Wireless Home
Networking
FOR
DUMmIES
3RD
‰
EDITION
by Danny Briere, Pat Hurley, and Edward Ferris
Wireless Home
Networking
FOR
DUMmIES
3RD
‰
EDITION
Wireless Home
Networking
FOR
DUMmIES
3RD
‰
EDITION
by Danny Briere, Pat Hurley, and Edward Ferris
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies®, 3rd Edition
Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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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.
Edward Ferris is a consultant and director of information systems with
TeleChoice, Inc., specializing in information management, wired and wireless
networking, and security technologies. He has extensive experience with all
the latest VOIP technologies: SIP, vPBX, Hybrid PBX, QoS, and packet labeling
and switching. Ed frequently consults with companies looking to tighten
information security, develop scalable technology plans, and expand network
and client support operations. He has written many training and technology
manuals for corporate use and has created custom training materials and
seminars for numerous applications and business processes. He lives in
Norwood, Massachusetts, with his wife and three children.
Authors’ Acknowledgments
Danny wants to thank his wife, Holly, and kids, for their infinite patience while
he and Pat wrestled with this book toward the finish line. He agrees that the
wireless Webcam in the shower was not a good idea. (Just kidding.) He also
wants to thank his sister, Michelle, for all her hard work over the years that
has made it possible to continue to survive in this crazy business environment — we could not have made it without her. He also wants to note that
he has a 42-inch LCD HDTV and even has a 108-inch screen for playing with
the Wii.
Pat, as always, thanks his wife, Christine, for providing her impeccable judgment when he asks, “Can I write this wisecrack and not get in trouble?” 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 her for letting him hog the computers and
the sofa while writing. He also thanks Annabel for not “playing my computer”
(in the typing-over-a-just-finished-paragraph way that only a three-year-old
can manage) during crucial writing moments — Daddy will take you to
In-N-Out for a hamburger and french fries to celebrate the completion of
this edition and let you get back to your computer explorations!
Ed wants to thank his wife, Maureen (Moe), and the kids, for letting him take
all the extra time to write and for digging him out of the basement now and
then so he remembers what sunlight really looks like. He even got to play
a few soccer games this time around thanks to the kids. He also wants to
thank Moe for all her support as a test subject and pre-editor of everything
he types. Without her to say “Okay, now it makes sense to me,” much of the
instructional material in this book would not have been finished.
Danny, Pat, and Ed want to thank the following people and organizations
for their support in writing this edition of the book: 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); and Mindy Whittington and Ana Corea
at Red Consultancy (for Eye-Fi).
We also can’t forget folks who have helped us for the two previous editions,
including (but by no means limited to): Doug Hagan and Mehrshad Mansouri,
at 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 the readers.
Our team at Wiley — Steve Hayes and Tiffany Ma on the corporate side of
the house — and especially our exceptionally patient and wise project editor
Susan Pink all get a well-deserved round of applause from us. We’d also like
to thank our technical editor, Dan DiNicolo, for helping us look good. Finally,
we want to thank Melody Layne, who’s moved on to a different and exciting
job at Wiley, but who we suspect is always keeping an eye out on what
we’re up to.
Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form
located at www.dummies.com/register/.
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and
Media Development
Composition Services
Project Editor: Susan Pink
Project Coordinator: Lynsey Stanford
Acquisitions Editor: Tiffany Ma
Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis,
Alissa D. Ellet, Joyce Haughey,
Stephanie D. Jumper, Ronald Terry
Technical Editor: Dan DiNicolo
Proofreaders: Laura Bowman, Jessica Kramer
Editorial Manager: Jodi Jensen
Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC
(Previous Edition: Rebecca Whitney)
Editorial Assistant: Amanda Foxworth
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
Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director
Composition Services
Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services
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: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks....................................................51
Part II: Making Plans .................................................69
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network ............................................................71
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment ....................................95
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network .......................111
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows.........................................113
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network .................................................127
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network ..........................................................143
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network....................................................159
Part IV: Using a Wireless Network .............................179
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work......................................181
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network ................................................203
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center.................................................223
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls.......................................241
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network......................................................257
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network ......................................................................281
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home ............................................................297
Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................315
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks.............................................317
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance .......................327
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your
Wireless Network in the Future..................................................................................339
Chapter 20: Top Ten Sources for More Information ..................................................359
Index .......................................................................367
Table of Contents
Introduction..................................................................1
About This Book...............................................................................................1
System Requirements ......................................................................................2
How This Book Is Organized...........................................................................2
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals .........................................2
Part II: Making Plans...............................................................................3
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network ..................................................3
Part IV: Using a Wireless Network........................................................3
Part V: The Part of Tens.........................................................................4
Icons Used in This Book..................................................................................4
Where to Go from Here....................................................................................4
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 ...........................................................................15
Home arcades and wireless to go.......................................................15
Wired versus Wireless ...................................................................................16
Installing wired home networks .........................................................16
Installing wireless home networks.....................................................18
Choosing a Wireless Standard ......................................................................19
Planning Your Wireless Home Network.......................................................23
Choosing Wireless Networking Equipment ................................................24
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
Get the (Access) Point? .................................................................................36
Infrastructure mode .............................................................................39
Ad hoc mode .........................................................................................39
Your Wireless Network’s Power Station: The Antenna..............................40
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Industry Standards ........................................................................................42
The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers ....................43
The Wi-Fi Alliance.................................................................................43
Wi-Fi history: 802.11b and 802.11a .....................................................44
The current standard: 802.11g............................................................46
The next big thing: 802.11n .................................................................47
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51
Who or What Is Bluetooth?...........................................................................52
Wi-Fi versus Bluetooth ..................................................................................53
Piconets, Masters, and Slaves ......................................................................54
Integrating Bluetooth into Your Wireless Network....................................58
Bluetoothing your phones ..................................................................59
Wireless printing and data transfer ...................................................60
Extending Your Wireless Home Network
with “No New Wires” Solutions.................................................................60
Controlling Your Home without Wires.........................................................64
Part II: Making Plans ..................................................69
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71
Deciding What to Connect to the Network .................................................72
Counting network devices...................................................................72
Choosing wired or wireless.................................................................73
Choosing a wireless technology .........................................................74
Choosing an access point....................................................................76
Deciding where to install the access point .......................................77
Adding printers.....................................................................................83
Adding entertainment and more ........................................................86
Connecting to the Internet............................................................................86
Budgeting for Your Wireless Network .........................................................91
Pricing access points ...........................................................................91
Pricing wireless network adapters.....................................................92
Looking at a sample budget ................................................................92
Planning Security ...........................................................................................93
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment . . . . . .95
Access Point Selection ..................................................................................96
Certification and Standards Support...........................................................97
Compatibility and Form Factor ....................................................................99
Bundled Functionality: Servers, Gateways, Routers, and Switches ......101
DHCP servers ......................................................................................101
NAT and broadband routers .............................................................102
Switches...............................................................................................103
Print servers .......................................................................................104
Table of Contents
Operational Features ...................................................................................104
Security..........................................................................................................106
Range and Coverage Issues ........................................................................107
Manageability ...............................................................................................108
Web-based configuration...................................................................108
Software programming ......................................................................108
Upgradeable firmware .......................................................................109
Price ...............................................................................................................109
Warranties .....................................................................................................110
Customer and Technical Support ..............................................................110
Part III: Installing a Wireless Network........................111
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows . . . . . . . .113
Before Getting Started, Get Prepared ........................................................113
Setting Up the Access Point........................................................................114
Preparing to install a wireless AP.....................................................115
Installing the AP..................................................................................117
Configuring AP parameters ...............................................................120
Changing the AP Configuration ..................................................................124
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network . . . . . . . . . . . .127
Setting Up Wireless Network Interface Adapters.....................................127
Installing device drivers and client software..................................128
PC Cards and mini-PCI cards.............................................................131
PCI and PCIx cards .............................................................................132
USB adapters.......................................................................................134
Wireless Zero Configuration with XP.........................................................134
Easy installation .................................................................................135
Automatic network connections ......................................................136
Windows Vista Wireless Network Setup ...................................................138
Tracking Your Network’s Performance .....................................................141
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143
Understanding AirPort Hardware ..............................................................144
Getting to know the AirPort card .....................................................144
Apple AirPort Extreme–ready computers .......................................145
“Come in, AirPort base station. Over.” ............................................147
Getting aboard the Express...............................................................147
Using AirPort with OS X Macs ....................................................................149
Configuring the AirPort base station on OS X ................................150
Upgrading AirPort base station firmware on OS X ........................153
Connecting another computer to your AirPort
network on OS X .............................................................................154
Adding a Non-Apple Computer to Your AirPort Network .......................156
Connecting to Non-Apple-based Wireless Networks ...............................157
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . .159
Assessing the Risks......................................................................................160
General Internet security ..................................................................160
Airlink security ...................................................................................162
Getting into Encryption and Authentication ............................................163
Introducing Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).................................165
A better way: WPA ..............................................................................167
Clamping Down on Your Wireless Home Network’s Security.................168
Getting rid of the defaults .................................................................170
Enabling encryption...........................................................................171
Closing your network.........................................................................173
Taking the Easy Road...................................................................................175
Going for the Ultimate in Security..............................................................177
Part IV: Using a Wireless Network..............................179
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work . . . . . . .181
A Networking Review...................................................................................182
Basic networking terminology..........................................................182
Setting up a workgroup in Windows XP ..........................................184
Will You Be My Neighbor?...........................................................................185
Sharing — I Can Do That! ............................................................................187
Enabling sharing on Windows XP.....................................................188
Setting permissions............................................................................189
Accessing shared files........................................................................191
Be Economical: Share Those Peripherals .................................................191
Setting up a print server....................................................................192
Sharing other peripherals .................................................................195
Windows Vista and a New Way to Share ...................................................196
Setting up your workgroup ...............................................................196
Setting up sharing in Vista ................................................................197
Sharing in Microsoft Windows Vista ................................................199
Sharing between Macs and Windows-based PCs .....................................201
Getting on a Windows network.........................................................201
Letting Windows users on your network ........................................201
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network . . . . . . . . . . . . .203
PC Gaming Hardware Requirements..........................................................204
Networking Requirements for PC Gaming ................................................205
Getting Your Gaming Console on Your Wireless Home Network ...........206
Console wireless networking equipment ........................................208
Console online gaming services .......................................................210
Dealing with Router Configurations...........................................................214
Getting an IP address .........................................................................216
Dealing with port forwarding............................................................217
Setting Up a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).....................................................220
Table of Contents
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . .223
Wirelessly Enabling Your Home Entertainment System..........................224
Getting Media from Computers to A/V Equipment..................................228
Choosing Networked Entertainment Gear ................................................232
Adding Wi-Fi to Ethernet A/V gear ...................................................233
Equipment with built-in Wi-Fi ...........................................................234
Putting a Networked PC in Your Home Theater.......................................235
Internet Content for Your Media Adapters, Players, and HTPCs ...........238
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls . . . . . . .241
Understanding VoIP .....................................................................................242
Understanding VoIP terminology .....................................................243
Understanding VoIP services ............................................................244
Going Wireless with Your VoIP Service .....................................................247
Choosing VoIP Wi-Fi phones .............................................................249
An alternative to Wi-Fi phones .........................................................251
Choosing Skype phones ....................................................................252
Understanding FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) ...................................254
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .257
Making a Connection to Your Car ..............................................................258
Your car’s path to wireless enlightenment......................................258
Synching your car with devices in the car......................................259
Synching your car stereo with home ...............................................262
Turning your car into a hot spot ......................................................264
Getting online with your own car PC ...............................................266
Networking your navigation system ................................................268
Choosing wireless gear for your car ................................................270
“Look, Ma, I’m on TV” — Video Monitoring over Wireless LANs...........271
Controlling Your Home over Your Wireless LAN......................................275
See me, feel me, hear me, touch me.................................................276
Doing your wireless control less expensively ................................277
Sit, Ubu, Sit . . . er, Speak! ............................................................................278
Wirelessly Connect Your Digital Cameras.................................................280
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .281
Discovering Bluetooth Basics.....................................................................282
Bluetooth Mobile Phones............................................................................285
Bluetooth Smartphones and PDAs ............................................................286
Other Bluetooth Devices.............................................................................289
Printers ................................................................................................289
Audio systems ....................................................................................290
Keyboards and meeses (that’s plural for mouse!) .........................291
Bluetooth adapters ............................................................................292
Understanding Pairing and Discovery.......................................................293
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .297
Discovering Public Hot Spots .....................................................................298
Freenets and open access points .....................................................300
For-pay services .................................................................................301
Understanding metro Wi-Fi ...............................................................304
Using T-Mobile Hot Spots............................................................................305
Using Wayport Hot Spots ............................................................................306
Using Boingo Hot Spots...............................................................................306
Tools for Finding Hot Spots ........................................................................307
Netstumbler.com ................................................................................308
Boingo ..................................................................................................309
Staying Secure in a Hot Spot Environment ...............................................310
Dealing with Hot Spots on Mobile Devices ...............................................312
On the Go with EV-DO!.................................................................................313
Part V: The Part of Tens .............................................315
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks . . . . . . . . . . .317
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN
Performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .327
Move the Access Point ................................................................................328
Move the Antenna ........................................................................................330
Change Channels..........................................................................................330
Check for Dual-Band Interference ..............................................................331
Check for New Obstacles ............................................................................332
Install Another Antenna ..............................................................................332
Use a Signal Booster ....................................................................................333
Add an Access Point ....................................................................................334
Add a Repeater or Bridge............................................................................335
Check Your Cordless Phone Frequencies .................................................336
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect
to Your Wireless Network in the Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .339
Your Bathtub.................................................................................................340
Your Car.........................................................................................................341
Your Home Appliances ................................................................................344
Your Entertainment Systems ......................................................................346
Wi-Fi networking will be built into receivers and TVs...................346
Cables? Who needs them?.................................................................347
Your Musical Instruments ...........................................................................348
Your Pets .......................................................................................................349
Your Robots ..................................................................................................350
Your Apparel .................................................................................................352
Everything in Your Home ............................................................................355
Where you’ll use ZigBee and Z-Wave ...............................................355
Introducing Wibree.............................................................................356
Table of Contents
Chapter 20: Top Ten Sources for More Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .359
CNET.com ......................................................................................................360
Amazon.com, Shopping.com, Pricegrabber.com, and more...................361
Wi-Fi Planet, WiFi-Forum, and More...........................................................361
PC Magazine and PC World .........................................................................362
Electronic House Magazine.........................................................................362
Practically Networked .................................................................................363
ExtremeTech.com ........................................................................................363
Network World..............................................................................................364
Wikipedia.......................................................................................................364
Other Cool Sites ...........................................................................................365
Tech and wireless news sites............................................................365
Industry organizations.......................................................................365
Roaming services and Wi-Finder organizations .............................365
Manufacturers.....................................................................................366
Index........................................................................367
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Introduction
W
elcome to Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition.
Wireless networking for personal computers isn’t a new idea; it has
been around since the late 1990s. The emergence of an industry standard,
however, has caused the use of wireless networking technology to explode.
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, 3rd 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
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
Discovering devices that you can connect to your wireless home network
2
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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 and Vista) 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, 3rd 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, 3rd Edition, is organized into twenty
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.
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Part I is a primer on networking and on wireless networking. If you have 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
Introduction
and familiarizes you with wireless networking terminology; and Chapter 3
introduces you to several popular complementary and alternative technologies to wireless networking.
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 a 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 your wireless network
to make phone calls (see Chapter 13), and doing other cool things over a
wireless network (see Chapter 14).
Bluetooth-enabled devices are becoming more prevalent these days, so you
don’t want to miss Chapter 15 — or Chapter 16, for that matter, 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?
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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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); and the top ten sources for more information about wireless networking (Chapter 20).
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 have 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 are 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
could have been avoided in the first place.
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
Introduction
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, know that a new standard for wireless
networking — 802.11n — will dramatically affect your planning. If you are not
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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Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Part I
Wireless
Networking
Fundamentals
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!
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
Choosing the right wireless equipment
Planning for your wireless home network
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 —
truly. 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 spending less on Internet connections, by sharing peripherals
(such as printers and scanners), and by using your PC 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 products
on the market. Wireless networks are not only less expensive than more traditional wired networks but also much easier to install. An important goal of this
book is to provide you with “the skinny” on how to install a wireless network
in your home.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Whether you have one computer or more, 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.
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 cameras, use Internet Voice over
IP (VoIP) services, or even enjoy your MP3s from your home stereo system
while you’re at work — really!
Reading Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition, helps you understand how to create a whole-home wireless network to reach the nooks and
crannies of your house. The big initial reason that people have wanted to put
wireless networks in their homes has been to “unwire” their PCs, especially
laptops, 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, 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.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
A computer network lets you share those electronic files between two or more
computers. For example, you can create a Word document on your computer,
and your spouse, roommate, child, sibling, or whoever can pull the same document up on his or her computer over the network. With the right programs,
you can even view the same documents at the same time!
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 — and
they all 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 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: the Zune’s wireless capabilities. Whenever you put your
Zune in its charger base, it connects across 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.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Network
PC
PC
Figure 1-1:
Share and
share alike:
Share one
printer via
your home
network.
PC
Printer
Other peripherals, such as extra hard drive storage for your computers or for
all those MP3s that someone in the household might be downloading, also
are great to share. Anything connected to your PCs or that has a network
port (we talk about these in great detail throughout the book) can be shared
anywhere on your wireless network.
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 — we can know that the
demand at home has only soared.
High-speed (broadband) Internet service is appealing. Not only is the connection to the Internet 50 times or more faster than a dial-up connection, with
sharing enabled over your wireless network, all the computers connected to
the network can access the Internet at one time through the same broadband
service for one monthly fee. (The fee can be as low as $14.95 per month in
some areas.) And you can surf and talk on the phone at the same time. No
more having your dial-up connection tie up your phone line!
Modem types
Your wireless network helps you distribute information throughout the home.
It’s independent of the method you use to access your outside-of-home networks, like the Internet. Whether you use a dial-up connection or broadband,
your wireless home network will be applicable.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
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.
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 at the front end of the fiber-fed revolution as
the telephone and cable companies push to outcompete 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 is connecting 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.
Phone jacks versus a network
Most homes built in the past 20 years have a phone jack (outlet) in the wall
in every room in the house where you would likely use your computer.
Consequently, connecting your computer to the Internet via a dial-up modem
over a telephone line doesn’t require a network. You simply run a phone line
from your computer’s modem to the phone jack in the wall and you’re in
business.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
However, without a network or without Internet connection sharing turned
on at the computer, the connection cannot be shared between computers;
only one computer can use a given phone line at any given time. Not good.
With a wireless home network, we can help you extend that modem connection throughout the home. The same is true with your broadband modem —
it can be shared throughout the home.
When configuring your PCs on a network, you can buy equipment that lets
you connect multiple computers to a regular or high-speed modem through
the phone lines — or even through the coaxial wiring 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. 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.)
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
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
See Chapter 4 for more information about planning and budgeting for your network and Chapter 5 for help in selecting your wireless networking equipment.
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.
New devices make it simple. New devices, such as the Olympia DualPhone (www.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 happen to 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.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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”; this generation
will 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 while away from home.
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 200 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.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
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 CAT5e/6 voice and data cabling and RG-6 coaxial cabling into your house —
over a 30-year mortgage — will be almost nothing each month.
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.
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
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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 a few 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.
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.
It’s time 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 248 Mbps. (The
real-world top speed you can expect will 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 10 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.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
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. And, if you need better coverage, you can just add
another access point — we show you how in Chapter 18 — or you can
upgrade to a newer technology, such as 802.11n, which promises 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.
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.
For our money, wireless networks compare favorably with wired networks for
most homeowners who didn’t have network wiring installed when their houses
were built. 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.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
You may run into gear using one of two older standards. 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.
Following are the two major wireless systems that have pretty much replaced
802.11b and 802.11a:
802.11g: The current member of the 802.11 wireless family to hit the
mainstream, 802.11g has rapidly taken over the market. In many ways,
802.11g offers the best of both worlds — backward compatibility with
the older 802.11b networks discussed in the next section (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 so precipitously that 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 $50.) For these reasons,
802.11g has become the de facto solution that most users now buy.
802.11n (draft standard): 802.11g is still the default, but it is rapidly
being replaced by a newer and faster system called 802.11n. 802.11n
(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.
You’ll note the words draft standard in the preceding description of 802.11n.
The group that ratifies the technical specifications of wireless networks (the
IEEE, discussed in Chapter 3) has not completely finished agreeing on the
802.11n system standard. What they have in place (and what manufacturers
are building their systems around) is a draft of the final standard that’s about
99 percent of the way there (the final isn’t expected to be ratified until 2009).
Normally we would recommend that people wait for a final standard to be in
place, but 802.11n is so far along (and working so well) that we don’t hesitate
to recommend it for folks who could use the extra range or speed.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
Equipment supporting all three finalized standards — 802.11a, 802.11b, and
802.11g — as well as the draft standard for 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 right 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 three standards. Technically, it’s 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. 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 — 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.
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 still 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 for three years as we write — accordingly, the price for this
gear is quite low (less than $20 for an adapter). The new 802.11n adapters
can cost two to four times 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
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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. 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. The forthcoming 802.11n
products will interoperate with each other after the standards are finalized, but will support backward compatibility to 802.11b/g if the standard
falls in the 2.4GHz range as expected. 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.
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.
We expect that 802.11g products will be, at minimum, the standard device
deployed in most home networks. 802.11a has never made much of an inroad
into the home network, but the advent of 5 GHz capable 802.11n devices
(such as Apple’s popular AirPort Extreme with Gigabit Ethernet) may finally
bring 5 GHz networks into more homes.
For most home networks, 802.11g wireless networks are the best choice
because they’re relatively inexpensive, offer the best data speed, and provide
a more than adequate range for most homes. As we discuss in the next chapter, however, if you have some higher performance networking requirements
(such as trying to transmit video around your home wirelessly), you may
want to invest in the newer 802.11n standard.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
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 — 802.11a, 802.11b, or 802.11g — will you
use? (Or will you use all of them? Or will you move right into the new
802.11n standard?)
Which type of wireless adapter will you use to connect each computer
to the network?
How many printers will you connect to the network? How will each
printer be connected to the network — by connecting it to a computer
on the network or by connecting it to a print server?
Will you connect the network to the Internet through a broadband 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?
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!)? Will you be using VoIP with your network?
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.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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. Here’s a quick list of what you need:
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 from about $30 to $300,
with prices continually coming down (prices predominantly are in the
$40–$60 range for 802.11g and in the $100–$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), Linksys (www.linksys.
com), 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 go to 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:
• 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.
Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking
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.
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.
A network interface adapter that’s installed inside a computer is usually
called a network interface card (NIC). Virtually all computer manufacturers now include an Ethernet NIC as a standard feature with each personal computer.
Wireless network interface adapter: To wirelessly connect a computer
to the network, you must obtain a wireless network interface adapter for
each computer. Prices range between $10 and $150. A few portable computers now even come with a wireless network interface built in. They’re
easy to install; most are adapters that just plug in.
Figure 1-3:
Look for
an AP that
bundles a
network
router,
switch,
and DHCP
server.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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 millenium.
• 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 expansion slots in older PCs are Industry Standard Architecture
(ISA) slots. The internal expansion slots in newer PCs and Apple
Macintosh computers follow the Peripheral Component
Interconnect (PCI) standard.
Figure 1-4:
A PC Card
wireless
network
interface
adapter.
More and more PDAs, laptops, and other 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.
Chapter 2
From a to n and b-yond
In This Chapter
Networking terms you’ve got to know
Understanding the access point, the center of your wireless network
Learning more about antennas
Knowing the industry standards
Taking your physics lesson; understanding the ISM bands
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 book:
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. Many of us can no longer recall life without wireless
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.
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
28
Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
abbreviations (TCP/IP, DHCP, NAT, MIMO, WEP, and WPA). Pshew. Whether
you’re shopping 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 nearly 20 years, but with
the advent of reasonably priced wireless networks, computer networks are
becoming increasingly common 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 workgroup. A Windows-based computer network enables the
workstations in a workgroup to share files and printers visible through Network
Neighborhood (or My Network Places). Home networks based on the Apple
Macintosh OS offer the same capability. On a Mac, just use Finder to navigate
to Network.
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
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
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 devices discussed in the next bullet
point, but use a special Windows OS. You can read more at www.
microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/
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-to-use 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 other device that makes it
possible for the computers on the network to share one or more printers. You don’t commonly find a print server in a home network, but
some wireless networking equipment comes 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), EarthLink, 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 in 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.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Wireless network cameras: The D-Link DCS-5300G (www.dlink.com/
products/?sec=1&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.
Entertainment systems: NETGEAR’s EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD
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.
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.
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.
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
PC
PC
PC
Figure 2-1:
It’s all in the
stars —
a typical
network
star-shaped
topology.
PC
PC
Hub
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 don’t see them much 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.
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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 fiberoptic 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 Motorola Netopia MiAVo Series Gateways (www.netopia.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.
Not many of these devices are on the market; you can’t buy many of them offthe-shelf, 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
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
example, some access points and routers that don’t have built-in broadband
modems 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), also called a PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card
International Association) Card. Nearly all Windows and some Mac laptops
have PCMCIA ports that are compatible with these cards. (An AirPort card is
a special type of PC Card. In Chapter 8, we tell you more about the AirPort
card and how to set up a wireless Mac network.)
Figure 2-4:
A PC Card
wireless
network
adapter.
A newer type of card called the Express card has been slowly taking over the
role of the PC Card. The Express card (www.expresscard.org/web/site/) is a
slightly smaller and more capable version of the PC Card. The Express card
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!).
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.
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
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 full-size 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 two or three 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.
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.
Get the (Access) Point?
Let’s 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 stand-alone device
or a computer that contains a wireless network adapter along with special
access-point management software. Most home networks use a stand-alone
AP, such as shown in Figure 2-6.
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
Figure 2-6:
A standalone
access
point.
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 just 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 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. 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
System (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 stand-alone 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 work 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 stand-alone AP
or the AP built into a wireless home router or gateway.
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.
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
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.
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). In addition, an AP can create a connection, or
bridge, between a wireless network segment and a wired segment.
Wired
network
Wireless
PC
PC
Ethernet cable
Figure 2-7:
The two
wireless
computers
in this
network
communicate
through
the AP in
infrastructure mode.
Access
point
Wireless
PC
PC
PC
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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-of-use you gain from this approach are well worth the minimal cost.
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 section
titled “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 are not designed to be modified with different
antennas.
Access point antennas vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Many APs
have a single external antenna about five 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.
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
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
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 highergain 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.
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
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products, but there’s a minor trend away from using detachable antennas in
802.11a products because of a potential conflict in the frequency channels
allocated to 802.11a. This situation potentially thwarts misuse but also robs
those deploying access points of their ability to choose optimal antennas.
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.
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. 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. 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 the current (and future) versions. You just have to
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 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 100 mW; and the
maximum output in Europe is only 10 mW.)
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
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.)
The Institute for Electrical
and Electronics Engineers
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, the IEEE 802.11g standard is 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. As you will soon see, however, the new generation of 802.11n products
are entering the market and will eventually replace 802.11g.
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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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.
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,
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
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 twelve nonoverlapping channels in the United States and Canada, but most deployed products use only
eight of these channels.
Because it uses a different set of frequencies, 802.11a offers the following
advantages over IEEE 802.11b:
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. This isn’t a significant advantage for a wireless
home network because you almost certainly will never use all the network capacity available with a single access point (approximately 30
stations simultaneously).
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.”)
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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 will support the same usage, with
higher speeds, so many manufacturers have discontinued their a/b/g equipment. As we write in late 2007, several manufacturers (such as NETGEAR)
still offer such wireless equipment.
The current standard: 802.11g
The most recent of the IEEE standards-based products to hit the street is
802.11g, which has become the standard wireless gear found in new computers and other devices. The g standard was finalized in June 2003. The appeal
of 802.11g is so great that many vendors didn’t wait for the final standard to
be adopted before they released their first products based on this technology.
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 equipment offers a nice upgrade path for people who have already
invested in IEEE 802.11b equipment. When the first products were released,
they carried prices that were only marginally more expensive than plain-old
IEEE 802.11b, but today the prices for 802.11g equipment are considerably
lower than 802.11b ever was.
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 (well it’s almost a standard, as we discuss) 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).
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
The next big thing: 802.11n
The IEEE has been at work for several years defining a newer wireless networking standard, 802.11n. As we write in late 2007, 802.11n is a draft standard, meaning there’s still work to be done before the final IEEE standard is
ratified (which won’t happen, by all accounts, until 2009!). But even though
802.11n isn’t a finalized standard, it is very close to the final standard, close
enough that the folks who make 802.11 chips have begun mass producing
802.11n chips, and the folks who make networking gear have begun putting
these chips into products that they are labeling “802.11n.” Even more importantly, the Wi-Fi Alliance has begun certifying 802.11n products — meaning
that you can buy equipment that has been certified to interoperate with other
manufacturers’ products. So 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 draft-compliant gear (in this case, this gear is also
compliant with 802.11b, a, and g).
Figure 2-8:
Look for this
logo on the
box of your
new 802.11n
gear.
Keep these few things in mind about 802.11n:
Speed: The theoretical maximum speed of 802.11n is 248 Mbps — five
times faster than 802.11g. Real-world speeds have been measured in test
centers at about 100 Mbps (five times faster than 802.11g). With 802.11n,
wireless can be a real alternative to wired networks, even for highperformance applications such as sending video around the home.
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.
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Gauging your network’s throughput
Wi-Fi standards call for different speeds, up to
11 Mbps for 802.11b and up to 54 Mbps for
802.11a and g — newer devices try to communicate at up to 110 Mbps. Radios attempt to
communicate at the highest speed. 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 802.11g,
for example, being 54–110 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.
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, to increase the amount
of data sent across the network.
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 two to
three times more expensive than 802.11g equipment. For example, the
most popular 802.11n router on the market (Apple’s AirPort Extreme
with Gigabit Ethernet) is about $175, while the average 802.11g router
Chapter 2: From a to n and b-yond
costs $50 to $75. The least expensive 802.11n gear available as we write
is about $100 for a router. You can expect these prices to drop rapidly as
802.11n becomes more mainstream, but 802.11n will still have a price
premium 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), but also keep in mind that 802.11n is a
draft standard. It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that some changes in the final
standard will make equipment you buy today not entirely compliant with the
final standard in 2009. If you can find a manufacturer who guarantees that
your equipment will be final-standard compliant (by means of a firmware
upgrade, for example), that (in the words of Martha Stewart) is a good thing.
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.
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Chapter 3
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
Using your phone and powerlines to extend your network
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.
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 is Bluetooth (a short-range wireless networking system that’s built into many cellular phones). 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.
We also talk about a few other key wired home networking standards (oops,
did we say a dreaded word: wired?) such as HomePlug, 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 in-wall cables. What’s more, many APs 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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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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. The Bluetooth SIG now includes 3Com, Agere, Ericsson, IBM, Intel,
Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Toshiba, and nearly 2,000 other companies.
Thousands of Bluetooth-enabled products are already on the market, with
many more on the way, and over 800 million Bluetooth-enabled devices have
been shipped worldwide (that’s a not-so-insignificant number!).
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:
Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer for Bluetooth (a wireless mouse)
Apple wireless keyboard and mouse
IOGEAR Bluetooth wireless stereo headphone kit
HP Deskjet 460 printer
Motorola V3 RAZR mobile phone
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
Motorola Bluetooth hands-free car kit
Jabra BT800 Bluetooth headset
Belkin Bluetooth Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter
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.
Wi-Fi versus 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 tradeoff 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).
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 cell phone
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 are
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 cell phone/address book synchronization.
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
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
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.) Piconets get their name from merging the prefix pico (probably from
the Italian word piccolo [small]) and network. A capability called unconscious
connectivity enables these devices to connect and disconnect almost without
any user intervention.
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.
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.
The amount of information sent in each packet over a Bluetooth connection,
and the type of error correction that is used, determine the data rate a connection can deliver. 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.
Figure 3-1:
Piconets
have one
master and
at least one
slave.
Master
Slave
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Figure 3-2:
A Bluetooth
scatternet
is composed
of several
piconets.
Master
Slave
As mentioned, Bluetooth isn’t nearly as fast as Wi-Fi — many Bluetooth
devices reach a maximum data rate of 723 Kbps (compare that to 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 newest 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.)
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.
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 c
an 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.
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
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.
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.
The most 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 2.0 + EDR (extended data rate)
standard. You can think of Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
versus the 1.x variants as being similar to
802.11g versus 802.11b. It is 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 2.0 and EDR.
In mid-2007, Bluetooth 2.1 was released. This
version of Bluetooth isn’t any faster than 2.0 +
EDR, but it includes some performance and battery life improvements. The biggest change in
Bluetooth 2.1 (there are only a handful of 2.1
devices on the market as we write) is the support for something called NFC (Near Field
Communications). With NFC, a special lowpower radio system lets two devices in very
close proximity (a few centimeters) “talk” to
each other — two Bluetooth systems with NFC
could be paired (we talk about pairing in
Chapter 15) by simply holding them very close
to each other. This NFC pairing (when it hits the
market) will make using Bluetooth even easier
by significantly reducing the steps needed to
get two devices connected.
Coming down the pike is the Bluetooth 3.0 standard — and the Bluetooth folks have adopted a
new technology called UWB (see the sidebar
“Ultracool ultra wideband (UWB) is coming” for
more on this technology) to make Bluetooth
even faster in the future. Additionally, Bluetooth
will also incorporate a technology from Nokia
called Wibree, which allows ultra-low-power
implementations of Bluetooth for devices with
limited battery or power supplies.
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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
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 2,700 products. We also go into
great detail in Chapter 15 about some of the more common ways you use
Bluetooth.
One of the more interesting and most widely used applications of Bluetooth
technology is for cell phones. 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 Bluetooth
access point. Phones that function as PDAs can update their address books
and sync data from the PC. All your events, to-do lists, grocery lists, and
birthday reminders can be kept current just by bringing your Bluetoothenabled product in range. You can even get Bluetooth headsets for your
Bluetooth phones — getting rid of that wireless headset hassle.
Bluetooth technology is advancing into the arena of autos, too. 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. Car manufacturers have begun to embrace Bluetooth in a big
way over the past few years. Acura was perhaps the first car maker to offer
Bluetooth (at least in the U.S. market) with the Acura TL. Using the Bluetooth
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
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. Other manufacturers such as
BMW, MINI, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, and Lexus have followed suit —
those that haven’t will soon, you can be sure. We talk about this topic more
in Chapter 15.
The current versions of Microsoft Windows Mobile, Windows XP (Service
Pack 2), and Windows Vista offer built-in support for Bluetooth devices. All
versions of Mac OS (from 10.2 Jaguar on) also have integrated support for
Bluetooth.
Bluetoothing your phones
As we write in late 2007, 75 percent of all new mobile phones ship with builtin Bluetooth capabilities. That’s a lot of phones — and a lot of Bluetooth
chips. 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. 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 cell phone use in a car unless a handsfree system is in place.
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 handsfree calling.
There’s more to Bluetooth and your phone than just hands-free operation.
Bluetooth can also be used to synchronize your phone with your PC or Mac.
Most smartphones and many regular mobile phones (those in the industry
call these feature phones) can use their Bluetooth connections to synchronize your phone book, calendar, photos, music, and more with a Bluetooth
PC — no cables required. 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 (we talk about this in Chapter 15).
A final 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 16). Most of these services can be
used on your laptop computer when it is tethered to your mobile phone using
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Bluetooth. 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 this use. 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.
Wireless printing and data transfer
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 include 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?
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,
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
Ultracool ultra wideband (UWB) is coming
With all the innovation happening in the Wi-Fi
and Bluetooth areas, more neat stuff is on its
way. Ultra wideband (UWB) is a revolutionary
wireless technology for transmitting digital data
over a wide spectrum of frequency bands with
very low power. It can transmit data at very high
rates (for wireless LAN applications in the
home). Within the power limit allowed under
current FCC regulations, ultra wideband also
has the ability to carry signals through doors
and other obstacles that tend to reflect signals
at more limited bandwidths and higher power.
At higher power levels, UWB signals can travel
to significantly greater ranges.
Ultra wideband radio broadcasts digital pulses
(rather than traditional sine waves) that simultaneously transmit a signal across a very wide
spectrum. The transmitter and receiver are
coordinated to send and receive pulses with an
accuracy of trillionths of a second! Not only
does UWB enable high data rates, but it also
does so without suffering the effects of multipath interference. (Multipath is the propagation
phenomenon that results in signals reaching the
receiving antenna by two or more paths, usually
because of reflections of the transmitted signal
off walls or mirrors or the like.) Because UWB
has the ability to time-gate (that is, prescribe the
precise time when it’s supposed to receive the
data), the receiver allows it to ignore signals
arriving outside a prescribed time interval, such
as signals caused by multipath reflections.
UWB is still in the early stages, but it’s coming
on strong. UWB is simpler, cheaper, less powerhungry, and 100 times faster than Bluetooth.
What more could you want? UWB communication devices could be used to wirelessly distribute services such as phone, cable, and
computer networking throughout a building or
home.
Many companies and groups of companies
have been promoting UWB for a variety of uses.
One of them, the WiMedia Alliance, made
(another!) alliance with the Bluetooth SIG to
develop a new 3.0 version of Bluetooth that will
eventually allow speeds of up to 480 Mbps for
Bluetooth devices.
You may be thinking, well won’t that make Wi-Fi
obsolete? Well it will be as fast as or faster than
Wi-Fi, but it will still be a relatively short-range
technology — this high-speed version of Bluetooth won’t cover your entire home like Wi-Fi will,
so it will still be best suited for cable replacement
rather than whole-home networking.
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. Chances are 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
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
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 basement 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 of us
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.
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.
When it comes to powerline networking, you have the following options:
HomePlug Networking: This is the granddaddy of powerline networks,
having been on the market for about ten years. Most equipment available
today, such as NETGEAR’s WGX102 Wireless Range Extender (www.netgear.com), 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.) The HomePlug folks have developed a
newer version, called HomePlug A/V, which will, when it hits the market,
support speeds of over 200 Mbps.
DS2 Powerline Networking: A Spanish company called DS2 (www.ds2.es)
has created their own powerline networking system that supports speeds
of up to 200 Mbps over home powerlines. This system is mainly used in
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
equipment provided to customers by phone companies in Europe, but
in North America, D-Link (www.dlink.com) offers a set of powerline
Ethernet adapters that are built around DS2’s chips. Unlike the NETGEAR system, mentioned in the preceding paragraph, which has an
802.11g AP built into the adapter, the D-Link system simply extends your
Ethernet network to the remote location. You’ll need to add an additional access point to make this a wireless solution.
The most common application for powerline networking is as an Ethernet
bridge. These devices look and act much like the external USB Wi-Fi NICs that
we discuss in Chapter 2. You need two of them: one to connect to an Ethernet
port on your router (or any LAN jack in your home) and another to plug into
the wall outlet wherever you need LAN access.
The bridge typically has a power cord on one side of the box and an Ethernet
or USB connector on the other. Plug the power cord into any wall outlet and
plug the Ethernet or USB into the computer or other networked devices, and
you have a connection. Figure 3-4 shows a typical use of HomePlug bridges.
Some manufacturers, such as NETGEAR, offer powerline networking adapters
with a built-in Wi-Fi access point. Plug one of these into your wall, along with
a stand-alone powerline Ethernet bridge back at your main router location,
and you have an instant remote AP!
Using your TV cables to extend your Wi-Fi network
An interesting approach to expanding your
802.11b or g wireless network’s reach has
recently been launched by AuraOne Systems.
The AuraGrid Wireless Extension system (which
costs $89 for a four-room kit) uses your home’s
coaxial cable wiring — the wires used to connect your TVs to the cable TV network — as an
antenna extension system that brings your wireless network signal to all the nooks and crannies in your home.
To use the system, you simply need to install the
AuraGrid duplexer in your garage (or wherever
your cable TV lines enter the house), and then
simply connect antenna devices to each outlet
where you want to improve your wireless
signal. Finally, connect the antenna port on your
access point to an AuraGrid splitter. That’s it! If
you can hook up your DVD and TV, you can
handle this process. The AuraGrid works only
with cable TV systems and interferes with a
satellite TV signal, so if you have DirecTV or
DISH Network, you can’t use those wires for
this purpose.
It’s important to note that the AuraGrid system
won’t work with 802.11n systems, but for most
folks that’s not an issue, simply because
802.11n’s greater range makes the system
unnecessary.
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Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals
Home router
PC
CAT-5e/6
HomePlug
bridge
HomePlug
bridge
Power cable
Figure 3-4:
Plug your
computer
into the
wall — and
that’s all.
AC electrical outlet
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!).
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.
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
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.
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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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.
The two main technology competitors for this (still new) 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.waynedalton.com), are shipping products using Z-Wave.
