address book and then deleting your hard
drive). Choose your favorite antivirus program and use it. Keep the virus
definition files (the data files that tell your antivirus software what’s a
virus and what’s not) up to date. And for heaven’s sake, use your
antivirus program!
If you use a Mac, you can safely ignore this part — you don’t need
antivirus software.
✓ Use a personal firewall on each computer. Personal firewalls are
programs that basically look at every Internet connection entering or
exiting your computer and check it against a set of rules to see whether
the connection should be allowed. After you’ve installed a personal
firewall program, wait abut a day and then look at the log. You may be
shocked and amazed at the sheer number of attempted connections to
your computer that have been blocked. Most of these attempts are
relatively innocuous, but not all are. If you have broadband, your
firewall may block hundreds of these attempts every day.
We like ZoneAlarm (www.zonealarm.com) for Windows computers as
well as the firewall built into Windows Vista and Windows 7, and we use
the built-in firewall on our Mac OS X computers.
✓ Turn on the firewall functionality in your router. Whether you use a
separate router or one integrated into your wireless access point, it will
have at least some level of firewall functionality built in. Turn this function
on when you set up your router or access point. (It’s an obvious option
in the configuration program and may well be turned on by default.) We
like to have both the router firewall and the personal firewall software
running on our PCs. It’s the belt-and-suspenders approach, but it makes
our networks more secure.
In Chapter 11, we talk about some situations (particularly when you’re
playing online games over your network) where you need to disable
some of this firewall functionality. We suggest that you do this only
when you must. Otherwise, turn on that firewall — and leave it on.
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Some routers use a technology called stateful packet inspection (SPI)
firewalls, which examine each packet (or individual chunk) of data
coming into the router to make sure that it was truly something
requested by a computer on the network. If your router has this function,
we recommend that you try using it because it’s a more thorough way of
performing firewall functions. Others simply use Network Address
Translation (NAT, which we introduce in Chapter 2) to perform firewall
functions. This strategy isn’t quite as effective as stateful packet
inspection, but it works quite well.
Airlink security
The area we focus on in this chapter is the aspect of network security that’s
unique to wireless networks: the airlink security. These security concerns
have to do with the radio frequencies beamed around your wireless home
network and the data carried by those radio waves.
Traditionally, computer networks use wires that go from point to point in
your home (or in an office). When you have a wired network, you have
physical control over these wires. You install them, and you know where they
go. The physical connections to a wired LAN are inside your house. You can
lock the doors and windows and keep someone else from gaining access to
the network. Of course, you have to keep people from accessing the network
over the Internet, as we mention in the preceding section, but locally it would
take an act of breaking and entering by a bad guy to get on your network. (It’s
sort of like it was on Danny’s old favorite TV show Alias, where they always
seem to have to go deep into the enemy’s facility to tap into anything.)
Wireless LANs turn this premise on its head because you have absolutely no
way of physically securing your network. Of course, you could join the tinfoil
hat brigade (“The NSA is reading my mind!”) and surround your entire house
with a Faraday cage. (Remember those from physics class? We don’t either,
but they have something to do with attenuating electromagnetic fields.) But,
really, you’re not going to do that, are you?
Some access points have controls that let you limit the amount of power
used to send radio waves over the air. This solution isn’t perfect (and it can
dramatically reduce your reception in distant parts of the house), but if you
live in a small apartment and are worried about beaming your Wi-Fi signals to
the apartment next door, you may try limiting the amount of power. It doesn’t
keep a determined cracker with a supersize antenna from grabbing your
signal, but it may keep honest folks from accidentally picking up your signal
and associating with your access point.
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No security!
A lot of wireless LAN gear (access points
and network cards, for example) is shipped to
customers with all the security features turned
off. That’s right: zip, nada, zilch, no security. A
wide-open access point sits there waiting for
anybody who passes by (with a Wi-Fi equipped
computer, at least) to associate with the access
point and get on your network.
This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself; initially
configuring your network with security
features turned off and then enabling the
security features after things are up and running
is easier than doing it the other way ’round.
Unfortunately, many people never take that
extra step and activate their security settings.
So a huge number of access points out there
are completely open to the public (when they’re
within range, at least).
We should add that some people purposely
leave their access point security turned off to
provide free access to their neighborhoods.
(We talk about this topic in Chapter 16.) But we
find that many people don’t intend to do so.
Basically, what we’re saying here is that the radio waves sent by your
wireless LAN gear will leave your house, and there’s not a darned thing you
can do about it. Nothing. What you can do, however, is make it difficult for
other people to tune into those radio signals, thus (and more importantly)
making it difficult for those who can tune into them to decode them and use
them to get onto your network (without your authorization) or to scrutinize
your e-mail, Web surfing habits, and so on.
You can take several steps to make your wireless network more secure and
to provide some airlink security on your network. We talk about these topics
in the following sections, where we discuss both easy and more complex
methods of securing your network.
Getting into Encryption
and Authentication
Two primary (and interrelated) security functions enable you to secure your
network:
✓ Encryption: Uses a cryptographic cipher to scramble your data before
transmitting it across the network. Only users with the appropriate key
can unscramble (or decipher) this data.
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✓ Authentication: Simply the act of verifying that a person connecting
to your wireless LAN is indeed someone you want to have on your
network. With authentication in place, only authorized users can
connect with your APs and gain access to your network and to your
Internet connection.
With most wireless network systems, you take care of both functions with
a single step — the assignment of a network key or passphrase. (We explain
later in this chapter, in the section “Enabling encryption,” where to use each
of these.) This key or passphrase is a secret set of characters (or a word)
that only you and those you share it with know.
The key or passphrase is often known as a shared secret — you keep it secret
but share it with that select group of friends and family whom you want to
allow access to your network. With a shared secret (key or passphrase), you
perform both of these security functions:
✓ You authenticate users because only those who have been given your
supersecret shared secret have the right code word to get into the network.
Unauthenticated users (those who don’t have the shared secret) cannot
connect to your wireless network.
✓ Your shared secret provides the mechanism to encrypt (or scramble)
all data being sent over your network so that anyone who picks up your
radio transmissions sees nonsensical gibberish, not data that they can
easily read.
The two primary methods of providing this authentication and encryption are
✓ Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
✓ Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
Note that there are two versions of WPA — WPA and WPA2 — but we refer to
them jointly as WPA except when discussing their differences.
We talk about the WEP and WPA security systems in more detail in the
remaining parts of this chapter. WEP, an older system, provides only a limited
amount of security because certain flaws in its encryption system make it
easy for crackers to figure out your shared secret (the WEP key) and therefore
gain access to your network and your data.
WPA is the current, up-to-date, security system for Wi-Fi networks (there are
several variants, which we discuss later in this chapter), and it provides you
with much greater security than does WEP. If you have the choice, always use
WPA on your network rather than WEP.
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The shared secret method of securing a network is by far the most common
and the easiest method. But it doesn’t provide truly bulletproof user
authentication, simply because having to share the same secret passphrase
or key with multiple people makes it a bit more likely that somehow that
secret will get into the wrong hands. (In fact, some experts would probably
hesitate to even call it an authentication system.)
For most home users, this isn’t a problem (we don’t think that you have to
worry about giving Nana the passphrase for your network when she’s in town
visiting her grandkids), but in a busy network (such as in an office), where
people come and go (employees, clients, customers, and partners, for
example), you can end up in a situation where just too many people have
your shared secret.
When this happens, you’re stuck with the onerous task of changing the
shared secret and then making sure that everyone who needs to be on the
network has been updated. It’s a real pain.
These kinds of busy networks have authentication systems that control
the encryption keys for your network and authorize users on an individual
basis (so that you can allow or disallow anyone without having to start from
scratch for everyone, like you do with a shared secret).
If you have this kind of busy network, you may want to consider securing
your network with a system called WPA Enterprise and 802.1x. See the sidebar
“802.1x: The corporate solution” later in this chapter, for more information
on this topic.
Introducing Wired Equivalent
Privacy (WEP)
The original system for securing a wireless Wi-Fi network is known as WEP,
or Wired Equivalent Privacy. The name comes from the admirable (but, as
we discuss, not reached) goal of making a wireless network as secure as a
wired one.
In a WEP security system, you enter a key in the Wi-Fi client software on
each device connecting to your network. This key must match the key you
establish when you do the initial setup of your access point or wireless
router (which we describe in Chapter 7).
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WEP uses an encryption protocol called RC4 to secure your data. Although
this protocol (or cipher) isn’t inherently bad, the way that it’s implemented in
WEP makes it relatively easy for a person to snoop around on your network
and figure out your key. And after the bad guys have your key, they can access
your network (getting into PCs and other devices attached to the network or
using your Internet connection for their own purposes) or stealthily intercept
everything sent across the wireless portion of your network and decode it
without your ever knowing!
It doesn’t take superhacker skills to do this either — anyone running Windows,
Linux, or Mac with wireless capabilities can download free and readily available
software from the Web and, in a short time, figure out your key.
Understanding how WEP works
WEP encrypts your data so that others can’t read it unless they have the key.
That’s the theory behind WEP, anyway. WEP has been a part of Wi-Fi networks
from the beginning. (The developers of Wi-Fi were initially focused on the
business market, where data security has always been a big priority.) The
name itself belies the intentions of the system’s developers; they wanted to
make wireless networks as secure as wired networks.
To make WEP work, you must activate it on all the Wi-Fi devices on your
network via the client software or configuration program that came with
the hardware. And every device on your network must use the same WEP
key to gain access to the network. (We talk a bit more about how to turn on
WEP in the later section, “Clamping Down on Your Wireless Home Network’s
Security.”)
For the most part, WEP is WEP is WEP. In other words, it doesn’t matter
which vendor made your access point or which vendor made your laptop’s
PC Card network adapter — the implementation of WEP is standardized
across vendors. Keep this one difference in mind, however: WEP key length.
Encryption keys are categorized by the number of bits (1s or 0s) used to
create the key. Most Wi-Fi equipment these days uses 128-bit WEP keys, but
some early gear (such as the first generation of Apple AirPort equipment)
supported only a 64-bit WEP key.
Many access points and network adapters on the market support even longer
keys — for example, many vendors support a 256-bit key. The longest standard
key, however, is 128 bits. Most equipment enables you to decide how long
to make your WEP key; you can often choose between 64 and 128 bits.
Generally, for security purposes, you should choose the longest key available.
If, however, you have some older gear that can’t support longer WEP key
lengths, you can use a shorter key. If you have one network adapter that can
handle only 64-bit keys but have an access point that can handle 128-bit keys,
you need to set up the access point to use the shorter, 64-bit key length.
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Deciding whether to use WEP
WEP sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? It keeps your data safe while
it’s floating through the ether by encrypting it, and it keeps others off your
access point by not authenticating them. But, as we mention earlier in this
chapter, WEP isn’t all that secure because flaws in the protocol’s design
make it not all that hard for someone to crack your WEP code and gain
access to your network and your data. For a typical home network, a bad guy
with the right tools could capture enough data flowing across your network
to crack WEP in a matter of hours.
We don’t know of a single AP or wireless router, or network adapter being
sold today that doesn’t support the newer (and much more secure) WPA
protocol. And, almost any computer with Windows XP or later (Vista or
Windows 7) or any version of Macintosh OS X will also have built-in support
for WPA. So there are many good reasons to skip WEP entirely and just go
with WPA — and no good reasons to not do so unless you really, really need to.
But (there’s often a but in these situations) at times you may need to consider
using WEP encryption. You run into this situation with certain pieces of Wi-Fi
gear because with most APs you can’t have “mixed” encryption methods on
the same network. In other words, you can’t have laptop A connected to the
Wi-Fi AP using WPA and laptop B (which doesn’t support WPA) connected
using WEP. It’s often one security system or the other.
We say earlier in this chapter that almost all PCs support WPA, but the
dirty little secret of the Wi-Fi business is that not all non-PC devices support
WPA yet. A good example here is the original Nintendo DS handheld gaming
device (luckily the newer DSi does support WPA). Before you buy any of
these devices, check the product specs and make sure you see WPA (or even
better, WPA2) listed on that long list of acronyms of supported protocols and
features.
If you know that you’re going to have non-WPA devices on your network (like
one of those aforementioned original Nintendo DSs), you have two primary
choices: 1.) Downgrade your entire network to WEP (boo!), or 2.) choose an
AP or wireless router that supports the simultaneous use of more than one
type of encryption (rare, but not uncommon on fancier APs). A third (and in
our mind, better) option is to use an AP that lets you create a guest network
(see Chapter 5 for more on this) — like Apple’s Airport Extreme and Cisco’s
Valet wireless routers. In this case, you can create a strongly secured WPA
network for all of your WPA-capable devices and then create a second,
segregated network for those devices that only support WEP.
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Opting for a better way: WPA
If you can use WPA — meaning if your access point or wireless router and
the wireless clients on your network support it — you should enable and
use WPA as the airlink security system on your network. WPA is significantly
more secure than WEP and keeps the bad guys off your network much more
effectively than any implementation of WEP.
Two variants of WPA are available: WPA and WPA2. The major difference
between these two is the cipher, or encryption, system used to encode the
data sent across the wireless network. WPA2 — which is the latest and
most powerful wireless security system — uses a system called Advanced
Encryption Standard (AES), which is pretty much uncrackable by mere mortals.
But even the original WPA version (that’s just WPA to you and us), with its
Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), is much more secure than WEP.
WPA2 is also known as 802.11i. 802.11i is simply the IEEE (the folks who make
the standards for wireless LANs) standard for advanced Wi-Fi security. WPA
was a step toward 802.11i set by the Wi-Fi Alliance. WPA2 incorporates all the
security measures included in 802.11i.
What’s better about WPA?
✓ More random encryption techniques: WPA has basically been designed
as an answer for all the current weaknesses of WEP, with significantly
increased encryption techniques. One of WEP’s fatal flaws is that
because its encryption isn’t sufficiently random, an observer can
more easily find patterns and break the encryption. WPA’s encryption
techniques are more random — and thus harder to break.
✓ Automatic key changes: WPA also has a huge security advantage in the
fact that it automatically changes the key (although you, as a user, get to
keep using the same passcode to access the system). So, by the time a
bad guy has figured out your key, your system has already moved on to
a new one, and he can’t do anything with that knowledge.
It’s possible to use an 802.1x system, as described in the sidebar “802.1x:
The corporate solution,” later in this chapter, to provide automatic
key changes for WEP systems. This is not something you would find in
anyone’s home network, but some businesses use it, and it does indeed
minimize the effect of WEP’s fixed keys.
✓ More user friendly: WPA is easier for consumers to use because there’s
no hexadecimal stuff to deal with — just a plain text password. The idea
is to make WPA much easier to deal with than WEP, which takes a bit
of effort to get up and running (depending on how good your access
point’s configuration software is).
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The type of WPA (and WPA2) we’re talking about here is often called WPA
Personal or WPA PSK (preshared key). The more complex (and not suitable for
the home) version of WPA/WPA2 that is often used by businesses is WPA
Enterprise. We talk about WPA Enterprise in the sidebar titled “802.1x: The
corporate solution.”
Clamping Down on Your Wireless
Home Network’s Security
Well, that’s enough of the theory and background, if you’ve read from the
beginning of this chapter. It’s time to get down to business. In this section,
we discuss some of the key steps you should take to secure your wireless
network from intruders. None of these steps is difficult, will drive you crazy,
or make your network hard to use. All that’s required is the motivation to
spend a few minutes (after you have everything up and working) battening
down the hatches and securing for sea. (Can you tell that Pat used to be in
the Navy?)
The key steps in securing your wireless network, as we see them, are the
following:
1. Change all the default values on your network.
2. Enable WPA.
3. Close your network to outsiders (if your access point supports this).
In Chapter 16, we talk about using a virtual private network (VPN) to secure
your wireless connection when you’re away from home and when using public
Wi-Fi hot spots. A virtual private network encrypts all the data that you send
and receive through your computer’s network connection by creating a secure
and encrypted network tunnel that runs from your computer to an Internet
gateway (which could be in your office’s network or run by a service provider
on the Internet). If you really wanted to be as secure as possible, you could
use a VPN from a service provider such as Witopia (www.witopia.net) to
encrypt your traffic at home too. The added benefit of a VPN, beyond security,
is anonymity. To folks on the Internet, you will “look” like you’re surfing the
Internet from that Internet gateway and not your home — which makes it
harder for folks to track your comings and goings on the Internet. A VPN isn’t
required to have a secure Wi-Fi network, but if you have one and your WEP or
WPA security is broken by a bad guy, your communications will be secured by
another layer of encryption — although a VPN won’t necessarily ensure that
files on your computer can’t be accessed if you have file sharing turned on.
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Hundreds of different access points and network adapters are available. Each
has its own unique configuration software. (At least each vendor does; and
often different models from the same vendor have different configuration
systems.) You need to RTFM (Read the Fine Manual!). We give you some
generic advice on what to do here, but you really, really, really need to pick up
the manual and read it before you enable security on your network. Every
vendor has slightly different terminology and different ways of doing things. If
you mess up, you may temporarily lose wireless access to your access point.
(You should still be able to plug in a computer with an Ethernet cable to gain
access to the configuration system.) You may even have to reset your access
point and start over from scratch. Follow the vendor’s directions (as painful at
that may be). We tell you the main steps you need to take to secure your
network; your manual gives you the exact line-by-line directions on how to
implement these steps on your equipment.
Most access points also have some wired connections available — Ethernet
ports you can use to connect your computer to the access point. You can
almost always use this wired connection to run the access point configuration
software. When you’re setting up security, we recommend making a wired
connection and doing all your access point configuration in this manner. That
way, you can avoid accidentally blocking yourself from the access point when
your settings begin to take effect.
Getting rid of the defaults
It’s incredibly common to go to a Web site like Wigle.net, look at the results
of someone’s Wi-Fi reconnoitering trip around their neighborhood, and see
dozens of access points with the same service set identifier (SSID, or network
name; refer to Chapter 2). And it’s usually Linksys because Linksys is the
most popular vendor out there (though NETGEAR, D-Link, and others are
also well represented). Many folks bring home an access point, plug it in, turn
it on, and then do nothing. They leave everything as it was set up from the
factory. They don’t change any default settings.
Well, if you want people to be able to find your access point, there’s nothing
better (short of a sign on the front door) than leaving your default SSID
broadcasting out there for the world to see. In some cities, you could probably
drive all the way across town with a laptop set to Linksys as an SSID and
stay connected the entire time. (We don’t mean to just pick on Linksys here.
You could probably do the same thing with an SSID set to default, the
D-Link default, or any of the top vendors’ default settings.)
When you begin your security crusade, the first thing you should do is to
change all the defaults on your access point. You should change, at minimum,
the following:
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✓ Your default SSID
✓ Your default administrative password
If you don’t change the administrative password, someone who gains access
to your network can guess at your password and end up changing all the
settings in your access point without your knowing. Heck, if they want to
teach you a security lesson — the tough love approach, we guess — they
could even block you out of the network until you physically reset the access
point (by pressing the “reset” button typically found on the back of the AP).
These default passwords are well known and well publicized. Just look on the
Web page of your vendor, and we bet you can find a copy of the user’s guide
for your access point available for download. Anyone who wants to know
them does know them.
When you change the default SSID on your access point to one of your own
making, you also need to change the SSID setting of any computers (or other
devices) that you want to connect to your LAN. To do this, follow the steps
we discuss in this part’s earlier chapters. In other words, if you initially connected your PC to a network called “Default,” that network will no longer be
available under that name, so you’ll need to look for — and connect with —
the new network name.
This tip really falls under the category of Internet security (rather than airlink
security), but here goes: Make sure that you turn off the Allow/Enable Remote
Management function (it may not be called this exactly) if you don’t need it.
This function is designed to allow people to connect to your access point over
the Internet (if they know your IP address) and do configuration stuff from a
distant location. If you need this turned on (perhaps you have a home office
and your IT gal wants to be able to configure your access point remotely), you
know it. Otherwise, it’s just a security hole waiting to be opened, particularly if
you haven’t changed your default password. Luckily, most access points have
this function set to Off by default, but take the time to make sure that yours is
set to Off.
Enabling encryption
After you eliminate the security threats caused by leaving all the defaults in
place (see the preceding section), it’s time to get some encryption going. Get
your WPA (or WEP) on, as the kids say.
We’ve already warned you once, but we’ll do it again, just for kicks: Every
access point has its own system for setting up WPA or WEP, and you need to
follow those directions. We can give only generic advice because we have no
idea which access point you’re using.
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To enable encryption on your wireless network, we suggest that you perform
these generic steps:
1. Open your access point’s configuration screen.
2. Go to the Wireless, Security, or Encryption tab or section.
We’re purposely being vague here; bear with us.
3. Select the option labeled Enable WPA or WPA PSK (or, if you’re
using WEP, the one that says Enable WEP or Enable Encryption or
Configure WEP).
You should see a menu similar to the one shown in Figure 9-1. (It’s for a
NETGEAR access point or router.)
4. If you’re using WEP, select the check box or pull-down menu option
for the appropriate WEP key length for your network. If you’re using
WPA, skip this step.
We recommend 128-bit keys if all the gear on your network can support
it. (See the earlier section “Understanding how WEP works” for the
lowdown on WEP keys.)
Figure 9-1:
Setting up
WPA on a
NETGEAR
access
point.
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5. For WPA, create a passphrase that will be your network’s shared
secret. For WEP, create your own key if you want (we prefer to let the
program create one for us):
a. Type a passphrase in the Passphrase text box.
b. Click the Generate Keys (or Apply or something similar) button.
Remember the passphrase. Write it down somewhere, and put it someplace
where you won’t accidentally throw it away or forget where you put it.
Danny likes to tape his passphrase to the box that his Wi-Fi gear came in
so that he can always track it down.
Whether you create your own key or let the program do it for you, a key
should now have magically appeared in the key text box. Note: Some
systems allow you to set more than one key (usually as many as four
keys). In this case, use Key 1 and set it as your default key by using the
pull-down menu.
Remember this key! Write it down. You’ll need it again when you
configure your computers to connect to this access point.
Some access points’ configuration software doesn’t necessarily show
you the WEP key you’ve generated — just the passphrase you’ve used
to generate it. You need to dig around in the manual and menus to find a
command to display the WEP key itself. (For example, the Apple AirPort
software shows just the passphrase; you need to find the Equivalent
Network Password in the Airport Admin application to display the WEP
key — in OS X, this is in the Base Station menu.)
For WEP, the built-in wireless LAN client software in Windows XP
numbers its four keys from 0–3 rather than 1–4. So, if you’re using Key 1
on your access point, select Key 0 in Windows XP.
6. Click OK to close the WPA or WEP configuration window.
You have finished turning on WPA or WEP. Congratulations.
Can we repeat ourselves again? Will you indulge us? The preceding steps are
very generic. Yours may vary slightly (or, in rare cases, significantly). Read
your user’s guide. It tells you what to do.
Ins
After you configure WPA or WEP on the access point, you must go to each
computer on your network, get into the network adapter’s client software
(as we describe in Chapters 7 and 8), turn on WPA or WEP, and enter the
passphrase or the WEP key. Typically, you find an Enable Security dialog box
containing an option to turn on security and one to four text boxes for entering the key. Simply select the option to enable WEP or WPA, enter your key
or passphrase in the appropriate text box, and then click OK. For Windows 7,
all you need to do is enter the WEP or WPA password in the Security Key text
box, as shown in Figure 9-2.
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Figure 9-2:
Entering a
WPA passphrase in
Windows 7.
Closing your network
The last step we recommend that you take in the process of securing your
wireless home network (if your access point allows it) is to create a closed
network — a network that allows only specific, predesignated computers and
devices onto it. You can do two things to close down your network, which
makes it harder for strangers to find your network and gain access to it:
✓ Turn off SSID broadcast: By default, most access points broadcast their
SSID out onto the airwaves. This makes it easier for users to find the
network and associate with it. If the SSID is being broadcast and you’re
in range, you should see the SSID on your computer’s network adapter
client software and be able to select it and connect to it — that is,
assuming you have the right WEP key or WPA password, if encryption is
configured on that access point. When you create a closed network, you
turn off this broadcast so that only people who know the exact name of
the access point can connect to it.
You can find access points even if they’re not broadcasting their SSIDs
(by observing other traffic on the network with a network sniffer program),
so this security measure is an imperfect one — and no substitute for
enabling WPA. But it’s another layer of security for your network. Also,
if you’re in a situation where you’ll have lots of people coming into your
home and wanting to share your connection, you may not want to close
off the network, so you’ll need to balance convenience for your friends
against the small exposure of a more open network.
✓ Set access control at the MAC layer: Every network adapter in the world
has assigned to it a unique number known as a Media Access Control
(MAC) address. You can find the MAC address of your network adapter
by looking at it (it’s usually physically printed on the device) or using
software on your computer:
• In Windows Vista or 7, open a command window (click the Start
button and type cmd in the search text box) and then enter the
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getmac /v command (note the space between getmac and /v).
You then see a list of all the network adapters installed in your
computer with their MAC addresses..
• Look in the Network Control Panel or System Preference on a Mac.
With some access points, you can type the MAC addresses of all the
devices you want to connect to your access point and block connections
from any other MAC addresses.
Again, if you support MAC layer filtering, you make it harder for friends
to log on when visiting. If you have some buddies who like to come
over and mooch off your broadband connection, you need to add their
MAC addresses as well, or else they can’t get on your network. Luckily,
you need to enter their MAC addresses only one time to get them “on
the list,” so to speak — at least until you have to reset the access point
(which shouldn’t be that often).
Neither of these “closed” network approaches is absolutely secure. MAC
addresses can be spoofed (imitated by a device with a different MAC address,
for example), and hidden SSIDs can be seen (with the right tools), but both
are ways to add to your overall security strategy.
Dealing with the WEP hex and ASCII issues
One area that is consistently confusing when
setting up a WEP key — and often a real pain —
is the tendency of different vendors to use
different formats for the keys. The most common
way to format a key is to use hexadecimal (hex)
characters. This format represents numbers
and letters by using combinations of the
numbers 0–9 and the letters A–F. (For example,
the name of Pat’s dog, Opie, would be
represented in hexadecimal as 4f 70 69 65.) A
few other vendors use ASCII, which is simply
the letters and numbers on your keyboard.
Although ASCII is an easier-to-understand
system for entering WEP codes (it’s really
just plain text), most systems make you use
hexadecimal because it’s the standard. The
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easiest way to enter hex keys on the computers
connecting to your access point is to use the
passphrase we discuss in the section “Enabling
encryption.” If your network adapter client
software lets you do this, do it! If it doesn’t, try
entering the WEP key you wrote down when
you generated it. (It’s probably hexadecimal.) If
that doesn’t work either, you may have to dig
into the user’s manual and see whether you
need to add any special codes before or after
the WEP key to make it work. Some software
requires you to put the WEP key inside
quotation marks; other software may require
you to put an 0h or 0x (that’s a zero and an h or
an x character) before the key or an h after it
(both without quotation marks).
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Taking the Easy Road
We hope that the preceding section has shown you that enabling security
on your wireless network isn’t all that hard. It’s straightforward, as a matter
of fact. But a percentage of folks are always going to want things to be even
easier (count us in that group!). So the Wi-Fi Alliance and Wi-Fi equipment
manufacturers have developed a new standard (yeah, another standard!)
called Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS.
WPS (in its early days of development, WPS was called Simple Config) is an
additional layer of hardware or software or both built into Wi-Fi APs, routers,
and network adapters that makes it easier for users to set up WPA in their
network and easier to add new client devices to the network.
Not all Wi-Fi equipment on the market supports the WPS system — it’s
optional, and not all manufacturers have chosen to adopt it. But based on
what WPS brings to the table, it’s an attractive system that we suspect will be
made available more widely over time.
So what does WPS do? Well, it essentially automates the authentication and
encryption setup process for WPA by using one of two methods:
✓ A PIN: All WPS certified equipment will have a PIN (personal information
number) located on a sticker. When a WPS-certified router or AP detects
a new wireless client on the network, it will prompt the user to enter
this PIN — either through the management software or Web page for the
router, or directly on the router itself using an interface (such as an LCD
screen) located on the router. If the correct PIN is entered, the network
will automatically configure WPA and allow that device to join the network.
That’s all there is to it!
✓ A button: The other mechanism for using WPS is called PBC (or push
button configuration). As the name implies, a button (either a physical
button or a virtual one on a computer screen or LCD display) is used —
there’s a button on both the AP/router and the client hardware. When
the router or AP detects a new Wi-Fi client wanting to join the network,
vsion to join the network, you simply press the buttons on both the
router/AP and the client; configuration is automatic at this point.
✓ USB: The final method for using WPS involves USB flash drives (the little
stick memory cards so many folks carry around these days). WPS can
allow a user to simply “carry” the network credentials to a client on a
flash drive; simply plug the flash drive into the AP/router and then into
the network client, and configuration is automatic.
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To be a bit pedantic about it, the USB method of setting up WPS is not an
actual part of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s WPS specification — it’s just a nifty trick that
some manufacturers have come up with on their own. But hey, it works, so
who are we to split hairs?
WPS takes the drudgery out of setting up WPA and makes the process pretty
much foolproof. WPS doesn’t change the actual level of security you’re getting
on your network — all it does is turn on WPA (WPA2, to be exact). One thing
to keep in mind about WPS is that you need to have WPS capabilities on both
ends of the connection — the AP/router and the network client — to use the
system, but you can still use the old-fashioned manual configuration process
described in the preceding section to add non-WPS capable gear to your
network.
As WPS becomes more widespread, the Wi-Fi Alliance folks have another
trick up their sleeves to make things even easier. These tricks come in the
form of an additional way of using WPS called NFC (near field communications).
NFC is an extremely short-range (think centimeters, not feet) radio system
(similar, and related, to the RFID tags now in use in warehouses and other
logistics systems). With NFC, you would simply put the WPS client and AP/
router in very close proximity, and they’d automatically configure network
access and security. Pretty cool.
The NFC method of configuring WPS is optional in the WPS standard — while
the PIN and button are mandatory (found in all WPS certified devices).
As we mention at the outset, WPS is still just a few years old, but you can see
the growing list of WPA-compliant products at the Wi-Fi Alliance Web site at
www.wi-fi.org/wifi-protected-setup. (Just scroll down to the link
titled Products Certified for Wi-Fi Protected Setup.)
Going for the Ultimate in Security
Setting up your network with WPA security keeps all but the most determined
and capable crackers out of your network and prevents them from doing
anything with the data you sent across the airwaves (because this data is
securely encrypted and appears to be just gibberish).
But WPA has a weakness, at least the way it’s most often used in the home:
the preshared key (your shared secret or passphrase) that allows users to
connect to your network and that unlocks your WPA encryption.
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Your preshared key can be vulnerable in two ways:
✓ If it’s not sufficiently difficult to guess (perhaps you used the same
word for your passphrase as you used for your network’s ESSID):
You would be shocked by how many people do that! Always try to use
a passphrase that combines letters (upper- and lowercase is best) and
numbers and doesn’t use simple words from the dictionary.
✓ If you’ve given it to someone to access your network and then they
give it to someone else: For most home users, this isn’t a big deal, but if
you’re providing access to a large number of people (maybe you’ve set
up a hot spot), it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle when you’ve
given out the passphrase.
Neither of these two circumstances is usually a problem for the typical
home — WPA-PSK (WPA Home) is more than sufficient for most users. But
if you want to go for the ultimate in security, you may consider using an AP
(and wireless clients) that supports WPA Enterprise.
WPA Enterprise uses a special server, known as a RADIUS server, and a
protocol called 802.1x (see the nearby sidebar, “802.1x: The corporate
solution”), which provide authentication and authorization of users using
special cryptographic keys. When a RADIUS server is involved in the picture,
you get a more secure authorization process than the simple shared secret
used in WPA Home. You also get a new encryption key created by the RADIUS
server on an ongoing basis — which means that even if a bad guy figured out
your key, it would change before any damage could be done.
Now you can create and operate your own RADIUS server on a spare computer
in your home (see the commercial software available at www.lucidlink.
com, or the free software at www.freeradius.org), but that topic is beyond
the scope of this book.
You can use a hosted RADIUS service on the Internet. Such services charge
a small monthly fee (about $5 per month) and let you use a RADIUS server
that’s hosted and maintained in someone’s data center. All you need to do is
pay your monthly bill and follow a few simple steps on your access point and
PCs to set up RADIUS authentication and WPA Enterprise.
You need to have an AP that supports WPA Enterprise — check the documentation that came with yours because not all APs support it.
Several services provide WPA Enterprise RADIUS support. An example is the
McAfee Wireless Home Security product (www.mcafee.com), which offers
WPA Enterprise support for a one-time fee of about $50.
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802.1x: The corporate solution
Another security standard that’s quite popular
in the corporate Wi-Fi world is 802.1x. This
isn’t an encryption system but, rather, an
authentication system. An 802.1x system, when
built into an access point, allows users to
connect to the access point and gives them only
extremely limited access (at least initially). In an
802.1x system, the user could connect to only
a single network port (or service). Specifically,
the only traffic the user could send over the
network is your login information, which is
sent to an authentication server that would
exchange information (such as passwords and
encrypted keys) with the user to establish that
he or she was allowed on the network. After this
authentication process has been satisfactorily
completed, the user is given full access (or
partial access, depending on what policies
the authentication server has recorded for the
user) to the network.
802.1x is not something we expect to see in any wireless home LAN any time
soon. It’s a business-class kind of thing that requires lots of fancy servers and
professional installation and configuration. We just thought we would mention
it because you no doubt will hear about it when you search the Web for
wireless LAN security information.
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Part IV
Using Your
Wireless Network
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A
In this part . . .
fter you get your wireless home network installed
and running, you probably can’t wait to use it, in
both practical and fun ways. In this part, we cover the
basics on what you can do with your network, such as
share printers, files, folders, and even hard drives. But
you can do many other cool things over a wireless network, too, such as play multiuser computer games, access
your music collection, see what’s happening in your front
yard from anywhere in the world, and operate various
types of smart-home conveniences. We even help you figure out how to use your high-speed mobile phone service
to create a network that goes where you do. How cool is
that? Of particular interest to many is our full chapter on
using Bluetooth-enabled devices such as printers, cameras, and phones. (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are like chocolate
and peanut butter — they go great together.)
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Chapter 10
Putting Your Wireless
Network to Work
In This Chapter
▶ Reviewing basic networking terminology
▶ Exploring the Windows 7 Network and Sharing Center
▶ Setting up a homegroup and sharing files in Windows 7
▶ Sharing printers and other peripherals on your network
▶ Exploring Mac-friendly sharing
R
emember that old Cracker Jack commercial of the guy sitting in the bed
when the kid comes home from school? “What did you learn in school
today?” he asks. “Sharing,” says the kid. And then, out of either guilt or good
manners, the old guy shares his sole box of caramel popcorn with the kid.
Just as you shouldn’t hog your caramel popcorn, you shouldn’t hog your
network resources. We’re going to help you share your Cracker Jacks now!
(After all, that’s kinda the purpose of a network, right?) You have a wireless
network installed. It’s secure. It’s connected. Now you can share oodles of
devices with others in your family — not just your Internet connection, but
also printers, disk drives, gaming consoles, and A/V controls.
In this chapter, we give you a taste of how you can put your wireless network
to work. We talk about accessing shared network resources, setting up user
profiles, accessing peripheral devices across the network (such as network
printing), checking out network shares on other PCs, and other such goodies.
Entire books have been written about sharing your network. Home Networking
For Dummies (by Kathy Ivens); Mac OS X All-in-One Desk Reference For
Dummies (by Mark L. Chambers, Erick Tejkowski, and Michael L. Williams);
and Windows XP For Dummies, Windows Vista For Dummies, and Windows 7
For Dummies (by Andy Rathbone), all from Wiley, include some details about
networking. These books are all good. In fact, some smart bookstore should
bundle them with Wireless Home Networking For Dummies because they’re
complementary. In this chapter, we expose you to the network and what’s
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inside it (and there’s probably a free prize among those Cracker Jacks somewhere, too!). That should get you started. But if you want to know more, we
urge you to grab one of these more detailed books.
It’s one thing to attach a device to the network — either directly or as an
attachment — but it’s another to share it with other people. Sharing your
computer and devices is a big step. You not only open yourself up to lots of
potential unwanted visitors (such as bad folks sneaking in over your Internet
connection), but you also make it easier for friendly folks (like your kids) to
erase stuff and use things in unnatural ways. That’s why you can (and should!)
control access by using passwords or by allowing users to only read (open
and copy) files on your devices rather than change them. In Windows XP,
security is paramount, and you must plan how, what, and with whom you
share. Windows Vista and Windows 7 take that security to the next level by
securing who can allow sharing in the first place. Definitely take the extra time
to configure your system for these extra security layers. We tell you in this
chapter about some of these mechanisms; the books we mention previously
go into these topics in more detail.
A Networking Review
Before we get too far into the concept of file sharing, we want to review
some basic networking concepts (which we touch on in earlier chapters
of this book), such as what a network is and how it works.
Simply defined, a network is something that links computers, printers, and
other devices. A protocol is the language that devices use to communicate
with each other on a network. These days, the standard protocol used for
most networking is Ethernet.
For one device to communicate with another under the Ethernet protocol,
the transmitting device needs to accomplish a few things. First, it must
announce itself on the network and declare which device it’s trying to talk
to. Then it must authenticate itself with that destination device by confirming
that the sending device is who it says it is. This is done by sending a proper
name, such as a domain or homegroup name, and also a password that the
receiving device accepts.
For our purposes, when we talk about networking, we’re talking about
sharing devices on a Windows-based network.
With the latest Vista and Windows 7 operating systems, Microsoft has taken
a simple, intuitive approach that looks surprisingly like Mac OS X when
you use the Details view. In Vista and Windows 7, you just have Network,
and under Network, you can see all the computers and resources that you
can access shares on within your network. All the domain and homegroup
information is in the easily accessible Network and Sharing Center, shown
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in Figure 10-1. You can expand this view by clicking the See Full Map link on
the top-right side of the window in Windows 7. (Vista shows all the devices in
this window by default, whereas Windows 7 hides some devices to stick with
the basics in the initial view.)
Figure 10-1:
View your
network
details in
Windows 7.
Getting to Know the Windows 7
Network and Sharing Center
“Hello! I’m here!” When a computer attached to a network is turned on, it
broadcasts its name to every other device on the network and asks every
device to broadcast as well. If that computer is sharing something, such as
a folder or a printer, the other devices can see it. By asking the other devices
to broadcast, the computer can then see all of them. This process is repeated
(on average) every 15 minutes on most networks with Windows computers
attached to them.
The “Hello, I’m here” process is a great way to add devices to a network.
Unfortunately, it’s not too great at detecting whether a device falls off or is
disconnected from that network. If a machine or shared device seems to be
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visible on your network but doesn’t respond when you try to access it, the
problem may not be on your computer. Devices that get disconnected from
your network don’t immediately appear to be disconnected on some of your
other computers. They usually get removed from the list of available networked computers only if they fail to answer the every-15-minutes “Hello”
calls from the other machines.
The Network control panel (which you can access from the Windows 7
Start menu) is your ticket to the network and to see what shared resources
are available, such as servers, other computers, and printers, as shown in
Figure 10-2. (The risk versus reward of sharing these types of items just makes
sense. The chances of a bad guy getting into your printer and printing documents are rather low — there’s not much reward for doing that.)
You can see what’s shared with you on your network by checking out your
PC’s homegroup. Click the Start button and then click your name in the Start
menu. In the Explorer window that opens, click Homegroup in the left navigation menu to see all the shared folders and libraries in your homegroup that
you can access.
If you want to be able to quickly access these shares from within one of your
own libraries (such as Documents), just right-click the shared folder/library
and drag it to the library on your computer where you want to have access
to the shared folder/library. When you drop the shared folder/library on your
library, select the Include in Library option from the menu that pops up. After
you’ve done that, you can access the files in that folder/library from within
your own library, as if they were on your own hard drive.
Regardless of the operating system, devices that are set up to share are always
represented by small computer icons. If you double-click one of these icons,
you can see any shared printers, folders, or other devices represented by the
appropriate icons. Sometimes you have to drill down (continue to double-click
icons) to find all the shared items on your network.
In general, you see two types of devices on your network:
✓ Standalone network devices: These are computers, storage devices,
gaming devices, and so on that have a network port and are on the
network in their own right.
✓ Attached devices: These are peripherals, drives, or other devices that
are on the network because they’re attached to something else, such
as a PC.
Just double-click your homegroup to see all your home computers and other
networked devices. Click any to see what you can share within them.
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Figure 10-2:
See networked
computers
in the
Network
control
panel.
All this mouse clicking can be a pain. Save your wrist and create a shortcut
to your shared resources by right-clicking the item and choosing Create
Shortcut. Shortcuts are especially handy for people who have networked
devices that they visit often on the Internet, such as File Transfer Protocol
(FTP) sites.
If you find a computer that you expect to be on the network but it’s not,
make sure that its homegroup name is the same as the other machines —
this is a common mistake. (See the later section “Setting up a homegroup
in Windows 7.”)
In Windows 7, the best way to visualize what’s on your computer and your
network is to view the Network Map available in the Network and Sharing
Center. Simply load the Network and Sharing Center and then click the See
Full Map link on the top-right side of the window. Figure 10-3 shows the map
view of your available network resources.
Just because you see a device in the Network and Sharing Center network
map doesn’t mean that you can share with that device — where share means
that you can view, use, copy, and otherwise work on files and resources on
that device. The devices need to be set up for sharing for that to happen.
(Think of it like your regular neighborhood, where you can see many of the
houses, but you can’t go in some of them because they’re locked.) To set up
sharing, see the next section.
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Figure 10-3:
Viewing the
full map
of your
networked
devices.
Sharing in Windows 7 — I Can Do That!
File sharing is a basic feature of any home network. Whether sharing MP3
files on a computer with other devices (including your stereo, as we discuss
in Chapter 12) or giving access to financial files for Mom and Dad to access
on each other’s computers, sharing files is a way to maintain one copy of
something and not have a zillion versions all over the network.
Previous versions of Windows (like XP) made it difficult for anyone without
the title “certified network engineer” underneath the name on his or her business card to get a home network with sharing set up and running.
With the advent of Windows 7, the folks at Microsoft really topped themselves in terms of making sharing easy with the advent of the homegroup. The
homegroup (which replaces all the complicated workgroup stuff in previous
versions of Windows) rolls up all of your Windows PC sharing needs in one
extremely easy-to-configure control panel setting. If you’ve seen the Windows 7
“I made that” ads on TV where people talk about how easy it is for them to
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share media and files with their new Windows 7 computers, you’ve seen
the homegroup in action.
Choosing what to share
Before you begin the process of setting up sharing on your networked homegroup computers, you need to figure out exactly what you want to share.
Within Windows 7, you have several options:
✓ Pictures
✓ Music
✓ Videos
✓ Documents
✓ Printers
✓ Media Sharing
The first five items are pretty self-explanatory: You can share pictures, music,
videos, documents that reside on your computer, and printers attached to
your computer via a USB or other direct connection (such as a parallel or
serial printer). The Media Sharing feature is a bit different because it doesn’t
just let other users access your media files (pictures, music, and video),
but in fact allows you to stream files from one computer to another (or to
a Windows 7 UPNP-compatible media device like those we talk about in
Chapter 12). By streaming, we mean that you can have a media file stored
on your computer and play it back (display a picture, listen to a song, or
watch a video) on another computer or media device (like an Xbox 360).
Windows 7 provides secure file sharing for file transfers — other users must
have your common, shared homegroup password to connect and read or
write files to and from your computer. Media Sharing is an exception here.
Any Windows 7 computers and media player devices attached to your network will be able to access your media (for playback purposes only), without
your password. Your media files can’t be downloaded or changed, but they
can be accessed. There’s no real security risk here — as long as you don’t
mind people seeing your media — and this is a necessary evil to make media
streaming work easily, especially with media player devices.
By default — meaning when you first turn on sharing in your homegroup —
documents are shared with Read access, which means other users can view
(and download) your files, but they can’t change them on your computer or
transfer other files onto your computer. In the following sections, we talk about
how to turn on homegroup sharing on your computers and then customize the
level of access you allow on a library-by-library basis on your computer.
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Setting up a homegroup in Windows 7
To create a homegroup and turn on sharing on a Windows 7 computer, just
follow these steps:
1. Click the Start button and select Control Panel.
2. Within the Control Panel window that appears, open the Network and
Sharing Center.
You see a control panel window similar to the one shown in Figure 10-4.
Figure 10-4:
The
Windows 7
Network
and Sharing
Center.
3. Click the Choose Homegroup and Sharing Options link.
4. In the Control Panel window that appears, select Create a Homegroup.
The Create a Homegroup window opens, as shown in Figure 10-5.
5. Choose what items you want to share and then click Next.
You can choose to share documents, music, videos, pictures, and printers.
After you click Next, a new window appears, giving you the password
you need when you access your new network share on other Windows 7
computers. (See Figure 10-6.)
6. Write down your password — you’ll need it!
You’re given an option to print the password and instructions. If you
have a printer hooked up to your Windows 7 PC, do this!
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7. Click Finish.
You’re all set.
See how easy that is? We think Microsoft really knocked this one out of the
park — and if your existing Windows Vista PCs can support it, we highly recommend that you upgrade to Windows 7!
Figure 10-5:
Choose
what you
want to
share in
Windows 7.
Figure 10-6:
Write this
password
down or,
better yet,
print it out.
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You can never be too protected
The number of ways that someone can get on
your network multiplies with each new technology you add to your network. We note in
Chapter 9 that wireless local area networks
(LANs) seep out of your home and make it easy
for others to log in and sniff around. If someone
does manage to break into your network, the
most obvious places to snoop around and do
damage are the shared resources. Sharing your
C: drive (which is usually your main hard drive),
your Windows directory, or your Documents
library makes it easier for people to get into
your machine and do something you would
rather they not do.
You see, sharing files broadcasts to the rest of
the network the fact that something is shared,
telling everyone who has access your computer’s name on the network and how to find it.
Sharing can broadcast that availability across
firewalls, proxies, and servers. Certain types
of viruses and less-than-friendly hackers look
for these specific areas (such as your shared
C: drive) in broadcast messages and follow
them back to your machine.
If you’re going to share these parts of your
system on your network, run a personal firewall
or the Windows Firewall on your machines for
an added layer of security. Get virus software.
