WIRELESS PRODUCT PROFILES
(NB. all prices quoted are typical on-line – ebuyer, amazon, insight,
dabs etc., -- and include VAT)
SECTION 1. 802.11b WIRELESS ROUTERS
SMC-7004WFW BROADBAND ROUTER, £120
Well suited to
commercial and business applications with several advanced configuration and
security facilities. The unit also incorporates a 3-port 10/100 Ethernet
switch, integrated firewall, access control for up to 253 users, automated
setup and detachable dual antennas for extended range.
WIRELESS CABLE/DSL ROUTER, £85
A classic design
that has been around for a while with a straightforward specification, simple
browser-based setup and a good reputation for reliability. Additional features
include a built-in 3-port 10/100 Ethernet switch, firewall, and an easy to
configure broadband sharing facility.
Affordable one-box solution for SOHO users with an ADSL modem, wireless
router and 4-port 10/100 Ethernet switch all together in one compact and
stylish box. It’s easy to set up using a browser-based configuration facility
and it can handle up to 253 users.
US ROBOTICS USR018022, WIRELESS BROADBAND
A budget price but an advanced design with a claimed data throughput of
up to 22Mbs and extended range (with compatible US Robotics wireless adaptors).
It’s an eye-catching shape with twin 10/100 Ethernet switch, and simple
Internet connection sharing setup
802.11b WIRELESS CARDS
PC CARD, £67
High performance wireless card with
advanced encryption and roaming facilities plus an extendable ‘XJACK’ antenna
for extended range and power-saving features
D-LINK DWL-650+, PC–CARD, £35
Based on Texas Instrument chipset delivering up to 22Mbs throughput,
256-bit WEP encryption. Advanced configuration utility stores multiple
EBUYER WLL-2200, PC-CARD £29
One of the cheapest wireless cards on the market, no-frills
specification with basic 64-bit WEP encryption but capable of speeds up to
NETGEAR MA701GE, COMPACT FLASH
Compact flash wireless card for Pocket PC and other Windows CE mobile
devices with all of the features and encryption options of a PC-Card sized
802.11b WIRELESS BRIDGES
D-LINK DWL-810+, £78
Flexible design with software-free installation and setup and an operating
range of up to 300 metres. Fully compliant with all 802.11b standards and
protocols for maximum transparency and operability.
NETGEAR ME101, £61
discreet wall-mountable design featuring a detachable 4-dbi antenna for
improved coverage. Incorporates 128-bit WEP encryption and fitted with one
10/100 Ethernet socket, supplied with lightweight mains power adaptor.
SECTION 2. 802.11g WIRELESS ROUTERS
BUFFALO AIRSTATION WBR-G54, WIRELESS ROUTER, £135
Elegant shape with a built-in 4-port 10/100 Ethernet switch plus a good
assortment of security features that includes a powerful firewall and a
sophisticated intrusion detector that blocks attacks and alerts the owner via
email and a pop-up window.
D-LINK AIRPLUS DI-624, WIRELESS
Versatile multi-role router for home or office use. A proprietary
firewall and policy-based content filtering facilities helps to protect your
network. Includes a 4-port 10/100 Ethernet switch and uses a simple
browser-based configuration utility for quick and easy setup
LINKSYS WRT54G-UK, WIRELESS ROUTER, £97
Distinctive design in a sturdy two-tone blue/black case with two
external antennas. Suitable for both home and office applications with a 4-port
10/100 Ethernet switch. Browser-based configuration simplifies installation and
configuration and makes it easy to set up Internet connection sharing
WIRELESS ROUTER, £82
‘Smart Wizard’ and auto sensing features helps with installation and
configuration, automatically detecting the best available ISP and optimising
network connection speeds. Advanced firewall provides maximum protection; URL
blocking and email alerts restrict access to undesirable web sites and monitors
802.11g WIRELESS CARDS
BUFFALO WLO-CB-G54A-3, PC-CARD/CARDBUS, £46
Cardbus capable and fitted with an external antenna connector; extra
security features include AES encryption, in addition to standard 44/128-bit
D-LINK AIRPLUS DWL-G650, PC-CARD/CARDBUS, £48
Highly secure 32-bit Cardbus compatible PC-Card adaptor with automated
roaming utility and stored connectivity profiles, good value too!