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.
Chapter 3: Bluetooth and Other Wireless Networks
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
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 to
Wi-Fi–denabled cell phones 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.
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
Planning for security
W
e’re sure that you have 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 all-important
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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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 10 in his house and Ed is already past 15 — Pat comes in last with only
5, 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 alwayson 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 the 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.) You can even
make your phone calls over your wireless network with one of the Wi-Fi
phones we talk about in Chapter 13.
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
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.
Choosing wired or wireless
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
have 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. Keep in mind, however, that your computer
must have a wired network adapter installed to be able to make a wired connection to the network. Fortunately, wired network adapters are dirt cheap
these days. Virtually all new computers come with one installed as a standard feature (at no additional charge).
Figure 4-1 shows a simple drawing of a network that connects a wireless PC
to a wired PC through two network devices: an access point (AP) and a hub.
(Recall that your AP connects wireless devices to the rest of the wired network. A network hub or switch is often used to connect PCs to the network by
a wired connection. In Chapter 1, we describe the purpose of, and differences
between, APs and hubs and switches.) If you think that it seems absurd to
need two network devices to connect two computers, you’re not alone.
Hardware manufacturers have addressed this issue by creating APs that have
a built-in switch — in fact, it’s hard to buy an AP that doesn’t have a switch
(as well as a broadband router) built into it. See the section “Choosing an
access point,” later in this chapter, for more information about these multifunction APs.
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Figure 4-1:
A network
can use
both
wireless
and wired
connections.
Wireless PC
Wire
AP
Hub
PC
Choosing 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 (draft standard).
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 works 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.) 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 between
802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n networks are speed, price, and
compatibility:
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
802.11b is an older standard that is no longer used these days. 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 standard in use for a few years. Thanks
to its proliferation, it’s inexpensive but at least four times faster than
802.11b.
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.
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 (though not always at the higher 248 Mbps
speed of 802.11n). Thus, you don’t have to look for a multimode AP.
If your primary reason for networking the computers in your house is to
enable Internet sharing, 802.11g is more than fast enough because your
Internet connection probably won’t exceed the 54 Mbps of the 802.11g connection any time soon — unless you’re one of the lucky few who lives where
fiber-optic Internet services (such as Verizon’s FiOS service) are installed.
Despite the fact that most Internet services are slower than 802.11g, we don’t
recommend that you buy only 802.11g gear. 802.11g is being superseded by
802.11n with full 802.11g compatibility. In fact, you would save only a few
bucks by buying 802.11g gear new. The speed, range, and compatibility of
802.11n are more than worth the increased price tag.
802.11g is the minimum standard around which you should build your network.
If you want to hedge your bets, look for an 802.11n AP that can handle all WiFi technology standards. Apple, Belkin, NETGEAR, D-Link, and several other
leading manufacturers of wireless home networking equipment already offer
802.11n wireless devices.
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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 4-2 depicts three PCs connected wirelessly to each
other through an AP.
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).
The most popular APs 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 the 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.
Figure 4-2:
Three PCs
connected
wirelessly
to each
other
through
an AP.
Wireless PCs
AP
Wireless PC
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
Connect to the Internet: With a cable/digital subscriber line (DSL) router
between a broadband modem and your home network, all computers
on the network can access the Internet directly. An AP combined with a
DHCP and a cable or DSL router is sometimes called a wireless Internet
gateway. (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” section, later in this chapter.
Connect in many ways: The most common method of connecting an AP
to your computer or to the wired portion of your network is through an
Ethernet port, but other options may be much easier to install if your
house isn’t wired with Ethernet cable. If you have set up a HomePlug
wired network using the powerlines in your home, shop for an AP with
HomePlug connectivity. (For more on HomePlug, see Chapter 3.)
You need to have two HomePlug devices, one in — or near — your main
AP or router and one in the location you want to extend the network to.
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 basically, 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.
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.
Deciding where to install the access point
If you have 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.
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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
six or more inches off the wall.
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.
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
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 248 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).
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 are
designed to send radio waves in all directions equally, but others concentrate their strength in certain directions. We talk more about this 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.
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 also 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
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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.
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 50,000-watt 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 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 are designed to
work within and around wireless networks. We
have tested a few, and while they do work much
better — your network connection does not
drop out when you answer the phone — they
still cause enough interference that your connection will slow down a noticeable amount. In
Chapter 13, we talk about cordless phones that
carry your voice over your wireless network
and are part of the network instead of interfering with it.
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
You should attempt to keep a direct line between APs, residential gateways,
and the wireless devices on your network. A wall that is 1.5 feet thick, at a 45°
angle, appears to be almost 3 feet thick. At a 2° 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
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
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.
Adding printers
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,
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 74 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 will not 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.
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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.
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 ew2400 802.11g Wireless Print Server to convert your wired printer
to a wireless printer.
Here are two 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 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. Many high-end printers even have print server
options installed inside the printer cabinet. The cost for a home use,
stand-alone 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. Surprisingly, some manufacturers bundle a print server with
their wireless router at little or no additional cost. If you shop around,
you can easily find a wireless AP, cable, or DSL router and print server
bundled in one device.
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 4-3 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
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
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.
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.
Most folks don’t mind having their printer connected to a computer or to a
gateway device 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).
Figure 4-3:
A wireless
home
network
with a
wireless
Internet
gateway
and a
bundled
print server.
Wireless
Internet
gateway
& print
server
Wireless
PCs
Printer
Printer
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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 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.
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 did
it — and we bet that’s why you’re doing it. We have 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 really even 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 and Spreadsheets, working simultaneously with a handful of other people on a spreadsheet through your browser and Internet
connection.
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
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 (we describe this item 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)
Satellite broadband
DSL, cable, fiber-optic, 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 is 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
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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, 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, fiberoptic, 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.
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.
Cable, DSL, or FiOS router: When you connect to one of these services,
the router used 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. These routers are also
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
DHCP — and in most cases NAT — servers and typically include
switches. In fact, the AP and the modem can also include a built-in
router that provides instant Internet sharing all in one device.
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 softwarebased, 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.
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 section, try to choose an AP that also performs several other networkoriented services. Figure 4-4 depicts a wireless home network using an AP that
also provides DHCP, NAT, a print server, and switched hub functions in a single
stand-alone unit. This wireless Internet gateway device then connects to the
DSL or cable modem, which in turn connects to the Internet. Such a configuration provides you with connectivity, sharing, and a little peace of mind, too.
If you already have a wired network and 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 wireless access point. Figure 4-5 depicts
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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.
Figure 4-4:
Go for a
wireless
gateway
that
combines
AP, DHCP,
NAT, print
server, and
switched hub
functions
in one unit.
Wireless
Internet
gateway
& print
server
Internet
Wired PC
Wireless
PCs
Cable/DSL
modem
Printer
Printer
Wired
network
Wireless
PCs
Figure 4-5:
A wired
home
network
with an
AP and
wireless
stations
added.
Wired
PC
Wired
PC
Wired
PC
AP
Internet
Cable/DSL
modem
Cable/DSL
router
Printer
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
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.
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 $150.
You need to budget roughly $60 for an 802.11g AP and about $160 for an
802.11n AP. If you have some older wireless equipment that you still want to
use, you can find a combination a/b/g/n AP for about $350. Keep in mind that
these combination APs, while great for leveraging your existing equipment,
force your entire network to work at the slowest device speed on that network. (Frankly, if you still have any a or b equipment, it’s time to retire it and
just plan on purchasing new n equipment. It’s more than worth it for the
increased range and speed your wireless network will gain.)
The differences in price between the cheapest APs and the more expensive
models generally correspond to differences in features. For example, APs that
support multiple wireless standards are more expensive than similar APs
that support only one standard. Similarly, an AP that is also a cable or DSL
router costs more than an AP from the same manufacturer that doesn’t
include the router feature.
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You may run across APs from well-known companies, such as Cisco (not from
Cisco’s Linksys brand, but labeled as “Cisco” APs) and 3COM, that are significantly more expensive than the devices typically purchased for home use.
These “industrial-strength” products include advanced features and come
with management software that enables corporate IT departments to efficiently and securely deploy enterprise-level wireless networks. The underlying technology, including the speed and the range of the wireless radios
used, are essentially the same as those used in the economically priced APs
in most wireless home networks. But the additional features and capabilities
of these enterprise-level products save IT personnel countless hours and
headaches rolling out dozens of APs in a large wireless network.
Pricing wireless network adapters
Wireless network adapters range from $25 to $125, depending on whether
you purchase 802.11a, b, g, or n technology and whether you purchase a
PC Card, USB, or internal variety of adapter.
Like APs, wireless network adapters that support multiple standards are
somewhat more expensive than their counterparts. An 802.11a/b/g/n card
costs between $45 and $100. Most notebook computers sold are equipped
with at least b/g wireless built into them, and you can order them with
a/b/g/n internal cards for about the same price as buying a quad standard
card. You can find the Linksys WLAN-WPC4400N quad-standard card at a
street price of $105 as we went to press. Wow!
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 An 802.11n or g Wireless Home Network Budget
Item
Price Range
Quantity Needed
Access point
$35–$125
1
Wireless network adapters
$25–$100
2
Network cable
$10–$20
1
Cable or DSL modem (optional)
$75–$100
1
Chapter 4: Planning a Wireless Home Network
Planning Security
Any network can be attacked by a persistent hacker, but a well-defended network discourages most hackers sufficiently to keep your data safe. However,
it’s easier for a hacker to gain access through the air to a wireless network
than to gain physical access to a wired network, making wireless networks,
and even home networks, more vulnerable to attack. Because a Wi-Fi signal
is a radio signal, it keeps going and going and going, like ripples in a pond,
in a weaker and weaker form until it hits something solid enough to stop it.
Anyone with a portable PC, wireless network adapter, and an external antenna
in a van driving by your house, or even a neighbor with this equipment, has a
reasonable chance of accessing your wireless network. (Such skullduggery is
known as war driving.) So, you must plan for security. We give you all the
down-and-dirty details in Chapter 9, but here are some key things to keep
in mind:
Internet security: Any Internet connection — especially always-on broadband connections, but dial-up connections, too — can be vulnerable to
attacks arriving from the Internet. To keep your PCs safe from the bad
folks (who may be thousands of miles away), you should turn on any firewall features available in your AP or router. Some fancier APs or routers
include a highly effective kind of firewall (a stateful packet inspection [SPI]
firewall), but even just the basic firewall provided by any NAT router can
be quite effective. You should also consider installing antivirus software
as well as personal firewall software on each PC or Mac on your network
for an extra level of protection.
Airlink security: This is a special need of a wireless home network. Wired
networks can be made secure by what’s known as physical security. That
is, you literally lock your doors and windows, and no one can plug into
your wired network. In the wireless world, physical security is impossible
(you can’t wrangle those radio waves and keep them in the house), so
you need to implement airlink security. You can’t keep the radio waves
from getting out of the house, but you can make it hard for someone to
do anything with them (like read the data they contain). Similarly, you
can use airlink security to keep others from getting onto your access
point and freeloading on your Internet connection. The primary means
of providing airlink security — and advances are on the way — is called
WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). You absolutely should use WPA2 (and do
a few other tricks that we discuss in Chapter 9) to preserve the integrity
of your wireless home network.
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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
Keeping your network managed
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.
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 program to configure it). Despite that statement, if you
have a Mac, you may want to consider using the Apple AirPort Extreme with
Gigabit Ethernet system because it’s easier to set up and use. On the network
adapter/client side of the link, AirPort Extreme cards are definitely the easier
choice for a Mac owner (as we discuss in Chapter 8) — it’s somewhere
between difficult and impossible to get many third-party Wi-Fi cards to work
with a Mac.
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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 stand-alone 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.
Access Point Selection
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)
Compatibility and form factor
Bundled server and router functionality
Operational features
Security
Performance (range and coverage) issues
Manageability
Price
Warranties
Customer and technical support
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.
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).
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
Certification and Standards Support
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. 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, or a, and the draft
standard for 802.11n.
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 Centrino 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.
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 your budget is very tight (in which
case you should feel just fine about choosing an older 802.11g system).
Security certification: Equipment that has been certified to 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.
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• 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).
Other certifications: The Wi-Fi Alliance provides a number of other specialized certifications that not all Wi-Fi certified gear will have earned,
like the following:
• WMM: Wi-Fi Multimedia certification can be found on a growing
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 network. We talk
about WMM where appropriate in Chapters 12 and 13.
• 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.
The underlying IEEE standard for 802.11n (see Chapter 2 for more on this) is
still in draft format — it won’t be ratified until as late as 2009. Most of the
items still up in the air in the final standard relate not to the core networking
functionality of the 802.11n standard, but rather to some specialized aspects
of 802.11n (such as how it will work in new generations of home entertainment devices). So the manufacturers and the Wi-Fi Alliance itself (which is
made up of manufacturers of Wi-Fi gear) have reached a point where they’re
confident that 802.11n gear sold today is ready to go and they’ve been certifying equipment since early 2007. What this means to you is that even though it
says draft on the certification, you shouldn’t have anxiety about buying this
gear. For more details on choosing 802.11n equipment, read the sidebar titled
“What to look for in 802.11n gear.”
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
What you might have some anxiety about buying is some of the older “pre-N”
gear that some manufacturers are still offering. The time interval between the
completion of 802.11g (the last Wi-Fi standard) and the completion of 802.11n
has been relatively long (and still counting!). Because of this, a lot of manufacturers launched pre-N gear in 2004 and 2005 to offer customers a taste of
what was coming. This gear is still on the market, and it works just fine —
providing faster speeds with other gear from the same manufacturer and
working as fully compliant 802.11g gear with equipment from other manufacturers. But it won’t ever be 802.11n compliant despite the pre-N in the name.
The manufacturers we know tell us they’re still selling this gear because they
have stock on hand and because some folks have invested in it and want to
expand their networks. If you’re starting a new network, we don’t see any
reason to not just step up to 802.11n.
Some of this pre-N gear goes by other names such as MIMO or Super-G or
Turbo-G. Whatever the name, it’s souped-up 802.11g, and not 802.11n.
Compatibility and Form Factor
When choosing an AP, make sure that it 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. And some devices support only certain versions of system software. Luckily, most APs use a
Web browser for configuration, so they can work with any PC type and
any operating system that supports 802.11 and Web browsing.
Setup program and your 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 XP, look for Vista 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 stand-alone configuration utilities.
Form factor: Make sure you are 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.
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What to look for in 802.11n gear
The 802.11n draft standard has a bit more variation in its specifications than previous 802.11
standards such as 802.11g. What this means is
that while all 802.11n gear will 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. A few
APs and routers on the market (or soon to be on
the market as we write in late 2007) 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.
USB comes in two versions: USB 1.1 and USB 2.0. 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
or USB 2.0 card), make sure that the form of the PC Card you’re buying
doesn’t impede the use of your other card slot.
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
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.
Outdoor versus indoor use: Finally, some devices are designed for outdoor — not indoor — use. If you’re thinking about installing it outside,
look for devices hardened for environmental extremes.
Bundled Functionality: Servers,
Gateways, Routers, and Switches
Wireless APs are readily available 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
define 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 stand-alone 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
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and other devices to which it has assigned IP addresses — issuing new
addresses as each device’s software requests an address.
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.
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. Stand-alone 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 — 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.
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
When your wireless network needs some 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 WAN IP address 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.
Switches
Wireless routers, available from nearly any manufacturer, include from one to
eight 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 — this 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 stand-alone print server device
(discussed in Chapter 10) if you want to have your printer wirelessly enabled
but not near your AP.
When you choose an AP with a print server, make sure that you have the right
interface to your printer — most printers these days use USB connections, but
a few still use the parallel port connection. We recommend that you choose an
AP print server that supports USB 2.0 for faster printing of big, graphically
intensive files.
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 can 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.)
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
Power over Ethernet (PoE): Because every AP is powered by electricity
(where’s Mr. Obvious when you need him?), you should also consider
whether the location you choose for an AP is located near an electrical
outlet. High-end access points, intended for use in large enterprises and
institutions, offer a feature known as Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE
enables electrical power to be sent to the AP over an Ethernet networking cable so that the AP doesn’t have to be plugged into an electrical
outlet. Modern residential electrical codes in most cities, however,
require outlets every eight feet along walls, so unless you live in an
older home, power outlets shouldn’t be an issue. But, if you’re putting
the access point on the ceiling or in the attic, running one cable sure is
easier than running two!
There’s an IEEE standard for POE; it’s IEEE 802.3af.
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 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. We expect that eventually
this will be an option, but as we write (during the early days of 802.11n),
detachable antennas aren’t really an option.
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.)
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Security
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.
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, which
makes cracking a network’s encryption key much more difficult, is standard
in most Wi-Fi access points and network adapters available now. As discussed
earlier in this chapter, in the section “Certification and Standards Support,”
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.
See Chapter 9 for a full discussion of how to set up basic security for your
wireless home network.
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
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
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.
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.
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.
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Manageability
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.
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.
The best 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 Webbased configuration program.
Software programming
When shopping for an AP, look for one with an automated setup process.
Several AP manufacturers provide setup software that walks you step by step
through the entire 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.
Versions of Windows starting with Windows XP and versions of the Mac OS
starting with Mac OS 9 are more wireless-aware than earlier versions of these
operating systems. Automated setup programs are typically quick and easy
to use when written to run on either Windows XP or Mac OS 9 or later.
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).
Chapter 5: Choosing Wireless Home Networking Equipment
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.
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.
Price
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 (shopper.cnet.com), Retrevo (www.retrevo.com), and Yahoo!
Shopping (shopping.yahoo.com). Internet specials pop up all the time.
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.
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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 does so within the first 30 days or so.
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.
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 highend (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, aroundthe-clock, technical phone support.
Part III
Installing a
Wireless Network
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.
Chapter 6
Installing Wireless Access
Points in Windows
In This Chapter
Doing your 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. 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 Vista, and adding a
router, an AP, and wireless clients. (Go ahead and laugh, but lots of people try
this.) We recommend that you follow these steps:
1. Get your PC set up first on a stand-alone 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.
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2. Add your dial-up or 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 first. If you’re using a dial-up connection, again, get that tested from
your PC so that you know the account is active and works. 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. Sharing a broadband or dial-up connection with a router, 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. After 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 or dial-up network,
we’re covering the AP installation first; we cover the installation of the
router and your Internet sharing in Chapter 10.
4. Try adding wireless to the equation: Install your wireless AP and
wireless NICs and disconnect the wired cable from each 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 dialing into or 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 usually saves time).
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 this section, we describe how to set up a
typical AP.
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows
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 have
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 setup we have found is from Belkin. The Belkin
N1 Vision has a simple CD-based installation. After its basic settings are in
place, you can manage the router from the LCD screen on the front of it with
little effort. Apple’s AirPort Extreme wireless routers have a similarly simple
setup for Mac users (and include software for Windows only users as well).
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) or dial-up Internet connection. 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.
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. If you don’t
have an Ethernet adapter, you should buy one and install it in your computer. Alternatively, if your computer has a Universal Serial Bus (USB)
port (preferably USB 2.0, also known as USB High Speed), you can purchase an AP that connects to the USB port.
Very few APs have this USB interface, and almost all PCs now have an
Ethernet port — so using USB to connect to your AP is extremely rare
these days. We mention it just to cover all the bases.
Collect your ISP’s network information. You need to know the following
information; if you don’t already know this stuff, 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).
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• 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.
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
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows
troubleshooting such a problem is to unplug everything from the power
supply (router/AP, broadband modem, and PC), and then turn it 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 isn’t needed if you aren’t
already connected).
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. You
use this information to configure the AP in Step 4.
In Windows Vista:
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.
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b. From the Network and Sharing Center, click the View Status link.
A pop-up status window appears with all the information you need.
2. Run the setup software that accompanies the AP or device containing
your AP, like a wireless or Internet gateway.
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.
If your computer is using Windows Vista, you will see a lot of security
dialog box pop-ups. The enhanced security in Vista 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 dims the rest of the screen when a security
warning pops up, it is confusing with the number of pop-ups you can run
into. Just read the top left of the window and you will always know what
you are 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.
Figure 6-1:
The Linksys
Wireless-G
Access
Point Setup
Wizard.
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows
Figure 6-2:
It’s time to
connect
the AP or
wireless
router.
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 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.
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).
4. Record the following access point parameters:
• Service set identifier (SSID)
• Channel — if you’re using an 802.11n draft 2 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
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Figure 6-3:
What the
AP can find
on its own.
• MAC address
• Dynamic or static wide area network (WAN) IP address
• Local IP address
• Subnet mask
• PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) — usually 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 “Configuring AP parameters” subsection.) 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 installation software, and you’re finished.
After you complete the AP setup process, you should 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.
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows
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).
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. See Chapter 9 for details.
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, eleven 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 draft 2.0 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 802.11a AP, or 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.
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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.
Most 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 draft 2
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
802.11a (and some 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.
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows
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.
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 the
button is pushed, 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.
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 (discussed in Chapter 8), which uses software built into
Apple’s OS X operating system (or a downloadable software client for
Windows) instead of a Web-based configuration system.
Chapter 6: Installing Wireless Access Points in Windows
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 are 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. 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. It’s a
number similar to 192.168.2.1. If you’re using an Internet gateway, you can also
run ipconfig (Windows XP), or Network and Sharing Center (Windows Vista),
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!
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 can’t remember your AP’s IP address,
you can use the methods mentioned earlier in this chapter to get your computer’s IP address. This will give you the first three numbers, and just putting
a 1 at the end will work most of the time. When you know the AP’s IP address,
run your Web browser software, type the IP address on the Address line, and
then press Enter or click the Go button. You will probably see a screen that
requests a password. This password is the one you established during the
initial setup for the purpose of preventing 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.
You should also bookmark your AP’s configuration page in your Web browser
for easier access in the future.
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.
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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 are not 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.
Chapter 7
Setting Up a Wireless
Windows Network
In This Chapter
Installing wireless network interface adapters
Modifying your adapter’s settings
Connecting with ease by using Windows XP’s Wireless Zero Configuration
Setting up your network with Windows Vista
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 and Vista (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.
Setting Up Wireless Network
Interface Adapters
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
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to be installed, although the installation on different platforms may differ 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 or CD. 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-ROM. Most wireless device manufacturers
also make the most up-to-date device driver files available for free download
from their technical support Web sites.
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 if 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.
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network
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 Vista, 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 installing the software:
1. Insert into the CD-ROM drive 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 prompted to do so by the installation software (see 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.
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.
Figure 7-1:
Don’t
connect
your
wireless
network
adapter until
prompted
by the setup
software.
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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.
• 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.
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network
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 have 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, checking the manufacturer’s Web
site for the most recent drivers and client station software is a good idea.
Wireless networking technology is continually evolving, so we recommend
that you keep up with the changes.
To install a wireless PC Card in your computer, follow these steps:
1. Insert the CD that accompanies the PC Card into the CD-ROM drive.
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).
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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 does not have many built-in generic drivers, and 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.
When Windows finds the driver, it enables the driver for the card, and
you’re finished.
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 dipoletype 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.
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network
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.
In some cases, Steps 2 and 5 are accomplished in a single softwareinstallation step. In other cases, you only install the wireless station
software at this point.
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 the OK button — but don’t do it! The software installation
needs to be fully completed before the computer can be restarted. You
know that it’s completed because the installation wizard (not a Windows
pop-up) 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 will 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.
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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 will ask you to attach the USB device as soon
as the drivers are installed. When finished, you see a confirmation in the
lower-right task menu in Windows letting you know your USB network
card has been installed and configured for use with Windows.
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.
Wireless Zero Configuration with XP
Windows XP makes connecting to new wireless networks easier through a
service that Microsoft has dubbed Wireless Zero Configuration. Although the
Microsoft claim of zero configuration is a bit of an exaggeration, configuration
is pretty easy. When you’re installing or configuring a wireless adapter that’s
supported by Windows XP, you don’t need to use software provided by the
manufacturer. Instead, Windows XP itself recognizes the adapter and installs
its own driver and configuration software. That does not mean you don’t use
the drivers that come from the manufacturer with the hardware you purchased. In most cases the manufacturer will have given to Microsoft the
latest drivers for the device, or a pointer so the OS can download and install
the drivers directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.
Most 802.11n draft 2.0 adapters require specific hardware drivers to be able
to take advantage of the advanced features of the standard.
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network
Easy installation
As an alternative to the manufacturer’s installation and configuration software, follow these steps to install and configure a supported wireless network adapter. (Note: We recommend that you check the documentation that
accompanies your wireless adapter to determine whether it’s supported by
Windows XP Wireless Zero Configuration before continuing with these steps.)
1. If you plan to use a wireless network interface adapter that you have
to install inside the case of the computer, turn off the computer and
install the PCI or ISA adapter.
2. Log on to Windows XP as a user with administrator rights.
If you installed Windows XP, you probably have administrator rights. To
check, choose Start➪Settings➪Control Panel➪User Accounts to display
the User Accounts screen that shows the accounts on your computer. If
you’re not listed as Computer Administrator, you need to find out who
the administrator is and get that person to change your account.
3. Insert the PC Card or attach the USB adapter.
Windows XP displays a message that your new hardware is installed and
ready to use. Because your computer is within range of your network’s
wireless AP (they have to be close enough to talk to each other),
Windows XP announces that at least one wireless network is available
and suggests that you click the Network icon to see a list of available
networks.
4. Click the Network icon in the notification area of the taskbar in the
lower-right corner of the screen.
Windows XP displays the Wireless Network Connection dialog box, as
shown in Figure 7-2.
Figure 7-2:
The
Wireless
Network
Connection
dialog box.
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5. In the Network Key text box, type the WPA passphrase you used in the
AP configuration, enter the key again in the Confirm Network Key text
box, and then click the Connect button.
The dialog box disappears, and Windows XP displays a balloon message
that announces a wireless network connection and indicates the connection’s speed and signal strength (poor, good, or excellent). The Network
icon on the status bar occasionally flashes green to indicate network
traffic on the wireless connection.
In a matter of minutes, you have installed and configured a wireless network
connection. If you have trouble connecting, you can access more configuration information by clicking the Advanced button in the Wireless Network
Connection dialog box (refer to Figure 7-2) to display the Wireless
Network Connection Properties dialog box (Figure 7-3).
Figure 7-3:
The
Wireless
Network
Connection
Properties
dialog box.
Automatic network connections
Easy installation and configuration is only half the Windows XP wireless networking story. If you know that you will 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:
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network
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 (refer to Figure 7-3).
Notice that your wireless home network is already listed. If your computer is in range of the second wireless network, its SSID is also 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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Windows Vista Wireless Network Setup
Windows Vista has incorporated wireless networking into the standard networking built right into the OS. You no longer have a separate application
and Windows to work in to manage your wireless network connection —
though you still have a lot of windows to navigate through.
In Windows Vista, 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.
To get to the Network and Sharing Center, follow these steps:
1. Click the Windows Start icon — the Start button of XP has been
replaced with a round Windows icon button — in the lower-left
corner of the screen. Select Network from the right column.
The Network dialog box appears.
2. Select Network and Sharing Center from the links bar — this is just
below the menu at the top of the screen.
Once inside the Network and Sharing Center (see Figure 7-4), the default
network you see is your wired network. To connect to your wireless network, you need to use the link on the left menu, Manage Your Wireless
Networks link on the left menu. The list is blank by default because you
have not set up a wireless connection at this point.
Figure 7-4:
The
Windows
Vista
Network
and Sharing
Center.
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows Network
3. Click the Add button to have Windows search for wireless networks in
range of your AP.
At this point you should 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. You have the option to have Windows search for any available
wireless networks, manually set up a profile for your AP, or set up an ad
hoc network. 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.
After the clicking the Add button, dialog boxes appear, asking you to fill
in the appropriate information for any wireless network it can find. If you
have to go through the manual process of setting up your AP, Vista’s
manual add wizard will walk you through the process to get you
connected.
4. Enter the WEP/WPA2 key.
The New Connection Wizard tests the connection before it finishes. If
your AP supports WPS, the wizard asks for your AP PIN number.
5. Configure the connection.
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 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 (see Figure 7-5). After you complete the
selection, you return to the Manage Wireless Networks window, where
you see your connection in the list.
Figure 7-5:
Setting the
network
location.
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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.
6. Close the Manage Wireless Networks window.
You return to the Network and Sharing Center.
7. 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 7-6, we have our
Belkin AP set up as a Private network. From here we can use the View Status
link to see all the details of our connection. Clicking the Details button will
bring 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
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 7-6:
The
Network
and Sharing
Center
showing
the new
wireless
network.
Chapter 7: Setting Up a Wireless Windows 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.
Tracking Your Network’s Performance
After you have your network adapters and APs installed and up and running,
you may think that you have 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 have ever
tried to tune in a station on your radio or TV but had a hard time getting a
signal (who hasn’t had this problem — besides kids who have 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 Windows
XP and Vista. These tools enable you to look at the performance of your network. With most systems (and client software), you can view this performancemonitoring 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. (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:
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• 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 an instantaneous 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.
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.
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 cover installing and setting up the
AirPort Extreme card in an Apple computer as well as setting up an AirPort
Extreme base station. We focus on Mac OS X versions 10.4 (Tiger) and 10.5
(Leopard) because they are the most current versions of the Mac operating
system at the time of this writing (as we write, Leopard is brand spanking
new!), 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 has phased out OS 9 support for its recent computers. If you have
an older Mac that still runs only OS 9, you’re not out of luck — OS 9 PCs can
support and connect to AirPort and other Wi-Fi networks, but not all the features we are discussing here apply.
We’re focusing 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
is 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 standardsbased Wi-Fi router using the 802.11b, g, or n standard), or conversely, that
other computers and devices can’t use an AirPort system as their Wi-Fi router
(they can, again given a common Wi-Fi standard).
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Understanding AirPort Hardware
Back in 1999, Apple Computer had a product launch for the iBook notebook
(remember the multicolored curvy ones that looked like nothing in the world
quite as much as they did 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, and consumer-focused wireless networking system. Over
the years, AirPort (it’s 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 both client adapters (known as AirPort
cards), which are installed inside Apple computers, and 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 draft 2.0 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.
The current generation of AirPort products (dubbed AirPort Extreme) is compatible with the 802.11n draft 2.0 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 that don’t support 802.11n or a.
Getting to know the AirPort card
Apple computer models were the first on the market to feature a special wireless adapter — known as the AirPort card — as an option. The original AirPort
card was similar in form to a PC Card (a Personal Computer Memory Card
International Association [PCMCIA] Card) but was designed to be installed in
a special AirPort slot inside an Apple computer. If you get your hands on one
of the original AirPort cards, you should not try to use it in a PC Card slot
found on most laptop computers. As we mention in the nearby sidebar, “The
amazing disappearing AirPort card,” the original 802.11b AirPort card is no
longer being produced and supplies are limited — luckily, all Macs built in
the past two years support the newer AirPort Extreme card, and all Macs
built since late 2006 support the 802.11n version of AirPort Extreme.
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
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 Macs built since 2005 (all of which already have Wi-Fi built in). The
AirPort Extreme card has a retail price of $49. The AirPort Extreme card is WiFi certified to be compliant with 802.11g, so it connects to any Wi-Fi certified
802.11b or 802.11g access point, including (but not limited to) the Apple
AirPort Extreme base stations.
Some recent Intel-based Macs were shipped with 802.11n capable AirPort
Extreme cards installed but without the software that turned on the 802.11n
functionality. In other words, these Macs were sold as 802.11a/b/g compatible, even though their hardware could support 802.11n as well. In order to
turn on this functionality, Apple requires you to download a small software
firmware patch for the card. You can get this file (called the AirPort Extreme
802.11n Enabler for Mac) in two ways:
Pay Apple $1.99 and download it from the Apple Online Store (http://
store.apple.com).
Buy an AirPort Extreme base station with Gigabit Ethernet (Apple’s
802.11n Wi-Fi router) — the software patch is included for free in the box.
If you have a MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo, Mac Pro with AirPort
Extreme option, or iMac with Intel Core 2 Duo (except the 17-inch 1.83GHz
iMac), you may want to upgrade to 802.11n. You can check if you already
have the Enabler file by opening the Network Utility (found in the Utilities
folder in your Mac’s Applications folder) and viewing the Info tab: If the en1
Network Interface is described as 802.11a/b/g/n, you don’t need the Enabler;
if it just says 802.11a/b/g/, you do.
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 midto-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 configurations.
A number of Apple computers (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
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MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo
Mac Pro with AirPort Extreme card option
Some older Macintosh computers may not have an AirPort card installed but
can be equipped with Apple’s AirPort Extreme card (discussed in the preceding section).You can find a list of these computers at the following URL:
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107440. 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.
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 card, you attach the AirPort Extreme 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.
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 802.11g 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.
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
“Come in, AirPort base station. Over.”
Apple currently sells two wireless routers, which they call base stations. The
current state-of-the-Apple-art is the AirPort Extreme base station with Gigabit
Ethernet. This $179 base station is fully compatible with the 802.11n draft 2.0
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 (1000 Kbps) wired Ethernet connections for three devices,
this router provides connections as fast as any on the market.
A USB port: The USB port can be configured to provide
• A printer connection (using the built-in print server) that lets you
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.
Dual-band support: Like most 802.11n draft 2.0 devices, the AirPort
Extreme base station with Gigabit Ethernet can be used on either the 2.4
GHz or 5 GHz bands, meaning you can move your wireless traffic to the
less crowded 5 GHz band if that’s an issue in your home, or keep it on
the 2.4 GHz band for maximum range and compatibility with older
802.11b or g equipment.
Figure 8-1 shows the AirPort Extreme base station with Gigabit Ethernet.
Getting aboard the 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 (see
Figure 8-2).
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Figure 8-1:
Going
802.11n
Apple style.
Figure 8-2:
The AirPort
Express is
a jack of all
trades.
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.
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
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. 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 entire 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 802.11g
standard and can work with any type of Wi-Fi certified 802.11g or 802.11b client.
We haven’t heard anything about this from Apple, but we certainly expect that
Apple will come out with an 802.11n version of the AirPort Express in the notso-distant future. If you are setting up a new network and don’t need a router
to fill the roles that the AirPort Express fills right away, you might want to
hold off on the purchase of the device for a while.
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 have two bits of software installed in the Utilities
folder (found in your Applications folder):
AirPort Setup Assistant
AirPort Admin Utility
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The Setup Assistant 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 Admin Utility
is used for tweaking and updating your settings later, after you already have
everything set up. Most people can just use the Setup Assistant for all their
configuration needs — though we recommend that you occasionally run the
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
When you’ve purchased a new AirPort Extreme base station or AirPort
Express (that you will use as a base station), the easiest way to set it up for
use in your wireless home network is to use the AirPort Setup Assistant. The
AirPort Setup Assistant reads the Internet settings from your computer and
transfers them to the base station so that you can access the Internet over
your wireless network. To use the AirPort Setup Assistant, follow these steps:
1. Before running the AirPort Setup Assistant, set up your computer to
connect to the Internet by dial-up modem or by broadband (cable or
DSL) modem.
Check with your ISP for instructions on getting connected:
• If you connect to the Internet by dial-up modem: Connect the
telephone line to the phone line port on the base station.
• If you connect to the Internet by DSL or cable modem: Use an
Ethernet cable to connect the modem to the base station’s WAN
port.
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 Setup Assistant icon to
display the AirPort Setup Assistant window, as shown in Figure 8-3.
5. Select the Set Up a New AirPort Base Station option, and then click the
Continue button.
If your computer is in range of your wireless network, the Setup Assistant
automatically configures your AirPort card to select that network and proceeds to the America Online Access panel. However, if you happen to be
in range of more than one wireless network, you see the Select an AirPort
Network panel, which asks you to select your network from a pop-up list.
Your network will have its name assigned at the factory, similar to Apple
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
Network xxxxxx, where xxxxxx is a six-digit hexadecimal number. After
selecting your network, click the Continue button to go to the next panel.
6. In the America Online Access panel:
• If you connect to the Internet via AOL: Select the I Am Using
America Online option, and then click the Continue button.
• If you’re not using AOL: Select the I Am Using Another Internet
Service Provider option, and then click the Continue button to
display the Internet Access panel.
Figure 8-3:
The OS X
AirPort
Setup
Assistant
window.
7. In the Internet Access panel, choose one of the following options, and
then click the Continue button:
• Local Area Network: You should select this option if your computer
is connected to a high-speed LAN.
• Cable Modem or DSL Using Static IP or DHCP: Select this option if
you connect to the Internet by cable modem or by DSL, but only
if your ISP doesn’t use the PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE) protocol.
• Cable Modem or DSL Using PPPoE: If your ISP uses the PPPoE protocol, select this option. It’s important that you make a successful
connection to the Internet with your computer connected directly
to the cable or DSL modem before attempting to configure the base
station. The AirPort Setup Assistant can then copy the PPPoE settings from your computer to the base station so that the base station can log on to the Internet with your user ID and password. All
the computers on your wireless network can then share the
Internet connection without needing to log on.
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8. The next panel you see at this step depends on the choice you make in
Step 7. After you enter the appropriate information, click the Continue
button:
• LAN, or Broadband Using Static IP or DHCP: If you choose either
a LAN or a broadband (cable modem or DSL) connection that
doesn’t use PPPoE, the Ethernet Access panel presents the option
to use DHCP or to assign a static IP address. If your ISP has
assigned you a static IP address — along with other values, such
as subnet mask, router address, domain name, and DHCP client
name — you have to enter this data if it isn’t automatically copied
from your computer.
• Broadband Using PPPoE: If you select the Cable Modem or DSL
Using PPPoE option, the PPPoE Access panel presents text boxes
for entering an account name, password, and other account information sometimes required by PPPoE providers. Again, in most
cases, this information is automatically copied from your computer.
9. In the Network Name and Password panel that appears, enter the
name and password you want to use for your wireless network, and
then click the Continue button.
10. In the base station Password panel, use the network password or
assign a different password for changing the settings on your base
station.
If you’re the only person who will configure the computers on the network, using the same one in both places is probably the easiest.
However, if you plan to share the network password with other users,
assign a different password to the base station so that only you can
change the base station’s settings.
11. Click the Continue button.
You see a Conclusion panel, which informs you that the Setup Assistant
is ready to set up your base station.
12. Click the Continue button.
After the Setup Assistant downloads the new settings to the base station, it displays a message that it’s waiting for the base station to reset.
As soon as the base station resets, the Setup Assistant displays a panel
announcing that it’s finished and that it has been able to configure this
computer to connect to the Internet.
13. Click the Done button to close the AirPort Setup Assistant.
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
Upgrading AirPort base
station firmware on OS X
In this section, we explain how to upgrade the firmware of a new AirPort
Extreme 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 Admin Utility icon to display the Select Base
Station window, shown in Figure 8-4.
4. Highlight the base station name and then click the Configure button.
5. After a message pops up requesting a password, enter public as the
password and then click OK.
• If the firmware installed in the base station is older than the
firmware supplied with your updated software, you see a message
prompting you that a newer version of the base station software is
available. Click the Upload button to install it.
Figure 8-4:
The OS X
Select Base
Station
window.
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• If 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.
If the Select Base Station window — rather than a message that a newer
version of the base station software is available — is displayed when
you click the Configure button, your base station already contains the
most recent firmware. Close the Select Base Station window and then
close the AirPort Admin utility.
6. After a message says that the system is waiting for the base station
to restart and that the base station has been successfully updated,
click OK.
7. When the Select Base Station window returns, close it.
8. Disconnect the Ethernet cable between your computer and the base
station, if you’re using one.
Connecting another computer to
your AirPort network on OS X
When you set up your AirPort base station by following the directions in the
preceding section, 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 and hold the Applications folder on the Dock, and select the
Internet Connect application.
2. When Internet Connect opens, select the AirPort tab, shown in
Figure 8-5.
Figure 8-5:
Start
making your
connection
here.
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
3. Make sure that the AirPort Power is on — if it’s not, click the button
labeled Turn AirPort On.
4. In the Network pull-down menu, select the AirPort network you
created.
5. Select the Show AirPort Status in Menu Bar check box while you’re
at it.
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 (see Chapter 9 for more on
this topic; we recommend that you use WPA Personal), and then type
your password in the Password text box, shown in Figure 8-6. Select
the Remember Password in My Keychain check box to retain the password for future use.
7. Click the OK button.
8. When the Internet Connect window indicates that you’re connected to
the AirPort network, you can close the window.
Figure 8-7 shows Pat’s PowerBook connected to his network, Cherry.
Figure 8-6:
Enter your
password
here.
Figure 8-7:
All done!
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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.
The procedure for entering wireless network parameters in non-Apple wireless software when configuring a wireless network adapter varies by manufacturer. Follow these general steps to add your non-Apple computer (or
even your Apple computer with non-Apple wireless hardware and software)
to your AirPort Network:
1. Select the network name of the AirPort base station.
The wireless network adapter configuration software usually presents a
list of available wireless networks in range of the adapter. From the list,
select the network name you assigned to the AirPort base station.