Protect your machine and limit your exposure. (And, by all means, be sure to follow our
advice in Chapter 9 for securing your wireless
network.)
Sharing specific libraries
As we mention earlier in the chapter, when you enable homegroup sharing
on your computer, all libraries (documents, music, video, and photos) are
shared at a read-only level. For most folks, this is a good balance between
security and convenience — other computers in your home network can
access each other’s files without having permission to actually overwrite,
delete, or modify them.
You may want, however, to modify these settings for a particular library.
Perhaps you want to allow your family to write to your photos library so
that they can transfer pictures to your PC. Or maybe you want to keep the
Documents library on your home office PC private so no one else on your
home network can access your confidential Word documents. Well, you can
do that — and do it easily — in Windows 7. And you don’t have to do it just
on a library basis; in fact, you can customize sharing down to the level of
folders within a library or even on a file-by-file basis.
Unless you set a specific sharing level for them, all files and folders within
a library share that library’s access level. For example, if you share your
Documents library at the read/write level on your homegroup, all the files and
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folders within that library are also shared at that level. If you have specific
items within a library that you want to share differently from the rest of the
library, set your sharing preference for the library (as outlined in the following
steps) and then select the item you want to change and repeat the same steps
with your preferred sharing level.
To customize the sharing setting for a library, a folder, or an individual file,
simply do the following:
1. From the Start menu, select the library for which you want to modify
sharing settings. If you’re modifying settings for a specific folder or
file, navigate to it within your library.
If the library is not on you Start menu, open a Windows Explorer window
and navigate to the library you’re looking for.
2. Right-click on the name of the library and select Share With and
choose your preferred setting.
If you’re working with folders or files within a single library, you can
select multiple files and/or folders by Ctrl-clicking on them and apply
your settings en masse.
Here’s a rundown of your sharing options:
• Nobody: No one on your network can open, download, or modify
this library, folder, or file.
When you set a folder to Nobody, the folder icon appears with a
lock on it, giving you quick visual confirmation that your change
was executed.
• Homegroup (Read): This is the default setting. Users on other networked PCs within your homegroup can access this library and the
folders/files within it by opening it remotely or transferring it to
their computer.
• Homegroup (Read/Write): Users on other networked PCs within
your homegroup can modify files and folders within this library, or
transfer their own files into the library or folders within it.
• Specific People: This setting lets you specify exactly who can
access a library/folder/file. If you choose this setting, you’re
prompted to choose users from the users on your computer
(the user accounts you set up when you configured Windows,
in other words) or to add user accounts from other computers
in your homegroup. You can specify exactly what level (read or
read/write) you want to give the user account you’re adding. If
you need to create a user account for someone you’d like to specifically give access to a library, folder, or file on your computer,
follow the steps in the next section.
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Adding users
For others to get access to what resources you have shared, you need to give
them permission. You do that by giving them a logon on your computer —
essentially adding them to the network as a user. The group is then given
certain rights within the folder you have shared; every user in the group has
access only to what the group has access to. (For more details on this process,
we strongly recommend that you use the Windows Help file to discover how to
set up new users and groups on your system.)
In Windows 7, creating user accounts and adding them to groups requires
you to have an Administrator account. We’re guessing that you’re the administrator of your home-networked computer (it’s your network, right?), so you
have access to an Administrator account logon.
Unless you’re very sure you know what you’re doing, you should never give
new user accounts an Administrator account. Instead, give these users a
Standard account. Keep in mind that by creating these accounts, you’re
also creating a logon that can be used to turn on and access your computer
directly. For the purposes of sharing files and peripherals, a Standard user
account provides all the access that any individual on the network would
normally need.
To add users to your network, follow these steps:
1. From the Start menu, select Control Panel and double-click the User
Accounts icon.
This step displays the Users Accounts control panel window.
2. Click the Manage Another Account link, and then in window that
appears, click the Create a New Account link.
The Create New Account control panel window appears, as shown in
Figure 10-7.
3. In the New Account Name text box, enter the desired name for the
user account.
4. Make sure the Standard User radio button is selected and then click
the Create Account button.
You’re done. If you share a library/folder/file using the Share with
Specific People option, you can now share with this user by selecting
that person’s name from the menu.
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Figure 10-7:
Create a
new user
account
here.
Accessing shared files
Whether drives, folders, or single files are set up for sharing on your wireless
home network, you access the shared thing in pretty much the same way. On
any networked PC, you simply log on to the network, head for Network (or
My Network Places, as the case may be), and navigate to the file (or folder
or drive) you want to access. It’s really as easy as that.
Just because you can see a drive, folder, or file on the network doesn’t necessarily mean that you have access to that drive, folder, or file. It all depends on
set permissions.
Be Economical: Share Your Printer
Outside of the fact that there’s only so much space on your desk or your
kitchen countertop, you simply don’t need a complete set of peripherals at
each device on your network. For example, digital cameras are quite popular,
and you can view pictures on your PC, on your TV, and even in wireless picture frames around the house. But you probably need only one color printer
geared toward printing high-quality photos for someone to take home (after
admiring your wireless picture frames!).
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The same is true about many peripherals: business card scanners, backup
drives (such as USB hard drives and NAS — network attached storage —
boxes), and even cameras. If you have one device and it’s network enabled,
anyone on your wireless home network should be able to access that device
for the task at hand.
The most common shared peripheral is a printer. Setting up a printer for
sharing is easy, and using it is even easier. You may have several printers in
your house, and different devices may have different printers — but they all
can be shared. You may have the color laser printer on your machine, a lessexpensive one (with less-expensive consumables such as printer cartridges,
too) for the kids’ computer, and a high-quality photo printer near the TV set
plugged into a USB port of a networkable A/V device. Each of these printers
can be used by a local device — if it’s properly set up.
Here are the steps you need to take to share a printer:
1. Enable printer sharing in the operating system of the computer to which
the printer is attached.
2. Set up sharing for the installed printer. We say installed printer because
we assume that you’ve already installed the printer locally on your
computer or other device.
3. Remotely install the printer on every other computer on the network.
4. Access the printer from any PC on the network!
You perform the third step on every other PC in the house. Basically, you
install the printer on each of these computers, but in a logical way — logically
as opposed to physically installing and connecting the printer to each computer. You install the printer just like any other printer except that you’re
installing a network printer, and the printer installation wizard searches the
network for the printers you want to install.
The process you use varies depending on your operating system and the type
of printer you’re trying to install. In every case, read the printer documentation before you start because some printers require their software to be
partially installed before you try to add the printer. We’ve seen this a lot with
multifunction printers that support scanning, copying, and faxing.
Installing a printer in Windows XP
With Windows XP, the easiest way to start the installation of a printer is to
look inside My Network Places, find the computer sharing the printer, and
double-click the shared printer. This action starts the Add Printer Wizard,
which takes you through the process of adding the printer. This wizard
works like any good wizard — you make a few selections and click Next a lot.
If you didn’t add the drivers to the shared printer already, you may be asked
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for the printer drivers. Just use the Browse button to direct the wizard to
look in the shared folder or CD-ROM drive where you put the printer software
on the computer that the printer is attached to.
You have two options for installing a network printer:
✓ From your Printers folder: Choose Start➪Settings➪Printers and Faxes
(or simply Start➪Printers and Faxes, depending on how your Start menu
is configured).
✓ From My Network Places: Double-click the computer that has the printer
attached. An icon appears, showing the shared printer. Right-click the
icon and then choose Connect from the pop-up menu that appears.
If the necessary driver is already installed on the print server, simply select
the printer, and it’s ready to go. If the driver is not yet installed, either route
leads you to the Add Printer Wizard, which guides you through the process
of adding the network printer.
Don’t start the Add Printer Wizard unless you have installed the proper
drivers to the shared printer or you have the installation CD for your printer
handy. The Add Printer Wizard installs the printer drivers (software files that
contain the info required for Windows to talk to your printers and exchange
data for printing). The wizard gets these from the CD that came with your
printer. If you don’t have the CD, go to the Web site of your printer manufacturer and download the driver to your desktop and install from there. Don’t
forget to delete the downloaded files from your desktop when you’ve finished
installing them on the computer.
Note also that the wizard allows you to browse your network to find the
printer you want to install. Simply click the plus sign next to the computer
that has the printer attached, and you should see the printer below the computer. (If not, make sure that printer sharing is enabled on that computer.)
At the end of the wizard screens, you have the option to print a test page. We
recommend that you do this. You don’t want to wait until your child has to
have a color printout for her science experiment (naturally, she waits until 10
minutes before the bus arrives to tell you!) to find out that the printer doesn’t
work.
Installing a printer in
Vista and Windows 7
Windows 7 and Vista are the easiest versions of Windows yet when it comes to
installing peripheral devices. For the vast majority of devices, “plug and play”
is just that — and not the “plug and pray” it was often derided as in older versions of the OS. So installing a printer is as simple as turning on the printer,
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plugging it into a USB jack on your computer, and sitting back. You can watch
while Windows identifies the printer, obtains the drivers from the Internet (or
from its internal library of printer drivers), and completes the process. In the
case of literally every printer we’ve ever installed, that’s all you have to do.
If, however, this doesn’t work for you (and, hey, it could happen . . . though
usually only for printers without USB — those using the older parallel or
serial ports, which is exceedingly rare these days), Windows 7 and Vista have
a process very similar to the ones used in older versions of Windows. Just do
the following:
1. From the Start button, select Devices and Printers.
2. Click the Add a Printer link.
The Add Printer Wizard opens.
3. Select Add a Local Printer.
Windows prompts you to choose a printer port.
4. Choose the Use an Existing Port option and keep the default port
recommended by Windows and then click Next.
5. In the Install the Printer Driver window that appears, select the model
and manufacturer for your printer; then click Next.
If you can’t find your printer in this list, do the following:
a. Click Windows Update and let Windows connect to the Internet
to check for more drivers.
b. If this process still doesn’t find your driver, dig out the installation CD that came with it, click the Have Disk link, and follow the
instructions on screen.
6. Depending upon the particular printer you’re using, the wizard may
prompt you for further steps; follow them and then click Finish.
Accessing your shared printers
After you have the printers installed, how do you access them? Whenever
your Print window comes up (which you summon by pressing Ctrl+P in most
applications), you see a field labeled Name for the name of the printer accompanied by a pull-down menu of printer options. Use your mouse to select any
printer — local or networked — and the rest of the printing process remains
the same as though you had a printer directly plugged into your PC.
You can even make a networked printer the default printer by right-clicking
the printer and then choosing Set As Default Printer from the pop-up menu
that appears.
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Sharing Other Peripherals
Sharing any other peripheral is similar to sharing printers (as described in
the preceding section). You need to make sure that you’re sharing the device
on the computer it’s attached to. Then you need to install that device on
another PC by using that device’s installation procedures. Obviously, we
can’t be specific about such an installation because of the widely varying
processes that companies use to install devices. Most of the time — like with
a printer — you need to install the drivers for the device you’re sharing on
your other computers.
Note that some of the devices you attach to your network have integrated
Web servers in them. This is getting more and more common. Danny’s
AudioReQuest (www.request.com) music server, for example, is visible
on his home network and is addressable by any of his PCs. Thus, he can
download music to and from the AudioReQuest server and sync it to other
devices he wants music on. Anyone else in the home can do the same — even
remotely, over the Internet. We talk more about the AudioReQuest system in
Chapter 12.
Danny has also set up a virtual CD server in his home to manage all the CDs his
kids have for their games. This server is shared on the home network. By using
Virtual CD software from H+H Zentrum GmbH (www.virtualcd-online.com,
$69.95 for a five-user license), Danny has loaded all his CDs and many of his
DVDs onto a single machine so that his kids (he has four) can access those CDs
from any of their individual PCs. (He has four spoiled kids.) Rather than look to
the local hard drive for the CD, any of the kids’ PCs looks to the server to find
the CD — hence, the name virtual CD. Now those stacks of CDs (and moans
over a scratched CD!) are gone.
Sharing Files between Macs
and Windows-Based PCs
If you have an Mac OS X computer (using OS X versions 10.2 right on through
to the current 10.6), you don’t need to do anything special to get your Mac
connected to a PC network for file sharing. All these versions of OS X support
Windows networking protocols right out of the box, with no add-ons or extra
software required.
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Bonjour, madam!
One cool feature that Apple has added to
its latest versions of Mac OS — Mac OS
versions 10.2 and beyond — is a networking
system named Bonjour. Bonjour, previously
known as Rendezvous, is based on an open
Internet standard (IETF, or Internet Engineering
Task Force, Zeroconf) and is being adopted
by a number of manufacturers outside of Apple.
Here’s one great feature about Bonjour: On
Macs equipped with Apple AirPort network
adapter cards, it lets two (or more) Macs in
range of each other — in other words, within
Wi-Fi range — automatically connect to each
other for file sharing, instant messaging, and
other tasks without going through any extra
steps of setting up a peer-to-peer network.
Basically, Bonjour (and Zeroconf) is a lot like
Bluetooth (which we discuss in Chapter 15)
in that it allows devices on a network to discover each other without any user intervention or special configuration. Bonjour is slowly
being incorporated into many products, such
as printers, storage devices (basically, networkable hard drives), and even household
electronics such as TiVo.
Bonjour is enabled automatically in Mac OS
version 10.2/3/4/5/6 computers if you enable
Personal File Sharing (found in System
Preferences; look for the Sharing icon) or use
Apple’s iChat Instant Messaging program,
Apple’s Safari Web browsers, or any Bonjourcapable printer connected to your AirPort
network.
Getting on a Windows network
To connect to your Windows PCs or file servers, simply go the OS X Finder and
then choose Go➪Connect to Server (Ô+K). In the dialog box that appears, type
the IP address or host name of the server you’re connecting to and then click
the Connect button. Alternatively, click the Browse button in the dialog box to
search your local network for available servers and shares.
Letting Windows users
on your Mac network
To let Windows users access your Mac, you simply turn on file sharing in
your Mac’s System Preferences. To do so in OS X versions 10.4 and earlier,
follow these steps:
1. Open System Preferences (click the System Preferences icon on your
Mac’s dock).
2. Click the Sharing tab to view your file-sharing options. Make sure that
the Services tab is open.
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3. Select Windows Sharing in the services listing and then click the
Start button to activate it.
4. Close the Sharing dialog box.
If you’re using the latest versions of OS X (10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow
Leopard), just do the following:
1. Open System Preferences and click the Sharing tab (as described in
the preceding steps).
2. Select the File Sharing check box.
3. Click the Options button.
4. In the dialog box that appears, select the Share Files and Folders
Using SMB check box.
5. Click Done.
That’s it! Your Mac automatically turns on Windows sharing and opens the
appropriate holes (ports) in your firewall. If you haven’t already enabled
accounts on your Mac for sharing, you’re prompted by OS X to do so now.
Simply click the Enable Accounts button and, in the dialog box that opens,
select the accounts (or users) of your Mac that you want to allow access to.
To do this, select the check box next to each name you want to enable and
then click Done. That’s all there is to it.
If you want to connect to your LAN from a Windows computer, simply
browse your Network in Windows 7 or Vista (or Neighborhood Network in
Windows XP), and then enter your network’s address on an Explorer address
bar. It’s something like the following:
\\192.168.1.3\username
Substitute your Mac’s IP address and your OS X username for username, of
course!
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Chapter 11
Gaming Over Your
Wireless Network
In This Chapter
▶ Unwiring your gaming PCs: Hardware and networking requirements
▶ Getting your gaming consoles online
▶ Forwarding ports and configuring your router for gaming
▶ Setting up a demilitarized zone (DMZ)
I
n case you missed it, gaming is huge. We mean huge. The videogaming industry is, believe it or not, bigger than the entertainment industry
generated by Hollywood. Billions of dollars per year are spent on PC game
software and hardware and on gaming consoles such as Wii, PlayStation,
and Xbox. You probably know a bit about gaming — we bet that you at least
played Minesweeper on your PC or Pong on an Atari when you were a kid.
What you may not know is that videogaming has moved online in a big way.
For that, you need a network.
All three of the big gaming console vendors — Sony (www.us.playstation.
com), Microsoft (www.xbox.com), and Nintendo (www.nintendo.com) —
have made it easy for you to connect your console (and, in the case of Sony
and Nintendo, handheld gaming device) to a broadband Internet connection,
such as a cable or DSL, to play against people anywhere in the world. Online
PC gaming has also become a huge phenomenon, with games such as World
of Warcraft attracting millions of users.
A big challenge for anyone getting into online gaming is finding a way to get
consoles and PCs in different parts of the house connected to your Internet
connection. For example, if you have an Xbox 360, it’s probably in your living
room or home theater, and we’re willing to bet that your cable or DSL modem
is in the home office. Lots of folks string a CAT-5e/6 Ethernet cable down the
hall and hook it into their game machine — a great approach if you don’t
mind tripping over that cable at 2 a.m. when you let the dogs out.
Enter your wireless home network, a much better approach to getting these
gaming devices online.
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In this chapter, we talk about some of the hardware requirements for getting
a gaming PC or game console online. There’s good news here: Wireless is
built into Nintendo’s and Sony’s current consoles. In fact, Nintendo’s Wii is
so wireless friendly that you have to pay extra for a wired network connection, and a low-cost optional accessory for the Xbox 360. We also talk about
some steps you need to take to configure your router (or the router in your
access point, if they’re the same box in your wireless local area network) to
get your online gaming up and running.
Our focus here is on wireless networking connections. Keep in mind that gaming
consoles have also become unwired in terms of the connections that their controllers use. All three of the current consoles (the Wii, the PlayStation 3, and
the Xbox 360) use wireless technologies such as Bluetooth (see Chapter 3 for
more on Bluetooth) to connect their controllers to the console. The Xbox 360
can even work with wireless headsets, so you can wirelessly yell “I’m ripping
your head off right now” to the gamer on the far end of the connection. (You
Seth Rogen fans out there know what we’re talking about here!)
PC Gaming over a Wireless
Home Network
We should preface this section of the book by saying that this book isn’t entitled Gaming PCs For Dummies. Thus, we don’t spend any time talking about
PC gaming hardware requirements in any kind of detail. Our gamer pals will
probably be aghast at our brief coverage here, but we really just want to
give you a taste of what you may want to think about if you decide to outfit
a PC for online gaming. In fact, if you’re buying a PC for this purpose, check
out the class of computers called gaming PCs, optimized for this application.
Throughout this chapter, we use the term gaming PC generically to mean
any PC in your home that you’re using for gaming — not just special-purpose
gaming PCs.
Your best resource, we think, is to check out an online gaming Web site that
has a team of experts who review and torture-test all the latest hardware for a
living. We like CNET’s www.gamespot.com and www.gamespy.com.
In the following sections, we discuss the hardware and networking
requirements for PC gaming over a wireless network.
Getting the right hardware
At the most basic level, you need any modern multimedia PC (or Macintosh,
for that matter) to get started with PC gaming. Just about any PC or Mac
purchased since 2002 or so will have a fast processor and a decent graphics
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or video card. (You hear both terms used.) If you start getting into online
gaming, think about upgrading your PC with high-end gaming hardware or
building a dedicated gaming machine. Some key hardware components to
keep in mind are the following:
✓ Fast processor: Much of the hard work in gaming is done by the video
card, but a fast Intel Core 2 or Core i3/i5/i7 (or the AMD equivalent)
central processing unit (CPU) is always nice to have.
✓ Powerful video card: The latest cards from ATI and nVIDIA (www.
nvidia.com) contain incredibly sophisticated computer chips dedicated to cranking out the video part of your games. If you get to the
point where you know what frames per second (fps) is all about and
you start worrying that yours are too low, it’s time to start investigating
faster video cards.
We’re big fans of the ATI (www.ati.com) Radeon HD 5800 and 5900
graphics processors, but then we’re suckers for fast hardware that
can crank out the polygons (the building blocks of your game video)
at mind-boggling speeds.
✓ Fancy gaming controllers: Many games can be played by using a standard mouse and keyboard, but you may want to look into some cool
specialized game controllers that connect through your PC’s Universal
Serial Bus (USB). For example, you can get a joystick for flying games
or a steering wheel for driving games. Check out Creative Technologies
(www.creative.com) and Mad Catz (www.madcatz.com) for some
cool options.
✓ Quality sound card: Many games include a surround sound soundtrack,
just like DVDs provide in your home theater. If you have the appropriate number of speakers and the right sound card, you hear the bad guys
creeping up behind you before you see them on the screen. Très fun.
Examining networking requirements
Gaming PCs may (but don’t have to) have some different innards than regular PCs, but their networking requirements don’t differ in any appreciable
way from the PC you use for Web browsing, e-mail, or anything else. You
shouldn’t be surprised to hear that connecting a gaming PC to your wireless
network is no different from connecting any PC.
You need some sort of wireless network adapter connected to your gaming
PC to get it up and running on your home network (just like you need a wireless network adapter connected to any PC running on your network, as we
discuss in Chapter 5). These adapters are almost always built right into your
PC. If your PC doesn’t have a network adapter, you can fit one in the Express
or PC Card slot (of a laptop computer, for example), add one internally (in
your desktop PC) using a PCI or PCI Express card, or connect the adapter to
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a USB or Ethernet port of a desktop computer. If you have a Mac that you’re
using for gaming, you’ll use the built-in AirPort Extreme card (which we discuss in Chapter 8). There’s nothing special you need to do, hardware-wise,
with a gaming PC.
When it comes to playing online games, you may need to do some tweaking to your home network’s router — which may be a standalone device or
part of your access point. In the upcoming sections “Dealing with Router
Configurations to Get a PC or Console Online” and “Setting Up a Demilitarized
Zone (DMZ),” we discuss these steps in further detail.
Depending on which games you’re playing, you may not need to do any
special configuring. Most games play just fine without any special router
configurations — particularly if your PC isn’t acting as the server (which
means that other people aren’t connecting to your PC from remote locations
on the Internet).
Getting Your Gaming Console on
Your Wireless Home Network
Although PC gaming can be really cool, we find that many people prefer to
use a dedicated game console device — such as a PlayStation 3 (PS3), a Wii,
or an Xbox 360 — to do their gaming.
In the following sections, we explore some of the advantages to using a
console, what wireless networking gear you need, and how to sign up
for an online gaming service.
Exploring the advantages to
using a console over a PC
And, although hardcore gamers may lean toward PC platforms for their
gaming (often spending thousands of dollars on ultra-high-end gaming PCs
with the latest video cards, fastest processor and memory, and the like), we
think that for regular gamers, consoles offer these compelling advantages:
✓ They’re (relatively) inexpensive. Although they’re more expensive
than the previous generation of consoles, today’s current consoles are
cheaper than a PC — the Wii and Xbox 360 start below $200, and the PS3
starts at about $300. Even if you dedicate an inexpensive PC for gaming,
you’ll probably spend closer to $500 — and even more if you buy the
fancy video cards and other equipment that gives the PC the same
gaming performance as a console.
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✓ They’re simple to set up. Although it’s not all that hard to get games running on a PC, you’re dealing with a more complicated operating system on
a PC. You have to install games and get them up and running. On a game
console, you simply shove a disc into the drawer and you’re playing.
✓ They’re in the right room. Most folks don’t want PCs in their living
rooms or home theaters, although some really cool models are designed
just for that purpose. A game console, on the other hand, is relatively
small and inconspicuous and can fit neatly on a shelf next to your TV.
✓ They work with your biggest screen. Of course, you can connect a PC
to a big-screen TV system (using a special video card). But consoles are
designed to plug right into your TV or home theater system, using the
same cables you use to hook up a VCR or DVD player. In the case of the
Xbox 360 and PS3, you get a full HD (1080p) picture with digital surround
sound to boot.
✓ They can replace your Blu-ray and/or DVD player. The PS3 and Xbox
360 (as well as the previous Xbox and PlayStation 2) can play DVD
videos on your big screen. The PS3 even includes a built-in Blu-ray disc
player for high-definition movies (which makes it a great deal, because
some standalone Blu-ray players cost almost as much as the PS3 itself).
Today’s game consoles offer some awesome gaming experiences. Try playing
the Xbox 360 game Halo 3 on a big-screen TV with a surround sound system in
place — it’s amazing. You can even get a full HDTV picture on the Xbox 360
and PlayStation 3. And, because these gaming consoles are really nothing
more than specialized computers, they can offer the same kind of networking
capabilities that a PC does; in other words, they can fit right into your wireless
home network.
Connecting your console to your network
Getting your console onto your wireless network is possible (and easy)
with almost all current or recent gaming consoles. The equipment you
need depends on which console you have.
People who own the most current generation of consoles are pretty much
all set. Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.
If you’re using an Xbox 360, you need to pick up the Xbox 360 Wireless N
Networking Adapter ($99, www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/x/
xbox360wirelessnnetadapter).
Owners of the older PlayStation 2 or original Xbox need to add some hardware to their systems to get online via a wireless network. Both of these
consoles include a built-in Ethernet port but no Wi-Fi.
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Early PS2 units (before the “slim” case design was introduced in 2004) do not
have built-in Ethernet. Sony used to offer a PlayStation Network Adapter that
provided this feature, but it is no longer available. If you have one of these
older PS2s and don’t have the adapter, search sites like eBay and Craigslist
for a used adapter.
To connect one of these Ethernet-only consoles to your wireless network,
you need a special Wi-Fi adapter known as a Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge. A bridge
is simply a device that connects two segments of a network. Unlike hubs or
switches or routers or most other network equipment (we talk about much
of this stuff in Chapters 2 and 5), a bridge doesn’t do anything with the data
flowing through it. A bridge basically passes the data straight through without manipulating it, rerouting it, or even caring what it is. A wireless Ethernet
bridge’s sole purpose is to send data back and forth between two points. (It’s
not too tough to see where the name came from, huh?)
Although we’re discussing wireless Ethernet bridges in terms of game console
networks, these handy devices can be used for lots of different applications in
your wireless LAN. Basically, any device that has an Ethernet port — such as
a personal video recorder (PVR), a Blu-ray disc player, and even an Internet
refrigerator (such as the Samsung Internet Refrigerator) — can hook into your
wireless home network by using a wireless Ethernet bridge.
The great thing about wireless Ethernet bridges, besides the fact that they
solve the problem of getting noncomputer devices onto the wireless network,
is that they’re the essence of plug-and-play. You may have to spend three or
four minutes setting up the bridge itself (to get it connected to your wireless
network), but you don’t need to do anything special to your game console
other than plug in the bridge. All the game consoles we discuss in this chapter
(at least when equipped with the appropriate network adapters and software)
“see” your wireless Ethernet bridge as just a regular Ethernet cable. You don’t
need any drivers or other special software on the console. The console doesn’t
know (nor does it care in its not-so-little console brain) that there’s a wireless
link in the middle of the connection. It just works!
If you have encryption (such as WPA) set up on the network, you need to complete one step before plugging your wireless bridge into your gaming console’s
Ethernet port. Plug the bridge into one of the wired Ethernet ports on your
router and access the bridge’s built-in Web configuration screens; there, you
enter your WPA passphrase (or WEP key if you’re using WEP for some reason)
and network name (or ESSID). After you’ve made these settings, you’re ready
to plug the bridge into your console and get online. It’s that simple!
Here are some examples of wireless Ethernet bridges (“gaming adapters,”
as some vendors name them):
✓ D-Link DGL-3420 wireless 108AG gaming adapter: D-Link (www.dlink.
com) has developed the DGL-3420 wireless 108AG ($99 list price) with
gaming consoles in mind. D-Link even has its own online GamerLounge
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site with lots of great gaming information (http://games.dlink.
com). The DGL-3420 (see Figure 11-1) doesn’t need any special drivers
or configuration. It does include a Web-browser-based configuration
program that enables you to do things like enter your Wi-Fi Protected
Access (WPA) passphrase. (Check out Chapter 9 for more information
on this topic.)
The DGL-3420 is a loaded Ethernet bridge that supports both 802.11a
and 802.11g (most folks use 802.11g) and even supports the higher-speed
Super G 108 Mbps variant of 802.11g — if your router also supports it.
There’s even some special “secret sauce” for making gaming faster: the
D-Link GameFuel prioritization technology, as discussed in the sidebar,
“Optimizing your router for gaming.”
✓ SMC SMCWEBT-G EZ Connect g wireless Ethernet bridge: The SMC
Network SMCWEBT-G wireless Ethernet bridge is an inexpensive Swiss
Army knife of an Ethernet bridge. First, it’s an 802.11g wireless Ethernet
bridge with a theoretical 108 Mbps maximum speed. (You need a router
that also supports the Super G protocol.) Like the D-Link bridge we discuss in the preceding section, the SMCWEBT-G supports WPA encryption, which means that it plays nicely on your secured wireless network.
There’s more to it, though: The SMCWEBT-G can be configured to work
as an access point all on its own (so that you can plug it into a standalone router to provide wireless access) and even as a WDS repeater
that can extend the range of your network if your primary router is one
of the SMC wireless routers. For only $79.99, it’s a relative bargain and
well worth checking out.
Figure 11-1:
The D-Link
DGL-3420
gaming
adapter.
When we wrote the last edition of this book three years ago, no manufacturers
offered 802.11n versions of these adapters. We expected by now (mid 2010)
to see tons of these devices; however, that’s not the case. The problem (and
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it’s not really a problem, per se) is that Wi-Fi is being built right into so many
devices that there’s less of a reason to build new versions of these bridges.
We did find one new 802.11n bridge in our searches: Buffalo Technology’s
Nfiniti Wireless-N Dual Band Ethernet Converter (www.buffalotech.com/
products/wireless/client-adapters/nfiniti-wireless-n-dualband-ethernet-converter-wli-tx4-ag300n). The Nfiniti bridge has a
street price of about $100, and it includes four Ethernet ports. This makes it a
perfect companion for your family/media room — there’s room to plug in not
only your gaming console, but also other devices like networked TVs, Blu-ray
disc players, or even a home theater PC. Pretty cool.
Signing up for console online
gaming services
Having the hardware to bring your console online is only half the battle —
you also need to sign up for an online gaming service. Each of the big console
manufacturers offers an online gaming service, providing head-to-head network
game play as well as fun stuff like game downloads (both demos and full-blown
games), text and voice chat, shopping, and Web browsing.
Not all console games are designed for online play. Each service has dozens
(if not hundreds) of online-capable games, but just as many games are not
network-enabled.
In this chapter, we’re talking about the network gaming services offered by the
three major console manufacturers. For the most part, these services are the
way you will access most online games for each of the consoles. Some games,
however, might use their own network, or are accessed via the console manufacturer’s network but require an additional subscription to use.
Living large with Xbox Live
The Microsoft online gaming service Xbox Live (www.xboxlive.com) is the
longest running of the three console online gaming networks, launched right
after the original Xbox was put on market in late 2001to early 2002. Xbox Live
has over 8 million subscribers worldwide, as we write in late 2007, so it should
always be easy to find someone to play with!
Xbox Live isn’t just about playing against someone else; it’s almost a new
lifestyle. With Xbox Live, you can
✓ Communicate in real time during games.
✓ Set up chats with your friends.
✓ Meet gamers from all over the world and put together a posse of your
favorite teammates to go after others.
✓ Set up your own clans and start competitions with Xbox Live features.
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✓ Join Xbox Live tournaments.
✓ Download cool new stuff for your favorite games that’s available only
online — new maps, missions, songs, skins, vehicles, characters, quests,
and more. You can even download entertainment content (such as
movies and music) for your Xbox 360.
✓ Play games against hot celebs that Microsoft courts online.
With the discontinuation of the original Xbox and the focus on the Xbox 360,
Xbox Live has been mainly focused on users of the new console. There is still
service available for the original Xbox, but we devote most of our discussion
here to the Xbox 360.
There are two levels of service for Xbox Live:
✓ Silver: This is a free service; anyone with an Xbox 360 can sign up for it
and access game content (like additional levels), and get the ability to
create a gamertag (online identity) and participate in online chats with
friends. What you can’t do with the free silver service is participate in multiplayer online games; to do that, you need to be a gold member (read on!).
✓ Gold: This is the subscription (in other words, pay) service in Xbox Live.
You get to play online games against friends (and strangers) and get additional features such as access to an online marketplace and enhanced
friends list functionality. There are a number of different plans for signing
up for Xbox Live Gold; the most common is a $49.99 plan, which provides
a year’s worth of service and includes a headset for live voice chat during
gaming.
PSP: Your passport to Wi-Fi gaming
If you’re into handheld gaming devices, the
Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable) may be just the
ticket. Sony offers two versions: the PSP Go and
PSP 3000. The PSP Go is the newer of the two
and costs a bit more ($250 versus $170 list price
for the PSP 3000). Both systems offer a similar
set of features — including Skype phone calling, pictures and videos, audio playback, and, of
course, gaming. The older PSP 3000 also supports the UMD (Universal Media Disk) format;
a small optical disc upon which you can buy
major studio movies and TV shows for playback
on your PSP.
with the Go and 3000, both of which include an
802.11b adapter that lets you connect to any
802.11b, g or n Wi-Fi network. The initial PSPs
shipped with support for only WEP encryption,
but a firmware upgrade in 2005 lets you connect
even the older models to a properly secured
WPA network, and all current PSPs support
WPA. When connected via Wi-Fi, you can play
online games against others on your network
or over the Internet. There’s even a built-in
Web browser, so that when your thumbs need
a break from all that hot gaming action, you can
surf your favorite Web sites.
And of course, the PSP has had built-in Wi-Fi
support since the very first PSP. This continues
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Going Wi-Fi and portable with Nintendo DS
Nintendo has a nifty handheld gaming console
called the Nintendo DS (it’s Nintendo’s competitor to the Sony PSP) that features, among
many things, two screens. (Imagine driving in
a race while looking simultaneously out your
windshield and at a bird’s-eye view of your car
on the track.)
Like the PSP, the DS has built-in support for
Wi-Fi network connectivity. This connectivity
is now used for hooking up with other nearby
DS users — using a feature of the DS called
PictoChat, which allows you to share drawings
and have text chats.
To make it even easier to get your DS
online, Nintendo has its free Nintendo Wi-Fi
Connection service. This service allows you to
connect the DS to your home Wi-Fi network to
play a number of online games being launched
with the service (just as you can connect your
Wii to your home Wi-Fi network).
The coolest part of this service is that Nintendo
has partnered with several Wi-Fi public hotspot
providers to offer free Nintendo DS-accessible
hot spots around the United States to connect
to online gaming when you’re on the road.
The biggest issue you’ll face with the DS on
the road (and this is true for a lot of portable
devices, as we discuss in Chapter 16) is that
you can’t log in to Wi-Fi hot spots that require
you to sign in on a Web page for full access.
Nintendo’s own hot spots (they aren’t actually
building their own, but rather have partnered
with some hot spot providers) don’t have this
limitation. (You’ll be able to log in automatically.) Go to www.nintendo.com/games/
wifi/hotspot to find out where Nintendo
has hot spots near you.
Microsoft doesn’t provide the broadband service for Xbox Live (none of the
gaming companies do) — just the gaming service itself. Thus, you need to
already have a cable, fiber-optic, or DSL modem set up in your home.
If you’re going to play Xbox Live, you need to make sure that your router is
Xbox Live–compatible. Go to http://support.xbox.com/support/en/
us/xbox360/XboxLive/GetConnected/CompatibleNetworkEquipment/
CompatibleNetworkingEquipment.aspx. On this page, Microsoft lists
routers that don’t work with its Live service, so be sure to check the list
before you buy. If your router isn’t on the Works or Does Not Work list, it’s in
a huge gray area of “we have no clue, but don’t blame us if it doesn’t work.”
Microsoft always loves a scapegoat!
If your current router isn’t on this list, don’t despair. Check the router manufacturer’s Web site. Often, it has specific steps, such as installing a firmware
update (updating the router’s software), that make the router work just fine.
Some routers work just as they are, but they simply haven’t been certified for
some reason.
Playing online with PlayStation Network
Sony’s previous game console, the PlayStation 2 (PS2), was the most successful console ever, with over 120 million (say that really slowly in a Dr. Evil voice
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for full effect) consoles sold by 2007. This older console, as we mentioned, had
some networking capabilities, and indeed over 200 network-capable games
have been released over the years, with millions of users taking advantage of
them. But Sony never put together an integrated competitor to Microsoft’s
Xbox Live with the PS2 — essentially the gaming software companies themselves set up online portals for their individual games.
With the new PS3 console, however, Sony has pulled out all the stops and
launched the PlayStation Network. The PlayStation Network, a free service for
PS3 and PSP (PlayStation Portable) owners, provides the following services:
✓ PlayStation Store: You can shop online for downloadable games (they
get stored on your PS3’s hard drive), demos of new games, and highdefinition trailers of new games and movies.
✓ Online game play: Registered users can participate in free online head-tohead gaming. PlayStation Network also supports online gaming for some
specific titles that require additional subscriptions (typically directly with
the game software company itself) — so while the PlayStation service is
free, you may have to pay a subscription fee for certain games.
✓ Online community: As is the case with Xbox Live, when you register
with PlayStation Network, you can establish an online identity and participate in message boards and live text or voice chats with your gaming
buddies over your wireless network.
✓ Web browsing: Not actually part of the PlayStation Network (in other
words, you don’t need to register to do this) but neat nonetheless. The
PS3 has a built-in Web browser so you can surf the Web on your
big-screen TV.
You can find more information about PlayStation Network online gaming
at the Sony site (http://us.playstation.com/ps3/features/
ps3featuresnetwork.html).
Wii? No, wheeeeeee!
The best selling of the three new-generation gaming consoles is Nintendo’s
Wii — fueled by a lower price and especially by the absolutely cool Wiimote,
which uses motion control in addition to buttons to control game action.
With the Wii, Nintendo has pulled out all the online stops — the Wii includes
built-in Wi-Fi, a Web browser, loads of online games, and an online ecosystem
for you to enjoy using your motion-controlled gaming controllers.
Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection service provides free online gaming for the Wii
and also for Nintendo’s DS handheld gaming device (both have built-in Wi-Fi).
As is the case with the PS3, most networked Wii games can be played online
for free, but some titles require you to purchase a subscription with the
game’s software vendor.
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The Wii also includes an Internet Channel — which is Wiispeak for a Web
browser (specifically the Opera Web browser) that allows you to surf the Web
on your TV. Additionally, like the other gaming consoles, the Wii includes an
online store for buying games, downloading game demos, and more.
Dealing with Router Configurations
to Get a PC or Console Online
So far in this chapter, we talk a bit about the services and hardware you
need to get into online gaming using your wireless network. What we haven’t
covered yet — getting online and playing a game — is either the easiest or the
hardest part of the equation. The difficulty of this task depends on two things:
✓ The platform you’re using: If you’re trying to get online with a PC
(whether it’s Windows-based or a Mac), well, basically there’s nothing
special to worry about. You just need to get it connected to the Internet
as we describe in Chapter 9. For certain games, you may have to do a
few fancy things with your router, which we discuss later in this chapter.
If you’re using a gaming console, you may have to adjust a few things
in your router to get your online connection working, but when you’re
using a game console with many routers, you can just plug in your wireless equipment and go.
✓ What you’re trying to do: For many games, after you establish an Internet
connection, you’re ready to start playing. Some games, however, require
you to make some adjustments to your router’s configuration. If you’re
planning to host the games on your PC (which means that your online
friends will be remotely connecting to your PC), you definitely have to do
a bit of configuration.
Don’t sweat it, though. It’s usually not all that hard to get gaming set up, and
it’s getting easier every day because the companies that make wireless LAN
equipment and home routers realize that gaming is a growth industry for
them. They know that they can sell more equipment if they can help people
get devices such as game consoles online.
You need to accomplish two things to get your online gaming — well, we
can’t think of a better term — online:
1. Get an Internet Protocol (IP) address.
Your access point needs to recognize your gaming PC’s or console’s network adapter and your console’s wireless Ethernet bridge, if you have
one in your network configuration. If you have WEP or, better yet, WPA
configured (refer to Chapter 9), your game machine needs to provide the
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proper passphrase or key. Your router (whether it’s in the access point or
separate) needs to provide an IP address to your gaming machine.
2. Get through your router’s firewall.
The part that takes some time is configuring the firewall feature of your
router to allow gaming programs to function properly.
Getting an IP address
For the most part, if you’ve set up your router to provide IP addresses within
your network using DHCP (as we discuss in Chapters 5 and 6), your gaming
PC or gaming console automatically connects to the router when the device
is turned on and sends a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
request to the router, asking for an IP address. If you’ve configured your
gaming PC, as we discuss in Chapters 7 and 8, your computer should get its
IP address and be online automatically. Or, as we like to say about this kind
of neat stuff, automagically. You may need to go into your operating system’s
network control panel to select an access point and enter your WPA passphrase, but otherwise it should just work without any intervention.
If you have a game console with a wireless Ethernet bridge, the process
should be almost as smooth. The first time you use the bridge, you may
need to use a Web browser interface on one of your PCs to set up WEP keys
or WPA passphrases; otherwise, your router should automatically assign an
IP address to your console.
Before you get all wrapped around the axle trying to get your game console
connected to your router, check out the Web site of your console maker and
your router manufacturer. We have no doubt that you can find lots of information about how to make this connection. In many cases, if you’re having
trouble getting your router to assign an IP address to your console, you need
to download a firmware upgrade for your router. Firmware is the software that
lives inside your router and tells your router how to behave. Most router vendors have released updated firmware to help their older router models work
with gaming consoles.
Some older router models simply don’t work with gaming consoles. If online
gaming is an important part of your plans, check the Web sites we mention
earlier in this chapter before you choose a router.
In most cases, if your console doesn’t get assigned an IP address automatically, you need to go into your router’s setup program — most use a Web
browser on a networked PC to adjust the configuration — and manually
assign a fixed IP address to the console. Unlike DHCP-assigned IP addresses
(which can change every time a computer logs on to the network), this fixed
IP address is always assigned to your console.
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Optimizing your router for gaming
A few vendors have begun to sell wireless
routers (or gateways, depending on their terminology) tweaked to support gaming. A wireless router manufacturer can do two things to
ensure that gaming works well:
✓ Make it easier to support online game
play: Routers can be designed to work
specifically with online gaming applications. For example, a router may include
more built-in game application support in
its Web configuration, so you can easily
“turn on” game support in the firewall and
NAT routing functionality, without having
to go through lots of trouble setting up port
forwarding and DMZs (discussed in the
final two sections of this chapter). Many
gaming-specific routers support Universal
Plug and Play (UPnP), also discussed in
those sections, which makes the configuration of game applications automatic.
✓ Provide prioritization to game applications: For the ultimate in gaming experience, some routers prioritize gaming
applications over other traffic flowing
through the router. Therefore, if two (or
more) different applications are trying
to send traffic through your router at the
same time (such as your game and your
spouse’s e-mail application sending a work
document to the server), the router makes
sure that the gaming data gets through to
the Internet first. This concept can reduce
the latency (or delay) you experience in
playing online games and make the experience better. (You can blow up the other
guy faster!)
An example of this kind of wireless router
is the D-Link DGL-4500 Xtreme N Wireless
Gaming Router (w w w . d l i n k . c o m /
products/?pid=643, $199.99). This
router includes the D-Link GameFuel prioritization technology, an 802.11n AP (promising raw
speeds, when used with D-Link’s own adapters, of up to 300 Mbps), and a wired switch
supporting Gigabit (1000BaseT) connections
for your wired PCs and consoles.
Every router has a slightly different system for doing this, but typically you
simply select an IP address that isn’t in the range of DHCP addresses that
your router automatically assigns to devices connected to your network.
You need to assign an IP address that isn’t in the range of your router’s IP
address pool but is within the same subnet. For example, if your router uses
DHCP to assign addresses in the range of 192.168.0.0 to 192.168.0.32 for computers connected to the network, you want to choose an IP address such
as 192.168.0.34 for your console. Every router’s configuration program is
different, but you typically see a box that reads something like DHCP Server
Start IP Address (with an IP address next to it) and another box that reads
something like DHCP Server Finish IP Address with another box containing
an IP address. (Some routers may just list the start address, followed by a
count, which means that the finish address is the last number in the start
address plus the count number.)
The key thing to remember is that you have to come up with only the last
number in the IP address, the number after the third period in the IP address.
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The first three (which are usually 192.168.0) don’t change. All you need to do
to assign this IP address is to choose a number between 1 and 254 that is not
in the range your router uses for DHCP. (Most routers use the .1 address, so
you should use a number between 2 and 254.)
Getting through your router’s firewall
After you’ve assigned an IP address to your gaming PC or game console and
are connected to the Internet, you may well be ready to start playing games.
Our advice: Give it a try and see what happens. Depending on the games you
play, any additional steps may not be needed.
The steps we’re about to discuss shouldn’t be required for a game console.
And, although we haven’t checked out every single game out there, we haven’t
run into any incidences where you need to get involved with the port forwarding, which we’re about to discuss, with a game console. If you have an older
router that doesn’t work well with console games, you may consider putting
your console on the router’s DMZ, as we discuss in the upcoming section
“Setting Up a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).”
Understanding port forwarding
If your games don’t work, you may need to get involved in configuring the
firewall and Network Address Translation (NAT). As we discuss in Chapter 5,
home network routers use a system called NAT to connect multiple devices
to a single Internet connection. Basically, NAT translates between public
Internet IP addresses and internal IP addresses on your home’s network.
When a computer or other device is connected to your home network (wirelessly or even a wired network), the router assigns it an internal IP address.
Similarly, when your router connects to the Internet, it’s assigned its own
public IP address: that is, its own identifying location on the Internet. Traffic
flowing to and from your house uses this public IP address to find its way.
After the traffic (which can be gaming data, an e-mail, a Web page, whatever)
gets to the router, the NAT function of the router figures out to which PC (or
other device) in the house to send that data.
One important feature of NAT is that it provides firewall functionality for
your network. NAT knows which computer to send data to on your network
because that computer has typically sent a request over the Internet for that
bit of data. For example, when a computer requests a Web page, your NAT
router knows which computer made the request so that when the Web page is
downloaded, it gets sent to the right PC. If no device on the network has made
a request — meaning that an unrequested bit of data shows up at your public
IP address — NAT doesn’t know where to send it. This process provides a
security firewall function for your network because it keeps this unrequested
data (which could be some sort of security risk) off your network.
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NAT is a cool thing because it lets multiple computers share a single public IP
address and Internet connection and helps keep the bad guys off your network.
NAT can, however, cause problems with some applications that may require
this unrequested data to work properly. For example, if you have a Web server
on your network, you would rightly expect that people would try to download
and view Web pages without your PC sending them any kind of initial request.