LINKSYS WPC54-UK, PC CARD, £52
Another affordable and well-specified Wireless G card, this one is
ideal for beginners as it comes with a simple to follow, step-by-step
NETGEAR WG-511, PC CARD, £65
Sensibly priced card, a solid, unfussy design supplied with a useful
set of configuration, network selection and encryption tools
802.11g WIRELESS BRIDGES
BUFFALO AIRSTATION WLA-G54-1, £90
This is a dual role device and functions as both a bridge -- with a
built-in 4-port 10/100 Ethernet switch -- and as repeater, extending the
coverage area of a wireless LAN.
LINKSYS WET54G, £tba (£108 in US)
Driver free set up and configuration through a web browser and a
‘Wizard’ type interface. Equipped with one 10/100 port, which supports power
over Ethernet system for simple installation and wall-mountable.
SECTION 3. INSTALLING A WIRELESS SYSTEM – TOP TIPS
Before purchasing any hardware first carry out a site survey. Work out
the relative positions of the PCs in your home or office, the distances between
them and the wireless router/access point and make sure that they are well
within the 25 to 30-metre range you can expect in a typical building.
Although in theory all 802.11b/g Wi-Fi badged devices should be
compatible with one another when setting up a system for the first time it is
sensible to stick with products from a single brand or manufacture. It’s one
less thing to worry about when troubleshooting.
Windows XP is the most network-friendly member of the Microsoft family
of operating systems and where possible it should be used on the Server PC,
which should also be the one connected to the Internet. Windows ME and SE are
also reasonably easy to work with but will normally require manual
configuration. PCs using earlier versions of Windows (95 & 98) can be
wirelessly networked but it is important to check that suitable driver and
utility software is available for Wi-Fi adaptors and cards
When setting up a network only attempt to connect one PC at a time. If
you try to install a multi-PC Wi-Fi network in one go it will almost certainly
fail and fault-finding will be a great harder.
Take it step by step and always RTFM (read the ‘effing manual),
particularly when installing USB devices, as some of them require the driver
software to be installed first whilst on others the hardware comes first, and
if you get it wrong undoing the tangle can be a nightmare.
When making manual configuration changes to any part of a network
change only one parameter at a time and always reboot the client and server
PCs, as well as the router/access point after every change.
Make a note of the name of your network or SSID (service side
identifier) along with the names and IDs of your PCs and where applicable their
IP addresses plus any unusual configuration settings that might come in useful
when tracing faults.
All Wi-Fi components are designed to use WEP (wired equivalence
privacy) encryption to protect both the network and the data it carries from
hacking or intrusion. However it is never enabled by default, which poses a
significant security risk, as anyone within range will be able to hack into
your system. As soon as your network is up and running WEP should be enabled on
all wireless devices.
SECTION 4. KEY QUERIES/FAQs
Q. Can I really surf the net on my laptop
from outside a café?
A. The glossy ads make it all look so
simple but in practice there a little more to it. In most cases you will need
to subscribe to a service and know where to find the so-called wireless ‘hot
spots’. If, as looks likely, there will be several companies competing for your
custom you will also need to know a little about how to configure the wireless
card in your laptop, so you can switch between services and your office or home
network, though generally it is a lot easier if your PC is using Windows XP as
this is quite wireless friendly.