For example, in Windows XP, right-click the Network icon in the notification area of the taskbar and select View Available Wireless Networks
from the pop-up menu that appears. Then select the AirPort base station’s network name from the list presented in the Wireless Network
Connection dialog box.
2. Enter the network password (your WEP key or WPA passphrase).
If you’re using WEP, the password you entered in the AirPort base station
setup probably doesn’t work. Here’s how to find the password — the
WEP key — that works. Apple uses a different password naming convention than other wireless manufacturers. Fortunately, Apple has provided
a function in the AirPort Admin Utility that does the conversion for you:
a. Using the computer you used to configure the AirPort, open the
AirPort Admin utility.
b. Select your base station from the list, and then click the Configure
icon.
c. When presented with a pop-up window, enter the password for
configuring the base station, and then click OK to display the
main AirPort Admin Utility window.
Chapter 8: Setting Up a Wireless Mac Network
d. From the Base Station menu, choose Equivalent Network
Password.
If the toolbar isn’t visible, click the View menu and choose Show
Toolbar.
The utility opens a drop-down window that displays the equivalent
network password (WEP key) that you should enter in the configuration software for your non-Apple wireless network adapter.
3. Make sure that you set the adapter to obtain an IP address
automatically.
How you do this depends on what kind of PC and which PC operating
system you’re using.
4. Close the configuration software, and you should be connected to the
AirPort network.
If you’re not connected, go through the steps again and pay particular
attention when entering the equivalent network password.
If you’re really having a hard time, try turning WEP off on your AirPort
base station (deselect the Use Encryption check box in the Airport Setup
program) and see whether you can connect without any encryption. If
this works, double-check your equivalent network password and look in
the manual for your network adapter. You may need to enter a special
code before the Equivalent Network Password.
If you’re using Windows XP and have Wireless Zero Configuration enabled,
just follow the steps we discuss in Chapter 7 for that software — you can
connect to an AirPort network simply and quickly that way.
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 chapter for adding a computer to a wireless network — using
the Internet Connect AirPort pane, 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.
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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.
Chapter 9
Securing Your Wireless
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 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
over 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 PC Card with a
built-in antenna in 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. 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
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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 source for spam e-mailing.
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!
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 about 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 XP Service Pack 2 and Windows
Vista, 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 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 can do things like
go outside with a laptop computer and have someone move the access point
around to reduce the amount of signal leaving the house. But that’s really not
100 percent effective, and it can reduce your coverage within the house. Or
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.)
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 this. 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.
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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 related) security functions enable you to secure your network: encryption and authentication.
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.
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.
No security!
The vast majority 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 WiFi 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.
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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 each of these is
used). 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.
The shared secret method of securing a network is by far the most common
and the easiest method. But it doesn’t really 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.)
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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).
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 with a Windows
or Linux or Mac PC with wireless capabilities can download free and readily
available software from the Web and, in a short time, figure out your key.
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How about a bit more about WEP?
WEP encrypts your data so that no one can 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.
Should you 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.
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
Almost all APs, wireless routers or gateways, and network adapters now
being sold support the newer (and much more secure) WPA protocol. And,
almost any computer with Windows XP or 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.
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 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 connected using WEP. It’s 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 Wi-Fi peripheral devices —
such as wireless print servers, media adapters, and other non-PC devices —
support WPA yet. 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 any device on your network doesn’t support WPA, you need to use WEP on
that network. Similarly, if you have a device that doesn’t even support WEP
(an exceedingly rare situation that we’ve only rarely run across), you can’t
even use WEP on that network. We think that having WPA encryption on your
network is darned important, so if you run into this situation, we highly recommend that you try to find devices that support WPA rather than weaken
your overall network security.
A better way: WPA
If you can use WPA — meaning if your access point or wireless gateway and
all 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.
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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 password 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.
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).
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,
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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 getting ready 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.
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
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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 Netstumbler.com, 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:
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 reset the access point. 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.
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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.
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 WPA 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 “How about a bit more about WEP?” for the
lowdown on WEP keys.)
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Figure 9-1:
Setting up
WPA on a
NETGEAR
access
point.
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
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
software shows just the passphrase; you need to find the Network
Equivalent Password in the Airport Admin Utility 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.
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 WEP, and enter the passphrase or
the WEP key. Typically, you find an Enable Security dialog box containing a
check box to turn on security and one to four text boxes for entering the key.
Simply select the check box to enable WEP, enter your key in the appropriate
text box, and then click OK. Figure 9-2 shows this process using Windows XP
and its built-in Wireless Zero Configuration client.
Figure 9-2:
Setting
up WPA
using the
Windows
XP Wireless
Zero
Configuration.
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
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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, if WEP 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 will 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:
• Open a DOS window and use the winipcfg command in Windows
95, 98, or Me or the ipconfig/all command in Windows NT,
2000, or XP.
• Look in the Network Control Panel or System Preference on
a Mac.
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 easiest
way to enter hex keys on your 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).
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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 cannot 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.
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.
WPS is still pretty new (the Wi-Fi Alliance specification for the system was
approved in early 2007), and not all Wi-Fi equipment on the market supports
the system. 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!
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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,
the buttons are activated — if you want to grant the new client permission to join the network, you simply press the buttons on both the
router/AP and the client; configuration is automatic at this point.
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 a few more
tricks up their sleeves to make things even easier. These tricks come in the
form of two additional ways of using WPS:
NFC: NFC (near field communications) 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.
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 — plug the flash drive into the AP/router and then into the
network client, and configuration is automatic.
These final two methods are optional in the WPS standard — the first two are
mandatory (found in all WPS certified devices).
As we mention at the outset, WPS is still pretty darned new, 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).
Chapter 9: Securing Your Wireless Home Network
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.
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.
802.1x: The corporate solution
Another new standard that’s become 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.
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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. (We do tell you more about this subject in our other wireless book,
Wireless Hacks and Mods For Dummies, also published by Wiley.)
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
SecureMyWiFi service offered by Witopia (www.witopia.net). SecureMyWiFi
provides security for one AP and as many as five users for free, and charges
for additional users.
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.
Part IV
Using a Wireless
Network
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, talk to your friend in Paris, and operate
various types of smart-home conveniences. We help
connect your car, your cameras, your cellphones, and even
your iPod. 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.)
Chapter 10
Putting Your Wireless Home
Network to Work
In This Chapter
Checking out the network
Sharing files with other computers in Windows XP
Sharing printers and other peripherals in Windows XP
Securing your network through sensible sharing in Windows XP
Sharing a new way with Windows Vista
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.
You shouldn’t hog your caramel popcorn, and you shouldn’t hog your network
resources, either. We’re going to help you share your Cracker Jacks now!
(After all, that’s kinda the purpose of the network, right?) You have a wireless
network installed. It’s secure. It’s connected. Now you can share all sorts of
stuff with others in your family — not just your Internet connection but also
printers, faxes, extra disk space, Telephony Application Programming
Interface (TAPI) devices (telephone-to-computer interfaces and vice versa for
everybody else), games, and A/V controls — oodles and oodles of devices.
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, 4th Edition (by Kathy Ivens), Mac OS X All-in-One
Desk Reference For Dummies (by Mark L. Chambers, Erick Tejkowski, and
Michael L. Williams), Windows XP For Dummies, 2nd Edition (by Andy
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Rathbone), and Windows Vista For Dummies (also by Andy Rathbone), all
from Wiley Publishing, Inc., 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 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 others. 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 takes 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 (see the later sections “Setting permissions” and
“Windows Vista and a New Way to Share”); 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 review the basic networking concepts (which we touch on in earlier chapters of this book). In
particular, we describe what a network is and how it works.
Basic networking terminology
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
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
the sending device is who it says it is. This is done by sending a proper name,
such as a domain or workgroup 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. Windows XP starts the network
tour with My Network Places, where you see all the computers and other network devices on your network. Your computer knows the identity of other
networked devices because it has been monitoring your home network and
has seen each device announce itself and what it has to offer to the entire
network when each one first powered up.
With the new Vista operating system, Microsoft has taken a simpler — and
more intuitive — approach that looks surprisingly like Mac OS X when you
use Vista’s Details view. In Vista, 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 workgroup information is in the
Details view in the right-hand window pane. This spreadsheet type of view is
easy to understand and work with.
With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced a new look and feel
to the desktop. The differences are not as drastic as the upgrade from
Windows 2000 to XP, but they’re enough that Microsoft decided to maintain
a choice about which look and feel a person wants by using themes. When
we talk about the XP desktop in this chapter, we’re referring to the Windows
Classic theme in XP. When we talk about Vista, we’re referring to the Windows
Vista theme, which is the standard for Vista.
If you have trouble following any of our steps, do this if you’re using
Windows XP:
1. Right-click the desktop and choose from the pop-up menu that appears.
The Windows XP Display Properties dialog box appears.
2. Choose Windows Classic from the Themes pull-down menu.
You can always change the theme back without affecting any personal
preferences you’ve set.
And if you’re using Vista, follow these steps:
1. Right-click the desktop and choose Personalize from the pop-up menu
that appears.
2. Choose the Themes option to display the Themes Settings dialog box.
3. Select Windows Vista Classic.
You can always change the theme back without affecting any personal
preferences.
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Setting up a workgroup in Windows XP
To set up networking on any Windows-based computer, you need to decide on
a few basic networking options. Many of these are decided for you, based
on the equipment you happen to be using on your network. As an example,
if you have a server on your wireless network, you have many more options
concerning the type of network you may create. With a server on your network, you gain the ability to centralize your security policies and to use
domains to control devices. In Windows, a domain is a set of network
resources (applications, printers, and so on) for a group of users. The user
only has to log on to the domain to gain access to the resources, which may
be located on one or a number of different servers on the network.
If you don’t have a server (which most of us don’t on our home networks),
you end up using the most common type of network: a workgroup.
The distinction between a workgroup and a domain can best be summed up
in one word: security. Domains make managing, maintaining, and modifying
security much simpler. In many cases, the domain controller — the server
that controls the domain — can set up security on each device on the network remotely, and security can be managed in groups so that you don’t have
to add every family member to every machine or device on the network. Of
course, all this great management comes at a price. Servers tend to be expensive and require a much higher skill level to maintain. The initial setup of a
domain can take lots of planning and time to implement. We don’t take you
through setting up your own domain because you can find more detailed
books already written on the subject. If you do happen to choose some type
of domain for networking, keep in mind that the security of your domain is
only as strong as the security on each individual piece of equipment attached
to your network — and that includes all your wireless devices.
On the other hand, setting up a workgroup is relatively simple. All that’s really
required is to decide on the name of your workgroup. Many people use family
names or something similar. Microsoft has a default of Workgroup for Windows
XP Pro and MSHome for Windows XP Home, for example.
To set up a workgroup in Windows XP, start by right-clicking the My
Computer icon (in the upper-left corner of your desktop) or by choosing
Start➪Settings➪Control Panel and then double-clicking the System icon. On
the Network Identification tab of the System Properties window that opens,
you can click the Network ID button to have a wizard walk you through the
process of setting up your networking options. A simpler method is to click
the Properties button and just enter the computer name, description, and
workgroup name. (This is also a handy way to quickly check — and rename
if necessary — workgroup names on the computers on your network.)
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
Will You Be My Neighbor?
“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, it can then see all of them. This process is repeated (on average)
every 15 minutes in 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
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 My Network Places icon is your ticket to the network and seeing what
shared resources are available, such as a printer. (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 on your network by checking out your PC’s My
Network Places. Double-click the My Network Places icon (also usually found
on your desktop) to see options such as Entire Network and Computers Near
Me. Microsoft consolidated the devices in the same workgroup or domain to
the Computers Near Me folder. The Entire Network folder still shows all available devices on your physical network. The root of the My Network Places
folder is reserved for shortcuts to network resources that you tend to use
regularly.
My Network Places (see Figure 10-1) serves a similar (but enhanced) purpose. My Network Places gives you access to your entire network resources
and also enables you to add shortcuts to your favorite places. To check out
everything on your home network, click the Entire Network icon. This action
shows you your workgroup.
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 appropriate icons. Sometimes you have to drill down (continue to doubleclick icons) a little to find all the shared items on your network.
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Figure 10-1:
See
networked
Windows
2000 or
Windows XP
computers
in My
Network
Places.
Networked computers
In general, you see two types of devices on your network:
Stand-alone 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 workgroup to see all your home computers and other
networked devices. Click any to see what you can share within them.
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 — creating shortcuts works the same in Vista as in XP. 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 workgroup name is the same as the other machines — this is a
common mistake. (See the earlier section “Setting up a workgroup in
Windows XP.”)
We find using Windows Explorer to be the best way to visualize what’s on your
computer and your network. You can get to Windows Explorer in Windows XP
in two ways. Either right-click the Start button and choose Explore, or choose
Start➪Programs➪Windows Explorer. Figure 10-2 shows Windows Explorer
looking at available network resources.
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
Figure 10-2:
Use
Windows
Explorer to
see network
resources.
Just because you see a device in My Network Places 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.
Sharing — 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.
You can share your whole computer, only certain things (documents or folders), or some stuff in only certain ways. Here’s an idea of what you can share
on your network:
The entire computer: You can choose to make the entire computer or
device accessible from the network. (We don’t advise sharing your entire
computer because it exposes your entire PC to anyone who accesses
your network. In Windows Vista you no longer get this option.)
Specific internal drives: You can share a specific hard drive, such as
one where all your MP3s or computer games are stored.
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Specific peripheral drives: You can share PC-connected or networkenabled peripheral drives, such as an extra USB-attached hard drive,
a Zip or Jaz backup drive, or an external CD/DVD read/write drive.
Files: You can set up particular folders or just a specific file to share
across your network. Note: File storage schemes on devices are hierarchical: If you share a folder, all files and folders within that folder will be
shared. If you want to share only one file, share a folder with only the
one file in it (but if you add an additional file to that folder, it too will
be shared).
Enabling sharing on Windows XP
In Windows XP, sharing is enabled by default on each network connection on
your machine. When Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, they
still allowed sharing to be enabled, but they also enabled Windows Firewall
to not allow any connections for file and printer sharing. If you have a wired
network card and a wireless card, you can have sharing enabled on one card
and not on the other. This is helpful if you only want to share files on one of
the networks you connect to. For example, if you want to share files when
connected to your wireless home network and turn off sharing when you plug
your laptop in at work, turn sharing on for your wireless card and off for your
wired Ethernet card. When you first install a new network card, or wireless
network card for our purposes, the default is to have sharing turned on.
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 My Documents
directory makes it easier for people to get into
your machine and do something you would
rather they not.
You see, sharing 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.)
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
To enable sharing on a Windows XP machine, follow these steps, which are
similar to those in the preceding section:
1. Choose Start➪Control Panel. When the Control Panel window opens,
double-click Network Connections.
2. Right-click the icon of the network connection over which you want to
enable File and Printer Sharing and then choose Properties from the
pop-up menu that appears.
3. On the General tab, select the check box for File and Printer Sharing
for Microsoft Networks. (If Service Pack 2 is installed, this will already
be selected.) Click OK.
This step enables your PC to share files and also printers.
You can use Windows Explorer to control file sharing on a file-by-file or
folder-by-folder basis. When you right-click any folder or file and then select
Sharing, you can control the sharing of that file or folder — only if File and
Printer Sharing has already been enabled as described in the steps above.
Setting permissions
In Windows XP, controlling the sharing of files is a bit more complex than
previous versions because of the enhanced security that comes with those
operating systems. To share folders and drives, you must be logged on as a
member of the Server Operators, Administrators, Power Users, or Users
groups. Throughout the rest of this section, we describe these user types and
then show you how to add users to your Windows XP network. If Service Pack
2 is installed for Windows XP, you also need to deal with the adjustments to
Windows Firewall that will allow connection to your machine so you can share.
Determining user types
The Server Operators group is used only on large networks that incorporate
the Microsoft Active Directory technology; if you’re trying to set up your office
computer at home and it’s configured using the Server Operators group, you
may not be able to access your home network. This is not a common situation,
but if you run into this, you’ll need to talk to your office IT personnel to get
your access settings configured — as long as your IT director isn’t Ed, who
probably won’t help you (just kidding Ed!). The groups you need to concern
yourself with are the Administrators, Power Users, and Users groups:
The Administrators group contains the system gods. Anyone set up as
an administrator can do anything he or she wants — no restrictions. In
Windows XP, the first person you set up when installing the OS has
administrator access to the machine.
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Those in the Power Users group can’t do as much as administrators, but
they can do a lot — as long as what they’re doing doesn’t change any of
the files that make Windows operate. In other words, power users can
add and remove software, users, hardware, and so on to a system as
long as their actions don’t affect any files keeping the system running
the way it’s running.
The Users group is just that. Users simply use what the system has to
offer and aren’t able to do anything else. The Users group provides
the most secure environment in which to run programs, and it’s by
far the best way to give access to your resources without compromising
the security of your computer and network.
How do you know what kind of access you have? Unfortunately, that’s not an
easy thing to find out unless you’re an administrator. If you know that you’re
not an administrator, the only way to find out what you can do is by trying to
do it. If you don’t have the proper access to do something, you see a warning
message telling you exactly that — sometimes the message may tell you what
access you need to have to do what you want.
Adding users
For others to get access to what you have shared, you need to give them permission. You do that by giving them a logon on your computer and assigning
them to a group — 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 XP, creating users and adding them to groups is best done by
using the administrator logon. If you’re using an office computer and you’re
not the administrator or a member of the Power Users group, you can’t create
users. Talk to your system administrator to get permission and help in setting up your machine.
We’re guessing that you’re the administrator of your home-networked computer (it’s your network, right?), so you have access to the administrator
logon. Thus, you can set up new users by logging on to the machine as
administrator. As with the hierarchical folder permissions, user permissions
are hierarchal as well. If you’re a power user, you can only create users who
have less access than yourself (members of the Users group in other words).
By using the administrator logon, you can create any type of user account
you may need — including other administrators.
Unless you’re very comfortable with the security settings of Windows XP, you
should never give new user accounts more access than the Users group provides. (For a description of user types, see the preceding section.) Keep in
mind that by creating these accounts, you’re also creating a logon that can
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
be used to turn on and access your computer directly. For the purposes of
sharing files and peripherals, the standard Users group provides all the
access that any individual on the network would normally need.
To add users to your network, follow these steps:
1. Choose Start➪Settings➪Control Panel and double-click the Users and
Passwords icon.
This step displays the Users and Passwords dialog box.
2. Click the Add button to launch the New User Wizard and add users to
your machine.
3. Follow the wizard’s onscreen prompts to enter a name, logon name,
description, and password, and then select which group the user will
be part of.
New users should always start as part of the Users group (also referred
to as the Restricted Access group), which is the lowest possible access
level. Starting users at the lowest possible access level is the best way
for you to share your files without compromising your network’s security.
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 Those Peripherals
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 the wireless network should be able to access that for the task at
hand.
Setting up a print server
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 less expensive one (with less expensive consumables such as printer cartridges, too) for the kid’s computer, and a highquality photo printer maybe near the TV set plugged into a USB port of a
networkable A/V device. Each of these 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.
We describe remote installation in the aptly named section “Remotely
installing the printer on all network PCs,” later in this chapter.
4. Access the printer from any PC on the network!
Throughout the rest of this section, we go through these four general steps in
much more detail.
Sharing your printer in Windows XP
Windows Vista and Windows XP are more sophisticated than previous
Windows operating systems and subsequently have a server type of print
sharing. In other words, they offer all the features of a big network with
servers on your local machine. These features include the ability to assign
users to manage the print queue remotely, embed printer software for easier
installation, and manage when the printer is available based on a schedule
you define.
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
To share a printer on Windows XP, follow these steps:
1. Choose Start➪Control Panel, and then double-click Printers and Faxes.
Or simply choose Start➪Printers and Faxes, depending on how your
Start menu is configured.
2. Right-click the printer in the Printers folder and choose Properties
from the pop-up menu that appears.
3. On the Sharing tab of the dialog box that appears, click the Share this
printer option. In the Share Name text box below this option, type a
share name for your printer.
The share name can be any name you choose. We recommend something
you’ll remember, such as Danny’s Super Duper Printer.
4. If you have computers using different operating systems (for example,
a mixture of Windows XP, Vista, and even Windows 98 machines on
your network), you’ll need to add additional printer drivers to support those machines. If this is the case, follow the additional steps
below, otherwise click OK and you’re done.
5. Click the Additional Drivers button. Select which operating systems
you want to support to use this shared printer, and also select the
other types of drivers needed for your other computer systems and
devices. Then click OK.
6. When prompted, insert a floppy disk or CD-ROM and direct the subsequent dialog boxes to the right places on those devices to get the
driver for each operating system you chose.
Windows finds those drivers and downloads them to the Windows XP
hard drive. Then, when you go to install the printer on your other computers (see the next section), the Windows XP machine, which is sharing
the printer, automatically transfers the proper printer drivers and finishes the installation for you. It’s darned sweet, if you ask us!
Before you go out and start to put your newly shared printer on all your computers, you may want to create a shared folder on the computer you’re using
to host your printer. In the folder, copy the driver software that came with
the printer. If, in the process of installing the printer on other workstations,
you need a driver that isn’t automatically available — such as an OS X driver
for the printer — it’s ready and available on your network so that you don’t
have to go looking for installation CDs to bring to the computer you’re trying
to set up. Trust us, this one can save you a ton of frustration.
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Remotely installing the printer on all network PCs
You perform the third step at 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 will vary depending on the operating system you use
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.
With Windows, the easiest way to start the installation of a printer is to look
inside My Network Places, find the computer sharing the printer, and doubleclick 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 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.
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 CDs 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 comes 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.
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
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, recheck 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.
Accessing your shared printers
After you have the printers installed, how do you access them? Whenever
your Print window comes up (by pressing Ctrl+P in most applications), you
see a field labeled Name for the name of the printer accompanied by a pulldown 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.
Sharing other peripherals
Sharing any other peripheral is similar to sharing printers. 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 fuer Rechnerkommunikation
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GmbH (www.virtualcd-online.com, $85 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.
Windows Vista and a New Way to Share
If you are familiar with file sharing using Windows XP, you already know most
of what you need to share with Windows Vista.
All the action in Windows Vista takes place in the Network and Sharing Center.
The hardest part of using the Network and Sharing Center is finding out where
the options are located to set up your networked PCs and devices. Often you
will have to work your way through several layers of menus to find the
options you want.
Setting up your workgroup
We’ve mentioned that you want to have all your computers in the same workgroup — unless you have a server and domain, but we don’t expect a lot of
you will because it’s not common in home networks. If you do, you don’t
need to read the rest of this section.
The default workgroup name in Windows Vista is Workgroup. If you’re mixing
Windows XP Pro and Windows Vista and you have never made any changes
to the default workgroup name, you don’t need to change it now. However, if
you’re mixing Windows XP Home and Vista, make sure that all of your computers are in the same workgroup if for no other reason than it makes finding
things that are shared much simpler for everyone.
Just like in Windows XP, you need to have the proper security permissions in
Windows Vista to be able to make any changes to your system. The security
levels are the same in XP and Vista, but you access them differently in Vista.
Just as in Windows XP, if you initially set up the machine, the first account
you set up will have Administrator access.
You have two ways to check and change the Workgroup name in Vista. The
first and simplest is to use the main Vista Welcome Center screen:
1. In the Welcome Center, choose the first option, View Computer
Details, and then select Show More.
The Vista system information screen comes up.
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
2. To change the Name of your PC, click the Change Settings link.
The System Properties dialog box appears.
3. Click the Change button.
The Computer Name/Domain Change dialog box appears.
4. At this point you can you can change the computer name and the
Workgroup name if required. When you’ve made your changes,
click OK.
Make sure to use the same Workgroup name on each PC that you want
to enable file sharing with.
Windows Vista displays a User Account Security Control window after most
changes to the system. This prompt is asking you to confirm that you really
want to change what you said you want to change, or access what you said
you want to access. You are going to see this prompt a lot in Windows Vista.
The second way to check and change the Workgroup name in Vista is to open
Windows Explorer:
1. Left-click the Windows Start orb.
Yes, it’s called an orb now (we don’t know why), and it replaces the Start
Menu button.
2. To the right of the pop-up menu, you see a menu option labeled
Computer. Right-click Computer and choose Properties.
Your local machine used to be called My Computer but is now called
simply Computer. Ed figures the programmers at Microsoft just got
tired of typing, given all the changes they already made to Vista.
3. At this point you are back at Step 2 and can follow the same steps to
change the computer name and Workgroup name.
Setting up sharing in Vista
Now that you have your workgroup set up correctly, you should be able to
see other shared computers and resources on the network. If you were using
a Windows XP machine, you could just start setting up shares right now. Not
so in Vista. Microsoft took all the security complaints about XP to heart when
they created Vista, adding a second layer of firewall security (beyond the
standard Windows Firewall) onto the network adapter itself. This prevents
the machine from announcing itself on the network. (See the previous section, “Will You Be My Neighbor?”) Before you can share anything, you need to
configure your network adapter so it will announce itself to the network:
1. Left-click the Start orb, and from the menu in the right column choose
Network.
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2. In the Network browser, select Network and Sharing Center from the
upper bar.
The upper bar is like the familiar toolbar in most Microsoft applications.
The difference is that the upper bar appears only in the Vista Explorer
window. It’s always located below the standard menu bar — the one that
has menu options such a File and Edit — and it changes based on what
you’ve selected in Vista Explorer. The Network and Sharing Center is
where you’ll see all your network adapters.
3. If your wireless adapter is set up correctly, you’ll see it in the list
of adapters. Click the Customize link on your wireless network
connection.
4. If you have Windows Vista Home Premium or above, you must choose
the network location type the first time you connect your PC to the
network. (The network location type determines your Microsoft Vista
firewall settings.)
• Public: If you’re connecting to a network in a public place, such as
a coffee shop or an airport, choose a Public location type. Choosing
Public will keep your computer from being visible to others on the
network. Public offers the most security.
• Private: Use this option for a home, small office, or work network.
Choosing Private automatically configures the firewall settings to
allow for communication
If you want to enable communication between your PCs and other network devices, such as a printer, you need to choose the Private location.
If you decide to use the Private location type, you’re all set to start sharing resources from your Vista machine.
If you’re running a mix of XP and Vista on your home network, you could run
into problems as soon as you turn on your Vista computer and let it announce
itself to the network. When Vista starts broadcasting across your network, it
can hide the rest of the computers on the network from each other. You won’t
be able to see any computers in the Map view in Vista or My Network Places
in XP — although you can still access the computers and devices. The reason
for this is that Microsoft introduced a new protocol to Windows Vista that XP
might not be set up to support. The Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD)
protocol is a licensed data link layer protocol for network topology discovery
and quality of service diagnostics, developed by Microsoft as part of their
Windows Rally set of technologies. Windows Vista has this protocol installed
by default, but Windows XP does not. If you are going to run both XP and
Vista on your network and share between them, you need to install the LLTD
responder for Windows XP. You can download this from the Microsoft site by
searching (at search.microsoft.com) for KB922120. Or go to the following URL:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=4
F01A31D-EE46-481EBA11-37F485FA34EA&displaylang=en
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After you install this update on your XP machine, if you still have issues with
sharing your XP and Vista machines, the reason could be that the LLTD protocol is disabled on the network adapter of the XP machine or is not supported
by the network adapter itself (a likely culprit).
In Windows Vista, Microsoft installed the IPv6 protocol as a default on all network adapters. If you find that you are still having issues sharing, you will
need to remove the IPv6 protocol. From the Network and Sharing Center,
choose Manage Network Connections and then select the View Details link of
the connection. Click the Properties button to display the Properties dialog
box for the connection. Deselect the IPv6 protocol to turn it off. For most
home networks, you will be using only IPv4; having IPv6 on the network is
just futureproofing your investments. We don’t like to turn this off on our
Vista machines, and we strongly recommend that you don’t unless this is the
absolute last thing to try to get things working correctly.
At this point, unless you have an oddly configured XP firewall or a highly
secured PC, your Vista machine should be connected to your home network.
If you have more than one workgroup in your home, you can also turn on
Network Sharing and Discovery — located in the Network and Sharing Center.
This will allow your computer to see other network computers and devices,
and makes your computer visible to those other workgroups.
Sharing in Microsoft Windows Vista
Keep in mind that sharing opens up your machine to anyone and anything on
your network. We strongly recommend that you turn on password-protected
sharing, which is a feature you access through your Network and Sharing
Center. Although Microsoft added a lot of extra windows and menu layers to
every process, we have to admit that Vista has gone a long way in simplifying
many operations, and lets you get things done in a more intuitive way. You
can click an option to turn on and off password-protected sharing. With the
password-protected sharing feature on, only users with a login and password
can access shared files and folders.
To give access to users on your network, you need to create user accounts
for them on your Vista machine. The process is the same as the one for
Windows XP.
To create a user account:
1. Click the Start orb, and select Control Panel.
2. Choose User Accounts.
3. If you have only one account, select the Manage Another Account link
on the Manage Your Account screen.
The Add or Remove User Accounts screen appears.
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4. Click the Add or Remove User Accounts option.
Your accounts management screen appears, where you can add a new
user and set the account type.
5. Click the Create a New Account link to bring up the New Account
window. When you create a new user account, you have two options
for the account type:
• Standard User: This account can use most software and can change
system settings that do not affect other users or the security of the
computer.
• Administrator: This account has complete access to the computer
and can make any changes. You don’t normally want to give
Administrator access to an account you’re setting up for sharing.
Any accounts with Administrator access can manage the computer
system remotely and change anything they want to on your
computer.
6. Follow the onscreen instructions to create the user.
After you create the new account, you are brought back to the New
Account window.
7. To set up a password for the new account, right-click the account icon
and select Create Password. Enter the desired password and then
select Accept Changes.
You need to do this for each new account you create.
You’re now ready to share your folders, printers, and any other devices you
have attached to your Vista machine.
Thankfully, sharing a folder or device in Vista is the same as in Windows XP.
From Explorer, right-click the file, folder, or device and choose Properties. On
the Sharing tab, choose Sharing and then choose Share. This displays a new
window where you have the option to Stop Sharing or Change Sharing
Permission. If you are using password-protected sharing — which you should
be using — you need to select the users for whom you want to allow access.
When you select Sharing Permission, you have the option to add a user. From
the Add User drop-down list, you can choose a single user name or you can
select Everyone in this list if you want all user accounts to have access to the
folder or file. After you have added a user to the list for this share, you can
also change his or her permission level to reader, co-owner, or contributor.
If you don’t want to deal with setting up share properties on multiple folders,
you can copy or move files to your Public folder and share from that location.
This allows you to turn on sharing in the directory of folders named Public,
and you simply put all files you want shared into those directories. In this
case, anyone with a user account and password on your computer will be
able to access those files. Also, anyone on your network will be able to see
and read those files but not change them.
Chapter 10: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
Sharing between Macs and
Windows-based PCs
If you have an OS X Macintosh computer (using OS X versions 10.2 right on
through to the current 10.5), 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 rights out of the box, with no
add-ons or extra software required.
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 (Command+K). In the dialog box that
appears, you can 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 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.
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 version of OS X (10.5 Leopard), just do the following:
1. Open System Preferences and click the Sharing tab (as described above).
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 the Done button.
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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 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 Bonjour-capable printer connected to your AirPort network.
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, just 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 Neighborhood Network
in Windows XP or Vista or enter your network’s address on an Explorer
address bar. It’s something like the following:
\192.168.1.3\username
(Substitute your Mac OS X username for username, of course!)
Chapter 11
Gaming Over a Wireless
Home 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 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.gamecube.com) —
have made it easy for you to connect your console 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 EverQuest II 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. In the case of gaming consoles, you may
need to pick up some extra gear. However, Nintendo’s and Sony’s current consoles have Wi-Fi built in — in fact, Nintendo’s Wii is so wireless friendly that
you have to pay extra for a wired network connection, as opposed to the tradition of wireless being the option! 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!).
We’re approaching this chapter with the assumption that your wireless
gaming network will be connected to the Internet using an always-on, broadband connection, such as DSL, fiber-optic, or a cable modem, using a home
router (either the one built into your access point or a separate one). We
have two reasons for this assumption: First, we think that online gaming
works much, much better on a broadband connection; second, because with
some console systems (particularly the Xbox), you’re required to have a
broadband connection to use online gaming. And, even if the console (like
the PS2) doesn’t require broadband, many of the games do.
PC Gaming Hardware Requirements
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.
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
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 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 Duo (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 3850 card, 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.
Networking Requirements for PC Gaming
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 often built right into your PC. If
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your PC doesn’t have a network adapter, you can fit one in the PC Card slot
(of a laptop computer, for example), add one internally (in your desktop PC)
using a PCI card, or connect the adapter to a USB or Ethernet port of a desktop computer. If you have a Mac that you’re using for gaming, you’ll probably
use one of the Apple AirPort or AirPort Extreme cards (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 stand-alone device or
part of your access point. In the upcoming sections “Dealing with Router
Configurations” 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. Some 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 2 (PS2) or an
Xbox — to do their gaming. And, although hard-core gamers may lean toward
PC platforms for their gaming (often spending thousands of dollars on ultrahigh-end gaming PCs with the latest video cards, fastest processor and
memory, and the like), we think that for regular gamers, consoles offer some
compelling advantages:
They’re (relatively) inexpensive. Although they are more expensive
than the previous generation of consoles, today’s current consoles are
cheaper than a PC — the Wii (if you can find one) starts at about $250,
the Xbox 360 starts at $350, and the PS3 starts at about $400. Even if you
dedicate an inexpensive PC for gaming, you’ll probably spend closer to
$800 — and even more if you buy the fancy video cards and other equipment that gives the PC the same gaming performance as a console.
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.
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
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.
They can replace your 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 highdefinition movies (which makes it a great deal, because stand-alone Bluray players cost as much as the PS3), and the Xbox 360 can be accessorized with a $199 external HD-DVD player. (The HD-DVD and Blu-ray
systems are two new disc formats aiming to replace the DVD with a new
high-definition format for HDTVs.)
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.
Getting your console onto your wireless network is possible (and easy) with
almost all current or recent gaming consoles. The steps you need to take
depend 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
Networking Adapter ($99, www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/x/xbox360
wirelessnetadapter/default.htm).
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.
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 (discussed
in the upcoming section titled “Console wireless networking equipment”).
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Console wireless networking equipment
As we mention earlier, the current consoles all have inherent Wi-Fi networking
capabilities (though this is optional with the Xbox 360). For older Ethernet
consoles, you simply need to add an inexpensive Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge. The
deeper you get into the networking world, the more likely you are to run into
the concept of a bridge, which 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?)
While we’re discussing these wireless Ethernet bridges in terms of game console networks in this chapter, they’re handy devices that 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), an MP3 server
(such as the AudioReQuest), 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) 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!
Not all the wireless Ethernet bridges support the (much more secure) WPA
encryption technology that we discuss in Chapter 9 (and which we highly
recommend you use on your wireless network). If you’re using WPA, make
sure that you choose a wireless Ethernet bridge that supports this encryption
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
method: You can’t mix and match WPA with lesser encryption systems like
WEP, so you would have to make your whole network less secure if you
mixed in a less secure wireless Ethernet bridge.
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 site with lots of great gaming information (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 DLink GameFuel prioritization technology, as discussed in the nearby sidebar,
“Getting your router optimized 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.
Figure 11-1:
The D-Link
DGL-3420
gaming
adapter.
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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 stand-alone 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.
As we write, no manufacturers offer 802.11n versions of these adapters. We
expect that such adapters will hit the market by mid- to late-2008. If you’re
installing an 802.11n network and if all your other network clients use
802.11n, you might consider holding off on buying an 802.11g bridge until
the 802.11n models arrive — simply because having 802.11g clients on your
802.11n network will slow down the overall speed of the network. If you can’t
wait (and we don’t blame you — who wants to wait), you might consider
searching online classifieds and auctions for a used 802.11g bridge as a stopgap measure.
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; in the
U.S., this URL will take you directly to the home page: www.xbox.com/en-US/
live/?WT.svl=nav) is the longest running of the three console online gaming
networks, launched right after the original Xbox was put on market in late
2001–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
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
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.
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 $59.99 plan,
which provides a year’s worth of service and includes a headset for live
voice chat during gaming.
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 www.xbox.com/en-US/support/connecttolive/
xbox360/homenetworking/equipment.htm. 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!
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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 for full effect) consoles sold by 2007. This older console, as we
mentioned, had some networking capabilities, and indeed over 200 networkcapable 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 headto-head 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 bigscreen TV.
You can find more information about PlayStation Network online gaming at
the Sony site (www.us.playstation.com/PS3/Network).
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 instead of buttons to control game action. The Wii
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
PSP: Your passport to Wi-Fi gaming
If you’re into handheld gaming devices, the
Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable) may be just the
ticket. For about $200 (for a Value Pack including
a couple of games and accessories), this slick
little handheld lets you take your gaming with
you. But there’s more to the PSP than just
gaming. The PSP is an all-purpose media player,
with a Memory Stick DUO slot designed to let
you carry photos, music, and even video along
with you.
That’s all cool, but what’s cooler is that the PSP
has a built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b) adapter that lets
you connect to any 802.11b or 802.11g 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. 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.
has been essentially “sold out” for over a year. (It’s just as hard to get one as
we write this as it was in 2006.)
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.
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.
In previous editions of this book we talked about the online gaming hardware
and service available for Nintendo’s older console, the (very cute little)
GameCube. Online gaming never took off with the GameCube (most likely
because the target audience for that console was younger kids), and in the
end only three games were available for online play. As of April 2007 there
were none, as online play for those games has been suspended. So get a Wii!
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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
is in the midst of launching thousands of 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 into 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) won’t have
this limitation (you’ll be able to log in automatically). Go to www.nintendowifi.com/ to find out
where Nintendo has hot spots near you.
Dealing with Router Configurations
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.
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
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
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 your router optimized 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 Wireless Gaming Router
(http://games.dlink.com/products/?pid=643,
$199.99). This router includes the D-Link GameFuel prioritization technology, an 802.11n draft
AP (promising raw speeds, when used with DLink’s own adapters, of up to 300 Mbps), and a
wired switch supporting Gigabit (1000BaseT)
connections for your wired PCs and consoles.
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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 a program to select an access point
and enter your WEP password, 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.
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.
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home 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. In other words, if your router
assigns IP addresses in the 192.168.0.xxx range, you need to use an IP address
beginning with 192.168.0 for your game console. For example, if your router
uses 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.
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.)
Dealing with port forwarding
After you have 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).”
If, however, 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
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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.
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.
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
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
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.
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 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
click a check box in the router’s configuration program.
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Figure 11-2:
Setting
up port
forwarding.
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.
Chapter 11: Gaming Over a Wireless Home Network
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 mark 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.
Figure 11-3:
Setting up
a DMZ.
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Chapter 12
Networking Your
Entertainment Center
In This Chapter
Understanding how wireless networking can fit into your entertainment system
Plugging into wireless with wireless media adapters
Going with a wireless entertainment system
Serving up your media
Understanding your home theater PC options
W
ithout doubt, the most significant news in wireless home networking —
aside from the general price drops that are driving growth in the
industry — is the movement of the 802.11-based networking outside
the realm of computers and into the realm of entertainment.
The linkage of the two environments yields the best of both possible worlds.
You can use your hard drive on your PC to store audio and video tracks for
playback on your TV and through your stereo. You can stream movies from
the Internet and play them on your TV. You can take pictures with your digital
camera, load them on your PC, and view them on your TV. You get the picture
(oops, pun).
You will simply not believe how much the ability to link the home entertainment center with the PC will affect your computing and entertainment experiences. It could affect which PC you buy. For example, if you’re buying a
Windows PC, you may choose one that supports Microsoft’s Window’s Media
Center functionality (part of the Windows Vista Home Premium and Vista
Ultimate variants), designed to power your home entertainment system (it’s
too irresistible). It could affect how you rent movies: Why go all the way to
Blockbuster when you can just download a movie over the Internet from
Movielink (www.movielink.com) with a single click? It could even affect how
you watch your favorite shows because with computer-based personal video
recorders (PVRs), you can record the shows you want to watch but always
miss because you could never figure out how to record on the VCR. Whew.
That’s some change.
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In this chapter, we expose you to some of the ways wireless home networking
is enabling this revolution toward a linked TV/PC world. You will find that
much of what we talk about throughout this book serves as the perfect foundation for linking PCs and audio/video systems.
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 you may
find yourself putting a PC near your TV sometime soon. 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, if that’s your only PC and your spouse
wants to watch the latest basketball game, you may find it hard to do your
work!
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 wholehome 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 Your Home
Entertainment System
If you’re like most of us, your home entertainment system probably consists
of a TV, a stereo receiver, some components (such as a record player, tape
deck, or CD/DVD player), and a few speakers. For most parties, this setup is
enough to make for a memorable evening!