After all, your Web server isn’t clairvoyant. (At least ours isn’t!)
Gaming can also rely on unrequested connections to work properly. For
example, you may want to host a game on your PC with your friends, which
means that their PCs will try to get through your router and connect directly
with your PC. Even if you’re not hosting the game, some games send chunks
of unrequested data to your computer as part of the game play. Other applications that may do this include audio- and videoconferencing programs (such as
Windows Messenger) and remote control programs (such as pcAnywhere).
To get these games (or other programs) to work properly over your wireless
home network and through your router, you need to get into your router’s
configuration program and punch some holes in your firewall by setting up
NAT port forwarding.
Of the many routers out there, they don’t all call this process port forwarding. Read your manual. (Really, we mean it. Read the darn thing. We know it’s
boring, but it can be your friend.) Look for terms such as special applications
support or virtual servers.
Setting up port forwarding
Port forwarding effectively opens a hole in your firewall that not only allows
legitimate game or other application data through, but may also let the bad
guys in. Set up port forwarding only when you have to, and keep an eye on the
logs. (Your router should keep a log of whom it lets in — check the manual
to see how to find and read this log.) We also recommend that you consider
using personal firewall software on your networked PCs (we like ZoneAlarm,
www.zonelabs.com) and keep your antivirus software up to date.
Some routers let you set up application-triggered port forwarding (sometimes
just called port triggering), which basically allows your router to look for certain signals coming from an application on your computer (the triggers) and
then enable port forwarding. This option is more secure because when the
program that requires port forwarding (your game, in this case) isn’t running,
your ports are closed. They open only when the game (or other application)
requires them to be open.
When you set up port forwarding on your router, you’re selecting specific
ports (ports are subsegments of an IP address — a computer with a specific
IP address uses different numbered ports to connect different applications to
the network) and sending all incoming requests using those ports to a specific
computer or device on your network. When you get involved in setting up
port forwarding, you notice two kinds of ports: TCP (Transmission Control
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Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol). These names relate to the two
primary ways in which data is carried on the Internet, and you may have to set
up port forwarding for both TCP and UDP ports, depending on the application.
Every router or access point will have its own unique system for configuring
port forwarding. Generally speaking, you find the port forwarding section of
the configuration program and simply type into a text box on the screen the
port numbers you want to open. For example, Figure 11-2 shows port forwarding being configured on a NETGEAR WPN824 router/access point.
Figure 11-2:
Setting
up port
forwarding.
As we mention earlier in this chapter, ports are assigned specific numbers. To
get some gaming applications to work properly, you need to open (assign) port
forwarding for a big range of port numbers. The best way to find out which
ports need to be opened is to read the manual or search the Web page of the
game software vendor. You can also find a relatively comprehensive list online
at http://practicallynetworked.com/sharing/app_port_list.htm.
If your router is UPnP enabled (Universal Plug and Play, a system developed
by Microsoft and others that, among other things, automatically configures
port forwarding for you) and the PC game you’re using uses Microsoft DirectX
gaming, the router and the game should be able to talk to each other and
automatically set up the appropriate port forwarding. Just make sure that you
enable UPnP in your router’s configuration system. Usually you simply select
a check box in the router’s configuration program.
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Setting Up a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
If you need to do some special port forwarding and router tweaking to get
your games working, you may find that you’re spending entirely too much
time getting it all up and running. Or you may find that you open what should
be the right ports — according to the game developer — and that things
still just don’t seem to be working correctly. It happens; not all routers are
equally good at implementing port forwarding.
Here’s another approach you can take: Set up a demilitarized zone (DMZ).
This term has been appropriated from the military (think the North and
South Korean borders) by way of the business networking world, where
DMZs are used for devices such as Web servers in corporate networks. In a
home network, a DMZ is a virtual portion of your network that’s completely
outside your firewall. In other words, a computer or device connected to
your DMZ accepts all incoming connections — your NAT router forwards all
incoming connections (on any port) to the computer connected to the DMZ.
You don’t need to configure special ports for specific games because everything is forwarded to the computer or device you have placed on the DMZ.
Most home routers we know of set up a DMZ for only one of your networked
devices, so this approach may not work if you have two gaming PCs connected to the Internet. However, for most people, a DMZ does the trick.
Although setting up a DMZ is perhaps easier to do than configuring port
forwarding, it comes with bigger security risks. If you set up port forwarding,
you lessen the security of the computer that the ports are being forwarded
to — but if you put that computer on the DMZ, you’ve basically removed all
the firewall features of your router from that computer. Be judicious when
using a DMZ. If you have a computer dedicated only to gaming, a game console, or a kid’s computer that doesn’t have any important personal files configured to be on your DMZ, you’re probably okay — but you run a risk that
even that computer can be used to attack the others on your network. DMZs
are perfectly safe for a console, but they should be used for PCs and Macs
only if you can’t make port forwarding work.
Depending on the individual router configuration program that comes with
your preferred brand of router, setting up a DMZ is typically simple. Figure 11-3
shows a DMZ being set up on a Siemens SpeedStream router/access point. It’s
a dead-simple process. In most cases, you need only select a check box in the
router configuration program to turn on the DMZ and then use a pull-down
menu to select the computer you want on the DMZ.
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Figure 11-3:
Setting up a
DMZ.
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Chapter 12
Networking Your
Entertainment Center
In This Chapter
▶ Understanding what you can do by wireless networking your audio and video
▶ Plugging into wireless with wireless media adapters
▶ Going with a wireless entertainment system
▶ Serving up your media
▶ Understanding your home theater PC options
B
eyond the normal computer stuff (connecting PCs and Macs with the
Internet, each other and peripheral devices like printers), our favorite
use of wireless home networking is as the media for transporting audio and
video around the house. With the right equipment, you can easily get music
and video from your PC, your mobile phone, and the Internet into your home
theater or home audio system and beyond — far beyond, in fact, as wireless
systems can extend your audio/video throughout your home.
Understanding How Wireless Networking
Can Fit Into Your Entertainment System
What can you do with wireless networking of your audio and video? Well
here are just a few of the things you can make happen without wires:
✓ Get music or video from your PC or Mac and play it on your home
theater or A/V (audio/video) gear.
✓ Play the music stored on your iPod, cellphone, or smartphone on your
home theater or A/V gear.
✓ Put your media (music, video, or photographs) on a wirelessly enabled
server and share it with devices throughout the house.
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✓ Access audio and video from Internet sources and play it on your home
theater or A/V gear.
✓ Extend your A/V equipment’s reach wirelessly — doing anything from
adding speakers in the back of your home theater to creating a whole
home audio system that fills your home with music.
In this chapter, we talk about the (mainly inexpensive) devices that you can
add to your wireless home network to do one or all of these things. Audio/
video networks used to be hard to create and expensive to implement. No
more. Wireless makes it easy, and you’ll find that an increasing amount of A/V
equipment is coming with wireless (typically Wi-Fi for whole home A/V applications, but also Bluetooth for connecting to mobile devices) built right-in.
You may be thinking, “Whoa, wait a minute, I thought wireless was just for
data. Are you telling me that I need to move my PC to my living room and put
it next to my TV?” Rest assured: We’re not suggesting that, although some
people do exactly that — you could indeed put your PC next to your TV, link
it with a video cable, and run your Internet interconnection to the living room.
But, you don’t need to do this with a wireless network in place. Instead, everything (PCs, stereo gear, and so on) can stay exactly where it is and use the
wireless network to move songs and movies around your home.
The revolution we’re talking about — and are just getting started with in
this chapter and the ones that follow — is the whole-home wireless revolution, where that powerful data network you install for your PCs to talk to
one another and the Internet can also talk to lots of other things in your
home. You hear us talk a great deal about your whole-home audio network
or a whole-home video network. That’s our code for “you can hear (view)
it throughout the house.” You built that wireless network (in Part III), and
now other devices will come and use it. And coming they are, indeed — by
the boxful. Be prepared to hear about all these great devices — things you
use every day, such as your stereo, refrigerator, and car — that want to hop
onboard your wireless home highway.
Wirelessly Enabling the Gear in Your
Home Entertainment System
If you’re like most folks, your home entertainment system probably consists
of a TV, a stereo or surround sound receiver, some components (such as a
Blu-ray or DVD player, a TV set top box, and so on), and a few speakers. For
most parties, this setup is enough to make for a memorable evening!
And, if you’re like most people, you have a jumble of wires linking all this
audio/visual (A/V) gear together. The mere thought of adding more wiring
to the system — to link your receiver to your computer to play some digital
music files, for example — is a bit much.
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We have some good news for you. Regardless of whether you have a $250 television set or a $25,000 home theater, you can wirelessly enable almost any type of
A/V gear you have. In the following sections, we discuss the wireless bandwidth
requirements for the two major applications for your entertainment system:
audio and video. Then we get into the specific options available on the market.
Understanding bandwidth requirements
for audio and video
Here are the two predominant ways that audio and video files are handled
with your entertainment/computer combo:
✓ Streaming: The file is accessed from your PC’s hard drive, a server, or
networked hard drive or from a server on the Internet and sent via a
continuous signal to your entertainment hardware for live playback.
This is the way that most media content is handled in home networks
today.
Streaming applications are real-time applications, meaning that what
you are hearing or seeing, or both, is what’s being streamed over the
network right now. Any problems with the network, such as not having
enough bandwidth to support the media you’re playing, have a noticeable effect in your playback experience (for example, dropped audio or
blocky video).
Unlike with file transfer (discussed in the next bullet), a streaming application is sensitive to network delays and lost data packets. You tend to
notice a bad picture pretty quickly. With streaming, you need to get the
packets right the first time because most of the transmission protocols
don’t allow for retransmission, even if you want to. You just get clipped
and delayed sound, which sounds bad.
✓ File transfer: The file is sent from your PC’s hard drive, a server, or networked hard drive or from a server on the Internet to a storage device
connected directly to your stereo system components, where it’s stored
for later playback. File transfers can pretty much work over any network
connection.
With file transfer, lots of transmissions take place in the background.
For example, many audio programs allow for automatic synchronization between file repositories, which can be scheduled during off hours
to minimize the effect on your network traffic when you’re using your
home network. And, in these cases, you’re not as concerned with how
long it takes as you would be if you were watching or listening to it live
while it plays.
Unlike with streaming, a file transfer is not sensitive to network delays
and lost packets. Any lost data can be retransmitted when its loss is
detected.
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A good-quality 802.11g signal is fine in most instances for audio or video file
transfers and is also more than adequate for audio streaming. Whether it’s
okay for video streaming depends a great deal on how the video was encoded
and the size of the file. The larger the file size for the same amount of running
time, the larger the bandwidth that’s required to transmit it for steady video
performance. Video is a bandwidth hog; whereas audio streaming might
require a few hundred Kbps of bandwidth (or maybe one or two Mbps for
uncompressed audio), video can require much more. Low-resolution Internet
video (for example, YouTube videos) doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth; it
also doesn’t look all that great on your TV. If you want to send DVD-quality
video across your wireless network, you need several Mbps’s worth of wireless bandwidth to do so — HDTV can require as much as 20 Mbps.
The high bandwidth requirements of video were one of the driving forces
behind the development of 802.11n. 802.11g may have a nominal bandwidth
of 54 Mbps, but in the real world, users can expect less than 20 Mbps of real
throughput across the whole network. A single channel of HDTV would stop
the entire network dead.
If you’re considering streaming high-quality video across your wireless network, you should definitely build (or upgrade to) an 802.11n network. Again,
remember, if you’re just doing audio streaming, 802.11g is more than adequate,
so there’s no need to upgrade an existing wireless router just for this purpose.
Exploring your equipment options
You can choose from a number of different options when you build a wireless
entertainment network, as described in the following sections. Later in the
chapter, we take a deeper dive into these product categories and talk about
how you can get audio and video onto your wireless network.
Almost all the entertainment networking equipment we discuss in this chapter
includes wired Ethernet connections in addition to Wi-Fi networking. So if your
whole-home network consists of both wired and wireless network infrastructure, and the wired part of your network reaches your entertainment system,
you can use Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi to connect your audio/video gear — we
recommend that you do so if the cables are there!
When you shop for a wireless entertainment device of any sort, it’s important to
make sure it’s certified not only for the variant of 802.11 you’re using (g or n),
but also for the level of wireless networking security you’re using. (See Chapter 9
for more on this.) Most new devices support all current Wi-Fi security standards
(up to and including WPA2 Personal), but traditionally this category of product
lagged behind computer networking products in terms of security. Remember
that you can’t have a mix of WEP and WPA/WPA2 on the same network — we
recommend walking away from a product that supports only WEP unless you’re
comfortable reducing the security on your entire network.
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Media adapters
The most basic (but by no means unsophisticated) wireless media systems
are known as media adapters. These devices have no storage themselves,
so they’re strictly for streaming media. A media adapter does exactly what
its name says it does: It converts (or adapts) a streaming audio or video file
coming from your computer (such as an MP3 music file) to an analog or digital audio (or video) format that your TV or audio equipment understands. A
media adapter connects to your wireless network on the computer side using
Wi-Fi, and connects to your home entertainment gear using standard audio
and video cables. A good example of such a device is Apple’s AirPort Express
(www.apple.com/airportexpress/) which also doubles as a travel
router. (See Chapter 8 for more on the Airport Express.)
In the early days of Wi-Fi, media adapters were the primary mechanism for
connecting PCs and A/V equipment. Since then, we’ve seen the development
of sophisticated media players (discussed in the next section) as well as
the incorporation of wireless digital media support in other devices like A/V
receivers and game consoles. As a result, there are very few wireless media
adapters left on the market. If your needs are simple, however — like just
getting music from a PC to a stereo — a media adapter can do the job for the
least amount of money.
Media players/servers
Media players or servers add storage to the mix. Typically, these devices
have a built-in hard drive that lets you locally store entertainment content
for playback, so you don’t have to rely as much on the performance of your
wireless network. Most media players also will stream content from your
computer network (and the Internet), so you can think of them as a media
adapter with a hard drive. Examples include Apple’s AppleTV (www.apple.
com/appletv), which retails for $229, and D-Link’s MediaLounge players
(such as the DPG-1200, www.dlink.com/products/?pid=655, which
retails for $229.99).
There’s no Ministry of Naming Esoteric Wireless Entertainment Gear. (If
there were, we think it would be right next door to the Ministry of Banning
Common Household Items from Airplanes, but that’s another story entirely!)
What we mean by this statement is that not all vendors use exactly the same
terms we’re using here to delineate the difference between an adapter and a
player/server. The bottom line is that an adapter has no local storage and is
a streaming-only device, whereas a player/server has a hard drive (or other
storage) and can work independently of your PC’s hard drive (syncing the
content and then playing it back whenever, even when your spouse has the
laptop at work).
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Media center extenders
A specialized category of media adapters/players, media center extenders
work specifically with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 computers running
Microsoft’s Windows Media Center software. A media center extender essentially replicates the Media Center user interface on your TV and lets you access
all the content stored on your Media Center PC remotely. A media center
extender may have a hard drive for local content storage, but it is primarily
a streaming solution, with the content you’re accessing all coming from your
Media Center PC. The primary Media Center Extender device is Microsoft’s
Xbox 360 gaming console (discussed in Chapter 11). Companies such as
Linksys and HP have offered standalone media center extender devices in the
recent past, but as we write in mid-2010, these products have been discontinued with no replacements.
Networked audio/video gear
Some audio/video gear has the networking built right in. This could be a
home theater receiver with networking capabilities that let you stream audio
from your computer directly into the receiver (without requiring a standalone media adapter), or it could be a purpose-built wireless entertainment
system that uses Wi-Fi to distribute audio (and to a lesser degree, video)
around your home. A good example of the former is Denon’s AVR-4310CI
home theater receiver, with built-in Wi-Fi (http://usa.denon.com/
ProductDetails/5130.asp); an example of the latter is the Sonos Digital
Music System (www.sonos.com), which uses Wi-Fi to create a multiroom,
whole-home audio distribution system. (For more on Sonos, see the section
“Choosing equipment with built-in Wi-Fi,” later in this chapter.)
You can also find networked A/V equipment that provides access to specific
Internet-based services like Netflix on-demand movies — most Blu-ray disc
players being sold today offer this feature, and many include built-in Wi-Fi
(from manufacturers like Samsung and LG).
Most networked home theater receivers do not have built-in Wi-Fi but instead
provide only a wired Ethernet connection. You can use a Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge
(discussed in the section “Adding Wi-Fi to Ethernet A/V gear,” later in the
chapter) to connect these devices to your wireless network.
Home theater PCs
You can bring content right to your home theater or media room by installing
a home theater PC. These are purpose-built PCs designed to function as your
home theater’s DVR (digital video recorder), DVD player, and general jack-ofall-trades content source.
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Internet-connected A/V devices
There are two big trends in the world of consumer Audio/Video (A/V) gear right now. The
first of these trends is 3D, which is kind of cool
(provided you don’t mind wearing the dorky
glasses) and totally outside the bounds of
this particular book. The second is Internetconnected A/V gear. You can find Internetconnected flat panel TVs (plasma or LCD TVs,
in other words), Internet-connected A/V home
theater receivers, and Internet-connected Bluray disc players — using either built in Wi-Fi or
an external Wi-Fi adapter (or an Ethernet cable
for a wired connection).
As the name implies, these systems allow you
to connect to Internet-provided services. That
could mean connecting to your Netflix account
to watch on-demand movies; connecting
to YouTube to watch videos; connecting to
Picasa or Flickr albums for photo slide shows.
You can even find widgets that let you check
the weather, news, or stocks prices. (Widgets
are similar to the modules you might be familiar
with from a My Yahoo! or iGoogle home page
on your PC’s Web browser.) Blu-ray disc players will also use their network connection to
access BD-Live content (special extra content
related to the Blu-ray disc you’re playing at
the time — to learn more about BD-Live check
out this site: www.sonypictures.com/
homevideo/bluray/bdlive.html).
Most Internet-connected A/V equipment does
not, however, connect to your own in-home
stores of digital music files and digital videos
on your PCs or external storage devices. So, in
most cases, you’re not going to replace a digital media adapter or player with an Internetconnected Blu-ray disc player or TV. You may
find, however, that a networked A/V home theater receiver will have the ability to connect to
your PCs and access your digital music files.
This capability varies from receiver to receiver,
so you have to read the specs closely before
you buy.
We like to think of Internet-connected A/V
gear as just another awesome application that
can use your home network, rather than as a
replacement for a media adapter/player for
accessing your personal content.
Getting Media from Computers
to Traditional (Non-Networked)
A/V Equipment
The most common question we’re asked in the realm of wireless entertainment
is, “How do I play the thousands of digital songs stored on my computer on the
high-quality audio system in my family room?” The second most common question we’re asked is, “How do I take all those videos on my computer and play
them on my big-screen TV?”
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Well, these are questions we can answer. In fact, this entire chapter is
designed to answer those questions and variants thereof. But we start off
with the simplest answer to these simple questions: Get a digital media
adapter or player (as described in the previous section “Exploring your
equipment options”). If audio is your biggest concern (and for most folks it
is), a digital media adapter can be an easy-to-configure and inexpensive route
between point A (your computer) and point B (your A/V system). Adding
video to the equation means you’ll have to spend a bit more money (and will
probably benefit from the local storage contained in a digital media player
instead of an adapter).
What should you look for when choosing a media adapter or player?
We think the following things are important:
✓ Network compatibility and performance: Any media adapter or player
you choose should be Wi-Fi certified and support at least 802.11g. If
you’re choosing a system that supports video as well, we strongly recommend that you choose an 802.11n system. Finally, you should ensure
that your adapter or player supports the Wi-Fi security system you’re
using on your network. (We recommend that you use WPA2.)
Even if your requirements are for audio only, if your AP or wireless
router uses 802.11n, you should choose an 802.11n media player or
adapter simply because mixing 802.11g and 802.11n on the same network decreases the overall speed of the network. Keep your network
all n to maximize throughput for any use of the network. Or, if you have
a simultaneous dual-band wireless router (see Chapter 5), you can put
your entertainment networking on one band (typically the 5GHz band)
and keep your computers on the other band (the 2.4 GHz band).
✓ Software requirements: Some media adapters and players require
the installation of software on your PC or Mac. This software acts like
Windows Media Player or iTunes does on your computer, and it indexes
all the media on your computer and streams (or forwards) it to your
adapter or player. Many media adapters or players actually use iTunes
and/or Windows Media Player (which you probably already have
installed on your PC), which simplifies matters greatly.
Look at the specs for the equipment you’re buying to see whether it
claims to be Windows Media– or iTunes-compatible. It’s a lot easier to
use what you’ve already got than to add even more media software to
your PCs and Macs.
✓ User interface: The user interface is simply the mechanism that you use
to control your media player. For some simple media adapters (such as
Apple’s multipurpose AirPort Express — which can also be used as a
router or as a print server), the interface is on your computer; this means
you have to use the software on the computer to control the media
adapter, which isn’t convenient. Other adapters and players have a simple
remote control that lets you skip forward and back through songs or
video programs, pause, and stop and start the program. Some adapters
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and players even include their own touch screen remotes or let you use
an app on a smartphone like an iPhone or Android phone to control them.
✓ Display: Your media player or adapter’s display is part of its user interface, but we’re mentioning it separately simply because not all media
adapters and players even have a display — which is inconvenient to
say the least. For media adapters and players that do have a display,
you’ll find two distinct mechanisms:
• LCD/LED screens on the device itself: Many media players or adapters have a small text display on the device, which can display your
playlists, the title or song name currently playing, and more. Keep
in mind that you don’t want this display to be too small, because
you’re likely to be trying to read it from across the room.
• TV onscreen displays: These are typical for media players and
adapters that can handle video content. An onscreen menu (similar to the one that your cable or satellite set-top box offers) lets
you view and browse all your PC-based media on the big screen.
An onscreen display is sexy and a lot easier to use from across the
room than a smaller screen on the device itself, but an onscreen
display does require you to have your TV turned on, even when
you’re only listening to music — so you might consider a player/
adapter that offers both an onscreen display and a built-in display.
An adapter without a screen isn’t necessarily completely inconvenient.
For example, Pat uses Apple’s AirPort Express for playing music on his
home office stereo system. Because he always has at least one of his
Apple laptop computers in that room, he can simply open iTunes and
choose music. Or he can use Apple’s Remote iPhone app to control
iTunes on his computer or on his Apple TV.
✓ File format support: You can use a number of file formats for storing
audio and video on a computer. Examples in the audio world include
MP3, WMA (Windows Media Audio), and AAC (used by iTunes). The video
world includes formats such as WMV (Windows Media Video), MPEG-2,
and MPEG-4. Most media adapters and players support the most common
file formats (particularly widely used standards such as MP3 and MPEG),
but you should pay close attention to the formats you actually use to
make sure that your adapter or player matches up with them.
✓ DRM support: DRM (or digital rights management) is a blanket term to
describe various copy protection and usage restriction systems used by
online music and video stores to control how customers use music and
videos that they download or purchase. DRM is, at its essence, an effort
to keep digital music and video downloads off the Internet and off filesharing services (such as peer-to-peer networks). Unfortunately for consumers, most DRM is overly restrictive and makes it hard to distribute
your purchased music and video not only to strangers over the Internet
but also to yourself over your home network. If a lot of the music and
video that you have on your computers is from an online store, check
carefully to see whether your media adapter or player can support the
variant of DRM that the store uses — oftentimes the answer is no.
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✓ Support for subscription services and Internet radio: Although most
music and video obtained online is downloaded to a PC and stored there
for future playback, some online services support a streaming model
(often called a subscription service). With these services (an example is
Rhapsody, www.rhapsody.com), you don’t actually own a song or album,
but you can access any of millions of songs on demand (as long as your
subscription is current). Some media adapters and players allow you to
directly access these services, so you can completely bypass your computer and listen to (or watch) this online content through your wireless
network and broadband Internet connection.
In addition to subscription services such as Rhapsody, hundreds of
Internet radio stations play their own chosen music playlists (like traditional radio stations). You can’t choose which songs to listen to with
Internet radio (like you can with a subscription service), but you don’t
have to pay anything either. Many media adapters and players can tune
into Internet radio stations — without requiring you to use your computer
to tune in.
✓ Audio and video outputs: Remember again that media adapters and players are designed to sit in between your computer(s) and your audio/video
gear and to covert digital music and video files into a format that your A/V
gear can understand. To connect your adapter or player to that A/V gear,
you need to use some standard audio/video cables. As a baseline, you
should expect your adapter/player to have a stereo pair of analog audio
outputs (RCA cables, just like the ones that connect DVD players, tape
decks, and the like). More advanced models have digital audio outputs
(TOSLINK or coaxial) for connecting to a home theater receiver.
On the video side, at a minimum you should have a composite video
connection (the yellow video cable found on VCRs). If you want to get a
high-definition picture from your adapter or player, expect to find either a
set of analog component video outputs (three cables, like the ones found
on many DVD players) or an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface)
digital video connector like the connectors found on Blu-ray disc players.
HDMI can actually carry both video and digital audio on one cable.
Choosing Networked Entertainment Gear
The digital media adapters and players we discuss in the preceding section
make a connection between your computer network and traditional (nonnetworked) A/V gear. Not all A/V gear is incapable of being networked
though. In fact, a growing number of home theater receivers and even
televisions are being outfitted with network capabilities.
Most networked A/V gear (be it a Blu-ray disc player or a TV) simply provides
access to Internet entertainment services (as we discuss in the sidebar in this
chapter titled “Internet-connected A/V Devices”). However, in some cases
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(mainly with “networked” A/V receivers), these devices have a built-in digital
media adapter (or the functionality of one) — providing you with the ability
to access digital media files across your home network. Almost all of these
network-enabled receivers and TVs are Ethernet devices and not Wi-Fi enabled.
You can also find whole-home wireless audio distribution systems that can
connect to your computers, but that also can be self-contained wireless
entertainment systems. We talk about both types of systems in this section.
Adding Wi-Fi to Ethernet A/V gear
In the future, we expect that most networked entertainment gear will have
built-in Wi-Fi. And in fact, several high-end receivers and TVs do have built-in
Wi-Fi today. (An example of this is Denon’s AVR-4310CI receiver, which retails
for $2,999 and includes built-in 802.11g networking.) Manufacturers have been
reluctant to incorporate Wi-Fi due to the rapid pace of technological change
(for example this nearly 3 grand receiver includes only 802.11g, which is now
being replaced by 802.11n). Rather than be caught with outdated wireless
technology, many manufacturers have skipped wireless entirely.
Unfortunately for us as consumers, nothing is worse than having a great
piece of entertainment gear that you want to get onto your home network,
but the nearest outlet is yards away and you don’t have a cable long enough
to plug it in. So, you can imagine Danny’s face when he had his brand-new,
networking-capable AudioReQuest system (www.request.com) with no
Ethernet connection near to plug it into. Argh!
To get this gear on your network, you need a wireless bridge. Here are some
excellent options that are available:
✓ NETGEAR’s Universal WiFi Internet Adapter WNCE2001 (www.netgear.
com/ConnectWiFi, $79.99). This device connects to any 802.11b, g,
or 2.4 GHz n network, supports WPA2 and easy configuration with WPS.
(See Chapter 9 for more on WPS.)
✓ Apple Airport Express (www.apple.com/airportexpress, $89).
This 802.11n device is a great little multipurpose product. It’s a media
adapter, a wireless Ethernet bridge, a travel router, an access point, and
a print server all in one slick white package. It can’t do all these things at
once, but it can be configured for any of these uses. Oh, and it can play
music purchased at the iTunes store, and it supports WPA2.
✓ Cisco/Linksys’ WET610N Wireless N Bridge (http://homestore.
cisco.com/en-us/adapters/linksys-wrt610n-wirelessngaming_stcVVproductId65221232VVcatId552009VVviewprod.
htm, $99.99). It costs a few bucks more, but it supports connections
to 5 GHz 802.11n networks, which can be very handy if you’re using a
dual-band network in your home.
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These wireless bridges may be labeled or marketed as gaming adapters, simply
because that was the first primary use for such devices — connecting gaming
consoles without wireless connections to a wired network. There’s no magic
in the name; they work just fine for entertainment, too.
You’ll also find a number of bridges on the market that support 802.11g only.
Wi-Fi equipment manufacturers have been slow to roll out 802.11n networking in these sorts of devices, which is disappointing but just a fact of life
you’ll have to live with for a while longer.
Here are a couple of tips for buying wireless bridges:
✓ Look for 802.11n for this application. You need the bandwidth,
and 802.11n is where you’ll find it. Video doesn’t work well at 802.11g
speeds, but if you’re doing music-only, 802.11g will be fine.
✓ Make sure the security matches your network security needs. All the
wireless bridges we mention in this chapter support WPA/WPA2 security on the network, but other products on the market don’t. Remember
that security in a wireless network is a least-common-denominator concept: If even one of your devices supports only WEP and not WPA, your
entire network will run using the (not-so-secure) WEP security system.
Choosing equipment with built-in Wi-Fi
Some manufacturers are building whole-home wireless entertainment systems (typically focused on music-only applications) that let you set up a
centralized, remotely controlled multiroom audio system without wires or
complicated installations. Essentially, you can use Wi-Fi to get a whole-home
audio system like the really rich folks have in their mansions with $200,000
custom-installed wiring systems. Wireless power to the people!
We focus on a leading-edge wireless media server product, the Sonos Music
System (www.sonos.com, about $999 for a two-room system called the
Bundle 250), as shown in Figure 12-1. This technogeek’s dream system consists of a controller (the brains of the system) and two “zone” players (the
endpoints of the system where all the speaker and system interfaces are
housed, as well as a four-port switch so that you can network other items in
the vicinity — nice!). Connect one zone player to your home theater receiver
and the other to a pair of speakers (or buy matching speakers from Sonos for
another $250) in another room, and you’re ready to go.
Most buyers of the Sonos also buy a local network attached storage (NAS) hard
drive because the Sonos itself doesn’t have one — a non-NAS system just plays
music found elsewhere, such as on your PC. You can also have more than one
Sonos zone player; the players talk to each other and the controller in a meshlike fashion, so if you have a really large house, you can still use the Sonos
system. In such instances, the Sonos system synchronizes the music so that
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it all plays at the same time, avoiding any weird echo-type sounds around the
house. Sonos uses 802.11g for its wireless protocol and creates its own mesh
network hopping from Sonos to Sonos throughout your home.
Figure 12-1:
The Sonos
Music
System is
advanced
stuff!
If you want to connect your Sonos system to your existing wireless network
(and to your Internet connection, for playing Internet radio stations), you can
add in the $99 Sonos Zonebridge, which plugs into an Ethernet port on your
home router and automatically bridges your PC and Sonos wireless networks.
If the nearly $1,000 starting price for a Sonos system is a bit more than you want
to pay, consider the Logitech Squeezebox Touch system ($299 per module,
www.logitech.com/speakers-audio/wireless-music-systems/
devices/5745). This system uses a touchscreen interface (like that found on
an iPhone or Android phone) and connects to the music stored on computers,
NAS server devices, or even streamed over the Internet, and it plugs into your
audio equipment or a pair of powered speakers. The Squeezebox Touch works
on any 802.11g-compatible wireless network and supports all of the latest
security protocols like WPA2, so it’s ready to plug into just about any home
network (unless you’re using a 5 GHz-only 802.11n network, which is rare).
You can use as many Squeezebox Touches as you’d like, so a two-room system
similar to the base Sonos system would cost you $598 (a good bit cheaper!).
When you’ve got more than one Squeezebox Touch, you can choose to play
different music at each station, or synchronize your music so the same thing
is playing throughout the house.
If you need a good set of cheap but high-quality powered speakers to attach to
a Sonos or Squeezebox Touch system, we’ve heard nothing but praise for the
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Audioengine 2 system ($199 for a stereo pair, http://audioengineusa.com/
Store/Audioengine-2). These speakers can be plugged directly into a PC or
Mac, into the output of an iPod, or connected to your wireless music system. A
great price and some great sound can be yours for not too much money.
Putting a Networked PC
in Your Home Theater
When you talk about your home entertainment center, you often talk about
sources: devices such as tape decks, AM/FM receivers, phono players, CD units,
DVD players, and other consumer electronics devices that provide the inputs
of the content you listen to and watch through your entertainment system.
When you think about adding a networked PC to your entertainment mix,
the PC becomes just another high-quality source device attached to your
A/V system — albeit wirelessly. To connect your PC to your entertainment
system, you must have some special audio/video cards and corresponding
software to enable your PC to “speak stereo.” When the PC is configured like
this, you effectively have a home theater PC (or HTPC, as the cool kids refer
to them). In fact, if you do it right, you can create an HTPC that funnels audio
and video into your system at a higher-quality level than many moderately
priced, standalone source components. HTPC can be that good.
You can either buy a ready-to-go HTPC right off the shelf or build one yourself.
We don’t recommend that you build an HTPC unless you have a fair amount of
knowledge about PCs. If that’s the case, have at it. Another obvious point: It’s
much easier to buy a ready-to-go version of an HTPC off the shelf. You can find
out more about HTPCs in Home Theater For Dummies (we wrote that one, too).
What we include here is the short and sweet version of HTPC.
You can find a wide range of HTPCs that vary in processor speed, storage
capabilities, and more — for example some folks want to be able to do hardcore gaming on their HTPCs, in which case they’d need even more RAM,
greater processor speed, and the fastest possible video cards. Regardless of
your needs, a home theater PC needs ample hard drive space to store audio
and video files and the appropriate software. (See the following section.)
Here’s a rundown of what an HTPC can do:
✓ Store audio (music) files: Now you can easily play your MP3s anywhere
on your wireless network.
✓ Store video clips: Keeping your digital home video tapes handy is quite
the crowd pleaser — you can have your own America’s Funniest Home
Videos show.
✓ Play CDs and DVDs: The ability to play DVDs is essential in a home
theater environment.
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✓ Act as a DVR (digital video recorder): This optional (but almost essential, we think) function uses the HTPC’s hard drive to record television
shows like a TiVo (www.tivo.com). (See the nearby sidebar, “Checking
out PC DVRs,” for the lowdown on PC-based DVRs.)
✓ Let you play video games on the big screen: With the right hardware,
PCs are sometimes even better than gaming consoles (which we cover in
Chapter 11).
✓ Tune in to online music and video content: Grab the good stuff off the
Internet (yes, and pay for it) and then enjoy it on the big screen with
good audio equipment.
✓ Provide a high-quality, progressive video signal to your TV video
display: This is behind-the-curtain stuff. Simply, an HTPC uses special
hardware to display your PC’s video content on a TV. Sure, PCs have
built-in video systems, but most are designed to be displayed only on PC
monitors, not on TVs. To get the highest possible video quality on your
big-screen HDTV, you need a special video card that can produce a highdefinition, progressive-scan video signal. (This investment also gives
you better performance on your PC’s monitor, which is never bad.)
You’re probably going to want an HTPC that supports an HDMI output for
connecting your TV. We’d go so far as to say that this is almost mandatory
for newer TVs, especially if you want to play high definition Blu-ray discs.
✓ Decode and send HDTV content to your high-definition TV display:
HTPCs can provide a cheap way to decode over-the-air HDTV signals
and send them to your home entertainment center’s display. You just
need the right hardware (an HDTV-capable video card and a TV tuner
card). If you have HDTV, this is a cool optional feature of HTPC.
Checking out PC DVRs
Using the HTPC’s hard drive to record television shows like the way a TiVo does is an
optional (but almost essential, we think) function. And using an HTPC as a DVR is a standard
feature in a Windows XP/Vista Media Center
PC — and something that we think you should
consider adding to your home-built HTPC. Even
if this were the only thing you wanted to do
with your HTPC, it would be worth it. You can
simply install a PC DVR kit and skip much of the
other stuff (such as the DVD player, decoder,
and software).
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Tip: Because the biggest limitation to any DVR
system is the amount of space on your hard drive
for storing video, consider a hard drive upgrade
regardless of your other HTPC intentions.
PC DVR kits on the market include the ATI
TV Wonder Tuners (www.amd.com/us/
products/pctv/tv-wonder-tuners),
SnapStream Beyond TV (w w w . s n a p
stream.com), and Hauppauge WinTV HVR
products (www.hauppauge.com).
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From our perspective, the best bet for a home theater PC is a small form
factor PC with an HDMI output something like an Apple Mac Mini (www.
apple.com/macmini) or a Dell Zino HD (the URL is way too long for us
to print out for you; go to www.dell.com and search for Zino HD). Both
of these PCs are tiny (smaller than a standard Blu-ray disc player), include
HDMI connections, special software for displaying on a TV screen (Windows
Media Center for the Dell, Apple’s Front Row software for the Mac Mini), and
plenty of computing horsepower and storage. The Zino HD has the added
advantages of optional Blu-ray disc player and a TV tuner, if you haven’t
already got a DVR and Blu-ray disc player.
If you have a Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 PC with Microsoft’s Windows
Media Center software included, you can put it anywhere in your home and
use it as an HTPC through a Windows Media Extender — as long as you
also have an Xbox 360 gaming console. Other manufacturers — specifically,
Linksys and HP — also manufactured Media Center Extenders, but they’ve
discontinued these products (in our opinion because they didn’t offer any
more functionality than just using an Xbox 360, weren’t any cheaper, and you
couldn’t play games on them).
Other wireless ways (where there’s a will . . . )
We’re obviously biased toward the 802.11
technologies because we believe in a wireless
home network backbone. We think that with all
the focus on standards, costs will decrease,
new features will evolve, and the overall capability will continue to get better. Collectively, it
simply gives you more options for the home.
That doesn’t mean, however, that standards
are the only way to go. Plenty of proprietary
900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5 GHz approaches —
as well as other frequency bands — are popular because they’re cheap to manufacture and
cheap to implement. For example, check out
the Audiovox Terk (www.audiovox.com,
$99) Leapfrog Series Wireless A/V System
(Model LF-30S, for example), which uses the
same 2.4 GHz frequency spectrum as 802.11b
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and 802.11g to carry audio and video around the
house. The gear we’ve tested in this space, like
the X10 Entertainment Anywhere and various
Radio Shack 900 MHz models, has been somewhat of a disappointment, but it does work.
So, 802.11 isn’t the only way, but we prefer it
based on experience. Just remember: The
more signals you put in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
ranges to compete with your 802.11 signals, the
more problems you have. The 802.11 products
are building in new quality-of-service capabilities designed to deal with multiple simultaneous audio and video transmissions, and over
time will be more robust, accessible, and reliable, we think. Look for the Wi-Fi icon when
you buy.
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Wirelessly Connecting Inside
Your Home Theater
Our main focus in this chapter has been on how to connect your TV and/or
audio equipment (your home theater, if you call it that) to the Internet and to
the computers in your house, wirelessly. We focus on that because we think
that’s the best use of wireless in the A/V realm.
That having been said, we know that sometimes wireless can come in very
handy within the home theater room. (We call that room our “family room”
or “den,” but maybe we’re just not being fancy enough!) In particular, there
are two places where wireless can come in very handy in that room (no
matter what you call yours):
✓ Connecting speakers that you’d have a hard time running wires to.
Specifically, we’re talking about the surround speakers in a five (or more)
channel surround sound system — by surround speakers, we mean back
speakers.
✓ Getting a video signal to a flat panel TV mounted on a wall or
somewhere where hiding cables is difficult.
Although there are “wireless” solutions for both of these situations, it’s important to remember that they’re not truly wireless. Speakers and TVs have a
common need, and that need is power. These wireless solutions can eliminate
the signal cables that run to a TV or a speaker, but they can’t replace the need
to get power to those devices. So they’re really solutions that use fewer wireless, and not solutions that use no wires.
Unwiring speakers
If you’ve ever installed a multichannel home theater system, you probably
know what the biggest pain in the rear end part actually is. And no, it’s not
connecting all of those myriad cables on the back of the receiver (yeah, that’s
not fun either); it’s trying to get a pair (or two pairs) of speaker wires from the
front of the room to the back where your back and/or side surround speakers
are located. And it’s just going to get worse as new generations of home theater gear go from 5.1 (five speakers and a subwoofer) to 6.1, 7.1, and beyond.
So it’s nice to think about not running that extra 100 feet (or more, when you
combine them all up) of speaker wire and trying to keep it out of site (so your
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spouse doesn’t make you sleep in the dog house). Well you can do that with
wireless speakers. You have two options here:
✓ You can buy a surround sound system that comes with wireless speakers.
In this case, wireless is built in to both the receiver and the speakers, and
you just turn it on!
✓ You can buy wireless adapters that connect to the outputs of your
receiver and send a signal to another wireless adapter connected to
each of your surround speakers. This can work great, but it’s expensive
and complex.
It’s probably obvious, but we like the former solution much more. Most major
manufacturers of home theater equipment (Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and
so on) sell home theater systems consisting of a receiver (often with a Bluray or DVD player built-in), a subwoofer, wired front speakers, and a pair of
wireless speakers for the surrounds. All you need to do is find a power outlet
in the back of your room for the surrounds and you’re all set. Easy peasy.
If you want to get a bit fancier and select all of your own components (your
favorite receiver and your preferred brand of non-wireless speakers) you can
do that, too. You just need to purchase and install a wireless audio adapter
kit. Such a kit consists of two components: a transmitter (or sender) that connects to your audio source (such as one of the outputs of your home theater
receiver) and a receiver that connects to your speakers.
Seems pretty simple? But actually it’s not, because the receiver module also
needs to include an amplifier to actually power your speakers (unless you’re
using powered speakers with built-in amplifiers, which is relatively rare for
surround sound speakers).
A good (and inexpensive) example of such a system is the Rocketfish
Universal Wireless Rear Speaker Kit ($109.99, www.rocketfishproducts.
com). This system connects to the surround speaker cables coming out of
your A/V receiver and sends a signal up to 100 feet to the Rocketfish receiver.
The receiver, in turn contains an amplifier that supports two speakers (with
simple speaker wire connections). Yes, you’ll need to run a small amount of
speaker wire, and you’ll need to plug the Rocketfish receiver into the wall,
but you’ll avoid that long run from the front to the rear of the room. For some
folks, that’s just the trick. Other manufacturers, like Bose (www.bose.com),
offer similar systems.
Cutting the video cable
The other big “uh oh” that lots of people face when wiring their home theaters comes to light when they go to the trouble of mounting a new fancy flat
panel plasma or LCD TV on the wall and then realize they have to get some
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big fat HDMI, component video, and other video cables into the back of the
TV. Hiding the power cable is bad enough, but what happens when you have
three or four thick cables to hide? It’s enough to send the most self-confident
person running into the arms of a professional installer.
Well, wireless technologies can help you with this problem by carrying those
video signals over radio waves instead of cables. But we have to warn you
right now: It’s probably not going to be any cheaper than paying someone to
hide the cables in the wall. At the time of this writing, we’re still in the early
days of wireless video transmission. Systems that can transmit full HD (high
definition) HDMI signals cost around $600 and go up from there. And there’s
still not a single agreed-upon standard for doing so. Oh yeah, and there’s no
getting around the power cable that your TV will need. So even with wireless,
there’s still a cable to hide.
But there is good news on this front: Manufacturers are starting to build wireless video connections right into their TVs and related equipment (like home
theater A/V receivers). At the International Consumer Electronics show in
January 2010, several manufacturers announced such products, and they’re
starting to slowly make their way to market. When wireless is built into hundreds of thousands of TVs and receivers, the price will come way down. For
example, LG (www.lg.com) has started selling flat panel TVs with wireless
HDMI built in, and it sells a transmitter device for about $350 that connects to
all your video sources and sends their outputs to the TV.
Today, if you want to make a wireless video connection, you have to buy a
transmitter/receiver pair of equipment, like the surround speaker transmitter/
receiver pairs discussed in the previous section. A good example of such a
device is Gefen’s Wireless HDMI Extender (www.gefen.com/kvm/dproduct.
jsp?prod_id=4318, $999). This kit does exactly what its name implies:
extends an HDMI connection without wires.
At the time we’re writing this book in mid-2010, we think that wireless video
is something worth waiting a while longer on. If you have a special situation
(like brick walls that can’t hide cables at all), and you can afford it, go for
it — the solutions we’ve seen all work very well. And if you’re buying a new
TV and it has wireless video connectivity built-in, well that’s a no brainer.
Otherwise, we think you’ll find that this will be much cheaper and easier in a
couple of years.
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Chapter 13
Extending Your Mobile Network
In This Chapter
▶ Understanding mobile networks
▶ Using mobile Wi-Fi routers
▶ Using a mobile phone as a hot spot
▶ Tethering your laptop to your phone
▶ Boosting your mobile coverage with a femtocell
I
n all the years we’ve been tracking the comings and goings of the wireless
world, we’ve never seen anything like the absolute explosion of activity,
product development, and just plain general (and we mean general — not just
industry insiders but kids and grandmas and everyone in between) interest
in broadband mobile wireless — 3G — and the devices that connect to these
networks.
Just about everyone we know has heard of 3G, which stands for the third
generation of mobile (cellular) wireless systems. Even those few people who
haven’t have heard about the iPhone or any of the hot Android phones or the
Blackberry have heard of 3G. The smartphone (or, as David Pogue of the New
York Times has dubbed them, “app phones”) revolution has captured the interest and imagination of the general public to the point that new phone launches
make the front page of newspapers, and a relatively minor antenna issue (we’re
talking about you, iPhone 4) seems to cause an entire nation to hold its breath.
We guess you’re probably nodding your head right now thinking, “Well, duh
guys, I already know all this, what does it have to do with home wireless networks?” Well, stick with us. Because while, in the past, your home network and
the mobile network didn’t have much to do with each other, now they do.
In this chapter, you find out how you can use mobile broadband to bring
your wireless network with you. With the right gear (and the right account
from your mobile provider), you can create an on-the-go hot spot of Internetconnected Wi-Fi that you can use with any Wi-Fi equipped gear you own. So
your car, your hotel room, your seat on the train, your picnic bench at the
park, and even your beach towel can have fast Wi-Fi access for your laptop or
netbook computer, your handheld computing devices, and your iPod touch
or iPad.
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Also in this chapter, we talk about how you can better extend the mobile network into your home. It’s a sad fact that as awesome as 3G wireless is, coverage is still an issue for many folks. And coverage inside the house is usually
even worse than it is outside. If you’ve ever had to go stand on the patio or
in the driveway to keep a mobile call from dropping, you know what we’re
talking about. We discuss new devices called femtocells that connect to your
home broadband (cable, DSL, and so on) connection and create what is, in
effect, a personal cell tower for you. Five bars in the house! Finally!