Q. How safe is my wireless network from
A. Wireless networks are vulnerable for
the simple reason that all Wi-Fi products are sold with the encryption
facilities disabled. It’s up to you to configure the security systems on your
network and if you don’t you are exposing your network to ‘Warchalkers’. These
are folk who roam the streets with laptops looking for open wireless
connections, which they may decide to hijack. If you see any strange symbols
chalked on the pavement or wall outside your property (for the benefit of other
passing warchalkers) then you’ll know your system has almost certainly been
Q. Can I add wireless connectivity to my
A. Yes, if you just want to extend
network coverage to an area where it is difficult to run a cable then you can
use a device called a wireless ‘access point’ or possibly a ‘bridge’. However
in order to allow network access to several PCs and laptops and also allow them
to share network resources like printers and a broadband internet connection
then it is better to use a wireless router, which will also provide better
protection and security for the rest of the network.
Q. Will I suffer interference if someone nearby is also using a
A. Here in European we’ve been allocated 13 separate channels, which
should be more then enough for the majority of home and SOHO wireless networks
since it is very unlikely that you would live or work in close proximity to
more than one or two other systems, though that could quickly change if Wi-Fi
really takes off… In densely built up areas, blocks of flats and apartment and
localities adjacent to commercial or industrial units it is possible that
interference could occur. In such circumstances a move to the higher frequency
802.11a Wi-Fi system may be the only practical solution.
Q. How do I extend the reach of my network?
A. Manufacturers often quote an operating rage of between 50 and 75
metres inside buildings though in practice it’s often a lot less. However, many
wireless devices have provision for an external antenna, or the existing
antenna can be detached and replaced with a more efficient type, or one mounted
in a better location. It’s possible to increase coverage with a device called a
repeater mounted in a coverage black spot. In the US wireless cards with higher
power outputs are also available, though these have not as yet been authorised
for use in the UK. Wi-Fi connections are also possible over distances of
several kilometres using directional high-gain antennas, for point-to-point
contact, rather than wide area coverage.
Q. Can I run 802.11b and g components on the same system?
A. Yes you can, 802.11g devices operate on the same frequency (2.4GHz)
and are backwards compatible with 802.11b systems, though needless to say data
transfer speeds will drop to 11Mbs (and usually a lot less).
Q. I have a baby in my house is a Wi-Fi system safe for him/her?
A. No-one could ever give you a one hundred percent definitive answer
since the technology is relatively new and there remains some debate over what
constitutes a safe level for the emissions for non-ionising radio frequency
radiation but the general consensus is that Wi-Fi devices operate at very low
power levels and are safe and like mobile phones, according to hospital
reports, the main quantifiable health risk is from people poking themselves in
the eye with antennas…
Q. What if I have Windows 98 on one PC and XP running on another?
A. That’s not a problem though whereas network configuration in XP is
mostly automatic, using ‘Wizards’, in older versions of Windows you usually
have to get your hands dirty and configure your PC and network components
manually. For the record you can also network a mixture of PCs running Windows,
Mac OS, Linux and Windows CE.
Q. Can I stream video over a wireless system?
A. The 11Mbs bandwidth of 802.11b is only really suitable for video in
small thumbnail-sized windows or larger displays with coarse/jerky images.
However, the 54Mbs bandwidth available through 802.11g, when used in
conjunction with efficient compression schemes like MPEG 4, means it is
possible to achieve quite respectable results that compares favourably with
broadcast media like digital TV.
Q. What other electronics products can I add to my system?
A. Wireless networking opens up an enormous range of possibilities that
we’re only just starting to exploit. Right now you can buy devices like
wireless network cameras, that will allow you to keep watch on your property or
premises on any Internet connected PC or device. A couple of companies have
recently launched video projectors with wireless connectivity and in the coming
months we’re expecting to see things like wireless enabled DVD players and
entertainment centres, portable jukeboxes, digital cameras, printers,
camcorders, and the list just keeps on growing.
Q. Does the speed of my broadband connection affect my wireless systems
A. No, for the simple reason that even the fastest ADSL and cable
Internet connections still run at a fraction of the speed of a wireless
network. One of the few things that can slow down a wireless link is a weak
signal though, in which case the system progressively reduces transfer speeds
to maintain data integrity and at the very lowest speed, just before the
connection is lost, it may well be running slower than your broadband Internet
Ó R. Maybury 2003,