And, if you’re like most of us, 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 — especially to link, for example, your receiver to your computer to
play some MP3s — is a bit much.
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. Before we get into the specific options now
on the market, we need to discuss at a high level the wireless bandwidth
requirements for the two major applications for your entertainment system:
audio and video.
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
Here are the two predominant ways that audio and video files are handled
with your entertainment/PC combo:
Streaming: The file is accessed from your PC’s hard drive (or over the
Internet) and sent via a continuous signal to your entertainment hardware for live playback. This is the way most media content is handled
in home networks today.
File transfer: The file is sent from your PC to your stereo system components, where it’s stored for later playback.
These two applications have different effects on your wireless home network.
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), and any problems with the network, such as not having enough bandwidth to support the media you’re playing, has a noticeable effect in your
playback experience (for example, dropped audio or blocky video). File transfers, on the other hand, 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.
A streaming application is sensitive to network delays and lost data packets.
You tend to notice a bad picture pretty quickly. Also, with a file transfer, any
lost data can be retransmitted when its loss is detected. But with streaming
video and audio, you need to get the packets right the first time because most
of the transmission protocols don’t even allow for retransmission, even if you
want to. You just get clipped and delayed sound, which sounds bad.
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.
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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 an 802.11n network. Most wireless audio
and video gear now available on the market is shipping with 802.11g on board,
but a few vendors have begun selling 802.11n equipment. Again, remember, if
you’re just doing audio streaming, 802.11g is more than adequate.
You can choose from a number of different options when you build a wireless
entertainment network, including the following:
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 are 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. Examples of such gear include Logitech’s Squeezebox (www.
slimdevices.com, shown in Figure 12-1) and Apple’s AirPort Express
(www.apple.com).
Figure 12-1:
The
SqueezeBox digital
media
adapter is
one of our
favorites.
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
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), and D-Link’s MediaLounge players (such as the DSM-510, www.dlink.com/products/?sec=
0&pid=542).
There’s not a Ministry of Naming Esoteric Wireless Entertainment Gear
out there (if there was, 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 are 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 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).
Media center extenders: A specialized category of media adapters/players, media center extenders work specifically with Windows XP or Vista
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. Examples here
include Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console (discussed in Chapter 11),
and the Linksys DMA 2100 Media Center Extender (www.linksys.com).
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 stand-alone 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-4308CI home theater receiver, with
built-in Wi-Fi (http://usa.denon.com/ProductDetails/3494.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.
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 later in the chapter, to connect these devices
to your wireless network.
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Home theater PCs: Finally, you can bring the 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-of-all-trades content source.
In the following sections 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.
Getting Media from Computers
to 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 of those videos on my computer
and play them on my big-screen TV?”
Well these are questions we can answer. In fact, this entire chapter is designed
to answer those questions and variants thereof. But let’s start off with the simplest answer to these simple questions: get a digital media adapter (or player)!
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).
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
Cutting the cord in your home theater
This chapter focuses on the wireless equipment
used to distribute audio (or video) from one part
of your home to another — for example, taking
music from your PC to a stereo in another room.
Another place where we are starting to see
wireless systems become an option is in the
home theater. Home theaters are great (we
wrote Home Theaters For Dummies because
we love them so much), but they’re also a lot of
work — getting the wires around the room for
five to seven surround-sound speakers and a
flat panel TV on the wall is not always easy. To
date, wireless speakers have not always been
as good (in terms of sound performance) as
wired speakers, and most systems required a
mix of wired (in front) and wireless speakers (in
the back of the room). At the 2008 Consumer
Electronics Show, a company called Neosonik
(www.neosonik.com) announced a new wireless home theater solution that provides
wireless connections for all five speakers and
a wireless video connection for an HDTV.
A number of other companies announced wireless HDMI (high definition multimedia interface)
solutions that replace the digital video cables
used to connect HDTVs to source components
such as cable or satellite TV set-top boxes. If you
have a flat-panel TV (plasma or LCD) on the wall,
or a projection system mounted to your ceiling,
the last thing you want to do is deal with hiding
the cables that bring the picture into your TV
system. With these wireless HDMI systems —
from vendors such as Belkin (www.belkin.com)
and Gefen (www.gefen.com) — you can go wire
free and still enjoy a full-quality HDTV picture!
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. You may also consider
choosing a system certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance to support the WMM
quality of service standard. See the sidebar titled “Understanding Wi-Fi
Multimedia (WMM)” for more on this. 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.
Software requirements: Most 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 indexes
all the media on your computer and streams (or forwards) it to your
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adapter or player. Some media adapters or players actually use iTunes
and Windows Media Player (which you probably already have installed
on your PC), which simplifies matters greatly.
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 back on your computer (so
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.
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 through) 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 theater system — because he always has at least one of his Apple
laptop computers in that room, he can simply open iTunes and choose
music. With Apple’s FrontRow software (included on all current Macs),
he can even use a remote control to control his music playback.
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.
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
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. We
talk more about this in the section titled “Internet Content for Your
Media Adapters, Players, and HTPCs” at the end of this chapter.
Support for Internet Services: 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.
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’ll
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, you should 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. (HDMI can actually carry both video and digital
audio on one cable.)
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Understanding Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM)
Another 802.11 standard (man, there sure are a
lot of them) that you might occasionally hear
about (if you’re reading up on 802.11 technologies online) is called 802.11e. 802.11e is a quality of service (or QoS) enhancement to other
802.11 technologies (a, b, g, or n) — 802.11e can
determine when bandwidth- or delay-sensitive
traffic is moving across your network (like voice
conversations over a Wi-Fi phone — see
Chapter 13 — or audio/video signals), and it can
then prioritize that traffic over things such as
e-mail to keep your e-mail download from
making your video signal break up on your TV.
The Wi-Fi Alliance folks have created, as
they did with just about all the other 802.11
standards, a certification program for 802.11ecapable equipment called WMM (or Wi-Fi
Multimedia). WMM-certified equipment incorporates the QoS mechanisms defined in 802.11e
and additionally has been certified to work
across vendors. If you want WMM to work for
your Wi-Fi entertainment gear, you need to be
sure that both the entertainment device itself
(for example, a digital media adapter) and your
access point or wireless router are certified for
WMM. (The box will have the WMM logo.)
Overall, WMM can help improve your multimedia
experience within your wireless network; one
thing that it can’t do, however, is control the QoS
of your Internet connection. So if your audio or
video network is being affected by traffic inside
your home network, WMM can help — if the bottleneck is in your Internet connection (for example, someone downloading a big file while you’re
trying to watch streaming video from the
Internet), WMM won’t be of any assistance.
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
receiver or a TV) simply incorporates a digital media adapter (or the functionality of one) into the device itself — providing you with the ability to
access digital media files across your home network. Almost all these network-enabled receivers and TVs are Ethernet devices and not Wi-Fi enabled.
Later in this section, we tell you how to connect Ethernet entertainment gear
to your wireless network.
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.
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
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-4308CI receiver, which costs
$2,500 and includes built-in 802.11g networking.) Manufacturers have been
reluctant to incorporate Wi-Fi due to the rapid pace of technological change
(802.11b being replaced by 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 net, you need a wireless bridge. A popular model is the
D-Link (www.d-link.com, $89) DWL-G820 Wireless Ethernet Bridge (802.11g)
that comes with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) and 128-bit WEP security. On
the back is a simple Ethernet port that enables you to bring any networkable
device onto your wireless backbone. Another popular product is the 802.11g
Apple Airport Express (www.apple.com, $99), which is a great little multipurpose device that is 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).
Other Ethernet bridge products include the Linksys WET-54G Wireless-G
Ethernet Bridge (www.linksys.com, $89.99) and the Belkin F5D7330 802.11g
Wireless Ethernet Bridge and Game Adapter (www.belkin.com, $100).
All the wireless bridges we mention here are 802.11g and not 802.11n. That’s
the case simply because, as we write, 802.11n is still a new technology and
most vendors have only gotten around to releasing 802.11n access points,
wireless routers, and network adapter cards. We fully expect to see 802.11n
variants of the wireless bridges discussed in the two previous chapters to be
released in early 2008 — likely by the time you read this.
Here are a couple of tips for buying wireless bridges:
Buy at least 802.11g for this application. You need the bandwidth, and
802.11n will be an even better choice, when it becomes available. Video
doesn’t work well at 802.11b speeds, so if you see an older 802.11b product of this sort on eBay, resist the urge to buy it.
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Make sure the security matches your network security needs. All the
wireless bridges we’ve mentioned 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-commondenominator 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.
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 custominstalled 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 $900 for a two-room system), as shown in
Figure 12-2. This technogeek’s dream system consists of a controller (the
brains of the system), a “zone” player (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!), and matching
speakers you can use if you want everything to match.
Figure 12-2:
The Sonos
Music
System is
advanced
stuff!
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
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 long house, you can
still use the Sonos system. In such instances, the Sonos system synchronizes
the music so that 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.
If you want to connect your Sonos system to your existing wireless network
(and to your Internet connection, for playing back 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.
Putting a Networked PC
in Your Home Theater
When you talk about your home entertainment center, you often talk about
sources: that is, 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 your networked PC or PCs 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, stand-alone 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 (Pat and Danny
wrote that one, too) by Wiley. What we include here is the short and sweet
version of HTPC.
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What you expect from your home theater PC is quite different from what
David Bowie might expect from his HTPC. Regardless of your needs, however,
a home theater PC should be able to store music and video files, play CDs
and DVDs, let you play video games on the big screen, and tune in to online
music and video content. Thus, it needs ample hard drive space and the
appropriate software (see the following section). Also, your HTPC acts as a
DVR (see the nearby sidebar, “Checking out PC DVRs,” for the lowdown on
PC-based DVRs). In addition, an HTPC can
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.
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).
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 bigscreen 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.)
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.
For example, the HP z560 Digital Entertainment Center (www.hp.com, $1,799)
is a full-fledged digital media center PC with onboard 802.11g functionality
and includes Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition or Windows Vista
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
Home Premium (which also includes Media Center software). From regular
and high-definition TV broadcasts to movies, music, games, and digital
photos, this baby has it all, and you can connect to it wirelessly. What more
could you want? Note that this current model does not have built-in 802.11n
networking — we expect that by the time you read this, HP will have updated
the networking to include 802.11n.
The term Media Center PC is often used generically, but it can mean two different things: a PC configured to be a repository and driver for media applications or a PC sold with the Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition or
Windows Vista Home Premium software on board. You can get this software
only by buying a new, specially configured Media Center PC. Not all Media
Center PCs have the Windows Media Center Edition software, so read the
fine print.
If you have a Windows XP or Vista Media Center PC, you will probably want
to link it to other TVs, using a Media Center Extender. An example is Linksys
DMA 2200 Media Center Extender with DVD player (price unknown as we
write). This sleek device works like a media adapter for a Media Center PC
and allows you to view any media on the Media Center PC on a remote TV,
including recorded (DVR) shows and even live TV programming being picked
up by the TV tuner in the PC. The DMA 2200 uses 802.11n networking (so it
will work with video wirelessly, unlike previous generations of these products), and comes with a built-in DVD player. Figure 12-3 shows the DMA 2200.
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).
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 650 or 600 Series (http://ati.amd.com/
products/atitvwonder.html), SnapStream Beyond
TV (www.snapstream.com), and Pinnacle PCTV
(www.pinnaclesys.com).
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Figure 12-3:
The DMA
2200 from
Linksys will
hook your
Media
Center PC to
remote TVs.
Internet Content for Your Media
Adapters, Players, and HTPCs
If you’re really into this HTPC thing, think about whether setting up an HTPC
is worth the trouble just to play back DVDs (although the quality would be
way high). Probably not, huh? “So,” you may ask yourself, “what else is in it
for me?” What makes an HTPC useful is its ability to provide a portal to all
sorts of great Internet-based content — that is, music and video content. A
portal is simply a one-stop shop for movies, songs, animation clips, and video
voice mail. Think of it as a kind of Yahoo! for your audio and video needs. (In
fact, Yahoo!, a portal itself, is trying to position itself to be just that! You can
play great music videos from its Web site, at launch.yahoo.com.)
You’re not getting much Internet content if your HTPC isn’t connected to the
Internet. And, don’t forget that a connection to your high-speed Internet
access (DSL, fiber-optic, or cable modem) is part of the overall equation.
(Yup, a regular ol’ vanilla dial-up connection works, but — we can’t stress
this enough — not nearly as well. If you’re one of the 90 to 95 percent of the
population who can get broadband, get it! If you’re out of range, we’re sorry,
and recommend that you check out the satellite broadband services offered
by folks such as DirecTV.)
Chapter 12: Networking Your Entertainment Center
Other wireless ways (where there’s a will . . . )
We are 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 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.
You’ve undoubtedly read about Hollywood’s drive to rid the Internet of peerto-peer file-sharing programs, to halt the ripping (copying) of DVDs from
rented DVD discs, and so on. For the rest of us, who have better things to
focus on, a slew of great online music stores and services are legal, economical, and easy to use — you just have to try them.
You find three types of online music offerings:
Online music and video stores, such as Apple’s iTunes Store, where you
download music to your PC or network-capable device. There are limits
to what you can do with these songs after they’re downloaded, but generally you can play them anywhere on your network.
Online music subscription services, such as Rhapsody and Yahoo! Music,
where you can play any songs available in their catalogs. These are
streaming audio songs that you play as often as you like, wherever you
want, as long as you have Internet access. For many of these services, if
you want to play them off your PC, you need a media adapter or player
designed for that service.
A combination of the preceding two items where you can play any songs
you want during your subscription period and optionally download (and
keep) songs for an extra fee.
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Some of the most popular online music hangouts include
Apple iTunes Music Store (www.itunes.com)
Real Network’s Rhapsody (www.rhapsody.com)
Napster (newly relaunched at www.napster.com)
eMusic (www.emusic.com)
Yahoo! Music (music.yahoo.com)
Some sites require monthly fees to join, typically around $5 to $10 per month;
others have their business model driven by download fees on a per song or
per video basis.
You don’t have to pay to get some music from the Internet — lots of Internet
radio stations are out there. You can find Internet-only stations (Pat’s favorite
is Radio Paradise, at www.radioparadise.com) and simulcasts from traditional broadcasters, such as National Public Radio (www.npr.org). To find
online radio stations, check out SHOUTcast (www.shoutcast.com), Live365
(www.live365.com), or Radio-Locator (www.radio-locator.com), or just do a
Web search on Yahoo! or Google.
Remember that most online services incorporate DRM (digital rights management) technologies in their downloaded files. If you want to play these files
across your network, you need to ensure that your media adapter or player
supports the DRM system of the content you’ve downloaded (or of the service you are subscribed to). Unfortunately, this can limit your choices, but
it’s a sad fact of how the entertainment industry treats their customers these
days. There are some (happy) exceptions, however. Apple’s iTunes Store
offers a number of DRM-free song downloads, and eMusic and Amazon.com’s
online music stores are free of DRM.
Chapter 13
Using Your Wireless Network
for Phone Calls
In This Chapter
Understanding Voice over IP (VoIP)
Using VoIP Wi-Fi phones
DECTing your VoIP
Using Skype without wires
Understanding fixed mobile convergence
P
hones have been around for over a hundred years. In developed countries such as the U.S., the European Union, and many parts of Asia, there
are more phones (several times more in some cases) than people. In the
intervening century, the phone hasn’t stood still. Two big trends have
affected the phone business: the advent of digital technologies and the rise of
wireless technologies.
Digital technologies have been in use within phone networks for decades.
Phone companies use digital (and Internet protocol — IP) technologies
within their networks to carry and route calls from place to place. Even if
your home phone line is still an old-fashioned analog POTS (plain old telephone service) line, chances are nearly 100 percent that some major part of
your phone call is carried over digital lines. And if you’re using a broadband
VoIP (Voice over IP) service (for example, Vonage or Skype) in your home,
your calls are 100 percent digital.
Similarly, wireless technologies have been around for decades as well. We
suspect that a lot of readers of Home Wireless Networking For Dummies have
never known a time without a cordless phone in the home. And cell phones
are beyond ubiquitous. There are over 3 billion (with a b) cell phone subscriptions in the world (a bit less than that number of users, because many
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people have more than one), and over 80 percent of the world’s population
lives in an area covered by cell phone systems. These are big, big numbers.
Now you may be wondering what all of this has to do with wireless networks
(of course, you could argue that even an old-fashioned cordless phone
system is a wireless network, but we’re mainly talking about computer-based
networks in this book). Well the answer is this: These technological trends
are bringing about a convergence of digital (and VoIP) phone technologies
and wireless technologies and are turning your phones (both in-home phones
and mobile phones) into full-fledged members of your home wireless
network.
In this chapter, we talk about what VoIP is all about, including a discussion of
some of the biggest providers of VoIP service. We then talk about wireless
(mainly Wi-Fi) phones that can let you use your wireless network to make
VoIP calls. Finally, we talk about how cell phones are beginning to join into
the Wi-Fi fun, allowing you to use your Wi-Fi network to get better coverage
inside your home while saving money on calls. It’s going to be fun, so read on!
Understanding VoIP
Voice over IP (VoIP) is exactly what its name implies it is. Voice calls (phone
calls) are made using a broadband Internet connection (such as a cable or
DSL modem), and instead of being routed through the Public Switched
Telephone Network (PSTN) — the phone network run by companies such as
AT&T and Verizon — they are routed across the Internet (or across private
networks, perhaps run by those same phone companies that run on the
Internet Protocol, IP).
Chances are good that you’ve already made a VoIP phone call — even if you
don’t know that you did. For example, many discount phone card companies,
alternative long-distance providers, and even the biggest of phone companies
use VoIP in part or all of their network. They do this because it’s cheaper and
more efficient to route phone calls this way than it is using the old-fashioned
phone network. So many phone companies will use traditional phone lines on
the ends of calls (from the local phone company office to your home) but use
VoIP in the core of the network.
You’ve also made a VoIP phone call if you’ve ever used the voice functionality
in an instant messenger program. For example, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL IM
(AIM), Google Talk, and Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger all let you make
VoIP calls from computer to computer over the Internet. Many of these services also let you make calls to standard phone numbers (for a fee).
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
And, of course, there are services that aren’t just instant messaging services
(such as AOL IM) but are explicitly built around the concept of providing
individuals with VoIP calling capabilities. Skype (www.skype.com), for example, offers both computer-to-computer and computer-to-phone calling, and
companies such as Vonage (www.vonage.com) incorporate special hardware
in your home that lets you plug regular phones (wired or cordless) into your
broadband connection for making VoIP calls.
Understanding VoIP terminology
Like any self-respecting Internet technology, VoIP is laden with acronyms and
jargon. Heck, even the name (VoIP) is an acronym! For the most part, you don’t
need to understand all these acronyms, but you may run across them as you
shop for VoIP equipment for your wireless network (or just plain old wired
VoIP equipment). So here are a few we think you should know:
SIP: SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is the predominant signaling and
control mechanism for VoIP calls. SIP is a standardized way for Internet
clients (such as VoIP phones and networks) to create a session (or call)
and to control that call (for example, to hang up). The other signaling and
control mechanism for VoIP phone calls is called H.323.
Some VoIP systems, such as Skype, use their own proprietary protocols
to control VoIP calls.
RTP: RTP, or Real-time Transport Protocol, is the underlying IP protocol
used for carrying voice calls over IP networks. RTP is used with another
protocol called RTCP (Real-time Transport Control Protocol) to provide
Quality of Service (QoS) support to help prioritize real-time applications
(such as voice calls) over other traffic on the network which isn’t time
or delay sensitive (such as e-mail).
Codec: VoIP calls digitize and compress the analog signal created by the
microphone in your phone. The specific encoder/decoder used to do
this is known as the codec. The amount (and type) of compression used
in a VoIP codec affects the sound quality of the call — many VoIP systems
use codecs that offer a higher quality of sound than the analog phone
calls you’re used to!
Telephone adapter: Most VoIP implementations use standard analog
POTS telephones. The device that sits between these phones and the
broadband Internet connection is known as a telephone adapter (or
sometimes an analog telephone adapter, or ATA). The telephone adapter
digitizes the analog phone signal and handles the SIP (or other protocol)
signaling.
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VoIP phone: You can also find phones that handle all the telephone
adapter’s functionality internally; these are called VoIP phones (or,
commonly, SIP phones if they support the SIP protocol). Dual-mode
VoIP phones can work as both VoIP phones and as standard POTS
phones (which can be handy when you’re making local phone calls).
Softphone: You don’t need a phone to make VoIP calls — your PC or Mac
(when equipped with speakers and microphones or a headset) can be a
full-fledged VoIP phone as well. In fact, that’s how the whole VoIP phenomenon started back in the late 1990s, with people making free PCto-PC phone calls over the Internet. The software program used on computers for VoIP calls is called a softphone client (software phone). You can
even find softphones on phones — smartphones may have softphone
software to allow users to place international calls, for instance, over the
cellular broadband data connection.
Understanding VoIP services
Like traditional telephony services (POTS and cell phone service), VoIP
requires you to have a service provider. The service provider provides two
main functions:
A gateway between the VoIP network and the PSTN: Your VoIP service
provider provides the software and hardware (within their network) to
move calls between the VoIP network and the PSTN (POTS phones and
cell phones). This functionality gives your VoIP phone the capability to
make calls anywhere in the world, to any phone. This gateway service is
part of a paid subscription service, but typically the monthly and/or percall costs are lower than they are for POTS or cell phone service.
Directory services: Your VoIP service provider also provides directory
services, which gives your VoIP phone a “phone number” and lets
people find and call you. Traditional phone services use a global standard for numbering, but VoIP doesn’t (yet), so your service provider
runs a service that associates your broadband connection’s IP address
to your identity. This service can be part of a for-pay monthly service,
or it can be free for PC-to-PC VoIP services. Note that many leading VoIP
providers, such as Vonage, let you transfer your landline phone number
to their directory service; this essentially tells all other service providers
that when that number is dialed, they should send the call to the Vonage
network for call completion.
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
VoIP and 911
The 911 emergency services used in standard
landline (POTS) phone systems are well-honed,
well-oiled machines that have been developed
over decades and decades. POTS phone systems have extensive directory records in place
that know exactly where each phone is located
(the name of the subscriber, the address, and so
on). So when you make a 911 call, emergency
officials pretty much know instantaneously
where you are calling from and can react
accordingly.
Mobile (cell) phone systems now have similar
capabilities, due to the adoption of a technology
called Enhanced 911 (or E911). Mobile phone
operators use either a specialized radio triangulation technology in their networks (which
determines where you are based on how long it
takes your signal to reach several cell towers in
your area) or a GPS chip embedded in your cell
phone to determine your location and pass it on
to authorities in case of emergency.
VoIP and 911, however, have a more tenuous
relationship. The nature of VoIP gear (even
wired VoIP gear) means that it can be plugged
into a broadband connection anywhere — so
there’s no one-to-one relationship between
your VoIP phone number and your current location. Your IP address doesn’t provide the kind of
location information that a traditional phone line
does — in fact, your IP address could frequently
change as your ISP rotates IP addresses among
its customers.
It’s hard for a VoIP 911 system not only to tell
authorities where you are, but also to route your
911 call to the right 911 call center. If, for example, you take your VoIP phone to work, you might
be in the coverage area of an entirely different
911 call center than you are at home — currently
there’s no way for VoIP systems to know this.
So VoIP providers are required to give you more
than ample notice that they are not as good at
handling 911 calls as are landline or even mobile
phones. Some providers give you the opportunity to register your VoIP phone equipment with
your current address information — this can
then be used to route your 911 call and to provide the 911 folks with your address. If you’re
using a VoIP system as your primary home
phone system, we think you should absolutely
take this step and register for your VoIP
provider’s 911 system. (If they had bothered
asking us, we would have simply told them to
put GPS chips into all VoIP phones and the problem would have been solved!)
One last fact to keep in mind about VoIP and 911
and other emergency calls: Unlike POTS phones
(which get their power from the telephone line
itself), VoIP phone systems need external AC
power to work. If your power goes out, it’s likely
that both your broadband connection and your
VoIP phone or telephone adapter will also go
out. If you move entirely to VoIP in your home,
we recommend that you purchase an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and make sure that
your broadband modem, wireless router, and
telephone adapter are all connected to it. This
won’t keep you up and running for days at a
time, but it can keep the phones working during
brief power outages.
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All sorts of VoIP services are on the market today, ranging from simple IM
client-based voice chat services right on up to sophisticated multiline services designed to replace all landline phones in a business. For the purposes
of a home user, we can divide VoIP service providers into two (not so distinct) buckets. We say not so distinct because many VoIP service providers
can fit into either of these two categories, depending on which individual
elements of their service you choose. Without further adieu, let’s talk about
what these two categories are:
Home phone replacement services: These services are primarily telephone adapter based (or hardware based). They are designed to completely replace your existing POTS landline voice service and to work
with all existing phones in your home. These services provide you with
a traditional phone number (that anyone can call). Vonage is the biggest
example here.
PC-based supplementary voice services: These services are primarily
built around PC usage (though, as we discuss later in this chapter, they
can work with phones) and are primarily marketed as (and used as) supplements to existing landline services — in other words, you use them
for specific calls (such as overseas calls) but keep your POTS phone for
local calls, inbound calls, and so on. These services typically provide
you with a username (like the username you might have for AOL IM) —
other users of the service can call you by clicking your username in
their VoIP software program. The primary example here is Skype, which
began as a PC-to-PC-only service but has since branched out to include
PC-to-phone, phone-to-PC, and now phone-to-phone calling.
As we mention earlier, these two categories have a lot of overlap. For example, most hardware-based VoIP providers offer a softphone client that allows
PC-to-PC or PC-to-phone calling (and can be used on your laptop when you
travel), and many of the primarily PC-to-PC providers now offer phone devices
that let you connect your home phones to the service and can assign you a
traditional phone number (for example, Skype’s SkypeIN service). In this chapter we talk about wireless hardware that fits into both types of VoIP service.
Some of the leading providers of VoIP services follow:
Home phone replacement services:
• Vonage (www.vonage.com)
• Verizon VoiceWing (www.verizon.com/voicewing)
• AT&T CallVantage (www.callvantage.att.com/)
• Lingo (www.lingo.com)
• BroadVoice (www.broadvoice.com)
• TelTel (www.teltel.com)
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
• VoipYourLife (www.voipyourlife.com)
• Packet8 (www.packet8.com)
Supplementary VoIP services (these services include both PC-to-PC
voice chat and inbound or outbound calling to regular phones):
• Skype (www.skype.com)
• Yahoo! Voice (voice.yahoo.com)
• AOL AIM Call Out (call.aim.com)
• Google Talk (talk.google.com)
• Gizmo Project (www.gizmoproject.com)
This is only a partial list — hundreds of VoIP providers are out there these
days. We chose the largest and most well-known providers, but you can find a
great list of providers at www.voipproviderslist.com. You can also find reviews
of VoIP providers and an online bandwidth/latency testing program that will
let you know how well your broadband connection can handle VoIP at the following URL: www.voipreview.org.
Going Wireless with Your VoIP Service
Most VoIP services available today are focused on either conventional
phones (through a telephone adapter) or the PC (using a softphone client).
Nothing is wrong with these approaches — both have their place — but what
excites us is the ability to leverage the Wi-Fi network you’ve installed in your
home to carry your phone calls. With a Wi-Fi VoIP phone, you can make calls
from anywhere in your house, and you can also take your Wi-Fi phone with
you to work, to a friend’s house, on a business trip (using the Wi-Fi in your
hotel room), or even to a Wi-Fi hot spot (bring it along on your midday caffeine refueling trip to the local café). With VoIP, it doesn’t matter where you
are. As long as you have a broadband connection, you can make and receive
calls as if you were home. (Even when you’re overseas, you can receive calls
on your home phone number, saving your friends and family expensive longdistance charges.)
We know what you’re thinking: “Heck, I can bring my cell phone to any of those
places and make and receive calls, with or without a Wi-Fi access point and
broadband connection!” Well you sure can (and we never leave home without
our cell phones, of course), but VoIP can provide you with some significant
money savings (depending on your location). VoIP phone calls are usually a
fraction of the cost (per minute) of mobile phone calls, particularly when
you’re in a roaming environment with your mobile phone (for example,
when you’re out of the country). A big trend is to incorporate both a VoIP
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and cell phone into a single phone, so you can use the cellular network when
you need to and also make cheaper calls using VoIP when you’re in range of
a Wi-Fi network. We talk about this fixed mobile convergence in the section
titled “Understanding FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence).”
In this section, we talk about Wi-Fi VoIP phones. These phones, which look
just like a cell or cordless phone, connect to Wi-Fi networks (typically they
use 802.11g technology) and provide you with a full VoIP experience without
the need to use a telephone adapter or a softphone client on a PC. They’re
truly stand-alone phones that can make and receive calls with only a
broadband-connected Wi-Fi access point required.
We also talk about wireless VoIP phones that use the DECT technology standard. You can use them only in your home, but they tend to be a bit cheaper
and have better battery life than Wi-Fi phones.
Wi-Fi VoIP phones can operate on your own network, on a friend’s network,
over the network at work, or in a public hot spot. The only thing you’ll need
to worry about is gaining access to that network through its security and
authentication system. Luckily, most current Wi-Fi VoIP phones support the
latest WPA2 Personal security system (described in Chapter 9), so you’ll be
able to enter a WPA passphrase on the phone and gain access to the network.
Where things can get a bit dicey is in the realm of corporate and hot spot networks. There are two issues here:
In corporate networks, it’s common to find WPA2 Enterprise security,
which uses the 802.1x authentication system (see Chapter 9). Most Wi-Fi
VoIP phones support only the Personal version of WPA2, which uses a
passphrase, and not the Enterprise version, which uses a RADIUS server
to authenticate users (and allow them on the network). If you’re planning on using your Wi-Fi VoIP phone on one of these networks, you’ll
need to do some research when looking for a phone.
In public hot spots, it’s common to find a system called a captive portal
that provides the authentication for users to get on the network. A captive portal uses a Web browser — a page pops up for you to make a
payment or enter a code or simply agree to terms of usage before you
can get on the network. These Wi-Fi VoIP phones typically don’t have a
Web browser built in, so they can’t get onto these types of networks. An
example of a phone that does have a built-in Web browser is SMCWSP100 (www.smc.com, $200) from SMC Networks.
Some Wi-Fi VoIP phones let you get around this hot spot conundrum by incorporating client software or a special internal configuration in their phones
that enables hot spots to recognize the phones and allow them access. For
example, Wi-Fi VoIP phones for Skype (discussed in the “Choosing Skype
phones” section) work at any Boingo hot spot right out of the box. Many
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
Wi-Fi VoIP phone manufacturers have (or are working on) similar partnerships with hot spot providers to provide browserless access, so check the
documentation or Web site of your phone to see if yours does too.
A company to keep an eye on is Devicescape (www.devicescape.com). This
software company, based in the Silicon Valley area, is built around the
premise that non-PC devices need an easy way to get logged onto Wi-Fi networks. The company currently offers beta versions of its supplicant software
(essentially security client software) for a number of non-PC platforms,
including Apple’s iPhone, some Nokia mobile phones, and (most appropriately for this discussion) the Linksys WIP 300 Wi-Fi VoIP phone. Devicescape
is a startup, but they have plans to spread broadly throughout this market,
so keep an eye on their Web site if you need help getting online at hot spots
with your VoIP phone.
Choosing VoIP Wi-Fi phones
As mentioned, most VoIP services use SIP as the underlying technology for
their service. SIP is an international standard, which means it is widely used
and also relatively interoperable — a SIP phone is a SIP phone, no matter who
makes it and whether it’s wired, wireless, or embedded in your skull (which
doesn’t sound all that pleasant, but folks in labs are working on embedded
phones that will be with us always).
Because SIP is so standardized and widely used, manufacturers of Wi-Fi gear
(companies such as NETGEAR, Linksys, D-Link, Belkin, and SMC) are making
and selling SIP Wi-Fi phones that you can use with most major VoIP providers.
Skype does not use SIP (at least not in an interoperable way — Skype’s VoIP
protocols are their “secret sauce” and they’re not telling!). So the phones
we’re talking about here won’t work with your Skype account.
Consider the following when choosing a Wi-Fi VoIP phone:
Wi-Fi standards supported: You’ll want a phone that supports at least
802.11g. As we write, no 802.11n Wi-Fi VoIP phones are on the market,
but we expect that eventually these will trickle onto the market and
replace the 802.11g models.
Battery life: Battery life is a crucial issue with any cordless (or cellular)
phone. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi was not designed to be a low-power technology suitable for use with small phone batteries. (It uses much more
power than, for example, a mobile phone radio system.) So battery life is
the Achilles’ heel of many Wi-Fi VoIP phones. Check the different manufacturers’ rated battery life, see how easy it is to recharge (many phones
come with a cradle you can drop them in, just as you do with a home
cordless phone), and see how easy it is to replace the battery should it
wear out.
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Security support: As mentioned, most of these Wi-Fi phones will not
work in a WPA2 Enterprise/802.1X network. Most do support WPA and
WPA2 Personal, the minimum level of security you should shoot for.
Web browser support: If you plan on using the Wi-Fi phone in a lot of
hot spot environments, consider a model that includes a built-in Web
browser to provide a mechanism for logging into hot spots that require
use of a captive portal log-in page.
Codec support: The codec is the voice compression algorithm used by
a VoIP system. A number of different codecs are used by VoIP service
providers. A Wi-Fi VoIP phone must support the codecs (such as G.711)
used by your service provider. (The best way to determine these codecs
is to look in the support section of your VoIP provider’s Web site or to
call tech support.)
Form factor: Form factor (the shape and look and feel of the phone) is
unimportant to some folks and vitally important to others. VoIP Wi-Fi
phones can be big and bulky (the early ones were) or small and sleek.
The biggest distinction you’ll find is between flip phones (similar in size
and shape to flip mobile phones) and candy bar–style phones. Which
you prefer is, of course, up to you.
Everything else: Finally, a lot of little things may or may not be important
to you as you examine Wi-Fi VoIP phones. Examples here could include
the size and quality of the screen, support for additional applications
on the phone (such as e-mail or IM), button and keypad quality, and the
user interface and menus.
The most important criteria of a Wi-Fi VoIP phone is whether or not it will work
with your VoIP service. SIP VoIP services are based on standards, and any SIPcompliant phone should work with any SIP-compliant VoIP service (which is
most services). Many VoIP service providers, however — in an attempt to
keep their support overhead to a minimum — don’t explicitly support phones
and devices on their network beyond the phones they sell or provide to their
customers. Some providers may even make it hard for you to find the information about their service’s servers and IP addresses needed to configure
your phone.
There are a number of manufacturers of Wi-Fi VoIP phones, ranging from big
networking companies down to small specialist companies you’ve never
heard of. Some of the more popular include
Linksys (www.linksys.com)
SMC Networks (www.smc.com)
Zyxel (www.zyxel.com)
D-Link (www.dlink.com)
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
An alternative to Wi-Fi phones
Wi-Fi, in its current form of 802.11g and draft 802.11n, is a wireless system
that has not been designed for small, battery-powered devices. The problem
is simply that Wi-Fi was never designed with power saving features that can
extend battery life on these portable devices (though some manufacturers
have created their own battery saving schemes, and we expect that the final
802.11n standard will include more advanced power management as well).
What this means is that many Wi-Fi VoIP phones are limited to just a few
hours of talk time and less than a day of standby time, so you’ll have to
charge your phone daily, if not more often.
An alternative to Wi-Fi VoIP phone systems is a new (to North America)
cordless phone system called DECT 6.0. DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless
Telecommunications) has been around in Europe and other parts of the
world for about a decade but was not available in the U.S. until the FCC
approved its use in late 2005. (The phones became available in the U.S. the
following year.) DECT uses the 1900 MHz frequency range, which keeps it out
of the way of both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi frequencies. DECT phones are known
for their long range (compared to traditional cordless phones), their highquality voice reproduction, and the fact that you can have repeaters to daisy
chain DECT calls over distances (such as from one side of your home to the
other).
For the most part, DECT phones are just regular old cordless phones, using
the DECT system for transmission between the handset and the base station
(the base station is then plugged directly into a POTS jack). Using an analog
telephone adapter in lieu of a POTS jack is a great way to wirelessly expand a
VoIP system, and is the fastest and cheapest way to take your VoIP wireless.
You can use any cordless phone — even that ancient one you have out in the
garage with the 4-foot-long shiny retractable antenna — with your analog
telephone adapter (ATA). That’s the point of an ATA — any analog phone can
plug into it. We’re focusing on the new (to the U.S. at least) DECT phones
because, frankly, we think they work better than old-fashioned cordless
phones and also because several models have VoIP built right into the phone
and don’t need an ATA. How good is DECT? Well in Danny’s home in Maine
(with its 3-foot-thick brick and masonry walls that kill just about any wireless
signal), he can reach every point from the basement to the third floor with
his DECT phone. All of Danny’s other wireless systems require repeaters and
signal boosters and secondary base stations to reach through his wireless
worst-case-scenario house!
Several manufacturers of DECT phones have begun selling phones that have
both POTS and VoIP phone capabilities built into a single device. These phones
have two connectors on the handset’s base station. One plugs into a regular
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phone jack (just like any other cordless phone in the world), and the other
plugs into an Ethernet jack connected to your wireless or wired broadband
router. Calls then can be made (and received) over your standard landline
phone service or over a VoIP connection.
Most of these dual-mode DECT phones are designed to work with Skype (discussed in the next section), but some manufacturers are also offering SIP
dual-mode DECT phones as well. (For our readers in North America, these
SIP dual-mode phones are not yet widely available, but we expect as DECT
becomes more popular here they will be on the shelf at your favorite electronics store.)
One feature that a few dual-mode phones have is the ability to conference
between a Skype or VoIP call and a second call on the landline. This is a great
way to get distant family or co-workers on the phone without paying excessive toll charges. One phone that supports this functionality is DualPhone’s
3088 (dualphone.net/DUALphone_3088_for_Skype-789.aspx).
If you have a big family or a big house, look for a DECT system that supports
multiple handsets. You’ll need to plug only one base station into your router
and phone jack. The remaining phones can connect to that base station and
need only remote charging stations. This makes it easy to extend your wireless VoIP network throughout the house without extra wires.
Choosing Skype phones
A special category of Wi-Fi VoIP phones are those designed to work with the
Skype network. These phones are similar in size, shape, and functionality to
the Wi-Fi VoIP phones we just described, but instead of being built around
the SIP protocol, they work specifically with the Skype VoIP service.
There are two types of Skype wireless phones:
Phones that work with your computer: The simplest (and cheapest)
wireless Skype phones are those that connect to your PC (typically with
a dongle that plugs into one of your computer’s USB ports). These phones
work with the Skype client software installed on your computer, and
calls are actually placed and received through your computer. When the
computer is turned off, the phone no longer works.
Phones that work independently: Other Skype phones are full-fledged
Skype clients in their own right and don’t need a running PC (though a
PC may be used to set them up in the first place. These phones can use
Wi-Fi, or they may be DECT phones as discussed in the preceding section.
Skype keeps a current list of certified Skype wireless phones in the Phones
section of its online store at www.skype.com/go/shop.accessories.
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
Wireless Skype phones are capable of supporting free calls worldwide to
other Skype users, as well as inexpensive inbound (to your number) and outbound (to other people) calls using Skype’s SkypeIn and SkypeOut services.
(We talk more about Skype’s different services in the sidebar titled “Why
Skype is different.”)
Following are some manufacturers of Skype wireless phones:
DualPhone (www.dualphone.net)
Philips (www.philips.com)
GE (www.home-electronics.net)
NETGEAR (www.netgear.com)
Belkin (www.belkin.com)
Linksys (www.linksys.com)
SMC (www.smc.com)
Why Skype is different
Skype is a peer-to-peer VoIP network, which
means that rather than having a centralized control point for routing calls around the network
(and around the world), each individual Skype
client (the software on your PC or on a Skype
phone) contributes to the effort and assists in call
routing.
At its most basic level, Skype is a client-to-client
VoIP system. This means that with a Skype client
installed on your PC (or phone), you can make
calls to anyone else in the world who has
installed the (free) Skype client. This level of
Skype is free for anyone (beyond what you pay
for your broadband Internet connection). Even
this free level is handy because there are often
as many as ten million Skype users online at any
given time, and hundreds of millions of registered
accounts.
The next level of Skype is called SkypeOut.
SkypeOut enables outbound calls from your
Skype client to regular landline or mobile phones.
You can buy SkypeOut service plans (which, for
example, offer unlimited calling within certain
geographies — in North America you can subscribe to a $3/month plan that allows unlimited
calling to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada). You
can also buy Skype credits (in $10 increments),
which allow you to make calls to anywhere in the
world, with rates starting at $0.021 per minute.