Building Your Own Hot Spots with 3G
In Chapter 16, we discuss Wi-Fi hot spot networks, which are designed to
let you get your laptop or netbook computer online when you’re away from
home. However, you don’t need to be in a hot spot to get online without
wires away from your home or office; you can use wireless WAN services —
the so-called 3G and 4G networks offered by companies like AT&T, Verizon
Wireless, and Sprint in the U.S. and hundreds of other countries. With a portable Wi-Fi router or a smartphone (such as an iPhone, a Blackberry, a Palm,
or an Android phone) and a connection to a broadband wireless network,
you can always be online wherever you are (except maybe in the middle of
the desert or on top of a mountain). So you might not even need to pull your
laptop out if you just want to tweet about your latest activity or e-mail a
photo of the kids to grandma.
If you’re not familiar with the term hot spot, check out Chapter 16, where we
talk in detail about this concept. Essentially it’s a public-access Wi-Fi network
that you can access when you’re in the vicinity.
In the following sections, we discuss broadband wireless networks in more
detail as well as give you some options for getting multiple devices online
without buying multiple data plans.
Exploring wireless WAN services
Wireless WAN services enable you to get online without wires away from
your home or office. These wireless wide area network services are offered by
cellular carriers worldwide providing data services over the same cell towers
used to make calls and send text messages.
Wireless WAN services come in different flavors depending on the technology each carrier is deploying and where each flavor is available. Some of the
most common of these connections are
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✓ GSM UMTS: This is the 3G (third generation) version of the GSM (Global
System for Mobile Communications), which is the world’s predominant
mobile phone system (the UMTS stands for Universal Mobile Telephone
System). The current version of GSM 3G is the variant of UMTS called
HSPA (High Speed Packet Access). In the U.S., carriers such as AT&T
and T-Mobile offer this service.
✓ CDMA EV-DO: CDMA is the competing mobile system developed by
Qualcomm (right here in Pat’s town, San Diego). The 3G version of CDMA,
EV-DO (Evolution Data Only) is roughly equivalent to the UMTS 3G services offered on GSM networks. EV-DO service offered in the U.S. by Sprint
and Verizon.
You’ll hear lots of advertising by competing cellphone carriers about
which is better: GSM or CDMA. Well, the fact is that the current 2010
version of GSM is slightly faster than its CDMA competitor. But the actual
speed is based on more than just the underlying technology — factors like
who has the most (and best-located) cell towers has just as much weight
as the technology itself. We think, all things considered, that the technology isn’t really the deciding factor. One thing to keep in mind, however,
if you travel a lot internationally, is that you’re likely to find 3G GSM networks wherever you go. A 3G CDMA network? Not so much.
✓ 4G: Technology never stands still — especially in the wireless world —
so the next generation of wireless WAN is already being built. Two main
alternatives are in development:
• WiMAX: WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access)
is much faster than existing 3G: It can hit speeds of up to 70 Mbps —
though real world speeds are typically much less. WiMAX is so fast
that it can actually be used as a replacement for a wired DSL or
cable modems, though it’s primarily being marketed as a mobile
service today. In the U.S. just one carrier (Sprint and its partner
Clearwire) offers WiMAX and only in a limited number of locations.
• LTE: LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is exactly what its name implies:
an evolutionary step from today’s GSM or CDMA systems. LTE
is designed to work with both of these systems, so carriers can
evolve (there’s that word again) their networks into 4G without
losing compatibility with existing equipment. In the U.S., both
Verizon and AT&T have committed to installing LTE, though we’re
still a year or two away from seeing this on the market.
3G (and the emerging 4G) services are being built right into all sorts of
devices. For example, you can get built-in 3G in the following devices:
✓ Cellphones and smartphones
✓ Netbook computers
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✓ Laptop computers
✓ Tablet computers (like the Apple iPad)
You can also install a 3G aircard (essentially, a 3G network adapter like the
Wi-Fi network adapters we talk about in Chapter 3) into your PC or Mac
laptop or netbook computer. Aircards are available (you buy them directly
from your wireless carrier) in both ExpressCard and USB formats (just like
Wi-Fi network adapters), depending on what kinds of ports are available on
your computer. You’ll typically pay about $100 for an aircard, though most
carriers offer significant discounts (up to 100 percent) if you buy them along
with a service contract.
Using these data services on your portable computer is easy. You just plug
your ExpressCard or USB aircard into your laptop and launch your carrier’s
cellular access program. You’re online, surfing away. For the privilege, you’ll
pay about $40 to $60 per month, depending upon the carrier and your data
plan. That’s on top of whatever you pay for your mobile service plans for
your phone, of course.
The problem with an aircard is that it works on only one device at a time.
However, there are ways to get multiple devices online without breaking the
bank, as we discuss in the next section.
Getting multiple devices online without
buying multiple service plans
What happens when you have a smartphone and an iPad and a laptop or
netbook computer and you want to get them all online at once? Well, you can
pay for 3G services for each of these devices (ugh), or you can find a better
solution. In this section, we discuss some of those better solutions that will
get more than one device — even a whole minivan’s worth of devices —
online without buying multiple 3G service plans. What we’re talking about, of
course, is to create your own hot spot on the go!
You have several options here: You can buy a mobile router, you can tether
(explained a bit later) your laptop or other device to your 3G (or 4G) mobile
phone, or you can find a mobile phone with a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot. All these
options require you to pay an extra $20 to $50 per month on top of your
mobile bill, but if you’re a real road warrior, the expense may very well be
worthwhile to you.
Many 3G data service plans have monthly bandwidth limits — you pay extra
for every bit and byte you transfer across it after a set limit. Most folks don’t
exceed their service plan limits when they send e-mails and Facebook updates
and pictures from their smartphones. But when you mix in a couple of laptops
and start watching TV shows on Hulu or your favorite YouTube videos, your
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bandwidth usage can go way up. And the overage charges many wireless carriers charge when you exceed your bandwidth limitations can be stupendously
expensive. So if you start down this path, pay close attention to your current
data plan, alternative plans you might want to move up to, and (most of all)
your monthly bills!
MiFi’ing yourself a hot spot
The easiest solution for getting several devices online on the road is to purchase a mobile hot spot device. (Everyone we know calls this device a MiFi —
which is the brand name of the most popular device in this category.)
The leader in this category is the Novatel’s MiFi family (www.novatel
wireless.com). About the size of a deck of cards, the MiFi includes a builtin aircard and a Wi-Fi router/access point. (The 2200 model, used for North
American EV-DO 3G networks is pictured in Figure 13-1.) The MiFi connects
to your carrier’s 3G mobile network and lets you connect up to five devices
(smartphones, laptops, iPads, whatever) to its built-in Wi-Fi router. Easy as pie.
Figure 13-1:
Car trips
are much
quieter
when
everyone’s
connected
to the MiFi.
The only drawback is the price. A MiFi 2200 lists for about $269 (though discounts are definitely available if you sign a 2-year contract), and you’ll pay $40
or more a month for a service plan. (The more you pay, the more data you can
download using the MiFi in a given month.) So a MiFi isn’t cheap, but when
compared to the price of buying aircards and multiple data service plans, it
can be economical. In the U.S., Verizon offers the MiFi on its EV-DO network,
and Sprint is launching a similar product (from a different vendor, Sierra
Wireless, www.sierrawireless.com) that works on Sprint’s 3G and 4G
(WiMAX) networks.
Tethering
If you already have a 3G smartphone or cellphone and you don’t need to get
several other devices online at one time, a solution worth checking out is
tethering. Tethering is the act of connecting a laptop or netbook computer to
the Internet using the 3G data service built into a 3G phone. You can tether
via Bluetooth (if both your phone and computer have Bluetooth and support
this feature) or via a USB cable (if they don’t).
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Bluetooth tethering is wire-free and kinda, well, sexy (heck, you can leave your
phone sitting in your backpack while you tether your laptop or netbook), but
USB tethering has one distinct advantage: In most cases, your laptop will keep
your phone charged over the USB cable, so you don’t have to worry about
having a dead battery when you’re done with your tethering session.
Unfortunately, tethering isn’t something that you just do — you can’t turn on
your phone and your laptop/netbook and magically have tethering set up.
Instead, there has been one huge obstacle to tethering, and that’s your wireless carrier. While tethering has been technically possible for a long time,
and available throughout the world for several years, it wasn’t until late 2009
(later for some carriers) that U.S. carriers would actually even allow you to
set up tethering. The good news here is most carriers now do allow tethering,
for a price — about $20 per month on top of your existing data plan.
After you’ve established a tethering service plan with your wireless carrier,
you can configure tethering on your phone and on the computer you’re trying
to connect to the Internet. Now this is the point where we’re going to have to
leave you on your own a bit; there are a lot of permutations in the exact set-up
procedure, because it’s dependent on what model of phone and computer
you are tethering together. So forgive us for abandoning you here and saying
“follow the instructions from your carrier,” but that’s what we have to do.
That said, in general, you’ll do the following:
1. Turn on tethering service with your carrier. (Call the carrier or access
its Web site if you can modify your account online.) Make sure you
get explicit instructions (or the address of the Web page that contains
them) when you do so.
2. Turn on tethering within your phone’s setup menus. (For example, on
an iPhone, go to Settings➪General➪Network and find the Set Up Internet
Tethering menu item.)
3. Connect your phone to your computer with a USB docking cable or via
Bluetooth. (If you’re using Bluetooth, you need to pair the devices, as
we discuss in Chapter 15.)
4. Set up your tethered phone in your computer’s network control panel
or preferences pane. (In Windows, this is in the Network and Sharing
Center in the Control Panel; on a Mac, this is in the Network preference
pane of System Preferences.)
Tethering is a relatively economical way of adding one device (at a time —
you can tether multiple devices, but not simultaneously) to your existing 3G
data plan. It isn’t as flexible as a MiFi, nor as fast and cheap as using a hot
spot, but if it’s just you, your smartphone, and your laptop on the road, it’s a
great solution.
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An iReady hot spot from Clearwire
Clearwire, Sprint’s 4G partner, recently
launched a new mobile hot spot device that’s
aimed squarely at their rival AT&T: the iSpot
(www.clear.com/spot/ispot). This $99
4G mobile hot spot comes in the same white
color as all manner of Apple “i” products and
is designed specifically for providing Wi-Fi service to Apple products. In fact the marketing
materials are explicit on this front: “Didn’t think
your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch could get even
better? Guess again, my friends, guess again.”
In fact, the iSpot is not a general-purpose
mobile hot spot device. It’s designed specifically to work with Apple devices, so if you’re
planning on mixing in your Windows 7 laptop
or netbook computers, it’s not the device for
you. But if you have iPod touches, iPads, or
even iPhones that don’t have 3G built-in or that
don’t get good network coverage in your area,
the iSpot is for you. In fact, if you’re thinking
about buying an iPad, Clearwire has priced the
iSpot with you in mind. The price of the iSpot
is the same as the premium Apple charges for
3G iPads over same-spec Wi-Fi only iPads, and
the $25 monthly service charge is comparable
to the AT&T 3G plan for the iPad. If you’re like
Danny, with a car full of teenagers with iPod
touches (you can connect up to eight devices
to the iSpot at once), the iSpot may be just
what you need!
Hot spot in a phone
There’s a third option to getting devices online away from home (and away
from hot spots) that’s essentially a combination of tethering and the MiFi:
using your 3G (or 4G) smartphone as a portable hot spot. Like tethering, your
phone is the center of the action, and like a MiFi, you can connect multiple
devices over a Wi-Fi connection.
As we write, only a few phones and wireless carriers support this
smartphone-as-hot-spot functionality.
✓ Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus phones: The Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus
smartphones (and, presumably, any future phones running Palm’s
WebOS operating system) support up to five Wi-Fi devices while operating as a MiFi-like 3G personal hot spot. Downloading an app from the
Palm store called “3G mobile hotspot” enables this feature. The best
part? It’s free, at least if you have a Verizon Palm Pre or Pixi. (AT&T has
not yet tipped its hand about whether it will support this feature on the
Palm phones that it sells.)
✓ Sprint HTC Evo: This smartphone has a lot going for it. First, it’s the
world’s first 4G phone, supporting Sprint’s WiMAX network. So, if you
can get coverage where you are, you’ll get the fastest wireless downloads
available, bar none. And it includes a hot spot service like the one that’s
included with Palm WebOS phones (described in the preceding bullet).
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There’s a downside though; the hot spot plan adds $30 per month on top
of your already hefty (approximately $80 to $110) per month service plan
for the phone itself (which does, admittedly, include unlimited data and
hefty-to-unlimited text messages and voice calls).
✓ Go Froyo: No, not frozen yogurt. Froyo is the codename for the still
forthcoming (as we write in the summer of 2010) 2.2 version of Google’s
Android smartphone operating system. Pricing and availability (and a
whole lot of other details) are still pending as we write, but a MiFi-like
Wi-Fi hot spot is definitely baked right into the operating system, and by
the end of 2010, many millions of phones will be running Froyo.
Boosting Your Mobile Network
at Home with a Femtocell
We mention at the beginning of the chapter that the great Achilles heel of 3G
broadband is coverage (at least in the U.S.; most of the rest of the world has
considerably better coverage). Apologists for the sorry state of U.S. mobile
coverage will say things like, “Well, it’s a big country with a lot of rural areas
to cover,” and they’re right. But even in the denser suburbs and urban areas
of the country, many users have experienced dropped calls, slow e-mails, and
general pokiness. In many ways, the mobile carriers have been the victims
of their own success; selling tens of millions of broadband-enabled smartphones has pushed the volume of data that’s going over mobile networks
right through the roof.
And although everyone has “dead zone” areas (Pat’s is the canyon behind his
house, and Danny has a hill on the way home that forces him to warn people
that the call will be lost), for many, the absolute worst place to get a good
cell signal is in our homes. Radio waves pass through walls, but they lose
some of their strength (that is, they attenuate) as they do. And weaker radio
waves equal a poor signal.
Now if you’re wondering what the big deal is, think about the tens of millions of “cord cutters” out there — people who’ve dropped their landline
phones and switched solely to their mobile phones. Mobile phone operators
offer huge bundles of voice minutes in their packages, with no long-distance
charges and usually all sorts of incentives like rollover minutes, friends and
family plans, or “favorite five” plans. If you’re already paying a monthly cellphone bill, do you really even need that home phone? A lot of people have
decided they don’t.
So the no-coverage-in-the-home issue is a real problem for a lot of people.
Even if you haven’t gotten around to cutting the cord, you still get calls on
your mobile when you’re home. Wouldn’t you like to be able to answer them?
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In the past, poor coverage in the home was “fixed” by expensive and difficultto-install repeater systems. These systems consisted of a specialized antenna
that you mounted somewhere high — as high as possible (think “roof of a
three-story building” high) — as well as an amplifier and indoor antenna that
you’d run cables throughout the home to install. Essentially these repeater
systems were like a big funnel — grabbing the over-the-air signal from outside and funneling it down a cable to the antenna in your house. Danny
installed one of these systems in his house in Connecticut (he lives waaaaay
out in the boonies), and it worked. But it was not, shall we say, a quick and
easy installation.
There’s a newer solution now that makes the job of extending your mobile
coverage much easier. It’s called a femtocell, and essentially it’s a tiny little cellphone tower right in your house. (Femto is the metric prefix for 10 to the negative 15th power — and if that doesn’t imply “little,” we don’t know what does.)
Exploring the pros and cons of femtocells
Unlike the older generation of cellphone repeaters, femtocells don’t sit in
between your mobile devices and the local cell towers; instead, they completely bypass those towers (within your home) and convert your mobile signals to IP (Internet Protocol) data and send them over your home’s broadband
Internet connection and on to their destination. Essentially you just connect
your femtocell to a wired Ethernet port of your broadband router, turn it on,
and you’re set. Figure 13-2 shows the AT&T 3G Microcell, produced by Cisco.
Well, there’s a bit more to it than that, but first let’s talk about the pros and
cons of femtocells. (They’re not perfect.)
On the pro side:
✓ They give you true “5 bar” service throughout your home. Femtocells
don’t have a huge range — by their nature, they’re designed to not radiate much outside the home so that they don’t interfere with actual cell
towers or your neighbor’s femtocell — but they provide good coverage
throughout a typical home, up to about 5,000 square feet.
✓ They’re easy to use. After a phone has been associated with a femtocell,
it will automatically connect to it when the signal is strong enough. Just
like you don’t spend any time worrying about which cell tower your
phone is associating with as you drive down the street, neither will you
worry about connecting to your femtocell in your house. It just works.
✓ They can save you minutes. Depending upon your carrier and service
plan, you may be able to make calls at home, using your femtocell, without using up the minutes in your voice plan. If you run out of minutes
every month and make a lot of calls from home, you might be able to
justify a femtocell on those savings alone.
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Figure 13-2:
Femtocells
plug into
your home
wireless
router and
give you
your own
cell tower!
And now the cons (there are always cons!):
✓ You have to pay for them. Some people just can’t get past this point:
You’re paying (an upfront fee, a monthly service plan, or both) to “fix”
the cellphone company’s inadequate network. Most mobile carriers
charge about $100 to $200 for their femtocells, often with a $5 to $10
monthly charge. (You’ll typically pay more for a plan with unlimited
“home” voice minutes.)
✓ Femtocells are carrier-specific. An AT&T femtocell works with AT&T
phones, a Verizon femtocell works with Verizon phones, and so on. If
you’re in a mixed marriage (you and your spouse are on different cell
carriers), or if you live with roommates with different carriers, you won’t
all be able to use the femtocell.
✓ You have to live within a designated coverage area of your carrier to
use a femtocell. Yes, the carrier will actually check, using a GPS device
built into the femtocell. For most people, this isn’t a problem, but if for
some reason (perhaps you moved) your home isn’t in an official coverage area for your carrier, you can’t use a femtocell. Period. It’s a legal
thing, and there’s no getting around it
Note: You can take your femtocell with you — for example to your vacation home — but only if your destination is also part of your carrier’s
coverage zone.
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✓ Femtocells are best for voice, not data. Several carriers offer femtocells
that don’t support 3G data at all. The AT&T MicroCell femtocell does support 3G data, but any data services you use count against your service
plan data caps (even though your own broadband network is carrying
the data — yes, we know how ridiculous this is). You’re better off using
your home Wi-Fi network for any data (e-mailing, Web browsing, using
Facebook, and so on) you use. If your mobile phones don’t support
Wi-Fi, check the fine print before you jump into the femtocell world.
In the U.S., Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Sprint all offer femtocells. As we
mention earlier, the AT&T femtocell supports 3G data, and the other two
don’t, though we suspect they’ll offer 3G femtocells in the very near future.
Setting up a femtocell
Your carrier will provide specific instructions for configuring a femtocell,
but here are the general steps:
1. Place your new femtocell near a window or, if you can’t get near a
window, connect the external GPS antenna (which should be supplied
with the femtocell) and place it near a window. Your femtocell needs to
be able to pick up a GPS signal for two purposes:
• To confirm you’re in the carrier’s service area
• To provide your exact location for E-911 purposes
2. Using an Ethernet cable, connect your femtocell to your home broadband router (which must be connected to a broadband Internet connection) and then plug it into a power outlet.
3. Sit and wait. It’ll take a while for the GPS chip in the femtocell to find the
satellites, fix your position, and report it back to the mobile phone company over the Internet. Typically, you see a blue or green light or some
other visual indication when this process is complete. It might be two
minutes, or if your GPS signal is weak, this could take as long as an hour.
4. Register your femtocell and/or mobile phones with the system and start
using it. In some cases, this is automatic after the GPS has done its work.
In other cases, you need to log into your cellphone provider’s Web site
with your account information and provide the serial number of your
femtocell and the phone numbers of the phones you want to use with
the femtocell.
We can’t tell you whether a femtocell will be worthwhile for you, but if you’re
ready to throw your cellphone out the window because of poor coverage,
it could be the best $100 you ever spent. Danny, by the way, replaced his
repeater system with a Verizon femtocell, and he’s been very happy with it.
You may be too!
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Chapter 14
Other Cool Things You
Can Network
In This Chapter
▶ Looking good on Candid Camera, 802.11-style
▶ Controlling your home from the couch (or bed or backyard)
▶ Putting a server on your network
▶ Controlling a robot? Why not?
▶ Connecting a digital camera wirelessly
T
he wireless age is upon us, with all sorts of new devices and capabilities
that you can add to your network to save you time and enhance your
lifestyle. When you have your wireless local area network in place, which we
show you how to do in Parts II and III, you can do a nearly unlimited number
of things. It sort of reminds us of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
In this chapter, we introduce you to some of the neater things that are available now for your wireless home network. In Chapter 19, we talk about the
things that are coming soon to a network near you! If you read this chapter
along with the gaming, A/V, and mobile discussions in Chapters 11, 12, and 13,
respectively, you can see why we say that wireless home networking isn’t
just for computers anymore.
In this chapter, we give you an overview of many new products, but we
can’t give much specific information about how to set up these products.
In general, you have to provide your service set identifier (SSID) and WPA
passphrase (or WEP key, if your network doesn’t support WPA). That should
be 95 percent of what you need to do to set up your device for your wireless network. In this chapter and in Chapter 19, we feel that it’s important to
expose you to the developments happening now so that you can look around
and explore different options while you wirelessly enable your home. To say
that your whole house will have wireless devices in every room within the
next few years is not an understatement — it’s truly coming on fast, so hold
on tight!
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The wireless-enablement of consumer goods is spreading faster than a wildfire. As we write, products are coming out daily. If you’re interested in seeing
what else has popped up since we wrote this book, check out our book update
site at www.digitaldummies.com.
“Look, Ma, I’m on TV” — Video
Monitoring over Wireless LANs
The heightened awareness for security has given rise to a more consumerfriendly grade of video monitoring gear for your wireless network — this stuff
used to be the exclusive domain of security installers. You can get networkaware Wi-Fi video cameras that contain their own integrated Web servers,
which eliminates the need to connect a camera directly to your computer.
After installation, you can use the camera’s assigned Internet Protocol (IP)
address on your network to gain access to the camera, view live streaming
video, and make necessary changes to camera settings.
Finding the right wireless
network camera for you
Network cameras are much more expensive than cameras you attach to your
PC via a USB connection because they need to contain many of the elements
of a PC to maintain that network connection. Expect to pay from $100 to more
than $1,000 for network cameras; the more expensive versions offer pan-tiltzoom capabilities and extra features such as two-way audio, digital zoom, and
motion detection. (The average price for a well-equipped camera is $200.)
D-Link (www.dlink.com) is the leading vendor of wireless-based video surveillance. It has a special line networked cameras, the mydlink line, that include
secure Web site access so you can access them from anywhere in the world, as
well as a large number of other wireless and wired network camera products.
D-Link has the best selection of wireless cameras — you can probably find the
perfect camera for your needs there. Here are a few D-Link cameras that we
recommend:
✓ A great starter camera from D-Link is the DSC-1130 Wireless N camera,
which includes the mydlink service and retails for about $220. With
this camera all you need to do is plug it into a power source, enter your
SSID and security passphrase, and then log in to mydlink.com. You can
access the camera from any Web browser, including those on 3G mobile
phones. So you’ll always be able be able to know what’s going on.
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✓ Another example is the DCS-6620G Wireless N 10x Optical Zoom Internet
Camera (www.dlink.com, $819), which is on the higher end of the
product line. (See Figure 14-1.) This 802.11g camera has some really nice
features:
• Motorized pan-tilt-zoom so that you can look around an area and
zoom in
• Two-way audio support so that you can hear people and talk to
them as well
• Dual-motion MJPEG and MPEG-4 support so that you can stream
video using different bandwidth levels and quality
• Extreme low-light sensitivity so that you can take pictures in dark
rooms
• A frame capture rate of up to 30 fps
You can remotely monitor your camera using a Web-based interface
or through the D-Link IP surveillance software. Your cameras can be
accessed via the Web, with as many as ten simultaneous users viewing the live feed. Using the IP surveillance program, you can monitor
and manage as many as 16 cameras, set recording schedules, configure
motion-detection settings, and change settings to multiple cameras —
all from one place.
Figure 14-1:
The D-Link
SecuriCam
DCS-6620G
wireless
network
camera.
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Go to www.dlink.com/products/?pid=342 and click the Product Demo
link on the bottom of the page for a live demo of the D-Link DCS-5300 camera.
See what it’s like to pan, tilt, and zoom!
Panasonic also has a large lineup of cameras. Its BL-C121A wireless network
camera (www.panasonic.com, $199.95) allows as many as 20 simultaneous
viewers to see as many as 30 frames per second (fps) of live-motion video
at 640 x 480 pixels. Through a Web-based interface, you can perform remote
pan and tilt functions and click to eight preset angles.
Love pets? Panasonic has been specializing in the remote pet experience with
a series of products marketed as petcams. Panasonic sponsors an online video
Web site for pet lovers at www.seemypetcam.com. You can upload your pet’s
IP wireless camera videos for others to see!
You can also get cameras from other players, such as Cisco’s Linksys brand
(http://home.cisco.com/en-us/wireless/linksys/), Hawking
Technologies (www.hawkingtech.com), and TRENDnet (www.trendware.
com). You will often find video cameras bundled into other packages;
Hawking’s Net-Vision HRPC1 Wireless-G Network Camera ($115) interworks
with its Hawking HomeRemote Wireless Home Automation System HRPZ1
Gateway ($180), which enables you to turn lights on and off in the house
remotely. Often you’ll find packages of three or four cameras for a lower
bundled price as well.
Have you upgraded to 802.11n? As we write, many wireless networked cameras still use 802.11g. D-Link and Linksys, however, are both offer 802.11n cameras. Over time, everyone will move to 802.11n — it just makes sense.
The wireless communication doesn’t have to be all 802.11 based, although we
would argue that it makes sense to use standards-based gear whenever you
can. Danny likes his X10 FloodCam (www.x10.com, $99), which videotapes
all activity around the house, night and day, and sends the color images to
a VCR or PC. That system uses 2.4 GHz to send the signals, but it’s not standardized wireless LAN traffic. We believe that over time, many of these systems will move to 802.11 or Bluetooth as chip and licensing costs continue to
come down.
Security varies tremendously among video camera offerings. If security is
important to you (as it should be!), you should check the technical specs of
any camera before you buy. Panasonic’s BL-C30A, for instance, is an older
model and has only 40/64/128-bit WEP encryption to help protect your wireless network from illegal intrusion. The D-Link cameras top out at WPA as
of this writing too. TrendNet’s TV-IP312W Wireless 2-Way Audio Day/Night
Internet Camera Server (www.trendware.com, $220), on the other hand,
supports 64/128-bit WEP, WPA-PSK, and WPA2-PSK. (We talk more about WEP
and WPA in Chapters 6 and 9, if you need to know more.) Look for a camera
that has at least WPA2 Personal (PSK) on board — over time more cameras
will have this.
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Setting up the camera
Installing a wireless network camera is incredibly simple. These network
devices usually sport both an RJ-45 10Base-T wired network interface along
with an 802.11b/g air interface. Installing the camera usually involves first
connecting the camera to your network via the wired connection and then
using the provided software to access your camera’s settings. Depending on
how complicated the camera is (whether it supports the ability to pan, to
e-mail pictures on a regular basis, or to allow external access, for example),
you may need to set any number of other settings.
To allow anyone from outside your home’s LAN to view your camera feed
directly (that is, not from a window pane published on your Web page), you
need a static WAN IP address. Although you can probably get such an address
from your broadband connection provider, it will probably be pricey. More
likely, you’ll use a dynamic DNS service (DDNS), which allows you to assign a
permanent Web address to the camera. A DDNS is easier to remember than an
IP address and is static. Your camera vendor should help you do this as part
of the setup process. D-Link, for example, has its own free DDNS service (www.
dlinkddns.com) that you can activate during your setup process. Panasonic
has its free Viewnetcam.com (www.viewnetcam.com).
Controlling Your Home over
Your Wireless LAN
Another area of wireless activity is home control. If you got excited about
going from the six remote controls on your TV set to one universal remote
control, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. (And if you still have those six remote
controls, we have some options for you, too.)
The problem with controlling anything remotely is having an agreed-on protocol between the transmitter and receiver. In the infrared (IR) space, strong
agreement and standardization exist among all the different manufacturers of
remote controls, so the concept of universal remote control is possible for IR.
(IR remotes are the standard for the majority of home audio and video equipment.) But there has not been the same rallying around a particular format
in the radio frequency (RF) space, thus making it difficult to consolidate control devices except within the same manufacturer’s line. And then you have
issues of controlling nonentertainment devices, such as heating and air-conditioning and security systems. Those have different requirements just from
a user interface perspective.
The advent of 802.11 technologies, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth — as well
as touchscreen LCDs and programmable handheld devices — offers the
opportunity to change this situation because, at the least, manufacturers
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can agree on the physical transport layer of the signal and a common operating system and platform. We’re now starting to see the first moves toward
collapsing control of various home functions to a few form factors and standards. We talk about these topics throughout this section.
Controlling your home-automation
system with a touch panel
Cool new handheld devices — namely, Web tablets and standalone touchscreens — are sporting IR interfaces and can become remotes for your whole
home. (Whole home means that you can use it anywhere that your wireless
net reaches for a broad range of devices anywhere in your home; check out
Chapter 1 for more details about whole-home networks.)
You’re probably familiar with touchscreens if you’ve ever used a kiosk in a
mall to find a store or in a hotel to find a restaurant. Touch panels are smaller
(typically 6- to 10-inch screens) and are wall mounted or simply lie on a table;
you touch the screen to accomplish certain tasks.
Touch panels have become a centerpiece for expensive home control installations. They allow you to turn the air conditioning on and off, set the alarm,
turn off the lights, select music, change channels on the TV — and the list
goes on. These are merely user interfaces into often PC-driven functionality
that can control almost anything in your house — even the coffee maker.
Here are a few touch-panel manufacturers to consider:
✓ Crestron (www.crestron.com) rules the upper end of touch-panel
options with an entire product line for home control that includes wireless-enabled touch panels. The Crestron color touch panel systems are
to die for (or at least to second-mortgage for). We would say, “The only
thing these touch panels cannot do is let the dog out on cold nights,”
but if we said it, someone would retort, “Well, actually, they can.”
Crestron’s Isys i/O WiFi TPMC-8x is a modified tablet-style PC with
an 8.4-inch screen. This product runs a specially modified version of
Windows and communicates using 802.11b/g/a. With this device, you
can control your home theater and home automation system, turn on
lights, and basically control anything in an automated house. You can
also listen to music files and view streaming video directly on the
tablet itself!
Crestron is definitely high end: The average installation tops $50,000.
But if you’re installing a home theater, a wireless computing network, a
slew of A/V, and home automation on top of that, you probably will talk
to Crestron at some point.
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✓ Control4: A popular, lower-cost alternative to Crestron is Control4
(www.control4.com). Control4 makes a line of home entertainment,
control, and automation devices, ranging from home controllers that can
centrally control all the devices in a home; home theater controllers,
which centralize control of your home theater components; whole-home
audio distribution systems; and ZigBee lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) controllers. Control4’s latest touchscreen
panels start at about $599, which is considerably less expensive than
similar systems from other vendors.
Control4 uses widely adopted standards such as Ethernet, 802.11, and
ZigBee to keep its prices down while still offering the kind of space-age
automation that used to be in the realm of only the truly wealthy. It’s the
home control system “for the rest of us” (just like our For Dummies book)!
To keep tabs on all your automated and remotely controlled systems,
Control4 offers touchscreens such as the 10.5-inch wireless touchscreen
(shown in Figure 14-2). This device uses 802.11g and that big color screen
to show you the status of all sorts of devices and systems in your home,
and the 802.11g Wi-Fi connection can send control commands back to your
Control4 home or home theater controllers from anywhere in the house.
Figure 14-2:
Control4’s
wireless
touchscreen
can control
all sorts of
devices in
your home.
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Do you own a smart phone or a tablet computer like an iPad? Well if you’re
wondering why you’d need to buy a separate touchscreen controller for your
home control system, wonder no more. Major home control manufacturers
like Crestron and Control4 have created apps (downloadable applications) for
major smartphone platforms like iOS4 (Apple) and Android that provide all of
the functionality found in their expensive standalone tablet-style controllers.
So instead of spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on dedicated controllers, you download an app for free or for a nominal fee (usually just a few
bucks). Just another reason to consider upgrading to a smartphone if you’re
been holding out.
If you’re interested in home automation and linking the various aspects of
your home, try Smart Homes For Dummies, 3rd Edition. It’s the best book on
the topic. (Can you tell that we wrote it?)
Doing your wireless control
less expensively
You don’t need to spring for a $50,000 Crestron installation (or even a $5,000 to
$10,000 Control4 installation) to get wireless control over devices in your home.
That’s because the advent of ZigBee and Z-Wave (discussed in Chapter 3)
have brought lower, commodity prices to wireless control systems.
If you can forgo the fanciness and limit your ambitions, you can find universal
remote controls (the kind of programmable all-in-one remotes that many folks
buy for their home theater) that can move beyond the TV and DVD player
and control other systems in your house without wires.
An example here is Monster Cable’s tidily named Home Theater and Lighting
Controller 300 featuring OmniLink (www.monstercable.com). This $400
remote provides all the high-end home theater remote control features you’d
ever want (including the ability to use macros, a series of sequential commands that let you do a complex task with a single push of a button) and
adds into the mix wireless lighting controls using the Z-Wave technology
standard (a mesh wireless control network, which we discuss in Chapter 3).
Monster sells its own line of Z-Wave lighting control modules (manufactured
for Monster by the giant electrical company Leviton, www.leviton.com),
including both dimmers and switches. These control modules are available
as plug-ins (you plug them into an outlet and then plug a lamp into them)
and in-wall switches (you replace an existing switch). Monster also offers an
in-wall controller that can be used with the remote control, so you can turn
lights on and off or dim them throughout the home from a single wall switch.
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Maximizing your entertainment with macros
The most advanced remote controls can
interface with your A/V gear through macros.
Select Watch TV, for example, and the remote
sequentially goes through all the motions
to turn on the TV, turn on the home theater
receiver, select the right inputs on the TV and
home theater receiver, turn on the satellite
receiver or cable set-top box, and do anything
else that’s required to watch television. You
can program the remote by simply plugging it
into your PC or Mac (with a USB cable) and
then selecting the components you use from
vast libraries of components available online
from the remote’s manufacturer. Answer a few
questions about the configuration of your particular system (for example, do you listen to the
TV through the TV’s speakers or through your
home theater receiver?) and you’re on your
way to one-remote Zen. Examples of remotes
that use macros are Logitech’s Harmony
remotes (www.logitech.com/harmony).
Storing Your (Digital) Stuff
on Your Wireless Network
No matter what you do with your network, you’re probably going to end up
with a lot of digital files that need to be stored somewhere so that you can
share and access them from PCs and Macs, smartphones, or even your audio
and video gear. Yes, you can store files on the hard drive of your computer,
but you may find that it’s more convenient to store (or back up) files on
some sort of a server. A server is simply a dedicated computing device that’s
always on, always attached to the network, and always available to “serve”
files to the devices on your network. Storing files on a server puts them in
an easily accessible central location — a location that’s not one of your PCs,
which may be turned off, put in a bag and brought to work, or otherwise not
available.
A server in your home operates just like a server does in a work environment —
it serves as a central file repository accessible from any device connected to
the network. With a file server on your network, you can do things like the
following:
✓ Store any type file from your computers — text files, spreadsheets,
music or video files, photographs, anything at all.
✓ Back up your computers (you do back up regularly, don’t you? You
should!) automatically if you have the right software.
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✓ Create a media server for serving up files to your networked audio/video
equipment.
✓ Print wirelessly from any location in the house, with print server
capabilities built into your server.
✓ Access your files from anywhere in the world with remote access.
In the following sections, we describe the different server options that are
available as well as give you some tips for what to look for when buying a
server.
Exploring your server options
You have several options when choosing a server for your home — at varying prices and with some or all of these features. Generally you can choose
from a Windows Home Server, a network attached storage (NAS) server, or a
wireless router with external storage.
Windows Home Server
Windows Home Servers are usually the most expensive option because they
are, for all intents and purposes, full-fledged Windows PCs operating a special version of the Windows OS, without a monitor or keyboard — headless in
the geek parlance. A Windows Home Server offers all the options we discuss
in the earlier list, for a starting price of about $500.
If you have a network primarily made up of Windows computers and you
want everything to be as easy as possible, you should seriously consider a
server based upon the Windows Home Server platform. These servers offer
pretty much every feature you’d want — media serving, remote access, and
so on — and they’re essentially a plug-and-play proposition. Buy it, take it out
of the box, and plug it into your network, and it’s ready to go.
You can build your own home server (or have a local PC builder create
one for you) using a desktop PC and buying the home server software from
Microsoft. (You can find the software for sale online at sites like Amazon.com
and NewEgg.com.) But we think the best way to get a home server set up is to
buy a dedicated home server device from a company like HP (www.hp.com)
or Lenovo (www.lenovo.com).
For about $500, you can get an upgradable and expandable hardware system
complete with all the networking you need, a powerful processor to run the
Home Server OS, and at least 500GB of storage to get you started.
To see the current choices for a Home Server, look at the list that Microsoft
maintains at www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/
windowshomeserver/buy.mspx.
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Network attached storage (NAS) server
These devices are mainly focused just on the file storage and sharing part of
the equation, but many include support for a number of the other features
we discuss at the beginning of this section. Most NAS servers look just like a
big external hard drive, but they have built-in networking capabilities and an
operating system (typically a version of a UNIX operating system). NAS servers vary widely in price, depending upon features and the amount of storage
included, but start at prices of about $150.
If you’re interested in using a NAS device instead of a Windows Home Server,
you have a huge number of choices. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of
companies selling NAS servers, and they range from simple and inexpensive
(less than $150) home focused servers right up to huge multi-terabyte servers designed to support a large office. We couldn’t possibly provide you with
a list of all the consumer-focused NAS vendors (such a list will be out of date
by the time we finish writing this chapter!), but here are a few of the leading
vendors you may want to check out:
✓ Buffalo Technologies: www.buffalotech.com
✓ Western Digital: www.wdc.com
✓ Drobo: www.drobo.com
✓ LaCie: www.lacie.com
✓ Synology: www.synology.com
✓ Iomega: www.iomega.com
✓ NETGEAR: www.netgear.com
Wireless router with external storage
A number of wireless routers can support a USB connection to an external
hard drive. The features here depend entirely upon what the router itself supports, but it’s easy to pick up a large external hard drive (for example, 1 terabyte) for under $100.
Comparing features when buying a server
Before we start talking about things you should look for when buying a server
for your home, here’s an important thing to keep in mind: It doesn’t need to
be wireless. You can buy a wireless server, but in our opinion, that’s not an
option we’d pay more for. As long as your server is connected to your network and router via an Ethernet connection, it’s accessible to all the wireless
devices on the network. A wireless server can come in handy if you want to
stash it somewhere out of the way, but otherwise, there’s no real advantage
to choosing one over a wired server.
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In fact, a wireless server probably won’t perform as well as a wired one,
simply because wireless connections are slower both in terms of absolute
throughput and also in terms of latency (the delay in transmitting data).
Keep the following things in mind when you’re comparing servers:
✓ Storage space: You’re probably going to need more storage space than
you think! Luckily hard drives are cheap, so you’ll actually have a hard
time finding a server that holds less than 500GB of data. More important
than the actual amount of storage space are some other storage-related
factors, specifically:
• Number of drive bays: What you don’t want is a storage device with
a single gigantic hard drive on it. Hard drives can and do fail, usually at the most inopportune time. (That’s why we do backups!)
Many servers have two or more bays to hold hard drives. Rather
than putting all of your data on one 1TB drive, you’re better off
putting it on two 500GB drives — or even better on two 1TB drives.
(We talk about redundancy in a second.)
• Upgradeability: As we mention earlier, you need more space than
you think. When you start backing up two or three computers,
storing thousands of digital photos storing hundreds of hours of
digital video (personally recorded video as well as TV and movies),
and adding your music library, suddenly your backup takes a lot
of space. So even if you start with a lot of space, you might end up
needing more. If your server allows it, you can cheaply buy bigger
drives and easily replace your existing ones without shelling out
money for a newer, bigger server.
You can buy a server with only a small amount of storage and then
upgrade it when needed — the disks will no doubt be cheaper in
six months or a year than they are today. You can even find servers with no storage in them, so you can pick and choose the disks
you want to use.
• Storage redundancy: The safest way to store data is to do so redundantly. In other words, having your data in more than one place,
so if one drive fails your data doesn’t disappear. If you choose a
server with more than one drive, it will probably include some sort
of data redundancy mechanism (such as redundant array of inexpensive disks, or RAID). You’ll probably have several options to
choose from — the more redundant you make your data, the more
space it will take on your server.
✓ Connectivity: As we mention earlier, you can find both wireless and wiredonly servers. (All the wireless servers will also include a wired Ethernet
connection.) If you choose wireless, make sure that it supports the type
of Wi-Fi you’re using in your network (like 802.11n) and whatever security
mechanism you’re using (like WPA2). On the wired side of the equation,
look for a server that includes a Gigabit Ethernet connection if your router
supports Gigabit Ethernet — it’ll make for a faster experience all around.
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✓ File system support: Different computer operating systems use different
file systems — essentially the structure of data on the disk. Most home
server devices support file systems for both Windows and Macintosh
computers, but if you also use the Linux operating system, you’ll want
to make sure your server can support it.
✓ Media server support: Any server can store any files you may want to put
on it, but not all can serve those files up as streaming media to your networked home entertainment gear (as discussed in Chapter 13). If you
want to do this, make sure that your server supports it. You need to
match the server’s capabilities to the requirements of your A/V gear,
but generally look for the following things:
• DLNA: DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is an industry standard for supporting media streaming. DLNA certification of both
your media player/adapter and your server ensures that they’ll
work together, which is always nice!
• UPnP: Universal Plug and Play is another industry standard for
media streaming and compatibility. (In fact, DLNA is built upon
this standard.)
• iTunes server: If you use Apple’s iTunes as your primary media software, look for a server that works as an iTunes server — you can
then centralize all of your iTunes media on the server and access it
from your Macs and even from wirelessly connected iPhones and
iPod touch devices.
✓ Remote access support: Some servers provide remote access support,
meaning they make your files and media available to you (and to those
to whom you grant access — like the grandparents) over the Internet.
You can get this access in a number of ways (including services like FTP),
but the best way for most users (us included) is to use a server that’s
integrated with a Web access service. A Web access service is a hosted
and secured service offered by the manufacturer of your server or a third
party. Users can log in to your server by going to a specific Web address
and logging in with a username and password. This is how Windows
Home Servers do it, as do a number of NAS server manufacturers.
Having Your Very Own Wi-Fi Robot
We like to have some fun with our Wi-Fi networks. We’re not just all business
all the time! And what’s more fun than robots and drones? Yeah, we know —
not much, right?
Well, toy manufacturers have kept up with the wireless revolution and have
incorporated Wi-Fi in some very cool robotic toys that are guaranteed to
keep you occupied on those long, boring winter nights.
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The first one we want to mention — and it’s still a month away from shipping
to customers as we write — is a Wi-Fi controlled drone or UAV (unmanned
aerial vehicle). It’s not quite the same as the ones used by the military (no
missiles, for example), but it’s pretty darned cool. It’s from Parrot (www.
parrot.com), a company best known for its Bluetooth headsets and handsfree Bluetooth kits for cars. The AR.Drone (http://ardrone.parrot.com)
is a 4-bladed indoor/outdoor helicopter-ish flying device that has built-in
Wi-Fi and is controlled from any Apple iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad connected
to the network (see Figure 14-3). Not only does the AR.Drone include Wi-Fi,
but it also has a built-in video camera (just like “real” drones) that displays
on the screen of your iOS 4 device. So you can see where you’re flying and
then use simple touch controls on the screen to navigate. Parrot is creating
games so you can have dogfights with other AR.Drones or simply take it on
a surveillance mission. They promise support for other smartphone/tablet
OSes in the near future (for example, Android). We’re getting on the waiting
list for this one.
Figure 14-3:
The Parrot
AR.Drone.
If your preferences run more to the earthbound, check out the WowWee
Rovio (www.wowwee.com). This is a Wi-Fi and Webcam equipped wheeled
robot that WowWee calls a “mobile Webcam” but we just call “cool.” You can
control the Rovio (and view its Webcam video) from anywhere in the world
where you have a Web browser and an Internet connection — even from
a mobile phone or gaming console like a PS3 or Xbox 360. The Rovio has a
bright LED headlight, so you can see in the dark. You can even send it back
to its charging station when its battery gets low (you can be a thousand miles
away and send it back to its charging station over the Internet). We’re not
sure about you, but we might rather have this in the house than a dog!
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Wirelessly Connecting
Your Digital Cameras
When the first Wi-Fi-connected digital cameras came on the market, we were
jealous beyond belief. We hate cables (which is why we try to wirelessly connect everything we can). The problem was that only a few cameras had Wi-Fi
(or any other wireless) on board, and it wasn’t worth throwing away a perfectly good working camera because we were lazy about cables.
A number of digital camera vendors are finally getting around to adding Wi-Fi
to their cameras, but you’d be surprised how many otherwise awesome cameras still lack the capability to connect to your network on their own.
Well now, we can be lazy and happy with a brilliant product from Eye-Fi
(www.eye.fi). Eye-Fi offers an SD memory card outfitted with Wi-Fi on
board — how cool is that? Simply pop the card in your camera, take pictures,
and watch the pictures upload automatically as soon as you return to your
home network. Worried about security? No need — the Eye-Fi supports static
WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, and WPA2-PSK security. (See Chapter 9 if you
need some background on these abbreviations.)
To date, Eye-Fi has been the only company to offer Wi-Fi equipped memory
cards for cameras, but we’ve seen news that other companies such as Toshiba
(who is one of the major manufacturers of the memory chips used in such
cards) are beginning to develop similar cards. So don’t be surprised if there
are some alternatives on the shelf when you start shopping for an Eye-Fi.
You can automatically load pictures to sharing and printing Web sites,
including Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, Wal-Mart, Snapfish, Photobucket,
Facebook, Webshots, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug, Flickr, Fotki, TypePad,
VOX, dotPhoto, Phanfare, Sharpcast, and Gallery. The Eye-Fi Service intelligently downloads your photos from your camera, handles log-ins and passwords for the site, and resizes pictures (if your site requires it) — all over a
wireless connection. Photo uploads are free and unlimited because they’re
using your home’s Wi-Fi and Internet connections — some Eye-Fi systems
even include free access to hotspots at Starbucks and other locations.
The latest Eye-Fi models add a new feature: GPS support. That’s right, there’s
a GPS chip included in the memory card (we don’t know how they cram so
much in there!), so that you can geotag your photos. What’s geotagging?
Essentially the GPS records the location you’re at when you snap a picture
and includes it in the EXIF (exchangeable image file format — the data about
your picture that all cameras record, things like type of camera, f-stop, aperture, and so on) data of the picture. When you upload the pictures to your
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computer (using programs like iPhoto and Picasa) or to online services that
support geotagging, you’ll be able to see on a map exactly where your pictures were taken. Most photo management programs even let you group pictures together by location automatically, so you can click on a map and see
all the pictures you took at Disneyland or at your kids’ school or at
grandma’s house.
All of Eye-Fi’s current cards support 802.11n networking and are fully backward compatible with 802.11b and g networks. Here’s a rundown of some of
the available cards:
✓ The entry-level 4GB card, the Connect X2, costs about $49 retail. The
great thing about these is that you don’t need to buy as large a card
because it can be offloaded more easily and more often.
✓ Do you want to mix in GPS? Choose the Geo X2 for $69 and you’ll be
able to Geotag your photos.
✓ Do you want GPS, an extra 4GB of storage (8 GB total) and the ability to
upload your pictures for free at thousands of hot spots at Starbucks and
major hotel chains? Choose the $99 Explore X2.
✓ Do you want all of the above features plus pro photographer features
like RAW image support? Pick up the $149 Pro X2. X2 is just too great a
product line to resist!
If you want to find out whether your digital camera is compatible with an
Eye-Fi card, go to the Eye-Fi Web site, select the Camera Compatibility tab on
the left side of the page, and then select Compatibility from the options that
appear below the tab.
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Chapter 15
Using a Bluetooth Network
In This Chapter
▶ Delving into Bluetooth
▶ Enabling cellphone networking with Bluetooth
▶ Getting Bluetooth on your PC
▶ Discovering other Bluetooth devices
▶ Finding out about Bluetooth pairing
M
ost of the time, when people talk about wireless networks, they’re
talking about wireless local area networks (LANs). LANs, as the name
implies, are local, which means that they don’t cover a wide area (like a town
or a city block). Wide area networks (WANs), like the Internet or a 3G wireless network from a company like Verizon or AT&T, do that bigger job. For
the most part, you can think of a LAN as something that’s designed to cover
your entire house (and maybe surrounding areas, such as the back patio).
Another kind of wireless network is being developed and promoted by wireless equipment manufacturers. The personal area network (PAN) is designed
to cover just a few yards of space and not a whole house (or office or factory
floor or whatever). PANs are typically designed to connect personal devices
(cellphones, laptop computers, handheld computers, and other devices like
netbooks or iPads) and also as a technology for connecting peripheral devices
(like headsets or printers) to these personal electronics. For example, you
could use a wireless PAN technology to connect a mouse and a keyboard to
your computer without any cables under the desk for your beagle to trip over.
The difference between LANs and PANs isn’t clear cut. Some devices may be
able to establish network connections by using either LAN or PAN technologies. The bottom-line distinction between LANs and PANs is this: If something
connects to a computer via a network cable, its wireless connection is usually
a LAN; if it connects by a local cable (such as USB), its wireless connection is
usually a PAN.
In this chapter, we discuss the most prominent wireless PAN technology:
Bluetooth, which we introduce in Chapter 3. The Bluetooth technology has
been in development for years and years. We first wrote about it in our first edition of Smart Homes For Dummies way, way back in 1999. For a while, it seemed
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that Bluetooth might end up in the historical dustbin of wireless networking —
a great idea that never panned out — but these days Bluetooth seems to be
everywhere. You can’t swing a stuffed cat walking down the street without
seeing someone with a Bluetooth headset jammed in his ear. With billions of
devices out there in the world, it’s safe to say that Bluetooth has truly arrived!
Discovering Bluetooth Basics
You probably want to get the biggest question out of the way first: What
the heck is up with that name? Well, it has nothing to do with what happens
when you chew on your pen a bit too hard during a stressful meeting. Nor
does it have anything to do with blueberry pie, blueberry toaster pastries,
or any other blue food. Bluetooth — www.bluetooth.com is the Web site
for the industry group — is named after Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth), king
of Denmark from A.D. 940 to 981, who was responsible for uniting Denmark
and Norway. (We’re a little rusty on our medieval Scandinavian history, so if
we’re wrong about that, blame our high school history teachers. If you’re a
Dane or a Norwegian, feel free to e-mail us with the story!) The idea here is
that Bluetooth can unite things that were previously un-unitable.
The big cellphone (and other telecommunications equipment) manufacturer
Ericsson was the first company to promote the technology (back in the 1990s,
as we mention earlier), and other cellphone companies joined in with Ericsson
to come up with an industry de facto standard for the technology. The Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) — the folks who created the 802.11
standards that we talk about throughout this book — have since become
involved with the technology under the auspices of a committee named 802.15.
The initial IEEE standard for PANs, 802.15.1, was adapted from the Bluetooth
specification and is fully compatible with Bluetooth 1.1, right on through to
the 1.2, 2.0 + EDR, and now 2.1 + EDR versions of the technology, as we discuss in Chapter 3. All these versions of Bluetooth are compatible with each
other, so if your new smartphone supports Bluetooth 2.1, it’ll work with your
headset or other device, even if that device supports only an older version of
Bluetooth.
If you’re looking for a few facts and figures about Bluetooth, you’ve come to
the right chapter. Here are some of the most important things to remember
about Bluetooth:
✓ Bluetooth operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency spectrum. It uses the
same general chunk of the airwaves as do 802.11g and 802.11n. (This
means that interference between the two technologies is indeed a possibility, though 802.11n draft 2.0 is designed to sense Bluetooth transmissions and switch to different channels so they don’t interfere.)
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✓ The Bluetooth specification allows a maximum data connection speed
of 3.0 Mbps. Many Bluetooth devices connect at even slower speeds (2.1
Mbps or even as low as 723 Kbps), so Bluetooth is not designed for transferring large files, but rather for lower bandwidth applications like printing, audio streaming, and small file transfers (like address book contacts
from phone to phone).
✓ Bluetooth uses much lower power levels than do wireless LAN technologies (802.11). Thus, Bluetooth devices have a much smaller effect,
power-wise, than 802.11 devices. This is a huge deal for some of the
small electronic devices because Bluetooth eats up a whole lot less battery life than 802.11 systems. The proposed lower power specification of
Bluetooth will use even less power than the current version; it’s designed
to be used in wireless-enabled watches and will increase the battery life of
your cellphone Bluetooth headset five times what it is today.
Because Bluetooth uses a lower power level than 802.11, it can’t beam
its radio waves as far as 802.11 does. Thus, the range of Bluetooth is
considerably less than that of a wireless LAN. Theoretically, you can get
up to 100 meters (these are called Class 1 devices), but most Bluetooth
systems use less than the maximum allowable power ratings, and you
typically see ranges of 30 feet or less with most Bluetooth gear — which
means that you can reach across the room (or into the next room), but
not all the way across the house.
✓ Bluetooth uses a peer-to-peer networking model. This means that you
don’t have to connect devices back through a central network hub like
an access point (AP). Devices can connect directly to each other using
Bluetooth’s wireless link. The Bluetooth networking process is highly
automated; Bluetooth devices actively seek out other Bluetooth devices
to see whether they can connect and share information.
✓ Bluetooth doesn’t require line of sight between any connected
devices. Bluetooth uses radio signals that can pass through walls,
doors, furniture, and other objects. So you don’t need to have a direct
line of sight like you do with infrared systems.
✓ Bluetooth can also connect multiple devices in a point-to-multipoint
fashion. One master device (often a laptop computer or a PDA) can connect with as many as seven slave devices simultaneously in this manner.
(Slave devices are usually things such as keyboards and printers.)
The really big deal you should take away from this list is that Bluetooth is
designed to be a low-power (and low-priced!) technology for portable and
mobile and computing devices. Bluetooth (do they call it Bleutooth in France?
We’ve always wondered!) isn’t designed to replace a wireless LAN. It’s
designed to be cheaply built into devices to allow quick and easy connections.
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Some of the PAN applications that Bluetooth has been designed to
perform include:
✓ Cable replacement: Peripheral devices that use cables today — keyboards, mice, cellphone headsets, and the like — can now cut that cord
and use Bluetooth links instead.
✓ Synchronization: Many people have important information (such as
address books, phone number lists, and calendars) on multiple devices
(such as PCs, PDAs, and cellphones), and keeping this information
synchronized (up-to-date and identical on each device) can be a real
pain. Bluetooth (when combined with synchronization software) allows
these devices to wirelessly and automatically talk with each other and
keep up-to-date.
✓ Simple file sharing: If you’ve ever been at a meeting with a group of
technology geeks (we go to these meetings all the time, but then, we’re
geeks ourselves), you may have noticed these folks pulling out their
Windows Mobile and Palm PDAs and doing all sorts of contortions with
them. What they’re doing is exchanging files (usually electronic business
cards) via the built-in infrared (IR) system found on Palms. This system
is awkward because you need to have the Palms literally inches apart
with the IR sensors lined up. Bluetooth, because it uses radio waves, has
a much greater range, which doesn’t require direct IR alignment — and
is much faster to boot.
Unfortunately, the most popular smartphone out there — the Apple iPhone —
doesn’t allow you to use Bluetooth for simple file transfers (something that is
common for many other phones). The Bluetooth support on the iOS platform is
relegated mainly to audio (headsets for phone calls and Bluetooth headphones
or speakers for listening to music) and peripherals (such as keyboards).
Look for even more cool applications in the future. For example, Bluetooth
could be used to connect an electronic wallet (on your cellphone) to an electronic kiosk. For example, a soda machine could be Bluetooth enabled, and
if you wanted a soda, you wouldn’t need to spend ten minutes trying to feed
your last, raggedy dollar bill into the machine. You would just press a button
on your PDA or cellphone, and it would send a buck from your electronic
wallet to the machine and dispense your soda.
Taking a Look at Bluetooth
Mobile Phones
The primary place where Bluetooth technology has become almost
ubiquitous is in the cellphone world. This statement probably shouldn’t be
a surprise because Sony Ericsson, a huge cellphone maker, was the initial
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proponent of the technology, and other huge cellphone companies, such as
Nokia, are also proponents.
Today just about every new phone being announced (except for the cheap-o
ones) includes Bluetooth technology. Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung,
and Siemens, among others, are all selling Bluetooth-enabled phones. The adoption of the technology has been spectacular. A few years ago, Bluetooth was a
rarity; now it’s a standard.
You can do many things with Bluetooth in a cellphone, but the five most
common applications are
✓ Eliminate cables. Many people use headsets with their cellphones. It’s
much easier to hear with an earpiece in your ear than it is to hold one of
today’s miniscule cellphones up to your ear — and much more convenient. The wire running up your torso, around your arm, and along the
side of your head into your ear is a real pain, though. (Some people go
to great lengths to keep from being tangled up in this wire — check out
the jackets at www.scottevest.com.) A better solution is to connect
your headset wirelessly — using Bluetooth, of course. Literally dozens
of Bluetooth headsets are on the market, from specialized headset
manufacturers such as Plantronics (www.plantronics.com), Jawbone
(www.jawbone.com), and Jabra (www.jabra.com), as well as from the
cellphone manufacturers themselves.
✓ Synchronize phone books. Lots of folks keep a phone book on their PCs
or PDAs — and most people who do have been utterly frustrated by the
difficulty they face when they try to get these phone books onto their cellphones. If you can do it at all, you end up buying some special cable and
software, and then you still have to manually correct some of the entries.
But with Bluetooth on your cellphone and PC or PDA, the process can
be automatic.
✓ Get pictures off your camera phone. Many new cellphones are camera
phones with a built-in digital camera. The cellphone companies promote this concept because they can charge customers for multimedia
messaging services (MMS) and allow people to send pictures to other
cellphone customers. But if your PC has Bluetooth capabilities, you can
use Bluetooth to send the picture you just snapped to your PC’s hard
drive (or even use Bluetooth to transfer the file directly to a buddy’s
cellphone when he or she is within range — for free!).
✓ Go hands-free in the car. Face it — driving with a cellphone in your
hands isn’t safe. Using a headset is better, but the best choice (other
than not using your phone while driving) is to use a completely handsfree system, which uses a microphone and the speakers from your
car audio system. This used to take a costly installation process and
meant having someone rip into the wiring and interior of your car. If you
bought a new phone, you probably needed to have the old hands-free
gear ripped out and a new one installed. No more — Bluetooth cars are
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here, and they let you use any Bluetooth-enabled cellphone to go handsfree. Just set the phone in the glove box or dashboard cubbyhole and
don’t touch it again. Keep your hands and eyes on the road!
If your current car isn’t outfitted with Bluetooth, don’t despair. Dozens
of Bluetooth retrofit kits are available on the market — ranging from
simple speaker/microphone devices that plug into your 12-volt power
source (the lighter, in other words) to custom-installed, fully integrated
systems that can even use your car’s steering wheel controls.
✓ Get your laptop on the Internet while on the road. We think that the
best way to connect your laptop to the Internet when you’re out of the
house is to find an 802.11 hot spot (we talk about them in Chapter 16),
but sometimes you’re just not near a hot spot. Well, worry no more
because if you have a cellphone and laptop with Bluetooth, you can use
your cellphone as a wireless modem to connect to the Internet. With
most cellphone services, you can establish a low-speed, dial-up Internet
connection for some basic stuff (such as getting e-mail or reading textheavy Web pages). If your cellphone system (and plan) includes a highspeed option (one of the 3G systems we talk about in Chapter 16), you
can get online at speeds rivaling (although not yet equaling) broadband
connections such as DSL — all without wires!
Some cellphones have Bluetooth capabilities but have been artificially limited by the cellphone companies. For example, some Bluetooth phones have
had their software configured by your cellphone company in such a way that
you can’t use the phone as a modem for your laptop, as described in the
preceding bullet. There’s no easy way to know this up front — but it’s a good
reason to read the reviews in sources such as CNET (www.cnet.com) before
taking a leap.
Check out the section “Communicating with another Bluetooth Device:
Pairing and Discovery,” at the end of this chapter, for more details on making
Bluetooth connections.
Exploring Other Bluetooth Devices
Cellphones and PDAs aren’t the only devices that can use Bluetooth. In fact,
the value of Bluetooth would be considerably lessened if they were. It’s the
network effect — the value (to the user) of a networked device that increases
exponentially as the number of networked devices increases. To use a common
analogy, think about fax machines (if you can remember them — we hardly
ever use ours any more). The first guy with a fax machine found it pretty useless, at least until the second person got hers. As more and more folks got
faxes, the fax machine became more useful to each one of them simply because
they had many more people to send faxes to (or receive them from).
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Bluetooth is the same. Just connecting your PDA to your cellphone is kind
of cool, in a geek-chic kinda way, but it doesn’t set the world on its ear. But
when you start considering wireless headsets, printers, PCs, keyboards,
and even global positioning system (GPS) receivers, the value of Bluetooth
becomes much clearer. In the following sections, we discuss some of these
other Bluetooth devices.
Printers
We talk about connecting printers to your wireless LAN in Chapter 10, but what
if you want to access your printer from all the portable devices that don’t have
wireless LAN connections built into them? Or, if you don’t have your printer
connected to the wireless LAN, what do you do when you want to quickly print
a document that’s on your laptop? Well, why not use Bluetooth?
You can get Bluetooth onto your printer in two ways:
✓ Buy a printer with built-in Bluetooth. This item is relatively rare as we
write, and it looks as though Wi-Fi enabled printers will replace these
completely over time. An example comes from HP (www.hp.com), with
its Photosmart C309gAll-in-One printer ($200 list price). In addition to
connecting to laptops, PDAs, and other mobile devices using Bluetooth,
this Mac- and Windows-compatible printer can connect to your PC with
a standard USB cable or via a Wi-Fi connection — so all your bases
are covered. So, you can connect just about any PC or portable device
directly to this printer, with wires or wirelessly.
✓ Buy a Bluetooth adapter for your existing printer. Many printer manufacturers are focusing on building printers with built-in Wi-Fi, but that
doesn’t have to stop you. iOGEAR (www.iogear.com), for example,
offers a Bluetooth printer adapter, the GBP302KIT (about $120), that
plugs into the USB or parallel port and works with most inkjet printers.
Audio systems
Another area where Bluetooth is starting to make some inroads is in the
realm of audio systems. This really should come as no surprise, considering
that cellphone audio (for example, hands-free and headset systems) is where
the vast majority of Bluetooth action occurs.
What we’re talking about here is Bluetooth devices that carry higher-quality
audio signals — hi-fi (as opposed to Wi-Fi), as it were. Well, this is an exciting
new area for the Bluetooth world because Bluetooth is designed for audio
and supports relatively high-quality digital audio transmissions.
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You may find Bluetooth audio devices in two distinct places:
✓ Headphones: Many of people now carry iPods or music-capable smartphones wherever they go. You can identify them by their ubiquitous (at
least among the 80 percent or so of MP3 player owners who use iPods)
white headphone cords snaking up out of their pockets and into their
ears. Well it’s time to cut that cord too. With systems like the Sony’s
DR-BT160AS ($129.99), you can connect to any Bluetooth audio-equipped
music player without any cords. And if you’re using your headphones
with a smartphone, they even work as a headset so you can stop the
music to answer a call without missing a beat — so to speak.
✓ Speaker systems: If you have a stereo or multichannel audio system
in your house, you know the Achilles’ heel of all such systems: those
ugly speaker wires running from the back of your receiver or amplifier
to the speakers. For home theater systems, this problem is particularly acute because you have speakers in the back of the room. (We
wrote Home Theater For Dummies, and even we have trouble dealing
with that speaker wire run.) Well, Bluetooth can come to the rescue.
Many manufacturers make Bluetooth speaker systems that work with
your Bluetooth-enabled devices. A good example is Sony’s Bluetooth
Transmitter & Receiver ($79 each — you’ll need to buy them a pair at a
time). So you can cut the cord and still enjoy your music.
In Chapter 12, we talk about wirelessly enabling your home entertainment systems. We talk more about Bluetooth speakers there, as well as a whole bunch of
other wireless systems that fit into your home theater, TV, and audio systems.
Keyboards and meeses
(that’s plural for mouse!)
Wireless keyboards and mice have been around for a while (Danny has been
swearing by his Logitech wireless mouse for years and years), but they’ve
been a bit clunky. To get them working, you have to buy a pair of radio
transceivers to plug into your computer, and then you have to worry about
interference between your mouse and other devices in your home. With
Bluetooth, things get much easier. Danny recently upgraded to the Bluetooth
version of his Logitech mouse. He also attached a Bluetooth presenter
mouse that works at the same time — Bluetooth is the only way to connect
more than one mouse to a single computer — so he can work out and scroll
through his e-mail. (Unfortunately, you can’t connect more than one keyboard to a computer, but if you have a Bluetooth keyboard it’s easy enough
to pick it up and take it with you.)
If your PC (or PDA, for that matter) has Bluetooth built in, you don’t need to
buy any special adapters or transceivers. Just put the batteries in your keyboard and mouse and start working. You probably don’t even need to install
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any special software or drivers on your PC to make this work. For example,
if you have a Mac, check out the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Mouse (www.
apple.com/keyboard). It’s slickly designed (of course — it’s from Apple!) and
goes for months on its batteries without any cords.
If your PC isn’t already Bluetooth equipped, consider buying the Logitech
diNovo Media Desktop Laser (www.logitech.com, about $179). This system
includes both a full-function wireless keyboard — one of those cool multimedia models with a ton of extra buttons for special functions (such as audio
volume and MP3 fast forward and rewind) — and a detached media pad that
acts as a hand remote or numeric keyboard with a built-in calculator. It also
includes a wireless optical mouse (no mouse ball to clean) with the cool
four-way scrolling feature, and a Bluetooth adapter that plugs into one of
your PC’s USB ports. This adapter turns your PC into a Bluetooth PC. In other
words, it can be used with any Bluetooth device, not just with the keyboard
and mouse that come in the box with it. This kit is a great way to unwire your
mouse and keyboard and get a Bluetooth PC, all in one fell swoop.
The diNovo Media Desktop Laser (www.logitech.com) is easy to set up.
You just plug the receiver into a USB port on the back of your computer
and install the keyboard and mouse driver software. (This isn’t a Bluetooth
requirement; rather, it allows you to use all the special buttons on the keyboard and the extra mouse buttons.) You must have an up-to-date version of
Windows XP. (Simply use the built-in Windows XP software update program.)
Bluetooth adapters
Most laptop and netbook computers and an increasing number of desktop
computers — like most of the Apple product line — have built-in Bluetooth.
However, if your PC doesn’t, you need some sort of adapter, just like you
need an 802.11 adapter to connect your PC to your wireless LAN. The most
common way to get Bluetooth onto your PC is by using a USB adapter (or
dongle). These compact devices (about the size of your pinkie — unless
you’re in the NBA, in which case, we say half a pinkie) plug directly into a
USB port and are self-contained Bluetooth adapters. In other words, they
need no external power supply or antenna. Figure 15-1 shows the D-Link
DBT-120 USB Bluetooth adapter.
Because Bluetooth is a relatively low-speed connection (remember that the
maximum speed is only 732 Kbps in most cases, and a maximum of 3 Mbps
for the fastest USB devices), USB connections will always be fast enough for
Bluetooth. You don’t need to worry about having an available Ethernet, PC
Card, or other high-speed connection available on your PC.
Street prices for these USB Bluetooth adapters generally run under $25, and
you can find them at most computer stores (both online and the real brick-andmortar stores down the street). Vendors include companies such as D-Link
(www.dlink.com), Belkin (www.belkin.com), and ioGEAR (www.iogear.com).
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Connecting multiple USB devices with a hub
Because many people have more USB devices
than USB ports on their computers, they often
use USB hubs, which connect to one of the
USB ports on the back of the computer and
connect multiple USB devices through the hub
to that port. When you’re using USB devices
(such as Bluetooth adapters) that require
power from the USB port, you should plug them
directly into the PC itself and not into a hub. If
you need to use a hub, make sure that it’s a
powered hub (with its own cord running to a
wall outlet or power strip). Insufficient power
from an unpowered hub is perhaps the most
common cause of USB problems.
If you have lots of USB devices, using a USB
hub is simple. We’ve never seen one that even
required special software to be loaded. Just
plug the hub (use a standard USB cable —
there should be one in the box with the hub)
into one of the USB ports on the back of your
PC. If it’s a powered hub (which we recommend), plug the power cord into your power
strip and into the back of the hub (a designated
power outlet is there), and you’re ready to go!
It’s as easy as can be. Now you can plug any
USB device you have (keyboard, mouse, digital
camera, printer — you name it) into the hub
and away you go.
Figure 15-1:
The D-Link
USB
Bluetooth
adapter
is tiny; it’s
about the
size of a
small pack
of gum.
Communicating with Another Bluetooth
Device: Pairing and Discovery
A key concept to understand when you’re dealing with a Bluetooth device
(like a cellphone or cordless headset) is pairing. Pairing is simply the process
of two Bluetooth-enabled devices exchanging an electronic handshake (an
electronic “greeting” where they introduce themselves and their capabilities)
and then “deciding,” based on their capabilities and your preferences (which
you set up within the Bluetooth preferences menu on your device), how to
communicate.
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A typical Bluetooth cellphone has three key settings you need to configure to
pair with another Bluetooth device:
✓ Power: First, you need to make sure that Bluetooth is turned on. Many
phones (and other battery-powered devices) have Bluetooth turned off
by default, just to lower power consumption and maximize battery life. On
your phone’s Bluetooth menu, make sure that you’ve turned on the power.
✓ Discoverable: With most Bluetooth devices (such as cellphones or PCs
and Macs), you can configure your Bluetooth system to be discoverable,
which means that the device openly identifies itself to other nearby
Bluetooth devices for possible pairings. If you set your device to be discoverable, it can be found — if you turn off this feature, your phone can
still make Bluetooth connections, but only to devices with which it has
previously paired.
This setting has different names on different phones. On Pat’s old
Motorola phone, it’s Find Me; yours may be different.
Some phones and other devices aren’t discoverable all the time. For
example, Pat’s old RAZR II phone becomes discoverable for 60 seconds
when you select Find Me.
✓ Device name: Most devices have a generic (and somewhat descriptive)
name identifying them (like Motorola V3 RAZR). You can modify this
name to whatever you want (“Pat’s phone,” for example) so that you
recognize it when you establish a pairing.
One other important Bluetooth concept affects the ability of two Bluetooth
devices to talk to each other: Bluetooth profiles. A profile is simply a standardized service, or function, of Bluetooth. There are more than two dozen
profiles for Bluetooth devices, such as HFP (Hands Free Profile) for handsfree cellphone use, or FTP (File Transfer Profile) for sending files (like pictures or electronic business cards) from one device to another.
For two devices to communicate using Bluetooth, they both must support
a common profile (or profiles). And, for two Bluetooth devices to not only
communicate but also do whatever it is that you want to do (such as send a
picture from your camera to your Mac), they both need to support the profile
that supports that function (in this case, the FTP profile).
Making all this happen is, we’re sorry to tell you, highly dependent on the
particular Bluetooth devices you’re using. And because many tens of thousands of Bluetooth devices are available, we can’t account for every possibility here. This is one of those times where you should spend a few minutes
reading the manual (sorry!) and figuring out exactly which steps your device
requires. (We hate having to tell you that, but it’s true.)
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We don’t totally leave you hanging here though. Here are some generic steps
you need to take:
1. Go to the Bluetooth setup or configuration menu of both devices
and do the following:
a. Turn on the Bluetooth power.
b. (Optional) Customize your device name to something you recognize.
c. Make the devices discoverable.
Typically, you set up one device to be discoverable and the other
to look for discoverable devices. For example, you may press a
button on a Bluetooth cordless headset to make it discoverable,
and then you would invoke a menu setting on your phone to allow
it to discover compatible Bluetooth devices.
One device notifies you with an alert or onscreen menu item that it has
discovered the other, and it asks whether you want to pair. For example,
if you press the button on your headset, your cellphone displays a message asking whether you want to pair.
2. Confirm that you do indeed want to make your device discoverable by
pressing Yes or OK (or whatever positive option your device offers).
3. Enter the passkey and press Yes or OK.
Most Bluetooth devices use a passkey (numeric or alphanumeric code),
which allows you to confirm that it’s your device that’s pairing and not
the device belonging to the guy in the trench coat who’s hiding behind
a newspaper across the coffee shop. You find the passkey for most
devices in their manuals (drat! — the dreaded manual pops up again).
In some cases (like pairing with a PC or Mac), one device generates and
displays a passkey, which you then enter into the other device.
Your devices verify the passkey and pair. That’s all you have to do in
most cases — you now have a nice wireless Bluetooth connection set
up, and you’re ready to do whatever it is you want to do with Bluetooth
(like talk on your phone hands free!).
After you’ve paired two devices, they should be paired for good. The next time
you want to connect them, you should only have to go through Steps 1 and 2
(maybe even just Step 1) and skip the whole passkey thing. Bluetooth devices
are supposed to mate for life (like penguins). Sometimes, however, Bluetooth
is a bit funky and things don’t work as you had planned. Don’t be surprised if
you have to repeat all these steps the next time you want to connect. A great
deal of work is going on to make Bluetooth more user friendly, and making
pairing easier and more consistent is the primary focus.
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Chapter 16
Going Wireless Away from Home
In This Chapter
▶ Exploring public hot spots
▶ Looking at the differences between freenets and for-pay services
▶ Finding hot spots near you
▶ Staying secure
▶ Connecting to a hot spot with your mobile device
T
hroughout this fourth edition of Wireless Home Networking For Dummies,
we focus (no big surprise here) on wireless networks in your home. But
wireless networks aren’t just for the house. For example, many businesses
have adopted wireless networking technologies to provide network connections for workers roaming throughout offices, conference rooms, and factory
floors. Just about every big university has a wireless network that enables
students, faculty, and staff members to connect to the campus network (and
the Internet) from just about every nook and cranny on campus. In some
cases, entire cities have been “unwired,” as metropolitan Wi-Fi networks have
been created (by service providers or even by the cities themselves) that
provide free or cheap wireless access to residents, workers, and visitors.
These networks are useful if you happen to work or teach or study at a business or school that has a wireless network. But you don’t need to be in one of
these locations to take advantage and get online wirelessly. You can find tens
of thousands of hot spots (places where you can log on to publicly available
Wi-Fi networks) across the United States (and the world, for that matter). In
this chapter, we give you some background on public hot spots and discuss
the various types of free and for-pay networks out there. We also talk about
tools you can use to find a hot spot when you’re out of the house.
We focus mainly on Wi-Fi hot spot networks in this chapter, designed to let you
get your laptop or netbook computer online when you’re away from home. In
Chapter 13, we talk about broadband mobile networks (the so-called 3G and 4G
networks offered by companies like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint in
the U.S. — and hundreds of similar countries elsewhere in the world). With a
portable Wi-Fi router or a smartphone (like an iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, or
Android phone), you can always be online wherever you are (except maybe in
the middle of the desert or on top of a mountain).
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Discovering Public Hot Spots
The key thing to remember about hot spots — the really cool part — is that
they use 802.11 (Wi-Fi) wireless networking equipment. In other words, they
use the same kind of equipment you use in your wireless home network, so
you can basically bring any wireless device in your home with you (as long
as it’s portable enough to lug around) and use it to connect to a wireless hot
spot. In the majority of cases, you don’t need any special software on your
computer either — if you need to log in to a hot spot to pay to use it (or to
enter a code that gives you permission to use the network), you simply do so
using your Web browser, which will automatically take you to a captive portal
page asking for credentials when you try to load any Web page.
A wide variety of people and organizations have begun to provide hot spot
services, ranging from individuals who have opened up their wireless home
networks for neighbors and strangers to multinational telecommunications
service providers who have built nationwide or worldwide hot spot networks
containing many thousands of access points. There’s an in-between here, too.
Perhaps the prototypical hot spot operator is the hip (or wannabe hip) urban
cafe with a broadband connection and an access point (AP) in the corner.
In Figure 16-1, you can see a sample configuration of APs in an airport concourse, which is a popular location for hot spots because of travelers’ downtime when waiting for flights (or the everlasting gobstopper that is the TSA
line — “your papers please”).
Most hot spots use 802.11g networking technology, though a few have
begun to upgrade to 802.11n. The key thing to keep in mind is that if you have
an 802.11b, g, or n network adapter in your laptop or other device (you’ll
almost assuredly have one of the three!), you should be able to connect.
Of the myriad reasons that someone (or some company or organization)
may open up a hot spot location, the most common we’ve seen include
✓ In a spirit of community-mindedness: Many hot spot operators strongly
believe in the concept of a connected Internet community, and they
want to do their part by providing a hop-on point for friends, neighbors,
and even passers-by to get online. For an example of this, check out
a service provider called Fon (www.fon.com/en), which has built a
worldwide network of hot spots around this principle — if you install
a Fon router in your home or business, you get free access to the 1.5
million other Fon routers throughout the world (mainly in Europe).
✓ As a municipal amenity: Not only individuals want to create a connected community. Many towns, cities, and villages have begun exploring the possibility of building municipality-wide Wi-Fi networks. A cost is
associated with this concept, of course, but they see this cost as being
less than the benefit the community will receive. For example, many
towns are looking at an openly accessible downtown Wi-Fi network as a
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way to attract business (and businesspeople) to downtown areas that
have suffered because of businesses moving to the suburbs.
✓ As a way to attract customers: Many cafes and other public gathering
spots have installed free-to-use hot spots as a means of getting customers to come in the door and to stay longer. These businesses don’t
charge for the hot spot usage, but they figure you will buy more double
espressos if you can sit in a comfy chair and surf the Web while you’re
drinking your coffee — in many cases, the business provides you with
free access after you buy something.
✓ As a business in and of itself: Most of the larger hot spot providers
have made public wireless LAN access their core business. They see
that hot spot access is a great tool for traveling businesspeople, mobile
workers (such as sales folks and field techs), and the like. They’ve built
their businesses based on the assumption that these people (or their
companies) will pay for Wi-Fi access mainly because of the benefits that
a broadband connection offers them compared with the dial-up modem
connections they’ve been traditionally forced to use while on the road.
Seating
area
Figure 16-1:
An airport
concourse
is a perfect
location for
a hot spot,
using several access
points.
Seating
area
Seating
area
Public access
points
Another group of hot spot operators exists that we like to call the unwilling
(or unwitting!) hot spot operators. These are often regular Joes who have
built wireless home networks but haven’t activated any of the security measures we discuss in Chapter 9. Their access points have been left wide open,
and their neighbors (or people sitting on the park bench across the street)
are taking advantage of this open access point to do some free Web surfing.
Businesses, too, fall in this category: You would be shocked at how many
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businesses have unsecured access points — in many cases, their IT people
don’t even know about it. It’s all too common for a department to install
its own access point (a rogue access point) without telling the IT staff that
they’ve done so.
Exploring Different Types of Hot Spots
We tend to divide hot spot operators into two categories: free networks, or
freenets, which let anyone associate with the hot spot and get access without
paying, and for-pay hot spots, which require users to set up an account and
pay per use or a monthly (or yearly) fee for access. In the following sections,
we talk a bit about these two types of operators, as well as a third type of
operator who could fit into either category — the municipal/metro hot spot
(or hot zone) operator.
Freenets and open access points
Most open access points are just that: individual access points that have
been purposely (or mistakenly) left open for others to use. Because this is
essentially an ad hoc network created by individuals, without any particular
organization behind them, these open hot spots can be hard to find. (Note:
This is different from an ad hoc network that doesn’t use an access point;
refer to Chapter 7.) In some areas, the owners of these hot spots are part of
an organized group, which makes these hot spots easier to find. But in other
locations, you need to do some Web research or use some special programs
on your laptop or handheld computer to find an open access point.
The more organized groups of open access points — often called freenets —
can be found in many larger cities. You can find a list of freenets at www.
freenetworks.org. One of the biggest of these freenets is NYCwireless
(www.nycwireless.net), a freenet serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, and other
areas of the metro New York City region. Similar informal and grassroots networks exist in other big cities.
A growing number of businesses are offering free hot spot services as well.
These range from entire shopping malls or even city blocks offering the
service as an amenity to attract customers to restaurants and cafes which
simply have an access point turned on out of neighborliness. A growing
number of chain restaurants (such as Panera Bread) now offer free Wi-Fi hot
spots in all their locations.
You’ll have much more luck finding freenets and free public access points in
urban areas. The nature of 802.11 technologies is such that most off-the-shelf
access points reach only about 200 feet with any kind of throughput. So, when
you get out of the city and into the suburbs and rural areas, chances are good
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that an access point in someone’s house won’t reach any place you’re going
to be — unless that house is right next door to a park or other public space.
There’s just a density issue to overcome. In a city, where numerous access
points may be on a single block, you have much better luck getting online.
For-pay services
Although we think that freenets are an awesome concept, if you have an
essential business document to e-mail or a PowerPoint presentation that you
absolutely have to download from the company server before you get to your
meeting, you may not want to rely solely on the generosity of strangers. You
may even be willing to pay to get a good, reliable, secure connection to the
Internet for these business (or important personal) purposes.
Trust us: Someone out there is thinking about how he can help you with that
need. In fact, a bunch of companies are focusing on exactly that business.
It’s the nature of capitalism, right? The concluding sections of this chapter
talk about a few of these companies, but for now, we talk just in generalities.
Commercial hot spot providers are mainly focused on the business market,
providing access to mobile workers and road-warrior types. Many of these
providers also offer relatively inexpensive plans (by using either prepaid calling cards or pay-by-the-use models) that you may use for nonbusiness connectivity (at least if you’re like us, and you can’t go an hour without checking
your mail or reading DBR — www.dukebasketballreport.com — even
when you’re on vacation).
Unless you’re living in a city or town right near a hot spot provider, you probably don’t pick up a hot spot as your primary ISP, although in some places
(often, smaller towns), ISPs are using Wi-Fi as the primary pipe to their customers’ homes. You can expect to find for-pay hot spot access in lots of areas
outside the home. The most common include
✓ Hotel lobbies and rooms
✓ Coffee shops and Internet cafes
✓ Airport gates and lounges
✓ Office building lobbies
✓ Train stations
✓ Meeting facilities
✓ Everywhere else!
Basically, anywhere that folks armed with a laptop or a handheld computer
may find themselves is a potential for a hot spot operator to build a business.
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Free Wi-Fi . . . kinda
A number of businesses have Wi-Fi networks
that fall somewhere in between the “free”
networks and “pay” networks we discuss in
this chapter. Typically these “kinda free” networks are free for you to use if you meet some
sort of condition — like having a specific kind
of wireless device (for example, an iPhone in
any Starbucks with an AT&T provided hot spot,
or a Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader in any
B&N bookstore), or if you’re a customer. (For
example, Pat’s favorite coffee shop, Peets,
will print out a ticket with a passcode good for
a few hours of free Wi-Fi when you buy your
espresso — mmm, espresso!) In these cases,
if you don’t meet the specific conditions, you
can always just buy your Wi-Fi access (typically from one of the major hotspot providers
like AT&T, T-Mobile, or Boingo). We talk more
about buying Wi-Fi access in the section “Forpay services.”
We’ve also got some good news on this front:
Many of these businesses are loosening their
restrictions and making actual-free-as-in-youdon’t-have-to-buy-something Wi-Fi available.
The biggest example here is Starbucks, who, in
July 2010, changed their previous for-fee Wi-Fi
service into a free Wi-Fi service in all of their
(many, many thousands) of stores. We guess
they figure if you come in for the free Wi-Fi,
you’re probably going to buy a drink anyway.
And if you spend as much at Starbucks as
Pat (and his kindergartener) do, you really do
deserve free Wi-Fi anyway.
Depending upon what airline you regularly fly, you may even be able to plug
into a Wi-Fi network on an airplane. In the mid-00s, there was a lot of talk
about in-flight Wi-Fi, and it went absolutely nowhere. However, in 2008, a company called Aircell (www.aircell.com) got the ball rolling again, and it has
partnered with just about all of the major airlines. As we write, their AirGo service has been installed on just shy of 1,000 airplanes. So while you may have
to turn off your cellphone while you fly, you don’t need to be away from
Facebook, if you don’t want to.
A continuing issue that has been holding back the hot spot industry so far —
keeping it a huge future trend rather than a use-it-anywhere-today reality —
has been the issue of roaming. As of this writing, no single hot spot operator
has anything close to ubiquitous coverage, though a few companies (such as
Boingo) are making deals and getting closer. Instead, dozens of different hot
spot operators, of different sizes, compete with each other. As a user, perhaps a salesperson who’s traveling across town to several different clients in
one day, you may run into hot spots from three or four providers — and need
accounts from each of those providers.
This situation is much different than the cellphone industry, in which you
can pretty much take your phone anywhere and make calls. The cellphone
providers have elaborate roaming arrangements in place that allow them to
bill each other (and in the end, bill you, the user) for these calls. Hot spot
service providers haven’t reached this point.
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If you’re looking to join a fee-based hot spot network, here are some of your
main choices:
✓ Boingo Wireless aggregates hot spots. Boingo (founded by Sky Dayton,
who also founded the huge ISP EarthLink), doesn’t operate any of its
own hot spots but instead has partnered with a huge range of other hot
spot operators, from little mom-and-pop hot spot operators to big operations, such as AT&T. Boingo provides all the billing and account management for users. Thus, a Boingo customer can go to any Boingo partner’s
hot spot, log on, and get online. Boingo is unique in this group not only
because it doesn’t “own” the hot spots, but also because it has its own
special software designed to manage your account and to help you find
hot spots. You can find out more about Boingo at www.boingo.com.
✓ Cellphone companies have become the biggest players in the hot spot
business. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless run networks consisting
of thousands of hot spots. In fact, wireless carriers like AT&T are building even more Wi-Fi hotspots to supplement their cellular networks. All
of those iPhones use a lot of data, and it costs the cellular carriers a lot
less to provide that data by Wi-Fi than it does on their expensive 3G
cellular towers. Typically you’ll get some level of “free” access with
these providers if you purchase your home Internet or your wireless
services from them; otherwise you’ll pay a daily, monthly, or annual
rate, as you prefer. (The longer term you sign up for, the less you pay on
a per-day basis.) You can find out more about these services at http://
hotspot.t-mobile.com, www22.verizon.com/Residential/WiFi
and www.att.com/gen/general?pid=5949.
Tools for Finding Hot Spots
When you’re on the road looking for a freenet, a community hot spot, or a
commercial provider, here are a few ways that you can get your laptop or
handheld computer to find available networks:
✓ Do your homework. If you know exactly where you’re going to be, you
can do some online sleuthing, find available networks, and write down the
SSIDs or WPA passphrases or WEP keys (if required) before you get there.
(We talk about these items in more detail in Chapter 9.) Most hot spots
don’t use WPA or WEP (it’s too hard for their customers to figure out),
but you can find the SSID on the Web site of the hot spot provider you’re
planning to use. Just look in the support or how-to-connect section.
The folks at Wi-Fi Planet (one of our favorite sources of industry news)
run the Web site Wi-FiHotSpotList.com (www.wi-fihotspotlist.com),
which lets you search through its huge worldwide database of hot spots.
You can search by city, state, or country. Wi-FiHotSpotList.com includes
both free and for-pay hot spots, so it’s a comprehensive list.
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Another great site is JiWire (www.jiwire.com). This site includes a
comprehensive listing of free and for-pay hot spots, a great Wi-Fi news
site (Wi-Fi Net News), and even special software you can download to
help you locate hot spots without being online. (Just enter the address
and you can search a locally stored database on your PC.)
✓ Look for a “Wi-Fi access” sign. Providers that push open hot spots usually post some prominent signs and otherwise advertise this service.
Most are providing you with Wi-Fi access as a means of getting you in
the door as a paying customer, so they find a way to let you know what
they’re up to.
✓ Just look in your list of available networks. Windows XP through 7
and all versions of OS X will search out available APs and present them
in a nice pull-down list for you to pick and choose from. In most cases,
this list doesn’t provide details about the access points, but you can use
trial-and-error to see whether you can get online.
✓ Use a network sniffer program. These programs work with your network
adapter to ferret out the access points near you and provide a bit of information about them. The most famous Wi-Fi network sniffer, NetStumbler,
has been neglected and doesn’t support anything beyond Windows XP,
but a new program on the market, inSSIDer (www.metageek.net/
products/inssider), does. You can find a good list of network sniffer
programs for any operating system at http://wiki.personaltelco.
net/WirelessSniffer.
Note: In most cases, network sniffer programs are used to record and
decode network packets — something the highly paid network analysts
at your company may use. In this case, we’re referring to programs that
are designed solely for wireless LANs and that sniff out radio waves and
identify available networks.
Network sniffer programs are also a good way to help you evaluate the security of your own network. In fact, they’re the main reason why the developers
of Network Stumbler created the program. After you implement some of the
security steps we discuss in Chapter 9, you can fire up your favorite sniffer
program and see whether you’ve been successful.
Some of the hot spots you find by using these tools, or some of the online Web
pages that collect the reports of people using these tools, are indeed open,
albeit unintentionally. We don’t get involved in a discussion of the morality or
ethics of using these access points to get online. We would say, however, that
some people think that locating and using an open access point is a bad thing,
akin to stealing. So, if you’re going to hop on someone’s access point and you
don’t know for sure that you’re meant to do that, you’re on your own.
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Staying Secure in a Hot
Spot Environment
As we mention earlier in the chapter, most Wi-Fi hot spots, whether they’re
free or for pay, utilize no network security and encryption. (This is simply
because it’s easier for users to get online without trying to figure out WPA
passphrases and the like.) There are some exceptions, but the vast majority
of hot spots are completely without encryption.
What this means to you, as a user of a hot spot, is that everything that you
send and receive from your laptop is “in the clear.” Anyone else in Wi-Fi
range could intercept your transmissions and read them. If that doesn’t give
you pause, it should!
The lack of hot spot encryption also could lead to a situation where you
unwittingly log on to a “fake” hot spot with a similar SSID to the one you’re
trying to log on to. In this evil twin attack, some bad person sets up an access
point with an SSID such as Starbucks right near the Starbucks where you
think you’re logging in to an AT&T hot spot. You log on and they capture
everything you do online (for example, online banking and Webmail passwords). Not a good situation.
Fortunately, you can do a few things to secure yourself in a hot spot
environment: Use a VPN and practice safe browsing, as described in
the following sections.
Using a VPN
The first (and best) way to stay secure is to use a Virtual Private Network (or
VPN). Using a VPN in a hot spot gives you three distinct benefits:
✓ Provides security even without airlink encryption (WPA or WEP) by
encrypting all your inbound and outbound traffic. Even though someone
could freely “read” and copy all your Wi-Fi signals, those signals would
be protected by the VPN’s encryption and would be nothing but gibberish to the person doing the reading and copying.
✓ Provides privacy and anonymity online (even beyond the bounds of
the hot spot) by making your public “face” on the Internet an IP address
in your VPN provider’s network rather than your own IP address. This
means that any online tracking (both the benign and the malign kinds)
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that relies on your IP address would never be able to associate you with
your actual IP address. This benefit could also apply at home or anywhere you go online.
✓ Offers better access to the Internet in locations where certain Web sites
or Internet applications (such as VoIP, discussed in Chapter 13) are
imposed by the government or other organizations. For example, many
western travelers in China find that they can’t access Web sites that
they normally view. (For example, some parts of Wikipedia are blocked.)
A VPN lets you tunnel through national firewalls and do what you want
to do on the Internet without being blocked.
Many corporations provide VPN services for their remote (work at home)
and mobile workers. If yours does, make sure you use it in hot spots. If you
don’t have access to a corporate VPN, consider subscribing to a VPN service such as WiTopia’s Personal VPN (www.witopia.net) or HotSpotVPN
(www.hotspotvpn.com). These are hosted VPN services, which provide you
with a secure and reliable VPN solution over the Internet for a monthly or
annual fee. For more information about WiTopia, check out the sidebar titled
“Securing your Wi-Fi with WiTopia.”