The final level of Skypedom is to subscribe to a
SkypeIn account. This provides you with a Skype
phone number (in your local area code) that
anyone can call. SkypeIn also includes free
voicemail, so you can pick up calls that you’ve
missed after the fact.
Skype has a lot of different calling plans, and
rates to different countries vary, so check out
www.Skype.com for all the current details.
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A (future) alternative to FMC
Cell phone service providers and equipment
makers have more tricks than just FMC up their
sleeves when it comes to improving your inhome service coverage. Another technology
being developed and seriously considered by the
cell phone industry is known as the femtocell.
Simply put, a femtocell is a small (the size of a
cable modem) cellular base station that can sit
inside a home or a small business — an even
tinier version of the picocells that many cell
phone companies use to improve their coverage
inside shopping malls and convention centers.
A femtocell will connect to your broadband
Ethernet connection (just as a Wi-Fi FMC solution uses that connection), and your mobile
phone will switch over to the femtocell whenever
it is in range. Where FMC solutions and femtocells differ is in how your cell phone connection
is transmitted wirelessly in the home. With FMC,
your phone switches over Wi-Fi and then sends
the calls over your broadband connection. With
a femtocell, your phone doesn’t do anything different than it does anywhere else in the world —
the femtocell looks just like any other cell tower
to the phone, and your phone connects to it
when the femtocell’s signal is stronger than the
outside cell tower’s signal.
This means you don’t need to choose a special
mobile phone to use a femtocell — any
cell phone can work with femtocells. The only
limitation is the type of cell phone network the
phone is designed to work with (GSM or CDMA).
If you have a CDMA phone (for example, from
Verizon or Sprint), it can connect only to a CDMA
femtocell. GSM phones (AT&T or T-Mobile) can
connect only to GSM femtocells.
Like FMC, femtocells aren’t something that you
can just pick up at the local electronics superstore and install — they’ll be something that your
cell phone company sells, rents, or gives you to
improve your coverage. An example of an early
femtocell is Samsung’s CDMA Ubicell, which can
be seen at the following URL (just search on the
page for femtocell): www.samsung.com/us/
business/telecommunication/.
If you can’t yet get (or don’t want) FMC service
and you’re not willing to wait until femtocells
become available from your mobile phone
provider, consider an in-home cell phone extender. These devices use an antenna placed outside your home or in a window to boost the
power of incoming phone signals. Essentially a
cell phone extender gives you inside the house
the signal strength you have out in the driveway.
Danny’s been using zBoost from Wi-Ex
(www.wiex.com) and he’s had great results. This
is a cheap ($399) way of getting the signal to
reach all the nooks and crannies of your home.
Just remember, a cell phone extender won’t help
if you have no signal outside the house.
Understanding FMC (Fixed
Mobile Convergence)
The next big thing in wireless and VoIP is here now and it’s called fixed mobile
convergence, or FMC. FMC is the combination of mobile (cellular) and VoIP
into a single device. With FMC you can use your phone as a cellular phone
anywhere you have coverage, and when you’re in range of a Wi-Fi access
point and broadband connection, your phone can automatically switch over
to the Wi-Fi network.
Chapter 13: Using Your Wireless Network for Phone Calls
Using home phones on the cellular network
For certain types of calls (such as international
calls) or for certain users (folks who burn through
all their minutes each month), cell phone calls
can be expensive. The opposite side of this equation is that for in-country, in-plan minutes, cell
phone calls are essentially free. You pay a flat
rate every month and get a certain number of
minutes that don’t cost you any more (no longdistance charges, no per-minute charges, and so
on). And many cell phone plans include freebies
such as free nights and weekends or unlimited
in-network calls. So many folks end up using
their cell phones in the house for almost all calls,
just as a moneysaving device.
To support this, a sort of reverse form of FMC has
arisen: home cordless phones that connect to
your cell phone (via Bluetooth) and let you leave
your mobile phone on the charger while you
make calls from in the home.
An example of this is GE’s Cell Fusion DECT 6.0
phone (www.home-electronics.net/ge/pc/view
Prd.asp?idcategory=2&idproduct=3). This phone
system (which costs about $150 for a dual handset kit) uses the DECT system (as the name
implies) for transmissions between the handset
and the base station. The cool feature that sets
this phone apart is its ability to pair (or make a
network connection) with up to two Bluetoothenabled cell phones. When you’ve paired the
phone to your mobile, you can simply press a
button labeled Cell on the Cell Fusion phone
whenever you want to place a call and use some
of your free cell phone minutes instead of paying
for long distance. Incoming calls to your cell
phone will also ring to the Cell Fusion phone —
no more digging through your purse or briefcase
in a desperate attempt to grab the cell phone
before the call goes to voicemail. Pretty neat stuff.
Why would you want to switch to the Wi-Fi network? Well the biggest reason
is to save money. Mobile phones are relatively cheap when you’re in your
local (or nationwide) calling area, making domestic phone calls, and within
your monthly allowance of minutes. When you roam outside your calling
area, try making a call internationally, or go beyond your bundled minutes,
you’ll find that your cell phone company is pretty darned good at separating
you from your money.
Another reason why FMC makes sense is the simple fact that cell phone
coverage isn’t always that great inside many buildings. Big public buildings
tend to have special small cellular base stations inside the building (so you
can make calls from that hotel lobby, convention center, or shopping mall),
but individual homes and apartments often have lousy indoor coverage.
(Pat has to stand in his driveway to make calls on one of his cell phones —
it’s a good thing he lives in sunny San Diego and not some place cold come
January.) FMC can alleviate this problem by switching your phone over to
your in-home Wi-Fi network when its signal is stronger than your mobile
phone carrier’s signal. FMC isn’t something you just do on your own — you
need a mobile phone that supports it, and you need your mobile phone
provider’s network to support the service so that calls are routed to the right
place at the right time, based on whatever rules are set up for the service.
Support from the mobile phone carrier is important, too, to ensure that you
can roam from one network to another. FMC should allow you to start a call
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in your home office using the Wi-Fi network, and continue the call as you
walk outside, get in your car, and start driving towards a meeting — as you
leave the range of your Wi-Fi network, your phone will automatically switch
over to the cellular network, and your phone provider will transparently
and automatically reroute the call so that you can keep talking without losing
your connection (or even hearing anything that makes you think you’ve
switched networks).
FMC, as we said, is the next big thing, but a few carriers are already offering
the service. In the U.S., T-Mobile (www.tmobile.com) is the first to offer an
FMC service to consumers. T-Mobile’s Hot Spot @ Home (www.theonly
phoneyouneed.com/) combines an FMC-capable (dual-mode cellular and WiFi) phone with your broadband Internet access and a Wi-Fi access point to
offer FMC service. (You can use your own AP or buy one through T-Mobile —
as we write, T-Mobile is giving away the router to promote the service!)
The Hot Spot @ Home service from T-Mobile has two levels. If you need only
improved coverage, you can pick up one of T-Mobile’s dual-mode phones
and use the minutes already in your plan for any calls you make from a
Wi-Fi connection. If you’re also trying to save money, you can add an unlimited calling plan — any calls in the U.S. are free when placed over the
Wi-Fi network. T-Mobile is currently charging $20 per month for the unlimited
calling service.
You can place (and receive) Wi-Fi calls from your home network and from
any of T-Mobile’s thousands of public hot spots. (We discuss these in
Chapter 16.) You can also make Wi-Fi calls from any other hot spot (though
T-Mobile doesn’t provide support for these calls if you’re having trouble
getting connected). T-Mobile’s phones work with WEP and WPA encrypted
Wi-Fi networks, but they don’t work with Wi-Fi networks that require a Web
browser to establish a connection or that use WPA-Enterprise (802.1X)
authentication. (Check out Chapter 9 if you’re unsure what all these
encryption acronyms mean.)
All the mobile operators are examining FMC solutions. When combined with
your Wi-Fi network and broadband Internet connection, FMC stands a good
chance of letting you say goodbye to analog phones forever.
Chapter 14
Other Cool Things
You Can Network
In This Chapter
Cruisin’ with wireless on board
Looking good on Candid Camera, 802.11-style
Controlling your home from the couch (or bed or backyard)
Talking to your robo-dog (and having him talk back)
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. After 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! Together, with the
gaming, A/V, and phone discussions in Chapters 11, 12, and 13, respectively,
you 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 (www.digitaldummies.com).
Making a Connection to Your Car
For many people, their cars are more than mechanisms to get them from
point A to point B. Some folks spend a considerable amount of time each day
commuting — we know people who spend one and a half hours in the car
each way in a commute. For others, like those with RVs, their vehicles
represent entire vacation homes.
If you think about the things you do in your car — listen to music, talk on the
phone, let your kids watch movies — they’re not all that different from things
you do around the house. Because your home’s wireless connection can
reach outside your walls and into your driveway or garage, your car can go
online with your home network and access data ranging from your address
book on your PC to your latest MP3s in your stereo. You can download them
to your car, thus simplifying your life and making the car truly a second
home. (No more calls home asking “Honey, can you look on my computer for
the number for . . . ?”)
Your car’s path to wireless enlightenment
Although you may think that wireless is a new topic for your car, your car has
been wirelessly enabled for years. Your car stereo gets wireless AM/FM signals from afar and, with the advent of satellite radio, now even farther than
ever. (See the nearby sidebar, “Satellite radio versus digital radio.”) Wireless
phone options — cellular and Bluetooth-based technologies — are quickly filtering into the car. (We discuss Bluetooth and cars more in Chapter 15.) And
then there’s the new wave of electronic toll systems that predominantly use
short-range wireless technology to extract from your bank account that quarter (or dollar) every time you cross a toll bridge. Wireless is all over your car,
but not centralized on any sort of wireless backbone like it is for your home.
Your car is also becoming more outfitted for computing and entertainment
devices and functionality as manufacturers add, as standard and optional
features, such items as CD and DVD playback systems, global positioning
systems (GPSes), and even computers to operate your car.
All this spells opportunity for wireless. Bluetooth and 802.11 technologies are
infiltrating the car and providing you with the opportunity to create the same
wireless backbone as in your home — a universal wireless network that any
device or function can access to talk to other parts of the car, such as your
stereo, and to points outside the car. In fact, your wireless home network
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
plays an important part in helping consolidate and integrate your car’s
wireless network with devices inside the car and to connect it with your
home’s network as these two areas converge.
The response has been a flurry of activity by auto manufacturers and others
to network enable cars with wireless phone, data, video, audio, and control
mechanisms that resemble the same efforts going on inside your house by
other consumer goods manufacturers. In fact, you’re starting to see entire
product lines that include home and car wireless network products.
For years, efforts to wirelessly sync the car to other places had been going full
steam ahead — that is, until the iPod came along. The iPod offers portability
of entire music collections in ways that had not been seen before, and the
focus shifted from trying to get music into your car wirelessly to just carrying
it into the car on your iPod. We think this is a temporary swing to an extreme,
and that the ideal solution is in the middle — a computer presence in the car
that can reach out and synchronize with the home, and yet have connectivity
to portable devices via Bluetooth, 802.11, and other technologies.
Yet portable devices (such as Zunes) aren’t going away anytime soon. The
best solution is not to build a bunch of different hardwired connections into
the car, but rather to build a car that can modularly accept them and make
the best wireless connection for the user. At the same time, we think that
network connectivity in car devices — whether it be Wi-Fi in the garage or in
an “information filling station” at your local drug store, or cellular broadband
data on the road — is absolutely the best way to go moving forward.
Although it’s tempting to focus on linking iPod and Zunes and cell phones
to your car, we think that approach is shortsighted. So we cover both
approaches, one with more of an eye to the future than the other.
Synching your car with devices in the car
By far the most common approach today to integrating music players and
other content devices to the car’s audio system has been through FM transmitters — small add-on accessories that take the output from the device’s
headphone jack and transmit it over an available FM frequency so your car’s
stereo can be tuned into it. Simple, quick, and cheap. Whether you’re talking
about an iPod, Zune, or other unit, you can find a range of FM transmitters for
$10 and up. Companies such as Griffin Technology (www.griffintechnology.
com) are known for their MP3 player accessories.
In the wireless realm, Parrot (www.driveblue.com) offers a number of retrofit
Bluetooth-enabled music controllers that capture the music sent by your
Bluetooth stereo mobile phone or MP3 player and redirect it to the vehicle’s
speakers (which automatically mute anything else playing). You can scroll
through the titles via a simple LCD screen that attaches to your dashboard.
The Parrot MK6100, for instance, is about $250.
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Satellite radio versus digital radio
Your wireless home isn’t always just about 802.11
technologies — other forms of wireless can
enhance your home, and satellite radio is one of
them, particularly for your car. If you’re like us,
you live where there isn’t a whole lot of programming you want to listen to. Check out satellite
radio, which offers a huge number of stations
(more than 100) beamed to your house or car from
a handful of geostationary satellites hovering
above the equator. We find a ton more diverse
and just plain interesting stuff coming across
these space-based airwaves than we find on our
local radio. Satellite radio services, from startups
such as XM Radio or SIRIUS, require you to
(gasp) pay for your radio (about $12.95 per month).
Check out the Web sites of the two providers (XM
Radio, www.xmradio.com; and SIRIUS, www.
sirius.com) to find the programming you prefer.
Then, get your hands on a satellite radio tuner.
(You can find a bunch of models listed on each
company’s Web page.) The majority of these
satellite tuners are designed for in-car use
(because people tend to listen to the radio most
while they’re driving), but XM Radio offers some
cool tuners (from Sony and Delco) that can do
double duty: You put these tuners in your car,
and when you get home, pull them out and plug
them into your A/V receiver or into a portable
boom box.
We like the Delphi XM SkyFi3 (http://
xmradio.com/shop — click the On the Go menu,
$159) which is an iPod-like portable XM receiver
that can also store as much as 10 hours worth of
XM content, so you can catch up on those car
hack shows you missed! XM Radio has also
launched a version of its service that wirelessly
transmits weather conditions to a specialized
receiver as well, although it’s expensive at $99 per
month. (For that price, you can get a good PDA
with wireless EVDO access from a carrier such
as Sprint, www.sprint.com, and get all the
weather plus Internet access — that’s probably a
better deal.) Within the realm of affordable luxuries, XM also offers live and up-to-date traffic
reports in many cities (the service works with a
number of built-in and aftermarket GPS navigations systems) for $3.99 a month on top of your
radio subscription.
Tip: Check out the annual pricing plans. You can
save a good deal of money by paying in advance
for a whole year. Also, each of these two satellite
radio companies offers family plans for multiple
receivers, where the price per extra receiver
subscription can drop to as low as $6.99 per
month — pretty good if you have lots of kids.
However, Sirius and XM Radio are considering
a corporate merger — if this is approved by
legislators, we’re not sure what will happen to
programming and pricing plans.
Now you may not want to spend the extra dollars
needed to get digital satellite radio into your car.
Lucky for you, a free over-the-air (broadcast from
terrestrial antennas) alternative known as HD
Radio (www.hdradio.com) is available. This is a
local broadcast service that allows local AM and
FM stations to broadcast a second channel using
a newer digital radio technology. As a user, you
get free reception and better audio quality (the
HD Radio folks claim that FM broadcasts will
sound as good as a CD, and AM broadcasts will
sound as good as regular FM broadcasts). A
number of car manufacturers are adding HD
Radio to cars at the factory (either as a standard
feature or as an option), and you can easily add
HD Radio to your existing car stereo (a number
of these solutions are listed on the HD Radio
Web site).
HD Radio is still new, but most big cities have a
dozen or more stations up and running. The great
thing about HD Radio (besides the free part) is
that it doesn’t interfere with traditional AM and
FM stations, so having an HD Radio in your car
just opens up the radio band to provide you with
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
more stations. And the digital transmission
system helps improve the transmission quality —
so you’re much less likely to have the signal fade
as you drive across town.
By the way, the neatest feature of HD Radio
hasn’t made it to the car yet (you can also buy inhome HD Radio receivers). This feature, called
iTunes Tagging, lets you press a “tag” button on
your HD Radio when you hear a song you like.
The tag is saved to your iPod, which is docked
in the HD Radio, so the next time you’re syncing
your iPod with your computer, you can purchase
the song from the iTunes Store. With the increasing number of car audio systems that can dock
an iPod, we expect that this feature will eventually make it into cars.
Another cool Parrot product is the RK8200 Bluetooth Car Stereo, a headend
unit that replaces your current stereo in your car but has a USB port, an
SD card reader, an line-in jack, an iPod connector, and A2DP Bluetooth
support — note no CD player. This revolutionary product has 2GB of onboard
memory (plus whatever you can add via the SD card port), enough for hundreds of songs. Even more, the faceplate comes off to reveal a compartment
where you can dock your iPod or cell phone for even more accessible content. The RK8200 costs about $240.
So you have plenty of options for retrofitting your car to work with your
gadgets. But what’s more interesting to us is where the new car models are
taking us. Ford, for instance, has unveiled its new Bluetooth-powered Sync
system, a Microsoft Auto software system that controls all sorts of in-car
audio equipment. Sync is powered by a small in-dash computer running
Windows Automotive, with 256MB of RAM and a 400-MHz StrongArm processor. It allows users to interface their mobile phone, music player, or digital
storage device with their Ford’s audio system. The devices will be controlled
by voice commands, steering-wheel mounted controls, or the car’s audio
controls.
You can use the car’s audio system to read back text messages sent to
portable devices. It will also synchronize your contact information from
devices, and will even be able to distinguish most ring tones loaded onto
mobile phones. You can even link to the car through a USB port for
recharging your portable devices.
Ford first offered the Sync system on the 2008 models of Focus, Fusion,
Five Hundred, Edge, Freestyle, Explorer, and Sport Trac; the Mercury Milan,
Montego, and Mountaineer; and the Lincoln MKX and MKZ. Ford says it will
put the system in all its future products as an optional accessory.
The move by Ford is an acknowledgment of the fast pace of the consumer
products industry. Instead of trying to create a leading edge dashboard
device that will be stale in a few years, they created an infrastructure that
enables software upgrades remotely but also allows car owners to link their
leading-edge devices into the car. Expect to see more of this approach as the
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car reaches out and uses other devices to bring flexibility and connectivity to
the car’s audio and visual entertainment infrastructure. Ford has a year-long
exclusive on this Microsoft technology in the U.S. market, and then it will be
available to other manufacturers too.
Synching your car stereo with home
The major area where 802.11 is just beginning to show up is in third-party
add-ons to the car — a typical precursor to manufacturers directly bundling
these add-ons into the car (in-car VCRs started the same way). One example
is in the A/V arena. We show in Chapter 12 how simple it is to synchronize
your audio and video server across the house and over the Internet — why
not with your car, too? (See Figure 14-1.)
A confluence of approaches are available, each struggling to win. Until
recently, the ability to store content in the car (as opposed to on devices you
take to the car, such as the iPod) has been frowned on by the same people
who sue college students for downloading songs for frat parties. However, a
new trend towards digital rights management (DRM) free content is making it
popular again to think about having a massive hard drive in your car that
synchronizes with the home whenever it’s in range.
Figure 14-1:
Linking your
car with
your
wireless
home
network is a
matter of
having your
car’s access
point or
wireless
client log on
to and sync
with the
wireless
home
network.
Auto-synchronization of audio files via wireless
Synchro
nization
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
Our favorite product for this was the Rockford Fosgate 802.11b-based car
product, Omnifi (www.omnifimedia.com), which was, sadly, sold only until
late 2005. Omnifi allows you to wirelessly transfer tunes from your home
PC to the car, where they can be played on your existing car stereo. The
Omnifi has an installable hard drive that can store as many as 20GB of files;
the home component is a stand-alone receiver capable of streaming media
dispatched from the PC (see Figure 14-2). We were sorry to see this product
taken off the market because it’s really the only (shipping) retrofit, autoupdating, automobile-based Wi-Fi wireless system we’ve seen. You can still
find it on eBay and in various online stores.
Omnifi eliminates the legwork (the need to burn CDs or load your iPod) to
listen to digital music in the car. It gives consumers the ability to download
and transfer music and programs from the Internet to the PC hard drive to
the consumer’s car and home stereo and theater systems — using wireless
technologies. You can also subscribe to services such as audiobooks, from
www.audible.com, so that you can listen to your favorite mystery book
while you drive down the road. iTunes work as well. Very cool.
Other vendors say that they’re entering the marketplace, so expect your car
to become a hot zone for wireless technologies soon. Delphi Corporation, a
well-known brand in car electronics, has been working with several partners
to bring home-car integration to the market. It has shown prototype Wi-Fi
enabled devices that sync with cable set-top boxes in your living room, and
is working to bring audio and video downloads to the car.
Figure 14-2:
The Omnifi
system in
your car!
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Another manufacturer, Z-App Systems (www.zappsys.com), announced a
home Wi-Fi audio system called the AL-1 in January 2007. The AL-1 (which
will have a list price of $499) is the centerpiece of a family of Wi-Fi music gear.
One part of this family, the MP-1, will bring your car into the Wi-Fi era by
automatically synchronizing a copy of the music stored on your AL-1 onto the
MP-1’s internal hard drive via the Wi-Fi connection. This system isn’t on the
market yet, and we don’t even know what the price will be, but it’s worth
keeping an eye on the Web site if Wi-Fi music is what you need for your car!
Other car manufacturers have likewise shown prototypes of various systems,
but the Omnifi remains the only mass market product we’ve seen that’s
explicitly designed for the home-car linkage. It remains your best bet, if you
can find one.
If you want to build a full-fledged car computer, check out the section later in
this chapter, “Getting online with your own car PC.”
Turning your car into a hot spot
In Chapter 16, we talk about cellular data services that you can access
with your laptop when you’re on the go — or from home if you’re sitting
on the couch. With unlimited data access, you can hop on the Internet anywhere. EV-DO is a popular data service offered by companies such as Sprint
(www.sprint.com) and Verizon (www.verizon.com); AT&T offers a similar
service called HSDPA (also discussed in Chapter 16).
Some brainy folks thought to marry these data services with Wi-Fi to create
instant Wi-Fi hot spots anywhere you want — in your car, on your boat, or in
the middle of a park. New devices called wireless WAN routers (where WAN
means wide area network) interface with your cellular data service on the
one hand and your Wi-Fi network on the other.
There’s no one name for these routers. You can also find them as EV-DO
routers, HSDPA routers, 3G routers, or wireless cellular routers — but not
wireless mobile routers — these are usually just Wi-Fi travel routers.
Consumer-grade versions are in the $200 to $300 range, and commercial
ones can cost more than $500.
You need to get the model that is compatible with your network provider.
Kyocera has an 802.11n version called the KR2 Mobile Router (www.kyocerawireless.com, $200) that supports EV-DO services with PCMCIA, ExpressCard,
and USB connections. D-Link has its 3G Mobile Router DIR-450 (www.dlink.
com, $200) for EV-DO as well, but at the time of this writing it was 802.11g.
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
The Linksys entry is an 802.11g-based WRT54G3G model (www.linksys.com,
$220). Most Wi-Fi router makers will have at least one wireless cellular router
in their product line.
Be sure to check the card compatibility chart online for any wireless cellular
router you purchase. It likely will not work with any card not explicitly on the
list, and similar model numbers also likely will not work. Wireless cellular
routers lag in support for the most recent cards, so if you buy a new card
from your carrier, it might not be supported for several months.
You might want Wi-Fi in your car without all the complications of router and
EV-DO service configuration. AutoNet Mobile (www.autonetmobile.com) will
soon be offering a consumer-friendly EV-DO Wi-Fi service as a complete
turnkey package (including the monthly EV-DO service). This self-contained
unit is plug and play — AutoNet Mobile acts as your service provider and
preconfigures everything so all you have to do is plug it into a DC power
supply (in other words, a cigarette lighter) in your car (and pay a monthly
fee) and you’re online with Wi-Fi.
AutoNet Mobile expects to launch their product/service combo to consumers
some time in soon. Initially, they are selling their product only to the Avis
rental car company for you to rent when you want Wi-Fi in your rental car as
well as in your hotel room.
What can you do with a portable wireless router? Just about anything you
want. Stick it in your car and you can have Wi-Fi access for anyone in your
car — and those around you. You can even have a virtual party with the cars
in front of and behind you, linked via Wi-Fi.
An enterprising guy named Mike Outmesguine decided to put one in his
backpack so he could always have a hot spot wherever he went. He and his
friends can play multiplayer games while sitting in the middle of a nice park,
courtesy of this solar-powered portable contraption. (How’s that for trying
to be the center of attention wherever you go!)
To build a Wi-Fi hot spot knapsack yourself, you need three major components: a wireless WAN router, such as the KR2 device; a cellular data
PC Card, such as the Sprint EV-DO PCMCIA Card; and a Voltaic Systems
solar-charging backpack or case (www.voltaicsystems.com, $200). That and
about $35 of additional items from Radio Shack, and you’re ready to hit the
trail wirelessly (see Figure 14-3). Check out Mike’s step-by-step Popular
Science magazine article:
www.popsci.com/popsci/how20/6a278ca927d05010vgnvcm1000004e
ecbccdrcrd.html
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Junction box
EV-DO card
Solar panels
Figure 14-3:
A wireless
WAN router,
a backpack,
and solar Power-adapter cable
power —
and fuse holder
the mobile
access
point.
1.2-amp-hour battery
Cigarette-lighter
adapter
Charge controller
Getting online with your own car PC
Pretty soon, downloading audio or video to the car won’t be enough — you’ll
want a full-fledged PC on board. Luckily for you, some cool, wireless-capable
auto PCs are now on the market.
With a PC in your car (we don’t recall seeing any of those plastic traffic signs
in any car windows saying “PC on Board” — do you?), you can mimic your
wireless home network in your car, almost in its entirety. You can sync with
your PC for audio and video to play over your car’s radio and video display
system. You can play computer games over those same systems. You can
access your address books and calendars, just like at your desk. You can
use wireless keyboards. You can link to your wireless cellular router to surf
the Internet.
Colloquially known as a carputer — a computer designed to be installed in a
car — these small-footprint devices use less power and are better prepared
for the rugged car experience. When we say small, we mean it: We’ve seen
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
them no bigger than a paperback book. After you install one, you use a wireless keyboard, touch-screen interface, remote control, and other similar
devices to run specific applications on your PC.
Carputers are definitely in the hobbyist stage, in the sense that you install
one and then keep adding devices. We’ve seen setups with Wi-Fi cameras,
multiplayer gaming, and other such fun stuff scattered throughout the car.
It starts with the basic unit, however, and you can find a couple of good
online sources for basic parts and systems: CarCPU.com (www.carcpu.com)
and MP3Car.com (www.mp3car.com). You can get additional accessories to
boost your enjoyment of your car PC. A wireless keyboard makes it simple to
interface with the PC for text-oriented tasks (as is common with kids’ games)
and for surfing the Internet. You can wirelessly connect to the Internet while
driving by using a cellular data PC Card, like the Sierra Wireless AirCard 750.
So, you can now pull up to a hot spot and log on. (Check out Chapter 16 for
more about hot spots.) Or autosync when you enter your garage. It’s just a
matter of time until your passengers can play games car-to-car with another
wirelessly enabled car while driving down the road.
Installing your car PC is both easy and hard. It’s easy in the sense that you
screw the unit to your car and run power to the unit. It’s hard in the sense
that other than the wireless connections, any connections to your car stereo
or video system may entail running wires, just like with the audio wireless
car servers we describe earlier in this chapter. After you have all this in
place, though, using a different application is just a matter of installing new
software on your car PC. It’s just like with your home PC: After you install
your printer, monitors, and all the other parts of the system, the hard work is
done. Just install new software to do new things.
What does it cost to try out a carputer? Beginner packages, which include a
computer, keyboard, dashboard mountable monitor, and miscellaneous gear
are less than $1,000. Then you install software from the Web; a wide range
is available, from free, program-it-yourself code libraries up to full-fledged
software and hardware packages like those from StreetDeck (www.streetdeck.
com), which run around $2,100.
Putting a PC in your car is a fun project. Once installed, you can do all
sorts of things with it. Many user interfaces replace the existing car stereo.
If you need to remove your car’s stereo system to do the install, we highly
recommend www.carstereohelp.com — with instructions for each car’s
make and model — to find out how to safely and correctly take your dashboard apart. Also check out the wiki on car computing at MP3car.com
(www.mp3car.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page), where you can find a great
overview of lots of resources for outfitting your car with tech gear. And the
forums at MP3car.com are a great place to ask questions.
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Networking your navigation system
In-car GPS navigation systems are one of the hottest areas in the consumer
electronics business. Car manufacturers charge premiums of $1,000 or $2,000
(or more!) for fancy integrated navigation systems that pick up your current
location (and other things such as which direction you’re heading and your
speed) and use a DVD database to map your location and provide you with
point-to-point driving directions, local points of interest (POI), and more.
Even more GPS navigation systems are sold as aftermarket add-ins to
the car, with manufacturers such as TomTom (www.tomtom.com), Garmin
(www.garmin.com), and Magellan (www.magellangps.com) each selling
millions of portable GPS systems every year.
Most navigation systems are not networked in a meaningful way — yes, they
pick up incoming radio signals from the GPS satellites, but they don’t have
real-time communications with a network to enhance their functionality. The
one exception here is the small (but growing) number of navigation systems
that can pick up real-time traffic information from sources such as XM Radio
(discussed earlier in the chapter).
Networking navigation systems makes a lot of sense because things change.
Perhaps the new shortcut road that wasn’t built when you bought your nav
system has been completed (this would save you a ton of time, if only your
nav system knew this and could route you accordingly), or a bridge is
closed for a six-month repair period (you wouldn’t have to turn around
and backtrack if only your nav system knew this), or you’re looking for a
Japanese restaurant, and you’d have to drive only 3 miles instead of 12
(if only your nav system knew about the new Bento Box joint that opened
up last summer). You get the picture — up-to-date information can make
a navigation system much more useful.
Manufacturers are adding some networking capabilities to their nav systems
in an offline way. Most portable nav systems can be plugged into your PC (via
a USB cable) to receive updated maps and POI listings on a periodic basis.
The folks at TomTom have taken this concept one step further in two ways:
By creating an online community called TomTom Map Share: Map Share
lets you feed your real world experiences (like that bridge that’s closed)
back into the user community. TomTom gathers this information and
provides updated map information that can be downloaded to your nav
system whenever you sync it with your PC.
By integrating with Google Maps (maps.google.com): You can search
Google Maps on your PC, and with a simple button-click send that
location to your TomTom navigation system. The next time you sync
your nav system, the destination will be there.
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
These offerings from TomTom are great, but they still require you to lug the
GPS system into your home to sync things, and they require you to think
about your navigation needs ahead of time rather than as events occur.
A new startup company in Silicon Valley called Dash Navigation
(www.dash.net) is bringing to market a two-way Internet connected navigation
system called the Dash Express. Dash Express uses a combination of Wi-Fi
and GPRS (a slightly slower but widely available cellular data system) to
create a navigation system that’s always up-to-date wherever you are. With
the two-way wireless Internet connection, the Dash Express can
Always be up-to-date: The system constantly receives updated map and
POI information over the Internet connection (Wi-Fi when at home, GPRS
on the road).
Tap into the gigantic database of maps and address that Yahoo! provides on the Internet: Dash Express lets you do live searches of Yahoo!’s
Local Search (local.yahoo.com) from the nav unit itself. You can find
POIs based on keyword searches, and even search for people’s
addresses and phone numbers.
Get real-time traffic data from “feet on the street”: This is perhaps
the most far-out aspect of Dash Express. Dash Express systems automatically tap into a real-time traffic network that feeds your own and all
other Dash users’ current location and speed information into an anonymous system that combines user data with other traffic data sources
to send updated traffic info back to your nav system. Ever hear an
announcer on the radio say, “the I-5 is clear throughout the county”
while you’re on the I-5 stopped dead? Dash uses this real-world driver
data to improve the traffic reports and keeps this from happening. (If
only they could just get rid of the traffic for us!)
E-mail your nav system: Because your Dash Express is on the Internet, it
has an e-mail address. Have somewhere you need to be this afternoon?
Shoot your Dash an e-mail before you get in the car, and that destination
will be loaded in the system waiting for you. You can even give out
the e-mail address to friends, so if your buddies change the restaurant
where you’re meeting them, they can send you the location while you’re
on the road heading there!
As we write, Dash Express isn’t on the market, but it’s on the way. You can
preorder the unit from Dash’s Web site for $599. The network subscription
will add another $12.95 per month, but we think that’s a bargain considering
the convenience the system will provide. (You can use Dash Express as a
stand-alone, non-networked nav system without the subscription, but the
real magic here is in the network connectivity.)
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Are navigation systems the hub of the car?
Earlier in this chapter we discuss the car PC —
it’s a neat way to add a lot of information and
entertainment (often called infotainment) features to your car. Of course, not everyone is ready
to put a PC in their car (at least not on their own).
If, however, you look at what car navigation systems can do today, you’ll see that a lot of what
you might want from a car PC is easily available
in today’s fancier navigation systems.
What can a nav system bring to your car? Well,
of course they bring GPS-based navigation
(they’d be pretty useless if they didn’t). They
also bring a nice big color screen (again, a
no-brainer). But what else is available in the
nav-based infotainment realm? Try these features
on for size:
Music servers: Many navigation systems
have hard drive or flash memory systems that
not only hold map and POI data but also provide room to store your own media. MP3 and
other music files can be synced to your navigation system when it’s connected to your
PC, and then played back in the car through
an FM transmitter or auxiliary audio connection into your car stereo.
Document viewing: A number of nav systems
can be uploaded with detailed travel guides,
reference materials, and even dictionaries.
Going on a trip? Upload a travel guide and
quickly pull up a description and guide to the
tourist highlights for your location!
Hands-free calling: Most nav systems,
beyond the least expensive, include a
Bluetooth hands-free phone system (like the
ones we discuss in Chapter 15). You can
leave your phone in your pocket and make
and receive calls using the built-in microphone on your nav system and either a
speaker built into the system or your car
stereo’s speakers.
Text messaging: A few navigation systems,
when connected via Bluetooth to your
mobile phone, can display incoming text
messages (SMS messages) on your navigation screen. Most systems don’t let you type
replies (for safety reasons), but this is a
great way to have your friends in the convoy
to the big alumni homecoming game let you
know they’re pulling over in two miles for
some BBQ.
Navigation systems may also have a built-in DVD
or other video player (MPEG, WMV), or even a
photo viewer so you can upload pictures of the
kids and have them up on the screen when you’re
not actively navigating. As we’ve mentioned, a
number of navigation systems can also receive
traffic information broadcasts and automatically
route you around the worst traffic (though if you
live in Southern California, like Pat, there’s really
no getting around traffic!).
What this functionality needs to become really
useful is network connection that brings a live,
real-time element into the equation. The Dash
Express system we discuss has this built in. We
suspect that other manufacturers will take
advantage of the Bluetooth connection to mobile
phones to add this functionality by simply taking
advantage of the fast 3G connection built into
many of today’s phones.
Choosing wireless gear for your car
The integration of external wireless connectivity options to cars is in its
infancy. However, if you’re shopping for auto-based audio and video gear,
look for the following:
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
PC Card (PCMCIA) slots: You get the ultimate in flexibility with PC Card
slots because you can put any card you want into the system. You
need these for connecting to your home when parked in the yard and
accessing the Internet when traveling. Ideally, you would have two PC
Card slots because it probably will be a while before many dual-mode
Wi-Fi/cellular cards are on the market.
FM modulator: Some systems have an optional FM modulator that
enables you to merely tune into an unused FM band in your area and
broadcast your music from the server to your stereo system. Because
some audio and video systems require you to have specific receivers
(that is, your actual audio component where you listen to the music) for
your car to make full use of the new functionality, it can get expensive to
install a system. FM modulators make it easy to put in a system without
changing out your stereo; you lose some of the onscreen reporting that
comes with a hard-wired installation, but you still get access to the
music (which is the important part). Many new iPod players use FM
modulation to link to your car.
Upgradeable storage hard disk space: Look for systems that allow you
to add storage space. Storage is getting cheaper and coming in smaller
form factors all the time. You probably want to keep adding storage
space as your audio and video collections increase.
Lots of interfaces: After your system is installed, you want to plug a
number of things into it. Make sure that you have a good supply of USB,
FireWire, Ethernet, PC Card, serial, and RCA ports. Also look for an
SD Card interface so you can easily transfer info and add storage if you
need to. You may have already installed a VHS tape deck or DVD player
in your car; if you did, you may be able to easily install an audio server
or a video server right beside it and use available In jacks on the video
player to feed your existing screen and audio system.
All in all, expect a wireless LAN in your car soon — it just makes sense.
“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, too —
this stuff used to be the exclusive domain of security installers. You can get
network-aware 802.11g videocameras 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.
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Network cameras are much more expensive than cameras you attach to your
PC 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-tilt-zoom capabilities and extra features such as two-way audio, digital zoom, and motion
detection ($200 is the average price for a well-equipped camera).
D-Link is the leading vendor of wireless-based video surveillance. It has a
special line of SecuriCam products designed just for surveillance, as well as a
large number of other wireless and wired network camera products. Its DCS6620G Wireless G 10x Optical Zoom Internet Camera (www.dlink.com, $700) is
on the higher end of their product line (see Figure 14-4). This 802.11g camera
has 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), and 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 14-4:
The D-Link
SecuriCam
DCS-6620G
wireless
network
camera.
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
Not to leave motorcyclists out!
The wireless bug is hitting motorcyclists too.
Leading motorcycle helmet designers are adding
Bluetooth to their products so that motorcyclists
can talk on the phone while they ride. If you’re a
cyclist and love your helmet now, you can get a
Bluetooth kit and just add it — it’s not that hard of
a project. The InterPhone hands-free and intercom Bluetooth helmet kit (from many online
shops such as www.cellularaccessory.com,
$135) can be used to provide Bluetooth in your
helmet (in fewer than five minutes, says the manufacturer). Parrot (www.driveblue.com) sells a
hands-free kit (SK4000, $150) that allows the
motorcyclist to place phone calls, listen to FM
radio, stream music wirelessly via a Bluetooth
stereo-enabled device, or transfer music via a
mini-USB cable. The SK4000 uses Parrot’s multiuser voice recognition software, which will recognize a contact’s name when you speak it and
dial the number automatically. Also, the Text-ToSpeech (TTS) voice synthesis feature on the
Parrot SK4000 reads contact names from the
user’s phonebook through the earpiece and will
also audibly identify radio stations to help the
driver select a station.
The other end of the pricing spectrum for D-Link is the DCS-G900 ($120),
which is an 802.11g-based camera offering simple, basic streaming video to
the Web. The image is static, depending on where you point and focus the
camera when you install it.
D-link has the best selection of wireless cameras — you can probably find the
perfect camera for your needs there.
Go to www.dlink.com/products/liveDemo/?model=DCS-5300W 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-C30A wireless network
camera (www.panasonic.com, $299) allows as many as 20 simultaneous viewers to see as many as 15 frames per second (fps) of live-motion video at 320 x
240. Resolution goes up to 640 x 480 at 15 fps. Through a Web-based interface, you can perform remote pan and tilt functions and click to eight preset
angles. Panasonic offers a stand-alone unit, the BL-WV10A TV Adapter ($499),
that will stream your Panasonic images to your TV set.
Love pets? Panasonic has been specializing in the remote pet experience
with a series of products marketed as petcams. For instance, its high-end
KX-HCM110A PetCam Network Camera with 2-Way Audio ($329) allows you to
see and talk to your pets from far away and see their reactions. (In truth, an
IP camera with two-way audio can do the same.) Panasonic also sponsors a
YouTube for pet lovers at www.seemypetcam.com. You can upload your pet’s
IP wireless camera videos for others to see!
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You can also get cameras from other players, such as Linksys (www.linksys.
com), Hawking Technologies (www.hawkingtech.com), and TRENDnet
(www.trendware.com). You will often find videocameras bundled into other
packages; Hawking’s Net-Vision HNC290G Wireless-G Network Camera ($115)
interworks with its Hawking HomeRemote Wireless Home Automation System
HRGZ1 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.
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.
Security varies tremendously among videocamera 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.
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 will 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.
One of the cameras we like is the Linksys WVC200 Wireless-G Pan/Tilt/Zoom
Video Camera (www.linksys.com, $270) because it shows the camera’s IP
address in an LCD on the front of the camera. This makes debugging and
setup issues easier. However, don’t pay for the Linksys SoloLink $19.95
DDNS service — check out free service such as DynDNS (www.dyndns.com/
services/dns/dyndns/) if Linksys is still charging for SoloLink when you read
this. The WVC200 also supports only WEP and WPA as of this writing, not
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
WPA2. While we prefer WPA2, WPA is more than adequate as far as network
security goes — we strongly recommend you skip over systems that only
support WEP.
Wondering about 802.11n? As we write, most of the IP cameras are still 802.11g
or b, but some n-based devices are coming on the market. SmartVue’s S4
product line (www.smartvue.com) sports an 802.11n chipset, but is pricey —
each professional grade camera retails at around $1,300. 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.