Practicing safe browsing
If you can’t (or don’t want to) bother with a VPN service in unsecured hot
spots, you should practice safe browsing. That means you should
✓ Pay close attention to the SSID you’re connecting to and make sure
it is the one you mean to connect to. Don’t connect to a free public
Wi-Fi network unless that’s actually the SSID advertised for the hot spot
you’re in!
✓ Use secured/encrypted connections whenever possible. That means,
for example, connecting to secure Web pages and checking your
browser to make sure you have actually done so whenever you’re doing
something sensitive online (such as online banking or even e-mail).
Make sure that, whenever possible, you are connected to a Web site
with an https rather than http prefix to the URL. When you’re on the
secured site, click the lock icon in your browser. (It’s typically up in the
address bar of your browser, or in the bottom-right corner on the status
bar, depending on which browser you’re using.) Check the certificate
that pops up and make sure the name of the business in the certificate is
the one you think you’re connected to.
✓ If your ISP supports it, configure your e-mail client to use a secure
login. This ensures that when you download e-mail you’ll be using an
encrypted connection. How you set this up depends on both your e-mail
client and your ISP’s configuration, so search your ISP’s Web site support section for “Secure IMAP” or “Secure POP.”
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Securing your Wi-Fi with WiTopia
Our favorite hosted VPN service comes from
the folks at WiTopia (www.witopia.net),
with their Personal VPN service. For $39.99 a
year, WiTopia secures your Wi-Fi traffic by
routing it through an encrypted VPN tunnel,
which keeps your data from prying eyes all the
way from your Mac or PC (or iPhone, more on
this in a moment) to WiTopia’s secure server
(from which it then makes its way onto the wild
world of the Internet).
You can get two types of VPNs from WiTopia:
✓ An SSL VPN, which uses the same technology (secure sockets layer) that secure Web
pages use to encrypt all your data traffic.
This is fastest, but it requires a software
client and doesn’t work with every device
(see WiTopia’s Web site for details).
✓ A PPTP VPN, which uses the same technology used by many big corporations in
their VPNs. (PPTP stands for Point-to-Point
Tunneling Protocol.) This is slower and may
be blocked in some countries (like China)
but doesn’t require you to install software
and can be used on more devices. (You can
even use it to secure your iPhone or iPad’s
connections!)
✓ Or, you can buy a combination service
that offers both options. You’d choose
this option if you wanted to maximize your
options (using SSL whenever possible, but
keeping the option of PPTP available when
needed).
The SSL VPN has been WiTopia’s traditional
product, built around an open source software effort called (appropriately) OpenVPN
(www.openvpn.net). The WiTopia folks
added PPTP VPN support in 2007 as a way of
adding support for even more clients, including the Apple iPhone. Mac and Windows users
can download the OpenVPN software from
WiTopia’s Web site; for PPTP VPNs, users
simply take advantage of the PPTP VPN client
software built into most operating systems
(including Windows XP and beyond, Mac OS X,
and Apple’s version of OS X for the iPhone,
iPad, and iPod touch).
WiTopia charges an annual fee of $59.99 for
its SSL product, $39.99 for PPTP, and $69.99 for
the combined product. Whatever you choose,
it’s a good deal and a great way to secure your
network.
If you use Google’s Gmail service (http://mail.google.com), go into your
Gmail Settings page, look under the General tab, and make sure that Browser
Connection is set to Always Use https.
No matter what you do for security in a hot spot, always be aware that you
are in a public place using unsecured airwaves. People can eavesdrop on
your Wi-Fi signal, and they can probably also “shoulder surf” and just read
your screen. Keep that in mind!
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Dealing with Hot Spots
on Mobile Devices
A number of mobile devices — by that we mean smartphones and PDAs —
are now equipped with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. You can also find Wi-Fi built
into handheld gaming devices (such as the Nintendo DS) and in music/video
players such as Apple’s iPod Touch and Microsoft’s Zune. Due to the portable nature of these devices, you’ll find that you’re more likely to have them
tucked away in your pocketbook (or “man purse” . . . oops, we mean trendy
messenger bag) when hot spot access is available.
Getting online with one of these devices is easy when there’s an open hot
spot available to you. In fact, most of them will automatically associate with
the hot spot and get you online. (Note: How this works is a device-by-device
process, so read the manual if you don’t know how to connect to a Wi-Fi
network with your particular portable device.)
Where this process gets to be a bit difficult is when you’re in a location that
requires you to register to get online (either as a way of making a payment
or just to register with a free hot spot for access). Typically, hot spots that
require registration do so in one of two ways:
✓ Using a captive portal: A captive portal is a system that automatically
directs you to a registration Web page before allowing you unfettered
access to the Internet over a hot spot connection. This process works
fine if your mobile device has a built-in Web browser but is stopped
dead in its tracks if you’re using a device without a Web browser
(such as a Wi-Fi Skype phone).
Not all mobile device Web browsers support captive portal systems,
usually due to a lack of JavaScript functionality in the browser. Newer
operating systems like iOS and Android do, however.
✓ Using client software: A smaller number of hot spots require (or offer
as an option) a software client that handles user authentication and
authorization. With a client installed on your device, you can bypass the
requirement to load a Web page and get yourself on the network without
the hassle. For example, Boingo offers client software for iOS (iPod touch,
iPhone, and iPad), Android, Windows Mobile, and Nokia Series 60
smartphones.
So the bottom line here is that you need a Web browser, a special bit of
client software, or an open hot spot to get online with your mobile device.
We wish we had a better answer, but, in fact, this is a major issue in the hot
spot industry today.
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Part V
The Part of Tens
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P
In this part . . .
art V is the one you’ve been waiting for, right? We
have four top-ten lists here that we hope you will
find interesting as well as helpful: ten frequently asked
questions about wireless home networking; ten ways to
improve the performance of your wireless home network;
ten way-cool devices that you will (eventually) connect to
your wireless home network; and ten sources for more
info in case you can never get enough about wireless.
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Chapter 17
Ten FAQs about Wireless
Home Networks
In This Chapter
▶ Choosing the right standard
▶ Deciding whether dual-band gear is worth your money
▶ Dealing with dead Internet connections
▶ Getting games going
▶ Enabling videoconferencing
▶ Keeping things secure
▶ Finding out about firmware
▶ Understanding NAT
▶ Finding your IP addresses
▶ Resetting when all else fails
W
ireless networks are increasingly easy to set up, configure, and connect to. But they’re far from foolproof and dead simple. Despite some
great efforts by vendors and industry organizations to simplify the wireless
buying, installing, and using experience, things can get a bit confusing, even
to those in the know.
In this chapter, we look at ten issues we hear the most often when friends and
family ask us for help with getting started in the wireless LAN world. We talked
to our helpful friends at several of the most popular vendors of wireless networking equipment and asked them what they hear (or what their customer
service reps, sales partners, and others close to real-life users hear).
If you don’t see in this chapter the particular question you’re asking, we
recommend that you at least skim this chapter anyway. You never know:
You may find your answer lurking where you least expect it, or you may
come across a tidbit of information that may come in handy later. And,
throughout this chapter, we also steer you to the places in the book where
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we further discuss various topics — which may in turn lead you to your
answer (or to other tidbits of information that come in handy later). What
we’re saying is that reading this chapter can only help you. Also check out
Chapter 18, where we give you some troubleshooting tips.
We firmly believe in the power of the Web and of using vendor Web sites for
all they’re worth. Support is a critical part of this process. When you’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 frequently
asked questions (FAQs) for the device; you may find some of those hidden
gotchas that you wish you had known about before buying the gear.
Which Standard Is Right for Me?
As we discuss in Chapters 2 and 4 (among other places), Wi-Fi wireless
network standards have gone through multiple iterations: 802.11b, 802.11a,
802.11g, and, now, 802.11n. When you shop for wireless networking equipment,
you’ll find that there’s still a pretty even mix of 802.11g and newer 802.11n
gear available in stores and online. You’ll also find that although 802.11g gear
is cheaper than 802.11n equipment, the price difference is not all that great.
Because this price difference is so low (as low as $20 separating an 802.11g
wireless router from an 802.11n version), we absolutely recommend that you
choose equipment that’s compatible with (and Wi-Fi certified for) 802.11n.
Even if everything else that you own now — all your laptop computers, smartphones, game consoles, and so on — support only 802.11g, we recommend
that you invest in the future with an 802.11n wireless router. Pretty much every
new bit of wireless-equipped gear being released these days supports 802.11n,
so that 802.11n wireless router will come in handy the first time you buy
something new.
The bottom line is that 802.11n is not only a safe recommendation, but also
a good one. Although it’s far from perfect (the state of the art always moves
forward), 802.11n provides a combination of range, compatibility, and speed
that makes it good enough for most people. You aren’t going to find more
speed or range than 802.11n systems offer.
Are Dual-Band Routers
Worth The Extra Money?
As we discuss in Chapter 2, the 802.11n standard supports Wi-Fi connections
using both of the frequency bands available to Wi-Fi systems — 2.4 GHz
and 5 GHz. Previous Wi-Fi standards (802.11a, b, and g) supported only
one or the other band (mainly 2.4 GHz).
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But the fact that the standard supports both bands doesn’t mean all 802.11n
equipment does. In fact a lot of lower-priced 802.11n gear — both wireless
routers and network adapters — uses only the 2.4 GHz band.
From the perspective of band capabilities, there are three types of
wireless routers or adapters:
✓ Single band: This equipment works only on the 2.4 GHz band.
✓ Dual band: This equipment works on either the 2.4 or the 5 GHz band,
but not both at the same time.
✓ Simultaneous dual band: Applicable only to routers/access points
(because they “talk” to multiple devices at once), this equipment
can operate on both frequency bands at the same time.
When you’re shopping for a new wireless router, you’ll find that the price
increases as you go in this order — single band equipment is just a bit more
than 802.11g, dual band is about twice the price of 802.11g, and simultaneous
dual band is significantly more expensive. As we write in the summer of 2010,
simultaneous dual-band routers start at around $150 — more than double the
price of single band routers.
Which to choose? If you have the money, simultaneous dual band is your
best bet and the most future-proofed alternative. If you’re more budgetminded, think about the following points and figure out how far your
budget will stretch:
✓ Single band routers are the cheapest, and they’ll work well with any
Wi-Fi equipment that you already own. There are two downsides:
• You won’t get the maximum 802.11n performance when you’re
mixing 802.11b or g gear using the same channel as your 802.11n
gear. It’s not a huge deal, but if you’re doing a lot video transfers
and the like, it’s nice not to mix standards.
• The 2.4 GHz band is crowded and therefore more prone to interference from your neighbor’s network and other devices like microwaves and cordless phones.
✓ Dual-band (non-simultaneous) routers are useful if you have an all 802.11n
network and you’d like to use the 5 GHz band. If, however, you’re going to
bring some non-802.11n or non–dual-band devices into your network (like
a gaming console or most smartphones), you’ll have to use the 2.4 GHz
band instead. In other words, you’ll gain nothing from one of these
routers unless all of your equipment supports the 5 GHz band.
✓ Simultaneous dual-band routers offer the best of both worlds: you can
put your 802.11n gear on the 5 GHz band at the fastest speeds and still
support all of your 2.4 GHz gear at the same time. But you have to pay
for the privilege.
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We have simultaneous dual-band routers in our homes. But then again, we
have dozens of wireless devices. If you’re like us — or think you might be
someday soon — spend the extra money on the simultaneous dual band.
Otherwise, an inexpensive single band router will do the trick.
I Can Connect to the Internet with
an Ethernet Cable But Not with My
Wireless LAN. What Am I Doing Wrong?
You’re almost there. The fact that everything works for one configuration but
not for another rules out many problems. 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 it’s your cable modem, digital subscriber line
[DSL] modem, or dial-up routers, for example). You know that because, when
you’re connected via Ethernet, there’s no problem. The problem is then
relegated to being between the AP and the client on the PC.
Most of the time, this is a configuration issue dealing with your service set
identifier (SSID) and your security configurations with Wi-Fi Protected Access
(WPA2) or Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). Your SSID denotes your service
area ID for your LAN, and your WEP controls your encryption keys for your data
packets. Without both, you can’t decode the signals traveling through the air.
Bring up your wireless configuration program, as we discuss in Chapter 7, and
verify again that your SSID is set correctly and your WPA2 passphrase or WEP
key is correct. Most configuration programs will find all the wireless transmitters in your area. If you don’t see yours, you’ve set up your AP in stealth mode
so it doesn’t broadcast its name. If that’s the case, you can try typing the word
any into the SSID to see whether it finds the AP, or you can go back to your AP
configuration using a wired connection and copy the SSID from the AP’s configuration screen. Keep in mind that SSIDs are case sensitive.
If neither of those issues is the problem, borrow a friend’s laptop with a compatible wireless connection to see whether his or her card can find and sign
on to your LAN when empowered with the right SSID and WPA2 or WEP code.
If it can, you know that your client card may have gone bad.
If a card (or any electronics, generally speaking) is going to go bad, it’s most
likely to have technical problems within the first 30 days.
If your friend’s PC cannot log on, the problem may be with your AP. At this
point, we have to say “Check the vendor’s Web site for specific problemsolving ideas and call its tech-support number for further help.”
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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/Xbox 360, PlayStation 2/3, or Wii onto your wireless LAN using its built-in Wi-Fi or by linking the Ethernet port on your gaming
device (if necessary, by purchasing a network adapter kit to add an Ethernet
port on your system) with a wireless bridge — which gets your gaming gear
onto your wireless network in an easy fashion. You just need to be sure to set
your bridge to the same SSID and WEP key or WPA passphrase as your LAN.
That’s the easy part, and you should now be able to access the Internet
from your box.
The tough part is allowing the Internet to access your gaming system. This
requirement applies to certain games, two-way voice systems, and some
aspects of multiplayer gaming. You may need to open certain ports in your
router to enable those packets bound for your gaming system to get there.
This process is called port forwarding (or something like that — vendors love to
name things differently among 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 great deal about this
topic in Chapter 11, in the section about dealing with port forwarding, so be
sure to read up on that before tinkering with your router configuration.
If this process is too complex to pull off with your present router, consider just
setting up a demilitarized zone (DMZ) for your gaming application, where your
gaming console or PC sits fairly open to the Internet. (We discuss setting up a
DMZ in Chapter 11.) This setup isn’t a preferred one, however, for security reasons, and we recommend that you try to get port forwarding to work.
Our esteemed tech editor has a great suggestion if you’re having issues with
port forwarding: a Web site called http://portforward.com. Check it out!
My Videoconferencing Application
Doesn’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 recently, has required special
telephone lines to work.
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The success of the Internet and its related protocols has opened up videoconferencing to the mass market with IP standards-based Web cameras and
other software-based systems (like Skype) becoming popular.
Still, if you’ve installed a router with the appropriate protection from the
Internet bad guys, videoconferencing can be problematic for all the same
reasons as in gaming, which we mention in the preceding section. You need
to have packets coming into your application just as much as you’re sending
packets out to someone else.
Wait a minute. You may be thinking “Data packets come into my machine all
the time (like when I download Web pages), so what are you saying?” Well,
those packets are requested, and the router in your AP (or your separate
router, if that’s how your network is set up) knows that they’re coming and
lets them through. Videoconferencing packets are often unrequested, which
makes the whole getting-through-the-router thing a bit tougher.
As such, the answer is the same as with gaming. You need to open ports in
your router (called port forwarding) or set up your video application in a
DMZ. Again, Chapter 11 can be a world of help here.
How Do I Secure My Network
from Hackers?
Nothing is totally secure from anything. The adage “Where there’s a will, there’s
a way” tends to govern most discussions about someone hacking into your LAN.
We tend to fall back on this one instead: Unless you have some major, supersecret hidden trove of something on your LAN that many people would simply kill
to have access to, the chances of a hacker spending a great deal of time to get
on your LAN is minimal. This statement means that as long as you do the basic
security enhancements we recommend in Chapter 9, you should be covered.
This doesn’t mean you’re safe from maliciousness. Even if hackers care nothing
for the contents of your computer, they care a lot about using the processing
power of that computer for their own ends. Nasty software called viruses, or
Trojans, can get to your computer in many ways. These programs give hackers
control of your computer unbeknownst to you so they do other more malicious
things such as sending more spam e-mail or infecting more machines.
You can secure the following parts of your network by taking the
following actions:
✓ Your Internet connection: You should turn on, at minimum, whatever
firewall protection your router offers. If you can, choose a router that
has stateful packet inspection (SPI). You should also use antivirus software and seriously consider using personal firewall software on your
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PCs. Using a firewall in both your router and on your PC is defense in
depth: After the bad guys get by your router firewall’s Maginot line, you
have extra guns to protect your PCs. (For a little historical perspective
on defense strategies, read up on Maginot and his fortification.)
✓ Your airwaves: Because wireless LAN signals can travel right through
your walls and out the door, you should strongly consider turning on
WPA2 (and taking other measures, which we discuss in Chapter 9) to
keep the next-door neighbors from snooping on your network.
What Is Firmware, and Why
Might I Need to Upgrade It?
Any consumer electronics device is governed by software seated in onboard
chip memory storage. When you turn on the device, it checks this memory to
find out what to do and loads the software in that area. This software turns
the device on and basically tells it how to operate.
This firmware can be updated through a process that’s specific to each manufacturer. Often, you see options in your software configuration program for
checking for firmware upgrades.
Some folks advocate never, ever touching your firmware if you don’t need to.
Indeed, reprogramming your firmware can upset much of the logical innards
of the device you struggled so hard to configure properly in the first place.
In fact, you may see advice on a vendor site, such as this statement from the
D-Link site: “Do not upgrade firmware unless you are having specific problems.” In other words: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Many times, a firmware
upgrade can cause you to lose all customized settings you’ve configured on
your router. Although not all vendor firmware upgrades reset your settings to
their defaults, many do. Also, it’s always best to do a firmware upgrade with
a wired connection to the router — if you lose the wireless signal during the
upgrade, you could be forced to totally reset your router — the router might
even become inoperable. Be careful!
Despite those warnings, we say “Never say never.” Most AP and router vendors
operate under a process of continuous improvement, by adding new features
and fixing bugs regularly. One key way that you can keep current with these
standards is by upgrading your firmware. Over time, your wireless network will
fall out of sync with the latest bug fixes and improvements, and you’ll have to
upgrade at some point. When you do so, follow all the manufacturer’s warnings.
In Chapter 9, we discuss Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA-2). Many older APs
and network adapters will be able to use WPA-2, but only after their firmware
has been upgraded.
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Is NAT the Same as a Firewall?
If you find networking confusing, you’re not alone. (If it were easy, we would
have no market for our books!) One area of confusion is Network Address
Translation (NAT). No, NAT isn’t the same as a firewall. It’s important to
understand the difference to make sure that you set up your network correctly. Firewalls provide a greater level of security than NAT routers and,
thanks to dropping hardware costs, are generally available in all routers
these days. The quality of the firewall built into your AP is not necessarily
related to the price of the AP. We recommend checking the reviews of any
hardware you’re looking to purchase from sites such as www.cnet.com.
Often, you hear the term firewall used to describe a router’s ability to protect
LAN IP addresses from Internet snoopers. But a true firewall goes deeper than
that, by using SPI. SPI allows the firewall to look at each IP address and domain
requesting access to the network; the administrator can specify certain IP
addresses or domain names that are allowed to be let in while blocking any
other attempt to access the LAN. (Sometimes you hear this called filtering.)
Firewalls can also add another layer of protection through a Virtual Private
Network (VPN). It enables remote access to the private network through the
use of secure logins and authentication. Finally, firewalls can help protect
your family from unsavory content by enabling you to block content from
certain sites.
Firewalls go well beyond NAT, and we highly recommend that you
have a firewall in your home network. Check out Chapter 9 for more
information on firewalls.
How Can I Find Out My IP Address?
First off, you have two IP addresses: a public IP address and a private
IP address. In some instances, you need to know one or the other or
both addresses.
Your private IP address is your IP address on your LAN so that your router
knows where to send traffic in and among LAN devices. If you have a LAN
printer, that device has its own IP address, as does any network device on
your LAN.
The address these devices have, however, is rarely the public IP address (the
address is the “Internet phone number” of your network), mostly because
public IP addresses are becoming scarce. Your Internet gateway has a public
IP address for your home. If you want to access from a public location a
specific device on your home network, you typically have to enable port
forwarding in your router and then add that port number on the end of your
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public IP address when you try to make a connection. For example, if you had
a Web server on your network, you would type the address 68.129.5.29:80
into your browser when you tried to access it remotely — 80 is the port used
for HTTP servers.
You can usually find out your wide area network (public IP address) and
LAN (private IP address) from within your router configuration software or
Web page, such as http://192.168.1.1. You may see a status screen; this
common place shows your present IP addresses and other key information
about your present Internet connection.
If you have Windows Vista or Windows 7, you can find your private IP by
following these steps:
1. Click the Windows Start button and then choose Control Panel➪
Network and Sharing Center.
You need to have Administrator access to be able to get to the
Network and Sharing Center.
2. In the Network and Sharing Center, click Wireless Network
Connection (Network Name).
Network Name is the SSID of your wireless network.
3. On the screen that appears, click the Details button.
This screen gives you your IP address (along with a lot of other
information!).
This IP address is your internal, or private, IP address, not the public address
that people on the Internet use to connect to your network. If you try to give
this address to someone (perhaps so that they can connect to your computer
to do videoconferencing or to connect to a game server you’re hosting), it
doesn’t work. You need the public IP address that you find in the configuration program for your access point or router. A number of Web sites are available to help you determine your external, or public, IP address (for example,
www.whatismyip.com).
If Everything Stops Working,
What Can I Do?
The long length of time it can take to get help from tech support these days
leads a lot of people to read the manual, check out the Web site, and work
hard to debug their situations. But what happens if you’ve tried everything
and it’s still a dead connection — and tech support agrees with you?
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In these instances, your last resort is to reset the system back to its factory
defaults and start over. Typically you reset your router by pressing a small,
recessed button on the back or bottom of the router. (Check your router’s
manual — you may have to do this step for a particular length of time, or
with another step such as unplugging and replugging the power cord on your
router.) If you do this, be sure to upgrade your firmware while you’re at it
because it resets your variables anyway. Who knows? The more recent firmware update may resolve some issues that could be causing the problems.
Resetting your device is considered a drastic action and should be taken only
after you’ve tried everything else. Make sure that you at least get a tech-support
person on the phone to confirm that you have tried everything and that a reset
makes sense.
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Chapter 18
Ten Ways to Troubleshoot
Wireless LAN Performance
In This Chapter
▶ Looking for obvious problems
▶ Moving your access points
▶ Moving your antennas
▶ Flipping channels
▶ Checking for interference problems
▶ Rechecking your environment
▶ Adding a better antenna
▶ Going with a second AP
▶ Repeating your signal
▶ Checking your cordless phones
A
lthough troubleshooting any piece of network equipment can be
frustrating, troubleshooting wireless equipment is a little more so
because there’s so much that you just can’t check. After all, radio waves are
invisible. That’s the rub with improving the throughput (performance) of
your wireless home network, but we’re here to help. And don’t get hung up
on the term throughput (the effective speed of your network); when you take
into account retransmissions attributable to errors, you find that the amount
of data moving across your network is lower than the nominal speed of your
network. For example, your PC may tell you that you’re connected at 54 Mbps,
but because of retransmissions and other factors, you may be sending and
receiving data at about half that speed.
The trick to successfully troubleshooting anything is to be logical and systematic. First, be logical. Think about the most likely issues (no matter how
improbable) and work from there. Second, be systematic. Networks are
complicated things, which mandate a focus on sequential troubleshooting on
your part. Patience is a virtue when it comes to network debugging.
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Perhaps hardest of all is making sense of performance issues — the subject of
this chapter. First, you can’t get great performance reporting from consumerlevel access points, or APs. (The much more expensive ones sold to businesses
are better at that.) Even so, debugging performance based on performance
data in arrears is tough. Fixing performance issues is a trial-and-error, real-time
process. At least most wireless client devices have some sort of signal-strength
meter, which is one of the best sources of information you can get to help you
understand what’s happening.
Signal-strength meters (which are usually part of the software included with
your wireless gear) are the best way to get a quick read on your network.
These signal-strength meters are used by the pros, says Tim Shaughnessy
at NETGEAR: “I would highlight it as a tool.” We agree.
It’s a good idea to work with a friend or family member. Your friend can be
in a poor reception “hole” with a notebook computer and the wireless utility
showing the signal strength. You can try moving or configuring the access
point to see what works. Just be patient — the signal meter may take a few
seconds to react to changes. (Count to ten after each change, it’s what we
do to make sure we are not rushing the process.)
Because not all performance issues can be tracked down (at least not easily),
in this chapter we introduce you to the most common ways to improve the
performance of your wireless home network. We know that these are tried-andtrue tips because we’ve tried them ourselves. We’re pretty good at debugging
this stuff by now. We just can’t seem to figure out when it’s not plugged in!
(Well, Pat can’t. Read the “Check the obvious” section to see what we mean.)
Check the Obvious
Sometimes, what’s causing you trouble is something that’s simple to fix. For
example, one of us (and we won’t say who — Pat) was surprised that his
access point just stopped working one day. The culprit was his beagle, Opie,
who had pulled the plug out of the wall. As obvious as this sounds, it took
the unnamed person (Pat) an hour to figure it out. Now, if someone told you,
“Hey, the AP just stopped working,” you would probably say “Is it plugged
in?” The moral: Think of the obvious and check it first.
Here are a few more “obvious” things to check:
✓ Problem: The power goes out and then comes back on. Different equipment takes different lengths of time to reset and restart, which causes
the loss of connectivity and logical configurations on your network.
Solution: Sometimes, you need to turn off all your devices. Leave them
all off for a minute or two, and then turn them all back on, working your
way from the Internet connection to your computer — from the wide
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area network (WAN) connection (your broadband modem, for example)
back to your machine. This process allows each device to start up with
everything upstream properly in place and turned on.
✓ Problem: Your access point is working fine, with great throughput and
a strong signal footprint, until one day it all just drops off substantially.
No hardware problem. No new interferers installed at home. No new
obstructions. No changes of software. Nothing. The cause: Your nextdoor neighbor got an access point and is using his on the same channel
as yours.
Solution: This problem is hard to debug in the first place. How the heck
do you find out who is causing invisible interference — by going door
to door? “Uh, pardon me; I’m going door to door to try to debug interferers on my access point. Are you suddenly emitting any extraneous
radio waves? No, I’m not wearing an aluminum foil hat. Why?” Often,
when debugging performance issues, you need to try many of the onestep solutions, to see whether they have an effect. If you can find the
solution, you have a great deal of insight into what the problem was.
For example, you might use your AP’s configuration software (or go to
its Web page) and change channels and find that solves the problem;
maybe the problem was that a neighbor just installed a new access point
and it is causing interference by operating on your chosen channel. (See
the section “Change Channels,” later in this chapter, for more on this
possible solution.)
The wireless utility for the adapter may have a tab, called a site survey or
station list, that lists the APs in range. The tab may show your neighbor’s
access point and the channel it’s on.
APs that follow the 802.11n standard dynamically switch channels
when there’s too much interference. The 802.11n equipment we have
seen doesn’t even give you an option to choose a channel because of
this dynamic switching capability. Keep in mind that the higher speed
of these APs is achieved by combining channels so they can send and
receive data on more than one channel at a time and can use more than
one antenna to send and receive data. To take full advantage of the
dynamic nature of 802.11n, you need an 802.11n AP or router as well as
an 802.11n network adapter in your computer.
Before you chase a performance issue, make sure that you have one. The
advertised rates for throughput for the various wireless standards are misleading. What starts out at 54 Mbps for 802.11g is really more like a maximum
of 36 Mbps in practice (and less as distance increases). For 802.11n, it’s more
like 125 Mbps at best, rather than the 300 Mbps you hear bandied about. You
occasionally see high levels (like when you’re within a few yards of the access
point), but that’s rare. The moral: If you think that you should be getting 300
Mbps but you’re getting only 100 Mbps, consider yourself lucky — very lucky.
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Move the Access Point
A wireless signal degrades with distance. You may find that the place you originally placed your access point, or AP, doesn’t really fit with your subsequent
real-world use of your wireless local area network. A move may be in order.
After your AP is up and working, you’ll probably forget about it — people
often do. APs can often be moved around and even shuffled aside by subsequent gear or by overenthusiastic house cleaning. Because the access connection is still up (that is to say, working), sometimes people don’t notice that the
AP’s performance degrades when you hide it more or move it around.
Make sure that other gear isn’t blocking your AP, that it isn’t flush against a
wall (which can cause interference), that its vertical orientation isn’t too close
to the ground (more interference), and that it isn’t in the line of sight of radio
wave interference (such as from microwaves and cordless phones). Even a few
inches can make a difference. The best location is in the center of your desired
coverage area (remember to think in three dimensions!) and on top of a desk
or bookcase. For more about setting up APs, check out Chapter 6.
Move the Antenna
Remember the days before everyone had cable or satellite TV? There was a
reason why people would fiddle with the rabbit ears on a TV set — they were
trying to get the antenna into the ideal position to receive signals. Whether
the antenna is on the client or on the access point, the same concept applies:
Moving the antenna can yield results. Because different antennas have different signal coverage areas, reorienting them in different declinations (or
angles relative to the horizon) changes their coverage patterns. A strong
signal translates to better throughput and performance.
Look at it this way: The antenna creates a certain footprint of its signal. If
you’re networking a multistory home and you’re not getting a great signal
upstairs, try shifting your antenna to a 45 degree angle, to increase a more
vertical signal — that is, to send more signal to the upstairs and downstairs
and less horizontally.
Because 802.11n wireless routers use special MIMO antennas, the antennas on
these devices are often built into the router and can’t be individually adjusted.
In this case, you can try to move the orientation and positioning of the router
itself because there’s no antenna to move.
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Change Channels
Each access point broadcasts its signals over segments of the wireless frequency spectrum called channels. The 802.11g standard (the most common
system at the time we wrote this chapter) defines 11 channels in the United
States that overlap considerably, leaving only 3 channels that don’t overlap
with each other. The IEEE 802.11a standard specifies 12 (although most current products support only 8) nonoverlapping channels. The 802.11n standard uses the same 11 channels as 802.11g at 2.4 GHz and — if your device is
dual band and supports it — the 12 channels of 802.11a at 5 GHz in the United
States. With 802.11n, your router may actually use two of these channels at
once to give you more throughput.
802.11n is designed to work with all the previous standards. The dynamic
switching of channels on either frequency available to it means you have a lot
less to configure during setup. Some single band APs still give you the option
to choose channels at the beginning, but they don’t necessarily have to stay
on that channel as they work.
This situation affects your ability to have multiple access points in the same
area, whether they’re your own or your neighbors’. Because channels can
overlap, you can have the resulting interference. For 802.11g access points that
are within range of each other, set them to different channels, five apart from
each other (such as 1, 6, and 11), to avoid inter-access point interference. We
discuss the channel assignments for wireless LANs further in Chapter 6.
Check for Dual-Band Interference
Despite the industry’s mad rush to wirelessly enable every networkable device
it makes, a whole lot hasn’t been worked through yet, particularly interoperability. We’re not talking about whether one vendor’s 802.11n PC Card works
with another vendor’s 802.11n wireless router — the Wi-Fi interoperability
tests usually make sure that’s not a problem (unless one of your products isn’t
Wi-Fi certified). Instead, we’re talking about having Bluetooth (see Chapter 15
for more on this technology) working in the same area as 802.11b, g, and n,
or having older 802.11a APs and 802.11b, g, and n APs operating in the same
area. In some instances, like the former example, Bluetooth and 802.11b, g, and
(single band) n operate in the same frequency range, and therefore have some
potential for interference. (Interference is when another radio transmission
affects the one you’re using, like a cordless phone interfering with your Wi-Fi.)
Dual-band 802.11n systems can also work in the 5 GHz channels, which greatly
reduces the chances of interference.
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Another issue — one that’s not, strictly speaking, interference — is the use
of multiple Wi-Fi standards on a single channel. In other words, the effect
on your network’s speed and throughput when you mix 802.11b, g and n
systems on a single channel.
We’ve told you that all versions of Wi-Fi (with the exception of the rarelyseen 802.11a) are backward compatible with older versions. In other words,
you can use 802.11b equipment on an 802.11g network, and you can use
both 802.11b and 802.11g on an 802.11n network (as long as it’s operating
in the 2.4 GHz frequency range). There’s a downside to that compatibility,
however, and that’s the fact that mixed networks (with slower 802.11b or g
clients in them) will be slower for all devices on the network. This is not a
major issue for most folks, but if having the maximum speed on your 802.11n
devices is very important to you (perhaps you’re sending high-definition
video to your home entertainment system wirelessly), it could be a problem.
If you run into network performance issues because of a mixed network,
there’s a very simple (but not cheap) fix: Buy a simultaneous dual-band
wireless router (discussed in Chapter 17) and run all of your 802.11b and g
devices on the 2.4 GHz band, and all of your 802.11n gear on the 5 GHz band.
Check for New Obstacles
Wireless technologies are susceptible to physical obstacles. In Chapter 4,
Table 4-1 tells you the relative attenuation of your wireless signals (radio
frequency, or RF) as they move through your house. One person in our
neighborhood noticed a gradual degradation of his wireless signal outside
his house, where he regularly sits and surfs the Net (by his pool). The culprit
turned out to be a growing pile of newspapers for recycling. Wireless signals
don’t like such masses of paper.
Move around your house and think about it from the eyes of Superman,
using his X-ray vision to see your access point. If you have a bad signal, think
about what’s in the way. If the obstacles are permanent, think about using a
HomePlug or other powerline networking wireless access point (which we
discuss in Chapter 3) to go around the obstacle by putting an access point on
either side of the obstacle.
Another way to get around problems with obstacles is to switch technologies.
In some instances, 802.11n products could provide better throughput and
reach than your old 802.11g when it comes to obstacles. Many 802.11n products use special radio transmission techniques that help focus the signal into
the areas containing your wireless client devices, as well as sending multiple
signals at once (over different paths) using 802.11n’s MIMO technology. These
aimed, multiple signals can help you overcome environments that just don’t
work with regular Wi-Fi gear. If you’re in a dense environment with lots of clutter and you’re using 802.11g, switching to 802.11n may provide some relief.
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Install Another Antenna
In Chapter 5, we point out that a detachable antenna is a great idea because
you may want to add an antenna to achieve a different level of coverage in
your home. Different antennas yield different signal footprints. If your access
point is located at one end of the house, putting an omnidirectional antenna
on that access point is a waste because more than half the signal may prove
to be unusable. A directional antenna better serves your home.
Antennas are inexpensive relative to their benefits and can more easily help
you accommodate signal optimization because you can leave the access
point in the same place and just move the antenna around until you get the
best signal. In a home, there’s not a huge distance limitation on how far away
the antenna can be from the access point.
802.11n systems, with their special MIMO transmission technologies, are typically designed to use only the antenna that came with the system. You can’t
just slap any old antenna onto an 802.11n AP or router. For the most part, this
isn’t a problem, simply because 802.11n has significantly better range than
older systems such as 802.11g.
Should I use a signal booster?
Signal boosters used to be offered when 802.11g
came out a few years ago. The concept was that
if you have a big house (or lots of interference),
you can add a signal booster, which essentially
turns up the volume on your wireless home network transmitter. Unfortunately, it does nothing
for the wireless card in your computer, and that
was the great failing in this product. Your base
station would be stronger, but your workstation’s signal would be the same. So, you could
see your base station better but couldn’t communicate with it any better because your wireless card was at the same signal strength.
Signal boosters have pretty much been discontinued, and even though you can still get them,
we strongly recommend staying away from
them because you have many other options that
are more versatile and compatible with what
you already have and that keep you up-to-date
with the newest technologies.
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Today’s 802.11n products have excellent
range — increased range is one of the major
benefits of the MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple
Output) antenna systems used by 802.11n.
With 802.11n, you don’t need a signal booster in
most cases, and the specialized MIMO antennas don’t work with signal boosters anyway.
The only situation where we might recommend
a signal booster would be if you had an 801.11g
AP that you were using outdoors or in some
other very large area (maybe you live in a converted convention center?). Otherwise, don’t
bother with one; move up to 802.11n, and if you
still don’t have enough reach, consider installing
a Wi-Fi repeater or using a wired or powerline
connection to install a second AP in the areas
that don’t get a good signal in your house. We
discuss adding additional APs and repeaters in
the sections “Add an Access Point” and “Add a
Repeater or Bridge,” elsewhere in this chapter.
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Add an Access Point
Adding another access point (or two) can greatly increase your signal coverage, as shown in Figure 18-1. The great thing about wireless is that it’s fairly
portable — you can literally plug it in anywhere. The main issues are getting
power to it and getting an Ethernet connection (which carries the data) to it.
Figure 18-1:
Three APs
provide
a much
stronger
signal than
a single AP.
Coverage by one access point –
Signal fades with distance
Coverage by three access points –
Strong combined signals
The first item is usually not a problem because many electrical codes require,
in a residence, that power outlets be placed every eight feet. The second issue
(getting the Ethernet connection to your AP) used to be a matter of running all
sorts of wiring around the house. Depending on the actual throughput you’re
looking to provide, however, you may be able to set up another AP by using
the HomePlug, DS2, or even wireless repeater functionality that we mention in
Chapter 3 and elsewhere in this chapter. We don’t repeat those options here,
but know that you have those options when you’re moving away from your
office or other place where many of your network connections are concentrated.
After you get the connectivity and power to the place you want, what do you
need to consider when you’re installing a second AP? Choose the right channel: If you have auto channel selection in your AP, you don’t need to worry
because your AP’s smarts handle it for you. If you’re setting the channel
manually, don’t choose the same one that your other AP is set to.
Carefully choose which channels you use for each of your access points. Make
sure that you have proper spacing of your channels if you have 802.11g access
points (which have overlapping bands). Read the section “Change Channels,”
earlier in this chapter, for more information on channels.
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Add a Repeater or Bridge
Wireless repeaters are an alternative way to extend the range of an existing
wireless network instead of adding more APs. In Chapter 2, we talk about the
role of bridges and repeaters in a wireless network. The topic of bridges can
be complex, and we don’t want to rehash it here — be sure to read Chapter 2
for all that juicy detail.
If you want to expand you network, you can install a wireless repeater
or use WDS:
✓ A wireless repeater doesn’t require any special configuration of your
main wireless router. You just set it up with the SSID and encryption
credentials of your main network and let it do its thing.
If you want to expand your network by installing a wireless repeater, look
for a product like Hawking Technology’s HW2R1 Hi-Gain Wireless N Dual
Band Repeater (which you can buy for about $155 to $180 online; you’ll
find the details at www.hawkingtech.com/products/productlist.
php?CatID=32&FamID=105&ProdID=400). This device connects to
any 802.11b, g, or n wireless router using special high-gain (in other words,
super-sensitive) antennas, and then rebroadcasts that router’s signals
locally. It’s not a cheap solution, but when you need the coverage, it’ll
provide it.
✓ WDS (Wireless Distribution Service) is a standards-based approach at
bridging between two wireless networks (the main and remote) in such a
way that the remote network access point will receive and then retransmit signals from the main station. A WDS system requires configuration
of both the repeater (WDS remote) and your main wireless router (the
WDS main), using the provided software or Web configuration tools.
A repeater in a WDS system is cheaper than a standalone repeater like
the Hawking we mention earlier. In fact, it’s just a regular access point
or wireless router that has the right software built into it.
Installing repeaters, whether standalone or using WDS, is not without its
downsides. Some testing labs have cited issues with throughput at the main
AP because of interference from the new repeating AP (which is broadcasting
on the same channel). And because the repeater must receive and retransmit
each frame (or burst of data) on the same RF channel, it effectively doubles
the number of frames that are sent. This effectively cuts throughput in half.
So repeaters are something you should deal with only if you really need to.
Fortunately, unless your home is gigantic, the long range of modern 802.11n
wireless routers makes the need for repeaters quite rare.
When you’re using the WDS to extend your network, we recommend that you
use products from the same manufacturer at both ends of the bridge, to minimize any issues between vendors. Most companies support this functionality
only between their own products and not across multiple vendors’ products.
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Check Your Cordless Phone Frequencies
The wireless frequencies at 2.4 GHz and 5.2 GHz are unlicensed (as we define
in Part I of this book), which means that you, as the buyer of an AP and
operator of a wireless broadcasting capability, don’t need to get permission
from the FCC to use these frequencies as long as you stay within certain
power and usage limitations as set by federal guidelines. It also means that
you don’t have to pay any money to use the airwaves — because no license is
required, it doesn’t cost anything.
Many consumer manufacturers have taken advantage of free radio spectrums
and created various products for these unlicensed frequencies, such as
cordless phones, wireless A/V connection systems, RF remote controls,
and wireless cameras.
A home outfitted with a variety of Radio Shack and X10.com gadgets may
have a fair amount of radio clutter on these frequencies, which can cut into
your network’s performance. These sources of RF energy occasionally block
users and access points from accessing their shared air medium.
As home wireless LAN use grows, people report more interference with home
X10 networks, which use various wireless transmitters and signaling over
electrical lines to communicate among their connected devices. If you have an
X10 network for your home automation and it starts acting weird (such as the
lights go on and off and you think your house is haunted), your LAN might be
the source of the problem. A strong wireless LAN in your house can be fatal to
an X10 network.
At some point, you have to get better control over these interferers, and you
don’t have many options. First, you can change channels, like we mention
earlier in this chapter. Cordless phones, for example, use channels just like
your local area network does; you can change them so that they don’t cross
paths (wirelessly speaking) with your data heading toward the Internet.
Second, you can change phones. The newest cordless phone system, DECT,
uses an entirely different set of frequencies that won’t interfere on either
the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands. Note: An old-fashioned 900 MHz phone doesn’t
interfere with either one, but finding one these days is a miracle.
You may find that your scratchy cordless phone improves substantially in
quality and your LAN performance improves too. Look for other devices
that can move to other frequencies or move to your 802.11 network. As we
discuss in Chapter 19, all sorts of devices are coming down the road that will
work over your 802.11 network and not compete with it. Ultimately, you need
to keep the airwaves relatively clear to optimize all your performance issues.
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Chapter 19
Ten Devices to Connect to Your
Wireless Network in the Future
In This Chapter
▶ Pedaling to work, wirelessly
▶ Looking under the hood (without lifting the hood)
▶ Connecting your home appliances
▶ Getting musical with Wi-Fi
▶ Tracking Junior and Fido
▶ Adding a wireless robot to your network
▶ Wearing wirelessly connected apparel
W
e tell you throughout this book to think about the big picture —
to think about networking more than just your home computers.
There’s hardly anything you can’t hook up to your home network: Peripheral
devices (such as a printer), gaming gear, audiovisual equipment, cameras,
servers, and even robots are all fair game (all discussed in earlier chapters).
Clearly, the boom is on among the consumer goods manufacturers to wirelessly network enable everything with wireless processing chips. You get
the convenience (and cool factor) of monitoring the health of your gadgets,
and vendors want to sell you add-on services to take advantage of that wireless chip. This transformation is happening to everything: clocks, sewing
machines, automobiles, toaster ovens — even shoes. If a device can be added
to your wireless home network, value-added services can be sold to those
who want to track their kids, listen to home-stored music in the car, and
know when Fido is in the neighbor’s garbage cans again.
In this chapter, we expose you to some things that you could bring to your
wireless home network soon. Many of these products already exist. Expect in
the coming years that they will infiltrate your home, your car, your whole life.
Like the Borg says on Star Trek, “Prepare to be assimilated.”
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Apps on the rise
The phenomenal success of 3G smartphones
like Android phones and the iPhone are changing the way wireless applications will be delivered in the future. Just a few years ago, putting
a wireless application or service in your living
room or your car or on your bike required
a specific bit of wireless hardware that did
whatever it was that application did and communicated with your wireless network. Now,
however, when many tens of millions of people
have smartphones that are equipped with 3G
and Wi-Fi, more developers are delivering
solutions for your daily needs through apps
for smartphones rather than devices. This is a
trend that’s not going away, especially since
smartphones can connect to other devices via
Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Today you might replace
a GPS navigation system or a digital camera
with a smartphone; tomorrow it might be any
one of the wireless applications we discuss in
this chapter.
Your Bike
You don’t have to spend every July filling your DVR with hours and hours of
Le Tour De France to know that bikes are a big deal. Bikes aren’t just fun for
the kids or for the weekend rider wearing tight pants and colorful jerseys —
they’re also serious transportation. So why should cars get all the wireless
fun? Well, they shouldn’t!
You’re probably not going to want to be doing too much phone calling or
video watching while you’re commuting to work in the bike lane next to all of
those 3-ton SUVs, but that doesn’t mean you might not want some information,
navigation, and entertainment help. But you obviously don’t have room on a
bike for too much gear, nor do you want to attach anything to your bike that
might be easily stolen. Luckily, we have smartphones coming to the rescue.
The first example — one you can buy today — is the New Potato Technology
LiveRider ($99, www.newpotatotech.com/LiveRider/liverider.html).
The LiveRider is a combination of a wireless sensor, a wireless receiver, and
a mounting device that turns any iPhone or iPod touch into a full-fledged bike
computer. To get started, just mount the 2.4 GHz wireless sensor over your
rear wheel and attach the combined receiver/mount to your handlebars.
Then go to the iTunes Store and download the free LiveRider app, put your
iPhone/iPod touch into the mount, and start riding!
If you’ve got an iPod Touch, you won’t be able to take advantage of the
navigation features, but you’ll still have a pretty cool bike computer!
The LiveRider app records your current and maximum speed, inclination,
pedaling rate and (if your iPhone has GPS — which all but the original have)
your location. You can use the LiveRider as a navigation system or a training
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321
aid, or simply to log your miles to brag about to your friends on Facebook.
You can even create “ghost rides” of your fastest times on a particular route
and then display those rides on your route map when you try to beat the
time (like trying to beat the “ghosts” in Mario Kart Wii!). Awesome stuff.
LiveRider might not be the only such wireless bike solution out there. Apple
has filed a patent for a “smart bike accessory.” If that sounds like an odd
thing for Apple to be working on, remember that it has created, in conjunction with Nike, the Nike+ wireless training system for the iPod. The Nike+
uses wireless sensors built into Nike shoes to record your running movements to your iPod so you can track how far you’ve gone, how fast, and
how many calories you’ve burned.
Exactly what Apple’s planning on doing isn’t entirely clear, but the consensus
opinion is that it will combine a number of wireless sensors for things like
speed, GPS position, acceleration, and heart rate to provide a similar training
application for biking. We have our bike pants at the ready for a chance to
try this out!
Your Car
In Chapter 15, we discuss how cars are sporting Bluetooth interfaces to enable
devices to interact with the car’s entertainment and communications systems.
In Chapter 13, we talk about the ways you can buy or build an 802.11-based
Wi-Fi hot spot in your car, so that all of your devices (smartphones, iPads, and
so on) can get online (for your passengers’ use) while you’re driving.
Now car manufacturers are catching on and beginning to develop their own
“connected car” packages that go beyond just hands-free Bluetooth phone
access and provide a whole suite of wireless connectivity applications. Imagine
a car that connects to the Internet using high-speed 3G connectivity and provides entertainment services, traffic updates, always-up-to-date navigation
services, car maintenance diagnostics, and more. It’s coming. If you’ve seen the
ads for Ford’s SYNC system (developed by Microsoft, www.fordvehicles.
com/technology/sync), you know how close we already are.
A wireless connection in the car enables you to talk to your car via the
Internet no matter where you are. Now, before you accuse us of having gone
loony for talking to our cars, think about whether your lights are still on.
Wouldn’t it be great to check from your 40th-floor apartment rather than
head all the way down to the parking garage? Just grab your computer or
smartphone, surf to your car’s Web server, and check whether you left the
lights on again. Or perhaps you’re filling out a new insurance form and forgot
to check the mileage on your car. Click over to the dashboard page and see
what it says.
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OnStar calling
Although what they’re doing isn’t as fancy as
the LTE Connected Car, car manufacturers
are already providing connectivity to your car.
Perhaps the most well-known service is OnStar
(www.onstar.com), offered on a number of
GM and other vehicles. OnStar offers emergency car services, such as the ones from the
American Automobile Association (AAA), with
GPS and two-way cellular communications
thrown in. You can not only make cellphone
calls with the system, but also get GM to
unlock your car doors, call 911 when the vehicle senses a crash, or track down your car if
it has been stolen. It’s a factory-installed-only
option, so you can’t get it if wasn’t in your car
when you bought it. You have to pay monthly
service fees that start at $18.95 per month,
or $199.00 per year for the basic plan, with
extra fees for things like turn-by-turn directions. You can add turn-by-turn instructions for
another $10.00 per month.
Other car manufacturers are following suit.
BMW offers the similar BMW Assist, for
example. We expect all car manufacturers to
offer something similar within a few years — it
makes too much sense. Check out some of the
short movies on how OnStar has gotten people
out of sticky situations at www.onstar.
com/web/portal/realstories.
You can also, on request, check out your car’s exact location based on GPS
readings. (GPS is a location-finding system that effectively can tell you where
something is, based on its ability to triangulate signals from three or more
satellites that orbit the Earth. GPS can usually spot its target within 10–100
meters of the actual location.) You can, again at your request, even allow
your dealer to check your car’s service status via the Internet. You can also
switch on the lights or the auxiliary heating, for example, call up numbers in
the car telephone or addresses in the navigation system, and unlock and lock
the car — all from the wireless comfort of your couch (using some of those
neat touch-panel remote controls that we talk about in Chapter 14). Just grab
your wireless Web tablet, surf, and select. Pretty cool. The opportunities to
wirelessly connect to your automobile are truly endless.
The coolest example of what’s to come in the car is the LTE Connected Car
project (www.ngconnect.org/ecosystem/connected-car.htm), a joint
venture by dozens of companies including Toyota and Alcatel-Lucent (one
of the largest wireless telecommunications companies in the world — which
makes perfect sense when you realize the “LTE” in the project name refers to
the next-generation 4G mobile broadband service).
The LTE Connected Car is built around a 3G wireless connection combined
with in-car Wi-Fi and multiple touchscreens throughout the car (four in
the Toyota Prius that the project has outfitted as its demonstrator). The
system ties together a number of sensors throughout the car (vehicle
speed sensors, GPS, maintenance sensors, and so on) through a central
car computer to provide:
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✓ On-demand entertainment from online music and video services
✓ Real-time traffic and navigation services with enhanced content based
upon where you are and what you’re doing
✓ Wi-Fi access to the Internet to all your personal devices
✓ Access to Internet and social networking content through the touchscreens — so your kids can update their Twitter accounts about how
much fun they’re having on your road trip
✓ Multiplayer gaming within the car, except for the driver (we hope!)
✓ Integration with networked home control systems so your car can
monitor what’s happening in your house and change settings for
things like lights and heating before you get home
✓ Monitoring and display of vehicle and road conditions — the system can
even share road conditions with other vehicles and car conditions with
your mechanic
Your Home Appliances
Most attempts to converge the Internet and home appliances have been prototypes and concept products — a few products are on the market, but we
would be less than honest if we said that the quantities being sold were anything but mass market yet. LGE (www.lge.com) was the first in the world to
introduce the Internet refrigerator — a Home Network product with Internet
access capability — way back in June 2000. (See Figure 19-1.) LGE soon introduced other Internet-based information appliance products in the washing
machine, air conditioner, and microwave areas. The Internet refrigerator is
outfitted with a 15-inch detachable LCD touchscreen that serves as a TV monitor, computer screen, stereo, and digital camera all in one. You can call your
refrigerator from your cellphone, PDA, or any Internet-enabled device.
LGE also has an Internet air conditioner that allows you to download programs into the device so that you can have preprogrammed cooling times,
just like with your heating system setbacks. Talk to your digital home theater
to preprogram something stored on your audio server to be playing when
you get home. It’s all interrelated, by sharing a network in common. Wireless
plays a part by enabling these devices to talk to one another in the home.
Sadly, due to this high cost and other reasons, these connected home appliances haven’t really taken off. The market demand has not been there for the
all-in-one products — people still seem tied to their TVs and PC screens as
separate from the appliances. Indeed, the latest moves by the consumer
electronics and appliances industry seems more focused on making TVs
more functional.
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The wireless orb knows all
Ambient Devices (www.ambientdevices.
com) offers wireless products that make tangible interfaces to digital information. This
sounds broad, but so are its product offerings.
It offers glowing orbs that change colors based
on stock prices; umbrellas whose handles
glow when it’s going to rain; weather displays
that tell you, at a glance, what the weather
is going to be for the next 7 days; even an
“Energy Joule” that tells you the current
price of electricity and your consumption at a
specific outlet. The key to the devices’ ability
to do this is the company’s wireless network.
All products tune into the wireless Ambient
Information Network to receive broadcasted
data. Our favorite product is the Ambient Orb,
the colorful globe that we’ve programmed
to tell us when we’ve sold more books
on Amazon.com!
Figure 19-1:
The first
LGE Internet
refrigerator
was wirelessly
enabled.
More wireless changes are coming too. With recent developments in radio
frequency identification (RFID), near field communications (NFC), and other
low-power and low-priced technologies, you may indeed get to the point
where your kitchen monitors all its appliances (and what’s in them — “We
need more milk”).
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Your Entertainment System
In Chapter 12, we talk about ways you can connect your entertainment
systems (your home theater, TV, and audio equipment) to your wireless
network. Today, that primarily means getting content from your PC and/or
the Internet into those devices using media adapters that connect to your
wireless network on one end and to your TV or audio gear on the other end.
In the not-so-distant future, however, you’ll be able to skip the extra gear
because wireless will be built right into your audio/visual gear. In fact, a
number of manufacturers are already including wireless in their equipment,
mainly in more expensive gear. Read on for some examples of how this will
happen in all sorts of A/V equipment in the near future.
Wi-Fi networking will be built into
receivers, Blu-ray disc players, and TVs
For the past several years, network-equipped A/V gear has become more
and more common, as first televisions and then home theater receivers and
finally Blu-ray disc players began to sprout Ethernet (RJ-45) jacks on their
backs. Today, it’s hard to find a Blu-ray disc player without network capabilities, but TVs and receivers with networking are still relatively rare.
Wireless? Well that’s still a future capability for most manufacturers, but
it’s coming soon.
Why would you network your A/V gear? Well, as discussed in Chapter 12,
there are a few reasons:
✓ Access to BD-Live content: This is the most common application for
networked A/V gear (specifically Blu-ray disc players). BD-Live is essentially Internet-provided “extras” for your Blu-ray disc movie providing
enhanced online content such as movie trailers, additional movie content
(like commentary from the director), message boards, and more. BD-Live
content is tied to the disc you’re playing on your Blu-ray disc player, so
you don’t just fire up your player and go online — you actually access this
Internet content from within the disc’s menu.
✓ Other Internet content: Several online content providers — most notably
Netflix (www.netflix.com) — offer subscription-based on-demand audio
or video content that you can listen to or view on your home theater. This
capability is being built into both TVs and Blu-ray disc players.
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✓ Widgets: Widgets are small, standalone applications like the modules
you find on your my Yahoo! or iGoogle Web page that can display news,
weather, stock prices, or snippets of Web content on your TV. This
capability is being built into both Blu-ray disc players and TVs.
✓ Your in-home content: Networked TVs and home theater receivers are
including DLNA capabilities that let you directly access music, photos,
and video content stored on your PCs or on a home server. Essentially
this puts the media adapter/media player we talk about in Chapter 12
right in the TV or receiver.
Of course none of this does any good if you can’t get your A/V equipment onto the network. And most people don’t happen to have a couple of
Ethernet ports on the wall behind their home theater gear (though if you’re
building a new house, it’s a great idea to do so!).
Wireless is the technology that’s going to bring this content to the home
theater. 802.11n, which we cover in detail in Chapter 2, was designed specifically to support multimedia networking among all the devices in the home.
Today, a growing number of Blu-ray disc players come with built-in Wi-Fi. In
the TV market, built-in Wi-Fi is rare, but manufacturers like Toshiba, LG, and
Samsung offer USB Wi-Fi adapters that connect to the TV via a USB port and
cost about $80. Wi-Fi is still quite rare inside receivers, but network capabilities
are not, so we expect that Wi-Fi will become widely available in the near future.
Our prediction? Within a few years of the time we’re writing this, every TV
and Blu-ray disc player, and most home theater receivers, will come with
built-in Wi-Fi. During the few months we’ve been writing this edition of the
book, we’ve seen dozens of announcements of Wi-Fi-equipped gear from just
about every major manufacturer.
Combining your iPhone and Blu-ray player
When you have your Blu-ray disc player connected to your wireless network, why stick
with that old fashioned remote control? Well,
you don’t have to with PocketBlu (www.
pocketblu.com). This free app works on
your iOS device (iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad)
and turns it into a touchscreen remote control. You can operate any of your Blu-ray disc
player’s features and even access additional
content right from your iPhone (like movie trailers). All you need is the free app and a movie
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that includes PocketBlu support as part of its
BD-Live content. Right now, only a handful of
movies support PocketBlu, but that number is
sure to grow. The cool thing about PocketBlu is
that it works with any BD-Live capable player,
no matter who made it.
Similarly, Sony has created an app for its Bluray disc players, BD Remote, that provides
similar functionality.
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Cables? Who needs them?
Another and quite different wireless change looming on the horizon is wireless cabling. You may not care much about wireless cabling until you put
that 50-inch LCD on the wall and realize that there’s an HDMI cable coming
down the wall — serious spousal issues on that one!
Wireless HDMI comes to the rescue. Wireless HDMI is exactly what it sounds
like: a wireless high-definition multimedia interface that links your HDMI port
on your TV to your HDMI output on your satellite box, A/V receiver, PS3, or
whatever. Wireless HDMI isn’t a standard per se, but many early implementations are coming to market using ultra wideband (UWB) under the WiMedia
standard. Early wireless HDMI chipsets can use the WiMedia UWB standard
to deliver more than 300 Mbps of sustained throughput for in-room coverage. The theoretical maximum throughput of UWB is 480 Mbps. At this rate,
Wireless HDMI will have to compress the HD signal.
A group of consumer electronics kingpins got together in 2005 to form the
WirelessHD Consortium aimed at developing a noncompressed wireless standard for high-definition audio/video transmission. Instead of UWB, the WiHD
standard uses the 60 GHz band to offer HD content without the need for compression. Instead of providing up to 300 Mbps using UWB, WiHD reportedly
will transmit at 5 Gbps.
Wireless HDMI technologies will be available to consumers first. The first
WirelessHD products hit the market in 2008. Gefen, for instance, has its
GefenTV Wireless for HDMI 60 GHz ( www.gefen.com/kvm/dproduct.
jsp?prod_id=8255, $999), offering transmission of high-definition video.
(If you’re a video geek, you may be interested to know that the system supports up to 1080p at 30 fps, or 1080i at 60 fps, at distances up to 33 feet.) This
system offers full support for HDMI 1.3 (we’re talking video geek stuff here,
so bear with us), which means any HD source component (such as a Blu-ray
disc player or A/V receiver) can plug into the transmitter, and the receiver
can plug into the HDMI connector on the back of your TV. What this Gefen
device doesn’t yet support, however, is HDMI 1.4, the 3D version of HDMI.
We’re sure that feature’s on the way however.
You can keep up with the latest in WirelessHD products on the WirelessHD
consortium’s Web site at www.wirelesshd.org/consumers/
product-listing/.
Other major brands are getting into the wireless HDMI business as well, and
we’re expecting the current high prices to drop considerably over the next
few years as we move along the chip volume production curve and as
competing WiHD products come to market.
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The wireless cable experience is not limited to HDMI though. We expect to
see short-distance, high-capacity wireless technologies turn the mess of wires
behind your stereo gear into a totally wireless network with logical configurations done on your browser or through your TV set. Want to connect your DVD
player to your receiver? No problem; just configure the wireless ports on both
machines to see each other, and you’re done. We’re excited about this development, which we hope will happen in the next three to five years.
Your Musical Instruments
Band gear has been wireless for some time. You can get wireless mics, guitars, and other musical instruments. But what’s new is the bevy of musical
gear that has been a big hit in the gaming market over the past couple of
years. These devices are designed for hopping on your wireless LAN and
making your life fun. We’re talking wireless band mayhem!
Guitar Hero (www.guitarhero.com, $90), the runaway success from
Activision, jump-started this trend in our minds. A simple wireless guitar
with buttons instead of strings allows even the most unmusically minded
player to play with the best bands on Earth.
Rock Band (www.rockband.com, $170) takes the idea a step higher by taking
the four key instruments you need to make a band (guitar, bass, drums, and
vocals) and building them into a highly playable (and addictive) game. Each
person plays their respective role in the game, using their wireless instruments, and everyone drums, strums, bangs, and yells their way into rock
history. You can find Rockband for Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360, and there are
even versions for the iPhone and other mobile devices. Rock Band has versions of the games specifically built around a popular band’s music, like The
Beatles and Green Day (so you pretend you’re Paul McCartney or Billy Joe
Armstrong). It’s only a matter of time before you can virtually play with other
players all over the globe via the Internet.
A wireless home backbone enables fast access to online music scores,
such as those from www.score-on-line.com.
Other musical instruments are also growing more complex and wireless.
With ConcertMaster, from Baldwin Piano (www.gibson.com/en-us/
Divisions/Baldwin), your wireless home LAN can plug into your
ConcertMaster Mark II–equipped Baldwin, Chickering, or Wurlitzer piano
and play almost any musical piece you can imagine. You can plan an entire
evening of music, from any combination of sources, to play in any order —
all via a wireless RF remote control or even by using an app on your iPhone,
iPod touch, or iPad.
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The internal ConcertMaster Library comes preloaded with 20 hours of performances in five musical categories, or you can create as many as 99 custom
library categories to store your music. With as many as 99 songs in each category, you can conceivably have nearly 50,000 songs onboard and ready to
play. Use your wireless access to your home’s Internet connection to download the latest operating system software from Baldwin’s servers. The system
can accept any wireless MIDI interface. Encore!
You can record on this system too. A one-touch Quick-Record button lets you
instantly save piano performances, such as your child’s piano recital. You
can also use songs that you record and store on a CD or USB flash drive with
your PC to use in editing, sequencing, and score notation programs.
Gibson (the maker of the famous Les Paul guitar and owner of Baldwin
Pianos) has also announced — but not yet delivered — a “digital” guitar
with wireless on-board. Wireless is not new in the world of electric guitars,
as guitars have had wireless connections to their amplifiers for years (all
the better for those running-start knee slides across the stage during your
shredding solo!), but the Gibson Dark Fire (www2.gibson.com/Products/
Electric-Guitars/Les-Paul/Gibson-USA/DarkFire.aspx) will soon
go a step further by including Bluetooth.
The Dark Fire is a $3,500 Les Paul model with just about every bell and whistle
you could possibly imagine. Of particular interest to Pat, who not only can’t
play but can barely tune his guitar, is the Robot Tuner that does the tuning for
you automatically. The Dark Fire is already on sale, but what’s not available yet
is a Bluetooth module that allows your guitar to connect directly to your desktop or laptop computer. Combine that with music composition or recording
software and you have the makings of an awesome home studio.
Your Pets
GPS-based tracking services can be used for pets, too! Just about everyone
can identify with having lost a pet at some point. The GPS device can be
collar-based or a subdermal implant. This device can serve as your pet’s electronic ID tag; it also can serve as the basis for real-time feedback to the pet or
its owner, and perhaps provide automatic notification if your dog goes out of
the yard, for example.
Globalpetfinder.com is a typical example of a GPS-enabled system (www.
globalpetfinder.com, $349). With this system, you create one or more
circular virtual fences defined by a GPS location. Your home’s address, for
example, is translated by its online site into a GPS coordinate, and you can
create a fence that might be 100 feet in radius. If your pet wanders outside
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this fence, the service alerts you and sends the continuously updated location of your pet to the two-way wireless device of your choice — cellphone,
PDA, or computer, for example. You can find your pet by dialing the collar’s
phone number, and it replies with the present location. If you’re using a PDA
with a graphical interface, such as a Treo or Blackberry, you can see the
location on a street map. You have to pay a monthly subscription fee for the
service — to cover the cell costs — which ranges from $18 to $20 per month.
If your dog runs away often, go for the Escape Artist Peace of Mind plan!
Wi-Fi technologies are making their way into the pet-tracking arena as well.
Several companies are testing prototypes of wireless clients that would log
on to neighborhood Wi-Fi APs and send messages about their positions back
to their owners. Although the coverage certainly isn’t as broad as cellular
service, it certainly would be much less expensive. So your LAN may soon
be part of a neighborhood wireless network infrastructure that provides a
neighborhood area network (NAN), one of whose benefits is such continual
tracking capability for pets.
Checking out new wireless gadgets
The merging of wireless and other consumer
goods is a major economic trend. You can
expect that you will have many more options in
the future to improve your life (or ruin it) using
Wi-Fi devices. Here are three great places to
keep track of the latest and greatest in new
wireless products:
✓ Gizmodo (www.gizmodo.com): Gizmodo
tracks all the leading-edge gadgets of
any type. This site is fun to visit, just to
see what someone has dreamed up.
As we write this chapter, there’s a neat
story about new light bulbs that double
as wireless speakers in your home; they
install in your recessed lighting fixtures
in the ceiling — check them out at www.
lightspeaker.net. For your wire-
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less fancy, all sorts of articles on new
wireless wares appear each week; just
be prepared — many are available only in
Asia. Rats!
✓ Engadget (w w w . e n g a d g e t . c o m ):
Engadget was founded by one of the major
editors from Gizmodo. It largely mimics
Gizmodo but with meatier posts and reader
comments for many articles.
✓ EHomeUpgrade (www.ehomeupgrade.
com): EHomeUpgrade covers a broader
spectrum of software, services, and even
industry trends, but hardcore wireless is a
mainstay of its fare as well.
You can’t go wrong checking these sites regularly to see what’s new to put in your home!
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Your Robots
Current technology dictates that robots are reliant on special algorithms and
hidden technologies to help them navigate. For example, the Roomba robotic
vacuum cleaner, from iRobot (www.irobot.com, $119–$499), relies on internal programming and virtual walls to contain its coverage area. The Friendly
Robotics Robomow robotic lawnmower relies on hidden wiring under the
ground (www.robomow.com, $999 to $1,999).
iRobot also has been busy shaking up the home with robots for floor
washing (Scooba, $299–$499), shop sweeping (Dirt Dog, $129), pool cleaning
(Verro, $799–$1,099), and gutter cleaning (Looj, $99–$169). They even have
a robot (ConnectR, $499) for remote visitation: You can remotely control
ConnectR to roam your house and send back audio and video. Who needs
a dog anymore?
As your home becomes even more wirelessly connected, devices can start to
triangulate their positions based on home-based homing beacons of sorts that
help them sense their position at any time. The presence of a wireless home
network will drive new innovation into these devices. Most manufacturers are
busy designing 802.11 and other wireless technologies into the next versions of
their products.
The following list highlights some other product ideas that manufacturers are
working on now. We can’t yet offer price points or tell you when these products
will hit the market, but expect them to come soon:
✓ Robotic garbage taker-outers: Robotic firms are designing units that
take the trash out for you, on schedule, no matter what the weather —
simple as that.
✓ Robotic mail collectors: A robotic mail collector goes and gets the mail
for you. Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night, nor winds of change,
nor a nation challenged can stay them from the swift completion of their
appointed rounds. New wirelessly outfitted mailboxes tell you (and the
robots) when your mail has arrived.
✓ Robotic snow blowers: Manufacturers are working to perfect robotic
snow blowers that continually clear your driveway and sidewalks while
snow falls.
✓ Robotic golf ball retrievers: These bots retrieve golf balls. Initially
designed for driving range use, they’re being modified for the home
market.
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✓ Robotic guard dogs: Robots that can roam areas and send back audio and
video feeds are coming to the market. These new versions of man’s best
friend can sniff out fires or lethal gases, take photos of burglars, and send
intruder alerts to homeowners’ cellphones. Some have embedded artificial intelligence (AI) to act autonomously and independently. Check out
the dragonlike Sanyo Banryu or its R2D2-like successor TMSUK’s Mujiro
Rigurio, the Mitsubishi Wakamaru, Takenaka Engineering’s Mihari Wan,
and others emerging even as we write this book.
✓ Robotic gutter cleaners: A range of spiderlike robots is available that
can maneuver on inclines, such as roofs, and feature robotic sensors
and arms that can clean areas.
✓ Robotic cooks: Put the ingredients in, select a mode, and wait for your
dinner to be cooked — it’s better than a TV dinner, for sure.
✓ Robotic pooper scoopers: The units we’ve discovered roam your yard in
search of something to clean up and then deposit the findings in a place
you determine.
The world is still getting used to robots and their limitations. More than one
company has canceled its robotic development programs until the market is
more rational about its expectations. Early household robots were panned in
the market because people expected them to act like people — to cook them
dinner and scratch their backs on demand. The market success of the iRobot
purpose-built robots has shown that buyers want robots that do something
and do it well.
Still, the quest for the all-purpose android remains strong. For this reason,
you’re more likely to see humanoid robots demonstrating stuff such as
skipping rope at special events rather than cooking dinner in your kitchen.
Products such as Honda’s ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility,
http://world.honda.com/ASIMO) are remarkable for the basic things
they can do, such as shake hands and bow, but the taskmasters we mention
in the preceding list can help you with day-to-day chores.
Your Apparel
Wireless is making its way into your clothing. Researchers are already experimenting with wearables — the merging of 802.11 and Bluetooth directly into
clothing so that it can have networking capabilities. Want to synch your
smartphone? No problem: Just stick it in your pocket. All sorts of companies
are working on waterproof and washer-proof devices for wirelessly connecting to your wireless home network. We mention earlier in the chapter the
Nike+ running shoes, developed in conjunction with Apple, that sense your
workout movements and wirelessly transmit them to your iPod or iPhone
to record and monitor your workout. Like to ski? Recon Instruments (www.
reconinstruments.com/company.htm) is launching ski goggles with
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GPS, communications capabilities, and a heads-up display that will overlay
this information on the lens of the goggles. Want to go whole hog and give
yourself a continual electrocardiogram (ECG)? Check out the Biodevices Vital
Jacket (www.biodevices.pt), which can record what your heart is up to for
up to five days and transmit it via Bluetooth to a PC.
Understanding the technology
behind wearables
Wireless technology will also infiltrate your clothing through radio frequency
identification tags, or RFIDs, which are very small, lightweight, electronic,
read-write storage devices (microchips) half the size of a grain of sand. They
listen for radio queries and, when pinged, respond by transmitting their ID
codes. Most RFID tags have no batteries because they use the power from
the initial radio signal to transmit their responses; thus, they never wear out.
Data is accessible in real time through handheld or fixed-position readers,
using RF signals to transfer data to and from tags. RFID applications are infinite, but when embedded in clothing, RFIDs offer applications such as tracking people (such as kids at school) or sorting clothing from the dryer (no
more problems matching socks or identifying clothes for each child’s pile).
A technology of great impact in our lifetime is GPS, which is increasingly being
built into cars, cellphones, devices, and clothing. GPS equipment and chips
are so cheap that you can find them everywhere. They’re used in amusement
parks to help keep track of your kids. There are already prototypes of GPSenabled shoes. (The initial application has been to protect prostitutes.)
Most GPS-driven applications have software that enables you to interpret the
GPS results. You can grab a Web tablet at home while on your couch, wirelessly surf to the tracking Web site, and determine where Fido (or Fred) is
located. Want to see whether your spouse’s car is heading home from work
yet? Grab your PDA as you walk down the street, log on to a nearby hot spot,
and check it out. Many applications are also being ported to cellphones, so
you can use those wireless devices to find out what’s going on.
GPS-based devices — primarily in a watch or lanyard-hung form factor —
are available that can track people, as discussed next.
Wearing personal tracking devices
Many perimeter-oriented child-safety devices emit an alarm if your child wanders outside an adjustable safety zone (such as wanders away from you in the
mall). For instance, the GigaAir Child Tracking system ($190) is a two-piece,
battery-powered system that consists of a clip-on unit worn by the child and a
second pager-size unit carried by the parent or guardian. The safety perimeter
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is set by the parent and can be as little as 10 feet and as much as 75 feet. The
alarm tone also acts as a homing device to help a parent and child find each
other after it has gone off — important for those subway rush hours in New
York City. Many other person-locator products are on the market, such as a
more removal-resistant unit from ionKids (www.ion-kids.com, starting
at $240) and the LOK8U tracker (www.lok8u.com/us, $190).
Note that there’s a difference between a tracking device and a locator device.
Tracking devices will tell where someone has been, but only after the device
returns to you. A popular example is the GPS Trackstick (www.trackstick.
com). A locator device, on the other hand, will remotely tell you where it is at
any particular time. GPS-enabled phones and services are examples of these.
Don’t buy one expecting the other!
Various possible monthly fees are associated with personal tracking and
location devices. Some don’t have any fees; they involve short-range, closedsystem wireless signals. Some charge a monthly fee, just like a cellphone plan.
Some charge per-use fees, like per-locate attempts. Be sure to check the fine
print when you’re buying any sort of wireless location device to make sure you
don’t have lots of extra fees that go along with it. (That’s why we like 802.11based products. They’re cheap and often don’t have these fees. But then again,
they don’t have the range that some of these other systems do.)
Applied Digital Solutions (www.digitalangel.com) is on the leading edge.
The company has developed the VeriChip, which can be implanted under
the skin of people in high-risk (think kidnapping) areas overseas. This chip is
an implantable, 12mm x 2.1mm radio frequency device, about the size of the
point of a ballpoint pen. The chip contains a unique verification number.
Having wireless fun with geocaching
Geocaching is an entertaining adventure
game based around the GPS technology. It’s
basically a wireless treasure hunt. The idea is
to have individuals and organizations set up
caches all over the world; the GPS locations
are then posted on the Internet, and GPS users
seek the caches. When they’re found, some
sort of reward may be there; the only rule is
that if you take something from the cache, you
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need to leave something behind for others to
find later. Check out what caches are near you:
www.geocaching.com.
Want to find out more about GPS? Visit a couple
of fun GPS tracking (pun intended!) sites, such
as www.gps-practice-and-fun.com
and www.gpsinformation.net.
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Going wireless with jewelry
and accessories
Although watches are a great form factor for lots of wireless connectivity opportunities, they have been hampered by either wired interface requirements (like
a USB connection) or an infrared (IR) connection, which requires line of sight
to your PC. Expect these same devices to quickly take on Bluetooth and 802.11
interfaces so that continual updating — as with the Microsoft Smart Personal
Objects Technology (SPOT) model (http://direct.msn.com) — can occur.
Creating wireless connectivity via jewelry bears its own set of issues because
of the size and weight requirements of the host jewelry for any wireless
system. The smaller the jewelry, the less power the wireless transmitter has
to do its job. The less power, the shorter the range and the more limited the
bandwidth and application of the device.
Cellular Jewelry (www.cellularjewelry.com) offers bracelets, watches,
pens, and other devices that flash when you receive a phone call. Tired
of missing calls when that phone is in your purse or jacket pocket? These
devices — which work well only with GSM phones, not CDMA ones — alert
you in a visual fashion, and in a fashionable way too!
Wearables are going wireless — MP3 sunglasses, Wi-Finder purses, GPS
belts — you name it, someone has thought of it! Check out the Engadget
wearables blog at http://wearables.engadget.com.
Everything in Your Home
Did we leave anything out? Well, yes, in fact we have. That’s because everything in your home that uses electricity can potentially be wirelessly enabled
to a home control and automation network. In Chapter 3, we talk a little bit
about ZigBee and Z-Wave, two wireless technologies that have hit the market
and are designed around very low-cost and low-power chips that can be
embedded in any electrically powered device in the home. Other low-price
and low-power wireless technologies, such as Wibree, are also in the works
and can expand your home’s wireless control network.
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Where to ZigBee and Z-Wave
Low power means short distance. It also means small. You can use technologies such as ZigBee and Z-Wave to do things such as allow lamps to be controlled by your PC and to tell you whether your doors are locked.
Energy management is a huge potential application for these technologies.
Consider the following implementations of lower power chips:
✓ Allowing electric and gas meters to talk to your household energy hogs
and tell them when it’s less expensive to do their chores (such as run
the laundry). Your meter can also talk to the home’s wireless network to
communicate usage back to the central station (so no one has to come
by your house to check the meter).
✓ Installing programmable controllable thermostats (PCT) designed to
improve energy efficiency and electric service consumption. Using their
wireless connections, they can reach out to sensors in the house to
drive more efficient use of energy zones and time-of-day setbacks.
✓ Using sensor-outfitted outlets for each appliance to monitor them for
energy usage and to report back to central in-home energy control
programs — programs you can monitor on your television or PC.
Z-Wave, and to a lesser extent ZigBee, are also focused on home automation.
Because they’re wireless, these technologies allow you to install, upgrade,
and network your home control system without wires. You can configure and
run multiple systems from a single remote control. You can also receive automatic notification if there’s something unusual happening in the house (like
your oven is on at 2:00 a.m.).
As your wireless backbone becomes pervasive in the home, expect lots of
ZigBee and Z-Wave products to form the last few feet of these connections
because their lower cost pushes them into smaller places around the house.
This is truly the next wave of wireless expansion in your house.
Because they use mesh networking technologies, where signals can bounce
from device to device throughout the home (like a frog crossing a pond on
top of lily pads), the more ZigBee or Z-Wave devices you have in your home,
the better the network works. (A frog can hop across a pond covered with lily
pads a lot more easily than it can get across a pond with the pads spread far
apart.) If your power utility puts ZigBee or Z-Wave in your home for energysavings purposes, you can take advantage of these devices when you add your
own home control and automation devices. Remember, with mesh networking
systems, the more you have, the better they work!
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Introducing Bluetooth 4.0
A new, even lower-powered (think watch batteries, not AC power) technology is arriving that can embed wireless control and networking in anything:
Bluetooth Low Energy Technology (Bluetooth 4.0, formerly called Wibree).
Think of 4.0 as a low-power option for Bluetooth, which uses the same
antenna and 2.4 GHz frequency band as Bluetooth.
Bluetooth technology (which we discuss in Chapter 15) is well suited for
streaming and data-intensive applications such as file transfer, and Bluetooth 4.0
is designed for applications where ultra-low-power consumption, small size, and
low cost are needed. So Bluetooth 4.0 in many cases picks up where traditional
Bluetooth leaves off.
Whereas your cellphone might talk to your car via Bluetooth 3.0, your car
keys might have Bluetooth 4.0 inside them. That way, when you lose your
keys, you can search the house for them by querying Bluetooth 4.0 gateways
to see whether anyone detects them.
Bluetooth 4.0 (and all variants of Bluetooth) is used to create wireless personal area networks (WPANs) with a star topology, and thus is truly designed
for PAN. ZigBee, driven by its focus on wireless monitoring, lighting control,
energy conservation, and so on, is a mesh technology in which one fixed
device communicates wirelessly with another. So you might see all of these
in your home.
How might you use Bluetooth 4.0?
✓ Sports and wellness: Sports watches that connect to sensors located
on the body, shoes, and other fitness gear can gather data on heart
rate, distance, speed, and acceleration and send the information to a
mobile phone.
✓ Healthcare: Bluetooth 4.0-driven sensors can be built into standalone
health-monitoring devices that can send vital health-related information (blood pressure, glucose level) to devices (such as mobile phones
and personal computers), which can process this information and send
alerts to the mobile phones of patients and caretakers.
✓ Office and mobile accessories: You can use Bluetooth 4.0 small size and
ability to extend battery life in office and mobile accessories. These can
also use Bluetooth 4.0 to avoid dongles for connectivity, which add an
extra component and raise the overall cost.
✓ Entertainment: Remote controls, gaming accessories, and other entertainment devices can use Bluetooth 4.0’s sensor technologies to interact
with one another.
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✓ Watches: Watches and wrist-top devices can use Bluetooth 4.0 to connect
them to mobile phones and accessories. Now you can use your watch to
control that inbound call or to send a quick alert via text messaging.
You’ll see a lot of Bluetooth 4.0 low energy and traditional Bluetooth dualmode implementations, where low energy Bluetooth functionality is integrated with traditional Bluetooth for a minor incremental cost by utilizing key
Bluetooth components. Examples of devices that would benefit from this dualmode implementation are mobile phones and personal computers.
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Chapter 20
Ten Sources for More Information
In This Chapter
▶ Shopping on CNET
▶ Blogging for 802.11
▶ Practically (wireless) networking
▶ Surfing the vendor sites
W
e’ve tried hard in this book to capture all that’s happening with
wireless networks in the home. However, we can’t cover everything in
one book, and so, in fairness to other publications, we’re leaving some things
for them to talk about on their Web sites and in their print publications.
(Nice of us, isn’t it?)
We want to keep you informed of the latest changes to what’s in this book,
so we encourage you to check out the Wireless Home Networking For Dummies
site, at www.digitaldummies.com, where you can find updates and new
information.
This chapter lists the publications that we read regularly (and therefore recommend unabashedly) and that you should get your hands on as part of your
wireless home networking project. Many of these sources provide up-to-date
performance information, which can be critical when making a decision about
which equipment to buy and what standards to pursue.
The Web sites mentioned also have a ton of information online, but you may
have to try different search keywords to find what you’re looking for. Some
publications like to use the term Wi-Fi, for example, and others use 802.11. If
you don’t get hits on certain terms when you’re searching around, try other
ones that you know. It’s rare to come up empty on a search about wireless
networking these days. All sites listed here are free — even the magazines we
list can be read (mostly or entirely) for free online.
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CNET.com
CNET.com (www.cnet.com) is a simple-to-use, free Web site where you can
do apples-to-apples comparisons of wireless equipment. You can count on
finding video reviews, pictures of what you’re buying, editor ratings of the
equipment, user ratings of the gear, reviews of most devices, and a listing
of the places on the Web where you can buy it all — along with true pricing.
What’s great about CNET is that it covers the wireless networking aspect of
Wi-Fi as well as the consumer goods portion of Wi-Fi (such as home theater,
A/V gear, and phones). It’s your one-stop resource for evaluating your future
home wireless purchases.
Get started at CNET in its Wi-Fi Networking section, which at the time this
book was written was at
http://reviews.cnet.com/networking-wifi/?tag=co
There, you find feature specs, reviews, and price comparisons of leading
wireless gear. (CNET even certifies listed vendors, so you know that they
pass at least one test of online legitimacy.) What we especially like is the
ability to do a side-by-side comparison so that we can see which product
has which features. By clicking the boxes next to each name, you can select
that gear for comparison shopping. You can also filter the results by price,
features, support, and other factors at the bottom of the page. Then just click
Compare to receive a results page.
At http://wireless.cnet.com, the CNET editors provide feature stories
focused on wireless use in practical applications — including the editors’
tech tips for things like troubleshooting a network or extending its range.
Overall, we visit this solid site often before buying anything.
Using RSS to keep up with wireless news
CNET, like most other sites, supports RSS
feeds. If you don’t know about RSS, here it is
in a nutshell: Most news and information sites
offer RSS feeds to tell you what’s happening on
their Web sites. An RSS feed is an electronic
feed that contains basic information about a
particular item, like the headline, posting date,
and summary paragraph about each news item
on the site. You use a program called an RSS
reader, such as Google Reader (http://
reader.google.com), NewsGator Online
28_9780470877258-ch20.indd 340
(www.newsgator.com) or any of dozens
of other free RSS readers, to reach out and
access these feeds regularly. You find RSS
readers that load into your e-mail program,
browser, and instant messaging program, for
example. All these readers allow you to scan
the headlines and click the ones you want to
read. You could set up an RSS reader to access
the RSS feeds of each of these sites in this
chapter to stay current on everything wireless.
We highly recommend RSS.
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341
Amazon.com, Shopping.com,
Pricegrabber.com, and More
What? Learn about wireless on a shopping site? Ah, but you can glean a
broad range of information from shopping sites that will help you in your
purchase and evaluation of wireless technologies. Amazon.com shows you
multiple pictures of items — usually the front and back — that you can use to
see what sort of LEDs, LCDs, and ports you’re getting. Many products include
downloadable owner’s manuals in the PDF format (portable document format
files you can read in Adobe Acrobat and other programs). The user reviews
are always helpful — we usually read the negative reviews to try to find the
pitfalls and do more research on those using Google.
Amazon.com, Shopping.com, and Pricegrabber.com are great for telling you
what other people are interested in and what’s popular — although what
everyone else is buying isn’t always a good indicator of quality. All three
sites can help you find out where you can buy the products and who has
the cheapest pricing, although Amazon.com is more focused on selling on
Amazon first and foremost. Shopping.com and Pricegrabber.com are more
intent on linking you to other vendors and are a good resource as you start
comparison shopping.
Wi-Fi Planet, Wifi-Forum, and More
Wi-Fi Planet (www.wi-fiplanet.com) is a great resource for keeping up
with industry news and getting reviews of access points, client devices,
security tools, and software. Look for the tutorial section, where you can
find articles such as “TiVo and Wi-Fi — Imperfect Together” and “Used
Routers Can Create Whole New Problems.”
One of the more interactive parts of Wi-Fi Planet is its forum, where you can
ask questions to the collective readership and get answers. (You can ask a
question, and the system e-mails you with any responses — very nice.) The
forum has General, Security, Troubleshooting, Interoperability, Standards,
Hardware, Applications, VoIP, and WiMAX sections. The discussions are tolerant of beginners, but can get quite sophisticated in their responses. All in
all, it’s a great site for information. (Wi-Fi Planet also has RSS feeds!)
Another forum that tends to get a lot of traffic is the WiFi-Forum (www.wififorum.com), which runs out of London and has a more international clientele.
The Wi-Fi Net News site (www.wifinetnews.com) is a great site for finding
out what’s going on in the wireless world. You have no doubt heard about
Weblogs, or blogs: They’re link-running, rambling commentaries that people
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keep online about topics near and dear to their hearts. Wi-Fi Net News
is probably the preeminent blog covering the Wi-Fi Industry.
There’s a bit of a focus on the business side of Wi-Fi here, so unless you want
to track the wireless industry, though, you probably wouldn’t want to check
this site daily, but it’s a great resource for when you want to see what the
latest news is about a particular vendor or technology. We follow this site
every day for interesting news and product or service developments.
The man behind Wi-Fi Net News, Glenn Fleishman also writes about technology for the New York Times and for Pat’s favorite Macintosh site, TidBITS
(http://db.tidbits.com). He knows his stuff!
Check out these other blogs about wireless topics: FierceWireless (www.
fiercewireless.com) and DailyWireless (www.dailywireless.org).
By the way, all these blogs offer RSS feeds!
PC Magazine and PC World
The venerable PC Magazine (www.pcmag.com) is the go-to publication for PC
users. This magazine regularly and religiously tracks all aspects of wireless,
from individual product reviews to sweeping buyer’s guides across different
wireless segments to updates on key operating system and supporting software changes. If you have a PC, you should read this magazine. And if you’re
interested in wireless networking, you should focus in on the wireless networking reviews section at www.pcmag.com/category2/0,2806,4236,00.asp.
We really like the reviews sections of the publication, which offer you immediate insight on new product announcements and give you hands-on, quick
reviews of the latest developments on the market. This site is great for
the products you’ve heard were coming but were waiting to be ready. PC
Magazine is usually one of the first to review these products.
Like many famous magazines, PC Magazine is no longer published in print
(paper) form. You can read the magazine online or subscribe to the digital
edition (for about $1 per month).
PCWorld (www.pcworld.com) is likewise a great resource. We’d be hardpressed to say whether it’s better than PC Magazine — the reviews, articles,
and overall networking coverage are definitely as good in either magazine.
If you’re using Macs on your wireless network, you should also check out
PCWorld’s sister publication, MacWorld (www.macworld.com).
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Electronic House Magazine
Electronic House (www.electronichouse.com) is one of our favorite publications because you can read lots of easy-to-understand articles about all
aspects of an electronic home, including articles on wireless networking and
all the consumer appliances and other non-PC devices that are going wireless. It’s written for the consumer who enjoys technology.
Electronic House magazine includes articles on wireless home networking,
wireless home control, and subsystems such as residential lighting, security,
home theater, energy management, and telecommunications. It also regularly
looks at new and emerging technologies using wireless capabilities, such as
wireless refrigerators and wireless touchpanels, to control your home.
The magazine costs $19.95 per year for 10 issues. Back issues are $5.95 each
or six issues for $30 (plus shipping), so you can catch up on what you’ve
missed. (We always love doing that.) You definitely want to subscribe to this
one! Plus a print subscription comes with a free subscription to the digital
edition — so you can read the magazine on your PC or Mac.
Electronic House’s Web site is also packed with great articles and ideas, and
it’s a fabulous site for finding out how other people have adapted wireless
devices into their home. A bevy of slideshows demonstrate all sorts of homes
that have been remade into themed spaces — we love the Star Trek slideshows about homeowners who have remodeled their homes to look like the
Enterprise! No visible wires there!
You can sign up for newsletters that will tell you about the latest articles on
their site — we always find ourselves clicking through on some topic. Check
them out at www.electronichouse.com/eh/newsletters.
Practically Networked
Practically Networked (www.practicallynetworked.com) is a free site
run by the folks at Internet.com. (They’re the same folks who now own Wi-Fi
Planet.) It has basic tutorials on networking topics, background information
on key technologies, and a troubleshooting guide. The site can contain some
dated information (such as the troubleshooting guide), but it does have monitored discussion groups, where you can get some good feedback, and the
reviews section gives you a listing of products with a fairly comprehensive
buyer’s-guide-style listing of features.
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ExtremeTech.com
Ziff Davis Media has a great site (www.extremetech.com) with special sections focused on networking and wireless issues. There’s heavy traffic at the
discussion groups, and people seem willing to provide quick and knowledgeable answers. (You can find some seriously educated geeks in these groups.)
Check out the links to wireless articles and reviews by ExtremeTech staff.
The site can be difficult to navigate because the layout is a little confusing.
We recommend that you start out in the Networking and Security area (www.
extremetech.com/category2/0,2843,2279422,00.asp), where wireless topics are covered in fair detail. And, if you’re having a problem that you
just can’t seem to crack, check out the discussion groups on this site.
Network World
Network World (www.networkworld.com) is the leading magazine for
networking professionals, and although the site is geared primarily for
businesses, it has lots of content about wireless because so much of the technology first appeared in commercial venues. The site has detailed buyer’s
guides that show the features and functionality of wireless LAN products —
and almost all this information is applicable for your home. Importantly, you
can also search the site for more content on Wi-Fi and 802.11 as well as on
Bluetooth and WiMAX. The publication has a large reporting staff and stays
on top of everything networking-related.
Wikipedia
For having content maintained by the masses on the Internet, Wikipedia
(www.wikipedia.org) isn’t all that bad. Anyone can update information on
Wikipedia, and there have been lots of publicly discussed instances where
vendors wrote bad things about other vendors on the site. But as a whole,
it’s pretty good. Its wireless coverage includes topics such as the following:
✓ Wi-Fi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi)
✓ Wireless access points (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Access_Point)
✓ IEEE 802.11n (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/802.11n)
It’s a great tool to get a high-level idea of any topic, with substantial avenues
offsite for more detailed information. What we like most about Wikipedia is
that we usually find neat links to other related topics in the External Links
section of each page — links we probably would not find elsewhere.
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345
Other Cool Sites
We can’t list here all the sites we regularly visit, but lots of good information
is out there. This section lists some other sites worth looking at.
Tech and wireless news sites
The following sites provide daily news coverage focused on the technology
industry in general, or on wireless technologies in particular. We make them
part of our everyday Web surfing routine — you may want to as well!
✓ FierceWireless: www.fiercewireless.com
✓ SearchMobileComputing.com: http://searchmobilecomputing.
techtarget.com
✓ TechWeb: www.techweb.com
✓ ZDNet: www.zdnet.com
Industry organizations
The creation and maintenance of standards has driven wireless to very low
price points and great interoperability. Here are some organizations pushing
for change in wireless — each site has info about wireless and networks:
✓ Bluetooth SIG: www.bluetooth.com
✓ FreeNetworks.org: www.freenetworks.org
✓ IEEE 802 home page: www.ieee802.org
✓ Wi-Fi Alliance: www.wi-fi.org
The Wi-Fi Alliance site has some good consumer-focused tutorials in
their Discover and Learn section, as well as a hot spot finder and lists
of Wi-Fi certified equipment. Good stuff.