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 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.
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See me, feel me, hear me, touch me
Cool new handheld devices — namely, Web tablets and stand-alone 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.
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 8.4inch 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.
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 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
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
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 14-5). 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.
If you’re interested in home automation and linking the various aspects of
your home, try Smart Homes For Dummies, 3rd Edition (Wiley). It’s the best
book on the topic. (Can you tell that Pat and Danny wrote it?)
Figure 14-5:
Control4’s
wireless
touchscreen can
control all
sorts of
devices in
your home.
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.
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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 line of remotes
(www.logitech.com).
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 $500
remote provides all the high-end home theater remote control features you’d
ever want (including the ability to use macros, or 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 their own line of Z-Wave lighting control modules (manufactured for them 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.
Sit, Ubu, Sit . . . er, Speak!
Your wireless network can help with your pet tricks, too! Although we’re not
sure that this is what the pet trainer meant when she said that she would
teach your dog to speak, speak he can if he’s Sony’s AIBO robotic dog. For
seven years, Sony lead the market in robotic trainable dogs, until in 2005 it
“put down” the line in a cost-cutting move. We don’t usually write about
discontinued toys, but this one is so exciting (and still widely available on
eBay) that we decided to tell you about it.
Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network
Now you can say, “Beam me up Scotty!”
Every once in a while, technology meets our
imagination and you’re ecstatic. It didn’t happen
for us with any of the Star Wars light-saber
toys — “Lighted clear plastic tubes not laser
beam be,” as Yoda would say. Nor can any of the
existing robotic dinosaurs really shake the earth
yet like a true Tyrannosaurus Rex. (We actually
think this is coming soon: A life-sized Jurassic
Park has to appear sometime in the next
decade.)
But we were awed into silence with a working
Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) “communicator” that allows us to send and receive cellular phone calls. These are rare — each is custom
made from Star Trek toy parts by a guy who, at
the time of this writing, sells them only on eBay
for around $350. It pairs with any Bluetoothcapable phone, allowing you to make calls
like any member of the Enterprise crew. It even
is voice controllable — “Contact Starfleet
Command, Uhura!”
A button on the back turns it on/off, accepts and
rejects calls, and initiates voice commands. The
two buttons on the control panel, under the grill,
turn the volume up and down. The blue LED indicates pairing, the red LED indicates battery
status, and the green LED illuminates whenever
the grill is open. You get 8 to 10 hours of talk time
and 400 hours of standby.
But what’s really cool is that when you flip it
open, you hear the familiar grill opening chirps,
just like on the show! Star Trek purists will
be upset to know that the moiré in the middle of
the device does not spin. Apparently, it was
impossible to include the motor with the
Bluetooth electronics and speaker.
Working tricorders and communicator pins (Star
Trek: The Next Generation) must be right around
the corner. Sorry, these are available only in
Federation Territory. (We can hear the Klingons
shouting “ghuy’cha’” now!)
Don’t be misled and think of this as a cute expensive toy — this is one incredible robot. If you don’t know much about the AIBO, check out its Web site
(http://support.sony-europe.com/aibo/) to find out about this robotic puppy.
It’s neat how Sony has wirelessly enabled its robo-dog with an AIBO wireless
LAN 802.11b card. Your pooch roves about, constantly linked to your wireless
home network. With AIBO Messenger software, AIBO can read your e-mail
and home pages. AIBO tells you when you receive e-mail in your inbox. AIBO
reads your e-mail messages to you. (“Hey, Master, you got an e-mail from your
girlfriend. She dumped you.”) You can send an e-mail to AIBO asking it to
take a picture on demand and send it back to you via e-mail. AIBO can read
as many as five preregistered Web sites for you. And AIBO reminds you of
important events.
With AIBO Navigator software, your computer becomes AIBO’s remotecontrol unit. From the cockpit view on your PC, you can experience the world
from AIBO’s eyes in real time. (You know, there are just some things that a
dog sees that we would rather not see!)
Through the control graphical user interface on your PC, you can move your
AIBO anywhere you want. By using the sound transmission feature, you can
make AIBO speak from a remote location.
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We’re not sure that you’re ready to start telling people that your dog has
an SSID (“AIBONET”), but this is one good example of robots now using your
wireless home highway. Above all, make sure that you follow the security
suggestions we give you in Chapter 9. (Can you imagine taking control of your
neighbor’s unsecured AIBO — now, that could be fun!) You can find out
more about setting up an AIBO on your wireless LAN at the Web site listed
previously.
A mint condition, state-of-the-art, last-generation ERS-7M3 AIBO will run you
$3,000 or more, but if you want the cutting edge of wireless toys, you cannot
afford to be without an AIBO!
Wirelessly Connect Your Digital Cameras
When the first Wi-Fi connected 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 was not worth throwing away a perfectly
good working camera because we were lazy about cables.
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.)
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 are using your home’s Wi-Fi and Internet connections.
The Eye-Fi card uses 802.11g technology, so it is backward compatible to
802.11b and forward compatible to 802.11g supporting 802.11n devices. A 2GB
card costs about $99 retail — and 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. Just too great a product to resist!
Chapter 15
Using a Bluetooth Network
In This Chapter
Delving into Bluetooth
Enabling cell phone networking with Bluetooth
Getting Bluetooth on your PDA or PC
Discovering other Bluetooth devices
Learning 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, 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
(cell phones, laptop computers, handheld computers, and personal digital
assistants) and also as a technology for connecting peripheral devices 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 by 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 (Wiley Publishing, Inc.) in 1999. For a
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while, it seemed 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. Watch a few TV cell phone ads and you
hear the term — or check out the ads for new Lexus, Toyota, BMW, or Acura
cars, which have Bluetooth built right in for hands-free cell phone operation.
The most common use of Bluetooth these days is connecting mobile phones
to hands-free systems. You’ve probably also seen an even more popular
example of Bluetooth in action: the cool cordless Bluetooth headsets that let
you leave your phone in your pocket while making a call. Now you can finally
talk on the cell phone and use both hands to gesticulate!
Discovering Bluetooth Basics
Let’s 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 cell phone (and other telecommunications equipment) manufacturer
Ericsson was the first company to promote the technology (back in the
1990s, as we mention earlier), and other cell phone 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, the most common
variant of Bluetooth. (There are 1.2, 2.0 + EDR, and now 2.1 + EDR versions of
the technology, as discussed in Chapter 3. They’re compatible with Bluetooth
1.1 and add some additional features and performance.)
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:
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
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.)
The Bluetooth specification allows a maximum data connection speed
of 723 Kbps. A few of the most recent Bluetooth specifications can
go much faster (2.1 Mbps for Bluetooth 2.0 and 3.0 Mbps for Bluetooth
2.1, with a proposed Bluetooth 3.0 that can go up to 480 Mbps), but
many Bluetooth devices still use the slower speed specification — and
Bluetooth 3.0 won’t exist for a few more years. Compare this with the
248 Mbps of 802.11n. Bluetooth is much slower than wireless LAN
technologies for now.
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 Wibree 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 cell phone 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.)
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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 devices. Bluetooth (do they call it Bleutooth in France?) isn’t designed
to replace a wireless LAN. It’s designed to be cheaply built into devices to
allow quick and easy connections.
Some of the PAN applications that Bluetooth has been designed to perform
include
Cable replacement: Peripheral devices that use cables today —
keyboards, mice, cell phone 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 cell phones), 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.
Look for even more cool applications in the future. For example, Bluetooth
could be used to connect an electronic wallet (on your cell phone) 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 cell phone, and it would send a buck from your
electronic wallet to the machine and dispense your soda.
Another common future application may be customized information for a
particular area. Ever go to one of those huge conferences held in places like
Las Vegas? The booth numbers tend to go from 0 to 20,000, and the convention floor is about the size of 50 football fields — in other words, it’s difficult
to find your way around. With Bluetooth, you can simply walk by an info
kiosk and have a floor map and exhibitor display downloaded to your phone.
We’re hoping that this feature is in place next time we go to the Consumer
Electronics Show; we hate being late for appointments because we’re
spending an hour searching for a booth.
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
Bluetooth Mobile Phones
The first place where Bluetooth technology is taking off is in the cell phone
world. This statement probably shouldn’t be a surprise because Sony
Ericsson, a huge cell phone maker, was the initial proponent of the technology,
and other huge cell phone companies, such as Nokia, are also proponents.
Today just about every new phone being announced (except for the cheap-o
ones) included 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 cell phone, but the five most
common applications are
Eliminate cables: Many people use headsets with their cell phones. It’s
much easier to hear with an earpiece in your ear than it is to hold one of
today’s miniscule cell phones 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) and Jabra
(www.jabra.com), as well as from the cell phone manufacturers
themselves.
Synchronize phone books: Lots of us keep a phone book on our PC
or PDA — and most of us who do have been utterly frustrated by the
difficulty we face when we try to get these phone books onto our cell
phones. 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 cell phone and PC or PDA, the process can
be automatic.
Get pictures off your camera phone: Many new cell phones are camera
phones with a built-in digital camera. The cell phone companies promote this concept because they can charge customers for multimedia
messaging services (MMS) and allow people to send pictures to other
cell phone 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 cell
phone when he or she is within range — for free!).
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Go hands-free in the car: Face it — driving with a cell phone 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
here, and they let you use any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone 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 cell phone and laptop with Bluetooth, you can use
your cell phone as a wireless modem to connect to the Internet. With
most cell phone services, you can establish a low-speed, dial-up Internet
connection for some basic stuff (such as getting e-mail or reading
text-heavy Web pages). If your cell phone system (and plan) includes
a high-speed option (one of the 2.5 or 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 cell phones have Bluetooth capabilities but have been artificially
limited by the cell phone companies. For example, some Bluetooth phones
have had their software configured by your cell phone 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.
Bluetooth Smartphones and PDAs
In addition to cell phones, the other category of device that’s seeing a great
deal of action in the Bluetooth arena is the PDA category. The term PDA (personal digital assistant) encompasses a wide range of handheld computing
devices — and therefore, PDAs are also often referred to as handhelds.
The most common types of PDAs are
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
PDAs that use the ACCESS Garnet operating system (OS): These PDAs
run the Garnet operating system (formerly Palm OS) — which is an older
but still useful and user-friendly OS. You can find Palm PDAs on Palm
Computing’s Web site (www.palm.com) and also by searching the Web
site of ACCESS (www.access-company.com), the spin off that develops
the OS.
Handhelds that use the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system:
Windows Mobile handhelds are typically (though not always) a bit more
expensive and faster than ACCESS OS PDAs. The major manufacturers
of Windows Mobile systems include Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com),
Toshiba (www.toshiba.com), and Samsung (www.Samsung.com) —
even Palm makes a Windows Mobile version of its smartphone. In many
ways, down to the user interface, Windows Mobile models tend to
mirror Windows-based desktop and laptop computers in a smaller,
shrunken-down form.
Smartphones: As we mention earlier in this chapter, in the section
“Discovering Bluetooth Basics,” the line between PDAs and cell phones
becomes more blurry with each passing day, and in fact smartphones,
which combine a PDA and a cell phone in one device, are taking over
the PDA world. Companies such as Palm are building cell phones and
PDAs in one (the famous Treo phones), and other companies such as
Samsung (www.samsung.com) sell Windows Mobile–based combos.
Some smartphone devices use entirely different operating systems (such
as Symbian, Blackberry, or even the open-source Linux operating system
used on many business server computers). Even Apple is in the smartphone business with the release of the Apple iPhone. This multimedia
mobile phone device has not only Bluetooth but also Wi-Fi and EDGE
built into it. The iPhone uses an optimized version of the OS X operating
system. This phone generated so much hype that even though it’s less
than 1 percent of the smartphone market — which is less than a half
percent of the total cell phone market — we have to mention it here
because it’s just too cool to leave out.
Despite the variations among the PDA world, there’s also a commonality —
PDAs work much better as connected devices that can talk to computers and
other PDAs. And, because PDAs and cell phones are increasingly converging,
or taking on the same functionality, any of the applications we discuss in the
preceding section may come into play with a PDA.
In particular, the synchronization application we discuss in the preceding
section is especially important for PDAs because they tend to be mobile,
on-the-road-again (thanks to Willie Nelson) extensions of a user’s main PC.
Most PDAs now require either a docking cradle (a device you physically set
the PDA in, which is connected via a cable to the PC), or at least a USB or
another cable to synchronize contacts, calendars, and the like with the
PC. With Bluetooth, you just need to have your PDA in the same room as
the PC, with no physical connection. You can even set up your PDA to
automatically synchronize when it’s within range of the PC.
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Accordingly, we’ve begun to see Bluetooth functionality built into an increasing number of PDAs. For example, the newest Palm model, the Tungsten E2,
includes a built-in Bluetooth system, as does the Nokia N800 Internet tablet
(a handheld internet browsing device for when you just can’t be bothered
to turn on that computer).
You can also buy some cool Bluetooth accessories for handhelds. One big
issue with handhelds is the process of entering data into them. Most either
have a tiny keyboard (a thumb keyboard, really, which is too small for using
all your fingers and touch typing) or use a handwriting system, where you
use a stylus and write in not-quite-plain English on the screen. Both systems
can work well if you spend the time required to master them, but neither is
optimal, especially if you want to do some serious data entry — like writing
a book! In that case, you really need a keyboard. Check out the Freedom Input
Bluetooth keyboards (www.freedominput.com). These devices, available for
PDAs, Windows Mobile devices, and smartphones, are compact (some even
fold up) but give you a nearly full-size typing area.
If you already own a PDA and it doesn’t have Bluetooth built in, what can
you do? Do you really have to go and replace that old PDA with a new model?
Maybe not. Several manufacturers are selling add-on cards for existing PDAs
that enable Bluetooth communications. For example, Socket Communications
(www.socketcom.com) sells Compact Flash (CF) Bluetooth cards for Windows
Mobile PDAs. Speaking more generally, most PDAs and smartphones have a
memory card slot — SD, Compact Flash, or memory stick — that is most often
used to expand the amount of memory in the PDA but can be used for other
purposes. You can find Bluetooth cards in these memory card formats. With
the increasing number of devices already enabled with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it
will be harder and harder to find these memory card format wireless adapters
in the near future.
Getting a Bluetooth card installed and set up on your PDA is easy. The first
thing you may have to do is to install some Bluetooth software on your
handheld. If this step is required, you simply put the software CD in your PC
and follow the onscreen instructions, which guide you through the process
of setting up the software. After the software is on your PC, it should be
automatically uploaded to your PDA the next time you sync it (using your
cable or cradle). After the software is on your PDA, just slide the Bluetooth
card into the PDA. The PDA recognizes it, and then may guide you through
a quick setup wizard-type program. (Or it may not — this process is so
automated that you may not notice anything happening.) That’s it — you’re
Bluetooth-ed!
After you get Bluetooth hardware and software on your PDA, you’re ready to
go. By its nature, Bluetooth is constantly on the lookout for other Bluetooth
devices. When it finds something else (such as your Bluetooth-equipped PC
or a Bluetooth printer) that can “talk” Bluetooth, the two devices communicate and inform each other of their capabilities. If there’s a match (such as
you have a document to print and a nearby printer has Bluetooth), a dialog
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
box pops up on your screen through which you can do your thing. Pairing
Bluetooth devices is usually easy. In some cases (such as syncing mobile
phone address books with your PC), you need to finesse some software on
one side or the other. With a Bluetooth headset for your cell phone, for
example, you tell your phone to find the device. Then you enter a four-digit
code into your phone so it knows to talk to only that headset and the headset
knows it’s dedicated to only that phone. Although we find that pairing
Bluetooth is pretty simple, it’s always wise to consult the owner’s manual
and the Web sites of the software and hardware companies involved.
Check out the section “Understanding Pairing and Discovery,” at the end of
this chapter, for more details on making Bluetooth connections.
Other Bluetooth Devices
Cell phones 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).
Bluetooth is the same. Just connecting your PDA to your cell phone 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 — check out Telenav
(www.telenav.com) GPS navigation software and receivers from GlobalSat
(www.globalsat.com) — the value of Bluetooth becomes much clearer. In
this section, 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:
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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 DeskJet 450wbt printer ($349 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. 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. Belkin, for example, offers a Bluetooth printer
adapter, the F8T031 (about $75), that plugs into the USB port and
works with most inkjet printers.
Audio systems
An 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 cell
phone 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.
You may find Bluetooth audio devices in two distinct places:
Headphones: Many of us now carry iPods or other portable digital audio
players (MP3 players, as they’re commonly known) wherever we go.
You can identify us by our ubiquitous (at least among the 80 percent or
so of MP3 player owners who use iPods) white headphone cords snaking
up out of our pockets and into our ears. Well it’s time to cut that cord
too. With systems like the Jabra Wireless Headphones ($13, www.Jabra.
com), you can be up to 30 feet from your iPod while grooving to the
latest single from White Stripes. The Jabra BT620s system even includes
integrated controls so that you can not only listen but also adjust the
volume, pause, or skip to the beginning of Blue Orchid. It even works as
a headset for your music-capable smartphone and will stop the music so
you can 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
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
manufacturers make Bluetooth speaker systems that work with your
Bluetooth-enabled devices. Companies such as iBluon and Motorola
manufacture Bluetooth transmitters that take the signal from your
stereo’s headset Out jack. So cut the cord and still enjoy your music.
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 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). They are
slickly designed (of course — they’re from Apple!) and go for months on their
batteries without any cords.
If your PC isn’t already Bluetooth equipped, consider buying the Logitech
diNovo Media Desktop Laser (www.logitech.com, about $199). 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 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).
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Bluetooth adapters
A large number of laptops 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.
Figure 15-1:
The D-Link
USB
Bluetooth
adapter
is tiny —
about the
size of a
small pack
of gum.
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.
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
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
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 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.
Street prices for these USB Bluetooth adapters generally run under $40, and
you can find them at most computer stores (both online and the real brickand-mortar stores down the street). Vendors include companies such as DLink (www.dlink.com), Belkin (www.belkin.com), and Sony (www.sony.com).
Understanding Pairing and Discovery
A key concept to understand when you’re dealing with a Bluetooth device
(like a cell phone 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.
A typical Bluetooth cell phone 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 have turned
on the power.
Discoverable: With most Bluetooth devices (such as cell phones 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 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 RAZR 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.
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(Un)plugging into Bluetooth access points
Although most people use Bluetooth to connect
to devices in a peer-to-peer fashion — connecting two devices directly by using a Bluetooth airlink connection — in some situations you may
want to be able to connect Bluetooth devices to
your wireless home network itself (or to the
Internet through your wireless home network).
Enter the Bluetooth access point. Like the wireless access points we discuss throughout this
book, Bluetooth access points provide a means
of connecting multiple Bluetooth devices to a
wired network connection.
although your range is limited by the range of the
devices you’re connecting to the AP, which is
typically much shorter) and connect to your
wireless home network with a wired Ethernet
connection. The Belkin AP also includes a USB
print server, so you can connect any standard
USB printer to the AP and share it with both
Bluetooth devices and any device connected to
your wireless home network (including 802.11
devices — as long as your wireless home
network is connected to the same Ethernet
network).
Bluetooth APs, like the Belkin Bluetooth Access
Point with USB Print Server ($199), have a highpowered Bluetooth radio system (which means
that they can reach as far as 100 meters,
Moving forward, we expect to see access points
with both 802.11 and Bluetooth functionality built
in — multipurpose access points that can connect to any wireless device in your home.
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
hands-free cell phone 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 more than a thousand 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.)
We don’t totally leave you hanging here though. Here are some generic steps
you need to take:
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
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 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 asks whether you want to pair. For example,
if you press the button on your headset, your cell phone 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
Discovering public hot spots
Using hot spots from T-Mobile, Wayport, and Boingo
Tools of the hot spot trade
Staying secure
Connecting wirelessly on the road
Checking out what’s coming soon
T
hroughout this third 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 built a campuswide 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. Entire cities are beginning to go “unwired,” by setting up metropolitan Wi-Fi networks 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 we
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.
Finally, we talk in some detail about some of the bigger for-pay hot spot
providers out there and how you can get on their networks. The key thing to
remember about hot spots — the really cool part — is that they use 802.11
wireless networking equipment. In other words, they use the same kind of
equipment you use in your wireless home network, so you can take basically
any wireless device in your home (as long as it’s portable enough to lug
around) and use it to connect to a wireless hot spot.
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Discovering Public Hot Spots
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 hundreds 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 digital subscriber line 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).
Many hot spots now use 802.11g, though it’s not uncommon to still run
across 802.11b hot spots. As we write, no hot spots that we know of are using
802.11n (though we’re sure a café or two somewhere in the world have
upgraded). 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 should be able to connect. Note: If your laptop or handheld computer has an 802.11a-only network
adapter, you can’t connect to the vast majority of hot spots (we’ve never seen
an 802.11a hot spot). Luckily, most folks who have 802.11a in their laptops
have it in the form of a dual-band 802.11a/b/g network adapter, so they won’t
have problems connecting to an 802.11g hot spot. Head to Chapter 2 for
a refresher on the 802.11 Wi-Fi standards.
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
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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Going onto one of these not-really-a-hot-spot hot spots with your PC is an
iffy legal proposition. On the one hand, if you’re sitting somewhere (such
as in your home) and your computer automatically associates itself with
someone’s unsecured AP, there’s no real harm. But the jury’s still out if you
actively seek out and get onto someone’s unsecured access point that they
haven’t explicitly set up as a hot spot. A small number of people have been
arrested for theft of service, trespassing, and other charges for using someone’s Wi-Fi without permission. For the most part, these cases have revolved
around something else — for example, someone lurking in front of a home or
business with a laptop, or someone doing something illegal online over
another person’s network.
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 this section, 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.
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home
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.
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).
You 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 a few hundred feet with any kind of throughput. So, when
you get out of the city and into the suburbs and rural areas, chances are 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.
Although these lists are good, none of them is truly comprehensive because
many individuals who have open hot spots haven’t submitted them. If you’re
looking for a hot spot and haven’t found it through one of these Web sites (or
one of the many, many others online), try using one of the hot spot–finding
programs we discuss in the upcoming section “Tools for Finding Hot Spots.”
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.
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
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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 a day 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
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.
Pretty soon, you will even be able to (once again) plug into a Wi-Fi network
on an airplane. A few years back, Boeing (you know, the folks who make jets)
started a service called Connexion by Boeing, which was designed to provide
Wi-Fi service to plane passengers (connecting them to a satellite Internet connection). Unfortunately, the costs of this service far outstripped the revenues
gained from paying customers, and Boeing shut down the service. Well,
JetBlue airlines launched (in December 2007) a free Wi-Fi service on selected
flights, and a company called Aircell (www.aircell.com) has announced deals
with both American Airlines and Virgin America to provide Wi-Fi services
sometime in 2008. So stay tuned!
The single biggest 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, operate in competition 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.
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Opening up to your neighbors
When we say, “opening up to your neighbors,”
we’re not talking about group therapy or wild hot
tub parties. Wireless networks can carry through
walls, across yards, and potentially around the
neighborhood. Although wireless LANs were
designed from the start for in-building use, the
technology can be used in outdoor settings. For
example, most college campuses are now wired
with dozens or hundreds of wireless access
points so that students, staff members, and professors can access the Internet from just about
anywhere on campus. At UC San Diego, for
example, freshmen are outfitted with wireless
personal digital assistants (PDAs) to schedule
classes, send e-mails and instant messages, and
even find their friends at the student center (by
using a locator program written by a student).
Many folks are adapting this concept when it
comes to access in their neighborhood by setting
up community wireless LANs.
Some creators of these community LANs have
taken the openness of the Internet to heart and
have opened up their access points to any and all
takers. In other areas, where broadband access
is scarce, neighbors pool money to buy a T1 or
other business-class, high-speed Internet line to
share it wirelessly.
We think that both concepts make a great deal of
sense, but we have one warning: Many Internet
service providers (ISPs) don’t like the idea of you
sharing your Internet connection without them
getting a piece of the action. Beware that you
may have to pay for a more expensive commercial ISP line. Before you share your Internet connection, check your ISP’s Terms of Service (TOS)
or look at the listing of wireless-friendly ISPs on
the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Web page
(http://w2.eff.org/Infrastructure/Wireless_cellular_radio/wireless_friendly_isp_list.html). The
same is true of DSL, fiber-optic, and cable modem
providers. Your usage agreement with the
provider basically says that you won’t do this, and
ISPs are starting to charge high-use fees to lines
that have extranormal traffic (that is, those lines
that seem like a bunch of people on the broadband line are sharing the connection). One ISP
that not only allows you to share your Internet
connection by hot spot but also encourages it is
Speakeasy (www.speakeasy.net).
This situation is much different than the cell phone industry, in which you
can pretty much take your phone anywhere and make calls. The cell phone
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. However, a couple of trends will
help bring about some true hot spot roaming:
Hot spot aggregators, such as Boingo Wireless, are bringing together
thousands of 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 Wayport. 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. (We talk about both Boingo and Wayport
in more detail later in this chapter.)
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Cell phone companies are getting into the hot spot business. Led by
T-Mobile (which has hot spots in almost every Starbucks coffee shop),
cell phone companies are beginning to buy into the hot spot concept by
setting up widespread networks of hot spots in their cellular phone territories. Although these networks aren’t yet ubiquitous — the coverage
isn’t anywhere close to that of the cellular phone networks yet — they’re
getting better by the day.
Besides improving coverage and solving the roaming problem, commercial
hot spot providers are beginning to look at solutions that provide a higher
grade of access — offering business class hot spot services, in other words.
For example, they’re exploring special hot spot access points and related
gear that can offer different tiers of speeds (you could pay more to get a
faster connection) or that can offer secure connections to corporate
networks (so that you can safely log on to the office network to get files).
In the following section, we talk about some of the most prominent commercial hot spot providers operating in the United States. We don’t spend any
time talking about the smaller local hot spot providers out there, although
many of them are hooking up with companies like Boingo. We’re not down
on these smaller providers, but we’re aiming for the maximum bang for our
writing buck. If you have a local favorite that meets your needs, go for it!
Understanding metro Wi-Fi
A final category of Wi-Fi hot spot is the metro-wide hot spot (or hot zone) that
a number of cities have begun to launch. Cities as big as Philadelphia and San
Francisco and as small as Addison, Texas (population, 14,166), have or are
building metro Wi-Fi hot zones. (We’re sure that even smaller towns are doing
the same thing, but are flying beneath the press radar!)
A metro-wide hot spot is a city-wide network of access points connected back
to a broadband Internet connection. This network can be built for any
number of reasons, including:
As a network for the city/metro area government and public services,
providing Internet access on the go for police, fire, public works, and
other officials
As a means of providing broadband access to residents in their homes
(most common in areas where other broadband services are not widely
available)
As a public amenity to all (residents, visitors, and the like) for outdoor
access to the Internet
Finally, and most commonly, some combination of the preceding
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Metro Wi-Fi networks can be free, subscription based (for a fee), or (as is
often the case) a combination of the two. For example, many cities are
proposing a free advertising-supported low-speed service and a higher speed
service for a monthly service fee.
The main thing to keep in mind about metro-wide Wi-Fi networks is that
although they work technically (meaning, it’s possible to build the network
and run it successfully), the business case for such a network is often difficult
to make. Metro Wi-Fi networks are expensive to build and expensive to operate, and a number of cities have bit off more than they could chew and scaled
back their plans. The rise of high-speed broadband services from mobile
phone companies (3G services) has also made the need for metro-wide Wi-Fi
a bit less acute. In the long term, metro-wide Wi-Fi may never be as big or as
prevalent as folks thought it would be a few years ago. Even Google has
scaled back or slowed down their plans to build such networks for cities.
Using T-Mobile Hot Spots
The biggest hot spot provider in the United States — at least in terms
of companies that run their own hot spots — is T-Mobile (http://hotspot.
t-mobile.com). T-Mobile has hot spots up and running in more than 8,600
locations, primarily at Starbucks coffee shops throughout the United States.
T-Mobile got into the hot spot business when it purchased the assets of a
start-up company named Mobilestar, which made the initial deal with
Starbucks to provide wireless access in these coffee shops.
T-Mobile has branched out beyond Starbucks and is also offering access in
American Airlines Admirals Clubs in a few dozen airports as well as in a
handful of other locations. T-Mobile charges $29.99 per month for unlimited
national access if you sign up for a year and $39.99 monthly if you pay month
to month. If you have a phone from T-Mobile, you can add the unlimited plan
to your monthly bill for $19.99. You can also pay by the day (about $10) or by
the hour ($6 per hour).
T-Mobile also offers some corporate accounts (for those forward-thinking
companies that encourage their employees to drink quadruple Americanos
during working hours — Danny, are you listening?), prepaid accounts, and
pay-as-you-go plans.
To try out T-Mobile hot spots for free, register on the T-Mobile site, at
hotspot.t-mobile.com.
T-Mobile, like most hot spot companies, uses your Web browser to log you in
and activate your service. You need to set the service set identifier (SSID) in
your wireless network adapter’s client software to tmobile to get on the network. (Check out Part III of this book for information on how to do that on
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your laptop or handheld.) If you’re using a Windows XP or Vista PC, you can
also download a T-Mobile connection manager software client at
http://client.hotspot.t-mobile.com/.
One cool feature of T-Mobile hot spots is that they have begun to support
WPA and 802.1x security (refer to Chapter 9), so you can connect to them and
feel safe and secure about your wireless connections.
Using Wayport Hot Spots
Another big commercial hot spot provider is Wayport (www.wayport.com).
Wayport has made business travelers its number-one focus: The company
has more than 7,000 hot spots around the world. Besides just offering Wi-Fi
access, Wayport offers wired Internet access in many hotels and airports.
(You see Wayport Laptop Lane kiosks in many airports when you scurry from
your security strip search to the gate.)
Like T-Mobile, Wayport offers a range of service plans, ranging from one-time,
pay-as-you-go plans using your credit card to prepaid calling card plans. You
can sign up as an annual customer for $29.95 per month (if you sign up for a
year’s worth of service; otherwise, it’s $49.95 for a month-to-month plan) to
get unlimited access to any Wayport Wi-Fi location nationwide. Wayport also
offers corporate plans, so consider bribing your IT manager if you travel often.
Like T-Mobile, Wayport uses your Web browser to authenticate you and collect your billing information. You need to set your SSID to Wayport_Access
to get logged on to the access port.
Using Boingo Hot Spots
When Boingo (www.boingo.com) was launched in 2002, it made a big splash
because it was the first company to bring a solution to the hot spot roaming
issue. Boingo doesn’t own its own network of hot spots; instead, it has partnered with a number of other hot spot providers (including Wayport, which
we discuss in the preceding section). Boingo provides you, the user, with
some software, and gives you access to all the hot spots of its partners with
a single account, a single bill, and not much hassle on your part.
As of this writing, Boingo has more than 100,000 hot spots up and running on
its network. Like the other providers, Boingo offers monthly plans ($21.95
for unlimited access in North America, $39.00 for global access) as well as
pay-as-you-go plans and corporate accounts. (Keep buttering up your IT
manager!)
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The big difference between Boingo and most other services is that Boingo
uses its own software to control and manage the connection process. You
download the Boingo software (available for most Windows and Mac computers and also for Pocket PC handhelds) and use the software to sign on to a
Boingo hot spot. This arrangement allows Boingo to offer a more consistent
user experience when you roam around using its service. Boingo is also
taking advantage of this software to offer a Virtual Private Network, or VPN,
service for business customers. VPN is a secured network connection that
others can’t intrude on. (Refer to Chapter 9 for more information on VPNs.)
We talk a bit more about Boingo software in the following section because
you can use it to sniff out open access points, regardless of whether they’re
Boingo’s.
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.
Look for a 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.
Rely on your network adapter’s client software: Many network adapter
software systems give you a nice pull-down list of available access
points. 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. In this section, we describe sniffers from two
companies: Netstumbler.com and Boingo. (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.)
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We find sniffer programs to be handy because they’re a great way to take a
quick survey of our surroundings when we’re on the road. For example, Pat
was recently staying at a hotel that belonged to a chain partnered with
Wayport, but Wayport hadn’t officially started offering service yet — and the
hotel staff was clueless. No problem! A quick session using the Network
Stumbler software (see the following subsection), and — lo and behold! —
the Wayport access point in the lobby was up and running. With a quick flip
of the wallet (to pull out his prepaid card), Pat was up and running on
high-speed wireless Internet. Take that, dial-up!
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.
Netstumbler.com
The granddaddy of wireless network sniffer programs is Network Stumbler
(www.netstumbler.com), which is a Windows program (it works with
Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, and XP) that connects to the PC Card network
adapter in your laptop and lets you survey the airwaves for available Wi-Fi
access points. Network Stumbler lists all available access points and gives
you relatively detailed information about things such as the SSID and Media
Access Control (MAC) address of the AP, whether WEP is enabled, and the
relative power of the signal. You can even combine Network Stumbler with a
GPS card in your laptop to figure out exactly where you and the access point
are located.
Network Stumbler doesn’t work with every Wi-Fi card. You can find a list of
compatible cards on the Netstumbler.com Web site.
Figure 16-2 shows Network Stumbler in action in Pat’s house, tracking down
his two access points (and one of his neighbor’s APs, too!).
If you use a Pocket PC handheld computer, the folks at Netstumbler.com have
a program for you: Mini Stumbler, available at the same Web site (www.netstumbler.com). A similar program called MacStumbler (www.macstumbler.
com) is available for Mac OS X computers.
In fact, a growing number of these network sniffer programs are available,
and most of them are free to download. You can find a list at the Personal
Telco Project at http://wiki.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/WirelessSniffer.
Chapter 16: Going Wireless Away from Home
Figure 16-2:
Netstumbling Pat’s
house —
lots of
access
there!
Boingo
You can also use the Boingo client software (available at www.boingo.com)
as a network sniffer program (as long as you’re using a compatible operating
system and network adapter). The primary purpose of this software is
to manage your connections to the Boingo network, but Boingo has also
designed the software (and encourages the use of it) as a means of finding
and connecting to freenets and other public open networks.
You can even use the Boingo software as a manager for all your Wi-Fi network
connections. If you have a wireless network at home, one or more in the
office, plus some public networks you want to connect to, try out the Boingo
software. Figure 16-3 shows the Boingo software in action.
Figure 16-3:
Go! Go!
Boingo!
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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 be
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 (for example, T-Mobile
uses WPA and 802.1x authentication on their hot spots), 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 onto a “fake” hot spot with a similar SSID to the one you’re
trying to log onto. 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 into a T-Mobile hot spot. You log on and they capture
everything you do online (for example, online banking and Webmail passwords). Not a good situation.
You can do a few things to secure yourself in a hot spot environment. The
first (and best) is to use a Virtual Private Network (or VPN). Using a VPN in a
hot spot gives you three distinct benefits:
A VPN 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 end user.
A VPN 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) 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.
A VPN provides you 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.
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Securing your Wi-Fi with WiTopia
Our favorite hosted VPN service comes from the
folks at WiTopia, with their Personal VPN service. For $39.99 a year, WiTopia will secure 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.
A PPTP VPN, which uses the same technology used by many big corporations in
their VPNs. (PPTP stands for point to point
tunneling protocol.)
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 famous
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 and iPod Touch).
As we write, WiTopia is offering users a choice
of either VPN system for $39.99 a year, but eventually they plan to sell different versions of
Personal VPN at different prices for the PPTP
and SSL variants. Either way, it’s a good deal and
a great way to secure your network.
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.”
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 are 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!
You should also 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 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
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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 you use Google’s Gmail service (http://mail.google.com), navigate to the
site using https (in other words, go to https://mail.google.com) and you’ll be
securely connected to it.
If your ISP supports it, you can also configure your e-mail client to use a
secure login, so 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.”
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!
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), in music/video
players such as Apple’s iPod Touch and Microsoft’s Zune, and in VoIP and
Skype phones (as discussed in Chapter 13).
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:
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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.
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
Windows Mobile and Nokia Series 60 smartphones, as does Boingo’s
partner Skype (this software allows you to make free or inexpensive
calls using Wi-Fi rather than your cellular connection).
So the bottom line here is that you’ll need either 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 here, but, in fact, this is a major issue in the
hot spot industry today.
On the Go with EV-DO!
If you’re a wireless power user — and you tend to travel on the main thoroughfares and metro areas — you may be interested in another on-the-road
option (heck, you can even use it while you’re at home!) for wireless connectivity: wireless WAN services. These wireless wide area network services are
offered by cellular carriers in more and more places around the United States
as they build out their networks for the next generation of audio and video
(yes, TV on your phone) services.
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
1xRTT: Stands for single carrier (1x) radio transmission technology, a 3G
(third-generation) wireless technology based on the CDMA (code division multiple access, if you must know) platform. (1xRTT is also referred
to as CDMA2000.) 1xRTT has the capability to provide speeds of as
much as 144 Kbps (but usually in the 60 Kbps–90 Kbps range). Carriers
such as Sprint and Verizon offer this service.
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EV-DO: Stands for Evolution Data Only. This CDMA-based wireless data
platform, the fastest wireless WAN technology available on the mass
market, is capable of transmitting more than 2 Mbps, but typically is in
the 400 Kbps–700 Kbps range. It’s offered by Sprint and Verizon.
GPRS/EDGE: The competitor to CDMA is a European standard named
Group System for Mobile Communications, or GSM for short. The highspeed WAN version of GSM is called GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)
and is offered by AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States. GPRS is often
described as 2.5G — that is, a technology between the second (2G) and
third (3G) generations of mobile telephony. Although speeds can theoretically top 170 Kbps, a more likely range is 30 Kbps–70 Kbps — not that
fast. A slightly faster version, called EDGE, is widely available across the
United States as well.
HSDPA: The 3G variant of CDMA, as we mention earlier, is EV-DO; GSM
has its own 3G variant called HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet
Access). HSDPA offers download speeds as fast as 3.6 Mbps and is widely
available in Europe but less so (to date) in the U.S. AT&T has launched
the service in several cities and should eventually reach all its major
markets with the service (we’d guess by the end of 2008).
WiMAX: The up-and-coming wireless WAN technology is called WiMAX
(Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), which some people
believe could act as your home’s broadband connection, too, because
it can hit speeds of up to 70 Mbps! Wow, we can’t wait. Look for actual
services you can purchase based on WiMAX starting in 2008.
Using these data services on your laptop is easy. You just plug your PC Card
or Express card into your laptop (just like an 802.11 PC Card or Express card)
and launch your carrier’s cellular access program. You’re online, surfing away.
Wireless WAN chips are starting to ship in laptops now, in the same way that
Intel seeded the growth of the Wi-Fi space with 802.11 capabilities embedded
on the motherboard (with its Centrino products). So you can, if you want
to, order a Dell or Sony laptop with Verizon EV-DO on board (Wi-Fi too!) —
no hassling with PC Cards any more!
Of course it’s not just laptops that can utilize these services. Most new
phones (and all new smartphones) have at least a built-in 2.5G data capability.
Smartphones include e-mail client software, Web browsers, instant messaging
client software, and more. Plus, in many cases, you can connect your phone
to your laptop using a USB cable or a Bluetooth connection (see Chapter 15
for more on Bluetooth) and use the phone as a broadband wireless modem for
your laptop computer.
The biggest issues for these services are now cost (an unlimited plan sets
you back $60–$80 per month, and that’s on top of whatever you pay for your
mobile voice services) and availability (mostly in the major metro areas and
on interstate highways). Still, if you can get it, it’s great. We love our Sprint
EV-DO service!
Part V
The Part of Tens
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;
and ten way-cool devices that you will (eventually)
connect to your wireless home network; and ten sources
for additional info on wireless networking.
Chapter 17
Ten FAQs about Wireless
Home Networks
In This Chapter
Choosing the right standard
Considering draft versions of 802.11n
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 are 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). Here’s what we have put together (we spend the rest of the chapter
answering these questions, by the way!):
Which standard is right for me?
Should I invest in 802.11g or draft 802.11n?
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I can connect to the Internet by using an Ethernet cable but not by using
my wireless local area network (LAN). What am I doing wrong?
How do I get my video games to work on my wireless LAN?
My videoconferencing application doesn’t work. What do I do?
How do I secure my network from hackers?
What is firmware, and why might I need to upgrade it?
Isn’t Network Address Translation (NAT) the same as a firewall?
How can I find out my Internet Protocol (IP) address?
If everything stops working, what can I do?
If you don’t see in this list the particular question you’re asking, we recommend that you at least skim through 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 where in the book 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.
If you’re new to Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, this chapter is
a great place to start because you get a good overview to the things many
people ask (when they haven’t read the manual or this book!), and you can
get to some meat (we hope you’re not vegetarian!) of the issues surrounding
wireless. Don’t feel bad if you feel like you’re reading the book backward.
Just don’t read it upside down.
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.
Q: Which standard is right for me?