✓ WiMAX Forum: www.wimaxforum.org
Roaming services and WiFinder organizations
As we mention in Chapter 16, many potential services are available that you
can use to log on when you’re on the road. Most of these have sections of
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Part V: The Part of Tens
their sites devoted to helping you find out where you can log on near you.
Here are some frequently mentioned services and initiatives:
✓ Boingo Wireless: www.boingo.com
✓ iPass: www.ipass.com
✓ JiWire: www.jiwire.com
✓ Wi-Fi HotSpot List: www.wi-fihotspotlist.com
Manufacturers
Some of these firms are more oriented toward business products, but many
of them have great educational FAQs (frequently asked questions) and information that are helpful for people trying to read everything they can (which
we support!):
✓ Actiontec: www.actiontec.com
✓ Apple: www.apple.com/wifi
✓ Belkin: www.belkin.com
✓ Buffalo Technology: www.buffalotech.com
✓ Cisco (and Cisco’s Linksys brand): http://home.cisco.com/
en-us/wireless/
✓ D-Link: www.d-link.com
✓ Hawking Technologies: www.hawkingtech.com
✓ Hewlett-Packard: www.hp.com
✓ Intel: www.intel.com
✓ Macsense: www.macsense.com
✓ NETGEAR: www.netgear.com
✓ Sierra Wireless: www.sierrawireless.com
✓ SMC Networks: www.smc.com
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Index
• Numerics •
3G and 4G mobile wireless. See also
smartphones
aircards (3G adapters), 248
Clearwire hot spot device, 251
creating on-the-go hot spots using, 245,
246, 248–252
devices with built-in 3G, 247–248
explosion of activity in, 245
femtocell for boosting coverage, 252–255
4G services, 247
MiFi hot spot devices, 249
monthly bandwidth limits, 248–249
tethering devices via Bluetooth, 249–250
using multiple devices with a single
service, 248–252
WAN services, 246–247
64-bit WEP keys, 168
100BaseT Ethernet, 13, 99
128-bit WEP keys, 168
802.1x security standard, 181
802.11a
advantages over 802.11b, 44–45
AirPort Extreme support for, 147
cordless phone interference with, 78
described, 19, 44
dual-band, dual-mode support for, 45, 95,
300–302
frequency bands used by, 43
gear in 802.11n network, 48
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
phase out of, 20
as superseded standard, 45
upgrading equipment, 20–21
802.11b
AirPort Extreme support for, 144, 147
cordless phone interference with, 78
described, 19, 44
dual-band, dual-mode support for, 45, 95,
300–302
802.11a compared to, 44–45
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 347
frequency bands used by, 43
gear in 802.11n network, 48
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
phase out of, 20
as superseded standard, 44
upgrading equipment, 20–21
802.11g
access point prices, 23
AirPort Extreme support for, 144, 147
backward compatibility of, 20, 21
described, 20, 45
dual-band, dual-mode support for, 45, 95,
300–302
802.11n versus, 46, 48, 72, 73
frequency bands used by, 43
gear in 802.11n network, 48
interference with, 79
noninterfering channels for, 118
optional antenna use with, 42
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
802.11i (WPA2), 102, 171
802.11n
access point prices, 23
AirPort product use of, 144, 147
antenna technology with, 42
backward compatibility of, 20, 21, 48
channel bonding feature, 95
channels of, 47–48, 118–119
choosing equipment, 95
described, 20
dual-band gear, 45, 95, 300–302
802.11g versus, 46, 48, 72, 73
frequency bands used by, 43, 95
interference with, 79
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
prices, 48
range of, 47
speed of, 46–47
variations in the standard, 95
video bandwidth as driving force for, 228
1000BaseT (gigabit) Ethernet, 13, 99
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
•A•
access point setup (Mac). See AirPort
network setup (Mac)
access point setup (Windows)
Allow/Enable Remote Management
function, turning off, 173
changing the configuration, 121–123
connecting the AP, 115–116
Ethernet cable for, 114
general procedure for, 110
information to collect, 112–113
parameters to note, 117
PIN method (WPS), 111, 117, 120, 178
preparing for installation, 111–113, 114
pushbutton method (WPS), 111, 120, 178
reducing the variables, 109
security pop-ups during, 115
setting parameters, 37–38, 117–121
software-based setup, 104, 121, 123
steps for, 114–117
USB method (WPS), 178–179
Web-based setup, 96, 104, 122
access points (APs). See also AirPort
hardware; hot spots
adding more, 316
auto channel select feature, 100
as bridges, 31
choosing equipment, 73–75, 92–93, 95–96,
100–105
combined with router or gateway, 31, 32,
38, 74, 98–99
described, 23, 36, 73
detachable antennas on, 100–101
DHCP service with, 98–99
DMZ feature with, 99
features, 24
form factors, 96
hardware support by, 95–96
limits on number of devices, 71
location for, 75–81, 312
modem/AP/router combinations, 74–75
multiple, interference from, 77
operating system support by, 95–96
operational features, 100–101
outdoor versus indoor equipment, 96
port forwarding feature with, 99, 219–221
powerline, 61, 63
prices, 23, 89–90
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 348
radio signal range issues, 18
range and coverage issues, 102–103
security features, 101–102
setting parameters for, 37–38, 117–121
setup programs for, 96, 103–104
travel routers, 149
upgradeable firmware for, 104–105, 305
uplink port on, 101
vendors, 23
wall-mount of, 75, 96
wired Ethernet port on, 100
wireless router features, 74, 98–99
ad hoc mode, 40, 55, 136
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), 38
Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility
(ASIMO), 332
AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), 14
aircards (3G adapters), 248
airlink security, 164–165. See also security,
wireless
AirPort hardware. See also AirPort network
setup (Mac)
AirPort card (original), 145, 146
AirPort Express, 71, 148–150, 235
AirPort Extreme, 144–145, 146–148
AirPort Extreme versus Express, 149–150
AirPort Extreme–ready computers, 145
buying, 144, 145
compatibility information, 145
product line overview, 144
third-party Wi-Fi adapters, 146
Time Capsule network storage, 150–151
AirPort network setup (Mac). See also
AirPort hardware
configuring the base station, 151–155
connecting a non-Apple computer, 158
connecting another Mac, 157–158
connecting to non-Apple-based wireless
networks, 159
setup utilities, 151
upgrading base station firmware, 156–157
AirTunes, 149
Amazon.com, 341
Ambient Devices, 324
anonymity, VPN providing, 171, 293–294
antenna gain, 41, 42, 76–77, 162
antennas
beam forming technologies, 77
changing for coverage, 315
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Index
detachable, 100–101, 315
dipole, 40, 41
directional, 41
diversity antenna system, 40
factors determining range and coverage,
41–42
MIMO, 40, 47, 77, 315
moving to increase performance, 312
omnidirectional, 41, 81
signal pattern from, 81
with wall-mounted AP, 75
antivirus programs, 127, 163
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), 14
apparel, wireless, 332–335
Apple. See also AirPort hardware; Mac OS
AirTunes, 149
as AP vendor, 23
AppleTV, 229
Bonjour, 202
Mac Mini, 240
Time Machine backup software, 150–151
appliances, Internet-connected, 323–324
apps
bike computer, 320–321
proliferation of, 320
touch panel, 264
touch screen remote, 326
AR.Drone, 270
ASCII use with WEP, 177
ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative
Mobility), 332
ATI TV Wonder Tuners, 239
attenuation. See also interference; range
defined, 42
factors affecting, 76–77, 79, 80
audio gear. See A/V gear; entertainment
systems
authentication. See also WEP (Wired
Equivalent Privacy); WPA (Wi-Fi
Protected Access) and WPA2
in Bluetooth connections, 58
defined, 166
Ethernet, 187
keys or passphrases for, 166
auto channel select feature, 100
A/V gear. See also entertainment systems
bandwidth requirements for, 227–228
benefits of networking, 325–326
Bluetooth, 279–280
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 349
349
with built-in Wi-Fi, 236–238
choosing networked gear, 234–238
Ethernet, adding Wi-Fi to, 235–236
Internet-connected, 231
media adapters and players, 229, 232–234
media center extenders, 229
networked, 230
proprietary networking approaches, 240
wireless capabilities for, 15
wireless speakers, 241–242
wireless TV video connections, 242–243
•B•
base stations. See access points (APs);
AirPort hardware
BD-Live, 231, 325
Belkin, APs from, 23
bike computer apps, 320–321
blocking utilities, 102
blogs about wireless topics, 342
Bluetooth
ad hoc mode compared to, 55
adapters, 59, 60, 281–282
applications and products, 52, 53
audio systems, 279–280
basics, 274–275
as cable replacement, 53, 54
described, 52–53
development of, 52
EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), 57
integrating into a wireless network, 58–60
keyboards and mice, 280–281
need for understanding, 51
pairing and discovery, 282–284
peer-to-peer networking with, 275
phone capabilities, 59–60, 62, 276–278
photo transfer using, 60, 277
piconets, 55–56
point-to-multipoint capability, 275
power levels used by, 275
printers, 60, 279
products using, 58–59
profiles, 283
radio band used by, 57, 274
range of, 53, 57
scatternets, 56
security, 58
speeds, 53, 56–57, 275
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
Bluetooth (continued)
synchronization using, 59, 276
tethering, 59–60, 249–250
transmitting data via, 56–58
types of connections, 56
unconscious connectivity with, 55
uses for, 275–276
version 4.0 (Low Energy Technology),
337–338
versions of, 57
Wi-Fi compared to, 53–54
Bluetooth adapters, 59, 60
Boingo Wireless hot spot network, 291
Bonjour, 202
bridges
access points as, 31
described, 31
powerline, 63
uses for, 210
Wi-Fi Ethernet, 210–212, 230, 235–236
Briere, Danny (Smart Homes For Dummies),
27, 264, 273
broadband mobile wireless. See 3G and 4G
mobile wireless
broadband services, 86
broadband wireless modem, 13
budgeting, 89–90
Buffalo Technology
NAS servers, 29, 267
Nfiniti Wireless-N Dual Band Ethernet
Converter, 212
•C•
cable modem, 13
cabling. See also Ethernet cabling
Bluetooth as replacement for, 53, 54, 276
for LANs versus PANs, 273
wireless, 327–328
captive portal, 296
cars
connected, 321–323
hands-free phone use in, 62
Category 5e/6 UTP cabling. See Ethernet
cabling
CDMA EV-DO (Evolution Data Only), 247
ceilings, attenuation from, 77, 80
cellphones, Bluetooth with, 59–60, 62,
276–278. See also smartphones
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 350
cellular mobile wireless. See 3G and 4G
mobile wireless
certification of equipment
general Wi-Fi certification, 93–94
interoperability with, 72
overview, 48–49
security certification, 94
Wi-Fi logo indicating, 20, 47
WMM certification, 94
WPS certified products, 179
CF (Compact Flash) card wireless
adapters, 36
Chambers, Mark L. (Mac OS X All-in-One
For Dummies), 185
channels
auto channel select feature, 100
changing for performance, 313
channel bonding feature, 95
of 802.11a, 45
of 802.11n, 47–48
FCC radio spectrum regulations, 43
frequency bands used by, 43
noninterfering, for 802.11g, 118
noting when installing an AP, 117
overview, 38, 118–119
setting, 38
choosing equipment. See equipment,
choosing
Cisco/Linksys
as AP vendor, 23
wireless cameras, 260
Wireless N Bridge, 235
Clearwire hot spot device, 251
client computers. See also Mac OS;
Windows; Windows 7
AP distance from, 76, 77
connecting network printers, 198
defined, 28
sharing printer connected to, 82, 83
types of, 29–30
client software (Windows)
for PC Card adapters, 129–130
for PCI adapters, 131–132
tracking network performance, 140–142
for USB adapters, 132–133
for wireless network interface adapters,
127–129
closing your network, 176–177
clothing, wireless, 332–335
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
CNET.com, 340
Compact Flash (CF) card wireless
adapters, 36
ConcertMaster, 328–329
configuration programs for APs, 96,
103–104
configuring a network. See access point
setup (Windows); AirPort network
setup (Mac); network setup (Windows)
configuring femtocells, 255
control networks. See home control
networks
Control4 touch panels and apps, 263, 264
cordless phones, interference from, 76, 78,
79, 318
coverage. See also range
antennas’ effect on, 81, 103
AP location for maximizing, 75, 81, 312
changing antennas for, 315
dead zones, eliminating, 75–81, 252–255
defined, 102
femtocells for boosting, 252–255
issues for wireless networks, 103
crackers, 162
Crestron touch panels and apps, 262, 264
customer support, 106
•D•
DailyWireless blog, 342
data and voice Bluetooth connections, 56
data only Bluetooth connections, 56
data rate. See speed
DDNS (dynamic DNS), 261
dead zones, eliminating, 75–81, 252–255
DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless
Telecommunications) phones, 78, 318
Dell Zino HD, 240
demilitarized zone (DMZ), 99, 222–223
Denon home theater receiver, 230
detachable antennas, 100–101, 315
device drivers
checking for the most recent version, 127
for Macs, 145, 146
overview, 126–127
for PC Card adapters, 129–130
for PCI adapters, 131–132
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 351
351
for USB adapters, 132–133
for wireless network interface adapters,
126–129
DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration
Protocol), 74, 112, 155
DHCP servers, 24, 29, 74, 97, 112
dial-up modem, 12
digital cameras, 60, 271–272, 277. See also
wireless cameras
digital rights management (DRM), 233
dipole antennas, 40, 41
directional antennas, 41
distance. See range
diversity antenna system, 40
D-Link
as AP vendor, 23
DDNS service, 261
GamerLounge, 211
MediaLounge players, 229
video surveillance cameras, 258–260
wireless camera, 29
wireless 108AG gaming adapter, 211
DMZ (demilitarized zone), 99, 222–223
Domain Name System (DNS) service or
server, 112
drivers. See device drivers
DRM (digital rights management), 233
Drobo NAS servers, 267
Dropbox file storage, 11
Druker, Peter (management guru), 69
DSL modem, 13
dual-band interference, 313–314
dynamic DNS (DDNS), 261
•E•
EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), 57
effective isotopic radiated power (EIRP), 42
EHomeUpgrade site, 330
802.11a
advantages over 802.11b, 44–45
AirPort Extreme support for, 147
cordless phone interference with, 78
described, 19, 44
dual-band, dual-mode support for, 45, 95,
300–302
frequency bands used by, 43
10/8/10 9:06 PM
352
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
802.11a (continued)
gear in 802.11n network, 48
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
phase out of, 20
as superseded standard, 45
upgrading equipment, 20–21
802.11b
AirPort Extreme support for, 144, 147
cordless phone interference with, 78
described, 19, 44
dual-band, dual-mode support for, 45, 95,
300–302
802.11a compared to, 44–45
frequency bands used by, 43
gear in 802.11n network, 48
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
phase out of, 19
as superseded standard, 44
upgrading equipment, 20–21
802.11g
access point prices, 23
AirPort Extreme support for, 144, 147
backward compatibility of, 20, 21
described, 20
dual-band, dual-mode support for, 45, 95,
300–302
802.11n versus, 46, 48, 72, 73
frequency bands used by, 43
gear in 802.11n network, 48
noninterfering channels for, 118
optional antenna use with, 42
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
802.11i (WPA2), 102, 171
802.11n
access point prices, 23
AirPort product use of, 144, 147
antenna technology with, 42
backward compatibility of, 20, 21, 48
channel bonding feature, 95
channels of, 47–48, 118–119
choosing equipment, 95
described, 20
dual-band gear, 45, 95, 300–302
802.11g versus, 46, 48, 72, 73
frequency bands used by, 43, 95
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 352
other 802.11x standards compared to,
21–22, 72–73
prices, 48
range of, 47
speed of, 46–47
variations in the standard, 95
video bandwidth as driving force for, 228
802.1x security standard, 181
EIRP (effective isotopic radiated power), 42
electric motor interference, 76, 78, 79
Electronic House magazine, 343
e-mail server, 29
encryption. See also WEP (Wired
Equivalent Privacy); WPA (Wi-Fi
Protected Access) and WPA2
Bluetooth, 58
defined, 165
enabling, 173–176
keys or passphrases for, 166
mixed methods, 169
RC4 protocol, 38, 168
encryption keys. See also WEP (Wired
Equivalent Privacy); WPA (Wi-Fi
Protected Access) and WPA2
assigning (WEP), 120
automatic changes with WPA, 170
creating, 38
described, 166
for installing drivers (WEP), 129
noting when installing an AP, 117
64-bit versus 128-bit, 168
with WPS Enterprise version, 180
writing down, 175
Engadget site, 330
Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), 57
Enterprise version of WPA2, 119, 167, 180
entertainment systems. See also A/V gear
bandwidth requirements for, 227–228
benefits of networking, 84, 325–326
choosing networked gear, 234–238
as client computers, 29
equipment options, 228–231
home theater PCs, 230, 238–240
network aware, 84
proprietary networking approaches, 240
storage servers for, 269
wireless cabling for, 327–328
wireless capabilities for, 225–226
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
wireless speakers, 241–242
wireless TV video connections, 242–243
equipment, choosing
access points (APs), 73–75, 92–93, 95–96,
100–105
AirPort hardware, 144–151
A/V gear, 234–238
certification of equipment, 20, 48–49, 72,
93–94, 179
customer support issues, 106
DHCP servers, 97
802.11n gear, 95
form factor considerations, 96
operational features, 99–100
outdoor versus indoor equipment, 96
price issues, 105
print servers, 100
range and coverage issues, 102–103
return policies, 106
routers, 98–99
security cameras, 258–260
security features, 101–102
storage servers, 266–269
switches, 99
touch panels, 262–264
warranties, 105–106
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridges, 236
ESSID (extended service set identifier). See
network name (SSID or ESSID)
Ethernet
authentication, 187
described, 13, 24
features of switches, 99
processes performed by, 187
speeds of, 13–14, 99
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridges, 210–212, 230,
235–236
wired port on APs, 100
Ethernet cabling
buying to prepare for AP installation, 114
connecting an AP with, 115–116
described, 13
for nearby devices, 71
for wired networks, 61
ExpressCard adapters, 25, 34–35, 248
ExtremeTech.com, 343
Eye-Fi memory cards, 271–272
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 353
353
•F•
fax machines, sharing, 82
FCC radio spectrum regulations, 43
femtocells, 252–255
fiber-optic modem, 13
FierceWireless blog, 342, 345
file sharing
accessing shared files, 197
Bluetooth for, 276
firewall for securing, 194
icons for shared items, 188
between Macs and Windows-based PCs,
201–203
overview, 10–11
synchronization, 11
uses for, 190
file sharing (Windows 7). See also Network
and Sharing Center (Windows 7)
adding users, 196–197
choosing what to share, 191
dragging shared folder/library into
computer library, 188
homegroups for, 190–191
icons for shared items, 188
password for network share, 192
setting sharing levels for items, 194–196
setting up a homegroup, 192–193
sharing specific libraries, 194–196
file transfer, bandwidth requirements for,
227–228
files, defined, 10
FiOS system, 13, 32, 86, 112
firewalls
access points with, 74
described, 32
for file sharing security, 194
gaming through, 217, 219–221
NAT versus, 306
personal, for each computer, 163
router, turning on, 163–164
firmware, 104–105, 156–157, 305
flexibility of wireless networks, 17
floors, attenuation from, 77, 80
Fon hot spot provider, 286
form factors, 96
4G. See 3G and 4G mobile wireless
freenets, 288–289
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
frequency bands. See channels
Froyo smartphone operating system, 252
•G•
gain, antenna, 41, 42, 76–77, 162
gaming
further information, 206
networking requirements, 207–208
popularity of, 205
ports for, 221
signing up for online services, 212–216
system requirements, 206–207
gaming adapters, 210–212
gaming consoles and devices
advantages over PCs, 208–209
challenges for getting online, 205, 303
as client computers, 29
connecting to the network, 209–212
connectivity offered with, 84
DMZ setup for, 222–223
getting through the firewall, 217, 219–221
IP addresses for, 216–219
port forwarding for, 219–221, 303
router configuration for, 216–221
vendors, 205
wireless capabilities for, 15, 206
gaming controllers, 207
gateways. See Internet gateways
Gibson Dark Fire guitar, 329
gigabit (1000BaseT) Ethernet, 13, 99
Gizmodo site, 330
Globalpetfinder.com, 329–330
Google Froyo smartphone operating
system, 252
GPS devices
pet tracking, 329–330
wearables, 332–335
GSM UMTS (Global System for Mobile
Communications Universal Mobile
Telephone System), 247
guest network feature, 147, 154, 169
Guitar Hero, 328
•H•
Hauppauge WinTV HVR, 239
HDMI, wireless, 327
headphones, Bluetooth, 280
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 354
hexadecimal use with WEP, 177
home appliances, Internet-connected,
323–324
home control networks
control module for, 66
described, 52, 64
further information, 264
how they work, 64–65
macros for, 265
network effect for, 65
range of, 64
smart home technologies, 84
speed of, 64
standards, 65–66, 261–262
touch panels for, 262–264
ZigBee, 65, 66, 264, 336
Z-Wave, 65, 66, 264, 336
home entertainment systems. See
entertainment systems
Home Networking For Dummies (Ivens), 185
home theater PCs (HTPCs), 230, 238–240.
See also entertainment systems
home wireless revolution, 226
homegroups (Windows 7), 28, 190–193
HomePlug, 62
HomePlug A/V, 51, 62
HomePNA (Home Phoneline Networking
Alliance), 63
hot spots
Clearwire hot spot device, 251
creating on-the-go, 245, 246, 248–252
described, 15, 246, 285
finding public hot spots, 286–288, 290,
345–346
finding, tools for, 291–292
freenets, 288–289
MiFi hot spot devices, 249
mobile devices with, 296
Nintendo, 214
open access points, 288–289
for-pay services, 289–291
registration process for, 286, 296
security, 293–295
smartphone-as-hot-spot functionality,
251–252
with tethering via Bluetooth, 249–250
household items producing interference,
76, 78, 79, 318
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
HP
Jetdirect ew2500 802.11g Wireless Print
Server, 82
storage servers, 266
hubs
described, 24, 30
switches versus, 24, 31, 74
uplink port on, 101
Hurley, Pat (Smart Homes For Dummies),
27, 264, 273
•I•
icons in this book, explained, 4
IEEE standards. See standards
industry organizations, 345
information, defined, 28
Infrared Data Association (IrDA) wireless,
54
infrastructure mode, 39
inSSIDer sniffer, 292
installing. See also access point setup
(Windows)
network printer in Windows, 198–200
PC Card adapters (Windows), 129–130
PCI adapters (Windows), 131–132
USB adapters (Windows), 132–133
wired versus wireless networks, 9, 16–19
wireless network interface adapter
drivers and software (Windows),
126–129
Institute for Electrical and Electronics
Engineers standards. See standards
interference. See also attenuation; range
dual-band, 313–314
802.11x standards compared, 21
household items producing, 76, 78, 79,
318
issues for wireless networks, 18
with multiple APs, 77
troubleshooting, 311
with wall-mounted AP, 75
Internet connection
Bluetooth for, 278
broadband services, 86
modem types for, 12–13
narrowband services, 86
types of, 85–86
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 355
355
Internet connection sharing
AP feature for, 74
basics, 13–14
with bridge and wired network, 88–89
broadband router for, 87
NAT for, 85, 87–88
need for, 12
software-based, 87
Internet gateways
APs combined with, 32, 38, 74, 98–99
connecting printer to, 83
described, 32
wired Ethernet port on, 99
wireless gateways versus, 32–33
Internet radio, 234
Internet-based phone (VoIP), 14–15
Internet-connected appliances, 323–324
Internet-connected A/V devices, 231
interoperability of 802.11x standards, 21
Iomega NAS servers, 267
IP addresses
AirPort setup for, 155
AP feature for assigning, 74
assigning manually, 74
collecting for AP installation, 112
defined, 32
dynamic or static WAN address, 117, 121
dynamic, with DHCP, 74, 97, 98–99
finding yours, 306–307
for gaming devices, 216–219
local, 121
noting when installing an AP, 117
IrDA (Infrared Data Association) wireless,
54
iRobot devices, 331
Ivens, Kathy (Home Networking For
Dummies), 185
•J•
JiWire site, 292
•K•
keyboards, Bluetooth, 280–281
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
•L•
LaCie NAS servers, 267
LANs (local area networks), 28, 273
Lenovo storage servers, 266
Leopard. See Mac OS
Leviton Z-Wave lighting modules, 264
link test programs (Windows), 140–142
Linksys. See Cisco/Linksys
LiveRider app, 320–321
logging utilities, 102
Logitech Squeezebox Touch music system,
237–238
Long Term Evolution (LTE)
4G service, 247
Connected Car project, 323
•M•
MAC (Media Access Control) address, 113,
117, 120, 176–177
Mac OS. See also AirPort network setup
AP support for, 95–96
Bluetooth support built into, 59
Bonjour included with, 202
file sharing between Windows and,
201–203
non-Apple routers with, 143
OS 9 (discontinued), 143
OS X as focus in this book, 143
requirements for wireless networking, 2
versions of OS X, 143
Mac OS X All-in-One For Dummies
(Chambers, Tejkowski, and
Williams), 185
macros for home control, 265
master, Bluetooth, 55
media adapters and players, 229, 232–234,
269
media center extenders, 230
memory card wireless adapters, 36
mice, Bluetooth, 280–281
Microsoft Xbox. See Xbox 360
microwave oven interference, 76, 78, 79
MiFi hot spot devices, 249
MIMO (multiple inputs, multiple outputs)
technology, 40, 47, 77, 315
mini-PCI cards, installing, 129–130. See also
PCI adapters
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 356
mobile broadband. See 3G and 4G mobile
wireless
mobile phones, Bluetooth with, 59–60, 62,
276–278. See also smartphones
MoCA (Multimedia over Coax), 51, 63
modems for Internet connection
modem/AP/router combinations, 74–75
types of, 12–13
monitoring software, 102
Monster Cable Z-Wave gear, 264
mouse, Bluetooth, 280–281
multiple-function peripherals, sharing, 82
musical instruments, wireless, 328–329
•N•
narrowband services, 86
near field communications (NFC), 179
NETGEAR
as AP vendor, 23
Digital Entertainer Elite, 29
NAS servers, 267
Universal WiFi Internet Adapter, 235
NetStumbler sniffer, 292
Network Address Translation (NAT)
benefits of, 85
firewalls versus, 306
for Internet connection sharing, 85, 87–88
port forwarding, 99, 219–221
routers’ use of, 31, 32, 98
security from, 32, 99, 102, 219–220
Network and Sharing Center (Windows 7)
creating shortcuts for networked devices,
189
dragging shared folder/library into
computer library, 188
homegroup setup, 192–193
illustrated, 186
types of devices shown, 188
viewing all networked devices, 187,
189–190
Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers,
29, 70, 236, 267. See also storage
servers
network, defined, 28, 187
network effect, 65
network hubs. See hubs
network ID. See network name (SSID or
ESSID)
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
network interface adapters. See wireless
network interface adapters
network name (AirPort), 152, 158
network name (SSID or ESSID)
assigning, 37
changing the default, 173
for connecting with Windows 7, 139
for connecting with Windows Vista, 135
for connecting with Windows XP, 134
hot spot security, 294
for installing device drivers, 128
manufacturer setting, 37
not a security feature, 37
noting when installing an AP, 117
overview, 118
SSID broadcast, turning off, 176
network setup (Windows)
connecting a gaming console, 209–212
connecting with Windows 7, 138–140
connecting with Windows Vista, 135–138
connecting with Windows XP, 133–134
device drivers and client software,
126–129
PC Card adapters, 129–130
PCI adapters, 131–132
tracking performance, 140–142
USB adapters, 132–133
wireless network interface adapters,
126–133
network sniffer programs, 292
Network World, 344
NFC (near field communications), 179
Nintendo. See also gaming consoles and
devices
DS, 214
gaming device, 205
Wi-Fi Connection service, 215–216
Wii, 215–216
noise level, checking, 141
Novatel MiFi family, 249
•O•
octet, defined, 32
Olympia DualPhone, 15
omnidirectional antennas, 41, 81
100BaseT Ethernet, 13, 99
1000BaseT (gigabit) Ethernet, 13, 99
128-bit WEP keys, 168
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 357
357
open access points, 288–289
OS X. See Mac OS
•P•
packets, 31, 32, 56, 164
pairing (Bluetooth), 282–284
Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus smartphones,
251
Panasonic
Viewnetcam.com service, 261
wireless cameras, 260
PANs (personal area networks), 52, 55, 273,
337
Parrot AR.Drone, 270
PC Card adapters, 25, 34, 36, 129–130
PC DVR kits, 239
PC Magazine, 342
PCI adapters
described, 25, 35
illustrated, 34, 35
installing in Windows, 131–132
mini-PCI cards, installing in Windows,
129–130
Peripheral Component Interconnect
standard, 25
USB adapters versus, 36
PCs. See client computers; Mac OS;
Windows; Windows 7
PCWorld, 342
PDAs (personal digital assistants), 36, 296
performance. See also attenuation;
interference; speed; throughput
adding an AP for, 316
changing antennas for, 315
changing channels for, 313
dual-band interference issues, 313–314
gigabit Ethernet for, 99
moving the antenna for, 312
moving the AP for, 312
new obstacles degrading, 314
repeaters for, 317
signal-strength meters for checking, 310
tracking in Windows, 140–142
troubleshooting, 309–318
peripheral sharing
cost savings with, 197
integrated Web servers in devices, 201
10/8/10 9:06 PM
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
peripheral sharing (continued)
overview, 201
types that can be shared, 11–12
personal area networks (PANs), 52, 55, 273,
337
personal digital assistants (PDAs), 36, 296
Personal version of WPA2, 119, 171,
179–180
pet tracking, 329–330
petcams, 260
piconets (Bluetooth), 55–56
planning a wireless network. See also
equipment, choosing
budgeting and pricing, 89–90
choosing a technology, 72–73
choosing devices to connect, 71
counting network devices, 70–71
for entertainment and gadgets, 84
Internet connection sharing
considerations, 85–89
issues to consider, 22–23
location for the AP, 75–81
printer sharing considerations, 81–84
PlayStation. See also gaming consoles and
devices
Portable (PSP), 213
version 2, 210, 214–215
version 3, 29, 205
PlayStation Network Adapter, 210
PlayStation Network gaming service,
214–215
port forwarding
described, 99
overview, 219–220, 303
setting up, 220–221
portability with wireless networks, 17
power outage, restarting after, 98, 310–311
powerline networking, 61–63
PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over
Ethernet), 117, 121
Practically Networked site, 343
Pre-Shared Key (PSK) version of WPA2,
119, 171, 179–180
Pricegrabber.com, 341
print servers
with AirPort Express, 149
with AirPort Extreme, 147
AP feature for, 74, 100
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 358
choosing equipment, 100
described, 24, 29
planning for, 70
printer sharing using, 82, 83
wireless, 82, 84
printer sharing
accessing shared printers, 200
connecting network printers to clients,
198
cost savings with, 11, 81, 197
illustrated, 12
installing a network printer, 198–200
with multiple-function peripherals, 82
print servers for, 82, 83, 84
with printer connected to computer, 82,
83
steps for, 198
wireless printers for, 82, 84
printers
Bluetooth use with, 60, 279
network, installing, 198–200
wireless, 82, 84
profiles, Bluetooth, 283
protocols, 13, 187. See also specific
protocols
PSK (Pre-Shared Key) version of WPA2,
119, 171, 179–180
PSP (PlayStation Portable), 213
pushbutton configuration, 111, 120, 178
•R•
RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In
User Service) server, 180
range. See also attenuation; interference
of 802.11n, 47
802.11x standards compared, 21
of Bluetooth, 53, 57
conservative estimate for, 81
defined, 102
factors affecting, 41–42, 76–77, 79, 80, 103
of home control networks, 64
issues for wireless networks, 18
Rathbone, Andy
Windows 7 For Dummies, 185
Windows Vista For Dummies, 185
Windows XP For Dummies, 185
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
RC4 encryption protocol, 38, 168
receive sensitivity, 41
refrigerators
interference from, 76, 78, 79
Internet-connected, 323–324
reliability, wired versus wireless, 16
Remember icon, 4
Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service
(RADIUS) server, 180
remote management, disabling, 173
repeaters, 317
resetting to defaults, 308
resources, defined, 28
restarting after power outage, 98, 310–311
return policies, 106
RF interference. See interference
Rhapsody Internet radio, 234
roaming services, 345–346
Robotics Robomow, 331
robots, 269–270, 331–332
Rock Band, 328
routers. See also AirPort hardware;
Internet gateways
APs combined with, 31, 38, 74, 98–99
choosing equipment, 98–99
configuring for online gaming, 216–221
described, 24, 31
dual-band, 45, 95, 300–302
external storage with, 267
firewall, turning on, 163–164
home or broadband, 31
Internet connection sharing using, 87
modem/AP/router combinations, 74–75
NAT used by, 31, 32
travel routers, 149
WPS PIN for, 111, 117, 120, 135, 178
Xbox Live-compatible, 214
RSS, 340
•S•
salability of wired homes, 16
satellite modem, 13
scanners, sharing, 82
scatternets (Bluetooth), 56
SD (Secure Digital) cards, 36, 271–272
security cameras, 258–261
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 359
359
security, wireless. See also WEP (Wired
Equivalent Privacy); WPA (Wi-Fi
Protected Access) and WPA2; WPS
(Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
airlink, 164–165
AirPort Extreme support for, 147
airwaves security, 305
Allow/Enable Remote Management
function, turning off, 173
antivirus programs, 127, 163
blocking utilities for, 102
Bluetooth, 58
closing your network, 176–177
default settings, changing, 165, 172–173
DMZ feature for, 99
802.1x standard, 181
firewalls, 32, 74, 163
in hot spots, 293–295
Internet, general, 162–164, 304–305
logging utilities for, 102
monitoring software for, 102
NAT feature for, 32, 99, 102, 219–220
need for, 101, 162–163
network name not a feature, 37
not bulletproof, 162, 167
pop-ups during AP installation, 115
port forwarding feature for, 99, 219–221
reading the manual, 172
shared secret method, 166–167
stateful packet inspection (SPI), 164
steps for securing a network, 171
VPN for, 102, 171, 293
wardrivers, 161
WEP versus WPA, 38, 102
of wired versus wireless networks, 16, 18
WPA2, 102
servers. See also specific types
defined, 28, 265
types of, 29
service set identifier (SSID). See network
name (SSID or ESSID)
setting up a network. See access point
setup (Windows); AirPort network
setup (Mac); network setup (Windows)
setting up femtocells, 255
setup programs for APs, 96, 103–104
shared secret, 166–167
Shopping.com, 341
10/8/10 9:06 PM
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
signal attenuation. See attenuation
signal boosters, 315
signal strength, checking, 141
Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), checking, 141
signal-processing algorithm for HomePlug,
62
signal-strength meters, 310
Simple Config. See WPS (Wi-Fi Protected
Setup)
64-bit WEP keys, 168
Skype, 14
slaves, Bluetooth, 55
smart home technologies, 84
Smart Homes For Dummies (Briere and
Hurley), 27, 264, 273
smartphones. See also 3G and 4G mobile
wireless; apps
Bluetooth with, 59–60, 62, 276–278
hands-free use of, 62
hot spot use with, 296
hot spot functionality, 251–252
popularity of, 245
SMCWEBT-G EZ Connect g wireless
Ethernet bridge, 211
SnapStream Beyond TV, 239
sneakernet approach, 11
Snow Leopard. See Mac OS
software-based AP configuration, 104, 121,
123
software-based Internet connection
sharing, 87
Sonos Digital Music System, 230, 236–238
Sony PlayStation. See PlayStation
speakers, 241–242, 280
speed
advertised rates versus actuality, 311
Bluetooth, 53, 56–57, 275
of 802.11n, 46–47, 72, 73
of 802.11x networks, 19, 20, 21, 72–73
factors affecting, 46, 73
of home control networks, 64
HomePlug A/V powerline networking, 62
HomePlug powerline networking, 62
modem, 12–13
throughput versus, 46
of wired versus wireless networks, 16, 18
SPI (stateful packet inspection), 164
spoofing, 177
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 360
Sprint
Clearwire hot spot device, 251
HTC EVO smartphone, 251–252
SSID (service set identifier). See network
name (SSID or ESSID)
SSID broadcast, turning off, 176
standards. See also specific 802.11
standards
benefits of, 42–43
certification of equipment, 20, 48–49, 72,
93–94, 179
802.1x, 181
802.11x, AirPort support for, 144, 147
802.11x, backward compatibility of, 20,
21, 48
802.11x, choosing between, 300
802.11x, comparison of, 21–22, 72–73
802.11x, compatibility of, 73
802.11x, development of, 44
802.11x, upgrading equipment, 20–21
for home control networks, 65–66,
261–262
HomePlug, 62
HomePlug A/V, 51, 62
maximum EIRP output, 42
MoCA, 51
overview, 19–22
PCI, 25
ZigBee, 65, 66
Z-Wave, 65, 66
star topology, 30
stateful packet inspection (SPI), 164
storage servers
choosing equipment, 266–269
features to look for, 267–269
NAS, 29, 70, 236, 267
uses for, 265–266
Windows Home Server, 29, 266
wireless router with external storage, 267
streaming, bandwidth requirements for,
227
subnet mask, 117, 121
surveillance, video, 258–261
switches
APs combined with, 74, 99
choosing equipment, 99
described, 24, 31
hubs versus, 24, 31, 74
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
uplink port on, 101
using, 74
synchronization
Bluetooth for, 59, 276
defined, 11
smartphone with PC or Mac, 59
by Zune portable media player, 11
Synology NAS servers, 267
system requirements
for gaming, 206–207
for wireless networking, 2
•T•
tablet computer touch panel apps, 264
TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)
ports, 220–221
TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/
Internet Protocol), 32
Technical Stuff icon, 4
technical support, 106
Tejkowski, Erick (Mac OS X All-in-One
For Dummies), 185
televisions, 242–243, 325–326
Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), 38
tethering via Bluetooth, 59–60, 249–250
3G and 4G mobile wireless. See also
smartphones
aircards (3G adapters), 248
Clearwire hot spot device, 251
creating on-the-go hot spots using, 245,
246, 248–252
devices with built-in 3G, 247–248
explosion of activity in, 245
femtocell for boosting coverage, 252–255
4G services, 247
MiFi hot spot devices, 249
monthly bandwidth limits, 248–249
smartphone-as-hot-spot functionality,
251–252
tethering devices via Bluetooth, 249–250
using multiple devices with a single
service, 248–252
WAN services, 246–247
throughput. See also performance; speed
defined, 46
of 802.11a, 45
factors affecting, 309
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 361
361
speed versus, 46
wall-mount of AP decreasing, 75
Time Capsule network storage, 150–151
Time Machine backup software, 150–151
Tip icon, 4
TiVo, 239
TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), 38
touch panels for home control, 262–264
toys, robotic, 269–270
tracking performance (Windows), 140–142
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
ports, 220–221
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP), 32
transmission (TX) power, 41
travel routers, 149
troubleshooting. See also attenuation;
interference; performance
AP location, 312
computer missing from network in
Windows 7, 189
connecting AirPort network to non-Apple
network, 159
dual-band interference, 313–314
Ethernet cable works for Internet but not
wireless LAN, 302
finding your IP address, 306–307
interference, 311
network connection (Windows 7), 140
network connection (Windows Vista),
137–138
performance, 140–142, 309–318
restarting after power outage, 98, 310–311
signal-strength meters for, 310
videoconferencing, 303–304
when nothing works, 307–308
TVs, 242–243, 325–326
2Wire HomePortal 2000 series Internet
gateways, 32
•U•
UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), 270
UDP (User Datagram Protocol) ports, 221
unconscious connectivity, 55
Unlicensed National Information
Infrastructure (U-NII) frequencies, 43
10/8/10 9:06 PM
362
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), 270
uplink port, 101
USB adapters
aircards (3G adapters), 248
Bluetooth, 59, 60, 281–282
installing (Windows), 132–133
PC Card or PCI adapters versus, 36
USB 1.0 versus 2.0 (Hi-Speed), 36, 96
wireless network interface adapters, 25,
33, 35–36
USB hubs, 282
user accounts, adding in Windows 7,
196–197
username, admin, 117, 120
•V•
Verizon FiOS system, 13, 32, 86, 112
vertical positioning of AP, 76
video gear. See A/V gear; entertainment
systems
video monitoring, 258–261
videoconferencing, 303–304
videogame consoles. See gaming consoles
and devices
virtual CD server, sharing, 201
Virtual CD software, 201
Virtual Private Network (VPN), 102, 171,
293–294, 295
voice only Bluetooth connections, 56
Voice over IP (VoIP), 14–15
Vonage, 14
•W•
wall-mount for AP, 75, 96
walls, attenuation from, 77, 79, 80
WANs (wide area networks), 28, 246–247,
273
wardrivers, 161
Warning icon, 4
warranties, 105–106
WDS (wireless distribution system), 149,
317
wearables, 332–335
Web-based AP configuration, 104, 122
WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility
Alliance). See Wi-Fi Alliance
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 362
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
ASCII use with, 177
assigning an encryption key, 120
connecting with Windows 7, 139
connecting with Windows Vista, 136
connecting with Windows XP, 134
deciding to use, or not, 169
described, 167
enabling encryption, 173–175
encryption, 38, 102, 120, 166, 168
flawed encryption with, 168, 169
hexadecimal use with, 177
how it works, 168
key for installing drivers, 129
key length, 168
mixing with WPA, 169
noting the key when installing an AP, 117
RC4 encryption protocol of, 38, 168
WPA versus, 38, 102, 166, 170
writing down the key, 175
Western Digital NAS servers, 267
widgets, 326
Wi-Fi. See also specific 802.11 standards
Bluetooth compared to, 53–54
defined, 20
Wi-Fi Alliance
certification of equipment, 20, 49, 72,
93–94
formation of, 49
logo on equipment, 20, 47
Web site, 72
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridges
for A/V gear, 230, 235–236
for gaming devices, 210–212
tips for buying, 236
Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) certification, 94
Wi-Fi Net News site, 341–342
Wi-Fi news sites, 341–342, 345
Wi-Fi Planet site, 341
Wi-Fi Protected Access. See WPA and
WPA2
Wi-Fi Protected Setup. See WPS
Wi-Fi robots, 269–270, 331–332
Wifi-Forum site, 341
Wi-FiHotSpotList.com, 291
Wi-Finder organizations, 345–346
Wikipedia, 344
Williams, Michael L. (Mac OS X All-in-One
For Dummies), 185
10/8/10 9:06 PM
Index
WIMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for
Microwave Access), 247
Windows. See also access point setup
(Windows); network setup (Windows);
Windows 7
AP installation in, 114–117
AP support for, 95–96
Bluetooth support built into, 59
connecting with Windows Vista, 135–138
connecting with Windows XP, 133–134
file sharing between Macs and, 201–203
installing a network printer, 198–200
media center extenders, 229
Network information in Vista, 187
requirements for wireless networking, 2
tracking network performance, 140–142
Windows Home Server, 29, 266. See also
storage servers
Windows Media Center, 229
Windows 7. See also file sharing
(Windows 7)
connecting to a network with, 138–140
file sharing in, 190–197
installing a network printer, 199–200
Network and Sharing Center, 187–190
Windows 7 For Dummies (Rathbone), 185
Windows Vista For Dummies (Rathbone),
185
Windows XP For Dummies (Rathbone), 185
Wired Equivalent Privacy. See WEP
wired Ethernet port on APs, 100
wired networks
costs of, 9
Internet connection sharing with, 88–89
speeds, 16
wireless networks versus, 9, 16–19
wireless access points. See access points
(APs)
wireless cabling, 327–328
wireless cameras
benefits of, 15
as client computers, 29
Eye-Fi memory cards for, 271–272
for video surveillance, 258–261
wireless distribution system (WDS), 149,
317
Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance
(WECA). See Wi-Fi Alliance
wireless gateways, 32–33
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 363
363
wireless network interface adapters
described, 25, 33
installing device drivers and client
software, 126–129
installing (Windows), 126–133
MAC address of, 113
memory card, 36
PC Card or ExpressCard, 25, 34–35,
129–130
PCI, 25, 34, 35, 131–132
prices, 25, 90
USB, 25, 33, 35–36, 132–133
wireless networking
benefits of, 10–15
Bluetooth integration into, 58–60
broadcasting by devices, 187–188
closing your network, 176–177
dead zones, eliminating, 75–81
FAQs, 299–308
restarting after power outage, 98, 310–311
review, 186–187
wired networking versus, 9, 16–19
wireline with, 61–63
wireless repeaters, 317
wireless routers, 74, 98–99. See also access
points (APs); routers
WirelessHD consortium, 327
WiTopia VPN service, 171, 295
WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia) certification, 94
workstations, 28. See also client computers
Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave
Access (WIMAX), 247
WowWee Rovio, 270
WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2.
See also WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
AirPort Extreme support for, 147
AirPort setup for WPA2, 154
automatic key changes with, 170
connecting with Windows 7, 139
connecting with Windows Vista, 136
connecting with Windows XP, 134
enabling encryption, 173–176
encryption, 38, 119, 170
Enterprise version, 119, 167, 180
mixing with WEP, 169
noting passphrase when installing AP, 117
passphrase for installing drivers, 129
Personal or PSK version, 119, 171,
179–180
10/8/10 9:06 PM
364
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 4th Edition
WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2
(continued)
preshared key vulnerabilities, 179–180
WEP versus, 38, 102, 166, 170
WPA versus WPA2, 170
WPA2, described, 102, 170
WPAN (wireless personal area network),
55, 337
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
list of certified products, 179
NFC (near field communications) with,
179
PIN for installing drivers, 129
PIN method for AP configuration, 111,
117, 120, 178
pushbutton configuration, 111, 120, 178
USB method for AP configuration,
178–179
29_9780470877258-bindex.indd 364
•X•
Xbox 360, 29, 205. See also gaming
consoles and devices
Xbox 360 Wireless N Networking Adapter,
210
Xbox Live gaming service, 212–214
• Z•
ZigBee control networks, 65, 66, 264, 336
ZoneAlarm firewall software, 220
Zune portable media player, 11
Z-Wave control networks, 65, 66, 264, 336
10/8/10 9:06 PM
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