As we discuss in Chapters 2 and 4 (among other places), several standardized version of Wi-Fi wireless network exist: 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and
802.11n. When you shop for wireless networking equipment, you find that
the vast majority of wireless gear on the market is based on the 802.11g
standard. That’s a good thing because it makes it easier to choose gear —
we absolutely recommend that you choose equipment that’s compatible with
(and Wi-Fi certified for) 802.11n. Notice we did not say 802.11g (no, it’s not a
typo). 802.11n draft 2 equipment is fully compatible with 802.11g equipment
and will fully replace 802.11g within the next year or two.
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks
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 are not going to find more
speed or range than 802.11n draft 2 systems offer.
Q: Should I consider buying one of the enhanced 802.11g (Turbo,
MIMO, or Pre-N) systems rather than standard 802.11n?
Before the current draft 2 802.11n systems hit the market in 2007, most
manufacturers launched Wi-Fi products that were faster (and longer range)
than standard 802.11g systems and used proprietary (meaning not standardsbased) variations of 802.11g. These systems are often labeled with marketing
terms such as Turbo, MIMO, or something similar (every manufacturer uses
a different term) that indicates these are 802.11g routers on steroids.
We’ve used a number of these systems, and for the most part they work
well, when they are used in a network of the same equipment. In other words,
these systems work well in a network in which everything (routers, adapters,
and so on) is from that same manufacturer using the same proprietary
technology. These systems also work fine with standard 802.11g (or even
802.11b) equipment, but the full range and speed benefits are realized only
in a homogeneous network.
Our only problem with these systems comes into play when we look forward.
802.11n systems are now on the marketplace, offering similar or greater
speed and range benefits, and these benefits will work with any other 802.11n
certified gear, from any manufacturer. So if you choose an 802.11n system
instead of one of these proprietary systems, and then buy a new laptop next
year (with built-in 802.11n), you’ll be able to get the extra speed and range
on that laptop without buying any extra equipment (which may or may not
be available at that point).
We think that manufacturers are still selling enhanced 802.11g gear mainly to
continue supporting customers who’ve invested in these technologies over
the past few years. If you’re building a new network, it makes a lot of sense to
invest the small extra amount in an 802.11n system instead of in one of these
older systems.
Q: I can connect to the Internet by using an Ethernet cable but
not by using 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.
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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 have set up your AP in
stealth mode so it does not 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, most
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.”
Q: How do I get my video games to work on my wireless LAN?
This question has an easy answer and a not-so-easy answer. The easy answer
is that you can get your Xbox, PlayStation 2, or GameCube onto your wireless
LAN by linking the Ethernet port on your gaming device (if necessary, 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
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks
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 www.portforward.com. Check it out!
Q: 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.
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 becoming popular.
Still, if you have 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.
Q: 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
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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 does not mean you are 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
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.
Q: 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 DLink 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!
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks
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 will 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.
Q: 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 are 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.
Q: 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.
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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
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://192.168.1.100. 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 XP, you can find your computer’s private IP address by
choosing Start➪Run. When the Run dialog box pops up, type cmd and then
click OK. In the window that opens, type ipconfig at the command prompt
and then press Enter. You see your IP address and a few other network
parameters.
If you have Windows Vista, you can find your private IP by clicking the
Windows icon (where the Start button used to be in Windows XP), choosing
Control Panel, and then choosing Network and Sharing Center. In the Network
and Sharing Center, you can access your network status, which will give you
your IP address. Keep in mind that Vista security is different from Windows
XP. You need to have Administrator access to be able to get to the Network
and Sharing Center.
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, whatismyip.com).
Chapter 17: Ten FAQs about Wireless Home Networks
Q: 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 situation. But what happens if you have tried everything
and it’s still a dead connection — and tech support agrees with you?
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 have 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
Boosting your signals
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.
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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.
Perhaps hardest of all is making sense of performance issues — the
subject of this chapter. First, you can’t get great performance reporting from
consumer-level 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-anderror, 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-and-true tips because we have 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” sidebar to see
what we mean.)
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 will probably forget about it — people
often do. APs can often be moved around and even shuffled aside by subsequent gear. 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.
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance
Check the obvious
Sometimes, what’s causing you trouble is something simple — which you can fix simply. 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 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 next-door
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 one-step solutions, such as changing channels, 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. (If changing channels solved the
problem, someone nearby was probably using
the same channel, and you can then start tracking down who that is!)
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 draft 2.0 standard
dynamically switch channels when there’s too
much interference. The 802.11n equipment we
have seen does not 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 248 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 248 Mbps but you’re getting only 100
Mbps, consider yourself lucky — very lucky.
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Speed: What to expect
Many of the newest technologies use multiple
methods to greatly increase the effective
speed and range of wireless connections.
Unfortunately, much of that speed boost can
be lost if you’re in an area with lots of radio
interference. If you have lots of noise in the area
or many networks fighting for open channels, the
base speed of what you’re using — 54 Mbps
for n and 11 Mbps for g — is the best you can
hope for.
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° angle, to increase a more vertical
signal — that is, to send more signal to the upstairs and downstairs and less
horizontally.
Change Channels
Each access point broadcasts its signals over portions of the wireless
frequencies 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
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance
products support only 8) nonoverlapping channels. The 802.11n draft 2.0 proposal uses the same 11 channels as 802.11g at 2.4 GHz and the 12 channels of
802.11a at 5 GHz in the United States, again with overlapping channels.
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-frequency 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 802.11g PC
Card works with another vendor’s 802.11g access point — 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 n operate in the same frequency range, and therefore have
some potential for interference. Because 802.11a and 802.11b, g, and n operate
in separate frequency bands, they’re less likely to be exposed to interference.
Some issues also exist with how the different standards are implemented in
different products. Some APs that support 802.11g and n, for example, really
support one or the other — not both simultaneously. If you have all g in your
house, that’s great. If you have all n, that’s great. If you have some n and the
access point detects that g is in the house, it could downshift to g rates.
You may be all set, but then your neighbor upstairs may buy a g network
adapter (because you’ve said “Sure, no problem, you can share my Internet
connection.”). He’s not only freeloading, but he also could be forcing your
whole access point to shift down to the lower speeds.
To be fair, many of these very early implementation issues have gone away
while vendors refined their solutions. Check out how any multimode access
point that you buy handles dealing with more than one variant of 802.11 at
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the same time. Most newer APs compartmentalize their signals so that they
can allow the faster 802.11n signals to connect at full (or nearly full) speed,
while still allowing older 802.11g signals on the network, which is very nice
and almost necessary.
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 draft 2.0
products use special radio transmission techniques that help focus the signal
into the areas containing your wireless client devices. These aimed 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.
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
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance
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.
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.
A signal booster was supposed to improve the range of your access point.
The 802.11g products now typically have a range of 100 to 150 feet indoors
mainly because 802.11g products operate at a relatively low frequency.
802.11a products have an even shorter reach — up to 75 feet indoors —
because the higher frequencies that 802.11a use lose strength faster with
distance than do the lower frequencies used by 802.11g. The 802.11n
products from companies such as Belkin reach at least another 25 to 50 feet,
and many products using MIMO also achieve better range.
The signal range of the APs now on the market is steadily increasing because
manufacturers are creating more efficient transceiver chipsets. We recommend reading the most recent reviews of products because products truly
are improving monthly.
You can still find signal boosters for sale on eBay from companies such as
Linksys, which sold the WSB24 Wireless Signal Booster that piggybacked
onto a Linksys wireless access point (or wireless access point router).
Signal boosters have pretty much been discontinued, and even though your
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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If you happen to come across one of these — or someone gives you one —
you should know that signal boosters are mated devices, which means
they’re engineered for specific products. Vendors have to walk a fine line
when boosting signals in light of federal limits on the aggregate signal that
can be used in the unlicensed frequencies. For example, the Linksys Wireless
Signal Booster was certified by the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) for use with the WAP11 Wireless Access Point and BEFW11S4 Wireless
Access Point Router only. Linksys says that using the WSB24 with any other
product from either Linksys or another vendor voids the user’s authority to
operate the device.
The main reason that companies such as Linksys sold their signal boosters
for use with only their own products is certification issues. The FCC has to
approve any radio transmission equipment sold on the market. A great deal
of testing must be done for a piece of gear to get certified, and the certification testing must be done for the complete system — and vendors usually do
this expensive testing only with their own gear.
As some reviews have pointed out, however, you could use the WSB24 with
any wireless LAN product that operates in the 2.4 GHz band — notably,
802.11g products. You couldn’t use it with 802.11a or any dual-band 2.4/5 GHz
products; its design couldn’t deal with the higher frequency.
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.
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.
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance
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
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.
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. We talk earlier in this book
(refer to Chapter 2) 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.
Not many stand-alone repeaters are on the consumer market. However,
what’s important for our discussion is that repeater capability is finding its
way into the AP firmware from many AP vendors. A wireless AP repeater
basically does double duty — it’s an AP as well as a wireless connection back
to the main AP that’s connected to the Internet connection.
Meraki Networks (meraki.com) has created the Meraki Mini ($50), the ultimate smart AP. If you use one connected to an Ethernet connection from your
wireless network, you get a simple wireless AP running 802.11b/g. You add
another unit by plugging it into an electrical connection within range of the
first unit. The second unit will find the first and, using a sophisticated mesh
routing technology, will increase the range of the first AP and increase the
capacity as well. Meraki is selling these supersmall APs (about the size of a
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deck of cards) for communities. While you can buy a couple for yourself, they
want to sell these to whole neighborhoods so you and your friends can build
your own wireless mesh network. At its most basic level, a repeater simply
regenerates a wireless network signal to extend the range of the existing wireless LAN. You set the two devices to the same channel with the same service
set identifier (SSID), thus effectively broadening the collective footprint of
the signal.
If you have throughput performance issues because of interference or reach,
putting an AP into repeating mode may help extend the reach of your network.
However, it’s not clear that adding a repeater helps actual throughput in all
situations, unfortunately. 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). Others note that the repeater must
receive and retransmit each frame (or burst of data) on the same RF channel,
which effectively doubles the number of frames that are sent. This effectively
cuts throughput in half. Some vendors have dealt with this through software
and claim that it’s not an issue.
It’s hard at this juncture to make a blanket statement about the basic effectiveness of installing an AP in repeater mode, particularly versus the option
of running a high-quality Ethernet cable to a second AP set on a different
channel. If you can do the latter, that’s preferable.
When you’re using the bridging and repeating functions of APs and bridges,
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.
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.
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Troubleshoot Wireless LAN Performance
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. If you have an 802.11n or g network operating at home on the 2.4 GHz band, consider one of the newer 5 GHz cordless
phones for your house. 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.
At the end of the day, interference from sources outside your house is probably your own fault. If your neighbor asks you how your wireless connection
works, lie and tell her that it works horribly. You don’t want your neighbor
getting one and sending any stray radio waves toward your network. Do
the same with cable modems. You don’t want your neighbor’s traffic slowing
you down because it’s a shared connection at the neighborhood level.
Interference is a sign of popularity — it means that lots of other people have
caught on. Keep it your little secret.
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Chapter 19
More Than Ten Devices to
Connect to Your Wireless
Network in the Future
In This Chapter
Singing in the shower (and hot tub) with wireless tunes
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 more than just networking your home computers. In
Chapter 10, we talk about adding various peripheral devices (such as a
printer) to your home network. In Chapters 11 and 12, we talk extensively
about all the gaming gear and audiovisual equipment that you would want
to hook into your wireless home network. In Chapter 13, we talk about using
newfangled phone gear over wireless networks. In Chapter 14, you hear
about lots of things you can connect today, ranging from cameras to cars.
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.
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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
coming years that they will infiltrate your home. Like the Borg says on Star
Trek, “Prepare to be assimilated.”
Your Bathtub
Yup, wireless toys are everywhere now, having traversed their way into the
innermost sanctuary of your home: the bathroom. We’re not talking Psychotype shots of people in the shower — we’re interested in how to get audio,
video, and data into the bathroom so that you can enjoy your privacy even
more than you do today.
Not too many homes are wired for computer and video in the bathroom.
(We’ve even seen a creative retrofit solution from Google, jokingly launched
on April Fools Day — the Google TiSP service, www.google.com/tisp/index.
html). Wireless may be the only way to get signals — like a phone signal —
to some of these places. We have seen wireless-enabled toilets (don’t ask)
and all sorts of wireless controls for lighting in the bathroom to create just
the right atmosphere for that bath.
It’s the wireless enablement of the bathtub itself that gets us excited. Luxury
bathing combined with a home entertainment bathing center in one outfitted
bathroom set is probably the ultimate for a wireless enthusiast.
Jacuzzi (www.jacuzzi.com) is the leader in this foray. They have 42-inch
plasma TVs in hot tubs and LCDs in the shower. These days, Jacuzzi sells the
only wireless waterproof remote control (Aquasound) we’ve seen, but it’s
what comes with the remote control that gets us. The Jacuzzi Affinity hot tub
(Figure 19-1) comes standard with a built-in stereo/CD system, complete with
four speakers as well as an integrated 9-inch television. The multichannel unit
is waterproof and includes a remote control. Cable ready, this feature allows
you to enjoy the morning news or your favorite movie. A digital control panel
offers easy access to the whirlpool operation, underwater lighting, and
temperature readout. Talk about wired! All these features cost a mere $12,919
retail, but you can find it for a street price of a mere $7,000 or so. Oh, and you
get the hot tub part too — three fixed back jets per person and five fully
directional jets around the perimeter.
The problem is that most homes aren’t wired for audio or video in their bathroom. That’s where your wireless home network comes into play. You can use
the same wireless A/V extension devices used to link your PC and your stereo
system to reach into the bathroom and bring your Affinity online.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
Figure 19-1:
The Jacuzzi
Affinity hot
tub can
add to your
home’s
wireless
entertainment.
You can also get wireless speakers designed for the humidity and temperatures found in the bathroom — note that they’re water resistant, not waterproof, so don’t expect to drop them in the water and have them work. You
can, though, check out underwater speakers, like those from Lubell Labs
(www.lubell.com).
You can creatively get wireless into your bathroom in other ways, but you
have to be careful about humidity and exposing electronics directly to water.
Check out what this bloke did in his bathroom: www.chasingparkedcars.
com/bathroom/index.html. We think that there will be more and more retrofit
electronics for the bathroom over time, making it easier to add a TV to your
shower, for instance. The electronic technologies are changing too fast to
embed them into devices such as showers that will be around for 20 years.
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 14, we discuss the range of aftermarket devices you
can buy now that provide 802.11-based connectivity between your home’s
wireless LAN and your car, whenever it’s in range. (We guess that makes your
garage a really big docking station!)
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OnStar calling
Car manufacturers are sensing a business
opportunity in 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 cell phone calls with the
system, but also get GM to unlock your car
doors. It’s a factory-installed-only option, so you
can’t get it if it’s not 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. 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/us_
english/jsp/idemo/index.jsp.
Because most cars already have a massive computing and entertainment
infrastructure, reaching out and linking that infrastructure to both the
Internet and your wireless home network is simply a no-brainer.
A wireless connection in the car enables you to talk to your car via your
wireless network. Now, before you accuse us of having gone loony for talking
to our car, 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 802.11g-enabled handheld computer, surf
to your car’s own 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.
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.
Your car could also talk to other cars. If all cars were interconnected, information could be daisy-chained from car to car, alerting users of obstructions
in the road or braking ahead. (Of course, this would never be used to alert
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
people that police speed traps are ahead!) Expect cars to become outfitted
with at least a Wi-Fi bridge on board as a standard offering, driven in part
by the increasing availability of Wi-Fi at the city level and at hotspots. The
same capabilities that would allow a car to log into a citywide Wi-Fi network
would also enable cars to establish peer-to-peer networks, communicating
constantly. Once car-to-car communications are established, group viewing,
talking, and listening can’t be too far away. That’ll make those college road
trips to the beach more interesting! Products such as Pepwave’s CarFi
(www.pepwave.com) have no wide area data connections (like the mobile
routers we discuss in Chapter 14). They just do Wi-Fi well.
Look for the following near-term applications for wirelessly linking your car
to your home:
Vehicle monitoring systems: These devices — usually mounted under a
seat, under the hood, or in the trunk — monitor the speed, acceleration,
deceleration, and various other driving and engine performance variables so that you can determine whether your kids are racing down the
street after they nicely drive out of your driveway. When your car is
parked in your driveway, the information is automatically uploaded to
your PC over your wireless home network.
Devices such as Davis Instruments Corporation’s DriveRight (www.
davisnet.com, $375) and RoadSafety International’s RS-1000 Teen Driver
System (www.roadsafety.com, $295) can link to your home’s network
via any USB wireless client device.
E-commerce: It’s iTunes meets Wi-Fi — you hear a great new song on
your radio. Maybe you didn’t catch the artist or song title. You push the
Buy button on your audio system, which initiates a secure online transaction, and a legal copy of the song is purchased and downloaded to
the car at the next wireless hot spot your car senses. From now on, you
can listen to the song over and over again, just like you would with a CD.
When you get home, you can upload it to your home’s audio system.
Currently there are home HD Radio systems (see Chapter 14 for more on
HD Radio) that can support this functionality with an attached iPod and
the Apple iTunes Store — we expect that this functionality will move to
the car before too long.
Remote control: Use remote controls for your car to automatically
open minivan doors or turn on the lights before you get in. A remote
car starter is a treat for anyone who lives in very hot or cold weather
(get that heater going before you leave your home). Fancier remote
controls, such as the AutoCommand Remote Starters and Security products from DesignTech International (www.designtech-intl.com, around
$200), have a built-in car finder capability as well as a remote headlight
control. AutoCommand can be programmed to automatically start your
vehicle at the same time the next day, at a low temperature, or at a low
battery voltage.
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Okay, so these aren’t necessarily new and don’t require a wireless home
network. But when you can use wireless networks to connect these
devices to the rest of your home’s other systems, you can start experiencing a whole home network. Imagine using that wireless connection
to link to your home automation system, such as the one we discuss in
Chapter 14. When you utter “Start the car,” the system communicates
with the car and gets it into the right temperature setting — based on
the present temperature outside (it gets its readings from its Davis
Instruments backyard wireless weather station (www.davisnet.com/
weather/products/index.asp).
Look soon for neat combinations between car monitoring systems and the
Bluetooth capabilities on cell phones to be able to distinguish which phones
(and therefore which people) are traveling around in your car!
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 — back in June 2000 (see Figure 19-2). 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 touch screen that serves as a TV
monitor, computer screen, stereo, and digital camera all in one. You can call
your refrigerator from your cell phone, 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.
As of this writing, LGE sells a next-generation multimedia refrigerator (model
LSC27991, $3,800) that is more like a TV that happens to have a refrigerator
behind it. The refrigerator has two screens, one in each door, and is wirelessly enabled for weather alerts (powered by Ambient Devices’ wireless
alerting network technology; see the sidebar “The wireless orb knows all”).
However, all TV and DVD connections are standard wired connections.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
Figure 19-2:
The first
LGE Internet
refrigerator
was
wirelessly
enabled.
Samsung (www.samsung.com/us/) has the RH269LBSH Digital Network
Refrigerator, which is equipped with Internet access, a videophone, and a
TV. In addition to storing food, consumers can send and receive e-mail, surf
the Net, and watch a favorite DVD by using the refrigerator’s touchscreen
control panel, which also serves as a detachable wireless-enabled handheld
computer. Pretty neat.
All this is still pricey though — you may spend $4,000 or more on an Internet
refrigerator. Sadly, due to this high cost and other reasons, these connected
home appliances have not 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.
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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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 their product offerings. They
offer 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 their
ability to do this is their 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!
Your Entertainment Systems
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. Read on for
some examples of how this will happen.
Wi-Fi networking will be built
into receivers and TVs
Hewlett-Packard has released a Wi-Fi ready television. The HP MediaSmart TV
(www.hp.com) is a high-definition LCD TV with wireless Ethernet capabilities
on board. Through this television, you can access CinemaNow (www.cinema
now.com) and Live365 (www.live365.com) to download movies and music
instantly. You can also use an HP Snapfish account to store photos online and
have them play directly on the TV anytime. Other TV vendors are rushing to
offer Internet-connected TVs as well, with the ability in some cases to insert
a CableCARD to supplant your cable TV box. Expect to see Internet connectivity to be standard soon in most higher-end TVs. As an interim step, Sony
offers an external device called the DMX-NVI BRAVIA Internet Video Link
(www.sony.com, $299). This device (which needs a Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge to
go wireless, see Chapter 12) provides a mechanism to access a variety of
Internet content on your shiny new BRAVIA LCD HDTV. We expect Sony to
move this functionality into the TV eventually and to add a fast 802.11n
wireless connection as well.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
Other gear in your home theater is also going wireless. For instance, Denon
(www.denon.com) has its AVR-4308CI Advanced 7.1 Channel Home Theater/
MultiMedia A/V Receiver with Ethernet networking and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi on
board. The Wi-Fi not only gives you access to streaming media but also lets
you log in remotely to your receiver.
802.11n, which we cover in detail in Chapter 2, has been designed specifically
to support multimedia networking among all the devices in the home. We
expect to see this become standard in at least midrange and high-end A/V
gear in the next few years.
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 is not 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
WiHD products will hit the market sometime in 2008. Gefen, for instance, has
its Wireless HDMI Extender (www.gefen.com, $699), offering transmission of
high-definition video (for you video geeks, the system supports up to 1080p
at 30 fps, or 1080i at 60 fps, at distances up to 33 feet). Gefen does compress
the signal, using lossy JPEG 2000 compression, and the resulting image quality will be less than that of wired HDMI. However, until there’s more experience with the product in the field (in different wireless environments), we
won’t know how much is lost. For $699, we’re counting on it being minimal!
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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.
The wireless cable experience is not limited to HDMI though. We expect
to see short-distance, high-capacity wireless technologies actually 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 is new is the bevy of musical gear that is coming on the market, 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 it a step higher by taking the
four key instruments one needs to make a band (guitar, bass, drums, vocals),
and builds them into a highly playable (and addictive) game. Each person
plays their respective role in the game, using their wireless instruments, and
drums, strums, bangs, and yells their way into rock history. As we write, the
first versions of this game are coming out for the latest gaming platforms,
such as the PS3 and Xbox 360, but PC versions are expected as well. It’s only
a matter of time before you are virtually playing 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.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
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.
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, $290). 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 this fence, you’re
alerted immediately and sent the continuously updated location of your
pet to the two-way wireless device of your choice — cell phone, 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!
The 802.11 technologies are making their way into the pet-tracking arena as
well. Several companies are testing prototypes of wireless clients that would
log onto 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
NAN — neighborhood area network — one of whose benefits is such continual
tracking capability for pets.
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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 glow-inthe-dark light bulbs that still provide luminescence after they’re turned off — that’s
emergency lighting! For your wireless fancy,
all sorts of articles on new wireless wares
appear each week; just be prepared —
many are available only in Asia. Rats!
Engadget (www.engadget.com): 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!
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
Machines Robomow robotic lawnmower relies on hidden wiring under the
ground (www.friendlymachines.com, $1,100 to $1,500).
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.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
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.
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’ cell phones. 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 have 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.
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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,
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.
For years, we watched Sony’s cute Aibo robotic dog go through seven generations of development, evolving into a wireless-enabled, 1,000-word barking
companion that was simply fun to play with. Then the disastrous news hit
that Sony had canceled the product for good. As we write, there are rumors
of a PlayStation-enabled Aibo, the Aibo PS. The Wi-Fi capable AIBO PS would
be completely controllable through a Sony PSP or PlayStation 3. Search
online when you read this and see whether this rumor became reality. If so,
you’d have a lot of fun with this new Aibo in your home.
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 PDA?
No problem: Just stick it in your pocket. All sorts of companies are working
on waterproof and washerproof devices for wirelessly connecting to your
wireless home network. Burton (the snowboard people) and Motorola have a
line of Bluetooth-enabled jackets called Audex (direct.motorola.com/ens/
audex/default.asp, $350). The Audex Motorola Jacket series sports built-in
Bluetooth wireless stereo speakers and a wired iPod connection — so it’s up
to you whether to listen to tunes or answer incoming calls. Dada Footware
has launched its wireless Code M shoe line (www.dadafootwear.com, $199)
that stores music and workout coaching and plays it either out loud or via
Bluetooth to wireless headsets. We have even seen jackets that display
advertisements on their backs and T-shirts that show the strength of any
Wi-Fi wireless signal available (www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts/generic/991e/).
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).
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
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.
Once they’re found, some sort of reward may be
there; the only rule is that if you take something
from the cache, you 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.
A technology of great impact in our lifetime is GPS, which is increasingly being
built into cars, cell phones, devices, and clothing. GPS equipment and chips
are so cheap that you will 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 cell phones, 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.
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 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.brick
housesecurity.com/vbsik.html, $200) and a GPS Kid Locator Tracker
Backpack (www.spyshops.ca, $900).
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Note that there is 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 cell phone
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
802.11-based 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.
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
(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 wearables.engadget.com.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
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 talked a little
bit about ZigBee and Z-Wave, two wireless technologies that are hitting the
market today 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.
Where you’ll use ZigBee and Z-Wave
Low power means short distance. It also means small. You’ll be using 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 or not 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 are 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.
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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
energy-savings 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!
Introducing Wibree
A new, even lower-powered (think watch batteries, not AC power) technology
is arriving that can embed wireless control and networking in anything:
Wibree. Think of Wibree as a low-power option for Bluetooth; Wibree and
Bluetooth technology are complementary technologies. Wibree even 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 Wibree is
designed for applications where ultra-low-power consumption, small size,
and low cost are needed. So Wibree in many cases picks up where Bluetooth
leaves off.
Whereas your cell phone might talk to your car via Bluetooth, your car keys
might have Wibree inside them. That way, when you lose your keys, you can
search the house for them by querying Wibree gateways to see if anyone
detects them.
Bluetooth and Wibree are wireless personal area networks (WPANs) with a
star topology, and thus are 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 Wibree?
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: Wibree-driven sensors can be built into stand-alone healthmonitoring devices that can send vital health-related information (blood
pressure, glucose level) to Bluetooth-Wibree dual-mode devices (such as
mobile phones and personal computers), which can process this information and send alerts to the mobile phones of patients and caretakers.
Chapter 19: More Than Ten Devices to Connect to Your Wireless Network
Office and mobile accessories: You can use Wibree’s small size and
ability to extend battery life in office and mobile accessories. These can
also use Wibree 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 Wibree’s sensor technologies to interact with
one another.
Watches: Watches and wrist-top devices can use Wibree 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-Wibree dual-mode implementation, where Wibree
functionality is integrated with Bluetooth for a minor incremental cost by
utilizing key Bluetooth components. Examples of devices that would benefit
from the Bluetooth-Wibree dual-mode implementation are mobile phones and
personal computers.
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Chapter 20
Top 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-todate 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.
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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 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 wireless.cnet.com, the CNET editors provide feature stories focused on
wireless use in practical applications. Overall, we visit this solid site often
before buying anything.
CNET, like many other sites, now supports RSS feeds. If you don’t know
about RSS, you will soon: 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 NewsGator Online (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. By the way, the Google of the RSS world is the Syndic8 (www.syndic8.
com) site. There, you can find a massive listing of user-submitted and
Syndic8-authenticated RSS feeds. Just enter your keyword in the Search area
and Syndic8 displays all the listings of available publications and sources
with that phrase in their descriptions. Check it out!
Chapter 20: Top Ten Sources for More Information
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 these sites that will help you in your purchase and evaluation of wireless technologies. Amazon.com will show you
multiple pictures — usually the front and back — that you can use to see
what sort of LEDs, LCDs, and ports you are getting. 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 is not always a good indicator of quality. All three
sites will 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 may have heard about Weblogs, or
blogs: They’re link-running, rambling commentaries that people keep online
about topics near and dear to their hearts.
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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.
Check out these other Weblogs about wireless topics: FierceWireless
(www.fiercewireless.com) and Daily Wireless (www.dailywireless.org). By the
way, almost all Weblogs 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 be subscribing to this magazine.
We really like the First Look 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. PC Magazine is usually one of the
first to review these products.
A one-year subscription (25 issues) runs only $20. You can subscribe to
either electronic or print issues, which is nice if you want to catch up on your
reading on the go but don’t want to carry a bag of publications.
PC World (www.pcworld.com) is likewise a great resource. We’d be hardpressed to say whether it’s better or worse than PC Magazine — the
reviews, articles, and overall networking coverage are definitely as good in
either magazine.
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
Chapter 20: Top Ten Sources for More Information
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 ten 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!
Its 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. 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.
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 visit the OS, Software and Networking area, 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.
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Part V: The Part of Tens
Fan sites
All the wireless products seem to have their own
sets of fans. Some fans go a little further and set
up Web sites geared toward telling all about their
favorite products. The most popular brand of
wireless gear has long been that made by Linksys
(now a division of Cisco, the huge networking
equipment vendor). So it’s no surprise that Linksys
gear comes with its own unofficial support site,
with forums, tips and tricks, and even links to specialized firmware that can make your access
point do neat tricks, such as act as part of a mesh
network to expand the coverage of your Internet
connection across several access points. Check
out the site at www.linksysinfo.org. If you have a
different brand, don’t despair. Do a Google search
or check out some of the sites listed in this section for forums or vendor-specific pages, or go to
www.broadbandreports.com and look in the
Hardware by Brand forums there.
Network World
Network World (www.networkworld.com) is the leading publication for
networking professionals, and although this site is geared primarily to 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) is not 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: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi
Wireless access points: n.wikipedia.org/wiki/Access_Point
IEEE 802.11n: 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.
Chapter 20: Top Ten Sources for More Information
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!
SearchMobileComputing.com: 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 (formerly WECA): www.wi-fi.org
WiMAX Forum: www.wimaxforum.org
Wireless LAN Association: www.wlana.org
Roaming services and Wi-Finder
organizations
As we mention in Chapter 16, a range of potential services is available that
you can use to log on when you’re on the road. Most of these have sections
of 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
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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!):
3Com: www.3com.com
Actiontec: www.actiontec.com
Alvarion: www.alvarion.com
Apple: www.apple.com/airportextreme
Belkin: www.belkin.com
Buffalo Technology: www.buffalotech.com
Cisco: www.cisco.com
D-Link: www.d-link.com
Hewlett-Packard: www.hp.com
Intel: www.intel.com
Intermec: home.intermec.com
Linksys: www.linksys.com
Macsense: www.macsense.com
Microsoft: www.microsoft.com
NETGEAR: www.netgear.com
Proxim: www.proxim.com
Sierra Wireless: www.sierrawireless.com
SMC Networks: www.smc.com
Index
• Numerics •
1xRTT wireless WAN service, 313
100BaseT network, 14
802.1x security standard, 177–178
802.3af (Power over Ethernet standard), 105
802.11 standard, 44–45
802.11a standard
about, 20
advantages over 802.11b, 45–46
channels used with, 121, 330–331
signal range, 333
802.11b standard, 20, 45–46
802.11g standard
about, 20
AirPort Express compatibility with, 149
channels used with, 121, 122, 330
as current standard, 46
enhanced, comparison with 802.11n, 319
sample network budget, 93
signal range, 333
video streaming, adequacy for, 225–226
802.11i standard, 106, 168. See also Wi-Fi
Protected Access
802.11n draft standard
802.11g enhanced, comparison with, 319
about, 20
AirPort compatibility with, 144–145
Apple computers supporting, 145–146
channels used with, 121, 122, 329, 331
device drivers, 134
equipment certification under, 98
equipment supporting, 100
features and improvements in, 47–48
impetus for, 226
range, of access points using, 107
sample network budget, 93
signal range, 333
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridges, 210
802.11x networking, 21
802.15 standard, 282
802.15.4 standard, 66
911 calls (on VoIP), 245
1000BaseT (gigabit Ethernet), 14
•A•
access point (base station)
adding, to improve coverage, 334–335
AirPort Express. See AirPort Express
antenna. See antenna
Bluetooth, 294
as bridge, 30
choosing, 24–25, 76–77, 95–110
cost of, 90, 92, 96
firmware upgrades, 126
installation. See access point installation
(Windows)
interference from, 79–80
locating, 77–83, 329, 331
managing, 108–109
modem combination, 77
network identification, 37–38
operating modes, 39–40
operational features, 104–105
parameters, 119–120, 120–124
print server bundled with, 104
purpose, 36
radio signal. See radio signal
receive sensitivity, 41
router. See router
security, 38, 77, 106–107
transmission power, 40–41
wall mounted, 78
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge as, 210
access point installation (Windows)
about, 113–114
configuration, changing, 120–124
preparation for, 115–117
process for, 117–120
Activision wireless guitar, 348
ad hoc mode, 39–40
368
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
adapter. See also network interface adapter;
Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter
analog telephone adapter (ATA), 243, 251
cost of, 25, 92
internal, 34
link test function, 141–142
media adapter, 226, 227, 228–231
memory card wireless adapter, 36
Peripheral Component Interconnect
(PCI/PCIx) adapter, 26, 35, 132–133
telephone adapter, 243
Add Printer Wizard, 194–195
Administrators group, 189
Advanced Encryption System (AES), 38, 167
Affinity hot tub (Jacuzzi), 340, 341
AIBO robotic dog (Sony), 278–280, 352
airlink security, 93, 162–163
AirPort Admin Utility (Apple), 149–150, 153,
156, 173
AirPort card (Apple), 34, 144–145, 146,
154–155
AirPort Disk (Apple), 147
AirPort Express (Apple)
configuring, 150–152
features, 147–149, 233
media adapter, 226
AirPort Extreme (Apple)
802.11n Enabler for Mac, 145
computers supporting, 145–146
configuring, 150–152
ease of use, 95, 115
802.111n compatibility, 144
features, 147
setup software, 124
AirPort hardware. See also AirPort Extreme
about, 144
AirPort card, 34, 144–145, 146
AirPort Express, 147–149, 150–152
base stations, 147
AirPort system
additional computers, connecting, 153–154
AirPort Setup Assistant, 150–152
Bonjour, automatic networking with, 202
configuring, 149–152
firmware, upgrading, 153–154
non-Apple computers, adding, 156–157
AirTunes (Apple), 149
AL-1 audio system, 264
always-on Internet connection, 87
Amazon.com, online music store, 240
Ambient Devices, 346
analog telephone adapter (ATA), 243, 251
antenna (of access point). See also radio
signal
about, 40–42
changing, to improve throughput, 332–333
detachability, 105
gain, 41, 42
moving, to improve throughput, 330
networking cards’ use of, 146
signal shape, 83
signal strength, 41, 79–82, 142
types, 41
antivirus software, 93, 129, 161
AOL (America Online), 150, 151, 247
Apple. See also entries beginning “AirPort”;
Macintosh computer
AppleTV, 149
iPhone, 287
iPod, 259
appliance, wireless-enabled, 344–345
application-triggered port forwarding, 219
Applied Digital Solutions, 354
ATA (analog telephone adapter), 243, 251
ATI, Radeon HD 3850 gaming card, 205
attenuation. See radio signal strength
Audex Bluetooth-enabled jackets, 352
audio files, bandwidth requirements for
distributing, 225–226
audio systems, Bluetooth-enabled, 290–291
audio throughout house, 16
AudioReQuest music server, 195, 233
Audiovox Terk, 239
AuraGrid Wireless Extension system, 63
authentication (pairing). See encryption and
authentication
automatic network connection, with Wireless
Zero Configuration, 136
automobiles. See car-based wireless system
AutoNet Mobile, 265
AVR-4308CI Advanced 7.1 Channel Home
Theater/MultiMedia A/V Receiver
(Denon), 347
•B•
backpack-based portable hot spot, 265–266
Baldwin Piano, 348–349
Index
bandwidth. See throughput
bandwidth monitor, 130
base station. See access point; AirPort
Express; Airport Extreme; router
bathroom, wireless equipment in, 340–341
battery life, of Wi-Fi- VoIP phones, 249, 251
Belkin
Bluetooth Access Point with USB Print
Server, 294
N1 Vision access point, 115
benefits, of home networking
audio throughout house, 16
file sharing, 10–11
home arcades, 15
home wireless cam accessibility, 16
Internet connection sharing, 12–15
peripheral sharing, 12
phone calling for free, 15
printer sharing, 11
wireless on the go, 16
BL-C30A wireless network camera
(Panasonic), 273, 274
blocking utilities, 106
Blu-ray, 207
Bluetooth
about, 52–53
access points, 294
adapters, 60, 292–293
audio systems, 290–291
Bluetooth profile, 54–55
connection types, 55
frequency bands, 56–57
gaming controllers’ use of, 204
integration into wireless network, 58–60
keyboards and mice, 291
mobile phones, 285–286
for motorcycle helmets, 273
name, origin of, 282
network speed, 57, 61
overview, 282–284
pairing and discovery, 293–295
personal digital assistants, 286–289
piconets, 54–55
print server, 294
printers, 289–290
product examples, 52–53
products Web site, 58
purpose, 53
security, 56
standards, 57
throughput, 55–56
ultra wideband, 61
uses, 284
versions, 57
Wi-Fi, comparison with, 53–54
Wibree, comparison with, 356
Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Inc.,
52
Boingo Wireless, 303, 306–307, 309
Bonjour (Rendezvous, Apple networking
system), 202
bridge (for network)
about, 30, 208
access point as, 30
powerline networking, 63
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, 207–210, 216, 233–234
Briere, Danny (author)
Home Theater For Dummies, 235
Smart Homes For Dummies, 281
Wireless Hacks and Mods For Dummies, 178
broadband (high-speed) Internet service, 12,
87–88
broadband router, 76, 102–103
broadband wireless modem, 13
budget for wireless network. See also cost
access points, pricing, 90, 92
sample, 93
wireless network adapters, 92–93
Buffalo Technology, LinkStation Network
Storage Center, 29
building materials, influence on signal
strength, 82
•C•
cable, for network connection, 14
cable/digital subscriber line (DSL) router,
14, 77
cable modem, 13, 14
camera, 16, 60, 280
camera phone, 285
capacity. See bandwidth; throughput
captive portal, 248, 313
car-based wireless system
Bluetooth in, 58–59
equipment for, 270–271, 342–344
hands-free cell phone use, 286
HD Radio, 260–261
369
370
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
car-based wireless system (continued)
navigation system, networking of, 268–270
PCs for, 266–267
stereo, synching with home network,
262–264
synching with devices in, 259, 261–262
wireless connections with, 258–259
Car Profile Working Group (Bluetooth SIG),
58–59
CarCPU Web site, 267
carputer, 266–267
Category 5e/6 UTP cable, 14
CD server, virtual, 195–196
CDMA phones, 254
Cell Fusion DECT 6.0 phone (GE), 255
cell (mobile) phone
about, 241–242
Bluetooth-enabled, 58, 59, 285–286
extenders, 254
Cellular Jewelry, 354
cellular router, 264–265
certification of equipment, 97–99
Chambers, Mark L. (author)
Mac OS X All-in-One Desk Reference For
Dummies, 181–182
channel bonding, 100, 122
channel (for network)
about, 38
automatic selection, in access point, 104
changing, to improve throughput, 330
data speed maximization, 122
802.11a standard, 121, 330–331
802.11g standard, 121, 122, 330
802.11n draft standard, 48, 121, 122, 329, 331
frequency bands, relationship to, 44
with multiple access points, 334–335
child safety systems, 353
cipher. See encryption and authentication
client adapters. See AirPort card; PC Card
client computer, 28, 29–30
clothing, wireless-enabled, 352–354
coaxial cable, 63
Code M wireless-enabled shoes, 352
codec (encoder/decoder), 243, 250
community local area network, 303
compatibility
of equipment, 99
of network standards, 75
computer. See Macintosh computer; PC
ConcertMaster (Baldwin Piano), 348–349
connection sharing, 12–15, 88–89
connection type (Bluetooth), 55
construction materials, influence on signal
strength, 79, 82
control module, 67
control networking, 51, 64–67
Control4 home controller, 276–277
convergence, computer-entertainment, 223
cordless phone, 337
cost
802.11n equipment, 48–49
access point, 90, 92, 96
equipment, 21
Ethernet cables, 73
gaming adapter, 209
gaming consoles, 206
network interface adapter, 25, 92
price comparison Web sites, 109
print server, 86
router, 89
wired network, 17
wireless compared with wired network, 27
coverage (of radio signal). See radio signal
range and coverage
cracker (hacker), 160
Creative Technologies, 205
Crestron touch panel system, 276
customer and technical support, for
equipment, 110
•D•
D-Link
DCS-5300G wireless camera, 30
DCS-G900 security camera, 273
DDNS service, 274
DGL-3420 wireless 108AG, 209
DGL-4500 Wireless Gaming Router, 215
DWL-G820 Wireless Ethernet Bridge, 233
Gamer-Lounge Web site, 209
IP surveillance program, 272
powerline Ethernet adapters, 63
SecuriCam products, 272
Dada Footwear, 352
Dash Express (Dash Navigation), 269
data services (EV-DO), 264–265
Index
data speed (throughput). See also speed (of
network)
advertised speeds, comparison with, 329
Bluetooth, 55–56, 57, 61
with combination a/b/g/n access points, 92
DS2 Powerline network, 62
802.11a standard, 45
estimating, 48
HomePlug network, 62
improving, 327–337
maximizing through channel use, 122
network standards, relationship to, 21, 75
powerline link, 62
for video streaming, 225–226
Wi-Fi, comparison with Bluetooth, 52, 53, 56
wired network, comparison with wireless
network, 16, 18
Z-Wave networks, 66
ZigBee networks, 66
DCS-5300G wireless camera (D-Link), 30
DCS-6620G Wireless G 10x Optical Zoom
Internet Camera (D-Link), 272
DCS-G900 security camera (D-Link), 273
DDNS (dynamic DNS service), 274
dead zones, 77. See also radio signal range
and coverage
decryption. See encryption and
authentication
DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless
Telecommunications) technology,
251–252
Deep Surplus Web site, 117
default settings, 170–171, 325
Delphi
home-car integration devices, 263
XM Sky Fi3 receiver, 260
demilitarized zone (DMZ, for gaming),
220–221
Denon home theater equipment, 347
desktop (of computer), themes, choosing,
183
Details view (Windows Vista), 183
device driver, installing, 128–130. See also
print driver
devices. See equipment
Devicescape, 249
DGL-3420 wireless 108AG gaming adapter
(D-Link), 209
DGL-4500 Wireless Gaming Router (D-Link),
215
DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)
server
about, 24
choosing, 101–102
description, 29
as feature of access point, 76
use in access point setup, 116
dial-up modem, 13
Digital Enhanced Cordless
Telecommunications (DECT), 251–252
Digital Music System (Sonos), 234–235
digital rights management (DRM), 231, 240
digital video recorder (DVR), 237
dipole (omnidirectional) antenna, 40, 41
directional antenna, 41
directory services (VoIP), 244
DirecTV, 238
discoverable settings (Bluetooth), 293
display, of media player/adapters, 230
DisplayPort adapter, 131
distance. See radio signal range and coverage
diversity antenna system, 40
DMA 2200 Media Center Extender (Linksys),
237, 238
DMX-NVI BRAVIA Internet Video Link (Sony),
346
DMZ (demilitarized zone, for gaming),
220–221
DNS (Domain Name System) service, 115
docking cradle, 287
document viewing, with navigation system,
270
dog, robotic, 278–280, 352
domain, comparison with workgroup, 184
domain controller, 184
Domain Name System (DNS) service, 115
dongle, 292
driver software, sharing, 193
DRM (digital rights management), 231, 240
Drucker, Peter (management expert), 71
DS (Nintendo), 214
DS2 powerline networking, 62–63
DSL (cable/digital subscriber line) router,
14, 77
DSL modem, 13
dual-band equipment, 100
dual-band interference, 331–332
371
372
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
DualPhone 3088, 252
DVD player, 207, 270
DVR (digital video recorder), 237
DWL-G820 Wireless Ethernet Bridge (D-Link),
233
dynamic DNS service (DDNS), 274
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
server
about, 24
choosing, 101–102
description, 29
as feature of access point, 76
use in access point setup, 116
DynDNS, 274
• E•
e-mail server, 29
E911 (Enhanced911), 245
EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol), 98
EG router, 264–265
802.1x security standard, 177–178
802.3af (Power over Ethernet standard), 105
802.11 standard, 44–45
802.11a standard
about, 20
advantages over 802.11b, 45–46
channels used with, 121, 330–331
signal range, 333
802.11b standard, 20, 45–46
802.11g standard
about, 20
AirPort Express compatibility with, 149
channels used with, 121, 122, 330
as current standard, 46
enhanced, comparison with 802.11n, 319
sample network budget, 93
signal range, 333
video streaming, adequacy for, 225–226
802.11i standard, 106, 168. See also Wi-Fi
Protected Access
802.11n draft standard
about, 20
AirPort compatibility with, 144–145
antenna range of access points using, 107
Apple computers supporting, 145–146
channels used with, 121, 122, 329, 331
device drivers, 134
802.11g enhanced, comparison with, 319
equipment certification under, 98
equipment supporting, 100
features and improvements in, 47–48
impetus for, 226
sample network budget, 93
signal range, 333
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridges, 210
802.11x networking, 21
802.15 standard, 282
802.15.4 standard, 66
emergency calls (on VoIP), 245
eMusic, 240
encryption and authentication
Bluetooth, 56, 293–295
enabling, 171–173
encryption methods for WPA2, 122
key (passphrase), 38, 123, 164, 171–172, 177
overview, 163–166
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, configuring, 208
energy management, 355
Enhanced 911 (E911), 245
Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), 56
entertainment system
equipment, choosing, 232–235
equipment, with built-in Wi-Fi, 234–235
Internet content for, 238–240
media, moving from computers to A/V
equipment, 228–231
as network client, 30
networked PC, adding to home theater,
235–237
proprietary systems, 239
security protocols for, 228
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, 233–234
Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM), 231
wireless-enabled, 346–348
wireless networking of, 223–228
equipment. See also access point; router;
server; switch
bundled functionality, 101–104
certification and standards support, 97–99
channel bonding, 100
choosing, 24–26, 95–110
compatibility, 99
cost, 21
for different network standards, 21
dual-band, 100
802.11g enhanced, 319
802.11n support, 100, 319
Index
for entertainment. See entertainment
system
form factor, 99–101, 250
manufacturers’ Web sites, 366
outdoor use, 101
“pre-N,” 99
price comparison Web sites, 109
security certification, 97–98
setup, user interfaces for, 108–109
wall-mountability, 101
warranties, 110
Wi-Fi certified, 74, 97, 98
WPA support, 167
error correction, 55
ESSID (extended service set identifier), 37
Ethernet
benefits, 16
cables, 73, 117, 153
description, 14
use in access point setup, 115
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, 207–210, 216, 233–234
wireless standard, 44
EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD
(NETGEAR), 30
evil twin attack, 310
Evolution-Data Only (EV-DO) data service,
264–265
Explorer (Microsoft Windows), network
resources, 186–187
express card, 26, 34
extended service set identifier (ESSID), 37
extended service warranties, 110
Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), 98
Eye-Fi, wireless SD memory card, 280
•F•
Faraday cage, 162
fast data plan (cell phone), 59–60
Federal Communications Commission (FCC),
44, 80, 334
femtocell technology, 254
fiber-optic modem, 13
file formats, for audio/video, 230
file sharing
about, 10–11
audio/video file transfer, 225–226
using Bluetooth, 284
permissions, setting, 189–191
security, importance of, 182
setting up, in Windows Vista, 196–200
setting up, in Windows XP, 187–191
shared files, accessing, 191
synchronization, 11, 59, 285
firewall
about, 32, 76
in access point, 77, 93
Network Address Translation, comparison
with, 322
Network Address Translation as, 218
personal, importance, 161
in router, 161–162
firmware, 109, 128, 153–154, 322–323
fixed mobile convergence (FMC), 254–256
flash memory card, 36
FloodCam (X10), 275
FM modulator, 271
FMC (fixed mobile convergence), 254–256
Ford Sync system, 261
form factor, 99–101, 250
free phone calling, 15
FreeRADIUS Web site, 178
frequency band. See also channel bonding;
channel (for network)
Bluetooth, 56–57, 283
for DECT phones, 251
for piconets, 57
ranges, relationship to, 107
unlicensed, 336
Wi-Fi, 44
• G•
gadgets, wireless, 350
gain (signal improvement), 41, 42, 160
game controllers, 205
GameCube (Nintendo), 213
gaming
demilitarized zone, 220–221
hardware requirements, 204–205
networking requirements, 205–206
online, overview, 203–204
online gaming services, 210–213
port forwarding, 217–220
router configurations for, 214–219
gaming adapter, cost of, 209
373
374
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
gaming console
cost, 206
as network client, 29
network planning, inclusion in, 86
networking of, 206–213, 320–321
gaming PC
gaming console, comparison with, 206–207
hardware requirements, 204–205
networking requirements, 205–206
gateway (Internet gateway)
about, 32–33
connection to, during access point
installation, 118
description, 77
network with, 91
printer connection, 85
GE, Cell Fusion DECT 6.0 phone, 255
general Wi-Fi certification, 97
geocaching, 353
GigaAir Child Tracking system, 353
Gizmo Project, 247
global positioning systems (GPS), 59,
268–270, 353
Globalpetfinder, 349
Google Talk, 247
GPRS/EDGE wireless WAN service, 314
GPS navigation systems, 59, 268–270, 353
GSM phones, 254
Guitar Hero (Activision), 348
•H•
hacking, security against, 106, 321–322. See
also security (of network and devices)
handheld gaming devices, 213, 214
handheld (personal digital assistant),
286–289
hardware. See access point; AirPort
hardware; equipment; Internet gateway;
switch
Harmony remote controls (Logitech), 278
Hawking Technologies, security cameras, 274
HD-DVD, 207
HD Radio, 260–261
HDMI (high definition multimedia interface),
229, 347–348
HDTV, bandwidth requirements, 225
headless computing appliance, 29
headphones, Bluetooth-enabled, 290
headsets, Bluetooth-enabled, 285
H+H Zentrum fuer Rechnerkommunikation
GmbH, 195–196
high definition multimedia interface (HDMI),
229, 347–348
high-speed (broadband) Internet service, 12
home arcade, 15
home control, 275–278. See also control
networking
home network. See benefits, of home
networking; network
Home Networking For Dummies (Ivens),
181–182
home phone replacement services, 246
Home PNA (Phoneline Networking
Alliance), 65
home salability, 17
home security, videocameras for, 271–275
Home Server (Microsoft Windows), 29
home theater, 229. See also entertainment
system
Home Theater and Lighting Controller 300
(Monster Cable), 278
Home Theater For Dummies (Briere and
Hurley), 235
home theater PC (HTPC), 228, 235–237,
238–240
home wireless cam accessibility, 16
HomePlug networking, 51, 62, 77
HomeRemote Wireless Home Automation
System HRGZ1 Gateway (Hawking), 274
hot spot
on airplanes, 302
AirPort Express as, 149
Boingo, 303, 306–307, 309
car as, 264–265
for-pay services, 301–304
freenets, 300–301
locating, tools for, 307–308
metro-wide (hot zone), 304–305
mobile devices, 312–313
Network Stumbler, 308–309
for Nintendo DS, 214
portable backpack version, 265–266
public, locating, 298–300
security of, 177, 310–312
T-Mobile, 304, 305–306
unwilling, 299
Index
using VoIP phone with, 247, 248
Wayport, 306
as wireless benefit, 16
Hot Spot @ Home (T-Mobile), 256
hot zone (metro-wide hot spot), 304–305
house plan, influence on signal strength, 79
HP
Jetdirect ew2400 802.11g Wireless Print
Server, 84
MediaSmart TV, 346
z560 Digital Entertainment Center, 235
HSDPA wireless WAN service, 314
HTPC (home theater PC), 228, 235–237,
238–240
hub, 24, 30, 31. See also switch
Hurley, Pat (author)
Home Theater For Dummies, 235
Smart Homes For Dummies, 281
Wireless Hacks and Mods For Dummies, 178
•I•
IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics
Engineers), 43, 282. See also standard
(for wireless network)
industry standard. See standard (for wireless
network)
Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) adapter,
26
Infrared Data Association (IrDA) wireless
technology, 54
infrastructure, 30–33
infrastructure mode, 39
installation, of access point
about, 113–114
configuration, changing, 120–124
installation process, 117–120
preparation for, 115–117
instant messaging, voice functionality of, 242
Institute for Electrical and Electronics
Engineers (IEEE), 43, 282. See also
standard (for wireless network)
interference (of radio signal). See radio signal
interference
internal wireless network adapter, 34
Internet. See also Web sites
connection sharing, 12–15, 88–89
connection to, planning, 86–90, 91
radio stations, 231, 240
service types, 87
troubleshooting connection, 319–320
Internet-based phone calling (VoIP), 15
Internet gateway
about, 32–33
connection to, during access point
installation, 118
description, 77
network with, 91
printer connection to, 85
Internet Protocol (IP) address
about, 32
assignment of, on network, 76
determining, 125, 323–324
for gaming PC/console, 216–217
local, 124
use in access point setup, 115
wide area network, 124
interoperability, 22, 156
InterPhone, Bluetooth motorcycle helmet kit,
273
IP (Internet Protocol) address. See Internet
Protocol (IP) address
IP surveillance program (D-Link), 272
iPhone (Apple), 287
iPod (Apple), 259
IrDA (Infrared Data Association) wireless
technology, 54
iRobot robotic equipment, 350
ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) adapter,
26
Isys i/O WiFi, TPMC-8x (Creston), 276
iTunes Tagging, 261
Ivens, Kathy (author)
Home Networking For Dummies, 181–182
•J•
Jacuzzi Affinity hot tub, 340, 341
Jetdirect ew2400 802.11g Wireless Print
Server (HP), 84
joystick, for gaming, 205
•K•
key (passphrase), 38, 123, 164, 171–172, 177
keyboard, 288, 291
KR2 Mobile Router (Kyocera), 264
375
376
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
KX-HCM110A PetCam Network Camera with
2-Way Audio (Panasonic), 273
Kyocera mobile router, 264
•L•
LAN (local area network), 28, 281
Leapfrog Series Wireless A/V System, 239
level (of radio signal). See radio signal
strength
Leviton, 278
LGE multimedia refrigerator, 344, 345
lighting control module, 278
Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD), 197,
198
link test function (network adapter), 141–142
LinkStation Network Storage Center (Buffalo
Technology), 29
Linksys
DMA 2200 Media Center Extender, 237, 238
SoloLink service, 274
Wireless-G Access Point, 118
WLAN-WPC4400N wireless adapter, 92
WVC200 Wireless-G Pan/Tilt/Zoom Video
Camera, 274–275
LLTD (Link Layer Topology Discovery), 197,
198
local area network (LAN), 28, 281, 327–337
local IP address, 124
logging utilities, 106
Logitech
Harmony remote controls, 278
Squeezebox, 226
LSC27991 multimedia refrigerator (LGE), 344
LucidLink Web site, 178
•M•
MAC (Media Access Control) address, 116,
123, 174–175
Mac OS X All-in-One Desk Reference For
Dummies (Chambers, Tejkowski, and
Williams), 181–182
Macintosh computer. See also entries
beginning “AirPort”
access point for, 95
file sharing with PCs, 201–202
gaming, requirements for, 205
non-Apple-based networks, connecting to,
157–158
older, network adapter cards for, 146
OS 9, 143
OS X, using AirPort with, 149–156
OS X version 10.5 networking software, new
features, 143
setting up network for, 143–158
upgrading to 802.11n, 145
macros, for home remote controls, 278
Mad Catz, 205
master (Bluetooth network), 55, 283
Media Access Control (MAC) address, 116,
123, 174–175
media adapter, 226, 227, 228–231
media center extender, 227, 237
Media Center PC, 237
media player/server, 86, 227, 228–231
MediaSmart TV (HP), 346
memory card wireless adapter, 36
mesh topology, 65–66
metro-wide hot spot, 304–305
Microsoft. See also entries beginning
“Windows”; Xbox 360
operating systems, Bluetooth support, 59
specification for hardware and software, 29
MIMO (multiple inputs, multiple outputs)
technology, 40, 47
mobile (cell) phone
about, 241–242
Bluetooth-enabled, 58, 59, 285–286
extenders, 254
mode, for PC Card, 133
modem, 12–13, 14, 77
module (home control network device), 66
monitoring software, 106
Monster Cable
Home Theater and Lighting Controller 300,
278
Z-Wave lighting control modules, 278
motorcycle helmets, Bluetooth-enabled, 273
Motorola, Netopia MiAVo Series Gateways, 32
mouse, Bluetooth-enabled, 291
MP3 player, 11, 259
MP3Car Web site, 267
Multimedia over Coax (MoCA), 65
multipath interference, 61
multiple inputs, multiple outputs (MIMO)
technology, 40, 47
Index
multiple-PC network, model for, 14
multiuser game, 15
music server, navigation system as, 270
musical instruments, wireless-enabled,
348–349
My Network Places (Network Neighborhood),
28, 183, 185–187
•N•
N1 Vision access point (Belkin), 115
nanny-cam, 30
narrowband Internet connection, 87–88
NAS (Network Attached Storage) Server, 29,
72
NAT (Network Address Translation)
firewall, comparison with, 322
functionality, 217–218
Internet connection sharing, 162
port forwarding, 218–219
router, 87, 89
as security tool, 31
navigation system, networking of, 268–270
near field communications (NFC), 176
Neosonik, 229
Net-Vision HNC290G Wireless-G Network
Camera (Hawking), 274
NETGEAR
access point security, 172
EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD, 30
WGX102 Wireless Range Extender, 62, 63
WPN824 router, 219, 220
Netopia MiAVo Series Gateways (Motorola),
32
Netstumbler Web site, 170
network. See also equipment; planning, of
wireless network
benefits. See benefits, of home networking
channels. See channel (for network)
cost of wireless compared with wired
network, 27
definition, 182
infrastructure, 30–33
Internet connection sharing, 12–15, 88–89
local area network, 28, 281
mixing XP and Vista on, 198–199
performance, 141–142, 327–337
personal area network, 52, 281, 356
phone jack, comparison with, 13–15
planning, of wireless network
security. See security (of network and
devices)
speed, 46, 47, 65, 283. See also throughput
standards. See standard (for wireless
network)
type of, choosing, 73
whole-home, 224
wide area network, 28, 124, 313–314
wired. See wired (wireline) network
wireless. See wireless network
network address, 101
Network Address Translation (NAT)
firewall, comparison with, 322
functionality, 217–218
Internet connection sharing, 162
port forwarding, 218–219
router, 87, 89
as security tool, 31
Network Address Translation router, 89
Network and Sharing Center (Windows
Vista), 138–141, 196
Network Attached Storage (NAS) Server,
29, 72
network bridge. See bridge
network devices
attached device, 186
communication among, 182–183
counting, during planning, 72–73
identification of, on network, 185
sharing, in Windows Vista, 200
sharing, in Windows XP, 195
stand-alone, 186
network effect, 66, 289
network interface adapter
AirPort card (Apple), 34, 144–145, 146
bandwidth monitor, 130
cost, 92
description, 25
examples, 33–36
for gaming Mac, 206
for gaming PC, 205–206
setting up, 127–134
Vista protocol, 199
wireless, 25–26
WPA password requirement, 130
WPA protocol, support for, 167
network interface card (NIC), 25, 116
Network (Mac workgroup), 28
377
378
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
network name (SSID, service set identifier)
broadcast of, 173–174
changing default, 170
configuring, 121
description of, 37
requirement for network interface adapter,
130
Network Neighborhood (My Network Places),
28, 183, 185–187
network router. See router
network sniffer programs, 307–308
Network Stumbler software, 308–309
NFC (near field communications), 176
NIC (network interface card), 25, 116
911 calls (on VoIP), 245
Nintendo
DS, 214
Wii, 29, 206, 207, 212–213
noise level (of network), 142. See also radio
signal interference
nVIDIA video card, 205
•O•
obstacle to radio signals. See radio signal
interference
Olympia Dual-Phone, 15
omnidirectional (dipole) antenna, 40, 41
Omnifi, 263
100BaseT network, 14
1000BaseT (gigabit Ethernet), 14
1xRTT wireless WAN service, 313
online gaming. See gaming
onscreen menu, 230
OnStar, 342
OS X
using AirPort with, 149–156
version 10.5 networking software, new
features, 143
Outmesguine, Mike (hotspot knapsack
inventor), 265
outputs, of media adapters/players, 231
•P•
Packet8, 247
packets, 31, 32
pairing and discovery (Bluetooth), 56,
288–289, 293–295
PAN (personal area network), 52, 281, 356
Panasonic, 273, 274
parameters (for access point), 119–124
Parrot (equipment manufacturer), 259, 261
passkey (Bluetooth), 295
passphrase (key), 38, 164, 171–172, 177
PBC (push button configuration) for WPS, 176
PC-based supplementary voice services, 246
PC card (PCMCIA, Personal Computer
Memory Card International Association
card), 26, 34, 100, 131–132
PC (Windows-based computer). See also
entries beginning “Windows”
access point installation, setup for, 113–114
digital video recorder, 237
file sharing with Macs, 201–202
gaming PC, 204–207
home theater, adding to, 235–237
network printers, installing, 194
PCI/PCIx (Peripheral Component
Interconnect) adapter, 26, 35, 132–133
PCMCIA card (PC card, Personal Computer
Memory Card International Association
card), 26, 34, 100, 131–132
PDA (personal digital assistant), 286–289
peer-to-peer networking, 283
performance of network
tracking, 141–142
troubleshooting, 327–337
Peripheral Component Interconnect
(PCI/PCIx) adapter, 26, 35, 132–133
peripherals, sharing, 12, 191–196
permissions for file sharing, 189–191
personal area network (PAN), 52, 281, 356
Personal Computer Memory Card
International Association card (PCMCIA
card, PC card), 26, 34, 100, 131–132
personal digital assistant (PDA), 286–289
personal security, 353–354
pets, 273, 349
phone
cordless phone, 337
DECT 6.0 phones, 251–252
digital technologies, 241
femtocell technology, 254
fixed mobile convergence, 254–256
Skype phones, 252–253
VoIP, 15, 242–247
Index
Wi-Fi VoIP, 247–250
wireless technologies, 241–242
phone jack, network, comparison with, 13–15
physical connection between computers, 14
physical security, 93
picocell, 254
piconets, 54–55
plain old telephone service (POTS), 241, 245,
246, 251
planning, of wireless network
about, 23
access point, choosing, 76–77
access point location, 77–83
budget, 90–93
entertainment, adding, 86
Internet, connecting to, 86–90, 91
network devices, counting, 72–73
network type, choosing, 73
printers, adding, 83–86
RF doughnut, 83
security, 93
wireless technology, choosing, 74–75
PlayStation (Sony) consoles, 29, 206, 207, 212
PoE (Power over Ethernet) standard, 105
point-to-multipoint connection, 283
Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet
(PPPoE), 124
Popular Science, 265
port forwarding, 217–220, 320–321
port triggering, 219
portable hot spot, 265–266
POTS (plain old telephone service), 241, 245,
246, 251
power. See also radio signal range and
coverage
of access point transmission, 40–41
Bluetooth’s use of, 283
power outages, resetting equipment after, 329
Power over Ethernet standard, 105
Power Users group, 190
powerline networking, 61–63
PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over
Ethernet), 124
PracticallyNetworked Web site, 219
pre-shared key (PSK), 122
price. See cost
price comparison Web sites, 109
print driver, 193, 194
print server
with AirPort Express, 149
choosing, 24–25, 104
cost, 86
description, 29, 72, 77
setting up, in Windows XP, 192–195
wireless, 84, 85
WPA protocol, support for, 167
printer
adding to network, 72, 83–86
Bluetooth-enabled, 289–290
sharing of, 11, 192–195
printing, using Bluetooth, 60
processor speed, for gaming, 205
protocol
definition, 182
Extensible Authentication Protocol, 98
for network connection, 14
Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet, 124
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), 243
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol, 32
Z-Wave networking protocol, 52, 66–67
PS2 (PlayStation2, Sony), 212
PSK (pre-shared key), 122
PSP (PlayStation Portable, Sony), 213
public network access. See hot spot
Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN),
242
push button configuration (PBC) for WPS, 176
•Q•
Quality of Service (QoS), 98
•R•
Radeon HD 3850 gaming card (ATI), 205
radio frequency identification tags (RFID),
352
radio frequency (RF) doughnut, 83
radio signal. See also access point; Bluetooth
as basis for wireless networking, 33
channels used by. See channel (for network)
frequencies for. See frequency band
interference. See radio signal interference
range and coverage. See radio signal range
and coverage
signal to noise ratio (SNR), 142
strength. See radio signal strength
379
380
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
radio signal interference
about, 19
for different network standards, 21–22
dual-band, 331–332
effects on network speed, 330
minimizing, during access point installation,
121–122
multipath interference, 61
from physical objects, 332
sources, 80, 81
from X10 networks, 337
radio signal range and coverage. See also
radio signal strength
using 802.11n standard, 47
for access point, 40–41
Bluetooth, 56
for different network standards, 21–22, 333
factors affecting, 40–42
home control network, 65–66
home network, 19, 160
improving coverage, 334–335
information sources for, 107
RF doughnut, 83
signal strength, relationship to, 79
TV cable, as network extension, 63
Wi-Fi comparison with Bluetooth, 52
radio signal strength (level). See also radio
signal interference; radio signal range
attenuation, 41
factors affecting, 79–82
obstacles to, 81–82
tracking, 142
radio stations (Internet-based), 231, 240
RADIUS server, 178
range (of radio signal). See radio signal range
and coverage
Rathbone, Andy (author)
Windows Vista For Dummies, 182
Windows XP For Dummies, 181–182
RC4 encryption protocol, 165
Real Network, Rhapsody, 231
Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP), 243
receive sensitivity (of access point), 41
reliability of network, 17
remote control
for cars, 343
macros for, 278
repeaters, 335–336
resources
description, 28
sharing on network, 181
RF (radio frequency) doughnut, 83
RF (radio frequency) interference. See radio
signal interference
RFID (radio frequency identification tag), 352
RH269LBSH Digital Network Refrigerator
(Samsung), 345
Rhapsody (Real Network), 231
RK8200 Bluetooth Car Stereo (Parrot), 261
robots, 278–280, 350–352
Rock Bank wireless instruments, 348
Rockford Omnifi, 263
rotating key system, 137
router (switch). See also AirPort Express;
AirPort Extreme
about, 76
access point feature, 24
broadband (high-speed), 76, 102–103
cable/digital subscriber line (DSL), 14, 77
choosing, 103
connection to, during access point
installation, 118
cost, 89
defaults, resetting to, 325
description, 24
DMZ setup, 220–221
firewall functionality, 161–162
gaming, configurations for, 214–219
Internet connection sharing with, 89
packet transmission, 31
PIN, 121
print server combination with, 84
Xbox Live compatibility, 211–212
RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol), 243
•S•
Samsung equipment, 254
satellite Internet, 88
satellite modem, 13
satellite radio, 260
scatternet, 55, 56
SD memory card, wireless, 280
SecureMyWiFi, 178
SecuriCam products (D-Link), 272
Index
security (of network and devices). See also
encryption and authentication; Wi-Fi
Protected Access; Wired Equivalent
Privacy
about, 19
access point features, 106–107
airlink security, 162–163
AirPort Extreme, 147
Bluetooth, 56
closed network, creating, 173–175
defaults, importance of changing, 170–171
DMZ’s effects on, 221
domains, comparison with workgroups, 184
entertainment devices, 228
entertainment system Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge,
234
file sharing, 182
firewalls. See firewall
against hacking, 106, 321–322
hot spots, 310–312
Internet security, 160–161
key (passphrase), 38, 123, 164, 171–172, 177
NAT router, importance of, 89
planning for, 93
risk assessment, 160–163
security certification, 97–98
shared secret (security measure), 164–165
sharing’s impact on, 188
Wi-Fi VoIP phones, 247–249, 250
Windows Vista, 197, 198, 199
wired network, 17
security camera, 271–275
server. See also Dynamic Host Configuration
Protocol (DHCP) server; media
player/server; print server
network, influence on, 184
types of, 29
Server Operators group, 189
service area. See SSID (service set identifier)
service set identifier (SSID)
broadcast of, 173–174
changing default, 170
configuring, 121
description of, 37
requirement for network interface adapter,
130
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), 243
shared secret (security measure), 164–165
sharing of peripherals, 192–196. See also file
sharing
Shaughnessy, Tim (NETGEAR), 328
signal booster, 333–334
signal to noise ratio (SNR), 142
signal (wireless radio). See radio signal
Simple Config. See Wi-Fi Protected Setup
SIP phones, 244
SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), 243
SIRIUS radio, 260
Skype
about, 243
network type, 253
phones, choosing, 252–253
phones, use of hot spots, 248
SIP protocol, non-use of, 249
SkypeIN service, 246
SkypeOUT service, 253
slave (Bluetooth network), 55, 283
Smart Homes For Dummies (Briere and
Hurley), 281
smartphone, 287
SMCWEBT-G wireless Ethernet bridge (SMC
Networks), 209–210
SMCWSP-100 phone (SMC Networks), 248
SNR (signal to noise ratio), 142
softphone, 244
software programming, of access points, 108
software requirements, for media
players/adapters, 229–230
solar-charging backpack, 265–266
SoloLink service (Linksys), 274
Sonos Digital Music System, 234–235
Sony
AIBO robotic dog, 278–280, 352
DMX-NVI BRAVIA Internet Video Link, 346
PlayStation consoles, 29, 206, 207, 212
PSP (PlayStation Portable), 213
sound card, for gaming, 205
speaker systems, Bluetooth-enabled, 290–291
speed (of network). See also throughput
802.11n standard, 46, 47
Bluetooth, 53, 283
home control networks, 65
powerline networking, 62
SpeedStream router, 221
SPI (stateful packet inspection) firewall, 162
Sprint, EV-DO wireless WAN service, 314
Squeezebox (Logitech), 226
381
382
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
SSID (service set identifier)
broadcast of, 173–174
changing default, 170
configuring, 121
description of, 37
requirement for network interface adapter,
130
standard (for wireless network). See also
802.11g standard; 802.11n draft standard
best, 22
Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (extended data rate),
57
Bluetooth 2.1, 57
choosing, 19–22, 49, 318–319
differences among, 75
802.1x security, 177–178
802.3af (Power over Ethernet), 105
802.11, 44–45
802.11a, 20, 45–46, 121, 330–331, 333
802.11b, 20, 45–46
802.11i, 106, 168. See also Wi-Fi Protected
Access
802.11x networking, 21
802.15, 282
802.15.4, 66
equipment compatibility related to, 74,
96–99
history, 44–45
Institute for Electrical and Electronics
Engineers, 43, 282
interoperability of different, 22
Wi-Fi Alliance, 43
Wi-Fi channels, 44
for Wi-Fi VoIP phones, 249
Z-Wave, 66–67
ZigBee, 66–67
star-shaped topology, 30, 31
Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)
communicator, 279
stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewall, 162
station (computer, on wireless network), 33
streaming (of audio/video files), 225–226, 231
StreetDeck mobile electronic packages, 267
strength (level, of radio signal). See radio
signal strength
Subnet mask, 124
supplicant software, 249
switch (switched hub, router). See also
AirPort Express; AirPort Extreme
about, 76
access point feature, 24
broadband (high-speed), 76, 102–103
cable/digital subscriber line (DSL), 14, 77
choosing, 103
connection to, during access point
installation, 118
cost, 89
defaults, resetting to, 325
description, 24
DMZ setup, 220–221
firewall functionality, 161–162
gaming, configurations for, 214–219
Internet connection sharing with, 89
packet transmission, 31
PIN, 121
print server combination with, 84
Xbox Live compatibility, 211–212
synchronization of files, 11, 59, 285
system requirements, 2
•T•
T-Mobile, 256, 305–306
TCP/IP (Transmission Control
Protocol/Internet Protocol), 32
TCP port, 219
technical support, for equipment, 110
technology, wireless, choosing, 74–75
Tejkowski, Erick (author)
Mac OS X All-in-One Desk Reference For
Dummies, 181–182
telephone. See phone
telephone adapter, 243
television, wireless-enabled, 346
Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP)
encryption, 38, 122
terminology, 182–183
text messaging, with navigation system, 270
theme (for computer desktop), 183
throughput (actual data transmission speed).
See also speed (of network)
802.11a standard, 45
advertised speeds, comparison with, 329
Bluetooth, 55–56, 57, 61
combination a/b/g/n access points, 92
DS2 Powerline network, 62
Index
estimating, 48
HomePlug network, 62
improving, 327–337
maximizing through channel use, 122
network standards, relationship to, 21, 75
powerline link, 62
video streaming, 225–226
Wi-Fi, comparison with Bluetooth, 52, 53, 56
wired network, comparison with wireless
network, 16, 18
Z-Wave networks, 66
ZigBee networks, 66
time-gate, 61
Time Warner Road Runner, 101
TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol)
encryption, 38, 122
topology (of network)
illustrations of, 74, 76, 85, 91
mesh, 65–66
star-shaped, 30, 31
Toshiba, 52
touch panels, for home control, 276
traffic, 30
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP), 32
transmission (TX) power, 40–41
travel, wireless networks, accessing, 16. See
also hot spot
travel router, 149
TrendNet, 274
troubleshooting
network connection, 325
videoconferencing, 321
wireless LAN, 327–337
TV, wireless-enabled, 346
TV cable, as network extension, 63
TV-IP312W Wireless 2-Way Audio Day/Night
Internet Camera Server (TrendNet), 274
TX (transmission) power, 40–41
•U•
UDP (User Datagram Protocol) port, 219
ultra wideband (UWB) technology, 61
unconscious connectivity, 55
uninterrupted power supply (UPS), 245
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), 219
universal remote controls, 278
Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter
benefits, 35–36
Bluetooth, 60
example, 33
features, 26
hubs, 292–293
installation, 134
use in access point setup, 115
use in Wi-Fi Protected Setup, 176
versions, 100
uplink ports (for access points), 105
user accounts, 190–191, 199–200, 202
User Datagram Protocol (UDP) port, 219
user interface, for media players/adapters,
230
Users group, 190
UWB (ultra wideband), 61
•V•
vehicle monitoring systems, 343
VeriChip, 354
Verizon, 101, 314
video card for gaming, 205
video file, bandwidth requirements for
distributing, 225–226
video monitoring, 271–275
videocamera, network aware, 271–275
videoconferencing, troubleshooting, 321
videogaming industry, size, 203. See also
gaming; gaming console
Virtual Private Network (VPN), 106, 169,
310–311
virus definition file, 160
Vista (Microsoft Windows)
Details view, 183
file sharing, enabling, 196–200
Home Premium, 237
PC Card drivers, 132
print server features, 192
security pop-ups, 118
themes, choosing, 183
Wireless Zero Configuration, 138–141
Voice over IP (VoIP)
about, 242–243
dual-mode phones, 244
911 calls, 245
phones, choosing, 249–250
provider list Web site, 247
383
384
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Voice over IP (VoIP) (continued)
services, 244, 246–247
Skype phones, 252–253
terminology, 243–244
wireless, 247–249
VoipYourLife, 247
Voltaic Systems solar-charging backpack,
265–266
Vonage, 243
VPN (Virtual Private Network), 106, 169,
310–311
•W•
WAN router, 264–265
WAN (wide area network), 28, 124, 313–314
war driving, 93
warranties, for equipment, 110
Wayport hot spot, 306
WDS (wireless distribution system), 149, 210
wearables, 352–354
Web-based equipment setup, 108
Web sites
access points, 24, 335
appliances, wireless, 344–345
Bluetooth-enabled devices, 58, 273, 282,
285–291, 293
cameras, 30, 272–275
car-related products, 259–260, 263–265,
267–269, 342–344
comparison shopping, 360–361
device drivers, 146
entertainment systems and services, 223,
226–231, 233–237, 239–241, 346–347
equipment manufacturers, 366
equipment reviews, 107, 204, 360, 362, 364
Ethernet bridges, 233
Ethernet cables, 117
file servers, 29
gadgets, 350
games and gaming, 29, 203, 205, 207,
210–212, 214, 321, 353
gateways, 32
general information, 364
geochaching, 353
home appliances, 344–345
home control equipment, 66, 276, 278
home networking, 362–363
hot spots, 299–301, 303, 305–309, 365–366
industry news, 361
Internet-based phone calling, 15
media adapters, 226
musical instruments, 348
network interface adapters, 34, 146, 209
organizations, 43, 65, 74
PCs, 362
pet tracking systems, 349–350
powerline networking equipment, 62–63
price comparison, 109
product fan sites, 364
robots, 350, 352
security tools, 161, 169, 176, 178, 219,
311–312
servers, 195, 196
service reviews, 88
standards organizations, 365
technology industry, 365
telephones and calling services, 243,
246–250, 252–256
tracking and location systems, 353–354
wearables, 352, 354
Wi-Fi products, 350
for Wi-Fi Protected Setup, 176
Windows software, 29, 198
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies,
258, 359
WP3 players, 11
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
Apple password, 156–157, 158
description, 106
introduction to, 164–167
key length, 166
keys, 123
mentioned, 93
WPA, comparison with, 38, 106, 164, 168
WGX102 Wireless Range Extender
(NETGEAR), 62, 63
whole-home wireless revolution, 224
Wi-Fi Alliance (trade group), 21, 43, 74, 97–98
Wi-Fi Connection (Nintendo), 213
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, 207–210, 216
Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM), 98, 232
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
certification for, 97
encryption methods, 122–123
features, 168
Index
variants, 167
weakness, 177
WEP, comparison with, 38, 106, 168
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, compatibility with,
208–209
WPA/WPA2 Enterprise, 98, 122–123, 178
Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), 98, 123, 175–176
Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity)
Bluetooth, comparison with, 53–54
description of term, 21
with gaming consoles, 204
Wibree, 356–357
wide area network (WAN), 28, 124, 313–314
Wii (Nintendo), 29, 206, 207, 212–213
Williams, Michael L. (author)
Mac OS X All-in-One Desk Reference For
Dummies, 181–182
WiMax wireless WAN service, 314
WiMedia Alliance, 61
Windows Automotive (Microsoft), 261
Windows Explorer (Microsoft), network
resources, 186–187
Windows Home Server (Microsoft), 29
Windows (Microsoft). See also Windows
Vista; Windows XP
installing access points in, 113–126
Service Pack 2, impact on sharing, 188
Windows Vista For Dummies (Rathbone), 182
Windows Vista (Microsoft)
Details view, 183
file sharing, enabling, 196–200
Home Premium, 237
PC Card drivers, 132
print server features, 192
security pop-ups, 118
themes, choosing, 183
Wireless Zero Configuration, 138–141
Windows XP For Dummies (Rathbone),
181–182
Windows XP (Microsoft)
file sharing, enabling, 188–191
Media Center Edition, 237
PC Card drivers, 132
print server features, 192
printer sharing, setting up, 193
themes, choosing, 183
Wireless Zero Configuration, 134–137
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
Apple password, 156–157, 158
description, 106
introduction to, 164–167
key length, 166
keys, 123
WPA, comparison with, 38, 106, 164, 168
wired (wireline) network
powerline networking, 61–63
security of, 162
wireless network, comparison with,
16–19, 73
Wireless AirCard 750 (Sierra), 267
wireless distribution system (WDS), 149
Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance
(WECA). See Wi-Fi Alliance
Wireless-G Access Point (Linksys), 118
Wireless Hacks and Mods For Dummies (Briere
and Hurley), 178
wireless network. See also Bluetooth;
equipment
benefits, 18
drawbacks, 18–19
performance, tracking, 141–142
planning. See planning, of wireless network
setup, user interfaces for, 108–109
standards for. See standard (for wireless
network)
wired network, comparison with, 16–19, 73
wireless on the go, 16
Wireless Zero Configuration
Windows Vista, 138–141
Windows XP, 134–137, 173
wireline (wired) network
powerline networking, 61–63
security of, 162
wireless network, comparison with, 16–19,
73
WiTopia, 169, 178, 311
WLAN-WPC4400N wireless adapter (Linksys),
92
WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia), 98, 232
workgroup, 28, 184, 196–197
workstation, 28
WPA/WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access)
certification for, 97
encryption methods, 122–123
features, 168
385
386
Wireless Home Networking For Dummies, 3rd Edition
WPA/WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access)
(continued)
variants, 167
weakness, 177
WEP, comparison with, 38, 106, 168
Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge, compatibility with,
208–209
WPA/WPA2 Enterprise, 98, 122–123, 178
WPN824 router (NETGEAR), 219, 220
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), 98, 123, 175–176
WVC200 Wireless-G Pan/Tilt/Zoom Video
Camera (Linksys), 274–275
•X•
X10 FloodCam, 275
X10 networks, 337
Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
cost, 206
features, 207
online gaming, requirements for, 204
Xbox Live online gaming service, 210–212
XM Radio, 260
XM Sky Fi3 receiver (Delphi), 260
XP (Microsoft Windows)
file sharing, enabling, 188–191
Media Center Edition, 237
PC Card drivers, 132
print server features, 192
printer sharing, setting up, 193
themes, choosing, 183
Wireless Zero Configuration, 134–137
•Y•
Yahoo! Voice, 247
•Z•
Z-App Systems, 264
Z-Wave networking protocol, 52, 66–67,
355–356
z560 Digital Entertainment Center (HP), 235
zBoost, 254
Zensys, 66
Zeroconf, 202
ZigBee networking standard, 52, 66–67,
355–356
Zone Alarm, 160, 219
Zonebridge (Sonos), 235
Zune portable media player, 11
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